Venice: February 1603, 16-28

Pages 531-548

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, 16–28

Feb. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1135. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen and Council being fully informed both by Paul Pinder (fn. 1), an intimate of Secretary Cecil, and by me of the deliberations taken by your Serenity, and of the causes for my visit to England, my audience of the Queen was fixed for Sunday, the sixteenth of this month. On Saturday evening one of the Queen's fifty pensioners came to me and informed me that by her Majesty's commands he was to fetch and escort me to her presence the following day at two o'clock in the afternoon.
When the hour for starting came, which the pensioner and I had awaited all Sunday morning, I went to Richmond in spite of the bad weather. I was received at the foot of the stairs by several gentlemen who made use of courteous expressions out of regard for your Serenity. At the top of the stairs the Lord Chamberlain awaited me and introduced me into the room they call the Presence Chamber, and immediately after that into the room where her Majesty was.
The Queen was clad in taffety of silver and white, trimmed with gold; her dress was somewhat open in front and showed her throat encircled with pearls and rubies down to her breast. Her skirts were much fuller and began lower down than is the fashion in France. Her hair was of a light colour never made by nature, and she wore great pearls like pears round the forehead; she had a coif arched round her head and an Imperial crown, and displayed a vast quantity of gems and pearls upon her person; eyen under her stomacher she was covered with golden jewelled girdles and single gems, carbuncles, balas-rubies, diamonds; round her wrists in place of bracelets she wore double rows of pearls of more than medium size. Her Majesty was seated on a chair placed on a small square platform with two steps, and round about on the floor and uncovered were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan of England, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Treasurer, the Lord High Admiral, the Secretary of State and all the Privy Council; the remainder of the Chamber was all full of ladies and gentlemen and the musicians who had been playing dance music up to that moment.
At my entry the Queen rose, and I advanced with reverences made in due order, and reaching her was in act to kneel down upon the first step and to kiss her robe, but her Majesty would not allow it, and with both hands almost raised me up and extended her right hand, which I kissed with effusion, and at the same moment she said, “Welcome to England, Mr. Secretary. It was high time that the Republic sent to visit a Queen who has always honoured it on every possible occasion.” I withdrew a step or two, and suiting my discourse to her lead, 1 replied, in substance, that a variety of circumstances had for many years prevented her Majesty from hearing from the lips of an Envoy, especially accredited by the Serene Republic of Venice, any new attestations of the great affection and reverence which the Republic has always felt to the person of Her Majesty and of the high esteem in which her wide and noble kingdom is held in Venice. But that, although much time had lapsed, and with it many of us, the Republic, which remains the same for ever, had never lost her ardent desire to please her Majesty, and to display that fullness of affection with which she has always honoured and reverenced her Majesty, and has continually desired her long life and happiness. That if Her Majesty honoured the Republic on every occasion, the reason was because she knew that the Republic had always preserved an affection for her; and seeing that your Serenity fully responded in all frankness to her sentiments, I only wished that I were adequate to express the sense of obligation and of gratitude; but that I was bringing her an occasion to prove, by present acts of justice, what she had already assured me in most gracious words to be the tenour of her sentiments.
Then before entering on the first point of my commission, I, in the name of your Serenity, congratulated her on the excellent health in which, by the grace of God, I found her, and I assured her that the entire Serene Republic wished her every prosperity and satisfaction.
As her Majesty made no reply, although at this point of my address I made a full stop, I embarked upon my business, and after presenting my credentials, I briefly recalled the excellent treatment which her Majesty's subjects enjoyed in the States of your Serenity, and on the other hand, the gravity of the excesses committed by the English corsairs, and the serious nature of the damage inflicted on Venetian subjects for some years past; also how much your Serenity had it at heart that her Majesty should speedily cause the restoration of the booty, and finally touching on the reciprocal importance that the world should see the result of the mission of one of your Serenity's Secretaries to this kingdom for so just a request.
The Queen, who held your Serenity's letter in her hand, passed it to the Secretary who opened it and gave it back to her, her Majesty took it, sat down, and read it all through. Then rising to her feet again, she handed it back to the Secretary; her countenance, which had hitherto been placid and almost smiling, assumed a graver aspect, and she said “I cannot help feeling that the Republic of Venice, during the forty-four years of my reign, has never made herself beard by me except to ask for something, nor for the rest, prosperous or adverse as my affairs may have been, never has she given a sign of holding me or my kingdom in that esteem which other princes and other potentates have not refused. Nor am I aware that my sex has brought me this demerit, for my sex cannot diminish my prestige nor offend those who treat me as other Princes are treated, to whom the Signory of Venice sends its Ambassadors. But I am well aware, and so far I excuse the Republic, that in the many discussions on this subject she has not been able to obtain leave from certain Sovereigns. But for all this I would not be discourteous to her, though I would have you know that this kingdom is not so short of men that some bad ruffians may not be found among them. As the question touches my subjects, however, I will appoint Commissioners who shall confer with you and report to me, and I will do all that in me lies to give satisfaction to the Serene Republic, for I would not be discourteous”; with that she again sat down to listen to me. I replied, “Madame, it is with pleasure that I learn that your Majesty has reigned, and worthily, for forty-four years over your ample dominions, for this makes it certain that your Majesty is no novice in the affairs of this world, and will therefore know that Princes must govern according to circumstances. I will therefore say nothing as to the first point, except that the Republic of Venice, a great Sovereign, and free thanks be to God, although she proceeds with every consideration towards those who merit it, has never adopted the principle of consulting any Prince in the world as to her decisions, be he secular or ecclesiastic, and in this attitude she will, by God's grace, ever remain.” Her Majesty was persuaded of the truth of this answer and then, almost always smiling, she stood on foot till the close of my audience. Before I took my leave I added, that as she desired, for her better information, to appoint Commissioners, I begged her to do so at once, reminding her that services are the more graceful the more readily and at first hand they are granted. To which the Queen replied “Yes, I mean to do so, and I will let you know about it. But I do not know if I have spoken Italian well, still I think so, for I learnt it when a child, and I believe I have not forgotten it.”
She then graciously gave me her hand once more to kiss, which I did yet again, and she said these very words “I will not detain your Lordship any longer.” With that I took my leave and returned to London that same evening.
This morning her Majesty sent to say that she had named the Lord High Admiral, the Secretary of State, and the Privy Councillor, Edward Wotton, to hear my requests and to report them to her; and they almost immediately afterwards sent to inform me that if convenient, the meeting would he held to-morrow afternoon in the house of the Lord High Admiral. I readily acceded and so it will take place. The representatives of the interested parties shall he duly informed of the issue.
London, 19th February 1603.
Feb. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1136. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The States are in debt to the Crown of England for upwards of a million of gold; they pay this back at the rate of one hundred thousand ducats a year. Last year they succeeded in obtaining exemption, and they wish for the same this year. They have accordingly submitted to her Majesty an account of all their expenditure on the war with the King of Spain, and show that this year, between garrisons and field forces, they will have three hundred companies of infantry in their service, and thirty-three companies of cavalry, all of these are paid month by month. Besides this, there is the cost of the fortifications, of weapons, of artillery, ammunition, and rations for the forces, including eight full-rigged ships (vascelli da cheba), and smaller vessels to the number of one hundred and fifty. The Queen, however, so far, has made difficulties about postponing payment of the quota, on the ground that she too is in need of money for precisely the same reasons, and as a matter of fact her income is small, her expenditure great, and she can hardly be said to have any treasure at all except the jewels I have spoken of, which are held to be as valuable as they are reputed. But, as her Majesty is deeply interested in the fate of Ostend, and does not wish ever to fail to feed the flame of war in Flanders, the Envoy of the States who is here tells me that he is not without hopes of obtaining what he so earnestly seeks. The Queen's ships are being manned, but not without using the violence of the press-gang in seizing men in the streets of London to send them on board, whether they like it or no; and they say that the agreement was that the squadron should be ready next month at latest to join twenty ships belonging to the States to assist Ostend, and to block the harbour of Dunquerque, with the Archduke's ships inside. But the eight ships cannot take the sea so soon, and consequently cannot effect a junction with the Dutch.
A large English ship called “The Royal Exchange,” arrived here three days ago from Syria. Her cargo is worth, they say, three hundred thousand ducats, between indigo, silk, spices, drugs, bombazine (filadi), and other goods. All this in other days would have been discharged at Venice.
On the 17th instant a wretched master of a French ship presented himself to the French Ambassador. His whole cargo had been plundered by English corsairs. It was shipped for Spain, and was worth forty thousand ducats. Twenty of the crew were slain, and the English abandoned the hull, stripped of everything down to the tackle.
On the eighteenth the Ambassador lodged a serious complaint with the Queen.
London, 19th February 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Feb. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1137. Maffio Michiel, Venetian Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
A Genoese named Giovanni Battista Valle entered the port of Chieri in this island on the 6th of last month. He had sailed a few days before from Zante with two Flemish ships which he had chartered in Venice for a voyage to Chios, Milo, and Volo. He reported that off Sapienza he fell in with two English corsairs who bore down upon him with flags flying and decks cleared for action. He too cleared for action, and the English after cruising off and on for a bit, sailed away.
Zante, 19th February 1603.
Feb. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1138. Maffio Michiel, Venetian Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
What I feared has happened. The English have plundered the caramusale “Sicuro” in the port of Metala. I had sent her for grain. They took all the money intended for the purchase of the grain, and two pieces of artillery. No one knows what has become of nine men of the crew. The inhabitants of this island are in despair at the destruction of their hopes.
Zante, 19th February 1603.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 1139. Deposition of Antonio Lase, supercargo on board the “Sicuro.”
When outside Cephalonia we sighted an English ship to south She drew up to us and fired six rounds, three with ball and three blank. We lowered sail and went on board to ask what they wanted and to tell them who we were. They enquired whether we could give them provisions, water and a pilot. Signor Sicuro sent them a barrel of wine, some bread and a man called Battista Corsari of Zante. We eventually made the harbour of Petala. The Englishman followed us all the way, and in the morning we sent to recover our man; while the two Signori Sicuro went on shore with all their money. They bought some fish and returned on board at dinner time, still with the money on them. Our boat was not back vet from the Englishman, so Signor Sicuro sent the jolly boat to fetch him and to carry a big fish to the English. We went to dinner and soon after we saw a boat leave the English and come towards us. She had about twenty English in her and one of our men. We consulted as to whether we should fire, but as the boat came on we recognised our man, and let her draw up. They came on board and we got ready our weapons; but they went swaggering about, and one of them gave a sword cut to an old sailor who was standing by. Then Signor Girolamo Sicuro jumped into the ship's boat, and the rest either into the sea or into the boat. Signor Alessandro Sicuro, myself and three others were left alone on board. I drew my sword to defend myself, but the others did nothing. While fighting with one Englishman another wounded me in the neck with a pike, and also another sailor and a boy. Then they bound us all with cords and proceeded to plunder the ship. They took all the money and the clothes which they found, unhinged the rudder, and seized two guns. They then went back to their ship. Two of them were wounded; the captain by me, and another by Nicolo Romano. I never saw the men we sent on board the Englishman again. Asked if he knew any of these English, he replied that he knew two or three whom he had seen on other occasions in Zante.
Feb. 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1140. Maffio Michiel, Venetian Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
The English are becoming absolute masters of these waters; for apart from rapine and robbery perpetrated daily on all sorts of vessels, and more especially upon those of your Serenity's subjects, they are utterly supplanting your subjects in the carrying trade, weakening your customs and ruining the merchant service, as your Excellencies must be well aware. The English are not satisfied with having absorbed Venetian trade in the West entirely, but are devoting themselves to a similar object in the Levant. They trade in their own ships to the ports of Alexandria, Alexandretta, and Smyrna and other Turkish cities in Asia Minor, and in the Archipelago, where our ships only used to trade, to the great benefit of the State and of private individuals. All this merchandize they carry to these ports and make bargains for return cargoes without paying any customs dues above the ordinary, which is very light. In my opinion were they rendered liable to the new tariff, of which I shall speak further on, one of two things would happen, either they would abandon the trade on account of its burdens, as our merchants have been forced to do in England, or else your Serenity's customs would be enriched, and then the loss inflicted by the English competition would be diminished, until such time as your wisdom shall discover the true remedy.
Your Serenity is at present defrauded of a large part of the benefit of the new tariff by the English, for out of the various merchandize which they bring from the West they only pay on four articles, wool, kerseys (carisee), broad cloth, and tin, They cover themselves by a quibbling interpretation of the law of January 26th, 1580, wherein, as a matter of fact, no articles except these four are specified, and the tariff fixed for each one; but the law contains these further words, “and other goods,” which cover all the kinds of merchandize they carry; although I am informed that they never have paid, and do not now pay on any goods except the four specified; and yet they bring lead in bars, salted fish, cheese, caviare, sail cloth, rope, hats, socks, powder and other goods in such great quantities that very often their ships have no other cargo, upon which they only pay the ordinary duty, a mere trifle. I consider this a serious damage to the Treasury by defrauding your Serenity of these dues quite against your intention, and against the spirit of the order upon the new tariff, and I am deeply pained to see it. It is my duty as a faithful servant, jealous for your interests, to inform you upon the matter, and to wait the orders you may be pleased to issue.
Zante, 22nd February 1603.
Feb. 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1141. Maffio Michiel, Venetian Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
As soon as I had news of the sacking of the “Sicuro,” I sent for all the English merchants, and told them that such intolerable conduct could not be endured, and that I intended to exact compensation from them. They replied that; the men who committed these acts were outlaws, for whom they could not be held responsible, and that they could not for their part find compensation. I said that it was their duty to put down these pirates with their own ships. They made no satisfactory reply, and I ordered them to be locked up in the Castle. Next day they offered security to appear when summoned, and I then set them free. On the first news I had all their property sealed up; it will now be inventoried to see if there are any stolen goods among it,
Zante, 22nd February 1603.
Feb. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1142. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
A Greek Bishop arrived in London the day before yesterday. He came by sea from Milo to Marseilles, and thence to Calais by the post. He is accompanied by a certain Lorenzino Madero, an outlaw of Canea, who has for long been in the service of the Grand Duke. The Bishop earnestly demands to be allowed to present letters to the Queen. As yet no one knows their purport.
Last week we heard, and this week we are assured that news had reached Venice that two English ships had seized the galleon “Veniera,” with all her cargo, and had illused the Illustrious Signor da Mosto who was returning from his consulate in Egypt. This news has caused general displeasure and more especially to the Court. It is held that this misdeed has been committed by Thomas Sherley (Thomaso Ciarles) an English corsair in the pay of the Grand Duke; one of his brothers was recently in Venice, and another in Persia. (fn. 2) The Lord High Admiral assured me yesterday that if this be really so, and the said Thomas Sherley comes to England, your Serenity will receive the fullest satisfaction you can possibly desire of the Queen; and should he not come to England, her Majesty, to prove how she abhors such wickedness, will declare and publish him a rebel. He thinks that if the booty is taken into Leghorn, his Highness the Grand Duke will order it to be restored in full, or its value, if the pirate should have taken it first to Barbary for sale; others, however, think that the corsair having had the hardihood to commit such an unpardonable crime, will not appear again either in Leghorn or in England, but will sail with this prize, which must be a fine ship, to the Cape of Good Hope, and thence to Persia to join his brother. The father of these two Sherleys, a gentleman of quality, and a knight, lives here in London, though extremely poor. For in order to meet the excessive expenditure of his sons he undertook to furnish the royal contributions to the Low countries for the war, and so remained a vast debtor to the Queen, who put him in prison quite lately. He has obtained a grace to leave it for a certain time, on the assignment of all his property.
Count Aremberg (Ramberg), Admiral in Flanders, has written from Ghent to the Lord High Admiral on the subject of the exchange of prisoners; he urges the Lord High Admiral to act as mediator for the conclusion of a sound peace between the Archduke and the Queen of England. The High Admiral has shown the letters to various people, among others to myself, and he declares that it is quite impossible to reopen these negotiations, however desirable the peace may be for the trade and the interests of both parties. The impossibility lies in this, that the Queen will never abandon the protection of the States, which the Archduke demands as the first clause. He at the same time confirmed what I hear on all hands, that Count Maurice will undertake some considerable enterprise this year, and that eighteen ships belonging to the States, and the eight galleons belonging to the Queen, will effect a junction within fifteen days at the Downs (Dune) between Calais and Dover.
The Ambassador of France has presented to the Queen in the name of the Duke of Savoy a justification, from which it would appear that the King of France had designs to surprise Geneva Here the justification is considered worse than the act itself, and his Highness is greatly blamed for the whole affair of Geneva, not so much on the score of religion, as of sound government.
As regards the Venetian merchants who have suffered from depreciations, I send special information to their representatives that so far I have recovered the cargo of the ship “Speranza,” to the value of fifty thousand ducats. Further, the Queen has been graciously pleased, out of regard for your Serenity, to consign to me a parcel of sugar belonging to Signor Hieronimo Stella, confiscated on the ground that he is a knight of a Spanish Order, a famous captain of the King of Spain, citizen of Lisbon, where he has built a palace, and has a wife and family, and has sometimes furnished warships which have done damage in England. The Queen has also ordered that out of the merchandize and booty belonging to Portuguese, the missing goods belonging to Venetians are to be replaced; also that out of the prize money belonging to her as owner of the ships which made the prize, part of the expenses incurred by Venetian merchants shall be paid; but that the whole of this concession shall be recognised as of her Majesty's grace. The sentence already promulgated has been altered to the amount of ten thousand ducats. This much upon the first of the missions imposed on me.
London, 27th February 1603.
Feb. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1143. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The change which has been made by increasing the guard on the person of Lady Arabella Stuart, on account of a suspicion entertained by the Queen lest she should fly, gives me occasion to explain to your Serenity all that I hear with any certainty about the claimants to this throne, and the opinions regarding them; but as this is a subject which it is absolutely forbidden to discuss under pain of lœsa Majestas, it is very difficult to arrive at any certain conclusions. I may omit the lines descended from earlier Kings, as not of moment in this case, and will begin from Henry VIII., who, having separated himself from the Roman Church, had seven wives after his own fashion. This King, who died in 1547, begot on Catherine of Austria, a daughter Mary, wife of Philip the Second, King of Spain, and on Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded, Elizabeth, who is at present reigning. Jane Seymour bore him Edward the Sixth. Anne of Cleves, divorced, and Catherine Howard, beheaded, bore him no children. Elizabeth Blunt (Polontia) bore him Henry, Duke of Somerset (Somer), and his seventh wife, Catherine Parr, who survived her husband, had no offspring.
Edward the Sixth died in 1553, and Mary in 1559, and the present Queen Elizabeth legitimately succeeded to the throne. As she has no descendants, and as Henry the Eighth's two brothers, Edmund and Arthur, predeceased him, the succession lies between the descendants of Henry's two sisters, Margaret, married first to James V., King of Sctland, and secondly to Archibald, Earl of Angus; and Mary, married first to Lewis XII., King of France, and then to Charles, Duke of Suffolk. Mary bore Eleanor and Frances. Eleanor bore Margaret; and Margaret bore Frances and William Stanley. Frances bore Catherine, and Catherine, Thomas and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford (?) (Arbic). These lines of Suffolk and Seymour, which are on the same level, are neither of them of great account because of a doubt as to legitimacy; for Catherine was secretly married to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford; but the descent of the elder sister, Margaret, is of great importance. Of her first marriage was born James the Fifth, King of Scotland; of the second, the Angus marriage, another Margaret. James the Fifth had a daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, put to death by Elizabeth; and Margaret and Matthew Stuart had first Henry, married to Mary Stuart, and then Charles. Charles Stuart and Elizabeth Cavendish (Candisci) had a daughter Arabella. Henry and Mary Stuart had a son, James the Sixth, King of Scotland. James and Arabella are the real claimants to the crown of England, descendants in equal degree from Margaret, elder sister of Henry the Eighth. For although there is another branch descending from a brother of Henry the Seventh, in six generations from 1509 to this day, all in the male line down to Francis Hastings, it seems that it has not so good a foundation in right, nor so lively a support among men, as this of James and Arabella, the cousins germane whom I have mentioned. King James the Sixth of Scotland is thirty-four years of age, prudent, melancholy, literary, more lavish than his revenue will support, although, thanks to having an open trade to France, Spain, and all the northern countries, the national income has increased to four hundred thousand crowns a year, and his people is greatly enriched. He follows the religion of Calvin, but allows everyone in his kingdom to follow their own sect; the Roman religion alone is forbidden. It is held for certain, however, that if he succeeds to the English throne he will permit the rights of the Roman Catholic Church, though he himself would continue a Calvinist, at least for some time; for the majority many times over in these kingdoms of England, Scotland, and part of Ireland are absolutely alienated from allegiance to the Supreme Pontiff. All the same, there are many, chiefly among the nobility and the women, who have the true religion in their hearts.
King James aspired to the English crown from his youth, and they say that his ambition helps him to swallow the shedding of his mother's blood, and has caused him to avoid irritating the Queen of England by displaying the greatest regard and subservience towards her. The objections to his succession are two, first, that he was not born in the kingdom and is therefore ineligible for the crown; and the second, that his mother, after her execution was declared a rebel by Parliament, and incapable of succession, and this incapacitates her son. But as he has ever aspired to the crown of England he has bound upwards of thirty thousand of his subjects, the flower of his kingdom, to arm and follow him at his slightest request, for six weeks; during which period, after the death of Elizabeth, he would cross the rivers Solway and Tweed (Solveo et Tuedo) and the mountains which divide Scotland from England, and march on London, a distance of two hundred miles, where he would find his own party ready to do homage to him; while the Scottish fleet, supported by the King of Denmark, father of King James's wife, would be able to counterbalance the part of the English fleet which might reject him. Besides this he would most certainly find encouragement and, perhaps, actual support, though always on condition that he accepted the terms they are at present proposing, namely, that if he ascends the English throne, he is to leave one of his three sons as King of Scotland; for the King of France would not willingly see the kingdoms of England and Scotland united under one sovereign if he can help it; and he calculates that although the new King of Scotland be a son of the King of England, yet, with time, his state, his dominion, his power will all be disunited, if not from his father at least from his brother.
Arabella, born in England, is now a woman of twenty-eight years of age; of great beauty, and remarkable qualities, being gifted with many accomplishments, among them the knowledge of Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian, besides her native English. She has very exalted ideas, having been brought up in the firm belief that she would succeed to the Crown. She has always lived in poverty, far from London, in the charge of a Puritan governor and governess, and she, too, is of that persuasion. Fourteen years ago she was brought to Court by the Queen, who made her one of her ladies-in-waiting; she was then quite young, and displayed such haughtiness that she soon began to claim the first place; and one day on going into chapel she herself took precedence of all the Princesses who were in her Majesty's suite; nor would she retire, though repeatedly told to do so by the Master of the Ceremonies, for she said that by God's will that was the very lowest place that could possibly be given her. At this the Queen, in indignation, ordered her back to her private existence without so much as seeing her before she took her leave, or indeed ever afterwards.
All these personages then, descendants from Richard, Duke of York, are those who always have and still do bear the sign of the White Rose.
There is the other branch of the Red Rose. It started from Edmund of Lancaster, Earl of Richmond, and passed through the family of Pole, to which the Cardinal Reginald Pole belonged, and now after seven male successions, covering a period of one hundred years and upwards, it is concentrated in the sole person of Francis Hastings (Haistinghe), Earl of Huntingdon. He has only one son, and he keeps his hold on the favour of the nobility, among whom he numbers many relations, and as far as he can in the love of the people, especially in London. Some think that he will be the first to attempt the royal throne, but to no purpose.
At present the Queen has conceived some fear less Arabella should escape from the Castle where she is confined, as there are rumours that she is being sought in marriage. People say, if indeed it is true, that she has an inclination towards Thomas Seymour, the son, as I have already clearly set forth, of Catherine of Suffolk, and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Thomas and Arabella are of like age, and of most favourable conditions of mind and body. In such a delicate matter the Queen either does not wish to act with rigour upon a mere suspicion—for Seymour shows himself far from ready—which would rouse comment among the populace; or for some other reason; she has, therefore, very quietly increased the guards round the Castle, fifty miles out of London, where the unhappy lady has lived so many years buried, as one may say, not perforce but of her own will. The Ministers are anxious on the subject. But even if the King of Spain had a hand in this matter they think that there is no more danger from him, except in the case of rebellion, for those who have most money will have most support, is the common opinion. In any other eventuality, since the Spanish abandoned Ireland, any subsequent schemes of theirs are held of small importance and far removed. It is, however, a fixed opinion that the Ministers, being convinced that this Kingdom is strong rather in reputation than in actual forces, are resolved among themselves not to be governed by a woman again, but to give the Grown to the King of Scotland, as they cannot judge the future except by its consequences. It is to be observed that Secretary Cecil, who is omnipotent in all the affairs of State, keeps a brother as governor on the frontiers of Scotland, and is placing people in the confidence of the Scottish King as governors of all the strong places in those parts. (fn. 3)
London 27th February 1603.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 1. Original Minute of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 1144. Despatch to the Ambassador in Constantinople.
We are informed by the interested parties that the privateer William Piers, who captured the galleon “Veniera,” has left Modon for Barbary, where he intends to dispose of his booty; you are therefore to obtain an order for the restitution of the goods which shall apply to Barbary, and other ports.
March 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1145. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I have explained to M. de Villeroi the meaning of Secretary Scaramelli's mission to England.
Paris, 3rd March 1603.
March 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1146. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The very day on which I sent my last Despatch I received letters from Zante of the fifth of last month containing news of the annoying incident which has befallen the Consul da Mosto. I resolved before going to the Grand Vizir to approach Cicala and to ask his advice, I complained of the shelter afforded to English buccaneers at Modon; on this point he promised to take the necessary steps; he accused the English of recognising no distinction between foes and allies, and said that their own Ambassador was unable to find any excuse.
The French Ambassador also has news from Zante of the depredations by the English. He insisted that to put an end to this mischief your Serenity ought to expel the English from Venetian waters and give orders to your Ambassador here to co-operate with him Openly to secure the dismissal of the English Ambassador at the Porte, and to close the Levant trade to the English. He told me he was commissioned to say this by his master.
I also found occasion to see the English Ambassador and I made warm representations to him on the subject of these scandalous excesses. When I told him that your Serenity was forced to make reprisals on English merchandize, he shrugged his shoulders, but showed great annoyance at these events and declared most positively that the Queen would make a stern example.
As I am well aware that no ship is allowed to leave England without giving surety that it will not plunder the Queen's allies, I asked him about this point. He confessed that it was so, and added that the father of this buccaneer was very rich, and was surety, he believed, for his son.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 6th March 1603.
[Italian; deciphered.]
March 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1147. Maffio Michiel, Venetian Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
Giovanni Battista Valle, Genoese, who sailed from the Port of Chieri in this island some time ago for the Archipelago with two Flemish vessels to bring back grain, has been plundered and ill-treated by English corsairs who have left him nothing but his bare life, as will be seen from his depositions which I enclose, along with the declarations of a Notary Public of Milo, on the subject of the robbery committed in that Port by English ships in the case of a Venetian merchantman sailing from Crete with a cargo of oil, wine, &c. This ship was cleaned out of cargo and tackling and left empty.
Domenico Zorzi Sumachi of Zante was also sent by the Proveditore of the Fleet into the Archipelago to purchase corn for the fortress of Corfu. I supplied him with funds, drawn on the Exchange here, to make purchases for the needs of this island as well, for we are in extreme want. I am now afraid that it is lost, for he writes from Milo that he has met with a similar mischance, and that he only saved the money by his extreme vigilance and diligence. And indeed, he is a person fully fitted for such a mission, and from whom most excellent service may be expected just now, when these seas are reduced to such a state that no one can venture to cross them without obvious risk of misfortune, and the very inhabitants do not venture to pass from one town to another in their boats for fear of these pirates. One of these buccaneers, an Englishman, has been seized by the inhabitants of Zea who took him to Negropont, because he had done so much damage thereabouts, as your Serenity will gather from the enclosed letter written from the Morea to Francesco Heredi, (fn. 4) a citizen of Zante, and fresh mischief is always being reported about these assassins. Here in the channel towards Cephalonia we often see suspicious sails which we take to be privateers and I have sent out several frigates to reconnoitre from a distance, but contrary winds have always hindered them. I kept back the “Colombo,” with a rich cargo, for several days so that she might not fall in with these buccaneers. A day or two ago I allowed her to sail with an escort of three vessels and in most favourable weather, as a fresh scirocco was blowing in, which will certainly take them in one day and a night into safety at Corfu, and I gave them orders to keep together for security. I do all I possibly can to assist these unfortunate seamen, your Serenity's subjects, but for want of forces I can do no more. I have written again to the Proveditore of the Fleet and to the Commander of the great galleys at Corfu to come into these waters for public service and honour. But I can hope nothing from the Proveditore who is lying seriously ill in bed at Corfu. The captain of the galleys writes that he is waiting till his consort is ready, and that then he will come into these waters.
Once more I humbly submit to your Serenity that as long as these privateers find shelter in the harbours of the Turk all these seas will continue to be infested. There is no other way to secure our navigation except by depriving the corsairs of this convenience and by bringing your Serenity's galleys into these waters, in which circumstances the pirates will be obliged to move elsewhere. In this sense I have written to the new Sanjak of the Morea that he may forbid all trade with pirates within his government, though I know not what to look for from this step, for the orders ought to come from the Porte.
Zante, 6th March 1603.
The small vessel which was escorting Sumachi is called the “Blessing of God,” Captain Stephen Infold, of Plymouth. I send this name, as I shall in all other cases when they are certain, so that if these men touch at any port belonging to your Serenity they may be recognised and punished; I also inform all English captains who trade at this port.
Feb. 10. Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 1148. Copt of a Letter addressed to D. Francesco de Heredi in Zante; translated from Greek into Italian.
After compliments. I took my cargo on board at Zea. An English privateer arrived. The captain landed his men to go and seize the Cadi because he would not give them bread. A riot ensued, and two of the inhabitants were killed. Three Englishmen were captured, the commander being one of them ; (fn. 5) they say he is a great personage, and is called Tomaso Seler (Sherley). They wrote to their Consuls in Zante to come here. As we command in the island we took him to the lieutenant of the Pasha at Negropont. If they want to come let them come as soon as possible, before the Turks find out that he is a great personage, so that they may ransom him at a reasonable price. They had better come straight to us. As for money, they will find as much as they want here, to be repaid in Zante. Speak you to them so that we may have an answer as soon as possible.
Dimitrio Taractà and Michalachi Taractà write this and salute your Lordship.
Feb. 22. Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 1149. Depositions of Bortolo Penso, Master of the “Bersatona.”
The “Bersatona” was driven by a strong wind, west by south, into the harbour of Milo, being unable to weather Cerigo. She had a cargo of oil, wine, lemons, lemon-juice, and small lemons (lemoncini). Two English ships were lying in harbour, one called the “Dragon,” the other commanded by Piers. The “Dragon” immediately sent her ships boats fully armed aboard, after first firing her guns, and captured the “Bersatona” and plundered her. The Venetian Consul in this island (Milo), Messer Zanulo Piperi cited the said Bortolo before Signor Girolamo Paulucci, Secretary to his Excellency the General, and ordered him to specify the quality of the goods stolen by the Englishman the “Dragon,” and by the other English ship, which had acted as consort to Messer Zorzi Sumachi.
Feb. 27. Enclosed in Despatch from Zante, March 6th. 1150. Copy of a letter from Signor Zorzi Sumachi, addressed to Signor Ludovico his brother in Milo.
My dearest brother, I salute you. My previous letter from Navarino gave you necessary particulars, and now in this letter I wish to give you a further account of this blessed journey of mine as far as it has gone, and I pray the good God to lead me safe home. On the 12th of February we left Navarino with our English consort to continue my journey, although I knew that an English ship of eight hundred tons and two hundred men was lying in Modon. She is named the “Dragon,” had touched at Leghorn and taken on board thirty men of the Grand Duke, and declared that she had put to sea for no other purpose than to plunder the Turks. So I was assured, and I believed it; for there was a captain, a certain Bimondo Franco, who had been with the soldiers of the Grand Duke, and an Englishman of my consort went to see him, and he told us to fear nothing. But he cheated me. As soon as we moved towards the English ship, outside Sapienza, she too weighed anchor. That was about two hours before sundown; and so we sailed along. When I saw that she was drawing up to us, I made up to my consort to see what he would say. I asked if he had the pluck to fight, but he replied “If you can, you had better fly, for I have no wish to engage.” Accordingly, putting my trust in God, I went about for the land at Coron, and night coming on I escaped and came under Coron, and the Englishman, seeing this, lay up to my consort. During the night I altered my course as best I could so as to avoid them, and in the morning I found myself off Cerigo, sailing on our way with all needful precautions, between Cerigo and Milo. The Englishman had taken in sail and lay to, my thief of a consort having told him whither we were bound; but when he sighted us, about four or five miles off, he too made sail again. For brevity's sake I cannot go into details, which would fill two quires of paper; enough that he gave us chase from Vespers to Ave Maria and had come within range, for the wind failed us. But as the sun went down the wind freshened again and we escaped. We saw that the Englishman altered his course and stood out to sea. As we opened the Gulf of Milo and were sailing in we sighted two vessels; and I thought that one must be the vessel captured with the Consul da Mosto on board, and her consort, as in fact one was. I put the money in the ship's boat, and landed at an unusual landing place, and so escaped into the town of Milo. I had hardly got ashore when the ship's boat of da Mosto's ship came alongside my ship with orders to the captain to take me on board. The commander knew I was there because the second ship which was lying in harbour was my consort, which had reached Milo before me. When he found that I had gone ashore with the money he did all he could to take my ship and burn her, but I wrought so well with him that I made him, the captain, (William Piers), my best friend, and I saved the ship, though she lay there useless, for I could not depart; and for all that the captain was my good friend, his men were very devils. As we were lying there in discomfort we saw the “Dragon” putting in with her prize the “Caldiera.” Her captain, as soon as she had cast anchor, sent and took our master on board and said to him, “I want the money and the merchant or I will sink you.” The master said, “Merchant and money are both ashore, and you may do as you please.” Whereupon he carried off all the sailors and their clothes and left the ship empty. After two days the master wrote me a letter asking for a sum of money to ransom his ship, otherwise she would be lost. I replied that I could give him nothing. The English then began to take out her artillery; which, when I saw it, I won over the first English captain, named Piers, by help of presents, so that he did me great service, and came to this with the “Dragon,” that if they did not leave me alone he would fight them, for he would never suffer me to be injured after he had passed his word. He wrought so well that they left me my ship and gave me back my artillery, and I recovered both my ship and its master. While things were at this point a ship called the “Bersatona” from Canea, master, Bortolo Pen son, with a cargo of oil, wine, and cheese, arrived. No sooner did the “Dragon” sight her than she sent her ship's boat and seized and plundered the “Bersatona” of her cargo, the other Englishman also helped himself to some oil for his table and other things he wanted; so did our consort, so as not to be behind hand as plucky fellows and gentlemen; they also took the captain's log and kept it for their own use. Yesterday the “Dragon” weighed anchor, but in doing so she lost it, and sent on board of us and took the best we had, and sailed away to the devil. I believe she is bound for Zea, for her commander had been captured there. I am told he is a gentleman who will never rob Christians; but that three of his crew had mutinied and made themselves masters of his ships, and are plundering wherever they can find anything, I say nothing to you of two other English buccaneers and other two Spaniards, who are also cruising as corsairs, so that I am in straits and don't know what course to steer, for neither course is open. There are plenty of traders here with small boats from Milo who are bringing me corn. I offered fifty-five aspers the Chilo and will go to sixty-six and seventy if I must. But I tell you to go to the Proveditore and tell him all so that he may write to the Senate; and you will also write to the Proveditore of the Fleet at Corfu, telling him all that has happened; tell him too, that if he approves, I will pay eighty for the corn, but that he had better come here himself, for in the midst of so many pirates I have small hope of escaping. Blessed would the hour have been had we sailed here in company with his galleons, for beyond doubt these two English ships would have fallen into his hands, and covered him with glory; and if he should come even now towards Cerigo he could not fail to do just what he liked. You see the English have read the letters they found on board the “Bersatona,” and know that the galley “Balbi” and other ships are coming, and they are going to lie in wait for them between Cape Malea and Crete; they won't move far from this; so he must come as soon as he can to save these ships, otherwise I see no chance of getting out of this. I am writing also to the Proveditore with full information. Besides the English and Spanish there are other pirates who work havoc with the shipping and fill the Archipelago with a panic.
No more just now. Pray God to send me safely out of this, and the Lord keep you.
Milo, 27th February 1602.
Your loving brother,
Zorzi Sumachi.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 1151. Deposition of Zan Battiste Valle, supercargo of the “Salvatore,” Master Jacomo Vic, lately sent into the Archipelago for grain.
I left on the 24th of last month to go to the Archipelago for grain. On the 28th, a Wednesday, while in company with the ship “Caldiera,” master, Nicolò de Zuanne, when forty miles off Milo, we sighted an English ship, the “Dragon,” which had sailed from Leghorn about a month ago, and had a crew of about two hundred men, among them twenty-five or thirty who said they had embarked at Leghorn by order of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. They were partly Greek, partly Venetian, partly Florentine, and wore the Grand Duke's uniform. They said they embarked under orders to molest none but Turks and Jews, but not to touch Christians. When this ship drew up to us we saw that she was flying the English flag. We took them for friends, and struck our topsails. The “Dragon” sailed round us, and then fell off to the other ship which was the smaller (the “Caldiera”), and when they were near her they ran up at the stern a flag of crimson silk, and then we saw that they were pirates. The “Dragon” sent her boat with fourteen or sixteen, men, armed with harquebus and musket, alongside of the “Caldiera.” They boarded and sacked her; taking all there was on board. Then both vessels bore down on us shouting to us to shorten sail, but we would not, and offered fight, and fired our four pieces, They replied with a sharp harquebus and musketry fire. The battle lasted about half an hour. We were seriously injured low down, and began to make water; so we were forced to take in sail and surrender. They at once came on board, made themselves masters of the ship They bound my arms behind my back, and my feet, and put me to the torture of the cord, holding me up six arms length from the deck and telling me to confess where the money was. I was forced by the torture in which they kept me for some time, to show them where the money lay; it was stored in four boxes containing ten thousand reals of seven lire each. This they took, as well as eighteen pieces of cloth, two bales of damask and satin, much gold and silver in specie of three lire; twelve parcels of sugar, copper, and all my clothes, of which they left me stripped; and they treated the master and mariners in the same way, and the passengers also. All this they took into Milo, after letting the “Caldiera” go; they took two men out of her, however. We don't know what has become of her. At Milo they lay for six days, and then the “Bersatona” arrived. They seized her and put some English on board; after taking out of her all her cargo, artillery, and tackle. They kept us there till Saturday the 26th, when they sailed away; and we left the following day along with the “Caldiera.” We arrived here off the island of Zante yesterday, where I was landed at the place called San Zorzi di Grevani, along with seven passengers, and came on here to report. I must add that in Milo are two other English ships, one big and one small; the big one is the ship which the pirates took from the Consul of Alexandria. I recognised her, and her master begged me if I went to Venice to kiss the Consul's hand on his behalf. The English sold the stolen goods cheap in Milo; and sailed away to lie in wait for the ships which are coming from Crete. The English boasted that they cared nought for the galleys of the Republic, big or little. They also declare that they have just plundered a large Venetian ship, which I fear must be the “Martinenga.”


  • 1. Paul Pinder; apprentice in 1594–5 of Henry and Jacob Parvis, currant merchants in Venice. Cf. also Calendar of State Papers. Domestic, 1601–1603, p. 166.
  • 2. See “The Sherley Brothers,” Roxburgh Club publications.
  • 3. This and other documents relating to Arabella Stuart have been dealt with in an interesting article in “The Edinburgh Review,” October, 1896, pp. 483–513.
  • 4. He was French Consul in Zante.
  • 5. That is Thomas Sherely.