Venice: September 1598

Pages 339-346

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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September 1598

Sept. 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 729. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The decision of England is expected every moment. The delay is caused by the Queen's desire to consider the matter thoroughly, so that her people shall have no cause to complain; partly, too, because her Council is divided. The States make her great offers if she will continue the war. They promise to pay their debt by assigning her two hundred thousand crowns a year till it is all paid off. Besides this they offer troops and ships. They point out, and with reason, that if they are abandoned and fall into the hands of Spain, that will be the death-blow to England. But if the news that the Lord Treasurer is dead, at the age of seventy-seven, be true, that will cause more change than anything else. He was a personage of the greatest weight, had been Councillor for fifty years uninterruptedly under Edward, Mary, and the present Queen. He was the chief advocate of peace, and now that he is gone the Earl of Essex may carry his way.
Paris, 1st September 1598.
Sept. 1. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 730. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
A courier has arrived here from Madrid in ten days. He bears, he says, despatches to the Archduke announcing the death of the King.
Paris, 1st September 1598.
Sept. 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 731. Agostino Nani, retiring Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Letters from Madrid of the last of last month declare that for twenty days his Majesty has been in a desperate plight, quite unable to shake off his infirmity, or even to rise from his bed. The doctors, one may say, keep him alive, but his strength is failing, little by little; the gathering in the knees was very foul. The Doctor Affaro has fallen ill through the stench of the sores, &c, and they are going to pierce the mattresses. His Majesty has told them to give him extreme unction while he is still conscious, and can make the responses. He has made all his dispositions. The doctors have received ten thousand crowns.
Barcelona, 4th September, 1598.
Sept. 5. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 732. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in France to the Doge and Senate.
Two days ago they wished to change the King's bed; in doing so he had such a sinking fit that for some time they thought him dead. He recovered, however, but remained so weak that at night they administered extreme unction for the first time. Though very feeble the King was in full possession of his senses, and asked for the cross which his father, the Emperor, held when he was dying. But what was more surprising was that he sent for the Prince and told him to remain during the ceremony, and contemplate this example of mundane misery: exhorting him never to forget, when he had entered on his kingdom, that he too must come to a like pass and must die. The Prince burst into tears, but the King continued to speak calmly in most Christian spirit.
His Majesty continues in this state, neither better nor worse, though it seems that he experienced some relief from the bursting of a gathering in his leg yesterday. Everyone says he can only last a few days. He has begged those about him not to conceal his death. All affairs are at a standstill, and Don Christoforo de Mora plucked up courage to ask if it was the King's pleasure that the Prince should despatch business. His Majesty shook his head. The general famine is increasing; they have given leave to everyone to sell at his own price, and prices accordingly are excessive; yet one hears of no riots.
The ship “Pigna” came in sight of Lisbon. Her cargo was rice and was worth forty thousand crowns. She fell in with an English galleon, and fearing that she was a pirate, the “Pigna” lowered her ensign of S. Mark and opened fire. The combat lasted some hours and the “Pigna” was sunk. The crew, who were saved, made an affidavit that they lowered the ensign and opened fire.
Madrid, 5th September 1598.
Sept, 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 733. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The death of the Lord Treasurer is confirmed. The Queen has informed the King of France, in order that he may tell the Archduke, that although she truly desires peace, yet, as the Archduke is on the point of departure for Spain, she will put off negotiations till his return. This reply is intended to gain time and prolong the negotiations, and I am informed that his Majesty is really pleased; for though he ostensibly favours peace he is secretly of opinion that the continuation of the war is favourable to the stability and repose of France. A minister of importance, discussing the irresolution of the Queen, declared that she can receive no advice from France, since France has accepted the peace; meaning to infer that if any advice were given it would be in favour of war.
The Earl of Cumberland, with his twenty ships, returned to England last month from the Azores. He has brought in some prizes.
Paris, 9th September 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Sept. 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 734. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is still in his evil plight. The fever never leaves him; his strength is failing, and from hour to hour we expect the news of his death. Yet he retains his consciousness, and his intellect is perfectly clear, as they say is usually the case with those who are dying of a phthisical fever.
They have finally and unexpectedly determined to publish the peace, and have ordered its strict observance, under severe penalties for those who break it. It was published on the ninth of this month, a Wednesday. Six Alcaldes issued from the house of the President of the Council, in the afternoon, and, to the sound of trumpets and Moorish drums, a brief publication was read by a minister from a platform all hung with tapestry, which had been raised before the Palace gates. It was read again in the main street, and for a third time before the door of the Church of Our Lady. No other ceremony has been observed, for the peace is far from popular.
Madrid, 11th September 1598.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 735. Terms of the publication of the Peace of Vervins made in Madrid on the ninth of September 1598.
Sept. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 736. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English continue to Keep watch over the route of the India fleet; though when Cumberland learned that the East Indiamen for whom he was waiting had come to port, he drew near the coast of Portugal, and made a junction with the other English, with a view to raiding the shipping. No steps are being taken here. The Infanta is in constant tears, for she feels that she is going to lose a father who has always loved and honoured her to her heart's content. The Prince shows no emotion, neither when his father is better, nor when he is worse. So completely is he master of his feelings, that no one can penetrate, even superficially, his thought. But when he sees his father he is deeply moved, and sheds copious tears.
Madrid, 12th September 1598.
Sept. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 737. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spam, to the Doge and Senate.
The King is dead. His Majesty expired at the Escurial this mcrning at daybreak, after having received all the sacraments of the church with every sign of devoutness, piety, and religion.
Although change is usually popular, yet nobles and people, rich and poor, universally show great grief.
His Majesty lived seventy-one years, three months, and twentyfour days; he reigned forty-two years, ten months and sixteen days. He was a Prince who fought with gold rather than with steel, by his brain rather than by his arms. He has acquired more by sitting still, by negotiation, by diplomacy, than his father did by armies and by war. He was one of the richest Princes the world has ever seen, yet he has left the revenues of the kingdom and of the Crown burdened with about a million of debts. He owes to his good fortune rather than to the terror of his name the important kingdom of Portugal, with all its territories and treasure; on the other hand, he has lost Flanders. In Africa he has gained Pignon, but lost Goletta. Profoundly religious, he loved peace and quiet. He displayed great calmness, and professed himself unmoved in good or bad fortune alike. He had vast schemes in his head, witness his simultaneous attack on England and on France, while assisting his son-in-law to acquire Saluzzo, while attempting to expel the French from Italy, while facing the revolution in Flanders.
On great occasions, in the conduct of wars, in feeding the civil war in France, in the magnificence of his buildings, he never counted the cost; he was no close reckoner, but lavished his gold without a thought; but in small matters, in the government of his household, in his presents and rewards, he was more parsimonious than became his station. He sought aggrandisement for his kingdom at the expense of others; yet he did not hesitate to dismember his kingdom by ceding Siena to the Grand Duke, Piacenza to the Duke of Parma, Flanders and Burgandy to his daughter. He held his desires in absolute control and showed an immutable and unalterable temper. He has feigned injuries, and feigned not to feel injuries, but he never lost the opportunity to avenge them. He hated vanity, and therefore never allowed his life to be written. No one ever saw him in a rage, being always patient, phlegmatic, temperate, melancholy. In short, he has left a glorious memory of his royal name, which may serve as an example, not only unto his posterity and his successors, but unto strangers as well.
The Prince who succeeds him is his only son, born on 14th April, 1578, of his last wife, the German Princess Anna, daughter of the Emperor Maxmilian and the Empress, his Majesty's sister. The Prince was educated by his father in great obedience and piety. He resembles his father. It is difficult to say at present what his views may be; he has always kept them concealed, out of respect to his father. But it seems that he is peacefully disposed, and he has shown himself satisfied with the peace of Yervins. If he has any idea of taking up arms it would be against infidels. He is of an excellent condition, not large, but well formed; a pink and white complexion, a pleasing countenance; with the Austrian lower lip, and his colouring more German than Spanish. Active and graceful in his movements, with exquisite manners, affable, grave, temperate, beloved by those who serve him. Not given to youthful pleasures, to luxury, to anything of bad repute. He is fond of music, of weapons, of horsemanship, and the chase.
His Majesty's favourites are the Archbishop of Toledo and the Marquis of Denia. They will have more to say than anyone else; both are able men, but of little experience. Of the late King's ministers, it is thought that Don Juan d'Idiaquez will remain, because he really deserves it, and perhaps Don Christophoro de Mora may also keep his place.
The King will remain in retreat for forty days.
Madrid, 13th September 1598.
Sept. 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 738. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King's death was announced last night, and to-day the churches have begun the funeral ceremonies, which will last nine days, with continuous prayer and the tolling of bells that never cease day nor night. To-day the King was buried at the Escurial, without any of the usual ceremony, and, by his own orders, without embalming. After the corpse was placed in the leaden coffin the whole Council of State was summoned as witnesses; the coffin was locked and the key taken to the King. The whole nation, men and women alike, are to go into mourning; and those who are too poor to buy mourning are to wear a veil.
The King had hardly breathed his last when the new King confessed and communicated, and then withdrew into a secret chamber with the Marquis of Denia. After a while the King came out and the Marquis was declared a member of the Council of State.
Fifty-eight ships have reached Lisbon. But among them are not the ones which bring the gold and silver. Those were stopped at Havana by orders from Spain, when they knew that Cumberland had sailed towards those waters. The English were not sighted, either because they feared to attack so strong a force or because they have retired towards Cape St. Vincent, to catch the fleet on its way to Seville, where it usually is registered and discharged.
News has been received from England that the Lord Treasurer has died in London. Of all those about the Queen he was the stoutest advocate of peace. They also say that the Queen has given orders that no corsairs are to put to sea without her permission renewed. This leads to the hone that negotiations for peace may make way now, a thing greatly desired by the whole kingdom. The garrison of Blauet has been brought back to Ferrol.
Madrid, 14th September 1598.
Sept. 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 739. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Confirmation of the death of Philip II. sent by the governor of Bayonne. It took place on the nineteenth of last month. But as this news has not been supplemented, there is still a doubt.
Paris, 18th September 1598.
Sept. 18. Original Despatch Venetian Archives. 740. Agostino Nani, retiring Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Your Serenity will have learned from the illustrious Ambassador Soranzo, that at midnight of Saturday the thirteenth and the beginning of Sunday, the King died.
Barcelona, 18th September 1598.
Sept. 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 741. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
While in Portugal they thought that Cumberland was cruising off Cape St. Vincent and waiting for the fleet, news came from the Indies that, on the 15th of June, he had arrived at Porto Rico with twenty-one ships. The island is of great importance as a port of call for the fleets that come from New Spain and Peru. Cumberland landed his men and seized the tower. The town was sacked and yielded a booty of four hundred thousand crowns, for it was full of merchandise. Cumberland is also master of the harbour, which is an excellent one, and able to hold any number of ships. He bombarded the citadel, which, however, held out. The news has caused great sorrow, both for the injury inflicted and because, if the English establish themselves there, they will hamper all the traffic. Besides, this event will disturb the negotiations for peace, though, as Cumberland has been a long time absent from England, he may very well be acting on orders which are very old.
Madrid, 18th September 1598.
Sept. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 742. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Earl of Cumberland was reported as having returned to England, but it was only a part of his fleet. It is not known where he is. The Queen will not attempt anything against Spain this year, so as not to render a reconciliation impossible.
The Dutch Envoys have left England quite content with the Queen's promise to lend them her protection. They trust that this answer will quiet the people and encourage them to remain firm in their refusal to come to terms with Spain.
Paris, 19th September 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Sept. 26. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 743. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The terms arrived at between England and the States of Holland are these. The previous confederation is confirmed, and the Queen may not treat for peace with Spain without informing the States. The States being debtors to the Queen for eight hundred thousand sterling, which amounts to two million seven hundred thousand crowns, they pledge themselves to payment of the debt in rates of one hundred thousand crowns a year. They bind themselves to pay for one thousand one hundred troops kept as English garrison in Flushing and in Brill; if the Queen wishes to maintain a larger garrison she must bear the cost herself. If England is attacked Holland will furnish five thousand infantry and five hundred cavalry. If England attacks Spain, Holland shall supply forty men-of-war. These are the terms which the Dutch Envoys have undertaken to see ratified within one month. (L' accordo seguito ultimamente fra la Regina d' Inghilterra et li Stati di Olanda, consiste in questo, che si confermala precedente confederatione che era fra loro; ne la Regina possi trattar di Pace col Rè di Spagna senza particepare con Essi. Et essendo li Stati debitori della Regina di m/ 800 lire di sterline, che sono doi millioni e settecento mille scudi, si obligano alla satisfattione in ragion di cento mille scudi V anno. Sono tenuti di pagar m/ 1,100 fanti per le guarnigioni di Inglesi trattenute in Flessinghen et in Bril et se la Regina volesse introdursi maggior numero di genie la satisfacci dei proprii denari. Se fusse assaltato il Regno d' Inghilterra doveranno mandar in soccorso cinque mille fanti et cinque cento cavalli. Dovendosi far impresa contra Spagnoli vi concorreranno con XLta vasselli da guerra. Questa è la sostanza delli capitoli li quali hanno promesso li Deputati delli Stati di far ratificar nel spatio d' un mese). I will endeavour to procure a copy of the articles.
The Queen intended to send the Earl of Essex to Ireland to put down the rebellion. He refused on various pretexts. She became exceedingly angry and he retired from Court. He has been recalled, and says he will not return until certain satisfaction is given him. The matter will be accommodated, as he is greatly loved and esteemed by that Princess.
Paris, 26th September 1598.
Sept. 27. Original Despatch, Yenerian Archives. 744. Francseco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
They have resolved to send thirty ships and six thousand men to recover Porto Rico. Don Diego Brochiero will have the command, and the troops will be drawn from those lately returned from Brittany. They also say that a very large armament is to be prepared in order to attack England if the Queen will not make peace. But, considering how unfortunate previous attempts have proved, it is difficult to understand the grounds on which they base their hopes for success in this attack.
Probably the Council of State wishes to mark its disapproval of past delays and irresolution; and I myself have heard the Adelantado of Castile declare that they would see what the Spanish were worth now that they have a free hand, and are no longer subject to a single brain that thought it knew all that could be known, and treated everyone else as a blockhead. Pray God they don't stir the King up to take some incautious step.
They are thinking of selling a large quantity of jewels, as the gold and silver from the Indies have not arrived. It is all stayed at Havana for fear of English corsairs; and this is enough to show the straits they would be in if the Queen of England succeeded in getting command of those waters. If Cumberland can stay at Porto Rico the danger will be immense.
Madrid, 27th September 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]