Venice: February 1603, 1-15

Pages 526-531

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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February 1603, 1–15

Feb. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1130. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The person intrusted with the negotiations to facilitate a peace between the Archduke and the States is the same Cœmans who was employed in England on a similar mission. Although the Queen is not expressly named they can do nothing without her knowledge and consent.
Paris, 3rd February 1603.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Feb. 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1131. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I reached Calais on the last of January so early in the day that I might have embarked for England as two ships were to sail the same night for that island which is only seven leagues, or twenty-five Italian miles distant. I would have done so had not Signor Wilhelm Nort, a Dutch merchant, to whom I had letters of introduction, assured me that the weather, though seeming favourable, threatened a change. I therefore stayed on shore; and during the night came such a snow-fall and so stormy a sea that people here declared its like has not been seen for the last three years. Of the two ships which sailed that night one could not remake the harbour owing to the darkness, and was lost with every soul on board. The sea has been running high till to-day, when the wind began to drop, and I hope very soon to continue my journey as I have carried it out heretofore, and to prove myself sufficient at least as regards speed. On my passage through France I have discovered everywhere a great dread of war; peace is earnestly desired, and the whole country still suffers from the late affliction of the hostilities, more especially those parts near Flanders. In this fortress they observe many precautions and keep very strict guard, which is entrusted not merely to the paid garrison, but also to the citizens all through the night. They say the reason is that in Gravelines and Dunquerque, three and five leagues off, are twelve war galleys belonging to the Archduke, which are often sighted when in pursuit of English shipping; but more likely, because of the conviction that the Spanish have repented of the surrender they made of this most important stronghold. In Ostend, about sixteen leagues distant, the plague is raging with a death rate of about two hundred per week, for this reason the States change and renew a certain number of their soldiers as often as they can, at least once a month. Six days ago some Dutch ships entered the port; when eight of them were leaving it again with the troops that had been relieved, one of the ships was sunk by the Archduke's artillery, and another was captured with eight standards and about thirty soldiers on board. The Archduke is pushing on the erection of two great platforms which will very soon command the town, and his Highness places his hopes hardly at all in the seige, but in the bombardment of the place with red-hot cannon balls which will burn down the houses and reduce the inhabitants to utter desperation. On the other hand Count Maurice of Nassau, who enjoys the fame of a Prince and general of great worth and military experience, is making preparations in the Hague for the approaching good season, by getting ready eight men-of-war and new levies, with a view to assisting Ostend both directly and by diversion. While the Archduke Albert lies in Ghent in great distress because he lacks pay for his troops, because support arrives so tardily, and because he sees his forces and his reputation dwindling away every day by the desertion of all the chief officers, it is thought that Count Maurice may quite easily invest and carry Bois le Due, in Brabant, this year, on account of the bad state in which that fortress is; that would be a conquest not merely equal but superior to that of Rheinberg, in Guelderland, and of Grave, in Brabant, which happened one after the other not long ago, as is well known. The mutineers are always increasing in number, and have left Hoogstraaten (Ostrat), and pushed up to the walls of Louvain to compel the inhabitants to furnish contributions. The Duke of Aerschot has a sumptuous palace in that district; and in Mons, where he is residing as Governor of Hainault, he was told that they would put it to lire and sword unless he sent them twelve thousand florins, which he did without delay. This Duke of (Erschot, who is the son of the one who died in Venice, is likely to succeed to the command of the Flanders cavalry, if the Admiral of Aragon is relieved of the post, and so the hopes of Don Giovanni de' Medici are dying away. The object of Federico Spinola's sally from Sluis was to plant a fort on the island of Tragusa (?) in Zealand, which would be a serious menace to Flushing, a fortress belonging to the States, and held by the Queen of England as security for a debt; Spinola's design was thwarted and he returned to Sluis, where he has nearly rebuilt the whole of his flag ship. Spinola has not succeeded in keeping his proposal made to the King of Spain, to maintain these galleys out of the booty they acquired, and so the King will either have to pay up the arrears or to see the squadron disbanded.
These coasts of Picardy, Normandy, and Brittany, on as far as Gascony, the ocean shores of the kingdom of France, are exposed to extraordinary molestation by the English corsairs, in their local trade. The Governor who uses all courtesy towards me as servant of your Serenity, told me that it was impossible that things should remain in their present state, for every day fresh complaints were being sent to the King, and all of these are forwarded to his Majesty's Ambassador resident in London; and so as matters are on such a footing it is possible that this may be of use to me in that particular article of my mission to the Queen, explained to me by the Illustrious Sig. Nicolo Tron, and other representatives of the interested parties, namely, the assent to free trade from Lisbon to Venice, if not without examination, (to which the French King has consented), at least without vexation. I shall not fail to attend to this point, but at the right moment when I know whether or not the whole or a part of the goods stolen by English pirates will be restored.
Calais, 4th February 1603.
Feb. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1132. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I arrived in London on the seventh, and found that the Queen had gone eight days ago to Richmond, a palace suited to the season, and ten miles out of the city. To save time, while preparing to give formal notice of my arrival, I sent to Court to inform Secretary Robert Cecil that I was here. Through his hands pass all the affairs of the Government, and to him I made fitting representations for obtaining an audience of her Majesty. He showed that he was already aware of my arrival which had been reported to the Queen by the Governor of Dover the very hour of my landing in that port. He gave me welcome and informed me that her Majesty would see me gladly and that my messenger was to come again when he would receive a definite answer about the audience. As yet I have visited secretly the Treasurer and the Grand Chancellor, (fn. 1) who are here. They are the heads of the Privy Council which will deal with my business. Although these gentlemen live not like Ministers, but like so many Kings, they made use of most honourable expressions and words, displaying the high esteem in which they held the Serene Republic, and made many offers of their service to your Serenity.
My audience was fixed for yesterday, for us the first day of Lent, for the English, old style, the feast of the Purification, the day on which all the festivities which are celebrated from Christmas to Candlemas are brought to a solemn close. When I was on the point of getting into my carriage to reach Richmond at two o'clock in the afternoon, according to instructions received from the Lord Chamberlain, a gentleman-in-waiting on the Queen arrived post haste to say that urgent business, which had unexpectedly arisen, compelled her Majesty to postpone my audience till next Sunday. I am told by the Italians who were with me at the moment that it is almost the invariable custom to act so here for no other reason than haughtiness, and that her Majesty had sometimes treated the French Ambassador in this fashion, and quite recently the Duke of Bracciano, and the Duke of Nevers, when they were over here. I made a very modest answer to the gentleman-in-waiting, which seemed to please him, and I will now adapt myself to the times and the circumstances.
The Queen, who is in her seventy-first year, is in excellent health, as I hear on all sides, and in perfect possession of all her senses; as she neither eats nor sleeps except at the call of nature, everyone hopes and believes that her life is much further from its close than is reported elsewhere. The safety of her realm is based on secure foundations, and she lives light-heartedly though all negotiations for peace with her enemies are broken off.
In Ireland, a province of this kingdom, some disturbances directed against the Queen and initiated by the King of Spain, are still on foot. And for no less than two months the King of France has been urging the Queen to restore to her favour the Earl of Tyrone, head of the revolution, who under this protection is supplicating pardon. The Queen refuses, some say because she is burning for vengeance, but those who study the matter more closely declare that the Queen knows that to pardon their leader would not quiet the insurgents, who, relying on the Catholic Faith, do not demand pardon nor fear attack in those dense forests. It is also supposed that the Queen desires to secure the advantage of time in the matter. Meanwhile as she always keeps her eye on naval affairs, she has equipped eight new galleons of war, to be sent out this year, not in the name of the English nation but as the Queen's private ships; these, when added to four others of the same sort, and to the squadron furnished by the guild of merchants, which are now cruising in various directions towards the Indies and the coast of Spain, will form a total of sixty vessels.
In Scotland the King has discovered two conspiracies against his person on the part of his own subjects. The prudence with which he conducts his affairs and holds them balanced between all the Powers of Christendom is the subject of general admiration. It is a matter of serious consideration that the Queen who is so cautious tacitly permits the Ambassador of the French King, who was lately sent to Scotland to reside in Edinburgh; and the conclusion is that her Majesty desires to see the King of Scotland supported in his claims to the English succession by France rather than by Spain.
London, 13th February 1603.
Feb. 15 Original Minute of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 1133. To the Queen of England.
Great damage is being done and large booty made by the English who infest these seas. The English illtreat and plunder all alike. More especially, a short time ago near the isle of Zante, the galleon “Veniera” was seized by a ship under the command of William Piers, of Plymouth. The “Veniera's” cargo was entirely the property of Venetians, and was destined for this city, and on board her was a Venetian nobleman, a public servant, on his way back from his consulate in Alexandria.
This and the other acts of piracy committed on the high seas, tend to destroy the ancient trade between our respective countries. To meet this mischief it is necessary that both parties should concur, your Majesty with prudence and justice, ourselves by a similar response, for the common good.
For this purpose we have expressly charged Secretary Scaramelli to negotiate with you for compensation for the losses suffered; and we beg you to yield to our Secretary the same credence as you would give to ourselves; and we pray God to preserve your Majesty in wealth and all happiness.
Feb. 15. Original Minute of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 1134. To the Secretary in England.
The ship “Veniera” with the Consul da Mosto on board, and laden with goods belonging to various nobles of this city, has been captured by ships belonging to the English, from whom, in view of our excellent treatment of them, we would never have looked for injury.
This unexpected news has greatly annoyed us. We are certain from other indications that such misdeeds must be abhorrent to her Majesty, and so we have resolved to address to her the enclosed letter, which you are to present, and at the same time to make representations in the sense of our intention; that is, you are in suitable and weighty words to draw attention to this grave excess, to our just resentment and the need for punishing in every way these villains, who are unworthy to live under the glorious standard of her Majesty. The suitable means for such punishment would be not only to publish a severe sentence against, them and to confiscate all their property in England, but to give express orders to the Captains of all vessels that if they fall in with William Piers, of Plymouth, or others who commit such villanous deeds, they are to punish them. Enclosed you will find letters from the Consul da Mosto and from the Governor of Zante, with all particulars, letters from the Queen to us, and our orders to the Commander-in-Chief. All this information will enable you to make such representations as we confidently look to from your prudence.
And to put an end to such misdeeds it would be very advisable that the Queen should exact from all those who sail away from England, caution money against any damage they may inflict on our possessions. But this you will advance only after you are satisfied of the Queen's good will and intention to punish the crimes already committed.
You will not omit to take all vigorous action with the Ministers in order to attain your object in so important a matter as this.
Further motion made to summon the chief English merchants here resident to appear before the Cabinet, where his Serenity with grave and suitable words shall point out that the news of these excesses has caused extreme displeasure; for while the English are so well treated in every part of our dominions we receive such a poor return. And he will advise them to use all their influence to secure the cessation of these misdeeds.


  • 1. Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, and Egerton, the Lord Keeper