Venice: August 1598

Pages 334-339

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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August 1598

Aug. 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 715. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is suffering from the gout and, what is worse, from fever, which has become a double tertian, never leaving him quite free. They do not show any grave alarm here.
The Nuncio tells me that at the Escurial they are highly pleased with the news that the King of France has set the hostages at liberty on the restitution of Calais. In this he has displayed great generosity.
They have put off the Fair at the Escurial on S. Lorenzo's day, so as not to disturb the King.
Madrid, 2nd August 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Aug 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 716. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Envoy came to see me. I raised the question of the damage which English ships were doing at Zante and in other places; and inquired if any steps had been taken to punish the corsairs. He replied that he considered the episode closed, for at the time he was in England the Lord High Admiral had given satisfaction to Signor Giovanni Basadonna, who is at present in London. I, however, suspect that this answer was given to avoid coming to any resolution, and thinking that, in this affair of the safety of the navigation, the question should not be shelved in this way, I urgently begged him to write again; pointing out that this insistence was quite as much in the Queen's interest as in that of your Serenity, with a view to keeping the navigation free for the benefit of both parties. He promised to do as I wished. I hope that at this juncture especially the answer will be favourable, for at present the English are excluded from trade in the Empire; and I hear that the Emperor has dismissed the agent sent by the Queen to secure free trade in those parts.
The Envoy told me that the three representatives of the States of Holland are sent to England with a double commission, the one to persuade the Queen of England to continue the war against the King of Spain, the other to induce her, if she is determined to make peace, to do nothing prejudicial to the States in the matter of the fortresses which she holds as security for money advanced to the States. They offer to pay a part of that debt at once, and the rest in time, in order that the fortresses may be consigned to them. They are to point out to the Queen that she most certainly ought not to hand them over to Spain, both for her honour's sake, by which she sets great store, and also for reasons of State, which forbid her to place a sword in the hands of those who some day may be able to do her a great injury. I inquired how much the debt might be; the agent said that it amounted to three millions of gold, but that the States claimed that a third part should be cancelled. He also told me that the Earl of Essex, who is the chief supporter of the war, had left Court in some anger, but returned again. Although no decision has been reached as yet, still he holds for certain that the peace party will win. Envoys will soon be sent to the borders of Flanders where they will meet the Envoys of the King of Spain, and some representatives of his most Christian Majesty, namely, M. de Bellièvre and M. de Sillery, as the King has promised. He added that the Spaniards were greatly desirous of peace; and in order to drive her towards it they do all they can to annoy her everywhere, as, for example, by causing the prohibition of English commerce throughout the Empire—an act entirely due to them, and by fomenting the troubles in Ireland, and such like proceedings. In conclusion he remarked that when once the Envoys met the peace ought to be established in a few days, as very few points of difficulty present themselves.
Paris, 2nd August 1598.
Aug. 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 717. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King has been in constant pain from the gout and fever, which attacks in paroxysms every day. The doctors are much alarmed. The gout settled at last in the knee and it swoll. As the part is very sensitive his Majesty suffered great and continual pain. The consultations between his physicians in ordinary and others specially called have been many; they finally resolved to make incision, although they took the step in great dread of the results, either from the acute pain or from other consequences. The cut was made, however, and a large quantity of matter like plaster of Paris passed out. The King is relieved, though the fever continues. All the same everyone has more hope of a favourable issue than dread of a fatal one.
The military movement in Flanders leads to the fear that the States will not make peace so easily, and, therefore, no more will the Queen of England, for the interest of one and of the other are so closely allied. The States will not be alarmed about the forces of the King of Spain so long as they have the protection of England, nor the Queen as long as Holland is not subdued.
Madrid, 7th August 1597.
Aug. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 718. Francesco Soranza, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is worse; after the operation the fever, instead of decreasing, has increased. The cause of the fever must therefore be something other than the swelling of the knee. The King received the viaticum last night, and the doctors have told him quite frankly that he should ask for extreme unction whenever he thinks the moment come.
Madrid, 8th August 1598.
Aug. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 719. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King continues extremely ill; the fever is continuous and with violent paroxysms; his strength is failing. Everyone is in alarm and the doctors frankly declare that they have little more hope, on this account everything is at a standstill. Nothing is spoken of, nothing done, the eyes of all are fixed upon the issue. For though it is generally believed that few changes in government will be made, yet as a young and high spirited Prince will mount the throne, everyone is absorbed in discussing what will be the upshot of so grave an event. The topic and even the recollection of the peace grow cold; the same of the marriage. Moreover they say that the Princess herself has a quartain fever. She is the fourth of four sisters intended in marriage to the Prince. The first two died when the marriage was to have taken place, the third fell sick and was unable to marry; this is the fourth, and may God protect her.
There is news from Flanders that the Archduke has taken up arms to attempt Ostend, though with but slight hopes of success, and the Queen of England has sent six thousand infantry to help the rebel States, as well as money and exhortations to hold out. She promises not to abandon them; nor to desert them for any consideration that might be offered to her.
The sailing of the Turkish fleet makes them fear to expose the shores of Italy to an attack from Cicala, by withdrawing the galleys to act as an escort to the Princess.
Off Lisbon some English vessels have captured a Portuguese of five hundred tons, with a very rich cargo. A very large ship, with a cargo worth two millions, belonging to the Crown, has been burned at sea sixty miles from Lisbon. And they say, quite openly, that if peace is not made with England, and things are governed as badly as they are at present, the whole commerce will be ruined.
Madrid, 12th August 1598.
Aug. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 720. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Don Carlo Doria has arrived to-day from the Escurial. He says the King is as bad as he can be; though they will not let the news leak out. The fever is continuous and violent, and his strength very low.
Madrid, 12th August 1598.
Aug. 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 721. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
They say that the fever paroxysm of yesterday was much milder; and that the King has had some good rest. He has asked the Nuncio to sing a pontifical mass to-morrow, the Assumption of the Virgin.
Madrid, 14th August 1598.
Aug. 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 722. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The fever still continues. The gout has attacked the King's arm and they are thinking of making an incision there too, but they fear for his life, as his strength fails daily, although his natural constitution still resists the attacks of malady.
A scandal has occurred at Burgos, where the French Ambassador, M. de Belgarde, has arrived. Some of his suite were called Lutherans by the Spanish, and when attempting to avenge the insult with arms, they were overpowered and two were slain. Orders have been issued from the Escurial to hang the insulters and all who had part in the deed.
Madrid, 16th August 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Aug. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 723. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I went to an audience of his Majesty, whom I found very tired with his previous business with the Legate, the Scottish Ambassador, and others. I resolved to be brief.
Paris, 19th August 1598.
Aug. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 724. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
It is certain that as yet no decision has been reached in England, either about continuing the war or concluding peace. The division in the Council has not permitted the Queen to make up her mind. But a resolution cannot be long delayed now.
Paris, 19th August 1598.
Aug. 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 725. Agostino Nani, retiring Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The slight recovery of the King after the eclipse is attributed to a miracle, for he was touched by a relic brought from Toledo, the finger of S. Alifonso. Fra Francesco, of the barefoot Carmelites has been sent to the Escurial to pray and read to his Majesty.
The Earl of Cumberland is at the Azores waiting the fleet.
Barcelona, 24th August 1598.
Aug. 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 726. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
We hear that a truce between England and Spain has been concluded. Peace will follow. The Spanish desire it.
Ferrara, 30th August 1598.
Aug. 31 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 727. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Since the date of my last despatch it has always been thought that the King could not last more than three or four days, and yet he has dragged on, aided by the prayers put up for him and by his constitutional strength. That he can hold out against so many ills is considered a miracle. The fever is continuous, and the doctors declare it is phthisical (et per quello che dicono i medici s'è fatta ettica). The paroxysms are violent and have reduced his strength, and continue to do so every attack; his vital forces sometimes run so low that his death is expected from moment to moment. But in the. intervals between the paroxysms his Majesty, thanks to rest, sleep, and food, recovers sufficiently to resist the new attack. So the days pass in a great fear that he cannot recover; and the news of last night reports him worse.
All this time his Majesty has displayed incredible patience in his acute sufferings caused by the gout and the numerous sores all over him. His courage has never deserted him; he has made himself most familiar, not only with the thought of death, but with the details and the discussion thereof, and with all that should be done after he is gone. He has arranged every detail of his funeral, and has ordered the purchase of a large quantity of black cloth to drape the church of the Escurial. He has caused them to bring into his room and to his bedside a shirt of lead in which he is to be wrapped after he has breathed his last, and a leaden coffin for his corpse when his hour is come. He examined both and caused himself to be measured, and gave orders for the necessary alterations. At the moment when the Nuncio was about to consecrate the Archbishop of Toledo his Majesty sent for him and begged him as the Pope's minister to impart his blessing at this extreme moment of his life.
Three days ago he summoned the Prince and the Infanta to his presence and gave them his blessing in words full of affection. He exhorted them to govern their subjects with love, to administer justice impartially, and to support and defend religion and the Catholic faith with all their might. He gave the prince two sealed packets, with instructions to open them only after his Majesty's death; and he charged him to read, to study, and to observe the contents, as they would prove of the highest value to him, a fact to which his Majesty himself could testify.
The Prince through tenderness shed a few tears, whereupon the King, to avoid the contagion, turned his face away and dismissed the Prince. To secure the observation of his wishes the King has placed in the Prince's service all his favourite ministers, and to make surer he has caused the Prince himself to nominate them, thereby pledging him not to dismiss them without necessary and legitimate reason.
In addition to the post of Equerry to the Princess, he has assigned to Don Juan d'Idiaquez, as a help towards expenses, the sum of twenty thousand crowns, and everyone admits that he has fully earned them by his loyal service in so great a ministry, and because he never accepted a gift or a present of any sort.
The King has commanded that the estate of the Duke of Villa hermosa, who was executed for the Aragon rising, shall be restored to his heirs. In gifts and in discharge of his conscience, his Majesty, they say, has spent upwards of seven hundred thousand crowns during his illness. A new creation of grandees is hourly expected, so as to please Don Christoforo de Mora; the number will be four or five; and so Don Christoforo will have obtained everything he ever wanted. The Count of Chinchon is appealing to his Majesty's clemency to restore him to favour, and not to leave him a laughingstock to all the world after so many years' service.
There are not wanting those who say that the Prince will, perhaps, not carry out all these dispositions made by his Majesty's intimates in their own favour, for they are too greedily seeking their own advantage.
Madrid, 31st August 1598.
Aug. 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 728. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Above twenty-four English ships have been sighted off Lisbon in addition to those under Cumberland which are cruising about the Azores. But here little they think and less they do, about this matter, for all attention is devoted to the King. Everything is in confusion. For three days the bakers' shops have been quite empty, but the people make no other demonstration than to crowd to the bakeries with their money in their hand shouting “Bread,” “bread.”
The King is in such a state that he can neither understand nor provide for affairs. The Prince has no authority, and the King will not divest himself of his dominion and his empire, warned by his experience of that regret, and one might almost say despair, which pursued his father after his abdication. So far from resigning while alive, His Majesty does all he can to rule after he is dead.
Madrid, 31st August 1598.