Venice: July 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: July 1588', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894) pp. 363-372. British History Online [accessed 21 May 2024].

. "Venice: July 1588", in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894) 363-372. British History Online, accessed May 21, 2024,

. "Venice: July 1588", Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894). 363-372. British History Online. Web. 21 May 2024,

July 1588

July 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 678. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Duke of Guise is complaining loudly of a letter from an Englishman to the English Queen, which has been intercepted. In it it seems that his most Christian Majesty has declared that whatsoever he may promise he will not keep his word.
Paris, 1st July 1588.
July 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 679. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
When news of the departure of the Armada arrived the Pope said to several Cardinals, who were at audience, that he had done all he could to persuade the Queen to return the Catholic Church; and offering to grant her a new investiture of her kingdom in spite of the deprivation pronounced by Pius V., and to give her the Bishops she might approve; to which the Queen had replied that the Pope would do well to give her some of his money. A league with Spain was accordingly concluded; and this league will be published in Consistory. The Pope will supply the King with a million of gold on news that a landing has been effected. The island is to be invested in the King of Spain or his nominee; and if anyone interferes to hinder the enterprise adequate steps will be taken against him.
But, as a fact, the Pope said nothing about this point in Consistory. Either the canonisation occupy all his attention, or he wishes to wait for news of the Armada, of whose success he is, perhaps, not quite sure.
Rome, 2nd July 1588.
July 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 680. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I thought that I should not be called upon to give your Serenity any further news of the Armada after my despatch of the 25th June. But despatches, dated the 22nd June, have arrived from the commander-in-chief, stating that while on his way to England he was overtaken by a terrible storm, and was forced to put back to Corunna with his fleet all scattered, and some of his ships in a bad way; these he is having repaired with all diligence. This courier was followed by another bringing letters of the 26th, to say that as yet thirty ships were missing. This news has disturbed the King, who passes day and night in prayer, though suffering from the gout in his hand. Spain is full of processions, austerities, fasting and devotion.
His Majesty has sent orders to the commander-in-chief to expedite the union of his fleet, and to set sail as soon as possible. I hear that his instructions are to sail straight for the English Channel; if attacked by the enemy he is to fight courageously, if not, he is to support the Luke of Parma in effecting the passage of the channel and a landing in England, and if the Duke requires the in Medina, Sidonia in to give him as many as six thousand men; after that the commander-in chief is to scour the seas and shores of England, and to do all the damage he can to the enemy. They are in hopes here that the King of Scotland, will at the same time put himself in motion on his side; and accordingly the Duke of Medina Sidonia has orders from the King to keep in touch with the King of Scotland, by all means in his power (che vadi adrittura nel canal d'Inghilterra, dove se se l'opone l'armata nemica che debbi combatter animosamente, se non che faci spate al Duca di Parma, che con le genti et vosselli passi nell' Isola d' Inghilterra; che bisognandoli fino a sei mille fanti che glieli dia; scorrendo poi quel mare et rive con far ogni danno che potrà a nemici, sperandosi anco qui che nel medesimo tempo il Re di Scotia si sia per mover dall' altra parte contra, la Regina; et però tiene commissione del Re anchora il predetto Duca di Medina Sidonia che debba intendersi seco per ogni via possibile). His Majesty is very determined to overcome all difficulties, and to reach the conclusion of this enterprise, even if it should cost him a kingdom; the issue of this war is of the highest moment to him, and he takes it to be the crown of all his policy.
He is preparing great stores of biscuits, wine, salt meat, wood, &c. I send a copy of his Majesty's letter to the grandees of Spain, with orders to hold themselves ready for any event.
It is hoped that the Turks will be able to do but little mischief this year, owing to their defeat by the Persians; and to secure a like result in France, I am informed that three hundred thousand crowns have lately been sent to the Guise. By persons who know the English seas it is held for certain that, unless a blow is struck by the end of this month, humanly speaking it will be impossible to carry out any operations of moment this year.
Madrid, 2nd July 1588.
After writing the above I received from a friend on board the Armada the enclosed letter.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 681. My Noble Lord and Honoured Master,
On the 14th of this month, while the Armada was off Cape Finisterre (de finibusterre), despatches were sent to his Majesty, and with them I wrote to your Lordship a particular account of our voyage down to that date. After that, partly to meet the galleys which were ordered to wait us in Mugia, a port four leagues distant from the Cape; partly to take on board some provisions and supplies which the Governor of that kingdom (Galicia), the Marquis of Seralvo, was to prepare for us, we drew in as far as the island of Cesarga. There, on the 17th, we were joined by the galleys which his Excellency had sent to Corunna for provisions and water, as both were running short; and to land some sick, who are now in considerable numbers, especially after the storm of the 19th and 20fh which the Armada encountered. The flagship, thirty-five others, and almost all the transports and carvels, came into Corunna before the storm reached its height. The rest of the fleet, partly owing to its falling away to lee, and being unable to make the port, and partly to the dark night which settled down, remained out-side. The night was a tempestuous one, with wind, rain, and a heavy sea. The following day, Monday, the ship of Don Alonzo de Leyva and the flagship of Don Oquendo put into the port of Baris, one much damaged, the other having carried away mainmast, sails, and yards. On Tuesday twelve others arrived at Biucco, among them the “Labbia” uninjured. On Wednesday the Admiral Recalde sailed into Corunna with other twelve ships and two galleys, among them the “Regazzona” uninjured; yesterday, other three. So that up to this hour thirty ships and two galleasses are missing. The storm was one of those great winter storms. It has greatly discouraged the fleet, and above all the commander.
We shall be obliged to wait here till we have news of the missing ships. Some scouts have been sent out this evening to look for them.
Corugna, 24th June 1588.
(Signature cut off.)
July 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 682. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Duke d'Aumale is occupied before Boulogne, to the displeasure of the Queen of England. The English Admiral, with thirty ships, approached the port, and drew up opposite the town. The Duke sent one of his suite to inquire if the English came as friends. The emissary was warmly welcomed by the Admiral, who on returning the visit caused the Duke to be informed that he ought to retire from before Boulogne, and not disturb the King and a kingdom already torn to bits, and added that this was said in the name of the Queen, his mistress. The English fleet sailed away; and rumour spread that Epernon had intended to place Boulogne in their hands.
Paris, 3rd July 1588.
July 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 683. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish Ambassador doos not cease to invite the Duke of Guise to pursue his designs against the King. But Guise is rather inclined to peace.
Paris, 4th July 1588.
July 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 684. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 2nd of this month I informed your Serenity of the storm which the Armada had encountered, and that up to the 26th of last month thirty ships were still missing. Messengers from Corunna bring news that every day some ship arrives in port; and the rest are somewhere along the coast of Galicia and the Asturias, but very badly damaged. Further, the commander-in-chief announces that the provisions of the Armada, designed for eight months, are already almost all consumed and gone bad; and that he had been obliged to throw overboard a great quantity of biscuits, cheese, and salt meat which was quite putrid (in oltre avisa il Generate chele vettovaglie caricate nell' Armata per otto mesi, erano di gia quasi del tutto consummate et guaste, et havea convenuto far gettar in mare gran quantità de biscotti, formaggi et carne salate, del tutto infette). New provisions accordingly are required, and already two officers have left for Galicia and the Asturias with ample authority to requisition all the provisions in those kingdoms; to take them on board, to try the guilty ; the contractor, Francesco Duarte, being especially blamed for the bad biscuits.
The third cause of anxiety here is the confirmation of the news that Drake is at the mouth of the English canal with one hundred and eighty sail. He is believed to be determined to offer battle. The King is firm in his resolve that the Armada shall advance as soon as possible, although it is well known that for all these reasons he is very much disturbed, so that every trifle annoys him; he grants audience to none, nor dares any, however high in favour or however intimate, address him any more. The Court is all gloomy, the larger part of the Councils of State and of War is ill; Don Juan d'Idiaquez is in danger of losing his eyesight.
His Majesty has suspended all payments of any sort soever for two months, even salaries, with the exception of those which affect the Armada. There is some grumbling, especially as they fear that the two months may be spread over the whole period of this campaign. The campaign is costing just now upwards of one million in gold a month, all reckoned, so the President of the Royal Revenues affirms; and if things go on like this it will be necessary to adopt vigorous and extraordinary measures.
Madrid, 7th July 1588.
July 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 685. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
In the Consistory of Monday they expected the publication of the terms of the federation between the Pope and the King of Spain against England; and that the question of fresh taxation to meet the million which has been promised would come up; but no word of one or the other was spoken.
His Holiness has discussed the matter in private, however; various methods for raising the money have been suggested.
Cardinal Allen, who had withdrawn from Rome to a neighbouring village on account of the malaria, will return to-day so as to be ready to go to England should occasion require it.
Rome, 9th July 1588.
July 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 686. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
His Holiness showed both pain and surprise that we have no news of the Armada ; it is forty days since it sailed from the port of Lisbon. He seems to hold the opinion that the expedition has kept outside Ireland, and will sail round the Orkneys, and so join the Duke of Parma. He told me that Drake was in the English Channel to prevent a union of the Spanish forces, and that the English thought they were strong enough to fight the Spanish if they were taken separately. His Holiness laid much store by the pluck and the luck of Drake. “The King of Spain,” said his Holiness, “should have listened to our advice last September, when we entered into alliance; we then told him that he should not delay, but ought to deliver the attack at once, as the Queen was unprepared and unarmed, instead of allowing her time to arm as she has done. At that moment he might have achieved with small forces that which, perhaps, he will not be able to effect even with great forces.
“But the King of Spain is old, and it is no longer a question of being able to change his nature, and we must just put up with him as he is (ma il Re di Spagna è vecchio, et percio non accade pensar hora di mutar la natura sua, et bisogno che se lo tenghiamo quale egli sia). His friends complain that we love not the King of Spain when we talk like this ; but it seems to us that we cannot give a greater sign of affection than by advising him and speaking our mind freely.” His Holiness added that the Nuncio in France informed him that two thousand English had gone to join the Duke of Parma, and to take part in the attack on England. If so, that was always something, for then men would be fighting pro aris et focis.
Rome, 9th July 1588.
July 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 687. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is resolved to overcome every difficulty, and to send the Armada forward as soon as possible. He has despatched orders to Seville to send at once, in as many ships as they can, all the biscuits which were prepared for the fleet of New Spain that is to sail in September. Fresh supplies will be prepared for it. Orders to Lisbon to send on, with all the ships that are ready, and with those that have arrived from Sicily, all the biscuits which have been prepared. Couriers are sent every day to Corunna to urge the commander-in-chief to gather his scattered ships, and to sail. His Majesty promises to send after him continual reinforcements and supplies. The day before yesterday the Secretary at War, Andrea d'Alva, was sent off at night to superinted the embarkation of provisions.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia has issued orders forbidding, upon pain of death, any information about the Armada to be sent to anyone. This causes great difficulty in procuring news; all the same I am informed that the departure of the Armada cannot take place for many days, and that many ships are lying in the ports of Galicia too badly damaged to be able to join the rest of the fleet. They whisper that more than one ship is actually lost; though the Duke writes to the King that they are all safe in the ports of Galicia. But the Ministers declare that in eight days the Armada, all entire and united, will sail for England. His Majesty, who insists upon studying and directing every detail, has even sent to the commander-in-chief the order and plan of an engagement with Drake, a copy of which I enclose. I was able to have it copied from the original which lay on his Majesty's table (et il Re che vuol intender et ordinar tutte le cose, ha fino mandato al detto Generate l'ordine et desegno col quote si ha da presentar alla giornata con Draco; una copia del quale sarà qui aggionta; havendo havuto commodità di farla cavare dal medesimo che sua Maestà tiene sopra la sua tavola). Many details may be gathered from it, among others is the determination to take Flushing, so that in case no other operations can be carried out, and no junction between the forces of the Duke of Parma and the Armada be effected, the Duke of Parma will attack that fortress, and will block the channel by sinking ships, and so prevent the city from being relieved by the enemy, who also would be debarred from any attempt at succour by the presence of the Duke of Medina Sidonia's fleet.
The wiser wonder what can induce the King to insist, quite against his natural temper, that the Armada shall give battle to the English who are known to be awaiting the attack with eager courage, and so they surmise that, over and above the belief that God will be on his side, two motives urge the King to this course; first, that he has some secret understandings which will fail if there is any delay; secondly, that these expenses of a million of gold a month cannot be supported for long, and so he has resolved to try his fortune, believing that if the enemy win a battle it will have been so bloody that they will immediately be compelled to make peace, whereas if they lose a battle they lose all at one blow.
Madrid, 12th July 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 688. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
News from Dieppe that the Spanish Armada has been sighted near the coast of Ireland. This is believed not so much because it is generally reported, but because it is quite possible that the Armada has taken that route in order to avoid the English fleet. A courier from Milan has reached the Spanish Ambassador; he is believed to bring half a million in gold.
Paris, 13th July 1588.
July 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 689. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
By couriers from Corunna with letters of the 7th and 8th, his Majesty is assured that all the ships are safe except one, though they still hope that it is on the coast of Britanny. Seven ships, among them the Venetian “Balanzara,” have been as far as the Scilly Islands, and there, hearing that the Catholic Armada had not passed ahead, they returned safe to port. They confirm the news that the English fleet consists of one hundred and eighty sail, divided into three squadrons, and that it is determined to give battle to the Catholic Armada, On their return voyage these seven ships saw a Scotch ship, and brought another into Galicia.
At Court they blame the Duke of Medina Sidonia for very bad seamanship, and for turning back and making for Corunna at nightfall, when many ships could not understand his manœuvre, more especially as it was quite contrary to his first orders; and they say that it is not his merit if many of the fleet have not fallen into the enemy's hands, to the total ruin of the enterprise. His Majesty accordingly has written to him telling him to keep his council of war always on board his own ship, and to show a little more pluck and courage before his troops in a matter of such moment. He is to sail as soon as possible. But while in harbour his men are to be fed on fresh meat and bread without touching any of the provisions. The King is raising as much money as he can.
Madrid, 14th July 1588.
July 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 690. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
His Holiness complains that after forty-seven days there is no news of the Armada. He has been assured by the Spanish Ambassador that the fleet has not gone to Scotland.
In France they have not the smallest notice of the Armada. The Spanish Ambassador has spread the report that it has gone to Scotland; but that is a pure invention of his own, and the King of Scotland openly shows himself hostile to the Catholic and favourable to the Queen.
Rome, 16th July 1588.
July 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 691. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
We hear from England that the fleet of the Queen is lying at Plymouth, at the extreme west of the kingdom; while off the islands Granse (Guernsey) and Larse (Jersey) are some small ships on the look out for the coming of the Spanish. The English are so disposed as to be always to windward of the Spanish fleet, and to fight it at a vantage should it enter the channel and attempt to effect a junction with the forces of the Duke of Parma. To prevent this fifty English ships are kept cruising off Flushing to blockade the forces of the Duke. They consist of one hundred and fifty great boats, besides some ships.
The other day there was a rumour that the Catholic Armada was steering a course outside Ireland, and making for Scotland. A very long and dangerous route, which even the English themselves think insecure on account of rocks, shoals, and the extraordinary tides. The bad season is coming on, when the galleys will find it impossible to sail these waters. Others say that the Armada, owing to great sickness, has returned to Corunna in Galicia.
Fuller information is expected soon as to the place chosen for a landing. Meantime the English desire an engagement, and show that they do not fear all these forces.
News from Scotland that the Earl of Morton, who has been for long in Spain, has been sent to prison by the King on suspicion of having recommended the despatch of the Armada. The King shows himself daily more and more concerned for the fate of the Queen of England.
Paris, 18th July 1588.
July 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 692. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Earl of Morton has been imprisoned on the charge of being a Catholic, and therefore favourable to the Armada, a clear proof that nothing is to be expected from the King of Scotland.
Rome, 19th July 1588.
July 19. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 693. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
Martin Schen (Schenk) has come back from England. He was very well received, and has brought a large sum of money to raise troops. The peace in Flanders was still under discussion. One of the Commissioners, Ricardot (Richtordot) (fn. 1) inclined to yield the two points of religion and the expulsion of foreign troops, but the others held firm. He frequents the road that leads to the Duke of Parma. The Duke is pushing on his troops to Dunquerque, where a galleon of the Armada has already arrived to embark men. News from Cologne that the Armada has had an engagement with the English fleet, and been victorious, taking one hundred ships, and losing forty; but little credit is given to this.
Prague, 19th July 1588.
July 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 694. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The exorbitant demands which Guise presents to the King of France do not displease here. Guise will either supersede Navarre or come to a fierce struggle with him; and this, perhaps, will give most satisfaction as allowing Spain to carry on the war with England and Flanders in security.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia writes to his Majesty, on the 13th, that he has used all conceivable diligence to fit up his ships, leaving two behind as unseaworthy ; and that he will sail in five or six days at the longest. Orders have been sent calling on all ships in other ports to join him. In place of the sick he has taken on board fresh troops from those garrisons. Six ships have left Lisbon for Corunna with biscuits and provisions; and from Seville twelve others are going to sail, to be followed by others every day. The King is in retirement to the great disgust of all the Court. His Majesty is preparing a million of gold to send to Flanders.
Madrid, 23rd July 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 695. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Pope said that the King of Spain had intended, by sending out the Armada, to facilitate the conclusion of a treaty, but the Queen of England was too astute. Her agents in Flanders put off and off; what was settled at night was undone in the morning. He has no news of the Armada.
Rome, 23rd July 1588.
July 26. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 696. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
They have no news of the Armada, and this causes great anxiety.
Prague, 26th July 1588.
July 26. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 697. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English, tired of lying idle so long, sailed on the 14th towards Galicia to look for the Spanish fleet, and to give it battle.
Paris, 26th July 1588.
July 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 698. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Armada sailed from the port of Corunna on the 23rd of this month; the weather was excellent, and the fleet in good order. We now await the news of its voyage, which, pray God, may be successful.
Madrid, 29th July 1588.
July 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 699. Giovanni Moro, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
On Sunday the English Ambassador kissed the Sultan's hand, and took his leave. He did not receive the usual banquet, for it happened to be the first day of the Turkish fast; that they keep for a whole month ; during that time they eat at night only.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 30th July 1588.
[Italian ; deciphered.]
July 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 700. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
We have no news of the Armada, except that the weather is fine.
Madrid, last day of July 1588.


  • 1. See Froude, History of England, xii. p. 411.