Venice: March 1598

Pages 313-317

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


March 1598

March 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 666. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 21st of last month the fleet from the Azores reached Seville. It brings seven millions; two and a half belong to his Majesty. They say for certain that one ship, with a cargo of the value of five hundred thousand ducats, was captured by the English; and that the damage they have done will cost his Majesty as much again at the very least.
The Marquis of Santa Cruz told me that the Earl of Cumberland (Conte di Tamberlan) most certainly was to have left England at the end of January last with twenty-four ships in order to waylay the fleet. As he failed in his design, he will now go to St. Helena to waylay the East India fleet, which usually touches there for water. They are seriously afraid lest the English fleet should this year attempt some surprise in Portugal, or sack some towns on the sea-shore. The Marquis added that here they never took any preventive measures till they were compelled by necessity.
Madrid, 2nd March 1598.
March 7. Original Rubricario, Venetian Archives. 667. Giovanni Dolfin, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Duke of Luxembourg has shown to the Cardinal St. George, letters declaring that the Spanish will withdraw from the surrender of Calais, which they intend to hand to the English in exchange for Flushing. The Duke of Sessa thinks that the French are feigning to wish for peace, but preparing for war.
Rome, 7th March 1598.
March 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 668. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Cardinal Legate has drawn on Paris for a considerable sum of money for his current expenses, owing to the pause in the peace negotiations, and the despatch of the courier to Spain. They will have to wait his return. Moreover, the King is resolved to conclude nothing until he has heard what the English and Flemish Ambassadors, who are entrusted with this business, have to say. Not only his word pledged, and his faith engaged, but his interests as well induce him to take this course. For supposing the Spanish do not observe the terms of the peace, as some doubt they will not, then the King would have lost one of his main supports, owing to the suspicion which his assent to the peace would introduce into the minds of his allies. There may be also on his part a certain unwillingness to make peace, as I have already explained, and this journey into Brittany may have been taken all the more readily on that account.
Meantime we hear that some three thousand Spanish under the command of Don Sancho da Leyva, have landed under Calais with a considerable sum of money, so Spanish prospects are rather brighter than they were some days ago. Forty ships sailed with these soldiers from the coast of Spain, of these ships thirteen are missing, owing to a storm, and one went on shore in sight of Dieppe; the larger part of her crew was drowned, the rest made prisoners.
The English Ambassadors, unable to wait the coming of the Flemish any longer, have crossed the Channel and entered France eight days ago. They are expected here to-morrow. Their third colleague has been left behind at Rouen ill of a very serious infirmity. Almost the whole weight of this Embassy rested upon him, so highly do they think of him in England.
Don Emanuel, son of the late Don Antonio of Portugal, has been banished from the Low Countries on account of his secret marriage with a daughter of the Prince of Orange. He has gone to Germany, followed by his wife, who will not abandon him. But this punishment is thought to be merely a show, and he will soon be released.
Paris, 10th March 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 17 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 669. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
A few days ago a courier arrived from the Cardinal Archduke with despatches for the King, but addressed to the Nuncio for greater safety. I have found out that the Cardinal asks for ampler powers to treat for peace; and especially on the subject of the restitution of Calais. For although the Cardinal had received, through the Nuncio, the very fullest powers, yet these were curtailed by private instructions. The Cardinal also writes about the proper method for the inclusion of the Queen of England; and he says that there is every hope that the States also will come to terms, as the populace shows the highest satisfaction at the marriage of his Highness and the Infanta. It is true, however, that neither among the government nor in Holland and Zealand is there such a disposition evident. Here they suspect that the Cardinal is exaggerating, induced by a desire to hurry on his marriage.
Madrid, 17th March 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 670. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I am informed on good authority that the King of France will not conclude a peace unless negotiations are carried on contemporaneously with the Queen of England and the States. The Nuncio remarked to me that he had noted the same intention on the part of the most Christian King. He added that the King of France at first had not shown himself in perfect accord with the Queen of England, and had even informed the Pope that he was willing to treat for peace without including her. The object of the French may have been to stimulate his Holiness to intervene, for it was not suitable for the Pope to treat with heretics (che sua Maestà Christianissima da principio della negotiatione non mostrava d' intendersi compitamente bene con la Regina inglese, et però fece dir al Pontefice che separatamente da lei si contentarebbe di dar orecchie alla traitatione; il che alhora fecero forse Francesi per riscaldare sua Santità d'interponersi, imperochè non le conveneva trattar accordo con heretici). Now the Pope will close his eyes and act merely as intermediary, and for this reason the Legate, perhaps, did not wish to show openly that he had any part in the despatch of the courier.
Madrid, 18th March 1598.
[Italian; deciphered.]
March 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 671. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassadors of the Queen of England entered Paris the day after I sent my last despatch (fn. 1) They were merely accompanied by their own suites, which are very numerous, and by a brilliant following of English nobility, but without any reception on behalf of his Majesty. This has caused some dissatisfaction. They intended to lodge the Embassy in the suburbs, for fear lest they should meet with some annoyance from the people, on account of their different religion, especially in this season of Lent, during which the English eat all sorts of food; and because rumour has spread that the Embassy is intended to prevent the conclusion of peace, which the people in particular ardently desire. However, as the resident Ambassador objected to the Embassy being left outside the city, the house of the Duke of Montpensier was appointed for them, and at the gates some archers are placed on guard, at the request of the English themselves, to prevent any insult being offered them. And certainly, from the murmurs which I hear about me, the smallest excitement might cause a disaster.
I went to visit them, and after formal compliments, the son of the Lord Treasurer, who is supreme head of the Embassy, explained to me the objects of their coming. He said that on hearing of the negotiations for peace the Queen, who was quite indifferent to peace or war, resolved to send an Embassy, on the King's express invitation to her to unite with him in this matter, especially as he thought that the Cardinal Archduke would not be averse from an agreement with the Queen. She, as a good Christian, deprecates the shedding of blood, and so, if fair and honourable terms are offered to her, she will not refuse them; nay, she is ready to lay aside her desire for vengeance, and to forget the injuries inflicted not only on her kingdom and on her subjects but also on her person. It is not to be supposed, however, that she is suing for anything: she merely takes a part in the proceedings on a formal invitation. I thanked the Ambassador for what he had condescended to tell me, and replied that I was sure the Queen would act with that prudence which had hitherto sustained her dignity and preserved her noble kingdom from the attacks of powerful arms. But I am of opinion that this ostentatious readiness to accept the peace is intended to upset the peace both in her own interest and in the interest of others as well.
Leaving that subject, I informed the Ambassador of the satisfaction your Serenity derived from the promises given in the matter of the English ships which had done so much mischief in the Levant, and that your Serenity was awaiting the fruits of the Queen's favourable attitude. The Ambassador answered that the Queen's intention to please the Republic was beyond all doubt. Orders were given that the moment the accused parties appeared in England they were to be arrested and handed over to justice.
That closed the interview.
They sent a gentleman to return the visit, and to excuse themselves from calling in person, as they had not yet kissed hands. The third Ambassador is dead at Rouen.
Paris, 19th March 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 672. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
By the acquisition of Brittany, the King has reduced the whole kingdom to obedience, and there is not now a single one of his subjects who, on any ground whatever, refuses to recognise him as legitimate sovereign. The accord with the Duke of Mercœur was effected by his wife. The Duke renounces all claims on Brittany, and the King pays him two hundred and fifty thousand crowns down, and sixteen thousand crowns a year as pension.
The negotiations at Vervins are entirely suspended for the reasons I have already explained.
Paris, 23rd March 1598.
March 23. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 673. Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
An envoy from the Queen of England is here. His mission is to negotiate about the recent proclamation to the damage of English commerce. This was published to please the Spanish, but as there is now some coldness with Spain, (fn. 2) it is supposed that the proclamation will be modified or suspended. Besides, it is recognised that the Queen of England's counter proclamations are damaging to many German subjects.
Prague, 23rd March 1598.
March 31 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 674. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
As the English Ambassadors refuse to treat with any Minister, but are resolved to negotiate directly with the King, after spending six days in Paris they have set out for Brittany, intending to return here. They are all the more willing to take this journey as they will find the Duke of Bouillon in those parts, and he, for his own reasons, will do all he can to help them.
M. de Maisse preceded them by two days. He was commissioned by the King to wait here till he had found out their intentions. The Flemish Ambassadors, we hear, have passed Dieppe escorted by sixteen men of war. They, too, are making for Brittany.
The Cardinal Legate is awaiting with intense eagerness the return of the courier from Spain. He is resolved to see the end of the business as soon as possible, for he thinks that it does not comport with his honour to be waiting so long on the frontier. The King will be obliged to declare his intention either for peace or for war.
There is a rumour that the Low Countries are making great preparations, so that they may be ready, in case, by the conclusion of the peace, they should find themselves forced to a single-handed conflict with the King of Spain.
Paris, 31st March 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]


  • 1. They entered Paris on the 11th.
  • 2. The Emperor was jealous of the cession of the Netherlands made by Philip in favour of the Cardinal Archduke Albert.