Venice: April 1586

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1894.

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'Venice: April 1586', Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894), pp. 149-159. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "Venice: April 1586", in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894) 149-159. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "Venice: April 1586", Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894). 149-159. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,

April 1586

April 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 332. Lorenzo Bernardo, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
Drake the famous English corsair and captain, well known to your Serenity, has sent as a present to the Capadun Pasha, many vases of silver, although he does not know the Pasha personally, the present condition of affairs is the real cause of this gift. The Capadun has prepared two beautiful table-cloths and two webs of Persian cloth of gold, as return presents to Drake, and has written him a letter which I have had an opportunity of reading; it contained nothing but compliments. The Capadun Pasha sent to inquire Drakes name, surname and title from the English Ambassador, who at once saw that the Pasha intended to send these presents not through him but through the Captain of an English ship which was lying in the port. The Ambassador, thereupon, ordered the ship to sail at once, and when the Capadun Pasha heard this he recalled his presents and burst into a rage against the English Ambassador, using very violent language. The Ambassador, in fear of some personal injury or of a scene has appealed to the Grand Vizir, complaining of the Capadun and begging the Vizir to pacify him.
The Grand Vizir sent for the Capadun Pasha and begged him to be pacified, to accept a visit from the Ambassador and to allow his hand to be kissed. But the Capadun merely flew into a greater rage, and absolutely refused; so that the Ambassador goes with great caution and dread of some mischief.
On the 29th of last month the French Ambassador entered Constantinople with a distinguished suite. He was met by many officials and dignitaries of the Porte. I, in accordance with custom, sent my secretary to meet him. The following evening I visited him in person. He returned my visit, and in the course of a long conversation he told me that he was informed that Ambassadors from the King of Persia had come to Spain with gifts for the King and an autograph letter of which he had a copy; that those two Sovereigns intended to divide the world between them. The King of Spain was to take all Europe, the King of Persia all Asia. Then he added, “You see what a situation we are in; when they talk of expelling my Sovereign who has always been the first Prince of Christendom.” In the course of his remarks I discovered a great dread of the power of Spain; he said, “The balance of power is not in equilibrium, things go ill thus.” He endeavoured to support the attitude of the Queen of England towards Spain. To all this I replied with few and cautious words.
The Ambassador appears to be a courteous and humane person. He greatly praises the conduct of Messer Nicolo Balbi whose ship brought him to Ragusa.
There is a rumour that Giovanni Stejfano dei Ferrari, agent of Marigliani, is expected here.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 2nd April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 5. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 333. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Two couriers arrived on the 28th of last month, one from Seville, the other from Lisbon. Both bring identical news of Drake's successes. They say that, when he reached the Spanish Isle, he landed troops and seized the city of San Domingo, the capital, and Porto Ricco and the whole island, as your Serenity will see from the enclosed report. The booty was immense; it amounts to a million and a half in gold and silver, and is a portion of that which was to have been dispatched with the fleet The President, the Governor, and other Spanish ministers have been allowed, as a great favour, to retire almost naked to the mountains. As this news is true they fear that the further news that Havana has been taken, is also true. Havana is not less important than Spanish Isle, for it is the storehouse of the bulk of the gold and silver which comes from Peru and New Spain, which is added to the fleet when it has collected there; and from what the Duke of Medina Sidonia has told me, we know that two millions of gold were stored in that place. These successes are important on account of their consequences. For if Drake sets out for Peru he will pass Cartagena, where the gold of Peru is collected, and where is all the machinery for sifting the metal which is brought therefrom all the gold fields. The journey is only two hundred leagues, and the city is without forts or garrison; so that on his approach the inhabitants will fly. A similar fate may befall New Spain. And so the Spaniards are struck with terror, and dread of losing their positions, and, as the Bishop of Porto Ricco says, there is every cause for alarm, especially on behalf of the Church, for nothing is more likely than that the Indians, induced by the promise of liberty of conscience which the English profess, should leave the Catholic Church and become Huguenots, or fall back into idolatry (essendo cosa facilissima che li Indiani per la libertà della conscientia, come professano Inglesi, abbandonando la religione Cattolica si faccino tutti Ugonotti, overo ritornino ad esser idolatri). In short everyone is convinced that neither this year nor next will there be any fleet; and this will produce the greatest confusion owing to the obligations which the crown is under to private merchants and others, secured upon the Seville funds, which is the same as the Mint; and so payment may be suspended, to the great disturbance of business (tra tanto ogn' uno conclude che quest' anno ne l'venturo s' haverà la flotta, che apporterà confusione grandissima per li oblighi che ha fatto il Re con Mercanti et altri particolari sopra la cassa della contrattione di Siviglia, che è tanto come la cecca; in maniera che li pagamenti potrebbono allongarsi, che sarà con disordine grandissimo di tutto il negotio). The King is at the Escurial for Easter. They say he will return very soon to consult upon the necessary steps, the Marquis of Santa Cruz has been summoned, and pray God that they may determine for the benefit of Christendom and the honour of his Divine Majesty. All these misfortunes are laid at the door of Don Bernardino di Mendoza by those who understand, for his conduct in England caused the King to refuse an audience to the Queen's Ambassador, and brought about the embargo on the English shipping in Spain and Portugal.
Madrid, 5th April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 334. Letters of February 6th from the Governor of Havana, announcing that Drake arrived at St John's in Porto Ricco sacked it, and without waiting passed on to San Domingo, which he entered on the 12th January. Two leagues from the town he landed eight hundred musketeers and curiasseers. The fleet then sailed up to attack the port and the inhabitants rushed to defend it Suddenly came news that the eight hundred English were marching upon them. They resolved to abandon the city and fled to the mountains; fathers left their sons, daughters their mothers, monks and nuns were all mixed up together, and the English became masters of the island without having shed a drop of blood. They say that the sack gave more than a million and a half of gold as booty, and they are afraid that the blacks have joined the English, if that is so it will be all the more difficult to recover the island.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 335. Lorenzo Bernardo, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The Reverend Father, the Minister of S. Francesco sent me on Palm Sunday, a note in which he declared that the French Ambassador declined to sit on the ordinary seats in the choir, but demanded a separate seat, covered with velvet. Although the minister thought that this request was only intended by the Ambassador to take him out of the crowd of common people, especially at this time of plague, yet, as that might not be so, he had thought it well to inform me; and that he had prepared two priedieus, exactly alike, one for each of us, to be placed by our servants in front of our chairs.
That same day the French Ambassador came to visit me; and after exchanging the usual compliments, I offered to accompany him to church, and inquired where he meant to sit, for if he had resolved not to use the seats of the Padri but one of his own, I would send my servants and have one brought for myself and placed near his as was usual. To these remarks, which I made in a very clear voice, he gave no answer save a very vague one. Accordingly I thought it judicious not to attach to his action a meaning which, perhaps did not exist, and I did not pursue the subject further; but thinking that his action was simply dictated by a regard for his own safety, I did not even report the occurrence to your Serenity, being unwilling to disturb you on so slight a foundation.
As Easter was approaching, in which the Ambassador of France and the Bailo of Venice are accustomed to assist at High Mass in the church of S. Francesco, I thought it well to take steps for preventing any diminution of the honour due to your Serenity. Accordingly I again sent my servant to the French Ambassador offering him my company to church, on the ground that our houses were so close together, and that this would demonstrate our complete union and accord.
He accepted my offer, but added that his seat would be prepared in a suitable place, and that, as the church was large, I had better cause mine to be prepared wherever it best pleased me, provided always that it was not near his, but separated. My servant showed surprise at this proposal, and took his leave, and reported to me. I heard the report with great pain, and resolved at once to send my secretary, whom I instructed in all the answers he was to make, and I especially charged him to say that he had come in order to be more clearly informed of the answer given to my servant who, unaccustomed as he was to such business, had reported it incorrectly. My secretary performed his task accurately. The Ambassador replied that he could not understand why I should be offended at taking a place separate from him, and should insist on appearing with him. That he was representative of the greatest power in Christendom. My secretary replied that neither I nor my household had ever dreamed of doing anything to diminish the honour of the King, his master; but that he was throwing grave doubts on his professed devotion to the Signory of Venice, but endeavouring to deprive me of a place which my predecessors had always held without the slightest complaint or opposition on the part of his, which place consisted in sitting next the Ambassador of France, as was customary at all European Courts. The Ambassador replied that he did not intend to regulate his conduct by that of his predecessors or of other Ambassadors, but by his own knowledge of what was just and right. That he was informed that M. d'Avaux had a separate place in church, and that he intended to follow his example. . . . He added that he was the only real Ambassador at the Porte, for your Serenity only kept a Bailo, whose rank was that of agent not of Ambassador. . . . The choir of S. Francesco is like the choir of Venetian churches, and our difficulty is that the French Ambassador wishes to occupy the right-hand side alone, either in the first of the choir stalls or on a velvet chair brought from the Embassy with a stool in front of it, and that I should place myself on the left-hand side in the same way as he on the right, so that between us there should be the distinction of right from left, and also the whole width of the choir, while I claim to remain at the same side as he does, be it right or left, and in the seat immediately next to his, as has always happened, the left side of the choir being occupied by secretaries and the merchants who accompany the Ambassadors to church. To avoid a scandal I did not go to S, Francesco on Easter Day. I went to mass with my household at S. Peter's. The French Ambassador caused his seat to be placed right in the centre of the choir, and came to church dressed in cloak and sword, which is an inovation. The Perotes are all in my favour. The Ambassadors assertion about M. d'Avaux (Ax) is a downright falsehood; for he always sat, as I explained above, with the Venetian Bailo next to him.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 7th April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 336. Lorenzo Bernardo, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
Orembey, Grand Dragoman of the Porte, being as he is wont at dinner with me, apropos of the French Ambassador reported to me a conversation which he interpreted between the said Ambassador and the Chavass Pasha, who had gone to meet the Ambassador on his entry into this city. When Constantinople came in sight the Ambassador was asked what he thought of it, and answered that it was so magnificent that the lord of it should be lord of all the world. Then, discussing the grandeur of the Sultan, he said that much of it was owing to the King of France and his aid and therefore the Sultan was bound to foster such an alliance; for his King was the greatest monarch on earth, he was able to put in the field three hundred thousand infantry and as many horse. He had just destroyed all the Huguenots and now offered to the Sultan sixty thousand good harquebusseers to help him against the Persians The Pashas laughed and said, “The Sultan is so powerful that he never requires aid, rather he is wont to render it; as he had often done for France,” and with that they spurred on their horses and left the Ambassador behind them.
The day after the French Ambassadors entry, the English Ambassador sent his secretary, and some of his gentlemen to make the usual complimentary greetings. The secretary began, “My Master the Ambassador,” when the French Ambassador broke in in a rage, saying “Ambassador! why he is a merchant, your master, Ambassador! I know only one Ambassador at the Porte, and that is myself; out of this at once, and tell your master that he had better mind his trade and not usurp titles like these, or I'll have him drummed out of the place.” The secretary greatly disturbed left, without a word; and when he reported to his Ambassador, the latter exclaimed, “I think that he wont be quite strong enough to turn me out. But even if the Sultan should dismiss me, the Queen, thank God, is quite powerful enough to do without French or Turks, which is more than the French can say,” and with that he went straight off to an audience with the Grand Vizir. The French Ambassador, some few days later, called on the Capadun Pasha, in private form, before paying official visits to any of the other Pashas. I will keep your Serenity informed from time to time of what happens.
The French Ambassador has been informed of the names of those who have usually figured in the negotiations for the treaty of truce between the Sultan and Spain. He has shown great objections especially to Orembey, and declines to make use of his services as Dragoman in his public audiences with the Sultan, as is usual but prefers an All, one of the Court sergeants, who was once in France, but does not profess to be a Dragoman.
The minister of S. Francesco and a Jesuit father have put themselves forward to arrange the difficulty about our position in the church of S. Francesco. The French Ambassador has consented that our seats shall be close to one another; he would not, however, allow that our stools should be on a level, he claimed that his should be one pace in front of mine, so that I should be behind him. He urged, as an explanation of this demand, that the width of the choir would not admit of both stools being equally advanced. But when it was demonstrated to him by measurements, that there was room and to spare for both, and in spite of his being informed that the choice of place rested with him provided that my seat came next his wherever it might be, all the same he would not be pacified; and we were forced to tell him that he repudiated the action of all his predecessors by insisting that his master was so great a sovereign that no other power could approach him. He replied that he would make a drawing of the choir and send it to his master, awaiting orders; in which remarks one sees not merely unreasonable hautiness but also contempt for other princes. I shall avoid his company as much as possible, both in public and in private, and all the more so as on my first visit to him he did not use any of those terms of courtesy which one Ambassador is accustomed to use towards another in his own Embassy, as, for example, the Imperial Ambassador here, who, when I visit him, uses a modest violence to make me take precedence of himself. I am inclined to attribute all this to inexperience; but all the same I will not find myself alone with him again till I have your Serenity's orders.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 12th April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 337. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King will return from the Escurial on Tuesday next, the 15th, and will stay here ten or twelve days; then he goes to Aranjuez, with all his household, for the month of May; then he will go to Toledo and then back to the Escurial for as long as his business detains him. The Marquis of Santa Cruz is reported to have reached the Escurial with great secresy on Easter Monday. He was summoned to advise on Indian matters. It seems that some steps have been resolved upon, for three couriers, left the Escurial in one day, and the King has caused the Minister of the Posts, Giovanni dal Monte, to remove to the Escurial with his whole staff. All that is known at present is that the Seville fleet which numbers ten galleons, four great ships and three frigates, is to go to Lisbon to join the fleet there, which numbers ten sail. At Seville the artillery and ammunition are in good order; but the troops are poor, all raw recruits, from the scum of the people, raised by force and kept, by force, prisoners in monasteries. They numbered three thousand men at first, but now they will hardly be two thousand; many are dead and many fled. The Portuguese galleys are manned by reserves, and their place in garrison is filled by others. This fleet is thought to be insufficient to fight Drake, who is believed to have been reinforced by the eighteen ships which were lately off Bayona; this conjecture is based on the fact that they have not been seen again. But what is much more important, a Spaniard who arrived at Seville from England on the 26th of last month, says that a nephew of Drake has been enobled with the title of Earl and rewarded with large estates for the news of his uncle's successes which he conveyed to England. He was given the command of thirty great ships, which in a very few days were manned and armed to go to the assistance of Drake. So great was the rumour of the booty acquired by Drake that soldiers and nun from all parts of the kingdom rushed to serve on board these thirty ships; such were their numbers that had there been one hundred ships instead of thirty there would have been men for them all. This Spaniard was in San Domingo and was taken prisoner by Drakes nephew. When he reached England he escaped. He says that in San Domingo and throughout Spanish Isle, Drake behaved with such humanity to the Indians and negroes that they all love him, and their houses were open to all English. (Riporta di piu che in San Domenico et in tutta l'isola Spagnuola, Draco si portava così humanamente con gli Indi et Negri che tutti l'amano grandamente, anzi che le case eran communi a tutti gli Inglesi.)
It seems that he left a strong garrison there and sailed to Cartagena or to Nombre di Dis or Panama; all three important cities in the province of Peru. Drake is thirty-seven years old, of mean birth, but loaded with honours and riches by the Queen. He is of great courage as a captain, eager to please, severe in his justice, and so he is beloved by all (nel navigar è homo molto risoluto, amico di gratificar et molto severo nella guistitia, in manicra che è amatissimo da tutti). The fact that such a large force has been sent from England leads people to think that it is not their intention merely to make a raid and then to retire, but that their orders are to plant themselves as firmly as they can; if that be so then the troubles of the Spanish will increase every day, and they will require much larger preparations than those which they are making at present. Every one expects the King's coming to clear up the situation; for it seems impossible to believe that matters of such moment will be entirely neglected. Many think that the present method of proceding indicates irresolution on the King's part.
Longle came, to visit me on Thursday after Easter. He entered into a long conversation, stating that his master did not view the attack on England with favour, not on account of any good will towards England, but because he did not wish to see the King of Spain grow any greater than he is at present. The King of France wishes to remain neutral and will leave his subjects full liberty to volunteer for the defence of England. He added that it was very likely that they would make peace in France, in that case the King would certainly shut his eyes if any Frenchmen desired to pass over to the Indies to serve under Drake; for he does not and never will forget the trouble which the King of Spain has caused him by furnishing money to all parties in France, supporting the Guise, and supplying Catholics and Huguenots alike in order to keep the civil war alive, against all reason; for the affection which this most Christian Majesty showed to the King of Spain did not merit such a recompense, and with this he ended his discourse.
The finances are embarrassed. It is said that the King will ask for a loan.
Madrid, 12th April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 338. Lorenzo Bernardo, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The French Ambassador, as though sorry for his past conduct, now behaves towards me, both in public and in private, with every mark of regard which is due to the dignity of your Serenity. I trust that between us will now subsist both affection and union for the service of your Serenity and the satisfaction of Christendom in these parts. I have had an opportunity of finding out the tenour of the Ambassadors remarks at his audience with the Sultan, and also the contents of the letters from the King of France. At the audience he said that his master desired to maintain his alliance with the Sultan as a most precious legacy from his ancestors, left in his keeping for the benefit of Christendom. He presented his Majesty's letters, which contained three demands for the observation of the capitulations of Francis I. First, that the English Ambassador should be expelled from the Forte; second, the restoration of a despatch boat which had been captured by the Algerine galleys, and the liberation of the slaves; third, that the French Ambassadors at the Forte should be treated as they were treated at the time of Sultan Suleiman, and this because for some time back it seems that the provision for their maintenance has been diminished. At the same time the Ambassador presented a petition on the instance of Horatio Rucellai's agent begging for payment of the 63,000 thalers, the value of the diamonds sold to the Sultan.
Such was the Ambassador's audience; and I hear that as he insisted on employing an unusual Dragoman, who had little experience in similar affairs, he was cut short, and not allowed to finish all he wished to say; but on a sign from the Grand Vizir, without receiving any answer from the Sultan as is customary, he was straightway conducted to the door by the Capigi, to his own very slight satisfaction.
In the last visit, which the French Ambassador paid me in my house he affirmed that he had actually said to the Secretary of the English Ambassador all those things which I have already reported to your Serenity. He added that the Capadun Pasha had sent to tell him, the moment he arrived, that he would be glad to see him, and this was the reason of that private visit to the Capadun which he made before any of his official visits to the Pashas. He told me that when introduced to the presence of the Capadun he made no formed compliments, because having been summoned by the Capadun he expected 1dm to open the conversation, the Capadun, on the other hand, awaited the Ambassador's remarks, as being a new comer, and so both stood still for a bit in silence; and at last the Capadun began to speak. In the course of his remarks he let drop one phrase, though not a burning one, as to his dislile of the English Ambassador. The French representative could not discover why he had been summoned by the Capadun; and suspected that all his remarks were dictated rather by courtesy than by any real desire to make them; he strongly suspects that the English Ambassador has shut the Capadun's mouth with presents. At this first audience, the French Ambassador begged, as a favour, the restitution of a slave captured by the Algerine galleys; the Pasha excused himself, saying he had no such slaves. The Ambassador is, therefore, much enraged against the Capadun.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 20th April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 339. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Cardinal de Granvelle is very feeble, and has been in this state for many days. I recently paid him a visit in your Serenity's name, and, found him very much reduced. All attribute his illness to the excessive anxiety which has deprived him of sleep. His anxiety arises from the fact that he has lost all his influence in important affairs. In the matter of Drake he has not even been consulted, to the great surprise of all the Court These troubles, and his seventy years, lead people to think that he may soon die. He has gone to a villa outside Madrid, to recover.
Madrid, 23rd April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 340. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Couriers arrive from Lisbon, but they are forbidden to carry letters for private individuals. There is a great lack of corn, and 300,000 aneghe (fn. 1) have been ordered from Andalusia. The Marquis of Santa Cruz is hurrying his departure to fight Drake. His fleet, all told, will number fifty sail, including twelve royal galleys. The fleet will go to the Azores so as to cut off any reinforcements from reaching Drake. The Adelentado of Castille has captured an English ship near the Straits of Gibraltar, and sank two others. These ships were on their way home from Constantinople, where they say they had gone to secure the help of the Turkish fleet against the King of Spain. Whatever speed the Marquis makes they say he cannot be ready before the first days of July, owing to the many obstacles he will encounter, and because they intend to wait for three thousand Italian reserves. The number of troops on board will be twelve thousand, that is to say, three thousand Italian reserves, two thousand from Seville, three thousand Portuguese reserves, and four thousand which they are raising at this moment. There is no news of Drake. Courriers from here are taking despatches to the Pope, to Germany, and to your Serenity, with news of this war, which the Queen of England is waging against Spain.
Madrid, 23rd April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 25. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 341. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Yesterday evening an Ambassador from the King of Denmark arrived with an honourable suite, and is lodged at the King's charges. It is rumoured that his mission is to exhort his Majesty to make peace with the Huguenots, who have urged the Queen of England to induce the King of Denmark to send this Embassy with all speed, for the Ambassador of the Protestant Princes of Germany is delaying so long. Ambassadors from Bern, Zurich, Basel, and Schaffhausen are also expected shortly. Navarre has urged these cities to send an Embassy for this same negotiation of peace. But the warlike preparations do not point to such a conclusion.
Paris, 25th April 1586.
April 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 342. Lorenzo Bernardo, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
Paulo Mariani was merchant and French Consul in Alexandria but now he is English Consul. He came here on a certain suit which he has against Christopher Vento, the actual French Consul in Alexandria; the French Ambassador caused him to be arrested, and sent to inform me of the fact; and begged me not to support Mariani, as a Venetian subject, for he had spoken and acted in a manner hostile to his master the King of France. I replied that, as your Serenity was always disposed to oblige the King, if facts stood as narrated, I would not support Mariani. The same day, however, Mariani was set at liberty on the instance of the English Ambassador, supported by Ibraim Pasha, who had known him in Cairo, to the great disgust of the Ambassador of France. (Ma il giorno medesimo esso Mariano fu liberato ad instantia dell' Ambasciatore di Inghilterra, con il favor di Ibraim Bassà, da luí conosciuto al Cairo, con molto mala satisfaction dell' Ambasciatore di S. Mta Xma.)
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 29th April 1586.
April 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 343. Lorenzo Bernardo, Venetian Ambassador at Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The Capadun Pasha is spreading a report that an English ship, which left this recently has sunk a Turk and captured its crew. The English Ambassador defends himself, and proves the whole story to be an invention of the Capadun.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, the last day of April 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]


  • 1. See page 61.