Venice: March 1603

Pages 548-562

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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March 1603

March 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1152. Giovanni Carlo Scaramellt, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
French complaints about the pillage of French shipping and of violence committed by the English continue; and this in spite of the league between the two Crowns. The French clearly prove that in the last twenty years they have been robbed of twelve millions worth of merchandize. On the part of the English they endeavour to pass over the old complaints on the plea of the lapse of time; for the more recent, they allege that the King of France made peace with Spain when it suited his own convenience, quite forgetting that the Queen of England had been to the affairs of the King of Navarre as the food to the life; and they decline to accept it as essentially true that the King of France, after arranging his own business, had invited her to join the peace and left her means for doing so; he intended that England should owe her safety to none other than himself, and so the English declare that they too must look after their own interests.
The Scandinavian trade in the Baltic is very much hampered by the King of Denmark who is able so easily to close the Belt. The Queen has sent to Copenhagen her Ambassadors, so have Dantzig, Prussia, seventeen of the Free Cities, seventy-two German towns, and there is a representative of the Emperor. They were to negotiate for free trade and freedom of religion. But the English Ambassadors report that they consider the conference all but broken up without arriving at any conclusion. As the closing of this sea would mean for the English the loss of a trade equal to that of the West Indies, Guiana, and Brazil, and larger than that of Venice, Ragusa, Lepanto, Constantinople, and Syria, the private merchants have offered to arm four galleons to force the passage this year and so to prevent a break in this important traffic. We will see what decision they arrive at on so vital a matter; for this English race in all matters of marine, not only does not esteem but actually despises every other nation in the world.
The Queen's eight galleons are all ready; they have five hundred sailors a piece, besides other troops on board. They have a largo number of guns not of iron like the privateers, but of bronze, exquisitely finished. These ships are upwards of one thousand tons a-piece, and some of them which are lying in this great river Thames look very fine indeed. And had not the fleet of the Dutch been ice bound for a long time this winter it would now be here to form a junction. It is anxiously awaited, and they expect to do great damage wherever they go. The English say that they count on the enemy's panic as much as on their own valour.
The Greek Bishop, who has been keeping everyone's curiosity alive, has not yet had audience. The Ministers insist that he shall first of all hand over the letters which he brings for the Queen, who will decide thereupon whether she will receive him or not, though they promise him as favourable a reception as can be.
In the house of Arabella Stuart they have found the body of her chaplain and tutor (fn. 1) with his throat cut. He was the most intimate of all those about her. Rumour says that he killed himself because he was conscious of his own intrigues. It seems that her Majesty will take no steps at present, although she has in her hands intercepted letters of Arabella which are of high importance.
In Scotland the quarrels between the nobles continue, and last week one, who was a prisoner in Edinburgh, flung himself from a high tower (fn. 2); he was accused of conspiracy against the King's life. This desperate death has deprived his Majesty of the possibility of unravelling the innermost secrets of the plot. He has doubled the guards, and lives in, great suspicion, and this event has caused much sorrow to the Queen who has been fully informed in all confidence by the Queen of Scotland.
An English ship called the “Phoenix,” laden with currants in Venice has reached England, a distance of four thousand miles, in less than two months.
London, 6th March 1603.
March 12 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1153. Maffio Michiel, Venetian Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
In addition to my previous report upon the damage done by English corsairs, I have to add that three days ago Zuanne Cordes, a Venetian, arrived here from Constantinople. He affirms that certain Maltese vessels have captured three Caramusali in the port of Skyro, laden with corn and bound for Zante; and that they had made many other prizes, as your Excellencies will gather from the depositions enclosed. The “Dragon,” which recently plundered the “Bersatona” in the gulf of Milo, is commanded by an English gentleman named Thomas Sherley, a person of importance, as the English merchants here resident inform me. He is brother of the Englishman who came to Europe some years ago with the Ambassadors of the King of Persia, and travelled about under the title of Ambassador himself, and who is now, they say, in Persia. These brothers are near relations of the Earl of Essex, lately beheaded by the Queen of England, and they espoused his cause. For this reason, seing that they too had fallen into disgrace with the Queen, they have absented themselves from the kingdom. This gentleman, who is the younger of the two, lately equipped two ships in the port of Southampton, one called the “Dragon,” the other the “George” (Zorzio), and took the title of commander-in chief, as he now calls himself. He embarked one hundred men and provisions for two months, but very little tackle, only one cable. Sailing along the coast of Spain he fought a Flemish ship and lost fifty of his men in the encounter without succeeding in capturing her. Then he passed the straits of Gibraltar and came to Leghorn, where he offered the Grand Duke to sail against the infidels. After leaving Leghorn he parted company with his consort, (fn. 3) and came into the Archipelago. At Zea (fn. 4) he was captured and taken to Negropont by the inhabitants, where he had to pay four thousand sequins ransom. Subsequently he plundered the Venetian ship and the Genoese, as your Serenity will have gathered from my previous enclosures. His consort the “George,” commanded by Captain Sherley (sic? Piers), captured the Venetian “Veniera” (fn. 5) with the Consul da Mosto on board, and now both are united and are cruising in the Archipelago. This gentleman (Sherley) has written to a friend of his in Florence, an Englishman, to make his excuses to the Grand Duke for these outrages, throwing all the blame on his men, who have mutinied and ruined him. He promises next season to serve the Grand Duke in better manner.
Thomas Gardiner, captain of the English ship the “Angel,” lately come to this port, declares that he left in the port of Tunis, whence he has just come, twelve English ships, all privateers. The men were all exiles from England, in disgrace with the Queen, and being driven to desperation they are resolved to plunder all and sundry whom they may fall in with, even those of their own nation. They have already come to blows among themselves over the division of the spoil. These men may prove a source of danger to trade, no less than the others.
I imagine this news will reach you earlier from Florence and elsewhere, but I think it right to send it.
Zante, 12th March 1603.
March 13 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1154. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen is anxious to preserve the English trade at Leghorn Venice, Ragusa, Constantinople, and Syria, and after the capture of the “Veniera” she has determined to renew her prohibition made two years ago, by which all English vessels were forbidden to go privateering inside Gibraltar, but were bound to confine themselves to purely English waters, and the seas outside the Straits. She will accordingly give authority and warrant to all her merchantmen who pass the Straits to capture and to proclaim as rebels all who disobey this order. The ship “Royal Merchant,” which I have chartered to convey to Venice the merchandise I have recovered, Captain George Chinch (? King), is the first to take one of these patents. She will sail on the 20th instant. To push forward the recovery of the two other ships I am to have an audience of the Queen one of these days. I will report the result. The people of Geneva have written to the Queen commending themselves to her protection, and in particular begging her to write to the Protestant Princes of Germany urging them not to withhold their support and favour. But the Queen will not comply; perhaps will not even answer.
Her Majesty at length has signed the pardon for the Earl of Tyrone, leader of the Irish rebellion. She was induced to do so by her own most pressing needs, though she pretends to have taken the step on the earnest prayers and persuasions of the French, who are extremely anxious that Spain should not find the smallest support in Ireland, which lies so near to Britain. It is thought that if the Queen will make up her mind to permit the use of the Catholic religion in private, at least in the province of Ulster, where is the miraculous grotto of St. Patrick, (fn. 6) she will be able to cut down many of her military expenses, leaving only the garrison of Dublin, the capital and metropolis of Ireland, and may save the money which she has been supplying with such difficulty for this war throughout nine ' consecutive years, and which during these last two years, when the Spanish had landed there, amounted to upwards of eight hundred thousand crowns per annum.
The States have applied to the Queen to make a levy of six thousand English troops, to be landed at Flushing in May, found in clothes and arms only, but not in pay for all the period of their service beyond the seas. They insist on their demand, and make promises that this year as far as can be seen at present, they will be able not merely to seize some fortress, but even to conquer any province of Flanders that may suit them. Her Majesty keeps silence on the subject of exacting this year the hundred thousand crowns of annual rate, though she has not settled whether it is to remain due; but for the levy she seems little disposed to satisfy the States, declaring that it will be as much as she can do if she orders the raising of two thousand men, for she wishes, for very deep reasons, though it is hard to understand why, that Flanders should not fall completely, nor indeed alter very much from the state it is at present in. She admits that she is the flame of Flanders, and, with her lively wit, she adds that when the fire finds nothing more to consume, it must consume itself.
The marriage of Lady Arabella is discussed every day with greater freedom, and especially are the minds of the Kings of France and Spain well disposed towards her, for neither one nor the other would willingly see a single sovereign in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
The King of Scotland, as a male and senior to Arabella, has the popular favour, but he lives surrounded by conspiracies, which threaten his death; he has sons however. On the other hand Arabella in second grade, and the Earl of Hertford in third grade of claim, have no taint of rebellion nor aught but schemes for the future against them, and so it would be impossible in the ordinary course to prosecute them. All the same, as the situation is growing more serious, and the Queen's anger is mounting, many people fear that, just as Mary Stuart's first crime was her secret betrothal to the Duke of Norfolk, so the joy of Arabella's ill-matched and unconsummated marriage may be changed into a bloody tragedy.
London, 13th March 1603;
March 15. Original Minutes of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 1155. To Secretary Scaramelli in England.
We are pleased to hear of your arrival; and we promise ourselves fruit from your diligence.
We desire to buy saltpetre. You are to inquire if it can be had there. We authorise you to purchase not merely at the old price of one hundred and twenty ducats the ton (migliaro), but to go even to one hundred and thirty ducats for refined saltpetre, consigned in the Arsenal at Venice.
March 16. Enclosed in Despatch of March IV, from Corfu. Venetian Archives. 1156. Deposition of Nicolo Zuan Caldier, Master and part Owner of the ship “Caldiera” of Amsterdam.
Arrived in port to-day. Left Venice two months ago to bring a cargo of grain from the Archipelago on behalf of Signor Dominico Valle and Bon Leon, solid merchants of Venice; off Cape Malea fell in with an English ship of six hundred tons, very well armed with twenty-four pieces of artillery, called “The Dragon,” of London in England, fully rigged, with the royal arms in gilt on her stern. The captain is an English gentleman, who has a brother in Venice well known to all English merchants there, (fn. 7) although Zuan Caldier does not recall his name. They engaged, but owing to deficiency of men Caldier was forced to surrender; for the Englishman had two hundred fighting men on board, of all nations. The English boarded the “Caldiera” and carried off twenty thousand ducats' worth, between money and goods, intended for the purchase of the cargo of corn, four pieces of artillery of twelve, pikes, harquebuses, powder, and every kind of ammunition. They also made prisoner the ship's carpenter, a Fleming called Petro Ralanz. They then made for the port of Milo, where they found another English ship called the “Fox,” (fn. 8) which was originally conveying the Consul da Mosto from Alexandria to Venice, and is now engaged in buccaneering. On board the “Fox” they put the four pieces of artillery taken from the “Caldiera.” In Milo the crew of the “Fox” took all that remained on board the “Caldiera,” and did much more damage than the “Dragon” had done.
In Milo, the English have houses, are settled there, are popular, and enjoy full liberty of traffic with the inhabitants of the place. Caldier could not find out who was in command of the “Fox.” (fn. 9) It is seven days since he left Milo, nor has he touched anywhere, nor sighted any other ship. The “Dragon” plundered a Venetian ship, (fn. 10) name unknown, in the harbour of Milo, which had a cargo of oil, and other goods from Canea
March 17 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1157. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Landgrave of Hesse has proposed a league between France, England, Denmark, and the Protestant Princes against the House of Austria. The Queen is very eager for it. The Secretary to the French Embassy has left in haste. The Ambassador himself could not go.
Paris, 17th March 1603.
[Italian; deciphered.]
March 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1158. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The people of Geneva have applied to the Queen of England for help; they have obtained a fair answer.
Yesterday evening I received the despatches of the twenty-first, covering a despatch for Scaramelli in England. I sent it on at once.
Paris, 17th March 1603.
March 20. Original Despatch, Venetian, Archives. 1159. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I sought an audience of the Queen in order to conclude the business entrusted to me so that I might return to the feet of your Serenity. Her Majesty caused answer to be made that she desired to discuss pleasant topics only with me, and so, if I were seeking audience on the subject of my mission, she begged me to wait till the Commissioners appointed by her had reported; that this report would soon be presented on the advice of the Privy Council and by her own orders, and if the answer were to my satisfaction there would be no need for further discussion, if not, then I might address any further remarks I might have to make to her in person, for she would listen willingly, in the desire to give every gratification to your Serenity. The cause of the delay in the meeting of the Commissioners is the death last week of the Lord High Admiral's (fn. 11) wife. Apart from her husband's exalted rank she herself was a lady of high consideration and one of the Queen's principal ladies of the bed-chamber. This rank is reckoned so lofty here that they say her funeral is to cost forty thousand crowns. I might also add that the Carnival, which according to the English calendar continued down to the day before yesterday, has delayed the meeting, only here in Court it has not been observed with the usual accompaniment of dances and comedies, for the Queen for many days has never left her chamber. And although they say that the reason for this is her sorrow for the death of the Countess, nevertheless the truer cause is that the business of Lady Arabella has reached such a pitch that the son of the Earl of Hertford, to whom they affirm she is betrothed, has suddenly disappeared and is nowhere to be found, and Arabella for this reason has been removed from the custody of the Countess of Shrewsbury, and taken to the same castle where Queen Mary of England kept her sister, the present Queen, a prisoner, (fn. 12) opposing her right to the succession on the ground of her illegitimacy, and her Calvinism; disabilities subsequently removed by Act of Parliament, upon which Queen Mary, to please Philip II., declared her sister capable of succeeding to the throne.
It is well known that this unexpected event has greatly disturbed the Queen, for she has suddenly withdrawn into herself, she who was wont to live so gaily—specially in these last years of her life, when, as far as health was concerned, her days seemed numerous indeed but not burdensome—and to force herself to throw off all care but that of enjoying life; now she allows grief to overcome her strength, and so anxious is she that rumours of this beginning of troubles should not spread beyond the kingdom, that she forbade either persons or letters to leave any of the ports, although, perceiving that this provision came late and was too violent to secure silence, she subsequently abandoned it. All minds are anxious and the partizans of the King of Scotland, the most powerful party, in order to destroy public sympathy for Arabella, are spreading reports prejudicial to her character as an honest woman both in the past and in the present. (Et li partiali del Rè di Scotia, che sono i più potenti, per levar nell' universale la compassione di Arabella, spargono voci pregiudiciali fino all' honestà sua passata et presente).
I shall, however, do all I can to prevent these public affairs from interfering with the despatch of my particular business, as I have no desire to be a witness of what may shortly happen here.
The Lords of the Council have informed me that they wish that your Serenity should order the payment of Pinder's account, all the more that only five hundred ducats remain to settle it. I the more readily promised to inform your Serenity in order to put an end to certain proposals of sequestration here.
A prize has been brought into Ireland. It consists of two ships bringing gold from Havana. They say the value amounts to a million, and even were it far less, it would be of great service at this juncture; and although this capture has been made by English privateers, the Queen has sent to place all in safe keeping.
The agent of the States of Holland continues to insist on his demand for six thousand infantry, and declares that without this assistance the opportunity offered just now will be lost, and it is such an opportunity as has not presented itself during the last thirty years Some of the Council propose that if Tyrone comes to Court and the expenses of the army in Ireland are reduced, two thousand veterans should be sent from Ireland to Zealand. But the present condition of England will not admit of either design being carried out. Nay the royal galleons and pinnaces (pinazze) which were under sail, and ready to join the Dutch fleet, have received orders not to weigh anchor till further instructions.
London, 20th March 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 20 Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1160. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Some months ago English ships captured a vessel bound from Morocco to Lisbon with a very rich cargo. It was chartered by a Spaniard who has been living in Morocco for many years, not as a foreigner, but as a well-known subject of the King. When the news reached Morocco, the King, instead of making any remonstrance or complaint to the Queen of England, without more ado seized all the goods belonging to English subjects in the kingdom of Morocco, which amounts to a very large sum, and adjudicated it all to himself after deducting the indemnification to the Spaniard, his intimate. When this was known in England the complaints and tears of a large number of English, interested in the matter, brought it about that the Spaniard's goods were all collected and embarked on board a ship chartered on purpose to take them back to Morocco with apologies, and at the entire charges of the Queen, and the commander is ordered to pay the damages if they are demanded.
A short time ago the King of Denmark did much the same, or a little less, when some of his vessels on their way to Spain with hemp and cord, the chief product of his poor kingdom, were captured by the English and their cargoes confiscated as munitions of war, intended for the Spaniards, England's foes; the King sent to demand that the Queen should either restore the goods or buy them if she wished to prevent them reaching the Spanish, and offered to sell her the whole yearly crop grown in Denmark; the Queen refused either to pay or to restore, and the King laid an embargo on all the shipping that passed between England and Dantzig, and seized the merchandise on a legal pretext that the customs had been violated, and he advanced the same plea as the Queen had made use of before, namely that in a suit already decided in the law courts he could not interfere to the damage of the customs officers and other Danish subjects to whom the goods had been adjudicated. This ended in the mission of the English Ambassadors to the conference of Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, about which I have already informed your Serenity.
That conference broke up without coming to any conclusion. On the side of the English force could not succeed as a remedy. The question is urgent ; for both the public and private revenues derive great profit from the export of woollens, tin, lead, &c, from England to Poland and Prussia; and it is obvious that if the English are excluded the Dantzigers will step into this trade, to the serious loss of this nation.
While on this topic I must not omit to say that the English through their rapacity and cruelty have become odious to all nations. With Spain they are at open war and are already plundering her and upsetting the India trade ; they are continually robbing with violence the French, whom they encounter on the long stretches of the open sea. They cannot sail at present to Poland and Prussia, because the Danish Straits are blocked against them. In Germany, at Hamburg, Lubeck, and other ports, for example, they are detested; because the German merchants still claim their ancient privileges of their exchange house in London, of which they were deprived by the Queen a few years ago, merely with the view to foster English and restrict foreign commerce. The Venetians have suffered in the same way. With the Flemish they have little accord on account of the Spanish war, but also for natural reasons; for the Flemish trade in the Levant has grown to such proportions that the English trade is considerably diminished; and the same has taken place between the Flemish and the Venetians; for they are working away to ruin the German Exchange in Venice by opening another route for the import not only of spices but of cotton into Germany; and although the English exaggerate this topic out of rivalry with the Flemish, I nevertheless feel bound to represent these considerations to your Serenity, on account of their great importance. Then inside the Straits of Gibraltar, how can the English be endured, seeing that under the guise of merchants they plunder in the very vitals of foreign dominions all the shipping they find ? On this I need not enlarge further, except to say that in despatches of December last the English Ambassador at Constantinople enclosed a decree passed by the Turks, drawn up by the Mufti on religious grounds at the instance of the French Ambassador, that English vessels shall always render an account of all goods brought and sold in Barbary and elsewhere within Turkish dominions; and the English Ambassador is charged to see the order carried out. This information is extremely disliked.
Hence both those who command, and those who execute here in England, see quite clearly how great, how universal, and how just is the hatred which all nations, nay all peoples we might say, bear to the English, for they are the disturbers of the whole world. And yet with all this they not only do not take any steps to remedy the mischief, but in a certain sense they glory that the English name should become formidable just in this way. For whereas the Kings of England, down to Henry VII. and Henry VIII., were wont to keep up a fleet of one hundred ships in full pay as a defence, now the Queen's ships do not amount to more than fifteen or sixteen, as her revenue cannot support a greater charge; and so the whole of the strength and repute of the nation rests on the vast number of small privateers, which are supported and increase to that dangerous extent which everyone recognises; and to ensure this support, the privateers make the ministers partners in the profits, without the risk of a penny in the fitting out, but only a share in the prizes, which are adjudged by judges placed there by the ministers themselves. To such a state has this unhappy Kingdom come that from a lofty religion has fallen into the abyss of infidelity.
London, 20th March 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 21, Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1161. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador, desiring to show his regret for the excesses committed against the vessel of Consul da Mosto, has declared that he will send his Majordomo direct to England to explain all to the Queen. The captain of an English vessel which has arrived here reports that he reprimanded the buccaneer for these depredations upon which the corsair replied that he would be plundered too if he did not take care. When warned that such actions must be paid for some day, he answered that the Queen was old and must die, if not to-day then to-morrow, and he intended to heap up riches without any fear of consequences.
The real reason for the despatch of the Majordomo is that the Ambassador has heard that more English buccaneers have passed the Straits, and he is afraid if they do some damage to the Turks, as may easily happen, that he will be exposed to some risk in his honour or his life; and so he is asking leave to retire.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 21st March 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1162. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I was right when in my last despatch I said that her Majesty's mind was overwhelmed by a grief greater than she could bear. It reached such a pitch that she passed three days and three nights without sleep and with scarcely any food. Her attention was fixed not only on the affairs of Lady Arabella, who now is, or feigns herself to be, half mad, but also on the pardon which she has given at last to the Earl of Tyrone, leader of the Catholic rebels in Ireland. She fell to considering that the Earl of Essex, who used to be her dear intimate, might have been quite innocent after all; for when he was her general in Ireland he had a meeting with Tyrone, each on horseback on different sides of a river, and he concluded an agreement with Tyrone that was both more advantageous for the kingdom and more honourable for the Queen than the present one. But the Council, condemning the conduct of Essex in coming to England in person to explain his action without leave given, persuaded the Queen to put him in the Tower, whence followed all those events which led to his decapitation on the first day of Lent 1601. So deeply does her Majesty feel this, that on the first day of Lent this year, which in the English calendar was the nineteenth of this month, she recalled the anniversary of so piteous a spectacle and burst into tears and dolorous lamentation, as though for some deadly sin she had committed, and then fell ill of a sickness which the doctors instantly judged to be mortal. The Privy Council was convened in perpetual session at Richmond; the Peers were summoned to Court with all speed, especially the Catholics; and the guards were doubled at the Royal Palace, and the pensioners armed. The town council of London met and took certain steps for the safety of the city, which, as every one knows, is extremely rich, and incredibly unprotected by walls. This perturbation of a population, composed of various religions, and reckoned but little inferior to Paris in numbers, causes an universal dread of dangerous risings; and, although in a single night not less than five hundred vagrants were seized in the taverns and elsewhere, under pretext of sending them to serve the Dutch, and are still kept as a precaution under lock and key on that pretence, and though the same is done every market day, for it is the custom here to press all those who do not pay taxes, and, therefore, have neither property nor profession,—still, the idea that the leaders of factions and of the malcontents may rise, more especially as not a single Catholic has, as yet, obeyed the order to come to Court, a belief that many of the ministers are hated by the people, and above all the question of religion, are considerations to make most men blench.
The Queen's illness is want of sleep, want of appetite, labour of the lungs and heart, cessation of the natural motions, irresponsiveness to remedies. There is but little fever but also little strength; nor are there any good symptoms except that a slight swelling of the glands under the jaw burst of itself, with a discharge of a small amount of matter.
There are rumours of amendment, but the truth hangs in doubt, nor is anything certain save this, that the Queen is seventy-one years old, and this is the first serious illness which she has had in the whole course of her life.
The church called here Puritan, that is Calvinist, the church of the schismatic nations, such as the Waloons, the French, the Flemish, the Low Countries held by the States, and so on, have all received letters from Geneva, to which they are related as daughters to a mother; the English Puritans have petitioned the Queen to assist the people of Geneva; but as all affairs are suspended here, they are making a collection among themselves towards this object, it does not amount in all to six thousand crowns, once for all.
The King of France has been informed by his Ambassador here resident of my audience of the Queen, and of the nature of my mission. His Majesty has instructed his Ambassador to take occasion to say to her Majesty, in his name, that she should not lose any opportunity to give satisfaction to your Serenity, nor give me my leave with my mission unfulfilled. The Ambassador himself told me that he would take a favourable occasion to give effect to these instructions.
Yesterday, through the Ambassador Cavalli, I received with all due reverence your Serenity's despatch of the fifteenth of last month, containing all the instructions you have thought proper to give me, and also your letters to the Queen. Although her Majesty's condition prevents me from executing your orders at present, still, having seen from the reports of Mondino that the commanders of the English ships sent from Zante to follow up the scoundrel William Piers hold it a crime to use force against him, though the matter is so serious and so disliked here, I will take care that, at the first meeting of the Council, which is more sovereign than the Queen herself in such affairs, the most ample patent shall be granted ordering all vessels which touch at your Serenity's ports, to pursue the said Piers as an enemy of her Majesty, and to so deal with all English vessels which shall have inflicted damage on the subjects of the Serene Republic. I will also secure similar orders to all vessels sailing for the Levant in addition to those already issued against those who go privateering inside the Straits of Gibraltar.
I have made inquiries about this Piers, also called Piershal, and about those who are sailing with him. I find he is a young man of twenty or twenty-two years old, not married in England. He is not well off, but his father, who lives near Plymouth, is very rich. His lieutenant is called William Lancester, a man of evil fame and little or no substance. The owners are Thomas Dombel, of Plymouth, an unmarried man of great estate, and Richard Fishborne, also of Plymouth, but not rich. As in these cases the owners are responsible for good or bad results I will do what I can to secure execution against the estates of these persons I have named.
London, 27th March 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 27, Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1163. Giovanni Carlo Scaeamelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The agent of the King of Scotland here resident is living very quietly. His sole object is to conciliate the ministers and other personages towards his master by maintaining the balance between them, so that the favour of the one should not rouse the suspicions of the other. He is now endeavouring to procure that the Council, after the announcement of Lady Arabella's betrothal and the charges against her modesty and the Earl of Hertford's legitimacy, should give leave to carry out the marriage, although contrary to the law of England, which forbids any one of royal blood to contract a marriage, without the royal consent, upon pain of death.
The agent has been to visit me, but with great secrecy; looking carefully round about him so as not to be noticed. He told me that, being fully aware that his master was most favourably disposed towards the Serene Republic, calling it the Splendour of the World, he had come to tell me that his Majesty would be much pleased if by my means your Serenity could be informed that he studies and follows your methods of good government, and is ready to serve you upon all occasions; that he prays God to give him the power to do so, as he hopes that in his needs he may count upon your Serenity's favour and protection.
I returned the compliment in suitable terms, and assured him that your Serenity desired for his Majesty all increase in glory and prosperity, and I said that as far as in you lay your Serenity would always display your hearty affection for the King. I went on with my conversation in order to draw him, out. He said, “the Republic of Venice by her protection has made the King of Navarre the King of France, and this favour she has shown to an ungrateful sovereign, who would not take up arms to help the Republic at her need, or if he did, would do so to the desolation of Italy, and God only knows with what gain to the Republic. Very certain it is that the Republic must have favoured him and wisely, in order that the King of Spain should not outweigh him in the balance of Christendom; but neither then non till now was any other power of account. The time has come, however, to recognise that my master will be, by the grace of God, so powerful that he will form a third among the great princes of the world. He therefore invites the support of the Republic, who may be assured that he will always favour her interests. Nor should the distance between England and Venice be taken into consideration, for powerful princes by the mere indication of their intentions can help a friend; and I am not referring merely to Christendom, but also to the Turk should the Republic ever again be exposed to danger from that quarter.”
I replied in such a manner as to lead him on to further explanations, but could get nothing more out of him, except that he pressed me to say how long I intended to stay here. I told him that if the Queen got better I hope to finish my business in two audiences; that would occupy April and a few days of May. He said, “that is a long time; you may hear great news before that, and, may be, my master will send some one here to communicate a great secret to you.” As regards the object of my mission he professed a profound hatred of the English, and declared that when it came to his master's turn he would put a stop to this general buccaneering. He spoke quite openly and with absolute confidence of his masters succession to the throne, and went the length of saying that there was not a family of any importance wherein, by promises and hopes, he had not won over father, brother, or son. He implored me with tears in his eyes not to let this be known in France, or Spain, or England; I gave him a solemn promise and he took his leave.
From the whole 'of this conversation, which was not short, I do not think I can recover more than that which I have set forth, except that the King of Scotland is extremely anxious, holding that the King of France would not willingly see him King of these three United Kingdoms if he could prevent it; nor should I have gathered so much had not the French Ambassador in discussing this subject frequently remarked that the King of Scotland is young and has sons, and at the very least might acquire the direction of the states of Holland, after his accession to the English throne. He added that France had never had a better way of annoying England than through Scotland, and if the crowns were united that would disappear.
London, 27th March 1603.
[Italian; deciphered.]
March 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1164. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
This day week a courier from England passed through Paris on his way to Metz, where the King is. He brought despatches from M. de Beaumont announcing the serious illness of the Queen. She has had a stroke of apoplexy which deprived her of speech for some time. Other letters confirm the news. No one dares speak of it. After the 19th we have no further news, either because she has recovered, or because no news is allowed to leave the kingdom.
The English Ambassador here has no information. He suspects that it is a rumour issued for a purpose, to induce the King of Spain to send out the five thousand infantry on board the twelve ships which he destined for a landing in Scotland or Ireland. On board that fleet are Sig di Bove (?), and Lord (Conte di) Sempill, who are exiles, one for conspiracy, the other for reasons of state. It is hoped through their influence to effect a rising, although the Queen has a large fleet out. A Jesuit Father has been arrested in England; also the personage with whom he lodged. A priest has been executed (fn. 13) for disobeying the recent order for expulsion.
Lennox, the Ambassador of the King of Scots, and a member of the House of Stuart, told me when he was here that England was so great a kingdom that he feared if the Queen named his master as King the neighbouring Kings would oppose his succession, all the same both here and in England the King of Scotland is universally recognised as heir to the throne. The Queen would not acknowledge him as such in the last Parliament, but steps have been taken so that should she die, the Council can meet in less than three hours and proclaim her successor. She cannot live long, for during the last six months she has been suffering from a catarrh in her chest, and this in addition to her great weakness and her advanced age will not allow her to linger for any length of time.
Paris, 30th March 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1165. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
No further news from England; the ports are closed. So we shall hear at one and the same time the death of the Queen and the succession of the new King, who will most certainly he the King of Scotland. All this may delay the King of France on his journey to Lyons.
Paris, 30th March 1603.


  • 1. John Starkie: Chamberlain writing to Dudley Carleton reports this suicide. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1601–1603, p. 290.
  • 2. Mowbray: cf. Cal. S. P. Dom. loc. cit.
  • 3. The “George.”
  • 4. See “The Sherley brothers,” Roxburgh Club, pp. 42, 43. Thomas Sherley was taken prisoner January 15/25, 1603.
  • 5. Alias “Fox.”
  • 6. Loch Derg. St. Patrick's Purgatory.
  • 7. Perhaps Anthony, one of the Sherley Brothers.
  • 8. Alias “Veniera.”
  • 9. It was william Piers.
  • 10. The “Bersatona.”
  • 11. The Earl of Nottingham.
  • 12. Arabella was removed from Hardwick to Woodstock. Dr. Lingard says to Sheriff Hatton.
  • 13. William Richardson, executed at Tyburn, 16th February, Cf. Calendar of State Papers. Domestic. 1601–1603, pp. 292, 300, 301, 302.