78. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to
the Doge and Senate.
The energy of parliament has been occupied these last days
and still is with the trial of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which
they expect to finish next week. Their object is to refresh the
memory of the people about past grievances received from the king
through this minister and by irritating them against the late government
and the better secure their submission to the present. By
such inventions they have no difficulty in justifying and practising
any act of tyranny to the invincible ignorance of the people here.
With the same object of delighting simple zealots, after the banquet
given by the city to parliament, that body had solemnly burned
by the common hangman, in a public place, many images of the
Madonna and Saints with offices and other Catholic books found
in private houses.
The severity of the weather, which still continues, has afforded
the armies few opportunities for action. The king sent some
companies of horse to surprise Alsberi, but that done they retired
to Reading. Alarmed by this Essex has recalled some troops
from Waller's army to reinforce his own, and for the same
purpose they are making a great press of soldiers in this city
The town of Gloucester, which occupied the royal forces after
the capture of Bristol, without success, and which prevented
a decision of this dispute in his Majesty's favour, is now in dire
straits, although not besieged, as it is cut off not only from the
food of the country, but from the succour coming from here.
Last Monday the parliament at Oxford was opened, about 200
lords and commons attending. The king made a long speech
in which he informed them of all his proceedings since the beginning
of these affairs, and of the ill treatment received from the rebels of
parliament, the title he gives to the parliamentarians of London.
He stated that as he had passed an act to summon parliament every
three years, the time prescribed had arrived, and circumstances
required it to prevent the progress of foreign armies in the kingdom.
He asked them to help him with their advice in this affair. Their
answer is not yet known, but it is probable that everyone will support
the idea, although it is opposed by another act also signed by his
Majesty, though through violence, not to dissolve the present parliament
without the consent of the two Houses. Accordingly it is
hoped here that divisions will arise, but if force can uphold obstinacy
in this parliament it may equally unite opinion in the other.
The brother of the Duke of Hamilton has arrived here, having
escaped from his guards by a stratagem. He is a prisoner here
also, and they will send to Scotland for him to be adjudged by the
peers of that nation, in conformity with the agreement between
the two countries.
Reports persist of the entry of the Scots into this kingdom,
but they are due to the wish rather than the fact, since there is
no definite news, but there are signs instead of fresh demands for
money. In spite of the misfortune of being disloyally served by
his party in that kingdom, the king hopes that the resistance offered
will suffice, as the Marquis of Newcastle has sent a large corps to
make sure of the hill which dominates Newcastle, while he has his
power at York (trattenendosi egli poderoso a Yorch). The border
counties have also associated themselves and promise to place every
third man at the king's disposal. This is especially due to their
natural antipathy to the Scots.
The French ambassador returned from Oxford yesterday evening.
He has taken leave of the king, but in spite of this they say he
may remain some days to watch the proceedings of the Dutch ambassadors.
This does not please parliament, which has lost its confidence
in him, although they do not want him to go away utterly offended.
Before he came he answered the two letters of the presidents of the
Houses, treating them equally, French fashion, without naming the
presidents. They did not like this, although the letter was quite
modest, thanking them too for the respect shown to his private letters,
and apologising for Cressi, because the letters of the Ambassador
Gorin had been put in his packet by his wife, without his knowledge.
Cressi himself offers the same excuse in his letters to various members
of parliament, and announces that in obedience to the commands
of his mistress, he is to remain with the title of Agent. This does
not please them and might lead to trouble for him personally, and
affronts to France, which, apart from its own advantage, shows little
inclination to interfere seriously in these affairs. Owing to these
suspicions the ports have been closed these last days and many letters
stopped, both coming and going. If my information is true mine
have escaped, but I am taking every precaution.
The herald and gentleman sent by the Dutch ambassadors to
Oxford has returned bringing the king's permission for them to go.
This demand, contrary to the practice of the other ambassdors, which
points to the fear that they will not be well received, seeing the queen's
protest about their departure, has caused me to delay visiting them,
though I shall do so on their return, with an adequate excuse. Parliament
hopes by this means to make a close alliance with the States.
But their rigid reserve is noted with astonishment and suspicion,
as they are paying no visits before they see the king, a thing that was
not observed by the Ambassador Harcourt.
London, the 5th February, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
79. Francesco Contarini, Venetian Proveditore of Cephalonia,
to the Doge and Denate.
Measures taken to prevent smuggling by the English ship
Golden Falcon. Received news on the 4th September that it was
going to the Morea to lade currants. Note from the ducal
missives of the 24th October, received on the 17th December that
two barques were observed taking currants to the Golden Lion,
which is the same as the Golden Falcon. This is not to be
wondered at as the island is large and the armed barques were not
able to approach the ship, which has not allowed them to come near
and which remained all night at sea. It is difficult and almost
impossible to carry out the wishes of the state. Observes that
the people here offer a strong resistance to the forces of the law.
From what he understands they keep hidden breaches of this
character and crimes, especially since the difficulty of disposing
of currants, both because of the profits to be gained and from fear
of the delinquents themselves.
Cephalonia, the 26th January, 1644, old style.
80. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England,
to the Doge and Senate.
Not finding any crimes against the Archbishop of Canterbury
which would justify a sentence of death, which they desire to please
the people, they have put off the matter to another opportunity,
especially as affairs of greater importance have cropped up. All
the commanders by land and sea are here to arrange about the
maintenance of their forces and their employment in the approaching
season. With this opportunity and enquiring into past incidents,
Essex has accused of negligence some members of parliament who
held office, and suggested the nomination of commissioners to visit
his army and give an account to parliament of its condition. For
this reason and because of the friction which still continues between
him and Waller, he offered to resign the generalship. But this was
not accepted, and the question was calmed down.
The Admiral Warwick has shown letters from the governor
of the Isle of Wight, (fn. 1) who fears attack from the new association
between the counties of Devon and Cornwall, and asks that his
garrisons may be strengthened and ships sent. This was decided
at once and the orders given to Warwick.
While the generals are consulting here news comes of a defeat
inflicted by the united forces of Bruerton and Fairfax upon Biron
and his Irish near Nantwich, capturing his guns baggage and a
considerable number of prisoners, both men and officers. (fn. 2) At the
same time letters have arrived from Scotland, and three plenipotentiaries,
a fourth being on the road, (fn. 3) † with the news that they
have issued a declaration with the assurance that their forces
are only coming to bring peace, unite the churches and deliver
the king from evil councillors. They protest that they will be
ready to go away whenever the English, their allies, desire.
Finally a part of the army has advanced 20 miles into England
from Berwick. The commander of the king in the four border
counties, (fn. 4) had the news from a herald, sent by the Scottish
commander. In consultation with the gentlemen of those counties
he suggested defending themselves, burning the country
or retiring. The first was found difficult owing to superior forces.
To the second some objected, so they decided on the third. When
the Marquis of Newcastle heard this he sent orders to resist,
promising that he would march to their assistance. There is no
news of the issue yet, but their spirits at Court are somewhat cast
On Tuesday evening a herald arrived here from Oxford, and
was taken to parliament with his eyes bandaged. He delivered
a letter from the assembly there, signed by the princes and by
about 200 others of the lords and commons, directed to General
Essex. They urge him to prevent the imminent dangers to the
kingdom from the entry of new armies, and to try for a satisfactory
settlement, for which they offer their most earnest
endeavour. He had the letter read to parliament, and they chose
commissioners to draw up the reply for him. It was decided
that they should merely acknowledge the receipt, and enclose a
copy of the league or covenant with the Scots together with a
declaration of the two nations that those who choose to swear
to it shall be received into favour in both, with some moderate
punishment in their goods which shall be considered proportionable
to their previous disobedience. For this they have appointed
commissioners and fixed the 1st March old style. But they
exclude the Catholics who have taken arms for the king and
leave little hope for his Majesty's chief councillors.
Parliament is offended because the letter was directed to the
general as they know quite well that this was done in order not to
recognise the assembly as a parliament. To enhance its own importance
and in contempt of the other, it has issued writs under the new
great seal for elections in place of the dead. To win over the more
obstinate sectaries who claim to be independent of synods and of
every ecclesiastical hierarchy, the king has written to some of the
ministers of this faction in the synod that he will permit full liberty
of conscience ; his object being to prevent the uniformity of religion
desired by the Scots. But the device has not produced the effect
intended, since the ministers have shown the letters to parliament.
And so through ill fortune or by the disloyalty of those who serve him,
most of the royal attempts end in failure.
Reports are constantly circulating here of the queen going to
France, to Bristol or to Ireland, but no decision has yet been
taken. It is to be feared that amid so many hostile forces
Oxford will not be a safe abode for her.
The French ambassador, having taken leave and received a
bracelet (armacello) of diamonds, talks of hastening away, but
he keeps putting it off, although viewed with suspicion, to hear the
final decision from a courier whom he sent to France about the
seizure of more packets despatched from Oxford and taken at Dover,
which were opened without any respect and not even given back,
being the more suspicious because they were in cipher. Meanwhile
he is watching the proceedings of the Dutch ambassadors, who
have received letters from the secretary of state with permission
to go, but asking them to send couriers to prepare quarters,
which means that they will not be defrayed, like Harcourt.
They have received a passport from this side also, but not free,
as they asked, a clear indication that their caution and preciseness
with his Majesty are not liked, the more so because parliament is
informed that there is a suspected Irishman in their suite, and they
have sent commissioners to the ambassadors' house to examine him. (fn. 5)
Trouble has arisen about exchanging visits with the French
ambassador. They sent to say they would be pleased to see him
if they were assured of the right hand and the title of
"Excellency." He replied that while he would show them every
courtesy it was not for him to accord anything. So relations are
broken off between them for the time.
As regards Mr. Talbot's office I can assure your Serenity that
the king cherishes the kindest feelings towards the Italian league
and to the most serene republic in particular, to which he considers
himself especially indebted for the sympathy shown to him in his
troubles and for the care shown by your ministers to avoid prejudicing
him, but that levies should be offered by his order is incompatible
with the lack of infantry in particular which he himself experiences
and it will be absolutely impossible to obtain any from these three
kingdoms so long as the present trouble endure. However, I
have written to the deputy of the secretary of state under a
suitable pretext, in order to fulfil your instructions.
The results of my efforts about the currants are already appearing
at Bristol and here as you will have seen from my previous
despatches and I have no doubt that this will increase owing to the
London, the 12th February, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
81. To the Secretary in England.
Acknowledge the receipt of his despatches of the 22nd and 29th
ult., which arrived together. Glad to know that his letters
remained intact. Nevertheless the energy and the extraordinary
severity which they show in these interceptions will render him
more circumspect in his conduct and in the use of the cipher.
Pleased to hear of parliament permitting the unlading of the
Rainbow from Zante, as it shows an inclination towards negotiations
in which his action to promote trade between Bristol and
Zante has greatly assisted, while it has induced the merchants,
the Company and the parliamentarians to relax their original
determination. In general he will support to the extent of
his powers this trade which is so old and so useful to the state.
For the rest he will keep on the alert about the Dutch ambassadors
and their negotiations, as well as whatever else deserves observation
amid the fluctuations of affairs, always doubtful and variable
sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other.
Ayes, 144. Noes, 2. Neutral, 4.
82. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to
the Doge and Senate.
If the results corresponded with the decisions all the armies
of this side would now be reinforced, but the idle being engaged
and the most ardent grown cold, but few remain to offer themselves
while those forced run away. Accordingly the core of the army
for the next campaign will have to consist of the citizens here, in
spite of their demands to the contrary and their objections.
The absence of the generals, who are still here, renders incidents
scarce. In spite of the victory at Nantwich Biron has made a
slight reaction against Fairfax and Bruerton. But Meldron has
captured the little island of Aioxam on the Trent, which was
convenient for the passage of food through Niuvarch to the North.
No news has come of the progress of the Scots, to the amazement
of parliament and the people here, who were persuaded that to
come and to conquer would be simultaneous, or that the latter
would precede the former. Colonel Gleman, commanding for
the king in the four border counties, encouraged by Newcastle
and by Chingh, who is approaching with 4,000 men, with the
consent of the gentry of the county, has answered the Scots with
vigour and decision. Thus the Scots, who advanced with a few
regiments, possibly in order that the monthly payments might
begin to run, are obliged to wait for the rest of the army, which is
not yet ready, and meanwhile they find that position inconvenient
for foraging. Yet the plenipotentiaries of that nation have
obtained from parliament the erection of a Council of State
composed of the two nations, consisting of 25 councillors, who are
given charge of the most important affairs, reserving for parliament,
besides the general provisions, the negotiation of peace, the
object being not to facilitate it but to make it more difficult, although
at the outset they gave permission to this Council to send a petition
to the king to summon it again, in order to justify the continuation
of the war by the refusal of which they had no doubt. This petition
is to be discussed at the first sittings, whereby the English will be
commanded by a foreign and hostile nation, and by a few individuals
who, disguising their rebellion and tyranny under, the cloak of religious
zeal, have no aim but their own advantage, which is quite apart from
the common service, and no means but violence.
The Assembly at Oxford is still meeting. Although differences
have arisen, some wishing to remove the Catholics from the
Court, yet these have been quieted owing to the king's present
need to make use of all his subjects. According to reports from
there, when they saw that the king's move for peace would fail,
they decided to assist his Majesty with 100,000l. sterling, and by
arming 10,000 foot and 5,000 horse. How they mean to do this
is not yet known, but it may prove difficult.
The declaration sent to Oxford by Essex by order of parliament
in reply to the peace offer, inviting them to abandon the king,
has had effect as Dirin, a member of parliament, has already come
and they talk of others and even of Obton himself, but hope is
stimulated by desire. It is true that he is out of favour with his
Majesty for his lack of success on this last occasion, for which he
has been summoned to Oxford to render account to a Council of
War. To prevent the mischief and to help his own side the king
has issued a proclamation forbidding any of his people to go to
London, upon pain of death. He also commands those who owe
money to any of this city to make payment at Oxford, for the
use of the armies.
The Ambassador Harcourt is ready to go and says he will start
on Monday next. The courier he expected has reached him from
France with orders to Cressi to go as well. The ambassador had
very pressing instructions from the queen to make the most
strenuous efforts to release Montegu, even speaking in her name to
such of the lords here as he thinks advisable. To prevent this
they have issued an order that no member of parliament may treat
with foreign ministers. This has been intimated to him alone,
and with him only is it observed.
The Dutch ambassadors have gone to Oxford without visiting
him. So far we have heard nothing of their negotiations. Here
they waver between hope and fear that these may be about the
recognition of parliament.
London, the 19th February, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
83. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to
the Doge and Senate.
The Houses of parliament have been deeply agitated these last
days over the institution of the new Council of State of the two
nations. The Lower House assumed the privilege of nominating
also the members of the Upper who were to serve on it. The
extremists desired that this Council should have supreme authority
to direct events. But the others, and General Essex in particular,
perceived that their aim was to deprive parliament of control, and
they contended vigorously that this Council should only advise and
report. After some dispute the appointments have been made with
mutual satisfaction, and their authority defined for six weeks, but
it may not prove easy to unite so many wills to deprive themselves
of power for ever, which is what the others are trying for.
Preoccupation over this question has delayed provision for the
armies so the generals are still here, and the forces even reduced,
some mortality being rife among Waller's men. From the very
first, to attract men parliament decided on high pay, for the
private soldiers as well as for the officers, in the hope that the war
would not last long. But with these troubles dragging on more
and more, and finding it impossible to meet demands, especially
with the addition of the contributions to the Scots, they have
made an order that the officers shall only receive half their pay
and remain creditors for the rest, without other security than the
good faith of the state, now deeply pledged.
Bruerton, one of the victors at Nantwich, has arrived here,
bringing some of the captured leaders as a trophy. He had an
ovation in the city, and will be leaving in a few days with powers
from parliament to levy contributions from all classes for the
support of his army, wherever he may be.
The king's efforts are at present devoted to securing complete
control of the West, to which there are two very stiff obstacles,
Plymouth and Gloucester. He has sent Prince Rupert towards
the latter with a few troops, who has already defeated the
defenders, who advanced to dispute his passage. For the other,
the men of Devon are preparing to send help to Prince Maurice,
who has been besieging it so long without success. There is
just now a quarrel between the principal commanders in the place.
The assembly at Oxford continues to increase and to second the
king's desires. Besides the grant and arming of troops reported
it has been decided that this army shall be maintained in time of war
and of peace as well. The object is to induce many cadets of noble
houses to enlist in imitation of the guards and old regiments of
France. But the resolution may prove premature, as it might
increase the suspicions of the people. who are only too inclined to
believe that his Majesty aims at evading the laws by force. The
Assembly is also considering how to fortify Oxford better, which
is menaced next spring, and to provide safe quarters for the queen,
who is found to be pregnant.
The Scots are advancing in the Bishopric of Durham and have
sent forward a part of their army towards Newcastle, which has
captured Cochet Island. An officer from Newcastle's army has
escaped with some troopers and joined them, so it looks as if their
enterprise would prove successful, unless the Irish who are gathered
on the coast, decide to cross to that country for a diversion, as
the royal commissioners urge them to do, their own country being
free from hostile forces. 1,500 soldiers arrived recently at
Bristol to serve his Majesty. They are the residue of the English
sent by parliament at the beginning of the rebellion there, but
disgusted with that body for not having supplied them with
their provisions or pay.
The French ambassador Harcourt left for Dover last Tuesday,
taking M. di Cressi with him. He neither gave nor received satisfaction
from the king's ministers or parliament, being opposed to the
former as leaning to the Spanish party and refusing to recognise the
latter. So far as I gather he says that if in France they want to
follow up these affairs by negotiations they should address themselves
to Scotland, as the country which has most need of that crown and is
most dependent upon it, since the direction of affairs will rest in their
hands, and he believes that their interests differ but little from those
of France, as it suits them, if they do not desire conquest, to prevent
the democracy which the English want and to support the king
but without authority, so that they may have the appointments and
form a third party, which makes them safe in any event.
The Dutch ambassadors have had their first audience at Oxford,
and were apparently well received, which augments the suspicions
London, the 26th February, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]