Venice: November 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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Venice: November 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 22 July 2024].

'Venice: November 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 22, 2024,

"Venice: November 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. 22 July 2024.

November 1587

Nov. 5. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 593. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Marquis of Santa Cruz has sent Don Pedro Ennriquez to the King to defend him against the common rumour that to suit his own private ends he is unwilling to take this sea with the Armada this winter, and to prove that he never indulged, nor ever will indulge, any other considerations except those for his Majesty's service. Don Pedro is further charged to say that the Marquis is using all diligence, and has six hundred workmen employed day and night, and that if his Majesty will give him fifteen days more he will put out to sea in person at the head of his whole fleet. He proposes to go to Flanders to embark the troops on board small vessels, and, if his Majesty so orders, to attack England at once, to help Scotland, or to make a landing in Ireland. The Spanish galleys have three thousand soldiers and sailors raised in Seville; the Marquis asks for thirty transports which are lying at San Lucar, and promises to be ready to sail on the 25th of this month. All the same he has not omitted to point out in all humility that the Armada runs a great risk at this season, an opinion which the Duke of Medina Sidonia publicly approves; he said to me himself that he had told the King that it would be a miracle if the fleet escaped. The King, however, standing firm in his resolve, as is his wont, after mature deliberation, has expressed pleasure at the readiness of the Marquis, and has sent orders to Seville to despatch the above-named transports to Lisbon, whither he has also sent troops from the garrisons on the frontiers of Castille, being fully determined, in spite of all considerations, that the Marquis shall put out to sea as strong as possible.
Before the Marquis sails he will receive the King's sealed orders; the Duke of Medina Sidonia says that, as yet, no express orders as to the operations to be carried out have been issued to the Marquis, on account of the uncertainty whether the whole or a part of the fleet was going to put out.
The King is all the more confirmed in his resolve to send out the fleet in that he sees that he can come to no understanding with the Queen. For the negotiations for a peace have reached this point that the Queen insists on retaining Flushing, while the King is determined to conclude no treaty which will not restore Flushing to him. Another reason for the sailing of the fleet is that the King cannot endure the idea of having thrown away such vast treasure as the President of the Royal Revenues assures me have been spent this year. The President declares that beyond a doubt the King has in his employ one hundred and eight thousand soldiers, between the Armada, Flanders, Italy, and the Spanish garrisons. I should not have dared to write this had I not positive information from a sound source. I also know that many Italian gentlemen who are here at Court are surprised to find that they are not to be employed; some have even volunteered to go in a private capacity, among these Don Pietro de Medici, Prospero Colonna, Pirro Malvezzo, Camillo da Coreggio; the King has merely thanked them, but is resolved to have none but Spaniards on board the fleet in Lisbon.
Madrid, 5th November 1587.
1587. Nov.—.Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 594. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain to the Doge and Senate.
I obtained from a friend of mine in strict confidence, and after a recommendation to absolute secresy, the letter which I told your Serenity had been written to the King by the Marquis of Santa Cruz. I think it my duty to enclose it The Marquis endeavours to show how dangerous it will be for the Armada to put out during the winter season, and how advisable it would be to put off this expedition till spring, setting out all the reasons which your Excellencies will read in the letter itself It seems that this letter has raised some doubts in the mind of the King, for he is in consultation every day with Don Juan d'Idiaquez and Don Christoforo de Mora. But I am also informed from an excellent source that such is the King's desire that the Armada should sail, that of himself, as one who is so powerful and who has been in England, he answers the many objections raised by the Marquis, and he promises himself a sure and easy victory thanks to his lucky star (la lettera medesima, la quale pare che ha messo qualche suspettione nell' animo della Re sua Maestà, sapendosi di certo che la consiglia ogni giorno con Don Giovanni Idiaquez et Don Christoforo di Mora. Ma io so anco da buonissima parte che tanto è il desiderio del Re che esca, che va risolvendo da lui, como quello che vale tanto et che è stato in Inghilterra, molte oppositioni che fa esso marchese, promettendosi in questa impresa forse per il corso delta sua buona fortuna, facile et sicura vittoria).
His Majesty gives proof of his resolve by the vigour with which he is carrying on the preparations, among others the despatch of three thousand soldiers to Lisbon. They have recently been raised in Andalusia and Estremadura. The hulks and galleys of Seville have also been sent. The letter of the Marquis, besides showing all that is passing on this subject, also proves how difficult it is to shake his Majesty when once he has determined on a line of action, and how resolved he is to carry through his wishes.
No date.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Nov. 4. Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 595. Letter from the Marquis of Santa Cruz to the King, translated from the Spanish; written in Lisbon on 4th November.
As I am convinced that Don Pedro Hennriquez will have sufficiently excused me from the calumnies which have been raised against me by my enemies and by those who were jealous of me, and that the truth will have demonstrated to your Majesty my enduring devotion, and my desire to serve and to obey in all respects your Majesty's commands, I leave all those points in my defence on one side, relying on the great wisdom and benignity of your Majesty; and I limit myself to saying that after my return with my squadron I have not neglected any opportunity nor shrunk from any fatigue in order to refit and prepare the fleet.
And now when, by the help of God, I can promise to put out at the end of this month or the beginning of next, I should be deeply culpable before his Divine Majesty, and wanting in my duty as a faithful vassal and servant of my Prince if I did not set forth the considerations of seamanship, of war, and of State which I hold to be of service or of disservice to your Majesty, submitting myself always to your wise and resolute will.
Your Majesty must know, then, that the season in which we now are, which may be called almost the heart of the winter, as well as the nature of the Atlantic Ocean, cause me grave doubts and anxiety when I see your Majesty resolved to send out the Armada at a time which is so perilous for various reasons, that I cannot imagine a more dangerous. Among these dangers is this, that the fleet may be scattered by a storm, and so some of our ships may fall into the enemies' hands, and the encouragement and reputation which this would give to the English is obvious.
Your Majesty's singular intelligence will perceive that the difference between sending out the Armada in December or sending it out in March is the difference of a couple of months, or little more, lost, whereas the gain would be peace of mind and the certainty of a successful issue, for at the later season the open sea would serve as a port for the Armada.
Should your Majesty desire to direct the Armada to Scotland it seems to me, and I call God to witness that I speak in all sincerity and unmoved by any passion, that in the Earl of Morton, with whom I have frequently discussed the project, I do not find such firmness of resolve as would justify us in committing our navy and our fleet to the good faith of the King of Scotland. For though he has been wounded by the death of his mother, he is in daily expectation of being named heir to the throne of England, and so he believes it his better policy to play a double game rather than to call on foreign aid, of which in himself he is not absolutely sure. What expectation, too, have we of being able to injure the kingdom of England; what is the least and what the most?
Apart from the fact that in winter in England there is little more than six hours of daylight, and that up to two o'clock the sky is usually clouded with a thick and dense mist; if the wind is from the south, which is favourable to our fleet, the atmosphere is obscured for the whole day, so that day might more justly be called another night, and navigation in unknown waters is rendered highly dangerous; on the other hand, if the sky is clear the wind will be absolutely in our teeth. I have also drawn from the Earl of Morton, in the course of conversation, the admission that the port which the King proposes to give us, although the largest in the kingdom, is not absolutely sheltered from winds nor yet large enough to hold so great a fleet.
Should your Majesty contemplate sending the Armada to Ireland, then, besides the various objections above displayed, one must remember that the Queen has fortified the harbours and landing-places where it seemed likely that we might attempt a landing. As to the issue of an engagement in the open sea, or the possibility of seizing a port, or the chances of effecting a landing, I do not think we can count on them; and all the less that we have lost the first hopes of a rising in Ireland, for in September last the Queen put to death those five leaders with whom we had secret understanding, and from whom we promised ourselves such effectual aid at the right moment. Their death has struck terror into the other Catholics in the island, who, to escape persecution, live now for the most part in the mountains and the uninhabited districts rather than in the cities, and consequently have no following and little authority.
But the objection of all others which weighs with me is this, that during the winter certain winds blow which are deadly to foreigners, and so even without fighting there is a great danger of losing many soldiers and sailors.
If it be really decided to go to England itself I would only observe that this Armada, even when united with the troops of the Duke of Parma, which would at this season be embarked and carried over the straits with no small difficulty, does not seem to me sufficient to attempt this enterprise in the very heart of the winter. We have no harbours at hand in case of need, and the tide is extremely strong, the sea all open to the south winds. Nor, in my opinion, would it be such an easy matter to take the Isle of Wight, or any other harbour, for the shelter of our fleet, as is represented to your Majesty by those who stake nothing on the risk, and have not been taught the difference between victory and defeat.
I hold that it would be advisable that your Majesty should wait to see what takes place about the peace between Persia and Turkey, and whether a Turkish fleet will sail from Constantinople next year, so that if it did put out the Turks might not find your Majesty with the whole nucleus of your forces far away from home.
If, after all, your Majesty should insist on my sailing be assured that you will not have either officer or private who will risk his life with greater alacrity, courage, and ardour. But, as I have humbly expressed it, my opinion is that the sailing of the Armada should be delayed, if not till March, at least till the middle of February to allow the weather to grow milder. And your Majesty must remember that should any misfortune befall the fleet, which God forbid, it would be impossible to put together another such Armada for a long time to come. To me it seems that a Sovereign with such a reputation in the world would take his measures at the proper moment, and would not allow himself to be swept away by a thirst for vengeance; and true praise and glory do not depend upon rapidity but upon success of action. Should your Majesty resolve to accept my advice I would still recommend that the rumour should be circulated that the fleet is to sail at once with a view to frightening the Queen into an open course of action, and compelling her to instruct her agents to deal in earnest with the question of the total restoration of Holland and Zealand.
All these considerations I have thought it my duty to lay before your Majesty, whose pardon I crave for my boldness which is born of my ardent desire to serve you; accept the assurance of my readiness to spend my life on the smallest sign from your Majesty, to whose royal and serene person may God grant increase of State and all other happiness and prosperity.
Nov. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 596. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
News from England that on the 17th of last month the Queen sent two Agents to Holland to inform the States that the Duke of Parma and herself held Commissioners ready to negotiate for a peace, but that she did not wish to send hers without communicating all the points to the States and hearing their opinion, and begging them to send Agents on their side also.
We hear from Brussels that the Queen has informed the Duke that the delay has arisen from the above cause, and that she hopes to be ready to send her Commissioners about the end of November. Public opinion, however, declares that this is only a way of putting off and deceiving on every hand, and not a true method for arriving at any satisfactory conclusion.
Paris, 6th November 1587.
Nov. 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 597. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The French Ambassador in England, in a despatch of the 30th of October, announces that the Queen of England has ordered all ships of eighty tons and upwards to be fitted out, and has appointed Commissioners to superintend the operation. That engineers had been sent to complete the fortification of certain ports, and that her fleet was ready for whatever might happen.
Thirteen Danish ships have appeared in those waters; ten of them splendid large ships and three medium size, all well found. Their object was not known. Some said they were to go to the Shetlands, now held by the King of Scotland, but once in the kingdom of Denmark; others said that this fleet had come to support the Queen, for the commander had sealed orders, with instructions to open them on the first of this month.
Paris, 9th November 1587.
Nov. 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 598. Lorenzo Bernardo and Giovanni Moro, Venetian Ambassadors in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
Hassan Pasha spoke at length with Brutti on the subject of Don Antonio and his journey to the Indies, or the possibility of his receiving assistance from the Grand Signor to attempt a descent on Portugal in conjunction with the forces of England. He pointed out that the power of Spain was greatly increased by the acquisition of Portugal, and the late rumours of the defeat of the English by the Spanish. He urged upon Brutti how ill advised it was in the Sultan to allow the power of Spain to assume such proportions, and that some day, when their hands were free, the Spaniards might place the Turkish Empire in serious danger; and he wound up by saying that those who had direction of affairs were no statesmen; the Grand Vizir was an ignoramus, Ibrahim a liar and a vain-glorious fellow, the Beglierbey of Greece a trickster. His advice was that next year the Sultan should send out his fleet of one hundred sail, which, in conjunction with the guardships and the Barbary squadron, could seriously annoy the King of Spain and give satisfaction to the English, while greatly benefiting this empire, by which he meant to allude to the kingdom of Fez where his own interests lay.
Since the news of the defeat of the English their Ambassador frequents the houses of the Pashas, and, above all, of the Sultan's secretary who favours him greatly, and he has frequently been through the arsenal with Ibrahim Pasha, reviewing the galleys and openly discussing their number and quality, almost always in the presence of Hassan Pasha, and sometimes of the Jew, Salamon, the Portuguese, who is well acquainted with Indian affairs (dapoi l' aviso della vittoria de Spagnoli contra Englesi questo Ambasciatore di Inghilterra frequenta le case delli Magnifici Bassà et particolarmente quella del Coza del Signor, il quale molto lo favorisce. Et piu d' una volta ha caminato questo arsenate con Ibraim Bassà, rivedendo queste galee, et discorrendo publicamente del numero et qualità d' esse con la presentia quasi sempre di Assan Bassà, et alle volte anco di quel Salamon, Hebreo Portughese molto pratico delle Indie).
They are expecting an Ambassador from Spain to negotiate a truce.
Dal Vigne di Pera, 11th November 1587.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Nov 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 599. Lorenzo Bernardo and Giovanni Moro, Venetian Ambassadors in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
After the Agent of Don Antonio of Portugal had left with the answer which I have reported, an English gentleman arrived here on board the ship “Salvagna.” He says he is a Catholic, that he left England at the end of May with the intention of going to Jerusalem, but on his arrival here he changed his mind, and after staying a few days he left for Patras, there to embark on board an English ship for England. This roused great suspicions, and I succeeded in keeping him under observation. From what I have found out from Benveniste it seems that Don Antonio is asking for money and ships from the Sultan, and that the Queen of England has promised him a similar number of ships to attack Portugal. Don Antonio offers to hold that kingdom as a fief of the Turkish Empire, as Bathory holds Transilvinia, and promises a son of his own as a hostage.
The Sultan has absolutely refused money, but has promised to send out his fleet next year; and with this answer the Englishman has been sent back to his Queen.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 11th November 1587.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Nov. 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 600. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Pope complains that the King of Spain has given no answer regarding Cardinal Allen.
Rome, 14th November 1587.
Nov. 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 601. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Marquis of Santa Cruz and Don Alonso di Leyva are in open hostility. Challenges and insulting letters are exchanged between them, and there is great danger that the matter will go further on account of the diversity of their opinion.
Madrid, 14th November 1587.
Nov. 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 602. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Don Bernardino de Mendoza writes from Paris that the Queen of England is putting together a larger fleet than was thought. He advises the Ministers here not to trust to the proposals which she advances on the subject of Flanders, for he has been informed that she is doing all she can to effect a peace between the King of France and the King of Navarre, declaring that their quarrel incited the King of Spain to attack England with a view, if he succeeded, to aspiring to still greater conquests, and calling their attention to the danger which threatened them. But Mendoza is of opinion that in the heat of this war in France these representations will pass unheeded.
As regards the sailing of the fleet I know from a good quarter that the King has sent the Marquis of Santa Cruz's letter to the Prior Don Ernando, with orders that after deliberation he is to express his opinion. The Prior replied that if his Majesty was under promise to the King of Scotland he should keep his word, but if he was bound by no obligation it would be advisable to let two or three months pass. The King, however, continues to show his desire that the Armada should sail, but powerful and in good order (il Re mandò al Prior Don Ernando la lettera del Marchese Santa Croce acciò dopo considerata dicesse il suo parere. il Prior rispose che se sua Maestà haveva promesso al Re di Scotia attendesse alla parola, ma che non essendo necessità, saria bene scorrere due o tre mese ancora. Il Re nondimeno continua in mostrar desiderio che parti, ma potente et ben in ordine).
Various items of news are contained in the enclosed, which was written to me in confidence by a person who is always near the Marquis, and has a post on board the fleet. As the thirty ships and galleons of Seville have been seized for service it will be impossible for the India fleet to sail this year.
Madrid, 22nd November 1587.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 603. By a previous courier I wrote to your Excellency all that was going on here about the Armada; how the Marquis of Santa Cruz made the men work day and night to fit out as large a number of ships as possible, but that, in my opinion, the Armada could not be ready before the month of December.
The fleet is in great want of sailors, while the hospitals are full of soldiers, and the further we advance in the winter the more people fall ill. The ships require more repairs than was foreseen, and especially those of the Grand Duke, and the flagship of the fleet of New Spain, which are the best ships in the Armada. His Majesty has sent express orders that all six are to be careened; my opinion is that they will take a month to fit out, and more, and without them the fleet will not sail; and, indeed, it is impossible for the Marquis, even if he uses all the diligence he can, to keep his promises to his Majesty. But I am of opinion that the Marquis will be allowed to have his own way, and that the King will prudently let himself to be governed. His Majesty will show that he has the olive in one hand and the sword in the other for the destruction of the Queen of England.
The Earl of Morton is in close conference with the Marquis, and the common opinion here is that if war breaks out it will break out in Scotland. The Marquis neglects nothing, though there be some who think they are abler and know more than him.
The two hundred pieces of cannon which they are casting will soon be ready.
Six days ago eleven English ships seized a Ragusan bound for Lisbon with Catalonian wine, along with four other ships and a carvel.
Lisbon, 16th November 1587.
Nov. 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 604. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
Apropos of the news from Constantinople the Pope made many remarks on the designs of the Turks to avail themselves of Don Antonio of Portugal in the Indies.
The Pope pointed out that though Don Antonio's presence at this moment in England threw some doubt upon the story, yet, as a matter of fact, the design would not be so difficult of execution, for the Portuguese in the Indies are ill-affected towards Spain, and if Don Antonio appeared there they would probably rise. But, what was worse, if the King of Spain died Portugal would revolt. His Holiness added that the King of Spain is the greatest Prince in Christendom, and yet he is negotiating for peace with a woman who insults him, and proposes disadvantageous terms, for the Queen will not give up Holland and Zealand.
“We have granted him Church moneys, and we believe that these moneys, not being spent on their true purpose, are the cause of all his ruin,” the Pope said.
The Duke of Parma is doing nothing in Flanders against his enemies.
Rome, 28th November 1587.
Nov. 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 605. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Marigliani and Don Juan d' Idiaquez are in consultation about the truce at Constantinople. Marigliani is strongly opposed to Figliazzi, especially now that the Grand Duke is dead. On the other hand, the King will not send an Ambassador of his own, as he thinks that would compromise his dignity, and would, moreover, imply a present to the Sultan.
The King of Fez has asked for a passport for an Ambassador who is to treat about exchanging el' Arisch for Arzile (Asila). But it is thought that all this is a ruse of the Queen of England.
From Lisbon we hear that the preparations for the Armada continue, but that on board the fleet many are dying. The English corsairs are working their usual havoc. Seven of them seized three Spanish ships off Cape St. Vincent; they were on their way from San Domingo with ginger and hides; also two smaller ships laden with iron.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia, to whom I am under great obligations, tells me that his Majesty is spending in Portugal as much as ten thousand crowns a day in payment of troops, outfit of ships, victuals, ammunition; and if he goes on like this he will be shortly obliged to borrow large sums of money, especially as there will be no fleet from the Indies of Castille this year.
Madrid, 29th November 1587.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]