Venice: April 1596

Pages 189-196

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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April 1596

April 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 415. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador is very ill; the doctors have given him up. He has had the spotted fever (purples) which is raging here. Her Majesty will lose a good and able minister. His death will delay the negotiations, to the great prejudice of this kingdom.
Paris, 6th April 1596.
April 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 416. Agustino Nani. Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Jew has had an audience of his Majesty, the interview lasted, a long time. I have not been able to find out what passed. The rumour that he was sent by Alvaro Mendez is confirmed. My confidant, who knew Mendez in Constantinople, says that he was chiefly employed by the Turks in finding out the movement of Spanish affairs. Moreover this, Mendez was an intimate frequenter of the English Embassy, besides knowing M. de Lancome, the Ambassador of France, before he was discovered to be in the interest of Spain. One of the Jew's servants, who calls himself his Secretary, says that Mendez sent Serafatin to treat about the exchange of slaves captured at Patras, though he was also retained by the Jews of Milan on some business of theirs.
I have noticed that during these last few days this Jew, in talking of his affairs, says first one thing and then another, and no longer speaks as openly as he did at first.
A few days ago the Count de Berlamont, talking to me about the pacification of Flanders, said that one or two cities already infected with heresy might be set aside for the exercise of the new religion.
But the Flemish have no faith in his Majesty, for they remember that while he was actually negotiating a peace with the Queen of England he suddenly attacked her.
The Irish Catholics have asked for some officers skilled in war. His Majesty has sent two captains, four lieutenants, and twenty musketeers, and if matters go well he will send a large force of infantry.
Drake's fleet of twenty-six sail has been sighted off New Carthage. Some say he is on his way back to England, or to Havana, others that he is on his way to attack Panama.
His Majesty has been attacked by his ordinary gout. The Prince has had a fit of fever. They bled him and he is better. He made himself ill by eating too many sweetbreads when out in the country.
Madrid, 8th April 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
April 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 417. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The departure of the Sultan for the war is more doubtful than ever; and although there is some stir of preparation, and the proclamation has been made in the market (besestan) that all who are under obligation to serve are to be ready to march in twenty days, all the same there are no signs of troops, horses, camels, mules, or other provision for war, which would indicate his Majesty's departure. It seems that Ibraim Pasha, in accord with the Sultana Mother, is opposed to this step. Ibraim, three days ago, called the chief of the Janizaries and the superior officers to a conference which lasted for a long time. It seems that the subject of discussion was how to send off the chief of the Janizaries and keep his Majesty, without causing a mutiny among the troops. A few days ago there was a meeting at the house of the secretary in order to discuss the French Ambassador's request for a fleet to reduce Marseilles. Mocato, the Jewish doctor, was present, and frankly declared that if the fleet went to Marseilles not a vessel would escape. Various sides were taken during debate, but in the end they all agreed that the French Ambassador should be kept in hopes by favourable speeches. He, however, relaxes none of his insistence, and the day before yesterday he went to the Capudan Pasha, and after having urged the prompt departure of the fleet he got as answer the consideration of the various dangers to which fleets are exposed in foreign waters, and the information that the galley slaves had not yet begun to arrive. All the same the Capudan does all he can to overcome difficulties and to provide a fleet of one hundred sail, and for this purpose he is commissioning even the unseaworthy, and yesterday, with great pomp and many salvoes of artillery, and rejoicings throughout the arsenal, the Capudan's galley, of thirty-two banks of oars, was launched. It is very big, and it is doubtful if it will prove a success, though it is certainly beautiful and finely furnished.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 9th April 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 418. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
His Majesty's gout has increased to such an intensity of pain that his right arm is powerless. At first the doctors, seeing how weak he was, resolved not to bleed him, but fearing a further advance in the malady, they finally took five ounces of blood, which came out very foul. His fever is a double tertian with irregular spasms. The doctors fear that on Good Friday, when the eclipse takes place, some dangerous crisis may arise, unless the bleeding does good.
Madrid, 10th April 1596.
April 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 419. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The advance of the Spanish towards Montreuil (Montruol) does not please the Queen of England's agents here, who consider that such proximity to England cannot be other than dangerous. Her Ambassador is just dead, and her agent (fn. 1) has left for England in great haste to prove how serious would be the loss if Montreuil fell to the Spanish. Its weakness exposes it to great risk. He will urge the despatch of succours, but they cannot arrive till it is too late.
The Queen continues to muster her fleet, which is now lying, fully equipped, in the port of Plymouth. M. de Bellièvre tells me that there are as many as fifteen thousand men on board. This has created a serious impression here, as these ministers take it that the affairs of France are totally abandoned by the Queen. However, in four or five days M. de Sanci will go to England to endeavour to arrange a conference, as I already reported. The place will be either Poneville (? Beville) or Dieppe, depending on the enemies' moves. The Queen has recalled two thousand five hundred veterans which she had in the Netherlands, They are to be sent on board the fleet. This will force the States of Holland to take the field in order to divert the Spanish who are threatening these provinces. It is said that the Queen also intended to recall her troops in his Majesty's service, but that is not certain yet. It is true that if the Queen does not send other troops to replace those she has recalled, the States will be forced to recall their troops from France to the serious prejudice of the King, who at his greatest need will find himself abandoned by all.
The Earl of Essex is to take the command. He is in high favour with the Queen, and has always been well disposed towards the King of France. M. de Bellièvre tells me he fears that this appointment is a suggestion of the Lord Treasurer, who is hostile to France, in order to divert the Queen from sending aid to his Majesty, and to rid himself of the Earl of Essex on the pretext of this honourable appointment, which would leave him absolute master in the Council. All the same, on excellent authority, I hear that the Earl himself suggested the expedition, without any participation on the part of the Lord Treasurer; and that he and the Queen alone know its object. If that is so it must be an affair of the highest importance. It is generally supposed that their object lies in Spain; some have suggested Africa. It is a fact that the flower of English nobility is on board, for as they say “he is no true son of a good mother who is not ready to march.” The French are doing all they can to dissuade the English from the expedition, and to divert these forces to their own aid; but it is thought they can hardly succeed, as things have gone so far that to retire would be of the most serious injury to her Majesty.
Paris, 13th April 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 420. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
There is news from England that Francis Drake and John Hawkins have been seriously worsted in the Indies by the Spanish. This will be that news about the capture of Havana which is thus contradicted.
Paris, 13th April 1596.
April 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 421. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
A carvel which left Panama on the 20th of January has brought news that Drake landed nine hundred men at Nombre di Dios, and marched thence to Panama with the intention of capturing the five millions of gold which Don Alonzo de Sottomayor had gathered there from Peru, previous to sending them to Spain.
Don Alonzo with five hundred men laid an ambuscade at a certain strong and narrow pass, where he encountered Drake and compelled him to return towards the sea with the loss of one hundred and fifty men. Drake has been forced to give up the enterprise and to embark again. The Spaniards say that, as this is the fourth time within the year that he has attempted a landing without success, he will now recognise his failure and will retire from the Indies. Besides, the Spaniards are in hopes that the fleet which set sail under the command of Don Bernardin de Viglianeda—of which as yet there is no news—if it has not met with some mishap, will be able to attack and, if not to defeat, at least to rout and scatter, Drake's squadron already crushed and already exhausted by seven months of service on the open sea.
The squadron of the Portuguese Consulate sailed on the tenth of this month for the East Indies; and on the same date others for the West Indies. Taken together they say that the number was about forty. The other preparations for a fleet are not being pushed forward as fast as they might be or as they would be if there was any idea of using that fleet at once.
Madrid, 18th April 1596.
(Italian; the part in italics deciphered).
April 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 422. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
On Good Friday, the day on which they feared a crisis in his Majesty's illness, an improvement took place, due to the previous bleeding. The king himself on that day inquired at what hour the eclipse would take place, and recalled how his father, his mother, and others of his house had died at a similar conjuncture.
On Saturday the gout gave signs of attacking the throat. Dr. Mercato, first physician to his Majesty, who is usually averse to bleeding because, although it relieved the pain of the gout, it lowered the vitality, which it was of prime importance to maintain, as the gout was merely an accessory to the tertian fever, now resolved to make the incision; he took other three ounces of blood on Easter Day; it flowed with difficulty, and two-thirds of it was watery humour. When the doctors entered the room his Majesty at once held out his arm that they might feel the pulse. They asked no questions, either so as to avoid tiring him or for other reasons, and left the room at once. Outside they found Don Christoforo de Mora, who explained minutely his Majesty's condition; on the strength of that report the doctors ordered medicines. The town of Acecca is very damp, and the season unusually cold, both facts are unfavourable to his Majesty.
Madrid, 20th April 1596.
April 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 423. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
While the Spanish were on their way to Montreuil, as I informed your Serenity, they suddenly changed their plan and threw themselves on Calais. Although this design of theirs has been known here for months, nevertheless, when the news came it caused great anxiety at the beginning of this week; for they argue that, in face of the King's forces by land and the Queen of England's fleet by sea, the Spaniards would not have taken this step without good ground for thinking that it would end favourably, either thanks to some secret understanding inside Calais itself or by closing the routes through which succour can reach the town.
The fortress is entirely surrounded by marshes, and can be reached by one bridge only, called Nieullai (Nieullet); if that is guarded by land they say no one can rescue the fort.
At the mouth of the harbour is another fort, called Risbank (Risban), of small importance as far as strength goes, but very important if the Spanish should capture it, for they could then exclude succour from sea. There was a report that the Spanish bad already begun to bombard, but later information shows that one among the many Frenchmen in the Spanish army, perceiving what the design of the Spaniards was, broke away from camp and, running day and night, reached Calais in time to give warning. The governor immediately fired guns to call the peasants into the town, as is the custom, and in less than two hours one thousand two hundred of them had entered Calais with abundant provisions. The governor also despatched the same Frenchman to Zealand; the wind was so favourable that he soon reached Flushing, and, embarking eight hundred men, with an equally favourable wind he came back. The whole journey did not take more than forty hours. Some soy that these eight hundred have entered the town, others that they are in the fortress of Risbank to prevent the Spanish from capturing it.
The Marshal Balligny (Ballagny), who had gone towards Montreuil, when he heard the news, returned by sea with all his men to Calais. But that all this is true I would not venture to affirm.
When his Majesty was informed of this threat to Calais, he set out with two thousand five hundred horse and four infantry regiments, namely, Navarre, Champagne, Picardy and the guards, numbering about three thousand men in all. He sent the Duke of Bouillon to occupy Ardres, and the Duke at the present moment is stationary in Amiens.
Should the Spanish succeed in this enterprise it would undoubtedly be more prejudicial to England than to France; for Calais is distant from Dover, the nearest point of England, not more than thirty Italian miles at the most. The French are of opinion that this time the enemy have done more good than harm, for the Queen of England, roused by the danger, will be obliged to come to a resolve to assist the King, a thing she would not do for love alone. And some even say that her ships are already to be seen in those waters, though that is hard to believe, for latest advices represented the fleet as being at Plymouth.
The English agent is reported, though from one quarter only, as having been made prisoner at Dunquerque. M. de Sanci left for England on Easter Monday, at two p.m., in extraordinary haste, in order to urge the despatch of assistance. I enclose a printed plan of the country, the only one I could find in the whole town. I am told it is very accurate. (fn. 2)
I had a conversation some days ago with a minister of great weight; and I discovered that what I had always suspected was true, namely, that the French are doing all they can to secure the despatch of a Turkish fleet to Sicily, with a view to seizing and fortifying some port where they could amass men. I recall the examples of the Carthaginians and of the Greeks, which prove that Sicily has always been the ladder by which foreigners have most easily reached and harassed Italy.
Paris, 20th April 1596.
(Italian; the part in italics deciphered.)
April 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 424. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish after capturing the bridge and the tower of the Port of Calais on the twelfth, opened fire on the city so vigorously that by Wednesday the seventeenth, they had made a great breach through which they assaulted and captured the town. The governor (fn. 3) died gallantly in the breach. The castle has agreed to yield if not relieved before the twenty-fourth. On the 22nd the King was at Boulogne and the Earl of Essex has arrived with troops, so that his Majesty's force may number about ten thousand infantry besides cavalry. He was to leave that same day or the following day for the relief of Calais. This news is brought by people who have arrived from that city; and they also declare that the English fleet is in sight. His Majesty is much disturbed and is indignant with M. de St. Pol and the Marshal Balligny for having, through cowardice, failed to enter Calais.
Twelve Spanish galleons are in Blauet harbour, with two thousand five hundred men on board, but partly owing to the rough weather, partly to want of pilots, but mostly from fear of the English, they have not as yet gone any further.
It was true that the ships from Zealand arrived to the relief of Calais, but finding the tower of Risbank already taken, they cast anchor, and one of them which tried to force an entry was sunk.
This event is so important that I think it right to announce it by express.
Paris, 23rd April, 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 24 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 425. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
In audience of the Grand Vizir he expressed to me his intention of setting at liberty the suite of the Imperial Ambassador, affirming that there was no charge against them, though he did not wish them to leave immediately. I did all I could to strengthen this resolve, and I told him that those unfortunates had often sent to beg me to use my influence on their behalf, but that I had never moved in the matter in order to avoid encouraging those who spread the lying rumour that your Serenity is assisting the Imperialists against the Turk; but now that he had imparted to me his intention I could not do less than approve and applaud it.
The order has been issued for their liberation and their consingment to me.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 24th April 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 25. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 426. Marco Venier, Venetian Amaassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The ship, “Fontana” has arrived with a cargo of twelve thousand yards of canvas for sails. It cannot be found of a good quality in Constantinople, so they bring it from France.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 25th April 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 26. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 427. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople to the Doge and Senate.
The Capudan Pasha's galley has been fitted with thirty banks of oars, as it was rather narrow for the original thirty-two. Each oar is rowed by seven men. The vessel is slow under oar; I do not know how she will be under sail.
On St. Mark's day the Capudan went in his galley to the Kiosk and there, to the sound of music and salvoes of artillery, the Sultan came on board. They went for a cruise in the bays of this most pleasant sea until supper-time; two galleys and seven galleots formed the escort; they too were painted all sorts of colours, and decked with silken flags. When saluting, one of the guns of the castle of the Black Sea burst and, killed two Turks; and also while saluting, a gun of the ship “Fontana,” loaded with ball, hit and broke a balustrade of the door of the Suleimanje, which resulted in the arrest of two of the crew. An English ship has brought a large number of swords, shipped at Zante, so the French Ambassador told me when he dined with me on St. Mark's day.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 26th April 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 428. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
After the despatch of my last to your Serenity no certain news about Calais has been received. This causes anxiety, for if the King had recovered the town it would be only natural that we should have heard of it by now. To-day there is news that Duke of Bouillon has thrown four hundred men into the city, and again that his Majesty has entered the city by the breach which the Spanish had made. This news comes from the Governor of Dieppe, but does not secure complete credence. This is true, however, that besides the Earl Essex, the Count Maurice has also arrived with five thousand Dutch troops. It seems that they are attempting to come to terms, but the future disposal of Calais is a difficulty. The English claim that it should belong to the Queen, who on that account has come as far as Dover. All those seas are swarming with English and Dutch ships. The King is twice as strong as the enemy. They have sunk two ships to block the harbour, so help can only arrive from land. His Majesty is resolved to recapture the place.
Paris, 27th April 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]


  • 1. Thomas Edmondes, cf. “Cecil Papers,” part VI.
  • 2. The map is missing from the filza.
  • 3. [M. de Bidossan (Vidauzan). Cf. Martin Hist. de France, X. 393 et seqq. “Cecil Papers,” VI. 147.]