December 1618, 26-31


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'Venice: December 1618, 26-31', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 15: 1617-1619 (1909), pp. 405-422. URL: Date accessed: 22 November 2014.


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December 1618

Dec. 26.
668. ANTONIO DONATO, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the DOGE and SENATE.
The ship which I said had been engaged by some Frenchmen in the name of M. de Manti, has been actually bought by the merchants Franchi who had the money for the purpose. Under the name of some trade with these Frenchmen it has left the Thames and sailed towards Bilbao (Vilpao) a port of Spain, where, they say, it will meet others. The departure of this ship was almost furtive and it took the sea provided with but few sailors and little ordnance. But subsequently the Spanish agent sent a barque after it with twenty pieces and various men, So that the naval preparations of the Spaniards and the operations of Manti in their service are only too clear. This Manti, as I have written, comes from Marseilles, is a servant of the Duke of Guise and a man of note in navigation and similar matters. With the departure of these Frenchmen, although some still remain behind, the design upon Ragusa disappears from my ken; my informant being with the king, so that I cannot see him as I should like. He declares that these ships and the proceedings of Manti are all to disturb the Gulf and further the caprices of Ossuna. At the same time others protest and swear that all the naval forces of the Catholic king are to unite at an early opportunity and to proceed to Algiers with the troops now in the kingdom of Naples and others still, to destroy the nest of the pirates, who have become powerful and with their numerous squadrons not only infest the whole Ocean beyond the Strait, but at the present time command it. The Secretary Lake, who attends to foreign affairs here, has shown me the letters of his Majesty's agent in Spain to this effect. Naunton, the first secretary, gave me the same information by a gentleman of his, adding that if the undertaking succeeded and these seas were cleared the Spaniards could direct their forces elsewhere. I write what I hear in a Court which cares little for the affairs of others and where the Spaniards get what they wish said and believed (Io scrivo quello che intendo in una corte, che poco cura gl'affari altrui et dove Spagnoli fano dire et credere a lor modo).
The commissioners from Holland, impatient for the return of the king, it being uncertain whether he will be back at Christmas, went to Newmarket to see him, being anxious to lay before his Majesty not only the questions about shipping but others also touching the marriage of the prince, whom they do not wish to see joined to a Spaniard. His Majesty receives them and honours them highly, but he will not hear a word about business and refers them to the Council, with whom they must treat. Accordingly the commissioners have returned here and are negotiating with the ministers. The majority of them are so anxious for the union of this kingdom with the Spaniards and are so partial to that side that yesterday I found the commissioners very dissatisfied and doubtful about the issue of their negotiations. In any case they will not give in readily as they are men of great experience, who thoroughly know their own minds, and possess great authority with the General Assembly. They have displayed the most friendly sentiments towards your Excellencies and with every sign of esteem have always expressed a wish for the continuance of a good understanding and a joint working with the most serene republic. They expressed the idea that every peace and assurance from the Spaniards would be useless without defence, and spoke of the means of maintaining it and friendships to give it life. One of them added that these crowns, meaning France and England, no longer think about the troubles of others and that the ideas of both governments are changed.
In this kingdom it is indeed incredible to what an extent they despise foreign affairs, and what a horror and disgust the king has for all business. He remains always far away and entirely taken up with the pleasures of life only and in aggrandising his favourites as much as possible with continual gifts. Thus his affairs are thereby reduced to the utmost penury and the Council is never engaged upon anything except in providing the sustenance and expenses of the royal household and in the payment of the countless debts contracted. One of the reasons why they will arrange the marriage with Spain is in order to obtain money thence, and the pensions which many of the cavaliers about the king promise themselves. The marriage of Savoy will hasten this settlement between the English and the Spaniards sooner than is thought. His Majesty has already sent Sir [John] Digby to the Spanish court, where he has been twice before, and has made him a lord, (fn. 1) promising him more on his return. (Et in questo veramente è impossibile a credere come si sprezzino le cose esterne e qual nausea et abborimento habbia il Re da ogni negotio, standosene sempre lontano, et tutto impiegato al solo piacere della vita et all' aggrandire con quanto può, e continuo donare i suoi favoriti; Per il che non solo le cose sue sono ridotte a strettissimo termine, et il consiglio non travaglia mai in altro che in provedere gli alimenti et le spese della casa Regale, et il pagamento d'infiniti debbiti contratti; ma una delle cause che concluderanno il maritaggio di Spagna sara il cavarne denari, et le pensioni che molti cavalieri assistenti al Re se ne promettono, et il matrimonio di Savoia farà accelerare questa conclusione fra Inglesi e Spagnuoli più presto che non si crede. Et di già Sua Maestà ha spedito il cavalier Digbi Ambasciatore a quella corte, dove fu due altre volte, et lo ha creato Barone con altre promesse al ritorno.)
I think it right to tell your Serenity this that you may know the true state of the government here and how vastly different from the real facts are the ideas formed of it, as certainty in decisions depends upon a true knowledge of things.
Great rejoicings have lately taken place in the city here upon the birth of a third child (fn. 2) to the Count Palatine; there is a strong and influential party in this kingdom favourable to him and there is also the relationship of his wife here.
I have no letters from Venice and I attribute this to the continuance of unfavourable winds.
I send a copy of what M. de Bethune writes to me from France about the strained relations between the two crowns.
London, the 26th December, 1618.
Enclosed in the preceding despatch.669. Copy of letter of M. de Bethune:
With regard to what your Excellency tells me about the ill feeling between these two crowns, or rather between some of their ministers, I can assure you that the intentions on this side are good, and you may announce this everywhere. Accordingly I hope that this cloud of misunderstandings may soon be dissipated and that Gabaleoni, who is taking these presents, will arrange everything. The king is in excellent health and is growing in body and mind and all things in the kingdom are in complete submission, which will cause and preserve a secure peace. But as we possess lively dispositions some small affair takes place daily which causes those who do not see them at close quarters and who do not know to judge otherwise. But you may rest assured that the whole kingdom is in an excellent state. The marriage is far advanced, but some are strongly opposed to it. I think your Excellency will understand me, seeing who has come for it. I will keep you supplied with letters in memory of the time when we enjoyed such confidential relations together in Italy, which I did not have with your successor.
Paris, the 16th December, 1618.
Dec. 27.
670. Whereas Piero Contarini, knight, advises us in his letter of the 1st inst. that on his departure from the embassy of England he received the usual present of 1,500 ounces of silver plate from the king, and as he is to proceed to Spain, where he will have additional expenses; that the said plate be freely released to him as is customary.
Read in the Cabinet on the 28th December.
Dec. 28.
671. The Ambassador of England came into the Cabinet and said:
I intended to come on Monday, but was prevented by a slight indisposition. I now come to wish your Serenity a happy New Year and desire all prosperity for the republic and those who wish it well. I have to report the safe delivery of the princess of Great Britain of a princess, which took place at midday on the 6th inst. I have commission in a letter received last week from Naunton, his Majesty's chief secretary, to say that the king has been entirely satisfied with all the representatives of the republic. He mentions Sig. Contarini in particular and says the king has great expectations of Sig. Donato. I mentioned in my letter to his Majesty that Sig. Foscarini had been restored to liberty and honour and recognised as innocent of the calumnious charges brought against him. The king, who was astonished at his treatment, has been much gratified by this good news. He recognised him as a wise and prudent man when he carried on confidential negotiations with him in England. I am obeying orders, otherwise I should not wish to offend his modesty, as he is present here.
I now ask leave to speak of some of our subjects who are serving your Serenity, Sir [Henry] Luippi (fn. 3) and Henry Mainwaring (Menarin). Your Serenity has accorded many honours to the former here, and I am sure you do not desire his ruin. He has made promises to soldiers in England which cannot now be fulfilled. The fault does not lie with the republic and he is cast upon his own resources. But he made the promises upon the word of the Ambassador Contarini. We build upon the meaning of the contract, of which there can be no better interpreter than the ambassador himself. The knight cannot support the burden himself and some relief must be found for him.
Mainwaring is a cavalier of high nobility. His fame in sea fighting is such that his Majesty restored him to his country, made him his chamberlain, and freely discusses maritime matters with him, for in them, if I may say so, he has no equal. He brings letters from your ambassador and desires to enter your service. He is awaiting your decision.
The doge replied with thanks for the news about the princess, for whom they desired every happiness. They wished his Majesty a happy New Year. With regard to the first named knight, the republic would assuredly fulfil her promises. For the second, every one who comes from that Court is highly esteemed and even if his services are not required he will not be allowed to depart without every mark of honour. The ambassador, after obtaining permission, introduced four English and Scotch cavaliers. When they had been embraced by the doge he took leave and departed.
Dec. 28.
di Stato,
Busta 1213.
No. 49.
672. Captain Baldassare Juven came to the meeting place of the Inquisitors of State to repeat to them by the order of his Serenity, what he had said to him: he stated:
A woman, in whose house I lodge, happened to be speaking of persons who have lodgings without the bulletin of the Officio della Biastema, and said that at the time when the two brothers Boleos were hanged by the feet there were perhaps three hundred foreigners, Flemings, English, Neapolitans, Spaniards, Uscocks, and other nations, all lodged together, without the bulletin, in a house near my lodging, which they said was a house under the protection of the English ambassador. Those who visited them never gave any notice of them to the Officio della Biastema, and that when the said public exhibition of the bodies took place they all departed at once. Among the rest, she said, was the English earl, (fn. 4) who had come to offer troops to the republic; he was lodged in her house and he also left. She knew that some of them proposed to take by stratagem the city, the arsenal and various places and had gone by gondola to Palma with the same intentions. They discussed their plans with each other in the house. The woman said she had known a certain engineer among them who had come from England with a plan for making a fountain in St. Mark's square. She had heard him say at table that he would use this as an excuse for mining under the palace of St. Mark. I remember that she said to me that if her husband, who was an Englishman, had not been dead, he might have incurred the ill luck of those rascals who had been executed. She further said that when these Englishmen and others came here they were ill clothed and poor, but at the time when the conspiracy was being discussed they received money from some quarter, which they at once used to fit themselves out and then they appeared everywhere handsomely and richly attired. The house is still under the protection of the English ambassador and so many foreigners lodge in it that there is hardly any room for them and apparently they are all English. The same woman of the house said, I am told, that now every day English people come to ask her for lodging and try to persuade her to believe that the English ambassador will have her under his protection, because they do not wish to take the bulletin from the Biastema, but she will not take in people without bulletins and she has her house full. More detailed information may be obtained from the woman herself. The affair seemed important to me and I thought proper to report it as soon as possible. The woman's name is Diana Palermitana.
Dec. 29.
Deliberazioni. Venetian Archives.
673. To the Ambassador at Rome.
The French ambassador has been in the Cabinet and said he heard from the archbishop of Lyons, his Most Christian Majesty's agent at Rome that the question of the restitution of ships had been settled and they were only awaiting our ratification, and he had written to that effect to his Majesty. We replied that matters were really very different, as the galleys were unseaworthy and the goods damaged and dispersed by Ossuna. After the opening of the negotiations he had sold the few things that remained so that there should be nothing to restore. They are only practising their usual deceit to give a false impression to the world. We send word of this so that their false reports may not be confirmed by our silence. You may use this information whenever you think our service requires it.
The like to:
Turin.Milan.The Hague.
Dec. 29.
674. ANZOLO CONTARINI, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the DOGE and SENATE.
Wake (Il Vacci), the English agent at Turin, arrived here last week. He is said to be sent by the Duke of Savoy to try to find some means of remedying the ill feeling between the two kings. Here they lay all the blame for this upon Deagem, declaring that that is why he was expelled from the council by order of his Majesty. The agent has called upon the ministers here and has received visits from them, from Luynes in particular. He has left very well content, in good hope of being able to reconcile the two crowns.
Deagem, however, remains excluded from the council. The real reason is said to be because he took too much upon himself, entering upon business and making decisions without consulting Luynes. Deagem's future depends on the Jesuits who are now all powerful in the kingdom.
Paris, the 29th December, 1618.
Dec. 29.
Signori Stati.
675. CHRISTOFFORO SURIAN, Venetian Secretary in the Netherlands, to the DOGE and SENATE.
Baron Christopher von Dohna has passed this way on his journey to England. They say he goes to invite the queen there to the christening of the daughter recently born to the princess at Heidelberg, but that he also has a special commission to recommend to the king the affairs of the Bohemians and stir him to express himself so that he may give heart to other princes. I have seen the baron who denied that he was employed for such a purpose. He is fully informed of the affairs of these parts and especially of the intentions of the princes of the Union. He only stopped one day here, to see Prince Maurice, and proceeded the day before yesterday to Rotterdam, to embark thence for England.
The Hague, the 29th December, 1618.
Dec. 30.
676. RANIER ZEN, Venetian Ambassador in Savoy, to the DOGE and SENATE.
I have received your Serenity's letters of the 19th and 22nd with the enclosures. I will act upon the instructions and do what I can to forward the accommodation between the crowns of France and England, upon which the ministers of his Highness are engaged, and I will inform the French ambassador of what the duke tells me. In this connection I hear that the duke's ministers have already begun to do something, and that the English agent, who was here, on his way through France, saw the cardinal and Verua and was afterwards visited by Bethune and Modene, so they hope for good results, although England seems very hard.
Turin, the 30th December, 1618.
Dec. 31.
di Stato.
Busta 1213.
No. 49.
677. Diana Palermitana, widow of John Bartlett, an Englishman, living at ça Moro at S. Giovanni in Bragora, vendor of tobacco, was summoned and cautioned. Before being questioned, when she mentioned her husband she said: He is dead, thank God. Asked why she spoke thus she said: He was a bad man, a heretic, who believed in nothing. The English ambassador protected him and he lodged Englishmen without paying anything to St. Mark. Sometimes he had as many as twenty in the house and he made me go to the ambassador when one of them was sick, to take care of him. I believe he carried this on for ten years. Two years ago he went out of sport to the wars, and returning sick, he died. Asked if she still lodged foreigners, she said she did not wish to continue her husband's practices, being poor she could not bear the necessary cost. While she was away from the city on business a French captain came to the house. She wished him to obtain a licence and so he did. Many asked her for lodgings, but she did not wish to be bothered with foreigners. Asked where the English lodged who used to come to her husband, she said they go to the house of Sig. Giovanni Battista Bragadino at S. Giovanni in Bragora at la Crosera, a very large house, kept by one John Holland (Gio. Holandese) an Englishman, and his wife Lucretia, who was given for wife by Parvis, the husband of la Gritti who went with an earl to England, the same earl who brought so much gold and came to bring troops; does not know the name (fn. 5) ; thinks the English ambassador spoke for him in the Cabinet, but he was not accepted. He was lodged by Parvis. He left some while since. Thinks it was about the time of the conspiracy or soon after. There were more than twenty with him, who all disappeared; does not know if they went to accompany him or because of the disturbances of the time. They were of various nationalities, Savoyards, French, English and others. When the troubles happened the house of this John Holland was full of foreigners. She saw them all go, at least twenty. Had heard that this John Holland had been in prison at least twice for lodging foreigners without a bulletin, and had got out by the favour of the English ambassador; did not know if those who lodged with him had bulletins. Her husband lodged foreigners without bulletins, no one ever took any; if any official came and the ambassador heard of it, he at once sent his secretary to the place when her husband was cited. Other nationalities besides English came. She had seen many poor and beggars, without enough to pay their debts who afterwards had money and were very well dressed; does not know who supplied them. They have all gone, probably since the late disturbances. Before the conspiracy these English went about seeing the city, taking notes and drawings and said, this is the fortress of the Venetians, but they did not speak of taking it. There were young students among them and in conversation they said that their bertons could do this and that. They had great disputes about Palma and talked of going to see it and who would get there quickest. When they returned they praised the fortress and the country calling it fine; does not think they meant harm. They said, Would to God our king had such fine fortresses in England and such a country. Had heard in the house of the English ambassador of a Scotchman who they said had come with letters from the king to make a fountain in St. Mark's square and do other things and that he could also make clocks, but it was a good while ago, probably three years. He was exceedingly well dressed and made a fine appearance. Rather less than a year ago she had seen him very ill clothed and had heard him complain that the Signory would accept nothing, that he had done great things and could not do greater. In conversation with the captain now lodging with her, who had made her eat with him and given her plenty to drink, he told her that he had done a good service to the Signory and spoke of the matters now in question. She had said that if she were a man she would go and warn the Signory that they would do well to keep a good look out upon these lodging houses. She had also told the captain that John Holland had been to ask her to take four or five English, whom she might have had under the cover of that captain, but she refused. Thinks the request was made three days ago. She told the captain that she did not want merchants to come and lodge with her, but to go to merchants, and the foreigners could go to hostelries.
Admitted and sworn to silence.
Cl. VII.
Bibl. di
S. Marco.
678. Departure of Piero Contarini from England for Spain.
After the choice of his Excellency to be ambassador in ordinary to his Catholic Majesty, he prepared to obey promptly to enter speedily upon his charge. He made arrangements for crossing from Plymouth to Bilbao. But on second thoughts, to avoid the perils of the ocean, especially at the beginning of the winter season, he decided to go to France and take the long journey by land.
The Ambassador Antonio Donato reached London on the 1st November. The usual ceremonies were performed, but Signor Contarini never ceased his preparations for departure. He took leave of the king and prince, receiving from his Majesty the noble present of 1,500 ozs. of gilt plate, wrought into various handsome shapes, as an acknowledgment of the prudent and agreeable manner in which he has discharged his mission. He had sent a good part of his establishment by ships to Dieppe and on Friday the 30th November, St. Andrews day, heard mass very early, and at the 11th hour, after a sumptuous dinner, he entered his carriage with Sig. Donato and escorted by a number of Italian gentlemen proceeded to a distance of two miles beyond London. Here they embraced and parted, praying the Lord God to grant success to their missions. We then rode twelve miles at a stretch, as far as Dartford, and after changing horses we proceeded to Rochester, arriving at the second hour of the night. The place is remarkable for its river, where the king keeps his ships of war and some old hulls of gallies taken from the Spaniards by Queen Elizabeth.
On Saturday, the 1st December, we mounted horse at sunrise. The saddles were so small and narrow that it was impossible for some of the party to avoid loss of leather. We reached Sittingbourne for breakfast and then proceeded to Canterbury, a metropolitan city celebrated, if for nothing else, for the martyrdom of the sainted Archbishop Thomas. We saw his desecrated church. The choir is closed as a source of emolument to its keepers from the curiosity of strangers. By the third post of 11 miles we reached the port of Dover at sunset. On that same Saturday night the ships left with a fair wind for Dieppe. We paid 60 broad crowns for freight and passage. We lay at Dover that night and on Sunday the 2nd procured a ship for the passage. The rascally sailors demanded thrice the usual fare, namely, 30 crowns, saying they profited by the chance of conveying ambassadors. Late in the day the mayor of the place with some gownsmen came to compliment his Excellency. After supper at about the 11th hour we embarked, hoping for a fair wind and to make straight for Dieppe. But the tide drifted us back after we had set sail, just as the magnet does iron, entitling us to say that the enchanted isle forbad our departure. It was not until a short while before daybreak that we began to make way with a northerly wind. At about the 11th hour on Monday, the 3rd, we entered Boulogne harbour with the flood tide, congratulating ourselves on the change in our destination being no worse.
Bibl. di S.
Cl. VII.
679. Relation of England of Piero Contarini, Venetian Ambassador. (fn. 6)
On my return from England I have to report the things most worthy of notice and most necessary to be known in these times, when the forces, wishes, interests and friendships of princes ought to be studied with the utmost diligence, so that decisions may not be built upon ill-conceived foundations. I will begin by touching briefly upon the power and wealth of Great Britain, for such is the name of the whole island since the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland, its trade and commerce, its security, the methods and difficulties of the king in obtaining ways and means of carrying out matters of importance. In the second place I will say something about the various sects which divide the people and to some extent diminish their loyalty to their sovereign, making him less certain of their fidelity and of his life, as he has frequently been in peril from some insidious plot or wicked conspiracy. Finally I will add some personal particulars about his Majesty and his house, with the usual remarks upon his relations with the other princes of Christendom, as briefly as is consistent with my respect and with the necessity caused by the important occupations of the Senate.
His Majesty possesses three kingdoms, England, Scotland and Ireland, while he still clings to the title of King of France owing to the great acquisitions which the English made there in former times. Ireland is an island separated by an arm of stormy sea from Scotland and England. Although the people are mostly Catholics, the king does not afford them the free exercise of their religion. (fn. 7) It is mostly uncultivated, sparsely inhabited by a rude race, and from this part the king does not derive great profit. Scotland is adjacent to England, the two forming one island called Britain from which the present king takes his title, assumed as soon as he mounted the throne. When they were not united under the same ruler they waged prolonged and bitter wars, the people being filled with mutual hatred of each other and great slaughter and burning taking place. Now, although they are at peace, the ill-feeling continues, and the flames which seemed to be extinguished by the union break out in their hearts with continual signs of hatred and ill-will. The present king is working hard to bring them all under the same laws, in order to facilitate the union. Last year he travelled to Scotland, summoned a parliament and endeavoured to introduce measures to pave the way for this. But he accomplished nothing and left in disgust.
I can say but little of Scotland. It is a large country full of steep mountains and barbarous people, and with the exception of various metal mines and an abundance of cattle, (fn. 8) it produces little of any worth.
England on the other hand is a most beautiful country irrigated by noble rivers, fertile, abundant, producing quantities of grain, fruits and animals. It lacks only wine and oil, as do the other two kingdoms. They grow there but do not ripen, the sun not possessing enough power there to bring them to perfection. They are not without wine, however, which reaches them from France, Spain and the Canaries and it is even improved by the voyage; but the common people and nearly everybody drink beer.
The whole country is well populated. The men make good soldiers but at sea they surpass all other nations. They are enterprising and intelligent and they venture boldly into the most difficult and unknown places. In this way they have greatly enriched themselves in spite of the nearness of the Dutch, who since the truce with the Spaniards have so increased their trade and shipping that they seem to have made a monopoly for themselves and to have become sole masters of the sea. Yet the English trade in all parts of the world with large capital and give way to them in nothing. The English claim the Dutch as their pupils and indeed in battle they are considered the braver. The Dutch seem to excel in navigating and this is attributed to their lighter ships, which are not so strong and good as the English.
The most important trade route of the English is that of the East Indies, for which there is a company in London very well managed. For this they have forty-five fine galleons, of more than 2,000 butts each, built for war, and so well constructed and armed as to cause amazement. They usually make the return voyage in the third year, taking all the provisions they need for the 200 men carried by each ship. From the Indies they generally bring pepper, cloves, indigo and silk, things which previously came to Venice and were distributed thence through High and Low Germany, France and England, but now with this new navigation the Dutch and English have absorbed all this trade. From England (fn. 9) they take away gold and silver. Thus this trade is not of great use to the kingdom, as although some individuals make large profits, they introduce into England things which are not necessary to them and many men are lost on the long voyages. The company has a capital of 6½ millions. Another company trades in the East, in Syria, (fn. 10) Constantinople, Zante and Venice. Only ships of this company are allowed to bring goods from those places to London, and there being no competition they make their own prices for the goods they bring, such as the raisins from Zante, whence they bring many ship loads every year. If Venetian ships went there as they used to do, they might easily enjoy the same advantages. There are other companies as well trading in various parts, and this way of trading by companies is considered very advantageous to commerce. There are innumerable ships which are constantly going and coming to France, Spain and Barbary with goods. They make a great quantity of cloth and export it to various parts of the world and so they do with lead and tin which they extract from numerous mines in great quantities, while they have extensive fishing industries and send more than forty ships a year with fish to various countries, bringing a quantity of money to the kingdom. But nothing is thought to have enriched the English more or done so much to allow many individuals to amass the wealth they are known to possess as the wars with the Spaniards in the time of Queen Elizabeth. All were permitted to go privateering and they plundered not only the Spaniards but all others indifferently, so that they enriched themselves by this constant stream of booty. Accordingly, nothing was more unpopular with the English than the peace with the Catholic king, and they desire nothing better than a return to war so that they may enjoy the liberty from which they profited so much before.
The realms and states of his Majesty are not protected by fortresses or garrisons, since none is maintained anywhere. The sea surrounds them and affords a far better protection than any other defence that art or industry could provide. It is often so stormy and the tides and currents are so strong that they put even the experienced in danger, as there are great sand banks which vary from time to time in all the ports so that if ships run upon them they are utterly lost. Thus if a fleet wished to make an attack they would find it a difficult task to keep in safety and they would first need an experience in the storms of those seas. A great army would also be necessary and the transportation of this would prove most difficult, while it would be easy to prevent them from landing. Thus the English have seldom been called upon to defend themselves, and if any one has ever felt ambitious to take the country he has been defeated with but slight effort before getting there. This happened to Philip II when he tried to conquer the country with a powerful fleet, which after suffering from the rough seas had at length to take to flight in very undignified fashion.
The king has many very fine galleons which would always serve with the others of the kingdom to form a large and powerful fleet, with which he could meet anyone else, make diversions and secure his own states. Of these he only keeps six armed. These remain at sea and some are generally cruising between Calais and Dover, and the others towards Scotland. Although all the others are disarmed and they pay but little attention to their preservation, yet if his Majesty wished it would always be easy to have them ready in a short time, because the artillery, armaments and all other necessaries are all there.
One of the readiest and safest ways of defence to keep enemies away from the kingdom and to inflict harm upon them is to permit the people to go privateering. This takes place without the crown being in any way involved and gives great satisfaction to the people. The Spaniards suffer more than any others and receive incalculable damage.
From these states the king's ordinary revenue amounts to about three millions of gold, a large proportion of which is pledged to pay the interest on his debts. He spends the remainder with great liberality, as his Majesty never tires of giving and enormously enriches first one and then another so that it would be very difficult to give an idea of the treasures distributed since his accession to the English throne. I need only say that in a single day he gave away all the jewels of Queen Elizabeth, of the highest value, and all the others belonging to the crown, of incalculable value, and in a few days later he had given away all the money, household goods and clothing of that great sovereign. If he does not keep giving it is because he has no more, so it frequently happens that great difficulties are encountered in maintaining the households of himself, the queen and the prince, as each of them maintains a countless number of persons and officials, who are kept and fed and also greatly enrich themselves since there are no bounds to the rapacity of those who wish to profit by the necessities of the court to increase their own fortunes. Thus, although they have no forts or armaments to keep up, and pay no soldiers, yet every year they make fresh inroads upon the revenue and the debts constantly increase. At present their limits of expenditure are so narrow that no decision of importance can be embraced, useful things are abandoned, the daily needs are in extreme difficulty and everything is languishing for lack of money. This is the reason why the promises made and published to all the world to help the Duke of Savoy actively if the Spaniards did not respect the treaty of Asti, could not be fulfilled, and the same thing happened with the declaration in favour of Brandenburg, which had no results, the sending of ambassadors and ministers proving useless.
Although the king is free and absolute lord of his states, yet he is bound by the laws and the parliaments possess great authority and moderate, oppose and dispute his decisions. In the past they have even deposed kings. If his Majesty desires to obtain money from his subjects he cannot have it by any other means than by summoning a parliament, informing it of his necessities and the reasons for calling it. To summon it involves great difficulties and there is no certainty of being able to obtain what is wanted except in some restricted form. Moreover, owing to the discontent among the people and the dissatisfaction of the nobility, of which I shall speak elsewhere, circumstances prejudicial to the king's authority and wishes may be feared. Thus, although the necessities are pressing and urgent, yet they would rather bear this and leave aside any decision in favour of those who ask for help, although so often promised, than expose themselves to the danger of some rebuff. This ends the first chapter.
From the divorce of Henry VIII began the breaking away of religion in England. That king, originally a Catholic, earned the title of Defender of the Faith by an excellent book against the false doctrines of Luther, who lived in those times. He had seven (sic) wives; the first being Catherine of Austria, niece of Charles V, who first was wife of his brother and whom he took by papal dispensation. Growing tired of her, because he had no male issue and because of his infatuation for Anne Boleyn, he began proceedings for a divorce, which dragged on a long while. When the king perceived that Pope Clement VII was delaying a decision, in hopes that time might change Henry's mind, or out of fear of Charles V, he grew impatient and summoned all the most notable and learned churchmen in England, a majority of whom declared the marriage invalid. From this arose the disputes and dissatisfaction and disobedience to the Holy See. There were not wanting theologians at that time who wrote defending the king's action, asserting that the pope could not dispense the first marriage, and as that was invalid the king could marry as he pleased. In these works they began to deal with the papal authority, went on to deny it and finally came to contemn it universally. The king being completely alienated from the Roman church made himself the head of the church in his own states. For the rest the practice of the Catholic religion continued. The people always fond of something new and willing to imitate and follow their sovereign, readily embraced these errors, which were fostered with that fervor and diligence which are usually noticeable at the beginning of anything new, and speedily made remarkable progress in heresy. Edward VI, the son of Jane Seymour, succeeded Henry. Although he did not live long, yet being brought up in the same ideas he did even worse than his father. He thoroughly changed the religion, which while not the same as Calvinism only differs from it in constituting the sovereign head, in retaining the use of noteworthy feasts, in making vigils, in vestments for the priests, and in organs, things which the Calvinists do not receive. Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon succeeded and married Philip II, king of Spain. Not only was she a Catholic but during her reign she did everything in her power to root heresy out of her states. But the field had been sown with evil fruit and the roots proved too strong. She died without issue and Elizabeth daughter of Henry and of Anne Boleyn came to the throne. She reigned 44 years and showed remarkable ability and courage. She not only surpassed her condition as a woman, but by heroic struggles and wars with the most powerful kings in the world, she showed them the strength of the forces of England, guided by her prudence alone; although that virtue is rarely perfect in her sex, yet she possessed it in a remarkable degree. She persecuted the Catholics severely, putting many to death and leaving no means untried to drive them from the kingdom. After that, in the absence of descendants to Charles, (fn. 11) the present king James assumed the throne. At first he showed himself less hostile to the Catholics than the late queen, but the perils in which he was constantly involved by the diabolical plots of wicked men, who under the cloak of religion induced simple and ignorant people to detestable excesses and to infamous conspiracies against his person, of which God showed His disapproval by so often preserving him, made him hostile to the Catholics for some while, and many suffered death. This, however, did not diminish their numbers, which increased on the other hand, others becoming converted. Now they adopt another plan, sparing their lives and attacking their property, laying heavy impositions upon them and excluding them from all offices. They are unfavourably looked upon and suffer continual persecution, so that many, in order to escape extermination remain secretly good Catholics but accommodate themselves to necessity. The number of these is much larger than of those who openly declare themselves. Those who are called recusants are in the worst condition of all, as they will not take the oath imposed by the king that he is supreme in his kingdom to any one soever even in ecclesiastical matters. This renders them suspect and contumacious and consequently they are the most afflicted and persecuted.
As one evil gives rise to many and a thousand grow from one it is no wonder that fresh religious differences have arisen, not only among the Catholics, but between the heretics themselves. Some are Puritans, that is followers of the pure doctrine of Calvin, and these the king also has in abhorrence, because the religion of England differs in the particulars given above. This difference in religion greatly diminishes the loyalty and affection of the people, and what one party leans to the other opposes and the king will never be able to guide them all to the same goal, and in disputes he must always fear that one party will oppose and they will always be joined by the malcontents, those anxious for change and those who claim the crown, who covering their ambitious ends under the cloak of religion, a shield which they consider lawful in their projects against the authority and safety of the king, show themselves opposed to him. These perils have to be considered in all states but in England more than anywhere else because the parties are powerful, the people easy, and bold and external fomentation continuous, persistent and great, because not a year passes but the Spaniards devote large sums of money to win over and bind men, not only among the leading people but even in the masses. Their apparent anxiety to relieve the woes of the oppressed Catholics serves their purpose admirably in making notable progress to that end, and they hope to win the affection and dependence of many, especially those whom they hope to use when the opportunity comes. They are very popular among the Catholics and their corruption has gone so far that no remedy, however great, could touch it unless too late.
Finally I did not observe among the people that approbation of or among the nobility that devotion to the king that should exist, nor that general content. One hears the past highly praised and the worthy actions of their predecessors. I have heard great lords deplore the present state of affairs with bitter tears and complain that England, which once stood high in the world, whose name and power were feared by her enemies and esteemed by her friends, had now forgotten her past glories and almost fallen into oblivion of herself neglecting not only the interests of others but her own also.
The king likewise seems dissatisfied with his people, stays as little as possible in London, never shows himself in the city, and in entering and leaving always takes the least frequented routes. He rarely hears the petitions of private individuals, and even these impatiently. In short in all his actions he does not conceal his dislike. The inconveniences of his constant journeys inflict an intolerable burden upon the country, which has to provide carts and carriages for all the necessities of the court, which being numerous, amount to a great deal. The nobility is exhausted by constantly following the king about, and is discontented. Your Serenity may judge what evil results can accrue from such causes, which you will understand far better than I can express them. (fn. 12)
To pass to the last part of my subject. The king is [fifty-two] (fn. 13) years of age, of good and healthy complexion though he is beginning to turn white. He is somewhat heavy in person. He labours willingly and constantly at the chase (fn. 14) which he enjoys at all times and seasons. He escapes as far as possible from serious business, avoids difficult affairs and listens to troublesome news with impatience. He possesses very worthy qualities, loves justice above all things and desires it to prevail throughout his dominions, and he will not allow favours and privileges to stand in its way. He is very liberal, giving away all that he has. The greatness of his noble soul displays itself in his joyful, free and sincere nature, while he loves letters and knows about everything.
The queen is sister of the King of Denmark, a lady of great goodness and virtue. She is unhappy because the king rarely sees her and many years have passed since he saw much of her. She possesses little authority in the court and cannot influence the king's favour. Some consider her a Catholic because she would never go to the English church, but really her religion is not known. Their Majesties had three children. Prince Henry, who died aged ... Even to-day the English speak with feeling about his vivacity and spirit. They consider that they lost a prince of great promise of whom great things were expected. His proceedings did not wholly please the king, who was vexed at his popularity with the nobility and every one. Although reports were circulated that his death was secretly hastened the truth is that he became overheated at tennis and was carried off by fever in a few days.
The second child is the Princess Mary, (fn. 15) married to the Palatine. She has two sons who are declared capable of inheriting the kingdom in succession to the prince.
The prince is of excellent character, placid and well educated. He is very dear to his father, whom he imitates as much as possible, even in his love of the chase. Your Serenity has heard so much about his marriage from my letters that I need add but little. The long drawn out affair with Spain has always encountered great difficulties. There are so many things to consider, for instance, religion; its general unpopularity among the people, for with the exception of the Catholics all detest it. The people would grant as much money as they would have as dower from Spain if the prince would marry elsewhere. Although the Spaniards keep alive the negotiations they do so for political reasons because the truce with the Dutch will shortly expire, and they seem anxious to end it.
With regard to his Majesty's relations with foreign states, in Italy he does not enjoy close friendship with any one except your Serenity and the Duke of Savoy. During the last disturbances he was always sending ministers there and always showed the greatest friendliness, intending not only to declare in his favour against the Spaniards, but promising him help. There is mortal hatred against the pope on the score of religion, and anyone who opposes the apostolic see can always count upon help from England. In their theatres and public comedies they constantly speak of the papacy with contempt and derision, and they never lose an opportunity of speaking slanderously about it. With the other princes of Italy they have no relations.
To our republic the king has shown the greatest affection and esteem, and there is no cause for rivalry. It may be hoped that he will always be ready to defend her, although by nature he is strongly inclined to peace, while at present he has no means to make war. I cannot assure your Excellencies of obtaining any special help or even a declaration such as his Majesty has often made, although it would be easy to obtain troops and even entire armies, as well as ships and sailors, things of no small moment; and perhaps these are most necessary to the defence of our state. I believe a good understanding with England to be as useful to us as one with any other power soever, and I think everything done to increase it to be most beneficial to your Serenity's service. The defence of the republic depends mainly upon maritime forces, and with them also it can best create powerful diversions. What country can better supply them than England, as the king can easily intervene with thirty or forty excellent ships, and England will never lack countless individuals and entire companies who will undertake the work at their own cost, provided they receive the gains from the prizes. England can divert danger from Italy and keep the Spaniards busy by harassing and sacking the coasts of Portugal and Spain, trouble their shipping, plunder their ships, fight their fleets, since the hope of gain so impels the English that it renders them bold and resolute, so that they are not afraid of confronting the Spanish fleets with half their strength. All the forces of the Spaniards beyond the strait and the whole forces of the country itself could not suffice for defence alone, and they would not only be unable to send ships to Italy but would have to recall those there. I will say more; even if his Majesty does not declare himself, but tacitly allows individuals to act the same results will follow. Thus if patents were issued and the privateers could have a safe place of the republic to sell their prizes taken from the Spaniards multitudes would come to offer themselves, and if the fleet of the King of England should join that of the republic, both together would be invincible. If his Majesty induced Holland to join no power in Europe, nay not all the fleets united would suffice to defeat them. These considerations make me think a good understanding with that crown very profitable.
His Majesty enjoys good relations with the Spaniards and they will be better if the marriage takes place. However, disputes very frequently arise owing to the plundering done by the English ships in the Indies, but these differences are soon adjusted by the good offices of ministers and ambassadors. The people cannot bear the name of Spaniard and is ill disposed to them, though the Catholics greatly incline that way and love them. Their relations with France are much the same as owing to the very great wars which have taken place between them, the people still keep up the same ill feeling. (fn. 16) In my time the French ambassador left the court because he was not invited to a masque attended by the Spanish ambassador, so that at present they have no ambassadors on either side.* And the friendship between these two great powers is frequently crossed by reason of ships, of fishing, of suspicion that the King of England is intriguing with the Huguenots of France or has shown great partiality to the Prince of Condé and other matters still. But these feelings are diminished or increased according to the state of the relations between the English and the Spaniards, as the more they approach the one the further off they sheer from the other, and it is impossible to form a judgment at present amid so many variations and changes.
At Constantinople his Majesty keeps an ambassador who is a merchant and is maintained by the merchants. This is simply for trade, but that is not so considerable as to prevent them from taking wholesome decisions against the Turks upon occasion. They have frequently said that if the other powers of Christendom would do their duty against the common enemy England would not be among the last to take her share. The late Emperor Rudolph asked them for help against the Turks, but they refused because they saw no firm resolution in him to make war with sufficient force to destroy the Turks, or to give some hope of notable service to Christendom.


1 Created Baron Digby of Sherbourne on 25 Nov. old style. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611–1618 p. 597.
2 A daughter, Elizabeth, born on Dec. 16, 1618.
3 Sir Henry Peyton must be meant.
4 The Earl of Oxford.
5 The Earl of Oxford.
6 This does not appear among the collection of Relazioni in the Archives, and as Contarini proceeded straight to Spain it probably was not read to the Senate. It is undated but almost certainly written at the end of the year 1618. The text given here is derived from two MSS. in the Contarini collection at the Marciana, one of which is a mere draft with erasures and corrections, the other containing only about one half of the matter, being a fair copy. The text has been printed by Barozzi and Berchet in their Relazioni, Inghilterra, pages 197–210, referred to below as the printed text. If this Relation had been read in the Senate or sent to them like an ordinary despatch as Barozzi and Berchet surmise, we should expect to find it with the official documents at the Frari instead of among the private papers of the Contarini family.
7 Se havessero l'uso libero della religione sarebbero tutti cattolici in the margin and deleted.
8 Abondanza d'animali; the printed text reads Abbondanza d'acciaio.
9 Inghilterra; the printed text reads India.
10 Soria; the printed text reads Scizia.
11 Mancando la discendenca di Carlo, Henry VIII must be meant.
12 The fair copy of the MS. ends here, the remainder of the text being taken from the rough draft.
13 The text omits the figures.
14 travaglia volentiere et continuamente alla cazia; the printed text reads travaglia a stento, e continuamente alla caccia.
15 Elizabeth; in the MS. a blank space had been left over which Maria is written, though apparently by the same hand.
16 The passage between asterisks does not occur in the printed text.