Venice: May 1596

Pages 196-207

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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May 1596

May 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 429. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
News has this minute arrived that the Castle of Calais has fallen, That event took place on Thursday the 25th. The Spanish bombarded it and then carried it by assault, cutting to bits all who were in it. This is a loss of immense importance to all Christendom and the consequences will be most grave.
Paris, 1st May 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 430. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
It is publicly announced here that the King of France intends to send the Cardinal de Joyeuse to announce his absolution to his Catholic Majesty. It will be difficult to refuse admission to the Cardinal on account of his rank, and as he is in favour here he may act as an acceptable mediator. The Nuncio told me that when the Cardinal arrives negotiations for an accord will be begun; and that without actually naming him Legate the Pope also might charge him with a mission. But as to the truth of this your Serenity will be more surely informed from nearer the scene of action.
A genealogy of his Majesty has been published here. Its author's evident object is to prove that the Duchy of Brittany belongs to the Infanta. I hear that his Majesty commissioned a chronicler, a certain Garimbai, to complete the work, so that whatever happens his rights may be made manifest.
A person of competent knowledge tells me that his Majesty's illness has brought the question of the Prince's marriage again to the front. The negotiations are for a union with the daughter of Archduke Karl.
Madrid, 1st May 1596.
May 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 431. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Your Serenity will have gathered from my last despatches the miserable fall of Calais, city and castle. The importance is made clear enough in the conversation of these gentlemen. The King has written a letter encouraging all and promising to use every effort to wipe out this insult. And had this good prince the instruments, as he has the ability, to vindicate his honour, we might consider the matter accomplished, but he has not. The kingdom is exhausted; no money can be raised by extraordinary measures. The nobility is worn out and weary, and many who are in duty bound to the King's service do not go, not because the will is wanting but the means. The merchants exact disadvantageous terms for accommodation. It is impossible to keep up the army any longer at the cost of the peasants. The victuals every day grow scarcer in camp. The Council has resolved to make one more appeal to the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
There is a doubt in the minds of these Ministers, as the Marquis Pisani told me, that the King of Spain may give Calais to the Queen of England, receive Flushing instead, and so make peace with her. If that took place nothing could be more disastrous for this Crown. The only consideration which hinders the completion of such a design is the scheme for conquering England which his Catholic Majesty has so long had in preparation; it is improbable that his Majesty will abandon that design, especially at this moment when the field is opened for him to carry it out.
The King of France is very ill-pleased with the Queen of England because, before sending succours, she asked for Calais as security for the large debts due to her from his Majesty. When this was refused she asked for the city for her life only, then for a single year. While they were disputing over this request, to which his Majesty would never lend an ear, the enemy have succeeded in storming the fortress; for negotiations dragged on so long that the King only set out for the relief of Calais on the very day it fell.
The bombardment and the breach were made at a hollow earthen rampart; they occupied three hours. The first two assaults were repulsed with great gallantry and heavy loss to the Spanish. But unfortunately in these assaults all the officers of the garrison were either killed or seriously wounded, without a single exception. At the third assault, though the troops fought bravely, they were discouraged, and failed to resist the violence of the enemy, who entered the fort and cut them all to pieces. This done the Spaniards at once sent the cavalry inland, and, his Majesty retired on this account. Every day it is announced by the Ministers and by the King himself that the town will soon fall, but this has been said so of ten that now no one will believe it till they see it. The English and Dutch have retired to their homes and the Spanish infantry is rumoured to be pushed out as far as Ardres, which they will easily capture, as the position is very weak.
M. de Sanci has been able to do nothing in England. The Queen received his very badly. The King has sent the Duke of Bouillon there. Everything has taken a bad turn this year.
His Majesty has sent to Paris for some small amount of money for the protection of the borders of Picardy; and all this week the Ministers in person have been squeezing their brains to find, out how this money can be raised.
The poor throng into this city in such numbers that it is impossible to move about the streets neither on foot or on horseback. A census was taken, and they were found to amount to one hundred thousand, some days ago; now they are many more. They have brought the plague—the last calamity; and every day people are falling and dying in the streets. It is true that the plague is confined to the poor classes, with the exception of two or three councillors. As it is a matter of ordinary occurence here they do not make much of it. Those who have the charge of sanitary matters do not do their duty and the mob hinders them.
Paris, 3rd May 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives 432. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
His Majesty has almost recovered; he has only a slight fever and a little gout. But his extreme weakness keeps the doctors anxious.
It is said that the Adelantado of Castile will be made commander-in-chief of the ocean.
Drake's retreat from Panama is confirmed; but when off Porto Ricco he seized several barrels of silver to the value of fifty thousand crowns. The governor reports that had the English arrived fifteen days earlier, undoubtedly they would have captured the five millions which were lying there, for they would have found the place without warning and it could easily have been surprised. The depositions of some English prisoners show that Drake has orders to return to England within the month of May.
Letters from Lisbon inform us that the Earl of Northumberland (Conte di Tamurlano) is forty-five leagues off the Spanish coast with twenty-one ships. He is cruising towards Cape St. Vincent, and it is conjectured that his object is either to support Drake or to lie in wait for the India fleets.
There is continual news from Ireland that under the Earl of Tyrone ten thousand Irish Catholics and as many Scottish have risen in revolt against the Queen's Viceroy. This and the previous despatch of some officers and arms leads to the conjecture that the large preparations may be destined for that quarter, where his Catholic Majesty is believed to have secret intelligence; although it is quite possible that all these preparations are intended rather for defence of his own States than for an attack on others. Don Francesco d'Idiaquez tells me that news has come to Fontarabia, by sea, that the Cardinal has captured Calais. He added that although he thought it likely that the Cardinal had attacked Calais, yet, if within three or four days there was no confirmation of the news, he would not believe it.
Madrid, 4th May 1596.
May 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 433. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish in evacuating Calais carried off everything. They left behind them a strong garrison, with sappers and miners to restore the fortifications. On their way back they wished to reconnoitre Montreuil, but there were eight hundred French in that town, and so they passed on. There is news of fresh slaughter at Calais, which seems to be the nucleus of the war.
As a result of the mission of the Duke of Bouillon, the Queen of England has seemingly resolved to send large reinforcements to his Majesty, to the extent of twelve thousand foot and twenty pieces of artillery. The conditions that will satisfy her are that when the fortress of Calais is recovered it shall belong to the King under the governorship of the Duke for six years; and that on the conclusion of that operation his Majesty shall lend her a like force, as she now lends him, for the capture of Dunquerque, which she wishes to take from the Spanish. These terms are generally announced, though the Ministers have no information as yet. It is true that M. de Sanci writes from England to say that the troops are already on the march; and it is generally thought that Holland will concur vigorously, for it is no less important for the States than for the Queen that Calais should not remain in the hands of their enemies.
Antonio Perez went to England with the Duke of Bouillon. The object of his visit is not clear, though it was most probably caused by his desire to escape from the camp, as all plans and designs have been upset by the affair of Calais.
Paris, 11th May 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 434. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
In audience his Holiness asked me if I had heard that Calais had fallen to Spain? Here it is considered certain, as letters from Lyons to Paris say that the Castle still holds for the King, who is near at hand in great force, with large supports from England and Holland. I said I had no news, but if it be true we shall soon have still graver news of a battle. His Holiness then made this actual remark, “God's holy service be done; and were We to speak freely to your Lordship We should say, as the Duke of Ferrara said at the battle of Ravenna, 'Fire! they're all enemies.' There are the French so careless, and the Spanish so insolent, that We don't know which We prefer nor what would be good.”
From these words of his Holiness I gathered that he was muck disturbed by this affair of Calais, and very ill pleased with Spain, I learn from a trustworthy source that the Duke of Sessa (fn. 1) was three hours in audience with his Holiness last Saturday, and left the Pope much disgusted and grieved.
Rome, 11th May 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 435. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
This week we have just heard of the resolve taken by his Holiness to send Cardinal de Medici to France. This has thrown the heretics into the greatest suspicion, for they conjecture that this may end in a peace with Spain to their grave peril. It will also render the Queen of England and the States of Holland even more suspicious than the heretics. This step, therefore, cannot fail to damage his Majesty. The action of the Spanish Ambassador in Rome in hastening his Eminence's departure deepens the suspicion, as it is very well known that he does so for his master's interest, not for the benefit of this kingdom. His sole object is to rouse suspicion among the Protestants, and so to facilitate the achievement of those designs which his Holiness has for long been maturing but not accomplishing.
The fall of Calais will assist the conclusion of peace with Savoy, which even the Ministers who were opposed to it, now recognise as inevitable. But it is possible that the English reinforcements and the success at la Fére may encourage the French to change their resolutions.
Paris, 11th May 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 436. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Jew, Serafatin, has left, declaring that he is very well satisfied with his Majesty. But he is proved to be a man full of falsehood and tricks. It seems that the exchange of slaves was his chief commission. He may have touched on the subject of the truce or universal peace between the Turks and the House of Austria, but certainly nothing definite has resulted.
Don Luigi d'Avalos, one of the Cardinal Archduke's four chamberlains, has arrived here with confirmation of the news that Calais has been captured. As a consequence of this highly important event all sorts of plans are being discussed here. I shall wait till they are more mature before I communicate them to your Serenity.
Madrid, 13th May 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 437. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
News from Havana that Drake's fleet has met the fleet of his Majesty, and that the Englishmen had not the courage to face it, but fled after losing one ship. From the prisoners captured we learn that Drake himself died in January at Nombre di Dios. That your Serenity may clearly understand the nature of this news I enclose an extract from a letter written by the commander-in-chief, Viglianeda, to a very near relation of his. The joy of so much success has caused extreme satisfaction and rejoicing throughout the country. His Majesty shows the keenest delight, and declares that this good news will help him to get well rapidly. His health improves slowly day by day, and very soon he will be able to change his lodging.
As a result of these events every one at Court is complaining of the Pope for having absolved the King of France. Now, they say, the Lord God is showing that he has undertaken the protection of his Catholic Majesty, and will prove to all the world the justice of his cause. The rumour even runs that the Blessed Diego has appeared to his Majesty in a vision, to tell him that God has granted him ten years more of life; a report which deceives those who are ready to be deceived. Further, to show how great the confusion on the matter of religion is in France, the Parliament of Paris will not assent to the form of absolution, which they claim should be called benediction, not absolution. Moreover, the Parliament has issued several decrees declaring the appointments made to benefices before the rebenediction to be invalid. I learn that some of these decrees are published and circulated here. They say that the King of France, in place of sending the Cardinal of Joyeuse to this Court, will have to send him to Rome to excuse his conduct.
Madrid, 14th May 1596.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 438. Extract from a letter written by Don Bernardino Delgadiglio d'Aviglianeda, at present General of his Catholic Majesty's fleet in the Indies, addressed to his nephew, and dated from Havana, 28th March 1596. Translated into Italian.
From New Carthage I informed your Lordship of my arrival there, and of all that had befallen me up to that date, while lying in wait for the enemy.
I now inform you that on the 2nd of this month (March) I left that port, and steered for Havana, where I heard that Drake's fleet lay. On the 11th, a Monday, having used all diligence, at two of the afternoon I sighted the English fleet, of fourteen sail only, just as I cleared the island of Pinos. The Englishmen were very quick in manœuvring. I drew up to them, although they had the wind in their favour; and our flagship, which with two others stood closer to the wind, began to come within range. Three times the enemy made as though they would face our three ships, but they lacked the courage; or perhaps their design was to ram some of the other vessels of our fleet which were separated from the rest. We, however, drew up so closely that not merely the artillery, but also the musketry came into play. The fire did evident damage. The enemy's fire was directed chiefly to our flagship.
But presently, when the enemy saw that we continued to draw on and evidently meant to board them, they turned their bows and took to flight, under full sail, abandoning all the frigates which they usually employ for landing purposes. All night long with nine ships, and then in the morning with four more which had joined me, I followed them up till I forced them round the Cape of of St. Antonio and into the Channel of Bahama, and thus having driven them from those waters in obedience to his Majesty's instructions, I gave up the pursuit. The enemy never ventured to make a stand, though I was inferior in number of ships; nor did they make any show of courage by firing their guns, such was their hurry to escape. They did so without difficulty, for of the twenty-eight vessels with which Drake sailed only fourteen remained, the best however, the others were sunk or burned; moreover, during the forty days they were lying at Portobello they had repaired the whole fleet and fully provisioned it; I, on the contrary, left Lisbon in very bad condition; and almost all my ships have been leaking during these two months that I am out from Spain. But in spite of all this, and although the enemy were, as the saying is, on the iron and with the wind in their favour, yet they would not fight; but actually left in my hands one of their ships fully manned. From the crew of this ship I learned that Drake, after the landing he effected in January, went on to Panama and cast anchor in the port of Nombre di Dios to refit, and there he died. A colonel who was on board took the command. The English have not had the opportunity to take in water, wood, and meat, so it is with difficulty that they will reach England. The prisoners seem to be gentlemen of quality, and among them are fourteen or fifteen officers of high rank. I cannot believe that, after the uselessness and the shame of this expedition, the English will think of returning to the Indies. The population is overjoyed at the sight of this fleet, and understanding that his Majesty has a care for their safety, they promise on future occasions to offer a lively and a willing opposition to the foe. I am well, thank God; and in every port that I have entered I have found all quiet, and have never encountered any trouble. I have orders from the King which I think I can fulfil to the letter.
For the rest, I beg your Lordship to tell me what is going on at home, and I assure you that your busiest day will leave you more time for writing than I can find on my freest holiday.
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 439. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
As I was closing this despatch Don Francesco Idiaquez sent me the enclosed account of the capture of Calais. This is an unusual proceeding. It was done with some mystery, in order that the news might be spread about. The ordinary post leaves to-day for Rome, and they thought that I would very likely send you this news by it.
Madrid, 18th May 1596.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 440. An Account of the Capture of the City of Calais, written, on the 24th of April 1596, inside Calais itself, and received in Acecca on the 16th of May.
After his Highness (the Cardinal Archduke) had granted six days time to the garrison of the citadel to inform the Bearnois of the state in which they were, they hoped for some help either from the Bearnois, who was at Boulogne with the larger part of his cavalry, or some infantry. In the interim his Highness put his artillery in train. On the morning of the 24th April, early, fire was opened on a rampart of the citadel from some pieces of artillery, with such effect that they were soon able to deliver the assault. The garrison held out for an hour. Then they lost heart. The Spanish entered, and of all the garrison and population not one escaped death. Spanish loss little more than twenty soldiers and some wounded.
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 441. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish are under Ardres with twenty pieces of cannon. The garrison have written to the King to have no anxiety, as they can hold out for many days. His Majesty is preparing to relieve the place.
There is no certain news from England, although news there is in abundance. There are grave doubts lest affairs there may take a turn quite different from that which is desired here. The Duke of Bouillon is ill in England; and many fear that this is the reason why the reinforcements advance so slowly; they have not crossed the Channel yet. It is said that the Queen has asked for Boulogne—if it is true, it is a bad sign. I have had an opportunity during the last few days to speak with one of these Ministers. He told me in confidence that he had grave suspicions that negotiations for peace were on foot between the Queen of England and the King of Spain. If this be the case the French have only themselves to thank for it, as it is the upshot of that suspicion which they have deliberately aroused; and it is far from impossible that the Queen may forestall the French in malting terms with Spain so as not to be forestalled by them. It is also possible that, to gain her own ends, the Queen is using the same arts which they are employing to deceive her. Time will show. It is true, however, that a certain amount of ammunition has passed from England to Boulogne, a sign that she does not intend to abandon the French entirely.
From Zealand twenty-four ships fully armed, and twelve transports laden with munitions of war have sailed to join the English.
Paris, 18th May 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 442. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
La Fére capitulated on the 16th inst., and the King will enter on the 21st. Two days later he will march to the relief of Ardres by way of Artois.
Paris, 18th May 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 443. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador, who was to accompany the Sultan to the wars, is now doubtful whether his Majesty will start.
The Capudan Pasha in talking of foreign affairs asked me about the Spanish fleet. As I knew that the English Ambassador had been to talk to him on this subject I replied that, as every one was aware, Drake had inflicted some damage on the Spaniards in the Indies. The Queen supported him, and the King of Spain was mustering a large fleet to hold Drake in check. He replied that what I told him tallied with what the English Ambassador had said with the Queen's letters in his hand.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 19th May 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 444. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
News has arrived that Michali has made great conquests of territory along the banks of the Danube.
I have just heard that an express messenger has arrived with news that the Turks have suffered a great defeat in Hungary, with the loss of seven Sanjaks and the chief of the Janizaries. This news has roused the Sultan, and orders have been sent to the Ambassador of England, and they say to the Ambassador of France, to hold themselves ready to follow the Sultan, who will start as soon as he can.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 19th May 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
May 25. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 445. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 22nd inst. his Majesty entered la Fére; the same morning early the Spanish evacuated the town, as stipulated. His Majesty immediately gave orders to march to the succour of Ardres. His force consists of fourteen thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred horse. The garrison of Ardres holds out bravely. The Spanish, under cover of a fog, captured a suburb, but were speedily dislodged. The siege will probably be raised whenever they hear that the King is on the march. He then intends to attack Calais.
His Majesty is doing all he can to raise money. He has recently sent letters to the magistrates and merchants of Paris to beg for the loan of two hundred thousand crowns. He thinks of raising sixteen thousand Swiss, and has asked the Colonel of Bern, who is here on the business of his country, how much it would cost. The answer was that, taking one man with another all found, they would cost him six crowns ahead, that is to say one hundred and ninety-six crowns a month. It will be difficult to raise such a sum.
Reinforcements from England are arriving in small numbers and slowly. It is said that the King will receive from three to four thousand men from that country. The Queen held her fleet in readiness to sail for the object which she had in view; and the Earl of Essex was on the point of going on board when news came that Drake had died a natural death in Peru, and this put a stop to all arrangements.
The Duke of Bouillon and M. de Sanci are still in England. In a letter to a friend of mine M. de Sanci complains of having to deal with women—his words—for what is done one day is undone the next, to his infinite trouble.
On the capture of Calais the Huguenots, perceiving that his Majesty had his hands so full that he would be unable to injure them, quieted down; and sent a message to the King that if he would continue the war actively against the King of Spain they would furnish him with large supplies from their Church funds to enable him to put his affairs in order.
Paris, 25th May 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 446. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
To pay the Emperor the hundred thousand crowns which are promised by his Catholic Majesty, an assignment has been made on the King's portion of the Archbishop of Toledo's estate. Representations are made that the Emperors needs are urgent, and some more ready way of finding the money is requested.
Don Francesco Idiaquez in conversation with me remarked that now his Majesty's. affairs would proceed favourably, as his orders were obeyed, which hitherto had not always been the case. He almost openly gave me to understand that the Prince Cardinal, in attacking Calais, had been acting on orders, or at least advice, from hence. So it seems that these ministers intend to assume all the credit of successes and to throw the blame for failures on others. I have seen letters from Flanders in which the credit of the affair of Calais is attributed to the valour and ability of M. de Rosne (fn. 2) (de Ron), Master of the Camp. The Count of Fuentes' success at Cambrai was also due to de Rosne, who at present draws eighteen thousand crowns a year as salary. There has been a discussion as to the size of the permanent garrison of Calais. It will likely amount to one thousand foot and four hundred horse. Besides, they intend, I hear, to keep a galley or two in the ports of Flanders. In Calais especially they could maintain thirty or forty ships of the kind called Filipoti; they are not sea-going vessels, and are well adapted to the low bar of that harbour, The suggestion of a certain Federico Spinola to build ships in the German Ocean is under discussion. The object would be to suppress or at least to hamper the Dutch, English, and French commerce in those parts. Orders have been sent to the Prince Cardinal that he shall attack other strongholds, Boulogne and Ostend being especially designated. It is not thought prudent that his Highness should risk a pitched battle in order to relieve the town of la Fére; especially as the Cardinal has hopes of being able to revictual the town by creating diversions; and he has in readiness, for this purpose, a band of experienced troops under George Barsa, an Albanian.
Madrid, 30th May 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 447. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The issue of the war, especially in Hungary, has caused the reimprisonment of the Chaplain and other members of the Imperial Embassy.
After agreeing on the sum to be paid for the great galleon and the other two ships, captured off Messina by Cicala on his last journey, a sum that was destined to go to the French Ambassador in payment of the remainder of the great Rucellai diamond purchased by Sultan Murad, they have removed the artillery, which was very fine and valued at upwards of eight thousand crowns. The artillery has been taken into the Seraglio. The Ambassador is much disturbed, but hopes that a large present to the Chief Gardener (Bostangi) will secure the recovery. It is thought that he will not succeed, and the whole business is supposed to be a device of Cicala's to damage Halil Pasha, for he has obtained a decision from the Mufti that it is contrary to religion to restore artillery to Christians.
Dalle Vigne de Pera, last day of May 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]


  • 1. Ferdinando Gozalvo, Spanish Ambassador in Rome.
  • 2. The ex-marshal and renegade de Rosne. He was killed soon after at Hulst.