Venice: October 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: October 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 12 July 2024].

'Venice: October 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 12, 2024,

"Venice: October 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. 12 July 2024.

October 1586

Oct. 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 419. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
News of the conspiracy against the Queen of England received here. The event rouses the keenest interest, for the rumour (true or false) that Sovereign Princes have taken a share in it seems to render every Prince's life insecure, and as those who live without religion are naturally more wicked, so this fact constitutes a special threat to all Catholic Princes.
It is thought that this news must have reached Savoy many days ago, and this accounts for the disarmament of all those troops, which were destined for England had the plot succeeded.
Rome, 11th October 1586.
Oct. 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 420. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Recalde has returned from the Azores with the thousand Spanish soldiers he went to take on board. On his way he captured two English ships, and sank one; they were corsairs. Since his return it has become more manifest than ever that any attempt to arm the population of Ireland must be put off to another time. Everyone knows that the caution in deliberating and the slowness in executing, which are habitual here, frequently causes the loss of valuable opportunities which cannot be recovered, as has happened in this case, for they have let slip the right moment to carry out this design on Ireland, when Drake was absent in the Indies. Had they struck swiftly the Queen could not have offered any resistance, and when once in possession of the ports of Ireland, they would have had leisure to make arrangements for larger operations. Some intelligent critics think that it has been of no reed service to announce an intention to make a move, for it has only resulted, at present, in the measures which the Queen has adopted to secure Ireland by recalling Drake—who is reported to have expressed his surprise that so powerful a monarch has not yet taken any action—and in the steps which she has taken to secure herself at home, by threatening, as she does with her new German levies in Flanders, and thus preventing the King from concentrating his forces, by arming many more ships, and by her machinations in Portugal through the instrumentality of Don Antonio, which compel the King to keep large garrisons in the fortresses of that kingdom, by rousing the Schereef and the Turk, which compels his Majesty to keep an eye on Africa, and lastly by her relations with Protestant and heretic Princes. The Queen has sent an agent express to the King of Fez, who, in concert with a Chavass despatched from Constantinople at her request, has so managed that the truce with the Spanish crown has not only not been signed, but that the fortress commanding the port of El Arisch, is being strengthened and armed in all haste, and that fifty galleots of twenty-five benches apiece, are being manned with slaves requisitioned from private individuals. It is also expected that in spring Uluge will sail with fifty or sixty vessels to take some concerted action in Africa and to rouse the suspicions of the King and so to divert any intentions which his Majesty may nourish of attacking the Queen. And she, being thoroughly roused to indignation by the plot of Ballard and others against her life, who proposed to shoot her on S. Bartholomew's Day, will leave no stone unturned to keep his Majesty's kingdoms in confusion. I hear that Don Bernardo de Mendoza is the head and chief of this conspiracy, and has an understanding with the Guise. When he was in England as Ambassador he made a similar attempt. The Queen summoned Parliament to narrate the occurrence, and to discuss what should be done with the Queen of Scotland, who it seems is strongly indicated as an accomplice, on the confession of two of her secretaries and other servants of hers who are in prison. The Queen will appeal to Parliament for support, pointing out how serious is the danger of a rupture with Spain, all the more so as rumour declares that the King of France will request the removal of Don Bernardino as he cannot approve of Ambassadors who plot against the lives of Princes. M. de Longlé, the French King's agent here, tells me that he has orders from his master to reply to any remarks made by the Ministers on English affairs and the attack on that kingdom, that the King of France is not in a position to take any steps in the matter, nor even to prevent his subjects from going to aid whomsoever they choose. That amounts to the same thing as the answer which I have already imported, as being given by his Christian Majesty personally to Don Bernardino. He added that although money is sent from Spain to the Guise and to others to feed and maintain the blaze in France, still it is certain that the French recipients of this money use it for their own ends, but certainly not for the destruction of France. Some day, he said, his Catholic Majesty will regret having given such troubles to the Crown of France, as, for instance, he is doing at present by supplying Savoy with money in order to make himself master of Geneva and that not for love of religion, as he would have the Pope believe, but in order to shut the Italian passes against the French. Longlé concluded by saying that he was afraid that his master would be forced, by the action of Spain, to consent to any terms the Huguenots might demand.
Madrid, 11th October 1586.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Oct. 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 421. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
By the last despatches from England we hear that the Queen has condemned to death seven gentlemen who were imprisoned for conspiracy, they are to be quartered to-day. Ten others, of the richest and most important, have been imprisoned in the Tower, where are the Queen of Scotland's two secretaries. Here they are expecting every day some emissary from the Queen of England. The Queen of Scotland is kept very close. News from Antwerp that the Prince of Parma, after building three forts under Bergen, has been forced to raise the siege, on account of the damage the English are doing all over the country.
The Loire is in great flood, in six hours it rose higher than was ever known, and has carried off houses, bridges, vineyards, and they say, drowned upwards of ten thousand persons.
Paris, 11th October 1586.
Oct. 14. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 422. Matheo Zane, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England's horse levies will not march for want of money.
Prague, 14th October 1586.
Oct. 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 423. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is extremely sorry for the death of the Duke of Parma, both because he was his brother-in-law, and because he fears that the Prince of Parma will ask leave to go home to govern his state; they say this will be refused to him, as his Majesty knows how disastrous would be the departure of a general so fortunate and so experienced, so popular both with army and people; above all now when negotiations for an accord with the Queen of England are at an end, which places his Majesty in a still greater need of a general who can and will take active steps, for though his Majesty is in the habit of saying that his father, Charles V., was accustomed to reach his objects by force, while he prefers diplomacy, nevertheless, in this case, he will require both one and the other. The attach on England is frequently under discussion, but besides the difficulties which I enumerated in my despatch of August 6th, there is this chief one that France may quite possibly declare in favour of the Queen. Accordingly the question of endeavouring to secure a French alliance by offering terms which France could hardly refuse, was discussed in the cabinet; but finally this proposal was abandoned on the ground that the more important the matter in hand the more necessary to move with circumspection and to exercise a ripe judgment; that in this case there was a danger that a too violent desire for vengeance might hurry them into a course of action which would land them in a still more disagreeable position in the eyes of the world, to the greater regret of those who had recommended it; for it was extremely unlikely that a power which had already shown a disposition to assist England, to a certain extent, would all of a sudden turn round and attach her; nay, there was rather a danger that in the very heat of the enterprise France would not only withdraw from her Spanish alliance, but would go right over to the enemy; they concluded that it was much more prudent to act vigorously alone. (Considerando per principalissimo contrario sopra tutti che Francia possa scoprirsi apertamente a favore delta Regina; onde era messo in consulta se si dovesse procurar qualche modo di farla in compagnia del Christianissimo Re, ponendo conditioni tali che havesse a contentarsi; ma in fine fu refutata questa opinione, essendosi detto che quanto più grave et più importante per le circostantie è la cosa che si tratta hora tanto più è necessaria una circospettione accompagnata da maturato consiglio; et però doversi avertire sopra tutto che per troppo desiderio delta vendetta non si incorrere in risolutione che tornasse a maggior vergogna presso il mondo et a maggior pentimento ancora a quelli che ne havessero deliberato; ponderendo che era cosa motto falace a sperare, che chi si ha lasciato intendere in certo modo di volerla aiutare fosse hora per concorrere in offenderla; anzi convenir per più cause temere più tosto che quando fossero nell ardor dell' impresa non solo per separarsi da Spagnoli ma di accordarsi ancora con Inghilterra contra di loro; concludendo in fine che miglior consiglio fusse il pensar di far gagliardamente da se solo.). They recommend the further attachment of the Guise by money and every possible means, for it is they who encourage these Ministers to hope that France, will be kept in such a state of alarm as to be quite incapable of annoying his Catholic Majesty, and at the same time to prevent Navarre from making peace. The Marquis of Almazan, Viceroy on the Navarrese frontier, undertakes to accomplish this mission if he is allowed to give to the King of Navarre one hundred thousand crowns in cash, to be paid in two months, which will induce him to refuse any terms of an accord. But all these large schemes, which I assure your Serenity are not invented, only prove a great desire to act, while the preparations which are being made are of so feeble a nature that in face of the difficulties of the enterprise, it seems more likely that they are intended for defence rather than for offence. However, as his Majesty and his Ministers profess to act slowly and secretly, setting aside the numerous accidents which may arise, it is impossible to be sure of what will happen. Some say that as the fleets of both parties are now so large it is quite possible that a naval engagement may take place. Those who know best, however, being quite aware that it is almost impossible to force on an engagement between great sailing ships, especially upon the open seas, if one of the combatants does not desire it, conjecture that the Spanish will not risk an encounter until their fleet is more powerful than it is at present, (Ma li più intendenti, cite sano che difficilmente due armate di vasselli grossi da vela possino esser necessitate a combattere, massime in questi mari aperti, quando una non voglia, fano giudicio ancora che questi da qua fino che non habbiano gionte insieme maggior forze non cercherano far occasione.) Nor will the Queen of England seek an engagement, for it is her policy to harry the King in as many places as possible, so as to prevent him from giving his attention to one sole object; and so, even if she believed herself sure of victory, it would not suit her to risk her fleet, which is the very kernel of her power and her reputation, on the hazard of a single encounter. (Et molto meno la Regina d'Inghilterra alla quale come torna commodo di mettere gelosia et sospetto l'andarsi trattenando et per molte vie travagliando le cose di questo Re perche non habbia, a pensar ad una sola cosa, non le tornaria conto quando ben anco credesse haver vantaggio a metter in arbitrio di fortuna la sua Armata, che è il nervo della sue forze et delta sua reputatione.)
A rumour was recently spread that Drake was off the coast of Galicia with forty sail. But it was discovered that the Governor had mistaken the sails of Recalde's squadron, returning from the Azores, for Englishmen, and had sent to Salamanca for support. All the same orders have been dispatched to the sea ports, warning them to be on guard; and the orders given at Seville for the sailing of the Indian and Peruvian fleets have been countermanded in dread of Drake's arrival. The news that he is out with sixty sail and twelve galleons is confirmed; his artillery is excellent, and so are his crews, as there was a rush to serve under him. It is said that after ravaging these shores he will sail to meet the Castillian fleet at Havana, where it has gone to join the twenty ships under Alvaro Flores, which sailed from here in May last. Four English galleons have sailed for the coast of Brazil, and intend to push on to the Straits of Magellan, and thence into the Pacific, where they can wroke all sorts of mischief in perfect security.
A Spanish nobleman of the house of Mendoza, who had been called on to justify some of his actions in the Indies, left Spain in great wrath, and has gone to England, where he promises to do all he can to help the Queen.
The King has raised another loan from the Fuggers, of five hundred thousand ducats, to be paid in Frankfort, half now and half in March; and a similar loan from Genoese bankers, payable half on December 10th in Milan, and half on the same date in Flanders.
He has also ordered the Hazienda to provide two millions of gold for this winter.
Don Antonio de Ghevara, who is commissioned to supply the fleets has gone to Seville; and a Genoese merchant has been despatched to Genoa with a large letter of credit and instructions to buy salt meat, cheese, sardines, and other victuals in Genoa, along the Riviera and in Sardinia. In Spain they have bought seven hundred thousand fanneghe (fn. 1) of grain, a measure which weighs about one hundred and forty Venetian pounds apiece (anneghe, et pesano intorno cento quaranta lire Venetiane l'una), to make biscuits only, and this along with the dearth of corn, has sent up the price of grain. The fortresses which the King was building at the borders of Cochin and at Calicut to prevent the spice cargoes being diverted by the land route, are now in a state of defence; and the Viceroy now promises that the Turk shall be entirely excluded from that traffic.
Madrid, 18th October 1586.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Oct. 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 424. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 20th of this month Don Bernardino de Mendoza received letters from Lille, dated the 16th. They contained the news that the Duke of Parma, learning that German horse were on their way to support the English, and that they numbered one thousand five hundred, with thirty companies of English and Irish infantry, resolved to cross the Rhine on the sixth, and by forced marches, met, fought, and defeated them. The following day he marched upon the Earl of Leicester, who, with the rest of the army, was under Zutphen, in Guelderland. Both sides fought with great bravery for many hours, and the Earl was defeated, with the loss of almost all his chivalry, to the number of four hundred, and between seven and eight thousand men, as well as fifteen pieces of artillery and much ammunition. The Earl fled, but was followed up for six hours by the Duke. The Duke has lost the Governor of Guelderland, and two thousand men, partly Spanish, partly Flemish, and the Count d'Arenberg is seriously wounded. After this defeat the town of Lochen surrendered, and the Duke hoped to make more important acquisitions still.
This victory is considered of prime importance here, because it will embarrass the Queen of England to replace her army, and also because it may drive the Netherlands to seek the clemency of the King of Spain. The English here say the slaughter is exaggerated.
From London they write that other seven conspirators have been put to death; and the priest (Ballard) first of all. Each one before dying declared his willingness to suffer for the Catholic Faith.
The Queen of England learning that some French ships had left Britanny, sent Gianichi, a famous corsair, with twenty-two sail, to watch their movements, and to assure the safety of English shipping. But on learning that these French ships had put into Brouage, and that their object was to protect that place from the attacks of the garrison of La Rochelle, she gave that corsair leave to go a bucaneering against Spanish shipping.
Paris, 24th October 1586.
Oct. 26. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 425. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King made his proposals to the Cortes in solemn form. In his speech, which he pronounced himself, he told them that he had summoned them in order to lay before them the needs of these kingdoms, and the necessity for granting him large assistance, as they would presently learn at greater length from the Secretary Vasquez; he added that he was sure that he could rely on their obedience and readiness to give him every satisfaction.
A report setting forth the urgent needs of the King on account of the excesses committed by the Queen of England in Flanders and the Indies was then read.
A member of the Cortes, representing Burgos, replied, in the name of all, that they would take the communication into consideration, and would endeavour to gratify his Majesty.
I understand that the President of the Great Council, the Count of Barases, has asked, in the King's name, besides the ordinary subsidies which bring in four hundred thousand crowns a year, the confirmation of the Alcavalla, which is a tax of ten per cent., yielding nearly three millions of gold a year. Further, he has asked leave to impose a grist tax of about one real for every Venetian stara. (fn. 2)
The deputies have shown every disposition to grant the ordinary subsidies and the Alcavalla; but on the question of the grist tax they show themselves stiff. They declare that the population is so burdened with taxes that ever so little more will drive them desperate, especially when the tax is of such a nature as the grist tax, which is always odious. That if his Majesty is really in earnest this time about attacking England, they hope to obtain leave from their constituents to impose a heavy poll tax for this one time only, under certain conditions that it is not to be erected into an ordinary tax.
The King has resolved to send an Ambassador to the Schereef to find out whether it is to be war or peace, and also to discover what the Chavass from Constantinople and the English Ambassador are about.
On the eighteenth of the present month a ship reached Seville from Honduras, which she left on September 1st, with news that the Castillian fleet had arrived and sailed from Havana twelve days before she did. It is bringing one million of gold for the King, and two millions for private merchants.
Santa Cruz has received orders to send out all the ships he has to meet the Peruvian fleet. And he is warned to keep an eye open for Drake's nephew, who is out with many English corsairs, bringing his fleet up to the number of twenty-four ships, as well as for his uncle, who must now be cruising about after the other fleet, which is the richer, and of which we have no news as yet.
Four thousand men have been sent into Portugal, and six hundred gianetarii, or light cavalry.
The Marquis of Santa Cruz is afraid that Drake's nephew will make a descent on the coast of Spain, and he has collected two thousand men in Lisbon, and has then distributed them in garrisons along the shore.
The three Commissioners for the reform of morals and the enforcement of pious living at Court, have just issued an order which has been published in the churches. Under pain of excommunication anyone who is aware of the existence of a heretic, or a dweller in concubinage, or who keeps in his house gaming tables or casinos for loose women, is to denounce the same to the Cardinal of Toledo. Execution has already been given to the order by the outlawry of several widow ladies of high standing who kept casinos in their houses; and Don Alonso Manrique has been put in prison for living publicly in concubinage, in spite of his being one of the great knights, brother of the Count of Ponsalide, major domo to the King; there is no doubt but that this is entirely his Majesty's idea.
Madrid, 20th October 1586.
Oct. 28. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 426. Matheo Zane, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
His Majesty has heard with satisfaction of the defeats inflicted on the English by the Duke of Parma once on the 3rd, when he routed a body of one thousand English, a second time on the 5th, when he routed three thousand landsknechts and two thousand horse, who, under a bastard of Brunswick, were on their way to join the English.
Prague, 28th October 1586.


  • 1. See page 61.
  • 2. A stara or stars = about 82 kilos.