|1. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.|
Parliament decided to raise the sum of 120,000l. a month for the prosecution of the war with Spain, but they have not yet settled how this to be done. Two days a week are devoted to this question and the easiest ways of raising the money. Taxes will doubtless be imposed on each province and county and although they declare that the people will obey blindly, submitting to the monthly payment assessed upon them in proportion to their property, by those whose duty it is, payment may not be made so calmly as they imagine and would like, and there is good reason to fear some upset to disturb not a little the mind of the autocrat, who is constantly distracted by the innovations that may crop up at any moment in a climate so unlike all others that for instability and inconstancy it certainly has no equal. Payments may easily take place for two or three months in peace without noise but when the people find them so frequent and that they bring no results to relieve them there is no doubt but they will begin to murmur and consider how to rid themselves from a burden which is too heavy and under which they have bent their backs so long without the slightest benefit. Although they do not yet know in what way the payments will be made some of the boldest have already begun to speak in a way that promises considerable delay rather than ease in getting what they desire.
Supporters of the king of Scotland are found in this city, in spite of the severities with which they are threatened. They live secretly and disguised being active only at night, to avoid the toils which are laid for them in every corner of London. There is no doubt that these seize this opportunity to stir up trouble which would greatly advance the plans of their prince. But the government keeps its eye on all and certainly will not lose sight of this point, and to keep the people in a good humour and induce them to pay readily they will instil their minds with good ideas and make them think it all for the good of the public.
If the fleet does not obtain further successes and if through misfortune or from some other disaster unrevealed it has to remain idle, merely cruising up and down off Spain, they will pretend, as they did last year, that it is capturing ships etc. to encourage the people and induce them to do what is required of them without resistance.
With regard to the succession nothing has been decided and the question has not even been discussed for two weeks. It is suspected that the parliamentarians may have cooled and changed their minds about making the Protector's office hereditary in his family, seeing how silent they have been about it all this time, which is without example since the question was raised. There is talk of some doctors having gone to the Protector to represent the advantages of the business and tell him that he is bound in conscience to accept the honour offered spontaneously to him by parliament as a testimony of their regard and affection and to perpetuate it in his house. It is also stated that his Highness shut his ears to them and that they made no impression, his objection being more pronounced than ever. But the best informed who weigh things up with unbiassed mind feel certain that these reports are circulated designedly to show all men that Cromwell has been driven to give way to the wishes of the parliamentarians, since he cannot say that he wishes this decision in favour of his house, to avoid betraying his ambition, but wishes to be urged so that he may not be accused of having asked for it. But if he has not done so openly he has secretly for otherwise parliament would never have entertained such an idea.
No news has come of the fleet for a long while and so nothing can be known of its operations. They hope to hear before long and also about the Catholic fleet from the Indies with treasure, feeling confident that Blake will have found, fought and captured it. But this is easier said than done. Meanwhile they are busily preparing for the coming campaign. They are ceaselessly at work on the building of vessels which are to be launched in a few months in considerable numbers. When these have joined Blake's present squadron he will be invincible and equal to undertaking any enterprise whatsoever.
King Charles, after wandering about Flanders for some weeks, going to Brussels, Antwerp etc. to obtain money owing to his penurious condition, has returned to Bruges with his brothers. Not having succeeded in obtaining from the Spanish ministers the satisfaction he desired, he intends, apparently, to send an ambassador express to Madrid and has selected Earl Digby. He has importuned the Most Christian Court for a passport, as he wishes this ambassador to pass through France to Spain; but it has been refused; so his Majesty now contemplates sending him by some unknown though perilous route, as it does not suit his interests to change his mind because his own most pressing affairs lead him to desire despatch. The reason for the French refusal of a passport is supposed to be the disbanding of many Irish officers and soldiers, who were enrolled under the Most Christian flag and who have gone to Flanders to serve their natural prince and Mazarini is offended and indignant at their being taken away. This pretext helped towards a refusal, but the Protector's demands contributed more. He is extremely pleased at having got his way, as it will not be easy for King Charles to make this mission to procure the advantages he desires and which are necessary to him.
The Protector has been indisposed for some days and consequently unable to attend at the Council. My requests have not yet been laid before that body. The secretary constantly assures me that the matter will be dealt with most speedily when the Protector is better. Results so far do not bear this out and I can only wait the convenience and good pleasure of him who has to make the necessary decisions in this affair.
London, the 5th January, 1657.
|2. To the Resident in London.|
Acknowledgment of his letters of the 15th ult. with approval of his activities. With regard to the Protector's instances to procure the liberty of his subjects who have fallen into slavery of the Turks you may assure him of the cordial readiness of the republic to give him satisfaction upon every occasion. There are also some of our nobles and other subjects who experience the same hard condition, and for this reason we see that the matter is subject to considerable difficulties. Our urgency to release all will none the less be equally strong provided that an opportunity presents itself, besides the consideration of helping a nation much beloved by us. You will try to cultivate friendly relations with the Dutch ambassador.
Ayes, 140. Noes, 0. Neutral, 2.
|3. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.|
Observing that in dealing with the requests of your Serenity this government and the States of Holland are moving in step with tedious delays, to the prejudice of the republic and of all Christendom through the advantage to the Turks in obtaining English and Dutch ships, I thought fit to call upon the Dutch ambassador to ask him what decision his masters had come to on the subject, as several weeks have passed when he could have heard from the Hague if he passed on my request when I made it, as he assured me he would. So I went the day before yesterday and after we had discussed the current affairs of the world I asked him if he had received any reply. He said something had reached him but not a positive resolution so he had not cared to tell me. It is that the States considered the requests most just and were anxious to meet them. To do so thoroughly they had directed the deputies to obtain information in the Provinces to see the numbers and nature of the ships at present in the Turkish dominions. He said there would not be very many as the Dutch do not frequent that trade route as much as some other nations. When this report is made the States will at once take action and would undoubtedly take steps in accordance with your Serenity's wishes. It is probable that the delay has been due to this cause and the recent festivities have also contributed a great deal as all the deputies left the Hague for their homes to celebrate them with greater peace of mind, and the transaction of all business was suspended until the ordinary Assembly is summoned to meet again. A confident however has hinted to me that the slackness is not due only to the reasons adduced by the ambassador, but because the Dutch want to know, before they take action, what will be done here and then they will follow suit. Meanwhile nothing is decided here. I urge the matter without remission and if their actions correspond with their promises the matter will be laid before the Council to day or to-morrow. The secretary has promised me that this shall be done, such being the desire of his Highness. If they do not change their minds my next will contain the result, and I hope it will prove satisfactory to the Senate in view of the disposition shown by the Protector and what the secretary has told me more than once.
Parliament continues its sessions which produce little or nothing of importance. The two chief points about the succession and providing for the war with the Catholic remain undecided. Nothing more is said about the first, as if they have changed their minds, and perhaps the Protector's feigned objections have been taken at their face value, and have made an impression on the members contrary to what he expected, disgusting them by so palpable an affectation; so that thay readily put the question aside for good. There is therefore good reason to expect that his Highness will dissolve the parliament before very long, since he can do so now when he pleases without the slightest scruple, as for some weeks past he has noticed such marked and unaccustomed coolness in a matter which he has most at heart though he affects to despise it. Thus it would seem that at present there is not a thoroughly good understanding between the Protector and the Parliament, and his Highness has taken occasion to display his vexation at some death sentences made by the Assembly without his consent. He has written a sharp letter to parliament in which, while admitting the sentences to be just, he blames the members for coming to these without seeking his advice and approval, which he declares are necessary since he is associated with them in the government of the State and in all things. (fn. 1) When the letter was read one of the members rose and argued that his Highness was right in his desire to maintain his privileges, but that parliament ought to be equally jealous for its own, and they ought to consider what the Council of State had decreed against the cavaliers, i.e. those who bore arms for the king, which is entirely contrary to an act of the last parliament promising oblivion and amnesty for all errors committed by those who served the king. (fn. 2) This opinion was only supported by two or three of the members, and the matter went no further. But it is expected that it will be taken up again, for though few supported the motion no one opened his mouth against it. This question also, which is enough to generate increasing ill humour will serve as no slight inducement for the dissolving of parliament, and we must wait to see what time will bring forth.
Upon the second point they keep toiling and debating, but it is difficult to raise money without noise and without exciting the people, and parliament does not know which way to turn, so it is thought that their final decision will take a long time. This particular has undoubtedly restrained the Protector from dissolving parliament and if he had money he certainly would have done so before now as he has sufficient pretexts for doing it without difficulty and with a good conscience.
Another proposal recently brought forward will serve not a little for the undoing of parliament. This was to establish the major generals in their charges in the provinces for life. Many of the members appear to favour this. If it should be carried each of them would become of greater consideration and dread, being practically absolute and causing considerable apprehension to the present autocrat. Accordingly when his Highness sees this point likely to be carried he will prefer to send the parliamentarians home rather than suffer a decree so hurtful to his own security which might even imperil his seat. But the hope of seeing some decision about money will prevent this step and postpone it until he is driven to it by necessity, though it will undoubtedly follow as soon as supplies have been secured.
The reports that the Spaniards are at sea with a numerous squadron of great ships to secure the fleet from the Indies, the certainty that another has left Dunkirk and is sailing in that direction and the growing suspicion that Ruiter, who is sailing towards the Mediterranean is to unite with these and assist the passage, serve as stimulants to hasten their naval preparations here and excite no little apprehension. This week also they have sent reinforcements to Blake and they keep doing the same quietly, without noise or observation, so as to be in a position to deal with all and to scorn any shock that can be imagined.
That the Dutch are to unite with the Spaniards may be considered practically certain. Appearances lead to that conclusion and the other day when I met the Dutch ambassador and the talk turned on this question, he did not openly admit so much but neither did he deny it absolutely. He remarked that he knew for certain that some Englishmen will grant their ships to the Turk against a friendly prince and the whole Christian religion, and it was more reasonable that the Dutch should afford help to the Spaniards to get their treasure home, in which so many markets were interested which would suffer serious loss if any harm should come to it.
Here they make a point of thwarting and bringing to naught all the plans of the Spaniards. Thus immediately they were certain of Ruiter's departure from Holland orders were sent with all speed to Blake. Their contents cannot be discovered but it may be conjectured that they deal with the search of Dutch ships, claiming to confiscate any munitions of war found on board on the ground that they were going to Spain, and to fight them if they join with the Spaniards and try to help them, thereby thwarting the advantages which the English might obtain if they met the Catholic fleet alone without this notable reinforcement.
About 200 Scots with their officers embarked on a Hamburg ship to be taken to France to serve the Most Christian mutinied on the way and forced the captain to steer towards Flanders, and so they landed at Dunkirk intending to go to King Charles and offer him their service, which means that of the Spaniards. (fn. 3) The officers did their utmost to quiet the troops but in vain and they were obliged to give way to the wishes of the men, unless they were prepared to sacrifice their lives. Although the number of men is not very large the incident has not pleased them here and the French will be even more disgusted, having spent their money in collecting troops to serve their enemies.
London, the 12th January, 1657.
|4. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to the Doge and Senate.|
On the plea of the sudden emergence of important affairs the submission to the Council of State of your Serenity's requests did not take place. I am always urging the need of despatch and they give me fair words, but the deeds never follow, to the general astonishment. I really thought that something would have been done to-day, as the secretary of state gave me to understand, but now one must wait with patience.
Those who served the King of Scotland and have never deserted his cause in spite of the misery to which they are reduced for that reason alone, reflecting that the point about the amnesty raised in parliament as I reported a week ago, militated in their favour and gave them grounds for hope seeing that no member spoke against it and that every one is bound to try and maintain his own privileges, have presented a petition to the assembly these last days giving many reasons in favour of the point. By the payment of a considerable sum of money the royalists obtained from the last parliament an act of oblivion for all the faults imputed to them merely for taking arms for the king, and since then, in contravention of the act they have been decimated by the Council of State which took action because it observed that some unsteady cavaliers, not content with the amnesty, were trying to stir up trouble and would not restrain themselves within bounds to enjoy for long the benefit received. Parliament has not as yet come to any decision on the subject but it is probable that it will go on with the affair to protect its own acts and preserve its rights rather than to gratify the royalists, who have taken action merely to keep the matter alive and try and gain some advantage, which would be notable if it was decided to relieve them from persecution.
Besides this petition others have been presented for the demolition of the churches erected in the times of the Catholics and against the celebration of feasts, with the exception of Sunday. These ridiculous petitions are only devised to create disorder; but it will be forestalled by the dissolution of parliament, which is believed to be at hand. Some indeed think that the members themselves are bringing forward these questions to supply a motive for their dismissal and so that they may not have to find money, seeing that they do not know how to do it without raising discontent and hatred among the people.
His Highness having decided to send Colonel Locart back to France with conspicuous rank, I have just been assured that he has been sent off secretly and unexpectedly by the post the day before yesterday in the morning when he himself had no idea that he was to go so soon. He goes without any title but when he reaches Paris he will have that of ambassador extraordinary. They have hurried him off because they heard of the arrival at the Most Christian Court of the minister of Sweden, (fn. 4) and they did not want to leave him to treat alone with the Cardinal without the presence of England. Locart should not be far from Paris now and when he arrives he is to produce his terms to Mazarini jointly with Sweden. These consist in an offensive and defensive alliance and when that has been arranged between the three principal crowns it will be ratified with the inclusion of some of the Protestant Princes of Germany.
The sole object of all these transactions is to bring down the House of Austria and to realise the great designs they contemplate for the coming campaign. Here they still think of invading Flanders in conjunction with the French and with such energy that they need not despair of a success proportionate to their wishes.
Six ships laden with food and munitions of war are ready to reinforce Blake (fn. 5) and will sail with the first favourable wind for the coasts of Spain. There is no news of the fleet. It is reported from France that Blake fell in with the Spanish silver galleons and engaged them with success sinking some, capturing others and scattering the rest. The report is without foundation and is supposed to have been circulated merely to discredit other rumours current in London some days ago that Blake had been defeated by the Spaniards and prevent an unfavourable impression being made on the people.
In accordance with your Excellencies' instructions of the 9th ult. I have had a medal made and presented it to Fischer as from myself for his Latin poem celebrating the victory over the Turks. He was very pleased and I will include the cost in my accounts.
London, the 19th January, 1657.
Postscript: When about to close the packet I have received important news from a confidant which I report at once, reserving the particulars for the next ordinary. It is a plot discovered at Whitehall against his Highness. When passing through his room he noticed the smell of lighted match. He had search made throughout the palace and in the chapel they found a long train lighted at both ends with a quantity of gunpowder to be fired in the middle of the night, as conjectured from the train, and blow up a great part of the palace, if not the whole. They suspect three Frenchmen who were observed in the court of Whitehall yesterday evening and this morning at unlawful hours, and it is known that they had no business to bring them there at such an hour. They were immediately arrested and orders were sent to the other kingdoms and to all the Provinces to secure all the royalists as there can be no doubt that this is a plot of King Charles carried out by his supporters here.
|5. Francesco Giavarina, Venetian Resident in England, to to the Doge and Senate.|
At last after constant pressure on the secretary of state about the requests of your Excellencies, the matter has been brought before the Council these last days though no decision has been taken. (fn. 6) They discussed the question awhile and then put it aside for another day more free from other embarrassments. One can offer no guess as to when this much desired decision will be taken as the Council is at present busy with internal affairs of so vexatious a nature that they leave no room for the speedy despatch of external affairs however important they may be. I will not relax my efforts to get one as speedily as possible by such urging and stimulus as would be taxed as insolent and improper in another country, but which are necessary in this peculiar clime for those who desire satisfaction.
All day yesterday was spent in prayers by the Protector and Council to return thanks to the Almighty for having delivered his Highness from the snares laid for him by his enemies and from the imminent peril to his life last week, which I reported in the postscript to my last. Not barrels of gunpowder as stated but bombs and other fireworks in no small quantity were found scattered in more than one corner of the chapel at Whitehall, and if they had gone off they would have caused great execution on all who were in the place. They would not have blown up the palace or disturbed its foundations, as for the sudden destruction of its huge walls much more material would have been required and a different distribution. The intention was merely to kindle a fire in that room and in those about it, and in those which Cromwell uses for repose, which are handy to the chapel. In this way they would induce all the guards and the Protector himself, who likes to take a hand personally in everything, to hasten to the fire to put it out, and in the confusion they would strike a blow in the interests of King Charles. Those arrested are examined every day. Besides indicating their accomplices and all who had a hand in this conspiracy they have confessed that 15 days ago the Protector was to have been assassinated and was only saved by a miracle. Two men armed with great muskets loaded full with ball lay in wait for him to kill him on his way to Hampton Court, where he is accustomed to go almost every week, firing into the carriage from each side and killing all those inside. By inspiration Cromwell chose another route that day and so his Highness was preserved.
Such are the reports issued from the Court on the subject. But the knowing ones and those who think they can see into the marrow of any secret, declare that it is all a pretence that nothing has been found at Whitehall and that the conspiracy has been made up by the Court itself to cast odium on the name of the king, to secure a firmer hold on those who favour their party, and to dissuade the parliamentarians from deciding anything favourable about the amnesty. This is the more likely since it is known that such things are frequently invented at Courts. One remembers what was done in England in the time of King James. To enable him to treat the Catholics with severity, contrary to his promise given to various great princes that he would not molest them, he induced his own secretary of state to urge them to take his Majesty's life. The Catholics seeing this minister on their side, without realising that they were caught in a snare, through his persuasion brought powder and other materials under the houses of parliament for an attempt against that body and the king, who was to attend with all the royal house. At the moment when all was ready the plot was discovered and so the Catholics were subjected to severity and punishment and the king was no longer obliged to keep his promises, alleging this pretended plot as an excuse, and so it was turned solely to the ruin and extermination of the poor Catholics. The speculation is not altogether unlikely, but the account issued at the Court is very detailed and circumstantial, while there is no doubt that the king's supporters contemplate every means to restore their natural prince to his throne, so one cannot feel quite sure what is the real truth. What issues from the Court cannot be trusted implicitly as they are too subject to artificiality and dissimulation while their pronouncements are always designed for their own advantage and in their favour without caring whether they are true or false; moreover one can never find out for certain what takes place at the palace. Other reports which come from outside are only intended to generate evil humours and produce unfavourable impressions, being dictated by personal feeling and prompted by the individual's own wishes, and these also do not care if what they say is true or false.
Owing to the serious indisposition of the Speaker or President (fn. 7) parliament has not held its usual meetings for eight days and they have been adjourned until next Tuesday, when they will be resumed if the Speaker has recovered by then; if not they will choose some one to take his place as the sittings cannot be held without a Speaker and they do not wish to delay any longer the digestion of the numerous affairs which are left unsettled and to which they want to give the finishing touches with the utmost possible despatch.
Colonel Locart undoubtedly set out for Paris on Wednesday in last week and he must have arrived by now though there has been no time to hear definitely. He has power to assume the title of ambassador in ordinary if he thinks fit, in accordance with the trend of affairs and the position in which he finds them.
Out of the bullion recently captured from the Spaniards the Mint is making coins of every description, working incessantly every day. They hope to do the same with the plate brought by the galleons from New Spain, feeling confident that they will take it. This is most necessary to the Catholic and it would equally supply the urgencies of this state which is very short of money and has so many calls for spending it.
Over 30 merchantmen have left the English ports for the East Indies laden with goods belonging to this mart; they are also well furnished for war and they might also unite with Blake when he encounters the fleet of the Catholic if there is time enough and the distance is not too great, rendering him excellent service and facilitating the capture of the treasure which would be much more valuable than the last.
No confirmation having arrived of the news circulated about the English fleet which is cruising about Spanish waters, it is believed to be without foundation, pending further information.
The duke of York has quarrelled with his brother, left Bruges and passing through Holland has gone to Cologne, where he is now staying. The difference arose from the king wishing to dismiss from the Court one who had been tutor to the duke for many years. (fn. 8) The duke took this ill and made it a pretext for leaving his brother and seeking a refuge for himself elsewhere. But being an affair of slight consequence it is thought that before long they will calm down and that York will return to the king at Bruges. The latter has not yet despatched his ambassador to Spain, but being stimulated by his urgent needs it is thought that he will do so soon, to draw the attention of the Catholic to his misfortunes so that if he does not receive assistance his state will be insupportable and he and all his house will be reduced to ruin and despair.
London, the 26th January, 1657.
|6. Giovanni Battista Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.|
Holland has been greatly stirred at the declaration issued jointly by England and France, so that she might be the more cowed and confounded, about the right to search the ships of the States. Amsterdam, which is the most deeply concerned, at once sent for Don Stefano di Gamarra, the Spanish ambassador and welcomed him with unaccustomed honours. The Spanish ministers in Flanders hope to derive no ordinary profit therefrom.
Don Giovanni has written here very urgently to know if the duke of Jorch has arrived. Your Excellencies will have heard from elsewhere of the flight of this prince. I will only say that when conferring with the king, his brother, and urging him to send away some of his servants, of whose loyalty he felt doubtful, and the king refusing to do so, they fell to quarrelling, and the duke slipped away, incognito and practically alone. He has been seen in Zeeland, and it was considered uncertain whether he would go on to France or Germany. The Spaniards would rather have him here, because of his spirit, apt to take up no matter what enterprise; but he has not turned up yet.
Vienna, the 27th January, 1656 [M.V.].