Venice: November 1597

Pages 292-301

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 1597

Nov. 5. Original Rubricario, Venetian Archives. 627. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
Ibraim, the Grand Vizir, has been deposed, and Hassan the Eunuch has taken his place. He is held to be sagacious, avaricious, a friend of Jews, and intimate of Cicala.
5th November 1597.
Nov. 6. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 628. Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in Germany to the Doge and Senate.
The Duke of Mantua told me that he knew for certain that the King of Spain would attack England as soon as possible.
Prague, 6th November 1597.
Nov. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 629. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
In my last despatches I reported the action between the English and the West India fleet, off the Azores, and the sailing of the Adelantado. I now enclose two documents, one from the confessor of the Adelantado, who tries to excuse the Adelantado for what has happened, the other from the courier who was sent with the news to the King. I sought for information from him, and find that the Adelantado is violently attacked as culpable. It is argued that if on his return the wind was astern, as he himself declares, then the storm could not have been so heavy as to prevent him from pushing on rather than expose himself to the risk of going about, and also losing the opportunity of effecting a landing while the English fleet was far away. Besides, the Spanish design, which they have concealed for two years, is now discovered, and if they try it again the Queen will forestall them. (Et persa l'opportunità di sbarcare senza oppositione dell 'armata nemica che si trova hora lontana; oltre che infrutuosamente se sarà scoperto il disegno che per due anni si haveva procurato di tener nascosto; et se un' altra volta si volesse effetuare, la Regina gli haverà proveduto.) Moreover, it is not likely that they will be able to maintain secrecy another time, as, by a miracle, they have succeeded in doing this time. However, those who speak dispassionately evidently knew that this violent resolution could not meet with any other issue, and that it was taken rather on a punctillio than in the hope of any success; for the English, almost in face of Lisbon, had burned one of the galleys belonging to Marco d'Aramburgh, and the King was swept away by a passion for revenge for all these insults which he is constantly receiving; and so in a bad season, with a weak armada, and without waiting for the reinforcements of d'Aramburgh, he resolved to carry out his object, relying on the secret intelligences which he firmly believes he has established in that island.
A letter from the Count of Palma, who is on board the armada, informs me that he was ordered by the Adelantado to land six hundred men, harquebusseers and musketeers, at the point of Falmouth harbour, to hold in check the garrison of the castle at its mouth, while the Adelantado entered on the other side. (Per una lettera scritta dal Conte di Palma che si trova sopra l'armata, ho saputo, come egli diceva, che per ordine dell'Adelantado haveva a sbarcare con 600 soldati, archibusieri et moschetieri alla ponta del porto di Flemua per trattenere dalla parte di terra quelli del castello che era alla bocca, disegnando poi l'Adelantado di promrare dall altra parte di entrar nel Sudetto porto).
As only a part of the Adelantado's fleet is returned, and in a bad state, it is unlikely that his Majesty will send it out again this year.
It is thought a great good fortune that of the twenty-five ships which sailed from Havana only two lagged behind. The rest sailed right between two squandrons of the English, and reached the Azores safely, after being pursued for thirty miles; and had they been sighted by the English an hour sooner, and had not night come down, they would with difficulty have escaped. In five hours they disembarked the nine millions of gold; but unless they sail out suddenly some night, they run great risk from the sea and from the enemy. The English made an attempt to enter the port but were repulsed by the fire from the three castles. They then drew off to sack the other islands. They have sent to England for provisions and ammunition. I learn from a captain who embarked at Flushing on the seventeenth of last month that in England reinforcements were being got ready. He also told me that the harbour of Calais is blockaded by eight Dutch ships; and that from Dunquerque four of his Majesty's ships had been sent west, it is conjectured to meet the Adelantado. As he left the Channel on the twenty-third of last month he encountered a great storm. This captain was with the Cardinal Archduke when he went to relieve Amiens; and the Cardinal consented to the surrender, but put it off till the 25th of September.
The King of France and all his army is before Aras, where the Cardinal lies in security.
The King of Spain has been sick, from eating a certain preserve, they say.
Madrid, 8th November 1597.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 629B. Letter from Father Sicilia, S. J. Confessor to the Adelantado, written to a friend while lying in sight of Corunna, on the 25th October 1597.
On the 19th of September last the Royal Armada began to clear out of Ferrol. It could not make Corunna before midday of the 23rd on account of the bad weather. And from that date till the 15th of the present month the winds were always contrary. During this period the Adelantado in person inspected the ships, reviewed the troops, made provision for the artillery service, took stock of all stores on board the fleet, which were far from abundant. Nevertheless, relying upon God and his Majesty's promises of support, on the 16th he gave orders to the Admiral Don Diego Brochiero to cause some great galleons and other levantines which were lying to lee, to shift their moorings so as to be ready to seize the first favourable moment for clearing out of harbour. On the 18th the wind was fair, and the Adelantado gave orders to make ready to weigh, and to unfurl sails, at daybreak, though everyone was convinced that the wind would not serve. The Adelantado worked his flag-ship out of harbour, and then embarked on a felucca; he passed from ship to ship with orders that they should take stations outside also. The operation was completed only four hours before sundown, owing to the unwillingness to sail which filled the minds of everyone when they thought of the season far advanced and the absolute lack of all that was essential to the success of the enterprise.
However, thanks to the extraordinary exertions of the Adelantado the fleet at last cleared the harbour, and he on board a pinnace (patacchio) overtook his flag-ship which was already four leagues out During the operation of clearing out one filipotto was lost, and the Admiral, Don Diego Brochiero, left two pinnaces behind to do the salvage work. Of these pinnaces neither has, as yet, rejoined the fleet. They may be lying inside the harbour, for I am writing this report while still outside. Nor have we any news of four pinnaces which were sent to the ovens of Neda for biscuits, inside Ferrol; but they too are supposed to be lying in harbour.
The following day we waited for six hundred soldiers of the last reinforcements from Lisbon; to embark them the Adelantado had left behind twenty-two decked carvels, and orders to the Superintendent-in-Chief to send them on at once; but as we have had no news of them we imagine that they never left harbour, or, if they did, they went back again.
All next night and up to the evening of the 19 th the fleet sailed with a fair wind, until at midnight of the 22nd we found ourselves thirty leagues off the Lizard (Capo de Alizarti) where the mouth of the English Channel begins; and there we encountered a furious head wind. This and the impetuous current prevented us from making any way. It was with the greatest difficulty that the fleet could hold on till four hours before sunset, when the order was given to take in all sail. The Admiral wished to lie to and see if the weather would moderate sufficiently to allow him to proceed. But seeing that the wind freshened steadily, and a pinnace having brought word from the Admiral that the galleon, “S. Marco” had gaped under the stress of the storm, he was obliged to stand by her, and send on board to remedy the damage. He resolved to cruise about all night, keeping an eye on the weather if it would allow him to push forward, and having all his fleet gathered about him. At this moment, another pinnace arrived with news from the Admiral that he had carried away his foremast, and, as he could not hold on his course, he asked for orders. The Adelantado, recognising how dangerous it would be to risk the life of the Admiral, of his officers, and the seventy thousand ducats on board the galleon, gave orders that the Admiral should put about as best he could and make for Spain.
The Adelantado waited till two hours after sunrise, intending, as the weather would not allow him to touch Falmouth, to make for Nieuport, and if that proved impossible to put about and sail to Ireland, to Waterford (Guataford) or Cork (Corco), or even to Brest in France. But seeing that the weather continued such as to deprive him of any hope of being able to carry out any of these plans, and that the storm was rising and the current might easily cast the fleet away, he was forced to set sail for Spain. At the time this manœuvre was carried out there were only three galleons and twenty-four ships with the Adelantado, the rest had been scattered and dispersed by the violence of the tempest. The voyage was most difficult all through the 23rd and 24th to the middle of the 25th, when the weather began to mend a little.
The flag-ship has done all that was possible to keep the fleet together. About thirty-eight ships in all are here; but all the galleons, except the three I mentioned, are still missing, though it is hoped that none are lost, in spite of the severity of the storm, for on the return journey the wind was astern.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 630. Report of Carrera, Courier on board the flag-ship of the Adelantado, who was despatched with messages to his Catholic Majesty on 30th October, while the fleet was still five leagues off Corunna. Dated 4th November.
On the 18th of last month, nine hours after sunrise, the Adelantado left Corunna with an excellent wind and one hundred and five ships besides—small vessels. When thirty leagues out he sent orders round that, in the name of God and St. James, all were to make sail for England; that they were to land at Falmouth and push on to Plymouth. The favourable wind and the joy of every one filled each breast with content, and even the sick forgot their ailments.
On the 22nd the Adelantado sent two pinances (patacchii) to summon the six galleys which were lying at Blauet, along with the Spanish infantry, with orders to make for Falmouth.
On the morning of the 22nd the Adelantado was in the English Channel in forty fathoms of water, and twenty-one leagues from Falmouth. At four in the afternoon they were struck by a great gale and downpour of rain. The Armada began to part company and to scatter, each one thinking of his own safety; the sea unshipped their rudders, broke their yards, carried away their masts; the most thought themselves lost. For two days they knocked about without being able to make any harbour.
On the 25th, two hours before sundown, the wind being still strong, the Adelantado ordered his pilot to put her before the wind. On the 26th it pleased the Lord God to send a favourable wind, and on the 28th, at ten hours after sunrise, we found ourselves in forty-six degrees of latitude and thirty-eight leagues from Corunna. The wind fell and Corunna was reached in a calm.
On the 30th, in sight of Corunna, though five leagues off, this courier was despatched in a pinnace, to convey a report of all that had taken place.
The courier saw in the port of Corunna twenty-eight vessels, of whose arrival the Adelantado was unaware at the time of sending his despatch.
Don Luis Cariglo, Governor of Corunna, had the first news of what had happened from two vessels the earliest to reach harbour.
The courier says that in spite of the furious storm at sea very few lives were lost, though all came back downcast and anxious at the failure of the expedition.
Nov. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 631. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
M. de Maisse in conversation with me declared most positively that the recovery of Amiens was as important an event as the capture of the city of Paris itself had been. The King of Spain also recognised this fact, and gave stringent orders to the Cardinal Archduke to abandon Flanders and all the other cities and go to the succour of Amiens. M. de Bellièvre, I am informed, found these orders in letters intercepted between the King and the Archduke.
Paris, 8th November 1597.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 632. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France to the Doge and Senate.
Before the King's departure the Parliament of Paris congratulated his Majesty on the recovery of Amiens. His Majesty replied that he hoped in a year's time to hear everyone speaking good French, meaning to say that all that belonged to the Crown would have submitted to him.
An agent from the Queen of England is here to disband the English troops which, in agreement with the capitulations, have been maintained here. In an audience with the King his Majesty begged that they might not be dismissed at present; and about the peace with Spain, to which the Agent alluded, he was assured that nothing would be concluded without having due regard to the interests of the Queen and of the States of Holland.
Paris, 8th November 1597.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 633. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
M. de Sillery has been to St. Quentin to see the Cardinal Legate, and to persuade him that from this quarter there is no objection to the peace. The Legate must await instructions from Spain on the subject of Calais, as it is well-known that the King of France insists that it should be consigned to him. The Cardinal has no authority to consent, but at the same time he is instructed not to break off negotiations, but to report home and wait orders. If these negotiations progress, I am told that M. de Villeroy will be sent on a mission to the Spanish Ministers. M. de Maisse has been summoned to Fontainebleau by the King and told to get ready to start for England. He has not received his instructions as yet, but is making preparations so as to be ready to leave. The Kings object is to beg the Queen not merely to continue the two thousand English foot in France, but to add to their number, so that the war may be conducted vigorously in Brittany against the Duke of Mercœur. It seems too that he wishes to give the Queen information about the peace in order to discover what her views on the matter may be, and when he has discovered that he will send either another or M. de Maisse to the States.
They intend to send an Ambassador in ordinary to reside in England, but lack of money and of persons willing to spend it, cause a delay in the scheme.
The English fleet is at the Azores, where it has orders to lie as long as it can maintain itself.
Paris, 15th November 1597.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 634. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I used my best endeavours to discover why the Adelantado had been ordered to sail so suddenly and what were his special instructions, and I have been informed with absolute certainty that between the Adelantado and the Ministry difference of opinion had existed for some time; the Adelantado insisted that he could not put to sea without obvious risk of losing his fleet; but at the moment when they were still discussing the subject, news arrived that the English fleet had gone to the Azores to await the Indiamen. Thereupon, in order to effect a diversion, the Adelantado received pressing orders to put to sea at once, with the ships, men, and munitions that he had, without waiting for Marco d'Aramburgh, who would follow him,—and to effect a landing at Falmouth. He was to fortify himself upon the site of the two castles, neither of which is of much importance, and then, leaving a sufficient garrison, he was to retire to the Scilly islands, where he would wait the return of the English fleet. If he learned that the West India fleet had been captured, he was to give battle to the English, and on winning the victory—as was expected—he was to advance again on Falmouth and land the rest of his men. From Falmouth he was to press forward and capture all he could. He was to keep his Majesty informed, and he would receive the necessary instructions from time to time.
The Adelantado, since his return, has written to his Majesty declaring that had he pushed forward with his fleet in that weak and unprovisioned state, and after the accident to Marco d'Aremburgh, he would have suffered more damage from the enemy than from the storm; for he hoped that very few ships were really lost. He begged leave to come to court, in order to explain personally to his Majesty what steps must be taken if he thinks of renewing the the attempt next year. It ought to be undertaken only at the proper season, the month of May, and after due preparations; otherwise it would be more to his Majesty's service to disband the the armada, rather than to maintain it at such excessive cost.
Madrid, 16th November 1597.
Nov. 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 635. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
News from the Azores that the Indiamen are safe there. No signs of the English at St. Michael's, so it is to be hoped that either the bad weather or the rumour of the Adelantado's voyage to England has caused them to retire. The merchant fleet from Havana, which sailed separately from the gold ships, and steered another course, has almost entirely fallen into the hands of the English.
Marco d'Aramburgh is thinking of exchanging some of his Italian ships for Flemish hulks, and will then go to join the Adelantado. Thirty ships of his fleet are still missing, among them the flagship of Don Diego Brochiero. The English, off Cape Finisterre, have captured the nine ships which the Adelantado left behind to bring up the six hundred men they were expecting from Portugal.
Some two hundred Catalans, who had crossed the French frontier to recoup themselves for the losses inflicted by the French, have all been cut to bits; and now we hear that a considerable number of French have pushed across the borders to the fortress of Jaca (Sacca), in the kingdom of Aragon.
Madrid, 16th November 1597.
News has just come that the English have left the island of St. Michael. Some have gone to the Azores in the hope that the islanders will declare in their favour, as they have the son of Don Antonio of Portugal on board.
Nov. 19. Original Rubricario Venetian Archives. 636. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
At a visit to Hassan Pasha, son of Mehmet, the Pasha asked whether Pasquale Dabri was not hidden in Galata, at the request of the English Ambassador, who libelled Hassan (by accusing him of Dabri's death). Hassan asked for a large table clock.
The new Grand Vizir, Hassan the eunuch, has the name of being tenacious, and is also reputed a man who keeps his word.
The English Ambassador has sent to make grave complaints that the crews of certain English ships have been arrested in Crete and Zante. The Venetian Ambassador replied that they must have committed some excess, and that he had written for information. He thinks that these vessels must be those that assaulted the “Silvestra” and the “Lion”.
19th November 1597.
Nov. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 637. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
At this very moment M. de Sillery (fn. 1) has gone to St. Quentin. He has taken the place of M. de Bellièvre, who is incapacitated by his infirmities. M. de Sillery is commissioned to broach the subject of a truce for two or three months in the provinces of Picardy and Champagne, to allow the King to rebuild Amiens, and to prosecute the war in Brittany. The agent of the Queen of England has told me in confidence that such a truce would also satisfy the Queen as she is anxious that Brittany, which lies so near her doors, should be reduced to complete obedience to his Majesty. Nor will the allied states object, because at this Hone of year it is difficult to conduct a campaign.
M. de Maisse, who left yesterday, is to explain all this to the Queen. Indeed, the King is ill pleased that M. de Maisse delayed his journey for a few days, a delay occasioned by want of money.
The Ministers still insist that the King will not make peace unless it be fully consonant with his honour; and they say that if he can arrange the affairs of his kingdom in these few months, as they hope, it will be the Spanish who will find themselves forced to desire and to petition for peace.
Paris, 23rd November 1597.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Nov. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 638. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish fleet, to the number of one hundred and twenty sail, appeared the other day in sight of England, off the point of Plymouth, where three hundred horse and ten thousand infantry were mustered. There was a panic which lasted for two or three days, until the Earl of Essex and his fleet arrived, which not only comforted but reassured everyone. The Earl came from the Azores, where he had captured a few small ships: the value of the ships and cargoes will cover the expenses of this year. The Earl has put to sea in search of the Spaniards, who are said to be scattered here and there by contrary winds.
Paris, 23rd November 1597.
Nov. 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 639. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish fleet has returned to Ferrol, and disembarked its troops. On the return journey thirty ships of the fleet parted company, and of these certainly ten are lost. The alarm caused to the English is over; they thought that the object of the fleet was Ireland, where the governor died only a few days ago.
Paris, 28th November 1597.
Nov. 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 640. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English attempted a landing at the Azores, but the difficulties of that coast, where the winds create a heavy surf, prevented them from carrying out their design, especially as they intended to land artillery. St. Michael's has been sacked and plundered, though no churches nor houses were burned. The English intended to build a fort at Villafranca, but on the arrival of some pinnaces (patacchii), despatched by the Queen of England with news that the Spanish Armada was going to sail for the Azores, they abandoned their design. A small number, however, may have remained behind, for some few English vessels, supposed to be the residue of the fleet, have been observed cruising off the coast of Portugal.
His Majesty has given leave to the Adelantado to come to Court to explain his conduct and to discuss the affairs of his command. Some of the Ministers wish to make the soldiers winter in the islands, for fear that if they are left on the mainland they will desert. Some of the Adelantado's missing ships have come into harbour; and they say that Don Diego Brochiero has been sighted near Corunna in miserable plight.
Madrid, 30th November 1597.


  • 1. Nicolas Bruslart, Marquis de Sillery.