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Venice: November 1596

Pages 236-245

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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November 1596

Nov 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 504. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The mission of the Duke de Bouillon to Holland has resulted in a prohibition to export grain to Flanders, Spain, or Italy. This is an old idea of his, which he has explained to me on other occasions; he learned it from the Prince of Orange, his father-in-law, who used to say that the easiest way to reduce lower Germany was to cut off the food supply from Holland. He hopes to embarrass Spain considerably, and to hamper the preparations they are making against England.
I know that this step has been taken by all the three powers (France, Holland, and England), in accord, and chiefly at the instance of the Queen of England, for when my secretary approached M. de Sanci on the point, the latter used these very words, We must consider the King's interests in this matter. It is impossible for us to grant export to any one whose grain would not be compelled to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar; and that would be equivalent to supplying the King of Spain, a thing which does not suit us at all.
On the 25th of last month the English Ambassador took leave of the King, and on the following day he set out home. He has left an Ambassador in ordinary. (fn. 1) Before he went he had many secret conferences with the King, and it seems that the sole subject discussed was the way to attack Calais.
There is a rumour from Ireland that one thousand five hundred Spanish have landed, and that the island is in revolt.
Some days ago Signor Francesco Gradenigo, son of the illustrious Chevalier Grandenigo, left here by his father on his return to Venice, went to England. He has sent me a report., which I enclose.
San Moro, 2nd November 159.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Depatch. 505. Most Illustrious My Lord Ambassador,
As I undertook this journey to England under your Lordship's auspices, I think it my duty to furnish you with some account of those things which struck me as worthy of your notice. I left San Moro on the fifth of last month, and in three days I reached Rouen; there I stayed a day, and in another I arrived at Dieppe, so that it took me five days altogether to reach a seaport.
Here I found a ship fully equipped, and in her I crossed safely over to England in one night. I landed at Dover and took the post, and in two days came to London. I noticed that in this country they are in great alarm about the enemy; they will not allow anyone to enter who is not quite well known and who has not been thoroughly examined, nor will they allow anyone to leave without a passport from the Queen. These precautions serve admirably to let them recognise the spies who are always passing backwards and forwards, and many have been caught and punished. Against all invasion in force they have this, to me, admirable arrangement. The whole country is diversified by charming hills, and from the summits of those which are nearer to the sea they sweep the whole horizon. On these summits are poles with braziers filled with inflammable material which is fired by the sentinel if armed ships of the enemy are sighted, and so in a moment the news spreads from hill to hill throughout the kingdom, and everyone rushes to the place whence the signal came. As the kingdom is very populous the enemy could not effect a landing without finding himself confronted by twenty to twenty-five thousand men.
It is true that, as they rely entirely upon native militia, in which, as your Lordship knows, little confidence can be placed, I should consider this provision hardly adequate. These preparations are devised chiefly as a protection against the forces of the King of Spain, and as his Spanish territories are not very far off and his Flemish possessions quite close, the kingdom is exposed to great peril; for such storms as those Medina Sidonia met with are not to be counted upon always. As for the country itself, it is the most lovely you can imagine in all the world; so opulent, fat, and abounding with all things, that it may with truth be said that poverty hath no place there; personally I have not seen a beggar yet.
The civil wars in France and Holland have so increased its riches that London may fairly be called a little world in itself; and this is the proof, that here ten French soldi are sufficient for a meal, and that a first-rate one, whereas your Lordship knows that sixty, that is, a whole crown, are not enough in France.
Of the Queen's riches there is no need to speak. Her subjects are very rich, and therefore she is. Her income is about two millions.
(Quanto al Regno, il pi bello che si possi veder al mondo; et tanto opulente, grasso e ricco di tutte le cose, che si pu dire con verit che la povert vi sii afatto bandita; et per me ho osservato che non ho veduto ne pur un mendico. Et accrescinto d'ogni bene per le guerre civili che sono state in Francia et per quella che tuttavia regnano nei paesi bassi, di modo che Londra si pu dire un' altropicciolo mondo; e segno ne sii questo che diecisoldi Francesi il pasto mifacevano quivi, et era trattato eccellentemente, che 60 a pena, che sono un scudo di sole, non bastano in Francia, come ella sa. Il parlare delle richezze della Regina non occore dirn altro, perche havendo li sudditi richissimi si pu dire anche ella esser tale; tutto che del suo Regno cavi da doi millioni in circa)
During ray stay in England the Earl of Essex arrived with the fleet on his return from Spain; and as far I could judge, the booty he brings is very little, and not at all to be balanced against the great damage the English have brought upon their own heads by losing Calais to gain Cadiz (Calice), which may well prove a bitter cup (calice) for them, if God does not order matters otherwise.
The Queen has every opportunity to muster fleets, for not only are all the ports of England full of ships, but especially the Thames, which, from London to the sea, measures some forty or fifty Italian miles, where one sees nothing else but ships and seamen.
I arrived in England at the season when the Queen touches for scrofula: this is a privilege she exercises as claimant to the Crown of France, in virtue of her ancestral lights. She touched ten, and then washed her hands, being served by the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Essex, all three on their knees, the Treasurer in the middle, opposite the Queen, holding a basin, the Chancellor on the right with a ewer of warm water, and on the left the Earl of Essex with a napkin, which the Queen used to wipe her hands. The Earl is a great favourite of the Queen; he is about twenty-six years of age, fair skinned, tall, but wiry; on this last voyage he began to grow a beard, which he used not to wear. He is a right modest, courteous, and humane gentleman. He sleeps in the Queen's palace. He was followed by almost all the nobility of England. He has twice asked me to dine with him, and insisted that he should be the person to present me to kiss her Majesty's hand. As on my departure from France I had with me ordinary letters of recommendation from his Most Christian Majesty, the Earl also favoured me with his support. I was introduced into the private or audience chamber, and found the Queen under the canopy. I was presented to her Majesty, and no sooner had I kissed hands than she said to me in Italian, which language she speaks extremely well, My brother, the King of France, writes to me that I am to show you the most beautiful things in this kingdom, and the first thing you have seen is the ugliest, myself; to which I replied that the splendour of her virtues was so great that the whole universe knew how excellent she must be, their source; and now that I had satisfied my eyes and fed my soul with the sight of her person, I cared to see naught else, for I was right well aware that the rest could not compare with her. At this the Queen smiled and said, Once on a time, when I was princess, I was more esteemed by your Lords than I am now that I am Queen; but you are afraid of that old fellowalluding to his Holiness.
(Fui introdotto nella camera di rispetto, che noi diressimo dell' audiensa, e trovai la Regina sotto il Baldachino. Quivi mi appresentai a S. M. n cosi tosto le bacciai la mano che mi disse in Italiano, la quote lingua parla benissimo, Il R mio fratello mi scrive che debba farvi vedere le cose belle che sono in questo Regno, et alla prima voi havete veduta la pi brutta, che son io. A questo risposi, che lo 'splendor delle virt sue era tale che si faceva ben conoscere di qual cccellenza fusse per tutto l'universo; et in particolare havendomi saciala la vista di S. M. e pasciuto il mio animo della sua persona, non desiderava di veder cosa d'avantaggio, perch sapevo bene che il resto non haverebbe corisposto alla M. Sua. A questo sorridendo dise la Regina Era ben una volta, quando io em principessa, ch`era piu stimata da li vostri Signori che adesso che sono Regina; ma voi havete paura di quel vecchio; volendo alludere a . Santit). I replied that her Majesty had ever been esteemed by the Republic; and although, on account of my youth, I had no share in the secret councils of the State, yet I knew quite well that the sentiments of the Republic towards her Majesty were manifestly most cordial. After some further compliments I took my leave.
In England I have received extreme attention and favours from the illustrious gentleman Zuan Basadonna, who is held in such esteem and repute at the Court, that greater could not be. And as far as my observation goes, he is so loved and respected by all that it is a veritable miracle. This arises not merely from a general liking of that nation for ours, but also from his private virtues, which are of the highest.
This is what my fortnight's visit to London gave me of note, worthy to be represented to your Lordship. I wish it had been more, but neither the guarded way in which matters are handled in England, nor my own defects, allowed me to gather further information. Her Majesty is about sixty-four years of age, short, and ruddy in complexion; very strongly built. This points to a long life, and perhaps for this, as well as for other reasons of State, she is little disposed to name a successor, a step which her subjects greatly desire, though they do not dare to speak about it.
I embarked at Deal, on a well-armed ship; and at midnight we sighted seven ships, supposed to be from Dunquerque. We all armed, for our captain resolved to attack; but when we drew near we found they were friends. It was a marvel to see the courage of the English in going to attack at such a disadvantage. These people fight to the death; and it is their habit before they sail to swear to one another that they will fire the ship rather than yield themselves prisoners, so resolute is this race in battle.
I landed at Dieppe, and by the road I went I returned; the journey occupied forty days in all.
Your Lordship's
Most humble servant,
Francesco Gradenigo.
[Italian.]
Nov. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 506. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King has sent orders that the Armada is to sail at once, even though all the provisions are not ready. The Adelantado summoned all the captains and pilots to give their opinion on oath; their answer was that if they sailed at this season they would run an obvious risk of being shipwrecked. On this the Adelantado drew up a memorial, which was signed by them all, and forwarded to the King, who, however, merely repeated his orders in a more imperative form. This obstinacy of his Majesty in sending out the fleet at this bad season makes people believe that it is to be directed against the Queen of England, in revenge for the insult she put upon him in the very heart of Spain.
When the Adelantado had received these repeated orders, he endeavoured to leave the port, three or four times; at last, on the 23rd of October, he cleared out, and next day set sail for Vigo in Galicia, as he is not ready yet for the voyage to England or Ireland.
To furnish this fleet it has been necessary to take every sort of ship, ammunition, arms that they could find in all Spain,
The fleet does not exceed one hundred sail, with twelve thousand men on board. Ireland is probably its object. Many Irish were frequently observed in close consultation with his Majesty's Ministers; and especially those Irish who came here on board the English fleet, and who escaped the moment they landed at Cadiz.
Before the Adelantado set sail news came that sixty English ships had been sighted off the coast of Galicia, to watch and to break up the fleet of his Majesty. Moreover, they entered Vigo bay, where the Biscay fleet was lying, quite safe from the sea and the enemy, because of the fortifications of Bayona, among the best in Spain. The English retired. Very likely it was their arrival which compelled the Spanish fleet to leave Lisbon sooner than was expected.
Madrid, 3rd November 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 12 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 507. Agustino Nant, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
On the night of the 27th of last month the Adelantado, with the whole of his fleet except the Biscay squadron, which could not clear Bayona, was off Cape Finisterre. Here he was caught by a violent storm; he and many of his ships were driven ashore. He took shelter in Ferrol. Thirty ships are missing; twelve are certainly lost, with two thousand infantry; and eighteen, which took to the open, have not been heard of yet. The conclusion is that the Armada can do nothing this winter, and must be laid up in Ferrol
Madrid, 12th November 1596.
[Italian.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 508. Statement of the Forces under the command of the Adelantado of Castile, which left the port of Lisbon, 23rd October 1596. Published by the Spanish Ministry.
Ships. No. Tonnage.
Of the Crown of Castile 15 8,190
Of Portugal 9 6,320
Dutch and German 53 12,643
Transports 6 470
Carvels 15 450
Total 98 28,073
Men. Companies. Men.
The levies of de Luna 17 1,800
Lisbon 13 1,285
Andalusia 16 1,635
Adventurers 32 3,410
Total 78 8,130
Cavalry 360
Adventurers and mercenaries 100
Portuguese 2,800
On board thirty ships which followed from Seville 2,500
In the port of Vigo 3,300
Total 16,590
Biscuits 12,837 barrels.
Wine 696 skins.
Pork 1,498 barrels.
Salt fish 1,031 barrels.
Cheese 6,082 barrels.
Rice 631 barrels.
Vegetables 2,858 barrels.
Oil 2,858 barrels.
Vinegar 849 barrels.
Water 2,274 barrels.
Powder 1,200 barrels.
Cables 700
Lead 800
Bullets 500
Cannon balls 30,000
Waggons 50
Wheels 200
Wrights 28
Special personages on board:
Marquis of Montechiaro, with one company of Adventurers 1
Count of Palma 1
Eldest son of the Adelantado 1
Don Carlos of Atelano 1
Other gentlemen:
Don Fernando of Toledo.
Don Antonio of Velasco 1
Don Diego Brochiero.
Christoforo Falcon.
Stefano d'Oliste.
Sancho Martinez de Leyva.
Don Rodrigo d'Orosco.
The Irish Bishop.
Many Jesuits and other monks.
Carpenters, stone cutters, smiths.
28 cannon in reserve, and colubrine and field guns.
[Italian.]
Nov. 13. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 509. Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
Pasqual Bruti, dragoman to the English Embassy, after being detained some days in Vienna has been summoned to Court. He says the Turk is disposed to make peace. The English Ambassador, on instructions from home, had arranged matters so that peace might be concluded on fair terms. But the recent events and the fall of Erlau (Agria) have altered the situation.
Prague, 13th November 1596.
[Italian.]
Nov. 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 510. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
There is confirmation of the news that a certain number of Spanish have landed in Ireland. This caused the Queen great anxiety, so much so that when the King sent to hasten up the reinforcements promised to him, she excused herself on the ground that these movements kept her in alarm.
St. Maur, 16th November 1596.
[Italian.]
Nov. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 511. Agustino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish fleet is in Ferrol, much damaged; all the same his Majesty will order it to put out so that it may reach Brittany at least, with a view to diverting the concentration of an English attack upon the Prince Cardinal. But it is difficult to see how so large a fleet is to approach the French coast without having a single port capable of receiving it; for though Blauet is large, it has not water enough for ships of such draft.
Madrid, 19th November 1596.
[Italian.]
Nov. 20. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 512. Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Pasqual Bruti, dragoman of the English Embassy in Constantinople, has at length been to visit me. He confirmed much of the news I have already sent. He added that the Sultan will most certainly winter in Belgrade, and probably will not leave those parts till the conclusion of the war, for among other reasons which urge him to such a course is this, that his return to Constantinople would cost him very dear just now, as he is bound by ancient custom to make a present to all the military on the rolls, at so much a head. The Sultana mother will, however, do all she can to bring him back. This dragoman talks in the highest terms of the power of the Turkish army. He says there are more than eight hundred pieces of field artillery, but a very small siege train. The total of the army, all told, is upwards of two hundred thousand. Down to the last spahi they are all splendidly accoutred, and the trappings of the horses very rich. The Sultan has about eight millions of gold in camp; this, and his jewels, and the registers were all left in Belgrade when the Turks made their rapid march into Hungary. The dragoman confirmed the rumours of dissensions in the army, and especially between janizaries and spahis, who are ready to cut each other to bits. Had Attuan not fallen the Sultan would not have pushed forward this year. He was present when the proclamation for a march through Transylvania was issued, and a bridge was thrown over the Danube by which the larger part of the army had already passed, when news of the siege of Attuan changed all their plans. When the Prince of Walachia saw the Turkish army taking his direction he sent to offer submission; but the Turks put no trust in him. The French Ambassador did not follow the army through want of money.
After this, I touched on the subject of his mission. He said he had several times asked leave to kiss his Majesty's hand; but his arrival was delayed for some time, until he had been examined by the Archduke Maximilian in camp, and by Ministers at Vienna. He finally obtained permission to come to Court. On the subject of peace he has had several interviews, and the position here is that if the Turk will give up Raab (Giavarina) or Erlau (Agria) the Emperor will come to terms. The dragoman is endeavouring to remove the false idea the Imperialists hold on this point, for he considers it impossible that the Turk should give up either of those places; indeed, he is afraid the Emperor will have to renounce Gran (Strigonia), and Waitzen (Vaccia), as well as to pay a large war indemnity. The English Ambassador, who is with the Sultan in camp, has written to his Majesty to offer his services as mediator in obedience to orders from his Queen. The dragoman himself reported this to his Imperial Majesty when in audience two days ago; but the delays which they impose will reduce the affair to nothing. Here no orders have been issued, and he is merely awaiting the present for himself and the Ambassador, which has been promised them in return for their trouble in liberating the German prisoners. He hoped to leave in a few days, but promised to see me before departing. When he leaves he will return straight to the Ambassador at Belgrade.
Prague, 20th November 1596.
[Italian.]
Nov. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 513. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The two thousand English sent by the Queen have received orders to join the army, at once.
The English troops, and also his Majesty's, are suffering from dysentery, which they say is contagious.
Paris, 23rd November 1596.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 23. Minutes of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 514. Instructions to the Ambassador at Constantinople.
Our Ambassador in Turin writes that there is well founded information that in the league between the crowns of France and England there is a clause by which the contracting parties agree to send joint agents to Constantinople to secure the despatch of the Turkish fleet. These agents will be accompanied by a Jew, who at present is in France. We think it well to warn you, so that you may use all diligence to find out what their schemes are.
23rd November 1596.
[Italian.]
Nov. 24. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 515. Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The dragoman of the English Ambassador to the Sultan has not left yet. One of the principal Ministers asked me if I knew what sort of a person he was, as he was a subject of your Serenity. I replied that I had no knowledge of him, nor had I ever heard of him. I am told that he seems to be a person of good abilities and well informed about Turkish affairs. He promises much, and his Ambassador has made courteous offers by letter; though matters are not ripe yet for such negotiations, for now both pupils of the eyes of Hungaryso he calls Raab and Erlauwere lost, and unless one were recovered, this body could not hold together for long.
Prague, 24th November 1596.
[Italian.]
Nov. 27. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 516. Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
The dragoman of the English Ambassador to the Sultan came to see me before leaving. He said that for the Ambassador he had received a jewel worth about two thousand five hundred crowns, and a chain worth two hundred thalers, with eight hundred florins in addition for himself. He is the bearer of four letters, one in his Majesty's own hand, addressed to the Ambassador, who also will receive another letter from the Ministers; a letter from the Ministers to Ibraim Pasha, and a letter from Dr. Petzen to the same. Dr. Petzen, who has been Ambassador in Constantinople, has intimate knowledge of Ibraim. Dr. Petzen, some months ago, wrote to Ibraim, recommending peace, but to that he has received no reply. Colonel Orfeo's frank report has terrified the Ministers; he declares the Turkish victory to be very full, and says it will be impossible to resist the Turks unless larger and better forces are employed. They still talk of the restitution of Gran and Waitzen and other places, and say that the status quo ante will be restored. The letters to Ibraim and the Sultan are merely formal. Full instructions are given to the English Ambassador. The dragoman did not think peace would result, for the Turk had so much the best of it that he would propose intolerable conditions.
Prague, 27th November 1596.
[Italian.]
1596. Nov. 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 517. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish fleet was sighted when sailing for England. It met with a great storm and was broken up.
Paris, 30th November 1596.
[Italian.]

Footnotes

  • 1. Sir Anthony Mildmay, Cecil Papers, loc. cit.