Venice: May 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: May 1586', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, ed. Horatio F Brown( London, 1894), British History Online [accessed 22 July 2024].

'Venice: May 1586', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591. Edited by Horatio F Brown( London, 1894), British History Online, accessed July 22, 2024,

"Venice: May 1586". Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591. Ed. Horatio F Brown(London, 1894), , British History Online. Web. 22 July 2024.

May 1586

May 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 344. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Prince is better; great advantage is expected from the change of air. After the King's departure orders were sent to the Luke of Medina Sidonia to raise eight thousand infantry in his own country and in Andalusia, and giving him the appointment of all the officers. The Duke left the next day by post. Besides this, 20 other officers are gazetted, with companies of one hundred and fifty men apiece. This will make ten thousand infantry in all. These, with the 2,500 on board the Seville fleet, and the 3,000 which are coming from the Italian reserves, will amount in all to 16,500 troops, all Spaniards. The Duke of Medina Sidonia has received no commission as yet, and one does not see how he can accept one, as his presence is incompatible with that of the Marquis of Santa Cruz, who, wherever he may be, or wherever engaged, would always take rank as commander-in-chief in virtue of his earlier commission. These troops are needed for the Portuguese fleet, which they say will number 58 sail, and besides that there will be the Naples galleys. People think the King must have some other object, such as the expedition against England, in his mind; for these preparations seem excessive if they are intended against a single individual, all the more so, as the rumour that Altemps and Lodron are raising German recruits is now confirmed. Every day in monast ries and convents prayers are offered that God will guide the King in what he has in hand, which may be the expedition against England.
The Nuncio told me in great secrecy, begging that his name might not be mentioned, that the King has received two offers recently, one from Tuscany, the other from Parma. Tuscany offers 12,000 infantry and his own person as Commander-in-chief. It seems, however, that the King has not accepted the offer of the infantry, because of a certain clause on the subject of their pay, nor yet the person of the Grand Duke, for he knows very well that the absence of the Grand Duke from his State would be prejudicial to his interests. It seems that the King lent a more willing ear to the proposals of Parma, which are, that the King should furnish a strong body of Germans, and that Parma will then supply a body of Spanish troops drawn from Flanders, but not in sufficient numbers to endanger that country; and that these should attack England. The Prince also declares that there is no other way of finishing the affairs of Holland and Zealand than by striking at the head of all the mischief, the. Queen of England. He explains his plan, of campaign, which is to mass troops at a point near the English coast, and then to cross over in boats, which would only take a few hours. This proposal has received more attention from the King than the Tuscan offers, but he has not publicly declared his will as yet, nor is he likely to do so till all is ready.
Here there are some great English lords who promise much, such as. for example, to raise 12,000 infantry on the appearance of the Armada, and the like. But the King is prudent and knows quite well that exiles can never be fully trusted. The proposals of Parma seem to risk the certain for the uncertain, all the same we must reckon that as the Prince is prudent, he is not likely to have put forward his scheme without good grounds.
The Nuncio said further, that although it was to the interests of Christendom that this expedition should be made, yet it was not right that one kingdom alone should carry it out, for then the power of the King of Spain would become dangerous. The King has sounded Toledo, Seville, and other cities on the question of a loan, they replied that it was his to command, but they were sure that he would not command them beyond what they could accomplish. All this points to the King's intention to carry out the expedition, but that cannot be this year; for it will require at least six months to raise so many troops. Meantime Drake will tranquilly carry out his programme. A corvette has arrived from the Indies, but as no news is published, that is taken as a sign of some other disaster.
Madrid, 1st May 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 345. Vicenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
A courier sent by the postmaster of Airon arrived here yesterday, and passed straight on to Aranjuez. They say he brings news of a rising in Artois, and all the Walloon country. The head of the rising is M. de la Motte, a favourite of his Majesty, who made him very rich. No reason is given, but it is known that the Queen of England is at the bottom of it all. She will leave no stone unturned to annoy his Majesty. If the news is true, it will embarrass these Ministers, who may perhaps be forced to alter their schemes as regards the attach on England, though yesterday there ran a rumour that it was to be carried out this September. But those who understand the matter think that the expedition cannot be ready at the stated time, for it is impossible to raise so many troops all at once in Spain, and the Spanish are never as smart as they should be in carrying out their plans. Don Christopher de Mora is making great strides ahead; it is thought that he will soon have as much weight as Ruy Gomez enjoyed; he sleeps in the King's ante-chamber, which no one has done since Ruy Gomez. The Spaniards have caught certain Englishmen who were endeavouring to enter the harbour of Lisbon, guided by some French; some had been executed, some sent to the galleys.
Madrid, 3rd May 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 6. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 346. Matheo Zane, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
A copy of a letter from the Queen of England to the Turk is circulating here. In it she treats of the liberation of certain slaves in Algiers, of free trade with the Levant, and of the right to touch on the shores of Barbary for watering and victualling, as the ports of Spain are no longer open to her, owing to her war with that crown. The Spanish Minister has published the letter to prove that the Queen is the foe of the King of Spain and of the Emperor.
An agent of the Queen's, a Genoese called Valvicino, has been going through Germany, seeking to persuade the Protestant Princes to join her.
Prague, 6th May 1586.
May 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 347. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
As the Danish Ambassador was very anxious to take his leave he was admitted to the presence of his Majesty, and de M. Bellievre, first Councillor of State, in place of the Chancellor who was ill, addressed him in Latin. He thanked, in his master's name, the King of Denmark for his interest in the affairs of France; as regards the peace, no one was more anxious to secure it than his most Christian Majesty, who, however, recognised his obligation to permit one sole religion in his kingdom, as did the King of Denmark, the Queen of England, and many great Princes besides, and he could never consent to any other course. Experience had taught him that where two religions were permitted there was always an excuse to take up arms and to throw the kingdom into confusion once more. In all else he wished the King of Denmark to know that he would grant every satisfaction to the King of Navarre and to Condè as to his good and well-beloved cousins. On taking leave the Ambassador requested protection against the followers of the house of Guise; and a captain of the guard and two archers accompanied him to the frontier.
Paris, 8th May 1586.
May 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 348. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Earl of Holach (Lord Audley?) hearing that the city of Grave in Brabant was poorly provisioned, resolved to send Colonel Norres with one thousand five hundred English, to succour it. When the Prince of Parma heard this, he sent Count Charles Mansfeldt with one thousand infantry to meet them. An engagement took place on the 17th (of last month), and the English losses are very heavy; letters from Brussels and from Holland estimate them at almost one thousand, while the Spaniards lost only two hundred, and sixteen officers of wide experience in war; a loss which greatly disturbs the Prince of Parma.
Four days later, the continual rains caused such a rise of the waters that all the surrounding country was flooded. The English put together some three hundred infantry, and embarking them in well provisioned boats, effected an entry into Grave, which is now fully supplied and quite able to stand a long siege.
Letters from London dated 25th of last month announce that the Queen of England has had news of Drake's capture of San Domingo, Porto Ricco and all Spanish Isle with immense plunder in silver, pearls, and other jewels. On receipt of this news, she gave orders instantly to man twenty-two great ships armed with all possible provisions of war to reinforce and support Drake. These ships were to have sailed at the end of last month. She also ordered other twenty-five to be got ready at once, so as to be able to sail at a moment's notice in the direction of Drake, many private ships also have sailed to join him.
The Queen is throwing her whole heart into the expedition, so that Drake may continue his operations. When she heard that the King of Spain had recalled his squadron for the protection of the West Indian fleets in order that he might augment it, she at once commissioned two hundred ships, between large and small, between her own and private owners, together with some from Holland, and rumour says that these will soon be ready to sail wherever they may be ordered.
Moreover the Queen sends daily reinforcements into Flanders. She makes her levies chiefly and easily in Scotland, thanks to the weight she has with the principal lords of that country; and her greatness and her reputation grow surer every day.
The Queen of Scotland keeps well. By permission of the Queen of England she was visited the other day by a secretary of the French Ambassador, who confined himself to presenting compliments from the King of France and the Queen, as her chief gaoler was always present throughout the interview.
Paris, 9th May 1588.
May 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 349. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
His Holiness, led on by me, began to talk of Drake and his successes, he said he had foretold them whenever he heard that Drake, with forty ships, had gone to the West Indies, and had warned the Spanish Ambassador that his master had better make preparations at once, instead of allowing the enemy to intercept his commerce, seize his islands, and then to begin to pay attention after the deed is done.
The same fortune had befallen the King in Flanders, where, because he had not put out his power at once, the war had dragged on for so many years that he had spent more than all the Low Countries put together were worth. His Holiness then went on to talk of the King's person, how this year he entered on the sixtieth year of his age, a very serious consideration, for those of the house of Austria, who generally die young. The Prince was eight years old, sickly, with continual fever, and little likelihood of living.
Rome, 10th Ma35y 1586.
May 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 350. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
In obedience to your orders of January 27, I have written to friends of mine in Marseilles, Rouen, and London, the three ports where I think Venetians might conveniently trade. I have inquired whether Venetian consuls exist at those ports, and if so, by what authority.
Neither at Marseilles nor at Rouen are there Venetian consuls, nor anyone who represents that nation; as there is very little Venetian commerce in Marseilles and absolutely none at Rouen. From London I hear that there is no one but a certain Giovanni de Riviera, a Corfiot, who of his own accord undertakes to assist Venetians, but without the office or name of consul.
He has frequently asked me to give him some information on the subject of the difficulties which exist between the Queen of England and your Serenity, dwelling at length on the importance of the matter and the ruin it produces.
Paris, 12th May 1586.
May 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 351. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Some days ago a carvel from the Indies reached Galicia with news that Drake was fortifying himself in Spanish Isle, at the city of San Domingo. The citadel was finished, and he has began three other forts. He has sent home four ships richly laden with gold, silver, and jewels and with many presents for the Queen; he also begs her to send him, as soon as possible, troops to garrison the forts. Yesterday too a courier from the Duke of Medina Sidonia brought news that three Biscayans had arrived at S. Lucar from Spanish Isle. They report that Drake had made an attempt on Havana, but had been repulsed with the loss of three ships, sunk; and that he soon after abandoned his forts and sailed away with all his fleet. The reasons for this sudden retreat were that the governor descended from the mountains at the head of four thousand men, and the negroes, on whom Drake counted much, refused to desert the Catholic faith; finally disease had so thinned his ranks that, what with sickness and his losses at Havana, he had hardly sufficient men to work his ships, far less to fight; yielding, therefore, to necessity he had departed. His route is not known. The Biscayans had come over in a carvel from Spanish Isle, which was captured off Cape Verd by the English; her cargo was two hundred thousand crowns in silver.
This news has given the greatest satisfaction at Court, for they think that now the islands will be free of the enemy, and the fleet will be able to sail. And though it will not be so rich as it might have been, it will be very welcome as allowing the operations between Seville and the Indies to be carried on. All creditors who claimed their interest had been told that it was suspended for the, present The King will receive the news in Toledo, where he has gone to keep Ascension Day without pomp. I must however warn your Serenity that all this news should be accepted with reserve. It is thought by some to be merely an artifice to facilitate the raising of troops in Spain. Every one is waiting to see what orders the King gives. If the recruiting is continued it will be a sign that he is resolved on the expedition against England.
Madrid, 14th May 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 352. Lorenzo Bernardo, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
Preparations for the marriage of the Sultan's daughter to Ibrahim Pasha.
Ibrahim's major-domo, more on his own account than by his masters orders, has sent several times to ask me to supply him with pheasants, partridges, hares and other game, as he said he knew we Franks were used to eat game. He made a like request to the French Ambassador. Both of us, without consulting one another, made an identical reply; excusing ourselves on the ground that we were strangers in a strange country, and that if we required game we were more likely to seek his help than to be able to grant him ours. We hear, however, that the English Ambassador has sent not only game but also a vast quantity of fowls. I thought such conduct unbecoming your Serenity's dignity, besides creating a precedent not easy to resist in future.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 15th May 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 353. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The agents of the King of Spain are hastening the despatch of the galleys which are being built in Naples; they are raising Italian troops, and making great preparations against Drake and England. Spanish losses are indeed immense, the sack of San Domingo alone implying not less than two millions of gold; for it was the head-quarters of the West Indian fleets. They fear that Drake has sailed to meet the fleet, and may make himself master of it.
Don Alonso di Leva was named for the military, and the Marquis of Santa Cruz for the naval command; but they have not decided yet whether to attack England in order to divert Drake, or to attack Drake directly.
Rome, 17th May 1586.
May 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 354. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
A courier from the Duke of Medina Sidonia confirms the news of Drake's departure from Spanish Isle after doing a great deal of harm in the city of San Domingo, where he has burned churches and monasteries and violated all sacred places. On his departure he wanted to fire the town, but was bought of by twenty-five thousand crowns which were given him by the few inhabitants who had remained in the place. He went to a city between Nombre di Dios and Panama, and they fear he will do mischief there as he has done in Spanish Isle.
Here they are hurrying up the recruits from Andalusia and those of private officers. The King is getting money together. His journey to Toledo has brought him something, the Cardinal has given him a gift of 200,000 crowns, to be held by a third party and spent entirely on raising troops. The city of Seville supplies 1,500 infantry.
The King was expected here yesterday to keep his birthday of sixty, but he was attacked by the gout, and stayed at Vazia Madrid. When he recovers he will go to the Escurial, where, on Easter Sunday, the church will be consecrated by the Cardinal of Toledo.
Some say the King will call a meeting of grandees at the Escurial to beg them to assist him, others that he will address letters to each one privately, and will adopt the same method with his kingdoms.
Madrid, 19th May 1586.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 20. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 355. Matheo Zane, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England begged the King of Denmark to join her in a league against King of Spain. He, however, did not see upon what just grounds she was moved to this, and replied that he would take no part in the business. In these circumstances the Queen is seeking the support of the Maritime cities, known as the Hanseatic League, though it seems that she has been forestalled by Spain, who has persuaded many of them to refuse to declare themselves hostile.
Prague, 20th May 1586.
May 27. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 356. Matheo Zane, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador at the Porte, though he has failed to obtain the assistance of the Turkish fleet for this year, has secured a promise that next year it will take the sea. He strongly urges the advisability of attacking the King of Spain rather than the Persians, and insists on the greater glory and less danger of such a war, especially if the attack be directed against Naples or Sicily; he promises that the Queen of England would attack the Spaniards outside the Straits, so that they would be unable to defend those kingdoms. The English Ambassador counts on the support of the new French Ambassador.
We are informed that the King of Spain will listen to those to urge him to attack England; as he considers such an enterprise not only just but justified, and therefore hopes that all will go well. The King will require help; and already offers of assistance have reached him from some of the great Princes of Italy, all of whom are supported in this action by his Holiness.
Prague, 27th May 1586.
May 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 357. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After Drake's departure from Spanish Isle, which took place on the 9th of February, as your Serenity will learn from the enclosed report, everything quieted down, and there is no more word of Drake, nor of England, nor of anything of that kind. This causes universal surprise, for Drake so far from having left those parts, has gone to a place where he can do even more damage than he has hitherto done, that is to Cartagena, where all the gold and silver of Peru is collected On this point I have news from Lisbon of the 22nd, that the Marquis of Santa Cruz is not so active in his preparations as he was at first, and that they had even stopped careening the ships; while he stays at home without doing anything. This makes the Portuguese very angry, when they consider the damage they are continually receiving from the corsairs. It is supposed that this sudden quiet after all the movement of twenty days ago, is caused by the discovery that this year they are quite unable to carry out any of their plans. They know now that the Spanish infantry can not be ready even by the end of July and perhaps of August, owing to the difficulties in the way; and secondly because the Seville fleet is infected with a mortality of such violence that the ships are almost without men. And this is the cause of all the delays, for when they wished to re-man the ships of the Duke of Sidonia everyone fled. The officers who are raising troops find the same difficulty. It is proposed to raise two reserves from the Portuguese veterans, and one from the Azores, and to fill their place by the troops which the Duke of Medina Sidonia is collecting, and though they are only raw recruits, yet with the help of a thousand veterans, and these two thousand fresh levies they think that both Portugal and the Azores will be sufficiently protected. These difficulties can only be overcome by time, all the more so as the harvest is near at hand. Preparations are suspended. Perhaps they think that all they have to do will be the work of a few days only. In the meantime to satisfy public opinion the Seville ships, as soon as they are ready, will sail for Lisbon, where they will find seven other galleys and some transports which were already commissioned for sea, to cruise about as a protection against corsairs, and to try to pick up some of Drake's fleet; and this is all they will do this year. As to money, the King intends to use that which was to have gone to Italy on board the Genoese fleet. That amounts to 900,000 crowns. For the Flanders levies the King raised a private loan of 1,800,000 crowns; but as business was so bad in Seville the bankers asked such high rates that the King broke off negotiations. The King has again been attacked by gout on his way to the Escurial.
Madrid, 30th May 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 358. The Contents of the Letters from the Royal Judge, the President, and others in Spanish Isle, under date February 24, 1586, received 14th of May, explaining what the corsair Francis Drake did in that island.
On the 12th January the fleet was in sight. It numbered thirty-five sail; some of the ships being of seven hundred tons burden. Seeing the enemy so strong and the garrison so weak in men and arms, many people were panic-stricken and fled with all they could collect. The rest went at once to defend the harbour, which was done by sinking three ships. They also went to guard a narrow passage by which they thought the enemy might effect an entrance. The enemy came in by the canal of Haina, and landed 1,400 men. The Judge went to meet them with the handful of men he could put together; but when they came in sight of the enemy, and saw how strong he was, they fled; the Judge retired, and the enemy took possession of the whole city on the 11th of the month. The fort also fell, as it had no means of defence, and the enemy was five thousand strong, without counting the sailors. The women and children were placed in safety, but very little could be saved; the government house did not escape. The enemy, up to the day of their departure, which was the 9th February, did all the mischief that they could; they burned the greater part of the male population (abbrugiorono la maggior parte delli huomeni della città), and the churches and altars; what has escaped was saved at a ransome of 25,000 ducats. The cathedral perished, also all the shipping; and they carried off with thorn the galley-slaves, and set them free on condition that they lent their aid. Some of the negroes went willingly with the English. It is said that they are going to Cartagena straight and then to Cape Canaveral, where there are some English settlers, and where they will enlist more men.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 359. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
I told his Holiness that I heard from Spain that the Marquis of Santa Cruz has sailed against Drake, and asked if it was true. “So they say,” replied the Pope. “But we should have been better pleased had he sailed against England and struck at the fountain head. They say the Queen has sent to Drake five thousand infantry, and so he must be in command of a very powerful fleet with abundant troops; he can't have less than seventy first-class ships under his command; and God only knows what he may succeed in doing. The attack on England would have been far better, for that kingdom would have been found unprovided; all its forces being scattered between the Indies and Flanders, and by attacking that island all its troops would of necessity have been recalled from those places.
“We have looked at the subsidies of Paul III., to Charles V.; of Julius III. on the subject of Parma; of Paul IV. whom God pardon, on bringing the French into Italy; and lastly of Pius V., on the League; and we are willing to give the King of Spain four times, I say four times, as much for a subsidy against England. We will not fail; we are amassing money now, and this not for our own good but to the public benefit, by helping Christian Princes against infidels. Should Venice ever require such help, which God forbid, we will spend for her too, and for Savoy also.”
Rome, last day of May 1586.
May 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 360. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
While we were still in doubt whether Drake, on leaving Spanish Isle, had gone to England, news was brought by a carvel to Seville, and confirmed to-day by despatches from the Duke of Medina Sidonia, that he has crossed over to Honduras to the port of Cavaglio (Caballos); that he suddenly fell upon and robbed three ships nearly full of goods, he took their guns out and then sank them along with other ships which were lying in the harbour. He landed, sacked, and burnt the place, and made a raid ten miles inland. The damage is great, but they fear worse, especially as they don't know in which direction another English corsair, his cousin, has gone with a fleet of twenty sail. In this city is collected all the gold and a little silver, from New Spain, so the booty will be very rich, I hear. The Queen of England for the last two years has taken a share in all the new ships which are built, on the condition that they shall be ready for her service whenever called on. So she has no lack of every kind of craft. (La Regina d'Inghilterra da doi anni in quà, ha osservato d'intrare a partein tutti li Navilii che si fabricano nei suoi mari coll' obligare li patroni di andare a suo servitio sempre che ella li ricercherà, di modo che non li mancano legni d'ogni sorte.)
Madrid, 31st May 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]