Venice: July 1596

Pages 215-225

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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July 1596

July 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 462. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Nuncio came back from Toledo last night; he had seen the King and the Prince separately. As yet I have not had time to discover what answer he received to his proposals for an accord between the King of Spain and the King of France. All the same it is very likely that these recent successes of the English fleet will greatly alter the intentions of his Catholic Majesty, because the King of France will not make any treaty for a suspension of arms unless the Queen of England is included.
Madrid, 6th July 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 463. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Every one was very anxious as to the direction which the English fleet would take. We knew that it left England on the eleventh of last month; but the Spanish could not believe that, after the death of Drake and the scattering of his squadron, coupled with the loss of Calais, the English fleet would think of moving to any great distance with a view to harassing their neighbours. All the same, on the vigil of St. John's, the English fleet, to the number of seventy sail, was sighted off Bayona, and the following day another ninety were sighted off Cape St. Vincent. The news has wrought confusion in the hurried preparations, and immense terror as to the issue. Especially in Lisbon the inhabitants have fallen into a dejection of spirit so profound that they and all their families have deserted the city with the utmost precipitation. Although the nobility, militia, and foreign troops left for the protection of the city amount to twenty thousand men, still it is generally thought that most of them will fly rather than face the foe. And many Portuguese display an extraordinary satisfaction at the appearance of the English fleet. All along the shores of Portugal and Spain the people are rushing tumultuously to the defence of the coast, and some gentlemen and officers have been sent from the Court; but while these preparations were going forward, the English, having lost not a moment's time, were off Cadiz on the 2nd of this month. Cadiz, among the seaports, may truly be called the heart of Spain, and there, after such resistance as the defences permitted, and with a great slaughter of the garrison, the English landed. It is said that they have burned the five ships of the West India fleet which were ready to sail, fourteen beautiful galleons, and about twenty-five other ships, and rumour adds five guard ships besides. The loss is estimated at four millions of gold, including the value of the vessels that have been burned; a serious reduction of the naval forces belonging to his Majesty. The principal part of the booty consists of the rich merchandise which was stored on board in order to be bartered for other goods and for gold. The place has been sacked and burned, nor do we know as yet what has become of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, Commander-in-Chief of the Ocean, nor of the Duke of Vesar, both of whom were in Cadiz. We are assured that the great nobles, the Duke of Arcos and the Marquis of Santa Cruz, grandees of Spain, are both wounded, and that the English have cut off the head of the President of the Seville (fn. 1) contracts. The English fleet numbers about two hundred sail, has five thousand sailors, and nearly thirty thousand soldiers, among these two thousand Walloons, experienced musketeers, besides five thousand Dutch, brave veterans of the old garrisons. This is all we know as yet about the operations of the English fleet. The substance is the same as that which was read this morning in the joint Councils of India and of War. Everyone is expecting to hear news of further disasters. Some are afraid the fleet will attack Seville next; others, that the large quantity of arms on board may be intended to supply the Moreschi of Andalusia, who are ready to make a rising, and that, in order to support them, the English may very likely have opened communications with the Schereef. The most general opinion, however, is that the English will sack and harry the coasts of Spain and Portugal, maintaining their superiority by blockading the Spanish fleet, and in this calm season they can easily wait the arrival of the India fleets, which some think would better be awaited at the Azores or the Canaries. These misfortunes are attributed to the dominate wish of the Spaniards to chew their deliberations and to move slowly in all matters, however important. Had they made rational calculations, without a doubt they would have avoided a large part of this most notable disaster.
Madrid, 6th July 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 464. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish, finding the siege of Ostend a more difficult task than they expected, have withdrawn, and, I hear, intend to march on Luxemburg. The Spanish fleet which was reported off Bayona, is, according to latest news, on its way to Calais, with a view to keeping his Majesty's forces divided. They are fortifying Calais with all diligence, and endeavouring to make the harbour capable of receiving a larger number of ships.
The Queen of England has refused to sign the treaty between England and France unless the King signs first His Majesty has summoned his Council.
M. d'Ancell, who went to England with M. de Sanci, has now gone to Holland.
Paris, 6th July 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
June 6 (sic). Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 465. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador at Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
It has been found impossible to delay much further the departure of the Sultan for the war. The Sultana mother, enraged at seeing him leave her, after attempting in vain many means of stopping him, persuaded a girl of singular beauty with whom he is desperately in love, to beg of him as a favour that he would not go. She did so one day when they were together in a garden; but the Sultan's love suddenly changed to fury, and drawing his dagger he slew the girl. Since then no one has dared to approach the subject.
The suite of the Imperial Ambassador, to the number of twenty-nine, which was shut up in the Tower of the Black Sea, has been liberated on condition that they shall all set out with the English Ambassador, and that, when once at the frontier, they shall all go home.
The question of the departure of the English Ambassador, which was somewhat damped by the death of Sinan Pasha, has revived again. He has been summoned to camp on the ground of certain orders which he says he holds for the negotiation of an agreement of peace. The liberation of the Imperial Ambassador's suite is supposed to be a step in the same direction.
Besides other provision for the journey the Ambassador has received thirty-six camels on which he will pack his goods. He is to leave immediately, they say.
The French Ambassador has also received an invitation to the camp, and has been supplied rather more liberally than the English Ambassador, but with the same number of camels.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 6th June (fn. 2) 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
July 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 466. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The merchants here have kept back the courier, in order to send some more accurate information about the loss inflicted by the English in Cadiz; accordingly I have thought it well to add this further small amount of news which we possess, though nothing is certain as yet. The fact of the landing and the capture of the shipping is confirmed; but the Spanish burned and threw into the sea a large part of the more precious merchandize before the ships fell into the enemies' hands. They are now bargaining for the ransom of the prisoners at one hundred and forty thousand crowns, and they hope also to buy back some of the ships which have escaped the fire. The English are supposed to be commanded by the same admiral who was also in command against the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588; the Duke, with the same unfortunate result, is now at Cadiz to oppose the English. They are suspected of an intention to fortify the city and to hold it for the better execution of their plans.
News from Seville describes the city in great panic lest it should suffer the same fate as Cadiz; and the terror was increased because there were no signs of proper preparations. There was no officer of high rank, and the city could not have bought powder even at a pound of silver for a pound. They have to send a hundred leagues for muskets; the town is full of Moors whose temper is suspected, and in order to keep them in a good humour they have assigned them one real a day and a certain amount of grain. The fortress of Xeres is quite without ammunition though well victualled. Here the drum is being beaten to raise troops to meet the imminent perils of this kingdom.
Madrid, 8th July 1596.
July 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 467. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
From a very safe quarter I have learned how the Nuncio dealt with the question of the proposed accord between Spain and France. He was very reserved with his Majesty, but presented a memorandum in which the reasons in favour were abundantly expressed. It seems that the Nunico was at great pains to demonstrate the justice of his proposal; that the question of religion no longer existed; that the moment was most opportune. His Holiness was ready to act as intermediary, and only waited a word from his Majesty as to the lines to be pursued; he also offered to employ his own nephews in the negotiation, if so it pleased his Majesty. The Nuncio, as yet, has only had a very vague and general answer, namely, that his Majesty always has been and always will be a friend of peace. His Majesty told the Nuncio to confer with Don Christoforo de Mora and Don Juan d'ldiaquez; and while they were discussing the matter, the courier arrived with the news of the capture of Cadiz. This may very like upset the negotiations for the present, but will, later on, dispose his Majesty to accept what he would not previously have accepted so readily.
Madrid, 12th July 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 468. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England has lent the King two hundred thousand crowns, and is hiring troops in that island to send them to France in accordance with the terms of the treaty.
There is no news of the English fleet except that it was sighted off Cape Finisterre, though some add that it has gone to Cadiz.
Paris, 13th July 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 469. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The courier who brought his Majesty news of the English landing and what fallowed, arrived at Toledo while the King was reposing; and Don Christoforo de Mora would not wake him up to give him such bad news, delaying to communicate it till three hours after the courier's arrival, when his Majesty was dressed. When his Majesty learned this he complained to Don Christoforo of the delay, but showed a Christian fortitude in bearing the blow. And although overcome by the news, yet it seemed to lend him vigour, for he rose from his chair and walked a few paces, a thing which the weakne s of his legs and the remains of the gout had not hitherto allowed him to do, and straightway, without any signs of a perplexed mind, he began to issue numerous orders and to make various provisions. The Prince has shown a great desire to undertake the expulsion of the foe, as there could be no more fitting occasion for him to take the field for the first time than this for the defence of the very kingdom. And if he went in person the preparations would be accelerated, and every one would concur the more readily. The Prince first asked his father's leave through Don Christoforo de Mora, and then himself explained his desire. His father endeavoured to dissuade him by various considerations.
His Majesty has written to all the grandees and to all feudal superiors, lay and ecclesiastic, as well as to the Grand Commanders of the three Orders of Chivalry, that as in duty bound they are to furnish their troops. If these orders are properly carried out there will be a levy of three thousand men, although it is doubtful whether so large a militia can be got out so quickly; and even after it has been mustered, by its very nature it will not be as serviceable as they hope. Towards Seville hasty and disorderly musters of people in large numbers are taking place. They will be under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who, after escaping from Cadiz, remains in those parts by his Majesty's express orders and in the defence of his own estates. It is thought certain that had the English, immediately after capture of Cadiz, pushed on to Seville, they would have found no obstacle to the plunder of that most noble and wealthy city, but in truth they could not believe that preparations had been so neglected as they were. Now there are about four thousand foreign troops in the city, and about seven thousand ready; and the entrance to the harbour has been protected with chains. The Spanish have also resolv that, if the English appear, they will send away the women and children, who are upwards of sixty thousand; this resolution has thrust the people into despair.
But in all Spain there are not more than two thousand between harquebusses and muskets, ready, and to manufacture them would take some time, owing to the deficiency in skilled hands. A perquisition is being made in private houses, and between good and out of fashion they hope to gather a considerable number. Of powder, too, there is a notable want; in the lack of material, time must elapse before any quantity can be ready.
News from Africa that the Moors to the number of twelve thousand foot and six thousand horse have burned the crops; and it is feared that the reported siege of Ceuta may prove true. The governor is calling for help in troops and victuals, but as long as the English are in those parts it will be difficult to send any. Moors are said to have been seen on board the English ships, and the English are reported to have bought horses in Africa, though that is not certain.
His Majesty has sent in haste for Prince Andrea Doria, so I am told, but I am not fully convinced that it is so.
The Ministers affect to despise the present misfortunes, and to maintain that the English must soon retire from Spain; and in order to hide their alarm, when they are leaving the Council they take care to put on an air of cheerfulness (et per disimulare il timore quando escono dalli consegli procurano di farsi vedere artificiosamente colla facia alegra). And yet I have heard that by night with extreme and extraordinary activity they push forward the preparations; and a day or two ago his Majesty summoned a meeting of Council in his chamber, and the sitting lasted more than two hours and a half.
Madrid, 14th July 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 470. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Letters from Lisbon of the 6th inst. tell me that the city seemed to lose some of its panic when the news came that the English had passed south to Cadiz, although, in view of a possible attack upon the return journey, preparations were being continued. In addition to the one thousand five hundred Spanish who have just arrived, there were between seven and eight thousand native Portuguese troops, and soon there would be one thousand horse in addition. Besides this the merchants according to their nations have chosen their captains and have put together a certain number of men. Venice is represented by Gerolamo Stella.
After the slaughter of those who opposed their landing and entry into Cadiz the English have behaved in accordance with the custom of war. No one has been put to death except the governor of the castle, whose head was cut off because he would not yield at once, and the three hundred soldiers of the garrison who surrendered on terms, were set at liberty. Although the English sacked the city they have not profaned the churches, nor permitted any violence upon the women; and so, to the general surprise, they have won great commendation. There are some, however, who, wishing to lessen this merit, declare that the moderation of the English is due to the nature of the population of Cadiz, which as a commercial city contained for the most part people of other nationality than Spanish. The English, after sending the women and children out of the town, proceeded to exact ransom from the rest; it will amount to upwards of one hundred and seventy thousand crowns they say. The president of the Seville contracts, who was reported slain, has gained his liberty at the price of ten thousand ducats; he would have escaped with far less had he not been recognised.
There is news that in addition to the first thousand five hundred soldiers who landed alone and without artillery, and entered the city, other six thousand have been landed on the island. In consequence of this the inhabitants of the forts of Xeres and San Lucar, in great alarm, have withdrawn into Seville, though troops have been left in the fortresses to defend them, in addition to the troops which were placed to guard the bridge should the English attempt to pass over it to the main land. They say that Don Pedro de Velasco of the council of war, and captain-general of the ordinary guard, will be sent in command of the army they are raising in Andalusia.
News has come that on the 7th of this month, sixty other ships, the remains of the English fleet, set sail. Destination unknown. Though some say Corunna is their object, still the Azores or Canaries are more likely, with a view to plundering those islands and to lie in wait for the Indiamen. The Spanish have taken steps to warn the Indiamen, but they are afraid that they may fall a prey all the same. It is thought that the English will not leave these waters till they have seen the end of the India navigation. On this point Francesco Idiaquez, in conversation with me, said that though the English know how to conquer, they cannot hold. But if the rumour be true that they are entrenching themselves in several important positions in the island (of Cadiz) that would be a clear proof that they do not mean to withdraw very soon.
Madrid, 15th July 1596.
July 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 471. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I add some further details of news. The English, after ruining and wasting Cadiz, have embarked the prisoners who are to be ransomed, and all the booty, down to the church bells and the iron grilles of the houses (le feriate delle case), and on the 14th inst. they sailed away from the city; but confirmation of this news is still awaited. Certain it is that after the capture of Cadiz the English showed no desire to attack any of the neighbouring forts, though they were far from strong and poorly provide The populace of Cadiz, which still remains captive in the hands of the English, has petitioned his Majesty for one hundred and twenty thousand ducats for its ransom. As far as I have heard yet, his Majesty will not grant the request, for he is indignant that the people of Cadiz offered no opposition, but, like cowards, let the English enter the city; and he has no desire to encourage others to imitate this dastardly conduct, nor yet to supply the enemy with so large a sum. There is no further news from Morocco. The King has sent the Duke of Arcos to Gibraltar for the protection of that place. Don Pedro de Velasco has taken the Duke of Medina Sidonia's place as General in Andalusia.
Madrid, 20th July 1596.
July 20 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 472. Marco Venier, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador, urged to leave Constantinople, set out on the 15th instant He took with him the household servants of the Imperial Ambassador; of our people there went in his suite Pasqual Dabri, whom I had to dismiss for reasons which really merited severer punishment, and Zuanne Alberti, whom I had to send away for having wounded in the street, one evening, a young Spahi, son of Hassan, Dragom?n to the Porte, and of a sister of Piali, the cavass. This led to strongly worded complaints, and a group of women went to lament in Divan and at the Pasha's, displaying the bloody shirt and handkerchief of the young man, and shouting for the punishment of the giaour who had wrongfully wounded a mussulman, trooper in the service of the Sultan. To allay the tumult I was obliged to make some presents; all the same a large group remained, who were sworn to have the life of Alberti; and to avoid scandal I am obliged to send him back into Christendom.
The French Ambassador will wait here a month, and then follow the Sultan to Belgrade. He has no orders to follow him further. I am considering what it may import that the English and French Ambassadors are summoned to attend the army while the Venetian Ambassador is left in Constantinople.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 20th July 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
July 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 473. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English fleet, after leaving Cadiz, was compelled by the weather to return to within sight of that city, where every one was on tenterhooks to know when the weather would let them sail, if indeed this departure of theirs has not been a ruse; but it is unlikely that, after sacking the place and putting booty and prisoners on board, they will think of landing a second time. They have left Cadiz much sooner than they originally intended, on account of a rumour, or rather in obedience to orders, from England, the result, they said, of the Queen's death, though that proved false. This is certain that the English intended to pump out the wells in Oadiz, though they had not time to do so, in search of goods hidden in them. In fact, of the three millions, or thereby, which the fleet was worth, about a third has been saved, including that which the Spanish captain of the guard-ships stole for himself: he is to be placed on his trial.
Three English gentlemen and as many Scottish Catholics escaped from the fleet and went to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who will send them to his Majesty. These gentlemen declare that the intention of the English was to burn his Majesty's fleets lying in Lisbon and in Cadiz, but not to attempt Cadiz; however, finding the city unprepared they resolved to take it. It is certain that had the Corregidor not been made a prisoner, his Majesty would have had his head off. The Duke of Medina Sidonia also is held responsible for much of the disaster, because in his desire to protect the tunny fishery, from which he draws a large income, and to save his own territory, he has neglected his Majesty's interests. This is one of the reasons for the appointment of Don Pedro de Velasco, who, though an officer of far more experience than the Duke would never secure the same following as the Duke.
Seville is well protected; the Cardinal has offered one hundred thousand ducats.
The arrival of the Adelantado in Lisbon has produced great rejoicings.
I have secured in a very sure way something further as to the reply his Majesty gave to the Nuncio on the subject of the proposed accord between the King of Spain and the King of France. Talking about the possibility of an accord the Nuncio said that without the Queen of England something might be done; the King then seized a candelabra and with energy declared that he would pawn even that in order to be avenged on the Queen, and that he was resolved to accomplish this. These are words which, in the mouth of a King who has never shown any passion in fortune, good or evil, prove that his mind is fully set upon undertaking that war again. (fn. 3)
My confidant informed me that his Majesty had sent orders to Italy to man and despatch all his ships lying in the Italian ports.
Madrid, 23rd July 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 474. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Duke de Bouillon is to go soon to England to ratify the treaty with the Queen, as his Majesty has already signed and sealed it. The Duke will receive the Queen's oath. She will send an agent to receive the King's. The Queen is not sending more than the two thousand infantry of which I wrote. These troops are to be employed only in Picardy and Normandy. She promises another two thousand troops as soon as the rebellion in Ireland is crushed. It is hoped that these will soon be sent, as the Earl of Tyrone has taken the oath of allegiance, but he and his party remain masters of a third of the island, and in that district the Catholic religion is to be practised, while the Queen's officers cannot administer justice. (Il Conte di Tirone ha fatto giuramento di fedeltà, ma è restato padrone di un terzo de Irlanda con quei del suo partito, dove si farà la religion Catiolica, ne potranno li Ministri della Regina essercitar giustitia in quella parte.) She promises other two thousand men when the Earl of Essex comes back, which will not be so very soon if recent news is true, for he is said to have captured Cadiz, with a large number of ships and a quantity of biscuits, also San Lucar, and is reported to be making for Seville. The two thousand crowns lent to the King will all be expended on ammunition for the protection of Boulogne and Montreuil. They were not given directly by the Queen, but upon the faith of her word they were raised by the King's ministers. The Queen is to be recouped in all her expenses past and future, and perhaps guaranteed that France will not make peace with Spain. Hostages will be sent from France to England.
Paris, 27th July 1596.
[Italian; deciphered.]
July 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 475. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Adelantado of Castile has, in the last three days, sent out thirty despatch boats to warn different localities of the enemy's approach.
A ship of the flotilla of New Spain has reached Lisbon. She has been on shore, but was saved, crew and cargo, by the English.
The Chapter of Toledo Cathedral has offered his Majesty six thousand crowns, and it is thought that all the other Chapters and also the Prelates of Spain will contribute funds, as his Majesty has very cunningly played upon them; but it is said that they will not hand in the donations unless his Majesty intends to attack England in earnest. And this present attack by the English, if it has done some damage in one direction, and chiefly as regards reputation, on the other hand has so irritated the nation that many difficulties in the way of attacking England, and chiefly the difficulty of raising money, will disappear. The exclusion of the Queen of England is an obstacle to the reconciliation of the King of France with his Catholic Majesty.
Madrid, 30th July 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
July 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 476. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After my last despatch of the 23rd inst., we have news that the English fleet is cruising off the Straits of Gibraltar. This has has caused the Duke of Arcos, who is in charge of that fortress, to send to Seville for help; and five hundred men have been despatched, though the distance and the badness of the roads render it doubtful whether they will arrive in time if the enemy makes up his mind to attack Gibraltar, which is garrisoned, however, up to a certain point. If the English continue cruising in those waters an attack on some other city may be looked for, or perhaps they are awaiting a rising in Portugal, of which they have the more hopes that a son of Don Antonio of Portugal is on board with them; he is called Don Christopher, Prince of Portugal. Or, finally, their reason may be that they have some secret intelligence with the Moreschi in Spain; for it is not reasonable to suppose that they would linger in those waters for so long without some object in view.
Six thousand Moors have attacked Ceuta, but have been repulsed.
The English fleet, not counting the ships they captured at Cadiz, numbers one hundred and eighty sail. Twenty are very powerful ships, armed like our great battle ships with three tiers of cannon, only theirs are more numerous. Other sixty are little inferior in quality, while the rest are of less importance. They say, that as the English are built upon a very round model, they are less liable to damage from artillery. The English soldiery is reported as inferior to the Dutch and Walloon.
The King continues to gather his forces. He displays vigour. They say he will go to the Escurial.
As I was closing this, I hear that the English have landed in the south of Portugal, at Algarve, and plundered some place which was abandoned on their appearance. They say its name is Terra del Faro, near which is a good port, and rich on account of the tunny fishery. The booty is estimated at two hundred thousand ducats.
Madrid, 30th July 1596.


  • 1. Don Pedro Guttiero. Cf. “Cecil Papers,” VI., 227.
  • 2. So in the original despatch, but “July” in the Rubricario, which I suspect is right.
  • 3. Cf. “Cecil Papers,” VI., p. 381.