Venice: March 1597

Pages 257-264

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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March 1597

March 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 550. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
M. de — (Molegran), Grand Master of Lorraine, arrived here one day this week. Among his other business is that of the truce. It seems that the French are ready to make a truce for four or six weeks in order to arrange their affairs. The Spanish, on the other hand, want to conclude the truce for four or five years, but here they do not give much heed to this offer. They are afraid that in that period the Spanish might put themselves in good order and, at the close of it, would be able either to continue the war or to exact favourable terms for a peace. They are also aware that it is a matter of danger for them to allow this population, which earnestly desires repose, to taste the sweets of peace. They have before them the example of Paris, which came to accept complete obedience to the King owing to the sweetness of the first truce it made with him, The universal desire for peace induces the population to demand support in every quarter; and I know that it has been said that the Republic is not so warm on the subject as she might be, because it is to her interest that the war between these two Crowns should continue.
Four thousand infantry and six thousand horse are said to have been raised and to be paid by the King of Denmark, the Count Palatine, the States of Holland, and the Queen of England.
Paris, the first day of March 1597.
[Italian; deciphered.]
March 1. Original Rubricario, (fn. 1) Venetian Archives. 551. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
There are rumours of peace, and it is said that a young man has reached the camp from the Imperial Court. This person is supposed to be Dabri. Orders have been sent from the Porte to allow him and other agents to pass.
The English Ambassador declares that the Turks are tired of the war and would like to make peace; and if only he could say three words to the Princes of Christendom he would give them the opportunity of putting a celestial crown on their brows. He declares that if the Christians had not fallen to plundering, not a Turk would have escaped from the battle of Erlau (Keresztes).
There is a great dearth of money. If the war continues two years longer not a Turk will go, so great is their desperation and poverty; and there are loud complaints of bad government and confusion.
Mar. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 552. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Marshal de Baligny made an attempt on Cambrai on the first of this month. He started with the King's orders to muster one thousand horse and three thousand foot; but as a matter of fact he had with him only one hundred and fifty men from the garrison of Guise. They marched all night, and early in the morning, before daybreak, ten of the best men climbed down into the fosse with a petard. The petard was already placed in position against the casemate when they discovered that during the march the powder had run out. They were obliged to retire; but they say they will make another attempt in a few days, as the garrison were never aware of what took place.
A minister of the highest authority, talking about the truce with Spain, said to me that he did not believe anything would be done, because neither the States of Holland nor the Queen of England desired it. The French too have come to the conclusion that to make peace would only be affording the Spanish time to strengthen the places belonging to this Crown which were now in their hands. I said that the question was which would be most serviceable to this country and to Christendom, a peace or a truce. The peace, though most desirable, was also the more difficult, while neither Holland nor the Queen of England would, in my opinion, be seriously opposed to a truce for the reason that both were under the necessity of relieving the burden on their subjects. As to the places occupied by Spain, that objection could be met by a clause forbidding any innovation or the introduction of fresh garrisons and munitions of war, or the erection of new fortifications. He said at once, “And who will go surety for this clause?I replied that confidential agents might be placed in each of the positions held by Spain.
Paris, 8th March 1597.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Mar. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives 553. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Amiens was lost yesterday. It fell to the Spaniards through secret intelligence and agreement which they had with the population. About eight after midnight, the Duke d'Aumale entered first with about one hundred horse and seized the gate. He was followed by two thousand infantry. This loss is of such moment that all that has happened hitherto may be reckoned as naught when compared with it. (Amiens è perduto ieri; et è stato preso da Spagnoli per intelligentia el trattato havutovi dentro con li terrazani; vi è entrato primo, su le otte hore doppo mezzanotte, il Signor Duca di Humala con cento cavalli, et si impatroni delta porta et poi fu seguitato da doi mille fanti. Questa perdita è di tanto momento che tutte le fatte fin qui si possono stimar niente in comparasione sua). Now the enemy will throw a bridge over the Somme, which river has hitherto protected all these provinces from their arms; and they can harry the country at their pleasure up to the walls of this city. The worst of it is that in Amiens were all the field pieces and ammunition which his Majesty intended to use this year on the frontiers. There were thirty guns and ammunition and balls for twelve thousand shots; besides perhaps one hundred thousand crowns for the soldiers' pay. The Count of S. Pol has fled and they say his wife is a prisoner. God grant we hear not like news from Abbeville. This event is of such importance that I have anticipated my ordinary despatch by two days, and I shall send this to Lyons, where it will arrive, I hope, in three days; and I have given orders that it shall be forwarded at once, by express, to your Serenity.
News from England reports the preparation of a vast armament which, they say, will number one hundred and twenty sail. The admiral will have the sole command, and Portugal is its probable object.
Paris, 12th March 1597.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Mar. 14. Original Rubricario, Venetian Archives. 554. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
His audience has been postponed on account of the bad weather; and as the question of a peace has not yet taken root, he will delay any negotiations for the inclusion of the Republic and the clause about the Uscocks, so that the Imperialists may have no inkling on the matter.
Mar. 15. Original Rubricario, Venetian Archives. 555. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador at Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
There is such a dearth of all necessaries that it is thought impossible for the Turks to despatch a fully equipped army. The Sultan will not go. The lack of everything is so severe that the Christians and the Jews have been compelled to furnish meat and other supplies for the Seraglios and for the militia.
The English Ambassador is very confidential with the Venetian Ambassador, and has shown him the despatches from the Queen of England. He talks of his journey and of the negotiations for peace which Dabri is conducting. Hassan wishes to act on the Turkish side. The English Ambassador has some fears for Dabri's safety. The Imperialists desire nothing so much as to free themselves from the tribute.
At this moment a letter has arrived from the Vaivode of Walachia addressed to the Patriarch of Alexandria, and dealing with the question of peace. As the Patriarch is a friend of the Venetian Ambassador's he hopes to be able the more readily to secure the inclusion of the Republic, and the acceptance of the clause about the Uscocks.
Mar. 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 556. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Two hours after receiving the news of the fall of Amiens the King set out on horseback for those parts. The first day brought him to Pontoise, and the second to Beauvais. Here they are massing forces which at this moment must number seven thousand foot and one thousand five hundred horse; they still indulge a hope that they may recover Amiens, although that is more properly a subject for desire than for hope.
At Rouen they are regretting the dismantling of fort St. Catherine.
As I told you, the Count of S. Pol fled, leaving everything behind him. His Majesty with a view to recovering the Countess has arrested the Duchess d'Auma'e.
The King will not hear of a peace with Spain; he has even declared that the end of the foreign war would be the beginning of a civil war.
A few days ago M. de Breves wrote to the King informing his Majesty of the case of Mariani, who was put to death by de Breves. The King thinks this proceeding very strange, as the step was taken without his orders. De Breves says he executed Mariani as a spy in the pay of Spain. He encloses two ciphers found on Mariani; the word “Mass” appears on one, the word “Cross” on the other. He says they were names of Ministers; and as a matter of fact, when deciphered, they were found to be correspondence with M. de Maisse (Messe), and with M. Camillo Croce.
Paris, 15th March 1597.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 19 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 557. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Certain news from Holland and Zealand leads to the hope that those provinces will not enter into league with the King of France and the Queen of England.
The King is in treaty with the Fuggers for money.
The Nuncio told me that he has received fresh orders from the Tope to urge the King of Spain to make terms with France. It seems that the Ministers are more ready now to lend an ear to such proposals, so that at last we may hope for some good. The negotiations would be conducted in Flanders by the Cardinal Prince. There is a rumour that fifty ships—some say many more—have put out from England.
Madrid, 19th March 1597.
March 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 558. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
News of the fall of Amiens was brought to his Majesty by three couriers, one after the other, as I have already explained. But the Constable has given me further details. The population were not in accord with the Spanish. The whole affair was conducted by a Spaniard, the Governor of Doulens (Dorians). He had frequently been inside Amiens, disguised, as the Bishop of Amiens confesses. This man noticed that the gate by which the Spanish entered, the only one by which they could have entered, which lies on the further side of the Somme, towards Doulens, was very carelessly guarded, especially at the hour of the sermon to which all the good citizens went, leaving the gate in charge of mercenaries and common troops. The governor of Doulens chose out seven hundred picked men and sent on ahead about fifteen or twenty of these, armed and with cuirasses, but disguised as peasants. Under their disguise they carried pistol and dagger. Behind those men came a waggon covered with straw and conducted by the governor himself, also disguised. The rest of the troops marched through the night and in such excellent order that by the appointed hour they were a very short distance from the city. At about eight in the morning of the eleventh of this month, five or six of the advance guard entered the gate, carrying sacks of nuts and apples as though they were peasants from the neighbouring villages going to market. They sat clown inside the gate, feigning to be tired, and waited till the waggon and the other men came up. The waggon came on to the bridge and stopped in such a position that half of it was under the arch of the gate, where the portcullis would fall, and the other half still on the bridge. The men with the sacks then, as though by accident, spilt their nuts and apples, and the guard naturally rushed after them. At that moment the governor of Doulens cut the traces of the horses in the waggon, so that it could not be moved, and his men opened fire from their harquebusses slaughtering the guard. The men behind the waggon, sprang in, and although the portcullis was lowered, it came down on the waggon and left space enough for the soldiers to come in and out. Then the main body came up, and having raised the portcullis and drawn out the waggon, they made themselves masters of the gate, and what is more marvellous still they marched right through the city with their drums beating, flags flying, as if they were on parade. At first they were in doubt what to do, as this handful of men had only intended to seize the gate, but seeing that no opposition was offered, they placed guards at the cross streets and in the square without anyone raising a finger. The commander sent the Spanish in companies of fifteen or twenty to patrol the streets, and where they saw any of the townsfolk on the roads or at the windows they fired on them, so that not a man had the courage to stir. And so a great city of fifty thousand souls, including some ten thousand troops, was captured by a mere handful of seven hundred men, and with the loss of less than ten on both sides. They have seized all the principal citizens. Had the Count of S. Pol shown a little more courage either in resisting at the moment or by returning after, as the Swiss wished him to do, the town would have been recovered. The garrisons of Corbie and Peronne recaptured the booty as it was being carried into Doulens, but his Majesty says that that does not mean the recovery of Amiens. The Marshal de Biron, who is “the thunderbolt” of this kingdom, is pressing Amiens night and day, and means to attempt an escalade if the opportunity presents itself. He has cut to pieces three hundred men who were marching on Amiens. The Countess of S. Pol has been set free without a ransom, but six thousand crowns are demanded for her property. There is nothing which has escaped the insolence and lust of the Spanish troops.
The King is blamed as the cause of these troubles because he will not conclude a truce with Spain.
Paris, 22nd March 1597.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 24. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 559 Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
News that the English Ambassador in Constantinople has written to the Prince of Transylvania exhorting him to remain neutral for this year, and promising immunity.
Prague, 24th March 1597.
March 27. Original Rubricario, Venetian Archives. 560. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The Patriarch of Alexandria has informed the Venetian Ambassador of all the steps he has taken in the matter of the negotiations for peace. He has shown the letters he has received from the Vaivode of Walachia. Two agents from the Vaivode Michael have been sent to the Patriarch and to the English Ambassador. The Patriarch seeks the Venetian Ambassador's advice. The Patriarch discusses the state of the Christian powers and dwells on the peril of the Turkish empire and the weakness of its forces.
A Persian remarked to the Ambassador of France, apropos to the evil influence of women in the government, that when the hen crows like the cock the ruin and death of the master of the house may safely be expected. The Persian Ambassador has suddenly taken leave of the Sultan. The Grand Vizir effected this partly to be quit of the cost and partly to prevent the Persian from discovering the deficiencies of the government.
March 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 561. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The attempt to recover Aras has failed. The Marshal de Biron has been wounded, so they say.
Yesterday I received your Excellencies' Despatches on the subject of Charles Elman. I will do my duty in the matter.
Paris, 29th March 1597.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 562. Piero Duodo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The fall of Amiens is likely to render the Spanish more haughty and to interfere with the conclusion of a peace. One of the difficulties is the question of the inclusion of the Queen of England and the States of Holland.
Paris, 29th March 1597.
[Italian; deciphered.]
March 29. Original Rubricario, Venetian Archives. 563. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador has resolved to delay presenting the letters of the Republic to the Sultan until he sees what steps the Turks will take; for they have reported their successes to the King of France and to the Queen of England.
The doctors have declared that the Sultan cannot leave for the war on account of his bad health, produced by his excesses in eating and drinking.
1597. March 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 564. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
It is reported that in England one hundred and fifty ships and upwards of fifteen thousand men are ready to sail. They have with them certain fireships with very powerful combustibles on board, and they intend to burn his Majesty's fleet in the port of Ferrol. But here they are not alarmed at this threatened attack, for his Majesty's fleet lies at Ferrol, and any one who wishes to enter that port must pass through a canal five miles long and so narrow that only two ships can sail abreast, while at the mouth of that canal are three forts.
The King has ordered the arrest of Don Juan Portocarrero, in command of the galleys of Spain, and also the Admiral and certain others, all accused of having sacked the fleet in Cadiz harbour when the English attacked it last year, instead of protecting it.
Madrid, last day of March 1597.


  • 1. Filza 45, containing the despatches from March to August, 1597, is wanting. The Rubricario is therefore the sole source.