Venice: December 1588

Pages 415-422

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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December 1588

Dec. 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 784. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King, though still very weak, has begun to grant audience to some of his Ministers, but not as yet to any Ambassador.
The members of the Cortes are more than ever resolved that the money which they will vote to his Majesty for the English expedition is to be spent by officials named by themselves. And though they say that their object is to prevent the King from being robbed yet everyone knows that they insist on this point through a dread lest the King may make some other use of the moneys in the coming year, and put off the expedition till the year 1590, as most people now begin to believe, on the strength of orders which have been given in Flanders for the construction of galleys suited to those waters, and these cannot be built in such a hurry. If this were so the Cortes might find themselves called upon for a further donation. All this annoys the King who would like to have a good subsidy at his own disposition to spend as he likes.
Madrid, the 1st of December 1588.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 785. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
There is news from England that some Spanish ships driven by stress of weather on to the coast of Ireland, have there disembarked one thousand men. The absolute want of all necessaries rendered it almost impossible for them to go any further. These troops entrenched themselves close to the shore not with any design of making an attack upon the inhabitants, but because they were in fear of death. They hoped also to come to terms favourable for their safety.
The son of Don Antonio is said to have gone to the King of Fez, and Drake with twenty of the Queen's ships and as many Dutch is all ready to embark Don Antonio himself and seven thousand men just returned from Bergues under Colonel Norris and to sail for Portugal. On his way he will touch at Corunna and other places on the Spanish coast in order to pick up any vessels of the Armada, which, owing to the stormy weather, are very much out of order, and very carelessly guarded.
The Queen has sent an agent to all the German Protestant Princes to raise troops with a view to arousing the suspicions of the Duke of Parma, and thus to prevent his Catholic Majesty from making use of the troops in Flanders for an attack upon England. On the other hand the King has given orders to Parma to keep the Queen's forts in Flanders as closely invested as possible so as to prevent her from employing those troops to his damage in the west. The Queen of England has obtained from the King of Denmark and other northern powers a promise that no grain shall be sent into Spain to relieve the effects of this year's very bad crops in that country. A similar request will be presented to the King of France, but it is extremely unlikely that the governors of the various provinces will prevent the export of grain which is a matter of profit to them. The Duke of Parma has raised the siege of Bergues and has divided five thousand troops among the various towns so as to prevent the English from scouring the country.
San Dié, 1st of December 1588.
Dec. 5. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 786. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England omits no opportunity of hampering Spain in its attack upon her. Accordingly she has, through her Ambassador, preferred a request that the King of France would issue orders forbidding the export of grain from France into the Spanish kingdom, which, in the scarcity of provisions, would thus be hindered in its preparations for war. This step might be taken upon pretext of the present war in France, and such a course of action would avoid any difficulties which might otherwise arise; for the Queen of England, at war with Spain, was obliged to do all she could to cut off supplies from that country, and if her ships on the coast of Spain fell in with Frenchmen carrying provisions to the enemy they would be entitled to compel the French to turn back, or else to seize them; both courses of action she wished to avoid and therefore she preferred this request which she hoped would be granted as reasonable in itself and without prejudice to his Majesty's affairs, but rather a benefit in securing the repose of his kingdom. The Queen took this step under the influence of those considerations which urged her to leave no useful course of action untried, rather than from fear of Spain, for she would have still the same men, the same ships, and more, the same God who has so well protected her, as were on her side this past year. The Queen, moreover, formally complained of the Governor of Havre de Grace who had shown himself an open enemy of England by taking guns out of the castle to fire on English ships which were attacking a Spanish galleon, and she asked for satisfaction in this incident.
The King did not give an immediate reply, but said that he would send a note in answer. And as last year he felt some suspicion of the Spanish Armada he promised that he would do all that in him lay to prevent the export of grain into the Spanish dominions ; and that he was anxious to take every possible step for the preservation of the kingdom of England which he considered of the highest importance in his affairs. Nor is there any doubt but that if the King were not under the observation of the League, which is entirely in the Spanish interest, he would make some secret but efficacious display of friendship for the Queen.
The King continues to deal with all affairs of State himself; and this gives little satisfaction to the Queen Mother, and to all the principal nobles of the Court; and as no one supports his policy and many criticise it in a hostile sense, declaring it to be inspired by some few only and those suspect of heresy and disaffection, it is not at all impossible that his Majesty, moved by these public murmurs and the voices of the pulpits, may call a new council of persons whose character will give weight to his decisions.
San Dié, 5th December 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 9. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 787. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
We have news that the siege of Bergues has been abandoned by the Duke of Parma on account of the great quantity of water which renders it impossible to camp.
Prague, 9th December 1588.
Dec. 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 788. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
News arrived recently by sea, that Drake was on the point of sailing from England with forty ships, and though this has not been confirmed, still they suspect that he will really do so. Some stray pirate ships have been off this coast; and the King has issued orders for all to stand on their guard, and to Don Juan de Cardona to look after his ships and also to send half the men and fleet into Portugal; and this is owing to a dread that the Queen of England and Don Antonio may have secret understandings in that country. A bastard son of Don Antonio has gone to Africa to bring galleys into Portuguese waters.
Those who understand declare that if Drake were to go now to the Azores he would not only ruin the whole of the India traffic but could quite easily make himself master of those islands; especially as the garrison is said to be dissatisfied; and if the Azores were captured that would be the end of the Indies, for all ships have to touch there.
The Councils of State and of War have orders to consider the proper means for carrying on the English campaign. After many days of secret consultation they have come to the conclusion that if his Majesty desires to continue the war he must put together at least one hundred light ships as skirmishers and sixty great ships to support them, six great galleys and forty light galleys to effect a landing in England or Ireland. A French ship from the coast of Ireland has just brought the news that nineteen ships of the Armada went on shore in those parts, and of the crews all who survived were made prisoners.
The King has sent to consult in secret some theologians and to inquire if, in an undertaking so great and so righteous, he may with a clear conscience appreciate the gold and silver in these Spanish dominions of which he is absolute master (il Re ha mandato a consultar secretamente ad alquanti theologhi perche lo dicano se in bisogno cosi grande et giusto come è questo dell' Impresa d'Inghilterra, puo salva conscientia in questi Regni di Spagna delli quali è assoluto patrone accrescer il pretio dell' oro et dell' argento) and levy new taxes on the nobles called Hidalgos, who are now exempt; and whether he may still further burden the clergy, always with the consent of the Pope. All these questions are considered of the highest importance and the proposals so dangerous that they may cause some serious outbreak in this country.
At this moment I learn that Don Juan de Cardona has built and armed a fort on an island at the mouth of the Corunna harbour.
Madrid, 10th December 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 789. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
After the Spaniards who landed in Ireland had done all they could to protect themselves and to exact some honourable terms of surrender, which were always refused by the Irish, who were very fierce against them, they got on board ship once more as best they could ; the ships were all out of gear and storm-tossed, and so they had not sailed far before a gale carried them to the north of Ireland, and there among the rocks they were wrecked and every soul was drowned.
San Dié, 14th December 1588.
Dec. 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 790. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The preparations for the Armada are going very slowly, and the Cortes are less than ever able to make up their minds. Accordingly it is easy enough to conjecture how much can be done in the way of an attack on the Queen of England next year, for the preparations, as I have already said, bear the stamp of defence rather than of offence.
The Nun of Portugal, who was universally held for a saint, has been found out at last. The stigmata are proved to be artificial, and the whole trick invented to gain credit in the world. She was induced to act thus by two friars of her order of S. Domenic, with a view to being able some day to tell the King that unless he handed Portugal over to Don Antonio he would be damned for ever; and with the further object of raising a rebellion against the King. The friars are in the prisons of the Inquisition, the nun in a convent, awaiting sentence.
Madrid, 14th December 1588.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 791. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
During the last few days an embargo has been laid on all shipping of whatever nationality now lying in the Atlantic ports. The Queen of England unwilling to send her ships and merchandise into France causes it all to be carried to Gurnsey and Jersey (Gransè et Garbe) so that if the French want to buy English goods they must go to her territory for them.
Various comments are made upon this mutual suspicion. It is said that the Queen of England seeing the Duke of Guise arising to such a pitch of authority, is afraid lest he should induce the King to take some steps hostile to her. Others think that the embargo was imposed with a view to preventing the export of grain to Spanish territory.
San Dié, 19th December 1588.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 792. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
As the losses of the Catholic Armada in ships, men, and officers are continually proving to be greater than was thought, the English are now talking of not awaiting the attack of Spain again, but of sailing themselves to Portugal, as soon as the season is a little better. The Dutch, tempted by the booty of last year, will send a large number of ships to the Queen. Her reputation with all the northern powers stands so high that there is no fear of her lacking forces sufficient to further her designs against Spain.
The King of Scotland has put to death some of his subjects who carried provisions to the Armada. He has sent to congratulate the Queen on her success.
San Dié, 20th December 1588.
Dec. 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 793. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
His Majesty naturally is greatly disturbed at learning the continued misfortunes of the Armada. For on the 8th of this month, the day of the Immaculate Conception, a general Storm destroyed many ships on the coast of Galicia, and in the very harbours themselves. What especially vexes me is that the “Regazzona” making that day from Muros (Porto di Mur) to Corunna, distant fifteen leagues only, went on shore at Cape Finisterre, although for the present I do not know if she is completely wrecked. God in his mercy protect us in this great misfortune, for here they are filled with a most lively fear, since the English have taken the sea with many ships ; and it is uncertain whether their intention is piracy in Spanish waters, or some attempt on Portugal, or an attack on the Azores, or perhaps, the worst of all, to attempt each of these in succession. The Ministers are in council morning and evening, but are unable to discover any adequate remedy. They have determined, it seems, to protect the shores with troops, and to man fifty ships as coastguards. Don Diego Flores de Valdez, one of the council of war on board the Armada, who persuaded the Commander-in-Chief to abandon Don Pedro de Valdez whose ship was the first to be lost in the channel through the carrying away of her masts, has been imprisoned in Burgos on the King's orders. He is to be tried along with others who have failed of their duty on that occasion, as the Duke of Medina Sidonia pleads that he always acted upon the advice of his council, which he was expressly ordered to obey, while many on the contrary refused obedience to him (iscusandosi in somma il Duca di Medina Sidonia d' haver sempre fatto quello che si è deliberato nel suo consiglio, al quale teneva ordine espresso di ubbidire, accusando poi molti che hanno disubbidito a lui).
They have deferred the departure of Giovanni Stefano Ferrari, who has been waiting here some days with his boots on, ready to leave. The King wishes to have further news from Constantinople and to know whether the Queen of England has sent another Ambassador there. Ferrari, however, tells me that he will end by going, only he fears that he will be too late in the Levant; he is in despair, and declares that in Spain nothing is ever done in time, and if negotiations fail blame is thrown on the agents.
Madrid, 24th December 1588.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 794. Hieronimo Lippomano, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Having learned from a secret quarter that a courier was leaving for Rome to-night with despatches from the King about Saluzzo, I am able to say that the “Regazzona” is out of danger, though she has lost two anchors and a sail. She reached Ferrol the same day, and while making the port she went on the mud bank.
I hear that the Queen of England has sent an Ambassador to the King of Fez which rouses suspicion.
I enclose the sentence on the Nun of Portugal who was held for a saint. They found that she had received presents in jewels and gold to the value of forty thousand crowns and upwards, and several letters in the King's own hand, one of them commending his actions to her prayers, and declaring that he desired to come to Portugal to visit her and kiss her hand. It is not clear yet who prompted her conduct.
Madrid, 31st December 1588.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 795. Summary of the Sentence pronounced in Lisbon on the 8th December 1588 by the Archbishops of Braga and Lisbon, and the Bishop of Guardia, Inquisitors of Lisbon, against the Prioress of the Annunciation in Lisbon, by name Mary of the Visitation, for feigning to be a saint and to possess the stigmata and wounds of Christ our Lord on her body, which stigmata were painted, without intervention of the Devil; and on other charges of deception.
First, she is condemned to perpetual prison in a convent not of her own order outside the city.
She may not receive the sacrament for five years, except on the three Easters (tre Pasque) or in articulo mortis, or on a Papal jubilee.
Every Wednesday and Friday in public, in the nuns chapter house, she shall receive discipline as long as it takes to chaunt the Miserere.
She shall eat in the refectory in public, on the ground, and no one may eat what she leaves, she shall lie on the ground at the door of the refectory and all the nuns shall walk over her as they come in and go out.
She shall fast perpetually; she may not be elected to any office but shall be counted below the meanest nun in the convent.
She may speak to no one of the nuns nor to anyone else without leave of the prioress.
The bread she uses, the tumblers and all else shall be given to the Inquisition or to its delegate.
She shall not wear a veil. On Wednesdays and Fridays she shall fast on bread and water.
Each time she leaves her cell to eat she shall recite her sin aloud.
Dec. 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 796. Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate,
The Cardinal of Mondovi has letters from one who was secretary to the late Queen of Scotland, informing him that towards the north of Ireland some Spanish ships appeared, and landed two thousand men upon an island, in a very secure position. There they repaired their ships and sent a despatch boat to Spain to ask for succour. This part of Ireland is inhabited by savages who gave the Spaniards food. The Queen of England is arming troops to send into Ireland against these Spaniards, likewise a force to be sent with Don Antonio into Portugal.
Rome, 31st December 1588.