Venice: September 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: September 1588', Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894), pp. 382-396. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

. "Venice: September 1588", in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894) 382-396. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

. "Venice: September 1588", Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591, (London, 1894). 382-396. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,

September 1588

Sept. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 727. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
I enclose a letter from the Duke of Parma, written on the 12th August at Dunquerque. The letter dispels the rumoured capture of English ships. It seems that a galleass has gone ashore at Calais and a galleon at Nieuport. As the fleets were within range of each other at the date of the letter, it is thought that we must soon have news of an engagement.
Rome, 3rd September 1588.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 728. The Duke of Parma writes from Dunquerque on the 12th August.
While standing on the look-out for the Armada of his Majesty with all its ships, and considering how to carry out the desired manœuvre (of embarking), Captain Don Rodrigo de Guzman arrived with letters from the Duke of Medina Sidonia, announcing that he had sailed from Corunna on the 22nd July and was now in twenty-four degrees of latitude.
On August 6th, Lieutenant Juan Gil arrived with despatches announcing that the Armada was abreast of Plymouth ; that same evening Captain Pedro de Leon brought word that the fleet was off the Isle of Wight. They both stated that from the moment the Armada came abreast of Plymouth till the time they left the fleet, shots had been exchanged continually with the enemy who had been waiting them in Plymouth, and had let them pass ahead. The English followed them up, always annoying them but refusing to join in a general action. The Duke of Medina Sidonia was unable to force on an action though he tried his best. One of his ships was burned and others which had carried away their masts, were lost though the crews were saved.
On the 7th came a pilot with news that the Armada was off Calais; whereupon the Duke of Parma left Bruges to hasten on the embarkation of his troops and to be nearer the Armada.
On the morning of the 8th came d'Areco, Secretary to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, with confirmation that the fleet was lying in the roads of S. Jean, close to Calais, and that although the enemy continued to harass them and fire shots, still the whole fleet was in excellent order and complete, though the Duke had not yet been able to force the enemy to come to an engagement as the wind was always against him.
The Duke of Parma left at once for Nieuport where the detachment of twelve thousand men were to embark; and then came early to Dunquerque where everything was ready so that within that day the embarkation might have been carried out at Nieuport and at Dunquerque. At this juncture came the Superintendent-General, Don Giorgio Manrique with further despatches of the day previous, explaining the danger to which the Armada was exposed if caught by a storm in the Channel, and urging the Duke of Parma to put out to sea with his ships and troops and to effect a junction with the Armada; so that in a body they might attack the enemy's fleet or secure a port for our own. This operation was impossible owing to the set of the wind which was such as to prevent even ships specially constructed for navigating those waters from putting out, to say nothing of the enemy's which barred the egress.
While the preparations for embarkation were rapidly progressing, the Prince of Ascoli and other personages arrived in Dunquerque on board a small ship ; they had been commissioned by the Duke of Medina Sidonia to reunite all the ships which had been separated from the Armada. They reported that on the morning of the 8th, very early, the enemy had sent eight fire-ships down upon our fleet, and although they had done no mischief, still the Duke of Medina Sidonia thought it well to give the order to cut the cables so as to avoid the danger. The fleet, finding itself thus free, and the same wind blowing as before, it was swept towards that part of the English coast which faces the north. The enemy did not miss the opportunity to give battle to some four ships which had become detached from the Armada. One of these, a galleass, went on shore under Calais, and a galleon on shore at Nieuport. For the rest our fleet will keep together and it is to be hoped that it will not receive any further damage, even if the wind prevented it from bearing down on the enemy. The Duke of Parma has all his men embarked and ready.
Sept. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 729. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
His Holiness said to me that it was the work of God that the Turk should now be occupied in the Persian war. He talked of Hassan Pasha, and of the English Ambassador who had left Constantinople. “The Queen of England” he remarked, “has no need of the Turk to help her. Have you heard how Drake with his fleet has offered battle to the Armada ? with what courage! do you think he showed any fear? He is a great captain; and with that his Holiness went on to recount Drake's enterprises at San Domingo, at Cadiz, at Lisbon ; the fleets he had captured; the riches he had acquired to his great glory. Then he proceeded to discuss the handling of the Armada; repeating his previous remarks, but adding two new points, all with his wonted remarkable frankness; first he said, “that last year the Marquis of Santa Cruz refused to set sail from Spain, so as not to put himself under the Duke of Parma, and now, I hope to God that the Duke of Medina Sidonia has not been the cause of other difficulties by insisting that the Duke of Parma should come to meet him. For Sidonia was only a few hours distance from Parma, and the junction could easily have been effected, but it has not. The King of Spain exhausts himself by so much consideration for his captains ; he is in straits for money, which he is raising from Mantua, from the Archbishop of Toledo, a hundred thousand from Naples, the same from Sicily; we will send him five hundred thousand in fifteen days time, for five hundred thousand have been spent in fifteen days and yet were not sufficient.” And with that I took my leave.
Rome, 3rd September 1588.
Sept. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 730. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is determined that not many ships shall sail together to carry provisions to the Armada, because Drake being so strong in the Channel there would be a danger if all were united in one squadron. He has given orders that they are to sail four and five at a time; as they have begun to do. The ships will carry three hundred thousand crowns to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, though some more will be sent to him through France. This is to replace the money which was lost on board the ship which took fire. In order to raise this money, however, all salaries have been suspended for two months more, and they think this operation will be repeated until the war is finished.
Madrid, 3rd September 1588.
Sept. 6. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 731. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge of Senate.
Here Don Guglielmo (di San Clemente) has given no good news of the Armada, which has lost two galleasses on the banks between Flanders and England, and another under Calais, while the Armada itself has been borne northward. All the same, the Spaniards here declare that the landing will take place, though the heretics loudly affirm the contrary, with many scandalous and dangerous expressions. For instance, Kuiachky, held to be a leading heretic, said the other day, in a company of Italians, that unless they kept their eyes on Spain they would one day find themselves under Spanish yoke; but that Germany had no intention of allowing such a thing to happen to them, and were on the look out; as is indeed the case, for the diet of Saxony follows the movement of the attack on England and all its resolutious are governed by the issue of that.
Prague, 6th September 1588.
Sept. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 732. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The bad news received in despatches from the Duke of Parma, and dated the 10th August, though kept strictly secret, yet pain the King and the Court all the more that they were unexpected, and moreover quite contrary to the news sent by Don Bernardino de Mendoza, the Ambassador in France, who by three different couriers confirmed the statement that the Duke of Medina Sidonia had sunk many of the enemy, and was on the point of effecting a junction with the Duke of Parma. The despatches from the Duke of Parma detail the misfortune which befel the Armada on the 8th August, and how it has been driven towards Scotland and Norway. But what distresses them most is the news that Drake is following up the Armada, harassing it continually and picking up all the vessels that become separated from it. In this way he has augmented his own fleet since the Catholic Armada entered the English Channel; and all his men are fired by the courage of their leader and his successes. Furthermore, they fear that as the Armada is being driven towards Scotland, it may be cast away on the shores of that hostile country, whose King now shows himself thoroughly averse to the Spanish after the many promises they made to him, as I have already explained; and the small account which they showed that they set by him, has, as it were, thrown him into the arms of the Queen of England, in spite of the injury she did him by the execution of his mother. So the Armada with its troops all storm-tossed and worn out, will find the Scotch in front and Drake on their flank, and every one augurs ill for the issue of the enterprise; and they think that, even if no worse disaster befalls the Armada than that which overtook it on the 8th August, still it will be impossible to attempt any further operations this year, unless they are resolved to ruin their fleet and jeopardise the army in Flanders. It is evident that they have no harbour or place where it is possible to make a stand, and to shelter the fleet from the attacks of the enemy ; and now that secret understandings have failed, it proves a most desperate task to capture such a place by force. Again, if the enterprise is put off or delayed the consequences will be very serious for the King, and will place him in very great difficulties, as he is in want of the sinews of war, money, which is so scarce that it is hard to see how he can maintain Ms army and fleet much longer, for they have drained the country of men and other substance. But the worst of all is that in face of the bad news they are unable to decide on a line of action. If supports are sent after the Armada they will run great risk; if they do not send supports, that part of the Armada, if any, which has escaped the storm and the foe will be exposed to grave danger, for it is known that both provisions and ammunition have been consumed. These fears produce doubt not resolution; and it is clear that they now regret having trusted too much to fortune and held the enemy too weak The remedies they adopt, and the orders they issue are confined to two objects, first to keep the bad news secret, and to colour it as they please, for which purpose they detain many letters addressed to 'private individuals; and, second, to continue with fervour both prayers and processions; and so the nobles and (gentlemen of the Court, in great disgust, cry out to heaven that his Majesty, without consulting experienced and veteran officers, but solely upon the advice of Don Juan d'Idiaquez and Don Cristoforo de Mora, has all by himself embarked upon an enterprise so difficult of execution that it may bring down upon the kingdom grave loss and rain. Nor do they refrain from accusing the Duke of Parma as though he were the cause of a large part of these disasters, both because he did not instantly effect his junction with the Duke of Medina Sidonia, and because he should have prevented the muster of the army being made in Lisbon; for that armament would have been sufficient to effect a landing (had it been mastered in Flanders). But be the blame where it may, now that it is too late to remedy them many mistakes are pointed out; and the Marquis of Santa Cruz, who was formerly condemned, is now lauded as a prudent, wise, and valorous soldier. In short, every one says just what he likes, all of which I need not repeat to your Excellencies. It is a blessing that the bad news did not reach Spain while the King was suffering from fever, for though his Majesty professes to allow no occurrence to disturb his equanimity, yet this war moves him in such a way as to prove clearly that on other occasions he was only acting, and that now he is unable to do so, perhaps, because this war is entirely conducted by himself alone; and that it should not succeed brings to light all his anxiety. He lives very retired and gives audience to no one. He has lately re-made his will, and spends hours together with his confessor; though many say that this is owing to the question of appointment to benefices.
Madrid, 6th September 1588.
[Italian ; deciphered.]
Sept. 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 733. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English fleet, on account of the great and continual storm, was unable to follow up the Spaniards, and has returned to England to provision itself, as it had begun to run somewhat short. Nothing is known about the Spanish Armada with certainty, although the Duke of Parma has sent out ships in various directions to gather news. The most experienced seamen think that it must be now off the coast of Norway, in great distress for provisions and munition, and with its fittings riddled by artillery, or partly left in the sea when they cut their cables to fly from the fire ships. No one believes that the Armada will return to English waters; the English have been reinforced both in men and ships, thanks to the advantage which they enjoy of being at home. This same view is taken by the Spanish themselves, who believe that the Armada, being unable to undertake any operations against England, will return to Spain, sailing round Ireland, in order to secure, as best they may, the remains of the fleet. After Drake's arrival on the scene, when the galleasses and other ships had been captured, as I wrote to your Serenity, an attack from various quarters was delivered, beginning at eighteen o'clock and ending at twenty-two. Seven of the enemy were sunk, and Drake followed the Spanish as far as Scotland in the North Sea, and there, as that sea is considered very dangerous, he left them and returned home, thinking that the Armada, especially the galleasses, could hardly resist the storm which was blowing and increasing.
Drake reported to the Queen that he left the enemy with eighty-two sail out of the original hundred and thirty-four. They have lost fourteen of their biggest ships with eight thousand men between killed and prisoners, while the English have not lost a single ship nor any person of importance, only some two hundred soldiers.
The English Admiral, who was victualled for three months, will put out again when he has repaired some of his damaged ships, with one hundred sail, far finer and better armed than the first, for the Queen had prepared fifty ships to await the Duke of Medina Sidonia if he should sail round Scotland; and as that voyage is a long one this fleet will come on the scene in a very damaged condition, and so these fifty ships may give the Armada a great deal of trouble before it reaches the shores of Spain.
From Holland we learn that the Dutch were present at the capture of three Spanish galleons, and were so tempted by the booty which they made, that they have gone out with forty well-armed ships to hang upon the flank of the Spanish and to pick up any of the Armada which, by stress of weather or bad seamanship, may become separated from the rest.
The Duke of Parma is dividing his army among the various fortresses, and all the nobility that was with him is being disbanded. He has had with him the most experienced captains and the finest troops drawn to his service by the desire for glory, and also because both rumour and the statements of the Spaniards represented the prizes as larger than have ever been heard of. The Spaniards, however, are not satisfied with the Duke; they accuse him of negligence and of little will to embark his troops so as to avoid placing himself under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, and for fear of leaving the government of Flanders in the hands of Sidonia.
Paris, 9th September 1588.
Enclosed in Despatch from Rome, September 10. 734. A Report of what has recently taken place in the Straits of Calais, between the Spanish and English Fleets.
On the 6th of August M. Gourdain (?) (Ingorda), Governor of Calais, had notice that the two fleets, of Spain and of England, were in the roads of St. Agatha, two leagues from Calais, and went off at once to reconnoitre them.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia, being warned of the Governor's approach along the shore, sent a gentleman to beg for some fresh supplies for his own personal use. These the Duke received the following day by means of a captain of Calais, to whom he showed all his fleet, to the number of one hundred and twenty sail; great ships with twenty thousand men on board, so they say. The Duke's own ship had eighty pieces of cannon and a crew of from one thousand to one thousand two hundred men. Besides these were four galleasses, the most lovely and largest that ever were seen. The two fleets were at anchor half a league apart.
On the evening of the 7th the English fleet was increased by the arrival of thirty ships, so that it was composed of more ships than the Spanish, but not so large or so well armed. At the moment that these ships joined the English fleet, the English sent out seven fire ships, which were carried by the tide towards the Spanish who found themselves forced to abandon their anchorage, and to draw away towards Dunquerque to escape from the fire. One of the galleasses, the finest of them, while weighing anchor jammed its rudder, and drifted under the walls of Calais. Seeing the danger they sent to beg the Governor to cover the ship with some shots from his cannon against the English fleet which was trying to capture the galleass. To this M. Gourdain replied that he was not at war with England nor with Spain, and that he could not do as requested without orders from the King.
On the 8th at daybreak a detachment of the English fleet came up to attack the galleass, which, being aground, was unable to defend herself except on one broadside; and part of her soldiers had deserted, and the crew being galley slaves, when they saw themselves cannonaded thus, jumped overboard, and saved themselves in Calais. The English seeing this put some harquebussiers in a light boat, and went to board the ship whose commander, the son of the Viceroy of Valencia, refused to give in, and fought for long and valiantly with those few men who stood by him. At last he was killed by an English bullet, and the English seized the ship. They sacked, slew, or took prisoners all they could. The English wished to carry off the galleass, but M. Gourdain sent men to beg them not to offer him this insult, for the ship was grounded on the coast of France, and the French had not interfered in the fight. The English replied that this was a point which they could not abandon without their Admiral's orders, and to him they sent a messenger at once.
M. Gourdain, seeing that they did not agree to his request, but were trying to set the ship on fire as they could not carry her off, sent again to inquire what reply the English Admiral had returned. He was told that the orders were to carry off the ship if they could, if not, to set her on fire. The Governor, learning that they were trying to carry out these last instructions, was compelled to fire some twenty-five or thirty shots to force them to desist, which they did.
The same day the Duke of Medina Sidonia, aware that there was no more hope of recovering the galleass, and that the English always avoided an engagement, pushed forward in his own ship to attack the English fleet, which at once gave him battle with four ships.
The Spanish fleet seeing him engaged came up to his support, and to attack the English in earnest. In this way an engagement between the two fleets was brought on about four hours before midday and lasted till about four hours after midday, with an inconceivable roar and resounding of cannon, both fleets drawing gradually away to the open sea till, at Calais, both sight and sound were lost in the distance.
It is held for sure that some days before, a great wind having sprung up, two vessels, on board of one of them being a favourite of the King of Spain and forty thousand ducats, were separated from the Armada and, in their attempt to rejoin the fleet, were captured by the English.
It is said that the Duke of Medina Sidonia, when at the mouth of the channel, wished to attack as he had the enemy to leeward, but the English retired to Portland (Porclena) to let him pass, and thus they gained the windward position.
Sept. 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 735. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The courier who is to carry my last despatch has not left yet, though he is to do so in an hours time. I therefore wish to inform your Serenity that a messenger from Don Giorgio Manrique has arrived from Flanders by the sea route. He landed at Corunna, having left Dunquerque on the 22nd of last month. The Ministers here as usual will not publish the news which he brings. I have learned from a secret source that the King is in the greatest distress because he has no other information about the Armada than that in its flight towards Scotland it was followed and harassed by the English. Those who are best informed think that the remains of the Armada will sail right round Scotland and return direct to Spain, abandoning, for the present, all idea of a junction with the Duke of Parma, both in order to avoid the danger of the English Channel and also because they will be able to refit here in Spain more rapidly and to better effect. Some there are who, considering that the Armada has been so storm-tossed, hold that very little of it will ever return to Spain. I add no more for your Excellencies will have earlier and fuller news from France.
This same courier says that Don Giorgio Manrique was sent on shore by the Duke of Medina Sidonia the moment he reached Calais in order to urge the Duke of Parma to carry out the junction, and that Manrique came to high words with the Duke of Parma, of whom he writes all sort of evil to his Majesty. He declares that the Duke was not ready, although he was so anxious that the Armada should sail; and that the Duke had affirmed with great heat that where he was no one else should command, nor was he responsible to anyone for his actions except to the King. These quarrels add not a little to the King's troubles.
The King is in doubt lest the Pope should refuse the million he has promised. He has given orders to the Count d'Olivares to take all steps to induce the Pope to pay it down as soon as possible, promising that he will not abandon the enterprise, but will fit out another armament, and will imperil all his kingdoms in order to punish that wicked woman.
Madrid, 10th September 1588.
[Italian ; deciphered.]
Sept. 12. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 736. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
News from Antwerp that Drake has had to take shelter in the Thames ; very severely handled by the Armada.
Prague, 12th September 1588.
Sept. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 737. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Cardinals and others of the Spanish party complain that the money which was promised to his Catholic Majesty when the Armada disembarked its troops in England has not been paid, for it is not the King's fault if no landing has been effected. And if things have not gone well that is a reason for consoling, not for further harassing his Majesty.
Rome, 17th September 1588.
Sept. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 738. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
As the misfortunes which have befallen the Armada up to the 10th of last month have caused great anxiety to the King and his Ministers who keep the news secret, so the reports from Rouen and Don Bernardino di Mendoza, the Catholic Ambassador in France, have done much to console his Majesty, for they announce that the English fleet, in its endeavour to prevent the Armada from entering a certain port in Scotland, has been severely damaged, with the loss or capture of many ships. They are anxiously awaiting more positive news of this event from the Duke of Parma and from the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who is, according to Don Bernardino, now lying in an open roadstead in Scotland, recovering his ships and men, and waiting to see whether his condition will compel him to return to Spain, or whether he can follow up his victory by joining the Duke of Parma, not allowing time for the enemy to recruit himself and to call in foreign aid. The Ambassador affirms that the Queen and the whole country are in a panic, for only thirty ships have come home, and those very roughly handled; also that in various parts of the English army mutinies have broken out; and much more which, if true, your Serenity will already have heard from elsewhere. We Only know what is published here, and all letters and despatches pass into the hands of the King and Don Juan d'Idiaquez only. All I can say is that after the last news his Majesty was in excellent spirits, and so were his Ministers.
These last news have caused the attacks on the Duke of Medina Sidonia to cease. They at first accused him of being the cause of all the disasters through his bad leadership, as, indeed, they have openly accused the Duke of Parma of treachery to the King. His Majesty is very angry at these rumours, especially with Don Giorgio Manrique who has written a lot of lies, for the Duke of Parma has completely justified his conduct, and has demonstrated that he alone, with only small boats, was quite unable to cross over to England, as the Queen had other fifty ships lying in the river of London to repel a landing; nor was he able to effect a junction with the Armada after its arrival at Calais, for it was compelled to remove from its anchorage by the enemy's fire ships. The inventor of these ships was here in this Court for a long time, but no attention was paid to him, and in disgust he went into the service of the Queen of England.
The preparations they are now making consist of provisions for the ships which are lying in Corunna, which number thirty. They will determine whether they are to sail or not when they know whether the Duke of Medina Sidonia intends to return home or to go on with the campaign. They continue to raise money in various ways, but the chief method is by suspending all payments.
The question of new recruits has been before the Council of War, but it was deemed wise to suspend action till further news from the Duke of Medina Sidonia. Spain is quite denuded of men and of all other provisions chiefly owing to the very bad harvest of this year.
Madrid, 17th September 1588.
Sept. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 739. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I am informed by a person of importance that his Majesty has sent despatches by sea and by land to the Duke of Parma and the Duke of Medina Sidonia with orders that they are to effect a junction, if possible, and to continue the enterprise ; but if the Armada has suffered too severely, then the Duke of Parma is to do everything in his power by treating with the Count of Emden (Henden), a Catholic, to obtain that port of his which is very convenient and safe, where the Armada can, while remaining near the royal army, take shelter and repair its damages. His Majesty promises shortly to send out another fleet of one hundred good ships to be added to all his other forces. He has also enjoined on the Duke of Parma that, if the Duke of Medina Sidonia has already sailed round Scotland on his way back to Spain owing to the injury to his ships or his lack of munition and provisions, he is to make as much way as he can in Flanders, for his Majesty will send back Medina Sidonia and his fleet as soon as possible.
Six ships laden with munition, which sailed from Lisbon for Corunna, have met with severe weather, and have put back.
I learn from a very secret source that for reasons of State a great nobleman of Portugal has been arrested. It appears that he was trying to raise the country in rebellion. The Portuguese are extremely dissatisfied at being under Spanish rule.
The King is about to raise a loan from Augustin Spinola, the richest gentleman of Genoa, and his company; the amount is three millions of gold, and it is secured on so much of the crown lands as will yield an interest of seven per cent.
Madrid, 17th September 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Sept. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 740. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Pope said to me that he has had no news of the Spanish and English fleets; that the despatches of the Legate in France, though they might more properly be called a horary than a diary, containing as they did hourly notice of all that took place, still gave no sure information on the subject of the fleets.
Rome, 17th September 1588.
Sept. 20. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 741. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The Emperor has caused a complaint to be made to the Agent of the Duke of Parma, Marc' Antonio Rizzo, because the Duke sends no news of the Armada. From the time when the Emperor was in Spain there has always been some ill-feeling between these two Princes, which explains the little cordiality which is now displayed.
Common report says that after the first battle there has been no other engagement, but that the Armada is following the route outside Scotland, and will return to Corunna.
Prague, 20th September 1588.
Sept. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 742. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador told me that the Queen of England now sees how little good she has got from her convention with the King of France, who, at a moment of such importance in her life, has, at the instigation of the Guise, done all he can to assist her enemies. From Spain I hear that several boxes of gold have been sent to the Catholic Ambassador here, to be dispensed to those who may be of service to the Spanish.
We have no news here of the Armada. The English fleet is out again. A detachment of the fleet has passed over to Havre de Grace to capture a Spanish galleon which has been driven in there by storm. The galleon lies outside the harbour, and has put on shore forty thousand crowns and other provision of war. The Ambassador found some difficulty in recovering this property, which was claimed by the Admiralty ; but the King has sent orders to surrender it all. The Queen of England has returned to London to comfort her people. There is a scheme for fortifying all the coast on both sides of Margate, which is the place where a landing might most easily be effected, and where it was discovered that the Spaniards actually intended to land. This can be done at very small cost, and in a very short time.
Paris, 23rd September 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Sept. 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 743. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish Ambassador having applied to the Pope for money assistance in the war, his Holiness has shown his willingness to advance eight hundred thousand ducats, provided that security be given in Rome or in Venice that this sum will be restored if the English enterprise is abandoned.
Rome, 24th September 1588.
Sept. 24, Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 744. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Pope then took up the despatches which were lying on his table, and read me the one from London by way of Lyons. The Spanish Armada, reduced to ninety sail, is in Scotch waters. It endeavoured to secure a port from the King of Scotland, but failed. His Holiness said that from Turin, on the other hand, he had news that the Armada had secured a port, had defeated Drake and driven him to seek refuge in the Thames, and he added, “one day or other we shall know the truth.” The positive information which his Holiness gave me was that there was jealousy between Medina Sidonia and Parma because Medina Sidonia would not obey Parma in land operations as the King wished and had ordered; and, further, that Sidonia insisted that Parma should come to join him, and follow him in his attack on Drake, although Parma had ships which were fit for nothing but for transporting his troops from one shore to the other. This quarrel between the leaders was no new thing of the moment, but began in the days of the Marquis of Santa Cruz, who for this very reason would never sail on the English enterprise.
Rome, 24th September 1588.
Sept. 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 745. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 23rd of this month Don Balthasar de Zunica arrived at the Escurial; he had been despatched by the Duke of Medina Sidonia on the 20th of August, while the Armada was off the Orkneys, in sixty degrees of latitude. He made a report of all that had taken place since the fleet left Calais, and of the bad state in which it was at present. The fleet will return to Spain, as your Serenity will gather from the enclosed letter written by a friend of mine on board the fleet. All this has made still clearer the falsity of the news which Don Bernardino de Mendoza has been publishing to the world; and for his conduct in this matter he is in but little favour with his Majesty. Yesterday we had news that the whole Armada had reached Biscay, but to-day a courier from San Sebastian announces that only the Captain Oquendo, with ten ships, had sailed into that port on the 24th of this month, having been separated from the rest of the Armada by a great storm. God grant that it may come home safely after all these misfortunes; and its return at all would be taken as good news by the Ministers, who at one time expected much worse.
His Majesty feels these misfortunes profoundly, but shows that he is more than ever determined to follow out his enterprise with all the forces at his disposal. He is resolved that by March next a most powerful fleet shall be ready to put to sea. Orders will be sent out to raise men in Italy and also in Spain. All ships of every build will be seized, all the corn throughout Spain will be made into biscuits, and every other sort of provision will be got ready. Six ships with provisions have sailed from Lisbon for Corunna, and another six in their company, and this will be a most useful reinforcement when the Armada comes into that port. His Majesty has given orders to build in Lisbon twenty galleys fit to sail in English waters ; they are to be shorter and higher than the usual model, and already the wood is prepared.
The Portuguese who was arrested for conspiracy has confessed that he had secret understanding with Don Antonio, and wrote to him. His name is Emanuel Gomes Gielvez. It is thought that by this time he is drowned.
Madrid, 29th September 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 746. Our fleet left Calais through fear of the enemy's fire ships and made for the open sea in the endeavour to avoid the mouth of the channel. God wished to punish us for our sins, and more to that than to aught else must be attributed the fact that the wind was in our teeth, and kept blowing up so strongly that, all against our will, we were forced into the channel with the enemy always to windward of us.
On Monday morning the enemy, having reconnoitred our fleet, drew out with his own and began to chase thirty of our ships along the coast by Calais, keeping along the shore and trying to drive them away from it. The rest of their fleet, in order of battle, bore down on us, and began a furious infernal cannonade. The battle lasted about nine hours, in my judgment. This ship and the “S. Matheo” have been so badly damaged that of the few survivors some were transhipped with the Adjutants Don Francesco di Toledo and Don Diego Pimentel. The “S. Matheo” is held for lost.
Another ship, a Biscayan, called the “Maria Juan,” went to the bottom. Her captain, Castion, was saved along with a Navarese gentleman, called Don Gaspro d' Espoletta, all burned about the face as a page of his told me. Don Martin and Don Juan di Viamonte, sons of the Medinetta, perished with her.
The enemy's fleet numbered upwards of one hundred and thirty sail. The flag-ship of the galleasses, which made for Calais, was attacked and cannonaded ; we do not know if she was captured ; for my part I think so, and we saw that the Castle of Calais fired its guns and tried to shelter the galleass.
Don Felippe di Cordova perished; may God pardon him; so too Don Pedro di Mendoza and other gentlemen, soldiers, gunners, mariners in great numbers, all from the district of Carrion ; others went to the bottom. It was a disgusting spectacle which we have seen these last few days.
There are many who think that in two days more than 1,700 shots were fired. No one of importance was killed.
On Wednesday, the 8th August, in the morning the enemy came out against us so vigorously and so arrogantly, that our leader had some apprehensions, but the grace of God miraculously favoured us. On this day the enemy won the advantage owing to the disorder in which we sailed, the bad weather, and the fear of the last action, in which the Duke, with four other ships, while leading the fleet, was so hard pressed that we thought our destruction had come. Fortune was not content with giving us a single foe, she brought out the Flanders galleys as well. The enemy then turned off, took the windward of us, and continued his course in perfect order, and never letting our rear-guard out of sight, but keeping just out of cannon shot; and thus he followed us for all Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
On that day, at nightfall, the enemy forced us back, and on Saturday morning he drew up in order of battle, and came down upon us, but keeping just out of range ; and as we stood waiting the onset the enemy made a tack, stood out to open sea, and gradually drew away from us so that by sundown he was out of sight.
Our route outside Scotland is long; pray God we come safe home. It is the historian's business to comment on events. I reserve all remarks till I arrive at Court, when there will be much to say. For myself I can only add that I am very hungry and thirsty, for no one has more than a half pint of wine and a whole one of water each day; and the water you cannot drink for it smells worse than musk. It is more than ten days since I drank any. The voyage is not so short but that there remain to us four hundred leagues of road. They say we are to go straight to Corunna, and the troops are to be lodged in Galicia.
The Gulf of Scalloway (Vacallaos), 20th August 1588; in 60 degrees of high latitude.