Venice: January 1598

Pages 305-310

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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January 1598

1598. Jan. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 648. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
News that the Father General (fn. 1) had arrrived at S. Quentin, on his way back from Brussels. He and M. de Silery are bound for Paris. The General complained that the French were cold about the peace; they were waiting to see whether the news of the King of Spain's death was true. He was also much displeased that they paid so much attention to the Queen of England as to seem almost as though they would conclude nothing without her consent He added, moreover, that the French believed that the Cardinal Archduke had not sufficient powers. The Spanish desire peace, and will restore the strong places. But when asked if they would give back Calais the General did not answer.
Paris, 3rd January 1597 [m.v.]
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 649. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Letters from Holland, dated the 11th of last month, bring news that Don Emanuel, son of the lute Don Antonio of Portugal, has married the sister of Count Maurice. Here they are afraid that this marriage has been arranged with a view to creating some disturbance in Portugal.
Madrid, 3rd January 1597 [m.v.]
Jan. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 650. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The General is conducting his business so secretly that neither Prince nor Minister knows aught of what is going on. The English agent, who has been at great pains to send information to his Mistress, said to me that the object of this secrecy was to alarm the Queen and the States, and to compel them to offer larger support than they had given in the past. But he added that they were deceiving themselves, for before the alliance with France, the Queen and the States had defended themselves against the King of Spain, and so they would in the future without the King of France, who was not invited to join the confederation, but had begged to be allowed to do so at the moment when, out of all reason, he had declared war on Spain. He affirmed that the support afforded was in excess of that stipulated for, more especially at that period when the King, hard pressed by the League and in want of everything, withdrew to Dieppe, whence he would have been forced to embark and fly to England, had not the Queen come to his aid with upwards of four thousand English infantry and other succours.
The agent of the States here is in a great rage, and calls the French faithless cowards.
M. de Villeroy, who has the matter in his hands, said to me that the General must have patience and make a journey or two more.
Paris, 17th January 1598.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Jan. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 651. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The negotiations for peace are being conducted in such silence and secrecy that the agents for England and for the States, the two powers interested, are, so to speak, stark mad to find out what is going on. As yet they have found out nothing in spite of their important connexions in this country. Perhaps the Queen is waiting for news from France before she gives an answer to M. de Maisse who, in spite of his insistence, is continually put off.
I have the greatest difficulty in obtaining information. However, from a good source, which I think may be trusted, I am told that the Father General, in the name of Spain, has offered to the King a truce for four years and the restitution of all the strong places except Ardres, which is to be dismantled, and Calais, which they wish to keep, as its surrender would hardly be honourable for the King of Spain; it would be taken as a sign of extreme weakness if he restored everything; besides that, Calais, in the hands of Spain, gives the Spanish the key of France, Flanders, and England. A truce of such a length, of course, means a peace. The eventual surrender of Calais, if conceded under a truce, can be made with less dishonour under the name of a peace. In the meantime the Spanish will have an opportunity to put their affairs in order; to see whether the Duke of Mercœur is able to make head against the King, and to observe the action of Flanders and England. The King, I am told, is in great anxiety of mind because on the one hand he holds his honour to be affected if he renounce so important a place as Calais, for in the hands of Spain it will be a serious menace to his colleagues, against whom, and especially against England, Calais would serve as a most valuable instrument for inflicting great damage; on the other hand, he is implored by his people to make peace.
Up to the present the King of France will not speak of a truce without the restitution of everything. They are awaiting the return of M. de Maisse from England to know how he has succeeded with the Queen. The Father General, after waiting ten days, has set out for S. Quentin. Those who saw him say that his face showed him to be very anxious and melancholy.
It is thought that the Cardinal Legate will move to Cambrai, seven leagues from S. Quentin. Cambrai may be considered neutral ground. The Cardinal Archduke will also go there. On the publication of his marriage he has presented, two credentials one from the King, the other from the Prince.
This proceeding has roused some suspicion at this conjuncture of affairs, and Antonio Perez has had occasion to say that this is either a trick, or a huge madness in diplomacy, for neither French nor English advisers could have given worse counsel to the King of Spain.
Paris, 17th January 1597 [m.v.]
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 652. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Huguenots, who hate the peace with Spain, are thinking of arming for fear lest the flood may set against them (per sospetto che la piena possa andar contra di essi.) M. de Tremouille and the Duke of Bouillon have massed troops under pretext of assisting his Majesty in Brittany, where the populace continues to invoke his Majesty's coming, declaring that a truce is of no benefit nor service to them.
Paris, 17th January 1597 [m.v.].
Jan. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 653. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Your Serenity will see from the enclosed report that, of the currants belonging to the illustrious Andrea Zane, which were on board the English ship wrecked off Almeria, no part has been saved. It is therefore superfluous for me to take any steps with the Minister, as the fact of the loss bars all further proceedings.
They are in some alarm on account of the news lately to hand, that thirty English ships have been sighted off Cape S. Vincent; and towards the Azores another squadron of fourteen sail is reported.
The whole English fleet is expected out immediately, so as not to lose that rich booty which they now know to be stored at the Azores.
His Majesty has a little gout, which attacked him the very day he intended to take the Infanta out into the country to see the hunting of the cats which the Grand Duke of Tuscany had sent in a present.
Madrid, 20th January 1597 [m.v.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 654. Report from Almeria of the ship that went ashore at the Rochetta in the month of May 1597.
Half a league off the Rocbetta an English ship was cast away. She was standing in about nightfall, and ran on the shoals, which she could not see for the high water; she was only aware of them when she struck. This happened at the worst part of the whole coast.
When the English saw they were lost and that their consort did not come to their aid, they took to the boats and reached this city, to present themselves to the Lieutenant-Governor, who at once put them in prison in the fortress. He and the Captain went down to the wreck. They found her with her bottom stove in and full of water.
They began salvage work at once; but it proved very risky and troublesome, and what was brought ashore was all soaked with water and damaged. The Lieutenant-Governor sent to fetch eight Flemish sailors to lend a hand. With their help a good many sacks of currants were recovered, but in very bad order. They were sold dirt cheap to a ship's owner. The artillery, shrouds, powder, a little senna, manna, drugs, lutes, glass, and a slab of jasper were recovered. All the currants in barrels were lost, as they were stored in the hold.
Not a barrel bearing the mark of the Venetian owner was recovered.
His Majesty gave orders to sell everything except the glass, the lutes, and the jasper, which are now in his hands. The proceeds of the sale are deposited, and will be divided among the soldiers who helped in the salvage.
The master's name is John Bedford, and the supercargo Thomas Argol. The gunner is called Tronchiasgui. The crew numbered thirty-six men and two boys. If I learn the name of the ship I will communicate it.
Three days later the consort turned up, but seeing that the ship was lost, she drew off, and has not been heard of since.
Jan. 28. Original Rubricario, Venetian Archives. 655. Girolamo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador is dead. The Venetian Ambassador has not failed to perform his duties of ceremony, so that the staff of the English Embassy may report to the Queen. By the death of this Ambassador the Turks have lost their intermediary in treating of peace with the Emperor.
Jan 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 656. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
In addition to the Spanish conditions of peace which I have already reported, the Spaniards also require that the Duke of Mercœur should be maintained in his government of Brittany. They will restore Blauet on condition that they are refunded in the moneys spent on the place. The Father General added, however, that these conditions notwithstanding, if the King desired to really come to any conclusion he should send two representatives to treat with two others to be named by the other side, who, in the presence of the Cardinal Legate, would discuss all the points. He added, as from himself, that the real difficulty would not arise about Calais or Ardres, for a modus could be found there, and he seemed to hint that if these representatives were only appointed they would meet with less difficulty than they expected. The Father General has obtained the appointment, and with that he left for S. Quentin. Here M. de Belliévre and M. de Sillery have been named, and are ready to start when the Spanish representatives have been appointed; it is thought that they will be the President Richardot and Jean Battiste Tassis. The place has been chosen; it is a small town called Vervins, on the borders of Flanders, and ten leagues from S. Quentin. The conference between the two Cardinals at Cambrai has been absolutely abandoned, on account of questions of title and precedence, they say. In fact, matters are coming to a head so fast that in a short time we shall see the conclusion or the abandonment of peace; and a suspension of arms is imminent.
M. de Maisse has returned from his journey to England, where the Queen loudly complains of these negotiations for peace; she also resents the rumoured truce with the Duke of Mercœur and the inclusion of the Spanish, in Brittany, and the exclusion of herself, which is a violation of the terms of federation. As regards the peace with Spain she said that she would abide by what the confederates in council might advise. This proposal of a conference of confederates is advanced by the Queen and by the States of Holland, with a view to breaking through the negotiations for peace.
Persons of high importance and with wide powers have been named to represent the Queen, and to offer to the King support in men and money if he will continue the war; and they are especially commissioned to inform his Majesty that the aim of the Spanish is to sow discord among the confederates, so that when once divided they may never be united again, which would be to the benefit of Spain.
The Ministers return pacific answers to the agents of England and of the States, who arc here to complain that M. de Belliévre and M. de Sillery have been sent to treat with the Spanish, and assure them that this step is taken so as to avoid breaking the thread of certain other schemes.
From what I have said it is clear how fortunate is the conjuncture for France; for the Spanish in their desire for peace will condescend to terms they would not otherwise have accepted, and the Queen of England and the States of Holland, in their suspicion of French diplomacy, are forced to make offers of help to his Majesty. And so the issue of these subtle but important negotiations hangs in doubt.
Paris, 31st January 1597. [m.v.]
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 657. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
News has been brought to Lisbon that the Queen of England will not send out a fleet this year, owing to dearth of money, of corn, and of other necessaries. She will merely send twenty-five or thirty ships to Brazil. Six hulks (urche) are ready at Lisbon, waiting to transport four or five hundred men to Brazil.
Madrid, 31st January 1597 [m v.].
Jan. 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 658. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
M. d'Aldegonde has come to Paris to take possession of the Principality of Oranges in the name of Prince Maurice. He has easy access to the King and his Ministers, and he urges his Majesty to continue the war against the King of Spain. He argues that the Spanish readiness to renounce what they have acquired at such cost of time and money, if it is genuine, is an infallible sign of their weakness; if it is false, as is highly probable, then it is certainly wiser to continue the war. He recounts the difficulties of the Spanish because the Cardinal Archduke is quite unable to take the field with mutinous troops, who are in revolt for want of pay.
M. d'Aldegonde while visiting me declared that it was almost impossible that the cession of Flanders to the Cardinal Archduke should take effect; it will be long before the Stales will give their consent.
I enclose copies of the letters from the King of Spain and from the Prince to the Archduke; also the Archduke's proposal.
Paris, 31st January 1597 [m.v.].
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]


  • 1. Buonaventura Calatagirona, General of the Franciscans.