Venice: December 1598

Pages 350-353

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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December 1598

Dec. 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 756. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Cardinal of Austria is in very secret treaty with the Queen of England to come to terms. They are desirous to avoid appearing more anxious for this peace than comports with the dignity of the Spanish Grown, and so the negotiations are carried on with the utmost secrecy, though I have had an opportunity to see an abstract of the Cardinal's letter. The Queen lends a more ready ear than ever she did before. No formal steps have been taken as yet, only the original aversion to even listening to proposals for an accord has been surmounted. Preliminaries have been begun, however, and it is thought that the chief difficulty will lie in the four strong places which the Queen holds; Ostend in Flanders, Bruges in Brabant, Brill in Holland, and Flushing in Zealand; but if the parties can agree on other points and are really desirous of peace, a way will be found, and the means to surmount even this difficulty. The States maintain their pertinacious attitude; but if the Queen ratifies a peace they will be obliged to come to terms as well; especially as they are to enjoy the presence of their Sovereigns, and to make submission to Princes of such humanity as are the Infanta and the Archduke. Here, in the meantime, they are unspeakably content with the government of the Cardinal of Austria.
Madrid, 9th December 1598.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 21. Original Despach, Venetian Archives. 757. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The plague is raging at Lisbon. Half the population has left the city. The authorities wished to withdraw to the villas, but the King has given orders that they are to remain at their posts. Famine, too, is severely felt; both bread and all other provisions are wanting; and if God should send us a war, which we greatly fear will break out very soon if the Queen of England will not come to terms, this country would be exposed to the most formidable and terrifying scourges that exist.
Madrid, 21st December 1598.
Dec. 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 758. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England's Agent came to see me, and explained that there were two reasons for the delay in the answer to my request about the English ships which had been doing damage last year about the islands belonging to your Serenity; first, that for the last four or five weeks the wind has been contrary for any passage from England to France; and secondly, that the High Admiral has failed to lay his hands on any of those named in the memorial; it being impossible to identify the real owners among such a number of vessels as put out each year. However, if the Venetian Government will give such details as will lead to their recognition, they will most assuredly be punished. The Queen, he says, is very kindly disposed towards the Republic. He told me that the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had cause to complain of an English vessel, had furnished such details as led to the identification of the true owners.
The Queen, the moment the King's Ambassador in ordinary arrived, appointed her Ambassador to France; and the Agent has informed the King of the fact.
Two Englishmen have just been executed in London. They had attempted to poison the Queen; and were sent on this errand separately, one after another, by two of the principal Ministers of the late King of Spain. They had very subtle drugs to ensure the success of their design. (fn. 1)
The booty captured by the Earl of Cumberland in the West Indies is not so great as they at first supposed, and he proposed. This expedition has turned to little profit. He held Porto Rico for ten days, but as he has had no orders from the Queen, nor means whereby to hold it longer, for he was merely a corsair, he was forced to abandon it and to return to England.
The Irish rebels have acquired another part of that island, and at present they are masters of the country. To put them down it is proposed to send the Earl of Essex with the fleet. He, however, makes very high demands, and wishes to be appointed Lord Lieutenant, to be placed at the head of twelve thousand infantry, and one thousand horse, with artillery and ammunition in great quantity, that the armament shall be recruited every two months by two thousand men, and finally, sound security for all the foregoing expenses. No one knows as yet what the Queen will decide.
The Spaniards, by means of the Cardinal of Austria, leave no means untried to separate the Queen from the States of Holland, and the States from her. They tempt the Queen with offers if she will come to terms; they tell the States that the accommodation with the Queen is in their hands, and that therefore it would be wise of the States to make peace before they are left in isolation, when the terms would be far less favourable.
Paris, 22nd December 1598.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 759. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The most recent letters from the Cardinal of Austria do not offer much prospect of an accord with the Queen of England, though he had not quite abandoned all hope.
The Almirante of Aragon is pushing on towards Holland. If an accord is not reached the King has expressed his ardent wish to prepare for war on England
Don Christoforo de Mora has been forced to yield to his change of fortune and to avoid dismissal he has resigned his post of Grand Chamberlain.
Madrid, 23rd December 1598.
Dec. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 760. Francesco Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
While the English in Flanders are holding out hopes that they may be induced to negotiate for peace, perhaps with the object of checking the preparations for war which are going on here, news comes from England itself that vigorous preparations are going on there with a view to despatching a powerful fleet to harry this coast of Spain in conjunction with the Dutch fleet. It is the earnest persuasion of the Earl of Essex which has chiefly moved the Queen to this step. Active measures are being taken here, but the plague in Portugal, which is the muster place, will cause a considerable delay. The King is most ardent. The Adelantado of Castile will take the command. They found great hopes upon the diversion which the rebellion in Ireland must cause. That rebellion is spreading rapidly, and if it continues the Spanish expect to be relieved of the danger which at present threatens these seas and these shores.
The King has applied to his subjects for money. The Procurators replied that they would do all that in them lay to meet his Majesty's wishes. They at once promised him an extraordinary donation of one million four hundred thousand crowns, and that they would take into consideration the proper means for raising money. They say that the grist tax (macinata) will be applied, and will bring in at least three millions a year; and that as it will be employed against England the question of conscience may be waived.
Madrid, 27th December 1598.
Dec. 28. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 761. Francesco Vendramin, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
Robert Crichton, Baron Sanquhar (fn. 2) (Sarchiero) presented to me your Serenity's letters instructing me to assist him in his object of being employed by his Cesarean Majesty in the present war. The absence of the Court on account of the plague makes all business difficult. I will do what I can.
Prague, 28th December 1598.
Dec. 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 762. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I hear from England that the Queen has given orders to seize all French ships found carrying provisions to Spain provided always that they are so far off the French coast as to leave no doubt about their destination. She has informed his Majesty of her instructions. They hope that some arrangement will be reached on the matter.
Paris, 29th December 1598.


  • 1. John Stanley and William Monday. They intended to poison the Queen's saddle Cf. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1598, pp. 98,106–112, 115, 116.
  • 2. The sixth lord; hanged at Westminster, 1612.