Venice: February 1587

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: February 1587', 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: February 1587', 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: February 1587". 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.

February 1587

Feb. 3. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 463. Matheo Zane, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The journey of the Archduke Mathias is towards England where they say he has been invited. The Emperor is very displeased.
Prague, 3rd February 1586 [m.v.].
Feb. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 464. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Last Monday the King celebrated the Purification of the Virgin (nostra Donna delle Candelle) with great pomp. He desired that the Prince should be seen in public, and the joy of all was extreme when they saw how well he looked, and with what a gracious manner he walked before his father in the procession. The King could not hide his delight.
Orders have been sent to the Duke of Medina Sidonia to examine the ships which have been impounded in Cadiz and in Seville, and to sequestrate goods found on board, whether they belong to English or Dutchmen. The crews are to be placed in chains; he is ordered, however, to use all gentleness with those who are neither enemies nor rebels. Some of the master mariners have received three months' pay as an inducement to them to serve willingly. On board they say they have found eight hundred pieces of artillery.
Among other provisions for the Armada they have contracted with the Prince of Salerno for seventy thousand iron cannon balls, and with others for eight thousand cantara (fn. 1) of coarse powder. They say we shall soon see eight captains commissioned to raise ten thousand troops.
Madrid, 6th February 1586 [m.v.].
Feb. 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 465. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain to the Doge and Senate.
They are attending to those provisions for the Armada which I have already described, and various are the comments thereon; some say the Armada is destined for England, others for Ireland, many for Zealand and Holland, nor are there wanting those who maintain that the whole force may be suddenly turned upon Africa at El Arisch. At all events we hear for certain that only Spanish troops will be embarked for the present, and that leads one to conjecture that no important expedition will be undertaken this year unless some unforeseen event should arise; it may be, however, that in accordance with the memorial presented by the Marquis of Santa Cruz, which I sent to your Serenity, the whole fleet may put out to search for and engage the English navy; but this is considered unlikely for various reasons, and chiefly because Drake can always avoid an engagement thanks to the swiftness of his ships, unless he finds himself in a very advantageous position (massime sapendosi che Draco per l'agilità delle sue navi, può fuggire la giornata sempre che non si cognosca con grande avantaggio) Everything here is conducted with such secrecy that it is not merely difficult but impossible to be sure of the truth. All the same I consider it my duty to report the remarks of important personages.
Three hundred thousand ducats have been sent in cash to the Marquis of Santa Cruz, with orders to despatch Recalde as soon as possible, in command of twenty fully armed ships, to meet the Peruvian squadron and secure its safety. One thousand troops for the Azores are to be sent along with Recalde, as they are not without a suspicion that if Drake has Don Antonio on board he may make an attempt on those islands which are of such importance for the fleets that go and come from those parts. They are going to borrow one million and a half of gold in Genoa for use in Italy and Flanders, and offer as a security the last subsidy raised in the kingdom of Naples. The negotiations for an accord which that English merchant in Lisbon was conducting with the Secretary de Mora have been suspended until they hear what proposals Gamboa has to make; he has come from England more recently. By this time he ought to have been set at liberty by the Huguenots of Bordeaux on the ransom of his Majesty. The King is informed for certain that the Queen of England is thoroughly alarmed for her own life and for the safety of her kingdom, both on account of the conspiracies which are constantly coming to light, and on account of the great preparations of war which rumour pictures as being made in Spain. In order to secure the support of France she has offered to give his Most Christian Majesty certain of the strong places in Holland and Zealand; Drake, however, encourages her, assuring her that the Spanish noises are only salvoes of blank cartridge, which make a rumpus but break no bones, adding that the Spaniards cannot send out a strong fleet this year. There is here a certain Francis Englefield, a person of importance, and ex-Councillor of State in England, who has fled his country because he is a Catholic; he is sometimes in long and secret conference with Idiaquez, and though it is impossible to discover the gist of their business, yet it is easy to see that the Spanish are moving towards their great object in various ways and from many sides, no less by diplomacy than by preparations for war, and even by a union of the two (qui anco si attrova un Signor Francesco Englefin, persona principale, et vecchio consigliere di quel regno, ma fuggito di là per esser Catholico, che tratta alcune volte lungamente in secreto con Idiaquez, et se ben non si pub penetrare nella trattatione, si comprende però, che procurano qui in molte maniere et in molti parte di fare strada a suoi gran pensieri, non meno con negocio che la preparatione delle armi, anzi con tutte doi unitamente).
Madrid, 9th February 1586 [m.v.].
[Italian; deciphered.]
Feb. 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 466. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I am informed that the Duke of Medina Sidonia has ordered in Seville many tents, twelve thousand pair of shoes, twelve thousand leather canteens, and twelve thousand leather knapsacks, and other things needful for an army that wishes to effect a landing. The Governor of Giupusca has orders to send into Lisbon all the sailors and all the ships he can; and a contract for a larger quantity of biscuits has been signed. The Marquis of Santa Cruz is to send ships to block the passage of the Straits of Gibraltar against the English and against the ships of the King of Morocco. A courier has left to summon the troops from Italy; and so it seems that the affair grows warmer every clay.
Madrid, 10th February 1586 [m.v.].
Feb. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 467. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
We have heard that Don Pedro Sermento, that Spaniard who, as I informed you, was set at liberty in England, has been captured in Guienne by an officer of Navarre while he was on his way by post into Spain. Whenever Don Bernardino heard this news he made strong representations to his Majesty that Sermento should be released, declaring that the subjects of his Catholic Majesty ought to enjoy security in France. His Majesty replied that he regretted his inability to gratify Don Bernardino at once, but he offered to write to the Queen-Mother begging her to ask for Don Sermento's liberty. Don Bernardino answered, that if his Majesty was unable to command Navarre he should like to have that stated in writing, so that the King of Spain might legitimately proceed against Navarre and his belongings in Flanders and in Beam. The King instructed Villeroy to manage this affair. Villeroy has told Don Bernardino quite frankly that the matter is of such moment that it will take days and months of consideration before an answer can be returned.
In the meantime, the English Ambassador having informed his Queen, she sent a gentleman named Rayleigh (Rali), the man who procured Don Sermento's liberty in England, to Navarre to beg for his release, as she was grieved at this arrest taking place when Sermento was travelling under her passports; but I hear on the best authority that the French, the more they see that Spain and England desire to procure Sermento's liberty the more will they throw obstacles in the way, with a view to using this to forward their treaty of peace and to exchange Sermento for the son of Lanua.
Paris, 13th February 1587.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Feb. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 468. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Some days ago Stafford, brother of the English Ambassador at this Court, informed the Queen of England that Monsieur de L'Aubespine, French Ambassador at her Court, was in communication with certain English prisoners with a view to assassinating her; their instrument was to be a certain Monsieur Detrapes, one of L'Aubespine's household; he further declared that as he had frequently to go to the Embassy on business he himself had been sounded as to whether he would join the plot. The Queen decided to arrest Stafford at once, and to send after Mons. Detrapes, who had set out for France with despatches of the Ambassador de L'Aubespine, He was overtaken at Dover, and brought a prisoner to the Queen. She then sent orders to her Ambassador here to inform his Majesty that as it was a question affecting her very life she had been obliged to adopt such measures, but she entreated his Majesty to suspend his judgment until she had been able to examine the prisoners, and to arrive at the bottom of this business, when she would not fail to send an express to render an account to his Majesty. The King, however, was verbally assured by the secretary of his Ambassador that this Stafford was the same man as the one who was in prison with Moody (Modi), and that both of them had asked de L'Aubespine to give them money to get out of prison, promising to kill the Queen; when the Ambassador refused to listen to this proposal, and even forbade them the Embassy, Stafford made up his mind to go to the Queen, and to say whatever seemed good to him.
The King then resolved, in deliberation with his Council, to send a courier express to all the ports on the 6th of this month, with orders that all English shipping and English goods should be seized. Such a course of action was dictated by resentment at the conduct of the Queen of England who had proceeded without any regard for the dignity of the French Crown, and also by the wish to secure for themselves an advantage should the strained relations continue. At the same time French subjects and French ships were forbidden to go to England.
After these orders had been issued M. Wade (Oad) arrived here from the Queen of England. He was the bearer of the prisoners' depositions, which were sent in order to convince his Majesty that the Queen had been justified in her procedure, and also to demonstrate her great regard for his Most Christian Majesty in having refrained from taking any steps against the person of the Ambassador de L'Aubespine, though he was an accomplice in the plot; she earnestly entreated that he might be recalled, and his place taken by a person of a good character, who was a dependant of his Majesty, and not of the League, as de L'Aubespine was. Here they were in doubt for some days whether to admit this gentleman to an audience or not; some held that his Majesty could not do so with dignity to himself. At last, however, he was received, and spoke at length in accordance with his instructions; the King replied that the matter was of the highest importance for his honour, which the Queen of England treated too lightly, but, all the same, he would look at the papers, take council, and make a reply. I am well informed that his Majesty is aware that his Ambassador had carelessly lent an ear to such suggestions, and so it is likely that the affair may blow over; but the Ministers will insist upon not giving way, so as to maintain the royal dignity, and Villeroy is doing all he can to influence his Majesty by this argument to support the Ambassador, who is Villeroy's brother-in-law.
Wade asserts everywhere in public that the Queen cannot receive de L'Aubespine in audience, as his life would be in danger from the populace, which is fully convinced that he is the prime mover in the plot; and that it is impossible for de L'Aubespine to remain in England without great danger and inconveniences.
I will inform your Serenity of events as they occur, and you must know that after this last disturbance Parliament has made most earnest request that the Queen will carry out the sentence against the Queen of Scotland; they give her to understand that if she does not they will not vote supply; they have presented a memorial setting forth that the kingdom will always be in danger, and her Majesty's life insecure. (Essendo stato riferito alla Regina d'Inghilterra li ultimi giorni del mese passato da Monsieur Stofort, fratello dell' Ambasciatore suo residents a questa Corte, come Monsieur Delubepina, Ambasciatore di Francia residente appresso di Lei, haveva trattatione con alcuni Inglesi prigioni, per farla ammazzar, servendosi per instrumento d'un Monsieur Detrapes, gentilhuomo Francese della casa sua, et che esso ancora, mentre che andava spesso a vederlo per termine d'ufficio, era stato ricercato ad interponersi in tale operatione, divenne essa in rissolutione di far carcerar subito il Stofort, et ispedir dietro a Monsieur Detrapes che era partito per Francia con lettere dell Ambasciatore Delubepina, il quale fu giunto a Doure prima che s' imbarcasse, et fu condotto pregione alla Regina. Ispedi essa subito lettere al suo Ambasciatore perche facesse sapere al Re, che trattandosi della sua vita in questi tempi, era astretta per necessità a proceder di quella maniera; che per tanto pregava S. M. a suspender il suo giudicio, fino ch'ella potesse esaminar li pregioni, et intender con fondamanto quello ch' era di questa prattica, perche non haveria mancato subito per persona expressa a dar conto di tutto a sua Maestà Christianissima, let quale dopo esser stata informata dalla viva voce del Secretario del suo Ambasciatore che Stofort è stato quello che con Modi Cavalarizzo che era pregione, haveano ricercato l'Ambasciatore a darli certi danari perche uscisse di pregione, promettendoli che tutti due erano risoluti di voter ammazzar la Regina ad ogni modo, et che non havendo voluto l'Ambasciatore prestar orecchie a tal propositione, anzi havendo prohibito la prattica della casa sua a detto Stofort, per le reiterate instanze che li faceva, s'era esso mosso d'andar alla Regina et dir quel che li era parso.
Deliberò Sua Maesta Christianissima, col consiglio di mandar subito ordine per corrieri espressi in tutti li Porti di Francia, come fece ai' 6 di questo, perche fossero ritenuti tutti li navilii, et tutte le robbe Inglesi, stimando conveniente proceder di tal maniera et per risentimento dell' operationi, della Regina fatte senza riguardo della dignità di questa corona, et per avvantaggiarsi in ogni evento che li dispareri andassero piu avanti, commandando parimente che non fosse lasciato passar in Inghilterra de navilii ne persone Francesi. Dopo queste ispeditione è arrivato qui Mons. Oad, mandato dalla Regina colli constituti dei prigioni per mostrare al Re la giusta causa che l' ha mossa a proceder di quella maniera, et il rispetto grande che ha havuto verso sua Maestà Christianissima di non passar piu avanti nella persona dell' Ambasciatore Delubepina, seben partecipe di tal colpa, facendo ufficio effecacissimo che sia levata di quella carica et mandatone un altro di buona mente, che dipendi dalla sua Maestà Christianissima et non dalla legha, come fa questo. Qui sono stati alquanti giorni in dubbio se dovevano ametter all' audienza questo gentilhuomo, parendo ad alcuni che Sua Maestà non potesse farlo con sua dignità, ma in fin l'han ammesso; et havendo egli parlato lungamente, conforme alla, sua commissione, il Re li ha detto che il negocio presente è di estrema consideratione per l'interesse della sua dignità, poco stimata dalla Regina, che però vederia le scritture, saria col consiglio di Stato, et li daria risposta. Mi vien detto da buona parte che conosce Sua Maestà la leggerezza dell' Ambasciator in haver prestato orecchie a chi li ha parlato di cosa tale, et che per ciò sarà facil cosa che si acquiettino delle cose passate, ma che staranno in opinione di non volerlo mutar in alcuna maniera per interesse della dignità sua, affatticandosi Villeroe di persuader sua Maestà con questo pretesto per sustentar l'Ambasciatore che è suo cognato; seben afferma questo Oad publicamente in ogni luoco che non è in poter della Regina ammetter l'Ambasciatore alla sua audienza con sicurtà della vita di quello, per l'odio del popolo, ch'è impresso ch' egli sia stato promotor di quella trattatione, et che non è possible ch' egli si trattenghi in quelle parti senza gran pericolo di grandissimo inconveniente. Quanto seguirà ne darò conto alla Serenità Vostra con ogni diligenza, la qual saprà che dopo questo nuovo tumulto li stati han rinovato l'instanza con ufficii efficacissimi perche sia eseguita la sentenza contra la Regina di Scotia, lasciandosi intender, che non lo facendo, non vogliono più contribuire ai susidii ordinarii, mostrando in scrittura chel Regno starà di continuo in simile rivolutioni, et la Maestà Sua in continuo pericolo della vita.)
Paris, 13th February 1587.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Feb. 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 469. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
Despatches from Spain, dated the 16th of last month, arrived this morning. They announce the continuance of the preparations for war; but the French here think that the sole object of these preparations is to protect Spanish dominions, and to secure the safety of the Spanish flotillas, which are said to be very rich this year, without any design to attack England. The richer the fleet the more pains Drake will give to its capture, and therefore the more reason why the Spaniards should make themselves strong at sea.
Rome, 14th February 1586 [m.v.].
Feb. 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 470. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Rumour says that some English corsairs have captured a ship on its way from Peru, and many think that it may be the carvel which was bringing news of the Peruvian fleet; and if that be so then the fleet itself will run great risk, for the enemy will have been informed of the latitude in which its course is laid out, and will be able to lie in wait for it; still they trust that the good luck of his Majesty will escape any such terrible disaster.
The ships of M. de Lansac, which were set at liberty, are still in these waters, and it seems are chasing not only the English but the French as well. The French Agent is disgusted at this, and has sought an audience in order to complain, as he is convinced that Lansac is supported here in Spain.
Madrid, 15th February 1586 [m.v.].
[Italian; deciphered.]
Feb. 17. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 471. Matheo Zane, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The Archduke Mathias is still in Lubeck or Hamburg, waiting for fine weather to sail for England. Others think he is waiting to see what the English Parliament will decide.
Prague, 17th February 1586 [m.v.].
Feb. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 472. Lorenzo Bernardno, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The Capadun Pasha sent to summon my dragoman, and asked how long it was since I had despatches from Venice, the cause of this delay, the truth about the Spanish Armada; adding that he knew it was directed against England, but still he would like some details. I hear that he has made a like representation to the French Ambassador.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 19th February 1586 [m.v.].
[Italian; deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 473. List of the Number and Description of the Ships in the Turkish Arsenals.
New galley of the Grand Signor 1
New galley of the Capadun Pasha, of 35 benches 1
Old galleys of the Capadun Pasha 3
Galley of Sinan Pasha, of 32 benches 6
Galley of Piali Pasha, of 32 benches 1
(fn. 2) Maone 7
Old maone 3
Galleys 73
Galliots 22
Total 230 (sic)
Galleys and galliots in Barbary 12
Galleys and galliots in the White Sea 22
Galleys, and one maone in dock in Black Sea 10
In Barbary waters 20
In all 296 (sic)
[Italian; deciphered.]
Feb. 21. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 474. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
We hear of negotiations for a trace between the King of Spain and the Queen of England; and it is thought that it may easily be effected.
They fear for the Queen of Scotland. The next news is expected to be bad.
Rome, 21st February 1586 [m.v.].
Feb. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 475. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Mr. Wade, who, as I informed your Serenity, was sent by the Queen of England about the beginning of this month to deal with the affair of the Ambassador L'Aubespine, presses for an answer from the King, but cannot get one, as his Majesty has despatched a chamberlain to the Ambassador with credentials authorising L'Aubespine to give his answer to the Queen; they hope in this way to induce her Majesty to admit L'Aubespine to an audience. Meantime the English Ambassador and the English Agent are amazed that his Most Christian Majesty should insist that his Ambassador, who is lying under such grave accusations, is to treat with their mistress upon the subject of his own misdeeds. Advices from England say that the Queen will not allow L'Aubespine to leave his house, and has placed a strong guard at the doors under colour of protecting him from the insults which he might receive from the populace, and she has publicly declared that she will never admit him to her presence. The Ambassador of England and the Agent, Wade, further complain that their couriers, travelling under passport, have been intercepted, and their despatches opened, with no consideration for their character. A Greek merchant, subject of your Serenity, has just come from England. He says that when the Queen heard of the embargo laid on English ships and goods in the French ports she at once ordered similar steps to be taken against the French in England. She has also concentrated all her ships of war, which may number twenty-five in all, and has ordered the commissioning of every ship in the kingdom, amounting to one hundred and fifty, without counting those that are abroad. She has sent to Holland and Zealand to beg for ships to increase her fleet as much as she can; the States have sent two Ambassadors to inform the Queen that if she desires help she must observe the terms of her treaty with them, namely, that wars must be not defensive merely but also offensive; they also point out that this course of action, supported by insufficient forces, will only serve to increase the reputation and to favour the designs of Spain, while leaving them in misery and destroying their commerce. The rumour runs in England that all these preparations are due to information that the Spanish are arming a powerful fleet, and that the King of Spain will take some steps to the damage of England.
The return of the chamberlain is eagerly awaited here, as he will bring news whether the Queen has received the Ambassador L'Aubespine, and how the preparations for the armament go on.
The Duke of Parma has recovered his health, and has had this further good fortune that Colonel Stanley, an Englishman of high nobility, belonging to the house of Derby, has surrendered Deventer spontaneously. Deventer is the capital of Oberyssel, between Guelderland and Frisia. Stanley says he came to this resolve upon conscientious grounds, as he knew how just were his Catholic Majesty's claims upon that place. The Duke of Parma sent Colonel Tassis to assume possession; and of many Irish companies in the town only three marched out, the rest declared themselves Catholics, and remained with the army. This event is considered of the highest importance both on account of the nature of the place itself and because it is expected to lead to the fall of many others. Near Zutphen an Englishman surrendered to the Duke a fort of great importance; this he did out of gratitude to the Duke, who a year before had spared his life.
Paris, 27th February 1587.


  • 1. See Martini, Manuale di Metrologia, p. 322.
  • 2. See Rezasco Diz. d. Linguaggio Italiano. Jal, Archeologie navale. Saverien, Dizionario dell' arte navale.