Venice: January 1596

Pages 177-182

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 9, 1592-1603. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1897.

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January 1596

1596. Jan. 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 388. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Count de Berlamont has had an audience of his Majesty and is anxious to conclude his mission, but the habits of this court will hardly permit him to do so as rapidly as he desires.
He has, he tells me, presented a long memorandum in which he points out the way in which his Majesty might carry on the war against the rebel States of Holland, without spending such a vast treasure as he has hitherto done. In the course of the last twenty-eight years his Majesty has consumed ineffectually one hundred and twenty-five millions of gold, besides having ruined that country. He added that it was almost impossible to place matters on a sound basis if it was resolved to make war on the Queen of England; and he frankly told me that if his Catholic Majesty should attempt it once again he would come out of it with little honour on account of the natural difficulties which beset such an enterprise (ricordando appresso che non era quasi possibile ordinar cosa buona quando si volesse far la guerra alla Regina d'Inghilterra; dicendomi chiaramente che sua Maestà Cattolica tentandola di nuovo, per le diffcoltà grandi che porta seco, ne riuscerebbe con poco honore). He remarked that if war was to be continued in Holland, the frontiers must be protected against France while surpressing the rebellion among the subjects of this Crown. If his Majesty did not feel inclined to come to terms with France, there were several ways by which, in a year's time, those provinces could easily be reduced. But in order to effect this it was necessary that his Majesty should see to it that his army was real and not fictitious; he was paying for fifty thousand men, but there were hardly twenty-five thousand in service, and those ill-affected, ill paid, and in partial revolt. His Majesty, he said, requires every man of his army although the States have no more than twelve thousand, for they can choose their ground, which is advantageous, and can by water carriage effect a march which would take three good days by land; and when his Majesty's troops do come up the natives are very quick at retiring, and thus they keep his troops perpetually on the move.
He recommended that the conduct of the campaign should be entrusted to the native officers under the general orders of the Cardinal, or if his Majesty will not consent to this, at least to allow their council to be heard and their advice adopted; for it is impossible that officers just arrived from Madrid should understand this business. The Dutch at the present moment are not in accord with the Queen of England because she will not allow Dutch ships to carry food or other munitions into Spain, where, in spite of their being rebel vessels, he understands they are freely admitted; just as his Majesty will not permit free trade with the English, and without their consent the Dutch cannot carry on trade, as the Queen holds Ostend in security for money lent to them. Besides Ostend, which is one of the biggest ports of Flanders, the Queen holds Middleburg and another fort on the same island; as well as the famous fortress of Flushing, which may most justly be called the key to those waters. It was for this reason that, although it was fully garrisoned, Charles V. warmly recommended its safety to his most Catholic Majesty in his secret instructions. It is so situated that all the ships which sail east, west, or south, must pass that way.
He added that civil discord in the States offers an opportunity to his Majesty to seduce some one of the leaders, hinting at Count Maurice of Nassau; who, at a meeting held recently, threw his sword on the ground and declared he would not serve any more, and they had no small difficulty to quiet him. It would be possible to open secret negotiations with him in camp, and some valuable results might be looked for if he lent an ear, for although he held no one of the strong places in the country, yet if the two armies came in contact it would be possible for him to change sides with a following of some three or four thousand men.
M. de Berlamont said that the arrival of the Prince of Orange in Flanders would do little good, for the States were governed like a Republic, and their officers had very limited powers; it would, therefore, be difficult to win over any one who could be of service. Nor is it possible to open negotiations with the States, for they declare that they are allies of the King of France and the Queen of England.
In conclusion, he thought that the Ministers would not be very rapid in coming to a decision, and when they had it would be to the Cardinal and not to himself that the result would be communicated.
Madrid, 1st January 1595 [m.v.].
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 389. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Two Ambassadors, uncle and nephew, have arrived here from a King of the Congo provinces, to renew their obligations towards his Majesty, as King of Portugal, and to beg him to prohibit the Portuguese in the region of Cape Verd and along that whole coast, from buying the negroes who are Christians. Some of the Portuguese, stimulated by the ease with which these negroes could be sold as slaves owing to their natural qualities, have been making large purchases; and this has led the neighbouring princes to capture these negroes in order to sell them again.
Furthermore, for their better education in the Catholic Faith, the Ambassadors desire leave to build a cathedral church and demand the appointment of a bishop of their own, for at present in their spiritual affairs they are compelled to go to the Bishop of St. Thomas. (Qui sono giunti due Ambasciatori, zio et nepote, mandati da un Rè della provincia di Manicongo per rinovar gli oblighi che ha con sua Maestà come Rè di Portugallo, et ricercarla insieme che al Capo Verde et a quelle altre marine vicine, si prohibisca a Portughesi la compreda de i loro negri, poichè sono Christiani; imperochè alcuni di quelli sudditi eccitati dalla commoditià di venderli, ne fanno di essi, come negri migliori et più disposti degli altri, grandissima contrattazione; oltre che per il medesimo rispetto anco gli principi vicini procurano di prenderne molti, vendendoli poi come schiavi. Di più per meglio educarsi nella fede et religione Cattolica ricercano di poter eriger una chiesa catedrale; concedendose un vescovo particolare, convenendo hora nelli bisogni spirituali, ricorrer al vescovo dell' isola di S. Thomeè
His Majesty, after Vespers on Christmas Eve, went to bed with the gout.
Madrid, 2nd January 1595 [m.v.].
Jan. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 390. Piero Duodo Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
At length M. de Sanci will leave for England in three or four days. It is thought that there is hope of a favourable issue after the mission of the Queen's Ambassador; for without good ground for hopes de Sanci would not undertake the journey.
Paris, 6th January 1596 [sic].
Jan. 9. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 391. Tomaso Contarini Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
That English nobleman (fn. 1) who stayed here many days on his way home from Hungary, has left for England. He has, to his great satisfaction, been made a Count of the Holy Roman Empire.
I can gather no information about the English mission to negotiate a peace with the Turk. As to the treaty between England, Spain and Holland, the Emperor declines to take the first step; he told the English gentleman that the parties must move of their own accord, and that then he would bring the matter to a good conclusion.
Prague, 9th January 1595 [m.v.]
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 392. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
I have had in my hands the whole contents of the despatches sent by Sinan Pasha to the Chancellor of Poland by means of a dragoman, Sinan's autograph letters, sealed with his own seal, and all the other papers of which I enclose translations. I will only say that on the subject of the arrival of a Polish Ambassador, for whom passports are prepared, nothing is known here as yet; nor in all the papers which were shown me by him who had charge of them, is there a word about the Bey of Bogdania or the King of Poland.
The truth is, the whole of this affair is a scheme of the English Ambassador, who, at the time when they were afraid here that the Poles would join the rest against this Empire, spread a rumour that he held a commission from the Queen to intervene to secure peace, and that on previous occasions such intervention had resulted in the reconciliation of Poland and Turkey. One sees, however, that the Ambassador, pushing further than this, wishes that the Poles, Moldavians, and Tartars should unite to assist the Turks.
Thus two letters, the one from the French Ambassador I sent in my last despatch, and the one expressing the views of the English Ambassador, which I now enclose, both show how little these two powers can rely on each other in cases where their interest is concerned.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 12th January 1595 [m.v.]
[Italian; deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 393. Letter from the Porte to the Grand Chancellor of Poland.
Urging him to join with the Vaivode of Moldavia in attacking Transylvania and Wallachia, and adding that the English Ambassador has abundantly guaranteed the goodwill of Poland towards the Turks.
(Signed) Sinan.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Jan. 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 394. Agustino Nani Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
His Holiness has fur long been urging the release of those two English ships, with a cargo of alum, bought from the Pope, which were seized by the Adelantado in the Straits of Gibraltar. The Nuncio has succeeded in securing the value of the alum which had been sold, but the ships are still under arrest.
Don Francesco Viglianeda, who is in command of twenty-five ships which sailed from Lisbon for the West Indies on the 2nd instant, is said to have special orders from his Majesty to meet and attack Drake. The Spaniards declare that Drake is inferior, both in ships and in men, to the Spanish squadron. The delay of three months between the sailing of Drake and the departure of the Spanish fleet leads people to fear that it cannot arrive in time to prevent Drake from inflicting severe damage. All the same, they hope that it will at least secure the safe arrival of the gold flotilla.
The alarm is augmented by the rumour that a large number of ships will shortly put out from England. These are to effect a junction with ships in France, not merely to hinder Spanish commerce, but also to harry the territories of his Majesty. His Majesty is pushing on the construction of one hundred ships in Biscay, Galicia, Lisbon, and Seville; some of them are quite ready. Whether the result will correspond to the preparations I do not venture to say, for the first flush of preparations here in Spain usually promises much more than is eventually accomplished.
Madrid, 15th January 1595 [m.v.].
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 21. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 395. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
There is news that Drake has landed at Havana and captured the town. The governor has withdrawn into the castle which, the Spaniards say, cannot easily be captured, especially as the fleet under Viglianeda will soon be there. Drake has fortified himself. The Ministers conceal the news in the hope that it may prove false.
Madrid, 21st January 1595 [m.v.].
Jan. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 396. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
About fifty Spaniards who were prisoners in England have arrived in Lisbon. They were captured by English corsairs. In return the Queen of England has obtained the liberation of her subjects who are prisoners of the Portuguese fleet. About the remaining English prisoners captured by other fleets of his Majesty no decision has yet been reached.
The English Commissioners who came to Lisbon about this business have informed his Majesty that if he will not allow the same freedom to English ships as is accorded to the Dutch, the Queen will deal severely with all Spanish shipping. She has probably made this representation more to satisfy her subjects than with any hope that she will obtain what she demands.
The Queen, in accord with the King of France, has renewed the orders which forbid their subjects to trade in the ports and territory of his Catholic Majesty. This will be a serious blow to the Portuguese.
As regards the news from Havana there is nothing beyond what I have already told you. This silence causes anxiety, though the Ministers take it as of good omen.
Madrid, 27th January 1595 [m.v.].
Jan. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 397. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The departure of M. de Sanci for England has been delayed by the arrival here, in great state, of another Ambassador (fn. 2) from the Queen of England. The object of his mission is to secure that the King of France shall not come to terms with Spain to the exclusion of England. This will very likely have a good effect on the question of support from England.
Paris, 27th January 1596.


  • 1. Thomas Arnndel, cf. “Cecil Papers,” part VI. p. 129.
  • 2. Sir Henry Unton, cf. “Cecil Papers,” part VI. pp. 2, 11, 13.