Venice: May 1588

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 1588', 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 1588', 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 1588". 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 1588

May 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 654. Giovanni Moro, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador has been informed of a rumour current in Rome to the effect that he has given information to the Grand Signor concerning the position of all Italian Princes, suggesting the way in which they might be attacked, and urging the Turk to do so. His Excellency has complained most bitterly to me of this rumour, and has sworn that it is utterly false, and that such a thing was never dreamed of by him. He has begged me to testify to your Serenity that he never entertained such a thought; but that had he ever heard of any hostile designs against the Republic he would never have had peace of mind till he had informed me. I promised to fulfil his wishes, but he sent me the enclosed letter as well; from it your Serenity will gather how much he is hurt, and will give me such orders as you may think fit; I am convinced that at the moment of my reply to him he will prefer a request.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 4th May 1588.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 655. Most Illustrious and Honoured Lord,
I have explained to your Lordship, by word of mouth, the great pain I feel at the false calumny which has been invented against me in Italy. As your Lordship expressed your intention of writing something on the subject, being well aware that the rumour contains not one grain of truth, I beg to repeat in this letter what has been written to me.
A rumour was spread in Rome that I, as Ambassador of the Queen of England, had not only clearly informed the Grand Signor on the subject, of the forces, riches, and management of all the States of Italian secular Princes, but that I had encouraged him, and pointed out the way to render these States subject to his Empire. And, further, that for this purpose the Queen had sent me three hundred thousand crowns in gold to encourage this design.
I have already sworn that these charges are false. I now repeat my oath, and again swear that my mistress, and far less I, has never entertained such an idea.
My mistress is on friendly terms with nearly all those Princes. This is a diabolical invention, started by some malignant spirit to sow discord.
I have never been in any part of Italy in my life; and English merchants continue to trade in Venice, Leghorn, and other cities; both of these facts demonstrate the falsity of the rumour.
I beg your Lordship, for our friendship's sake, and also for the truth's sake, to make this understood whenever it may appear necessary; so that no faith may be lent to the malicious rumours spread by these evil tongues.
I commend me much to your grace; may the Lord God have you ever in His keeping.
From my house, 20th April 1588.
Your Lordship's most affectionate confrere,
William Harborn,
English Ambassador.
May 5. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 656. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Armada has not sailed yet for various reasons, and chiefly on account of the bad weather; but it is on the point of doing so, and its sails are unfurled. I enclose a note of the ships, sailors, and troops which compose the force.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia embarked on St. Mark's Day with salvoes of artillery. He was accompanied on board by the Cardinal Archduke and Legate, who insisted on the Duke walking at his right hand. The standard has on one side the crucifix with the motto “Exurge Domine et judica causam tuam”; on the other side is a painting of the Madonna with the legend, “ Monstra te esse Matrem.”
Here the universal processions are continued, and great is the concourse. The processions are held on holy days, so that more people may be able to attend; and those in waiting on his Majesty declare that he rises in the night to pray God to grant him a happy issue out of this struggle.
I have your Serenity's letters, and the despatches from the Levant, which I communicated as usual. I understand that if the Turkish fleet takes the sea, Andrea Doria is to concentrate his squadron and protect his Majesty's dominions from attack.
Madrid, 5th May 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 657. List of the Troops on board the Armada of His Majesty at the Review of April 19th, 1588; also of the Cavalry, the Volunteers, the Dependants, and Servants who were present.
Companies. Officers and Men.
The Neapolitan Reserves, under Don Alonso Luzon 26 2,844
The Seville Reserves, under Don Diego Pimentel 26 2,491
The Reserves of Don Fernando de Toledo 26 2,623
” Don Agostin Mexia 26 2,668
” Nicolas de Isla 26 2,378
Free Companies 4 341
Retainers 206
Servants 83
Volunteer Cavalry 108
Servants 200
The Seville fleet has 3,000
Total 134 16,942
Ships. Crews.
The “St. Martin” and the “St. John,” seven galleons; two zabras. 11 1,207
Ten ships and four transports, under Juan Ninez de Recalde. 14 868
Ships under Miguel de Oquendo 14 616
” Pedro de Valdes 11 708
” Mindo Bertendena 11 943
” Juan Gomez de Medina 27 485
” Don Antonio Hurtado de Mendoza 22 674
” Don Hugo de Moncada 4 468
Total 114 5,941
The Andalusian fleet 131 6,541
May 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 658. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England, employing all means to strengthen her position, has proposed to the King that he should attack the League, both because she personally desires to see the house of Guise repressed on account of the affair of the Queen of Scotland, and also because she hopes in that case to divert the forces of Spain to the protection of the Guise, for she is convinced that if the King of France declared against them they would throw themselves into the arms of Spain, who would be obliged to support them. (Procurando la Regina d' Inghilterra di tentar tutti quei mezzi con li quali potesse assicurar meglio le cose sue, fa metier partiti inanti el Re per interessarlo contra quei della Lega, cosi per la particolar volontà che ha di veder abbassata la casa di Ghisa, della quale per li rispetti della Regina di Scotia, si trova mal satisfatta, come perche crederia in tal evento obligar le forze di Spagna alla protettione di questi Sigri, molto ben sicura che quando il Re se le voltasse contra, assolutamente si metterebbono nelle braccia de Spagnoli et sarebbono essi astretti a prender la loro protectione.)
With this object in view her Ambassador went to the King, and said, first, that the Queen had always had the welfare of his Majesty and of his kingdom so much at heart that without being invited she had tried to help him. She had brought the German horse into France last year, and caused them to campaign in Lorraine, as being the best way of punishing the Guise. That she still desired to give all those signs of real affection, her life, her money, her council, and her arms; but, being a woman, she was unable personally to serve his Majesty, though all else she offered him, and begged him to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with her. The Ambassador added that the Queen begged his Majesty to take the advice of Venice on this point.
The Ambassador then presented the whole matter in writing. The King thanked the Queen, and replied that the greatest service she could do him was to persuade Navarre to abandon his obstinate attitude, and to become a Catholic; a consummation which he desired as much as he despair of.
As a matter of fact the King is full of zeal for the Catholic faith, but the way in which he is treated by the Guise and their power at Rome exasperate him.
Paris, 6th May 1588.
May 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 659. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English and Flemish Commissioners have met in the country four leagues from Ostend. They simply resolved to meet again in a few days at Ghent. The English are awaiting fresh orders from the Queen.
Paris, 6th May 1588.
May 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 660. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The hopes of a peace with England are growing, all the more so as people say that under any circumstances the success of the enterprise against England must be very doubtful. The Queen is resolute to fight. If she loses a battle the Spanish will still have suffered so much that they will not be able to effect a landing; if she wins (which God avert) then clearly the enterprise must be abandoned, and the kingdom of Portugal will be endangered.
Rome, 7th May 1588.
May 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 661. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The orders for which the English Commissioners in Flanders were waiting consisted in a prohibition to treat with the Duke of Parma unless he showed them his credentials, as they suspect that his powers are not full.
Paris, 8th May 1588.
May 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 662. Hiekonimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
As the King's courier to Prince Doria has not left yet I can add these few lines. So far we have from Lisbon no news that the Armada has sailed. The weather is truly atrocious. Meantime the Duke of Medina's orders to be addressed to the fleet have come into my hands, and I think it as well to send them to your Excellencies in order that you may see how pious is the mind of his Majesty, who, without doubt, inspired these orders; and also because, to a large extent, they set forth the scope and the route of the expedition.
The King has sent messengers to all the cities and districts of the kingdom, requesting the Bishops and Prelates to offer up public and private prayers for the success of the enterprise.
The Duke of Parma, by repeated messengers, urges the departure of the Armada (il Duca di Parma sollecita con frequenti corrieri la partita dell' Armada). The Duke has also sent bills of exchange for a million two hundred thousand crowns, on which the King will have to pay twenty-two per cent. in less than three months. His Majesty has raised other loans here, but with great difficulty, and at a high interest; for private individuals are unwilling to advance money in fear of a suspension of payment, as the expenses of the Armada and the army of Flanders are incredibly heavy (et ha mandato insieme lettere di cambio, per che si paghi un million et duecento mille scudi de' quali in meno di tre mesi, ha d' interesse il Re da 22 per cento. Ha fatto sua Maestà altri partiti di quà, ma con molta fattica, et interesse, poi che li particolari dano hor mal volentieri il denaro, dubitando che poi non se li suspendino i pagamenti, sendo le spese di quest' Armata et esercito di Fiandra, tanto grandi, che è cosa da non credere veramente). Added to this is the dread of the Turkish fleet, though the Ministers here hold that it will be far from strong, and will take the sea late. The disturbances in Aragon, too, are causing anxiety. A bandit, named Pietro Latras, at the head of one thousand five hundred men, has seized a place called Pina, and killed more than five hundred inhabitants, so the whole kingdom is under arms and in confusion. It is said that the English have found the north route to the Indies very easy, and will be able to work great havoc in Peru. The King has determined to send engineers to build more forts, and already Giovanni Battista Antonelli is under orders for next August; and because his Majesty is not sure of the intentions of France the Duke of Parma is in very secret communication with the Guise, who promise to keep that kingdom in such balance and suspense that neither King nor Huguenots shall think of making any diversion in favour of England (et perchè questo serenissimo Re non stà anco motto sicuro dell' animo de Francesi il Duca di Parma communica con molta stretezza le intelligenze con la casa di Ghisa, che promette di tener le cose di quel Regno in tal sospetto et bilancia che il Christianissimo nè Ugonotti non penseranno a far alcana diversione a favor d' Inghilterra). For which purpose I am informed that the Duke has paid a large sum to the Guise.
Madrid, 8th May 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 663. Don Alonzo Perez de Guzman, the good Duke of Medina Sidonia; Count of Niebla, Marquis of Casaza in Africa; Lord of San Lucar; Captain-General of the Ocean, and of the coast of Andalusia, and of the Royal Armada, and the army of his Majesty; Knight of the noble Order of the Fleece.
General Orders to be obeyed throughout the Fleet during this Campaign.
All, from highest to lowest, are to know that the reason which moved his Majesty to undertake this expedition is the service of God and the restitution of many people to the bosom of the Church. Therefore all officers are to see that their subordinates come on board confessed and communicated.
No soldier nor sailor who serves in the fleet is to curse God, our Lady, or the Saints, under pain of severe punishment. For smaller oaths the captains of each ship shall do their best to repress them by such punishments as stopping rations of wine. And seeing that gambling gives the chief cause for swearing, no games shall be permitted, and above all no games at night. For the better order of the fleet we decree a suspension of private feud, and assume to ourselves all quarrels which have arisen before, or may arise after the publication of this order. This suspension is to last throughout the entire campaign, and one month after its close, under penalty of death.
No one is to offer or receive as an insult anything which happens on board his ship.
As the presence of public or private harlots on board is a source of well-known scandals, we forbid them to embark. Every day there shall be matins; and every evening the Ave Maria and the Salve Regina and litany.
And as it is of great importance that there should be harmony between the soldiers and sailors of the fleet, none of them may carry a dagger; nor are they to take offence under any circumstances. If any scandal arises the aggressor shall be punished.
As regards all manoeuvres of the fleet, the orders already issued are to be observed inviolably. Should any ship be separated from the fleet by storm, it is to pursue its course to Cape Finisterre, where it will find orders; or if it find none, it is to proceed to Corunna, where they will be found.
On leaving Finisterre the route is to the Scilly Islands, at the mouth of the English Channel. They are to be sighted from the south. Every care is to be taken that the ships do not part company. Should any part company, it is not to return to Spain under penalty of death, confiscation and publication as a traitor. If any ship sails a-head it is to wait for the fleet at Mount St. Michel, Mount's Bay (Capo di San Michel di Montes vay) which lies between the Land's End and the Lizard (tra Longaneos et Lisart).
May 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 664. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I am very ill, and Francesco Idiaquez came to see me. He told me that upwards of forty witnesses had sworn that the “Sumachi” was manned by English, and had an English cargo for Constantinople, and that she cleared her decks for action when the galleys approached her. I pointed out that if the ship had been English, and bound for Constantinople, she would have kept outside the Pharo (of Messina) and sailed in company with the six other Englishmen, which have gone into the Levant.
Madrid, 14th May 1588.
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 665. Giovanni Moro, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
I sent, the other day, through the Jewess Chiarazza, some trifles to the Sultana, to keep her well disposed. As the Sultan was still ill, the Sultana took them to him to amuse him, and said that they came from me; thereupon the Sultan said “The Venetians are not behaving as well as they used to. I am informed that they are helping the King of Spain, who is my enemy, against the Queen of England, who is my ally.”
At an interview with the Nisangi Pasha, he asked if it was true that the Republic was opposed to the Queen of England. I replied “not at all; and the English Ambassador will tell you that this is a most absolute invention.”
Immediately on my return home I sent my secretary to inform the English Ambassador of the questions I had been asked; and begged him to let me know if he had any suspicion who it was who was spreading such rumours. He replied that this was the first he had heard of the matter; and that it was clearly the work of some who desired to sow discord between the Queen of England and the Republic; that he was glad that he had been seen by several Turkish officials at my house, as they could bear witness to our friendship; that in three days time he would have to visit the Vizir, and that he would then beg him to punish the inventors of such calumnies.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 18th May 1588.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 666. The Grand Vizir having, upon your Majesty's orders, apprised the Venetian Ambassador that it was perfectly true that your Majesty had been informed that the Republic had assisted the enemies of the Queen of England; the said Ambassador considers it is his duty to inform your Majesty, by a sealed communication, how the matter stands. Accordingly the Ambassador, reaffirming all that he has stated in his memorial, again declares that these reports are absolutely false, and the Republic has never done any act hostile to the Queen, with whom she is on good and friendly terms. The Ambassador accordingly begs your Majesty to punish those who are deceiving you. And should any one in future make similar charges against the Republic, the Ambassador implores your Majesty to inform him at once, and he will be ready to meet them, and to justify every action of the Republic.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 667. Copy of the Memorial presented to the Grand Signor.
The Venetian Ambassador has heard with great grief the false report which has been made to the Sultan that the Republic has been acting in a manner hostile to the Queen of England. The Republic has never dreamed of such action. The English Ambassador is fully aware of this, and has assured the Venetian Ambassador, that, if asked, he will declare the rumour to be absolutely false.
Those who have given such information deserve to be severely punished, and the Ambassador prays that they may be, by casting these spirits of hell to the bottom of the sea; and thus when the Ambassador reports these calumnies to his government he may, at the same time, be able to report the justice done upon these slanderers by your Majesty.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 668. Copy of a Letter to the Sultana.
Great favour has your Highness done me by informing me through your slave, Chirazza, of the calumnious report to the Grand Signor. It is absolutely false that the Republic has sent galleys to the King of Spain to assist in an attack on England. The Republic has no galleys ready, except the usual forty belonging to the Adriatic squadron. The ten galleys of the Candiote squadron have been added to, it is true; but that is with a view to holding the pirates in check. Besides, light galleys like ours are not built for ocean navigation.
The Venetian Ambassador begs your Highness to point all this out to the Grand Signor.
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 669. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Owing to bad weather the Armada has not been able to weigh anchor from Lisbon, to the annoyance of the King and his Ministers, who are unwilling that the Armada should miss the favourable winds and so arrive late in England. But news of the departure is expected hourly.
In Africa preparations are going on; and it is feared that they may be intended to harass the King of Spain, when he is occupied in other quarters; for it is known that the Queen of England is at the bottom of the whole matter.
Troops are being raised in Castile.
Madrid, 18th May 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 670. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Up to this moment, to his Majesty's great displeasure, there is no news that the Armada has sailed; although for a month and more it has been lying at the mouth of the harbour with sails ready. The reason is contrary winds; but during this period the Commander-in-Chief has taken care to augment the number of ships and men; as will be seen from the brief summary which I enclose.
The Duke of Parma, while negotiating for an accord with the Queen of England's agents, still urges the immediate despatch of the Armada, affirming that this will be of the greatest assistance. A courier has been sent to advise the Duke that the fleet is only waiting for fine weather; and to convey to him the fullest powers to conclude a treaty if the Queen of England's agents will consent to the free restitution of Holland and Zealand (et insieme se li sono inviati mandati amplissimi, per che possa concludere quando li deputati della Regina acconsentino alla libera restitutione di Holanda et Zelanda); otherwise his Majesty will not hear of it.
I know that the King has declared that if he comes to terms with England they will be such as to satisfy the whole world. There is news brought by a carvel despatched by the Duke of Parma, that the fleet of the Queen of England is inadequate to fight Medina Sidonia, or to prevent him from effecting a junction with the army of Flanders.
I have your Serenity's letters, with news from the Levant, which I have communicated as usual. Here they are of opinion that the Turkish fleet will not put out, or if it does, it will be very late, and will therefore operate to the damage of his Majesty. Prince Doria recommends the concentration of the fleet in the port of Messina.
On the 21st of this month his Majesty entered on his sixty-second year. He is in sound health, but is known to be worn and tired.
He is further annoyed at the loss of the two Portuguese ships which remained behind last year. All four are now lost, one taken by Drake and three foundered, to the utter ruin of the Portuguese. And to add to this ill luck, news has arrived that in the Pacific Ocean, two English ships have captured a China merchantman, with a cargo on board, worth almost a million in gold.
Madrid, 27th May 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 671. Account of the Catholic Armada in Lisbon.
Ships. Sailors Soldiers. Volunteers. Guns.
1st squadron 12 1,283 2,715 406
2nd squadron 20 2,187 3,741 507
3rd squadron 14 863 1,968 242
4th squadron 10 780 2,281 257
5th squadron 14 616 1,827 249
6th squadron 10 777 2,395 278
7th squadron 23 438 3,426 345
8th squadron of light vessels 50 1,097 478 916 176
Totals 153 8,041 19,747 916 2,460
May 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 672. Giovanni Moro, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
Two days after presenting my memorial on the subject of rumoured help given by the Republic against the Queen of England, the Grand Vizir informed me, through the Grand Dragoman, that the Grand Signor was pacified.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 28th May 1588.
May 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 673. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I have learned from a sure quarter, that they are advised here that the Turkish fleet will take the sea at the request of the Queen of England; and will sail to El Arisch, and will winter there. If the King of Fez, refuses to yield El Arisch freely, Hassan Pasha offers to attack the kingdom. The Queen has promised the Grand Signor that she will send Don Antonio with an army into Portugal in the hope that that kingdom will rise. The English Ambassador is favourably considered at the Port, and is in frequent colloquy with the Gapadan Pasha. All this gives anxiety here.
Bad news from Flanders about dissensions in the Luke of Parma's army, and also about sickness which is prevalent there. News from Lisbon that Don Juan Martin de Recalde, Admiral of the fleet and Lieutenant to the Commander-in-Chief is in danger of his life. He would be a great loss, for he is a good soldier and sailor. So bad news pours in from all quarters. The Court has some consolation in the rumour that his Holiness has promised to the King seven hundred thousand crowns if the attack on England is pushed forward.
Madrid, 28th May 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]