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Venice: August 1588

Pages 372-382

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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August 1588

Aug. 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 701. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
We are not sure yet that the Armada has sailed again after being driven back by contrary winds into Corunna, with the loss of some ships.
Paris, 1st August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 2. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 702. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
News has been received that the Catholic Armada is in Scotland.
Prague, 2nd August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 703. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish Ambassador came to inform me that according to news from England the Armada was close to Plymouth.
Paris, 6th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 704. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish Ambassador complains loudly that the English are allowed to victual in French ports, contrary to the terms of the treaty signed with Guise.
A French ship has come into Havre-de-Grace, and reports that having met the Catholic fleet close to England the Spanish took four of its crew as pilots ; shortly after the Frenchman fell in with Drake, who took four others to help him to follow up the Spaniards.
Paris, 7th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 705. Giovanni Mecenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
This morning the Spanish Agents publish the news, from Havre-de-Grace, that on Tuesday the Armada fell in with Drake near the Isle of Wight. Drake did all be could to take the land side, as also did the Spanish ; they say the Spanish got the best of it after fighting a bit, sinking fifteen ships, among them the flagship; the rest fled towards Dover and Calais, where the body of the English fleet is lying. They acid that three ships which had lost their masts were captured, and one large ship took fire. A Breton, who was taken by Drake, and served on board one of his ships, has come home. He declares that a galleass attacked the flagship, and with the first broadside cut down her masts, and at the second sank her; and that Drake escaped in a boat under cover of the thick smoke. The English Ambassador has informed me that he disbelieves these Spanish reports, for he has despatches from Rouen of the same date, announcing that the fleets were close together, but had not attacked.
Paris, 9th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 706. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I sent your Serenity the news from Havre-de-Grace and Rouen. The Spaniards withdraw somewhat from their assertions, but declare that they have routed Drake. Those who are unbiassed relate the affair thus : When the English learned that the Catholic Armada had sailed from Corunna, the Admiral withdrew towards Flushing with a view to holding the Duke of Parma in check, and also to be near Scotland in case the Spaniards should sail outside Ireland and take that route. Drake, with sixty ships, pushed out westward in order to observe the foe, and if they kept outside Ireland he intended to return up the channel, and join the Admiral and meet the enemy ; if, on the other hand, the Spanish continued up the channel, he intended to sail back to join the Admiral, and to offer battle. They say that Drake pushed out so far towards Spain that the Catholic Armada, having a favourable wind, passed ahead of him, thus dividing the English and rendering its own junction with the forces of the Duke of Parma quite feasible. But Drake, who had the lightest ships in the English fleet, finding that his designs were upset, put out all his skill to reach the mouth of the channel before the Spaniards. At daybreak on Tuesday, 2nd of this month, owing to the narrowness of the channel, the two fleets were close together, Drake determined to pass ahead, the Spaniards resolved to prevent him. The Spanish used oars to help the sails, and followed Drake up for the whole day, both fleets being within Tange of each other; at last night fell, and the English, thanks to their good sailing powers, drew away to join the Admiral. It is thought very likely that some English ships have gone to the bottom, but not as many as is said; nor is it believed that Drake's ship is sunk. This brush will do much to restore the spirits of the Spaniards, which were rather depressed after the storm in Galicia. There is no news that the Catholic Armada has approached the coast of Flanders, and they say it will not until it has engaged the enemy. The battle will be bloody, for the English never yield ; and though driven back and thrown into confusion they always return to the fight, thirsting for vengeance as long as they have a breath of life (la quale sar sempre molto sanguinosa, perche gli Inglesi non cedon mai, anzi cacciati et confusi ritornano sempre pien di vendetta a rinfrescar l' assalto fino che vi spirito di vita). In this present case they would consider themselves victorious, even if they died to a man along with the enemy, provided they could save the kingdom, as they propose to do by one bloody battle, which shall so weaken the Spanish forces that they dare not venture on a landing. But in nothing so much as in war does the result differ from the design, and errors committed in war cannot be remedied; it is therefore possible that English calculations may fail, as they nearly have done already, for had Drake delayed a little longer to make for the channel he would have been cut off from the rest of the fleet at Dover and Calais.
Paris, 11th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 707. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
At any time the navigation of these waters is a difficult matter for light boats, but in this season the Spaniards are making actual proof of the fact, for some of their light vessels, four galleys and some others smaller, being unable to stand the weather, have been cast ashore on the coast by Bordeaux ; one went to the bottom, the others are rendered useless ; the shore is strewn with wreckage. The Spanish Ambassador has gone to the King to do all he can to recover the gear, although such wreckage belongs to the Admiral of France. From Flanders we hear that no sooner was it known that the Catholic Armada was in French waters than all troops began to join the Duke of Parma at Nieuport. The Duke is occupied with the embarkation of his troops, and with making all preparations, so that nothing may be wanting on the arrival of the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
The English militia has been drawn up along the coast to repel a landing, and they say that at the points most favourable for such an enterprise, sixty thousand good fighting men are concentrated, while all the ports are fully armed. The Queen has been able to do this all the more readily now that she is quite certain that the King of Scotland does not favour the Spanish, of which she is finally convinced ; for the King of Scotland has put to death some great nobles suspected of having secret relations with the King of Spain. They say the Queen has begun to pay him a pension of one hundred thousand crowns a year, and has promised him the succession to the throne of England. All this is of the highest service in the defence of England ; but it will be of the greatest disadvantage to the English if the Armada is allowed to make use of French ports. The Queen believed that this could not happen under her conventions with the King, but Spain, favoured by the Pope, has made continual representations on the subject, and has obtained what it desired ; besides, even had the King refused, Havre-de-Grace is held by a member of the league, a dependant of the Guise, who would not deny conveniences to the Catholic fleet, owing to his obligations to the King of Spain.
Paris, 11th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 708. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After the news that, on the 27th of last month, the Armada had entered the English Channel, and that three galleys had gone ashore on the coast of France and been broken up, and the Turkish slaves set free, we have no further tidings of the Armada. This causes great anxiety here, and they imagine that other couriers must have been detained in France. The litany of the forty hours is recited in each parish. The Secretary at War, Andrea d'Alva, is collecting large supplies, chiefly biscuits, in Galicia, to send them after the Armada; and the same is being done in Seville, Lisbon, and elsewhere. The general muster is to be made at Corunna. Meantime the greatest mischief is being done to the people, subjects and merchants, for they are taking goods out of the very houses, and for the most part without paying for it.
The peace of France is not disliked here, chiefly on account of the secret clauses between his Majesty and the Duke of Guise. They are sure, however, that it will not last long. I am informed that lately eight boxes of gold passed from Bilbao to Nantes under passport of his Majesty, directed to Don Bernardino di Mendoza, his Ambassador in France.
Madrid, 12th August 1588.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Aug. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 709. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
When closing my despatch news from Calais that the English fleet is off the town with the Spanish fleet opposite, near Dover ; each watching for any advantage in offering battle.
Paris, 12th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 710. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
His Holiness complains that the King of Spain had not sent out the Armada last September; instead he let the Queen gain time by proposing terms of peace.
The expenses of the Armada are eight hundred ducats a month, and more.
Rome, 13th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 711. Giovanni Moro, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The Polish Ambassador was to leave this morning. The English Ambassador is going with him. A Secretary of the English Ambassador will remain behind with the title of Agent until the Queen sends a new Ambassador.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 13th August 1588.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Aug. 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 712. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Everyone is awaiting news of the Armada. The Catholics fear; the Huguenots fear ; a great blessing or a great misfortune for France hangs upon the issue.
Paris, 15th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 713. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Drake in rejoining the Admiral received no damage, although one of the Venetian ships harassed his flagship somewhat. For four days continuously, he kept to windward of the enemy, thanks to the better sailing of his ships, and pursued and bombarded them without ceasing. He can repeat this manuvre as often as he pleases, for the Spanish ships are heavy and difficult to handle.
Eight days ago, on the 6th, while the Spanish were lying between Dover and Calais, Drake designed to fire the fleet in order to throw it into confusion, and to inflict a deadly blow ; accordingly, at midnight, he sent forward seven ships, which presently burst out into flame. The Duke of Medina Sidonia, perceiving the enemy's intention, weighed anchor at once, and in doing so the rudder of a great galley became jammed. She, rendered unmanageable, drifted under the walls of Calais, where she hoped to be covered by the fort; but as not a shot was fired she fell into the hands of the English, who cut off the head of Don Ugo de Moncada, the captain, son of the Viceroy of Valencia, and of all the other Spaniards on board, but set the Italians and other nationalities free ; among them some Sclavs, who have now come to my house and given me the above information.
They say that all day long they heard the sound of guns, and imagine that Drake was following up the Armada, which left as a rear-guard all the galleasses, which are the most handy vessels owing to the fact that they can use oars. The number of ships is equal on each side, but the Spanish are far larger and stronger, which makes the English cautious about boarding them; but day and night the English are on their weather beam, and they are forced to fight whenever the enemy choses, with continual losses For the Spanish, having no port into which they can retire, are driven about here and there, the object of the English being to force them on to some bank, as may already have happened, they fear.
Despatches from London announce that the Queen has appointed my Lord Robert, Earl of Leicester, as her Lieutenant-General, and has sent him along with the Earl of Essex, in command of thirty-five thousand men, to the shore at Margate, where it is thought that the Spanish may attempt a landing. The Queen herself has gone out of London at the head of as many more men. She has about her all the nobility, and Lord (Grav) Adjutant-General, and Lord Norris in command of the infantry.
The English ships, to the number of one hundred, were lying in the roads of St. Jean off Boulogne, while Lord Seymour was at Dunquerque to prevent the Duke of Parma from coming out. They were expecting that heavy seas would do much to throw the Armada into confusion, and as the ships are large it is unlikely that they will find any harbours big enough to take them in, at least in France, unless they withdraw to Brest at the extremity of Britanny. At present the waters are so low that the Spanish have not been able to get within three leagues of Dunquerque to support a sortie by the Duke of Parma, who is now blockaded by the Dutch ships, and will remain so till the next spring tide, when the English will have to put out all their strength if they wish to prevent a junction of Parma and Medina Sidonia.
Paris, 15th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 714. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish Ambassador has returned here from Court. He told the King, on behalf of his master, that the sole object of Spain in attacking England was the glory of God and the good of the Church; he begged the King of France to allow no one of his subjects to assist the Queen of England. The King of France replied that he had two kinds of subjects, one kind which obeyed him, the Catholics who needed no injunction not to assist England, the other which did not obey him ; with these he would do his best.
The English, besides burning the Catalan ships, on board of which fifty thousand crowns were lost, captured a galleon belonging to Don Pedro de Valdez, with four hundred and fifty Spaniards on board, and a great quantity of field artillery which had been used as ballast. After Drake's attempt to fire the Armada, which saved itself by cutting its cables, the Spanish have never ventured to cast anchor. On the 10th a heavy storm from the south-west blew up, and drove the Armada out of the Straits of Dover, followed by the English, which never left it alone for a minute. Drake himself sent home word that the storm was getting heavier, and it was likely that the Armada would be cast away in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland where even the English find the navigation difficult. As he harassed the enemy day and night he was always picking up a vessel or two, and they were at the last extremity for water, as they had taken none in since they left Corunna, and he hoped to prevent their being able to get any.
Up to the present the English have shown that they are in fact the skilled mariners which rumour reported them to be, for while they have always been on the enemies' flank they have not lost a single ship. Nor has the Queen, on her side, lost her presence of mind for a single moment, nor neglected aught that was necessary for the occasion. Her acuteness in resolving on her action, her courage in carrying it out, show her high-spirited desire of glory and her resolve to save her country and herself (fino ad hora gli Inglesi si mostrano con veri effetti essere di quella prestantia et peritia nelle cose del mare che suona la publica voce, non havendo con il star sempre a canto li Spagnoli perduto pur un solo vassello. La Regina parimenti con molta intrepidezza non si smarisse punto n pretermettendo a qual si voglia cosa che sia dovuta at presente bisogno, scopre con la siva accortezza nel determinare et ardire nel comandare non meno grandezza d' animo per desiderio di gloria, che affetione di il Regno et se stessa ancora).
Paris, 19th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 715. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Great supplies of biscuits, munitions, and men are being prepared at Corunna to send reinforcements to the Armada. Don Bernardino de Mendoza announces from France, in letters of the 2nd August, that the Armada has given battle to the English, sunk some of their ships, won a victory, and passed on to join the Duke of Parma; but the report is so confused, and that Ambassador is so accustomed to deceive himself (et tanto solito esso Ambasciatore ad inganarsi) that they are waiting confirmation of the news; no public rejoicings have taken place, nor have the Ambassadors congratulated the King. His Majesty exclaimed that he trusted God would favour his cause to the full, for he was moved by no desire to increase his possessions, but only to increase the faith and the Catholic religion; and even if he conquered England he would not in many years recover the expenses of the Armada for a single day.
The King has raised a loan in Genoa of one million of gold for four months, at nearly twenty-five per cent.
His Majesty will give audience to no one until he has more certain news of the Armada.
Madrid, 20th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 716. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador of Spain has announced in Court that the Armada sailed on the 22nd from Corunna with fine weather. But letters of the 28th from Iran, and of the 5th from Lyons, announce that four light galleys have been cast away. On news of the departure from Corunna it was believed that the Spanish Ambassador would ask the Pope for money assistance, but that he would proceed in such a way as to secure the dignity of his master, and to avoid any refusal or repulse.
Rome, 20th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 717. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate,
The Pope showed me a model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. He said it would be possible to buy it from the Turks, but he did not wish to prove to the world that he had abandoned all hope of recovering it by arms. The King of Spain's forces alone would be sufficient for this purpose, but he is now engaged in a war with England. With the monies that have been spent on England this expedition might have been made, for those expenses amount to upwards of thirteen millions, and nothing has been done. The King goes trifling with this Armada of his, but the Queen acts in earnest. Were she only a Catholic she would be our best beloved, for she is of great worth. Just look at Drake! who is he? What forces has he? And yet he burned twenty-five of the King's ships at Gibraltar, and as many again at Lisbon; he has robbed the flotilla and sacked San Domingo. His reputation is so great that his countrymen flock to him to share his booty. We are sorry to say it, but we have a poor opinion of this Spanish Armada, and fear some disaster. The King should have sailed when we told him, in September of last year. Rapidity is of prime importance; what can the King do ? He has no money, and has borrowed three hundred thousand ducats from Mantua and two hundred thousand from the Archbishop of Toledo. Twenty thousand of his troops have been lost through this delay, some dead, some killed. The Queen has had time to arm. It is an error to spend so much time in preparations. And so his Holiness continued to talk with his usual frankness for a considerable while.
Rome, 20th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 23. Original Minute of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 718. To the Secretary in Naples.
Having received news of the success of the Armada in England we order you to present our congratulations to the Viceroy.
23rd August 1588.
Ditto; to the Ambassador in Savoy; to the Secretary in Milan.
[Italian.]
Aug. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 719. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
After my last news nothing more has been heard of the Armada. It is supposed that it has been driven by the wind to the north, and is now in Scotch waters unknown to the Spaniards, full of rocks, and with shores hostile to the fleet. They must be hard up for provisions, for even while they were in these waters they were on short rations.
The Queen is getting ready other ships, and the Catholics of the country offer to serve and show great devotion to her Majesty.
Paris, 23rd August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 720. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is informed that six thousand Spanish have entered Bearn. It may be true; they may have been sent to prevent Navarre from assisting England.
Paris, 24th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 27, Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 721. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
On Tuesday night letters from Savoy to the Spanish Ambassador. On Wednesday morning his Excellence went to the Pope and announced that, according to news from Rouen, the Armada had fought and sunk fifteen English ships, among them the flag ship, without suffering any loss itself, except the burning of one ship. His Holiness did not seem inclined to believe the statement; but the Ambassador all the same sent to inform the Cardinals and other Ambassadors, and after dinner received congratulations at his house. On Friday morning despatches arrived from the Spanish Ambassador in Paris, under date of the 11th, confirming the news and adding that the Duke of Parma had effected a junction with the Armada, had seized the port of Foreland (? Forman), landed eight thousand infantry and thirty pieces of artillery. Every one is surprised that if this news is correct, nothing should be heard about it from the Legate in France.
Rome, 27th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch, 722. Rouen, 7th August 1588.
Yesterday I gave you what information I could of the Armada. Now, thanks be to God, I can send you this good news, that on Tuesday last, off the Isle of Wight, the Armada fell in with Drake's fleet. Drake tried to take the shore, but our fleet secured it. They fought for twenty-four hours, and victory remained with us, as we sank fifteen of the enemy, including the flag ship. The rest fled towards Dover and Calais, where the other English are lying. Moreover, we captured three ships that had carried away their masts ; and one of ours took fire. The galleasses did most of the work. This news comes from Havre-de-Grace, written yesterday. A Breton, who was on board Drake's ship, says he was attacked by a galleass, lost his masts at the first broadside, and sank at the second ; Drake fled under cover of the smoke.
[Italian.]
Aug. 27. Original Minute of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 723. To the Ambassador in Spain.
From many quarters we hear of the success of the Armada, and we rejoice. We order you to offer our congratulations to his Majesty.
Ayes 186
Noes 1
Doubtful 1
27th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 724. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
In audience with the Pope, I congratulated him on the good news of the Catholic Armada. The confirmation of the news had just been conveyed to him by the Secretary of the Spanish Ambassador. His Holiness said he did not give it full credence, and that he desired further verification. He pointed out that this confirmation came from the same source as the original news, and even if it were true, the victory was not very great, for the body of Drake's fleet had escaped. Unless the Duke of Parma and the Duke of Medina effected a junction, nothing else mattered much.
Rome, 27th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 725. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
To their extreme annoyance they hear every day of the capture, by Huguenots, of couriers on their way to and from Spain. His Majesty declares that the King of Navarre has given orders that at that dangerous place, the landes of Bordeaux, all papers are to be seized; and this to help the Queen of England, and to annoy the King of Spain in retaliation for the favours he has shown to the Guise, his foes. The King of Spain has ordered the post to try the line of Provence and Languedoc. I am informed from Ayron that the Huguenots stopped two great deeds in parchment, sealed with lead, and addressed to me; and that they cut the strings and used the lead to make bullets.
Madrid, 28th August 1588.
[Italian.]
Aug. 30. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 726. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
Here the news of the Armada is so confused that I do not know what to say of it. All the same the Spaniards have to-day sung a Te Deum in the Cathedral. The only news they have, however, comes by way of Gratz, from Dorimberg, announcing despatches from Bruges under date the 3rd of this month.
I and some others have news from Antwerp dated 11th, from which it appears that an engagement did take place and that the Spanish had the worst of it, losing many ships. It is a matter of amazement that the Emperor has no news, yet such is the case. In this perplexity I do not venture to affirm anything.
Prague, 30th August 1588.
[Italian.]