Venice
March 1672

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Institute of Historical Research

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Allen B. Hinds (editor)

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1939

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171-187

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'Venice: March 1672', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 37: 1671-1672 (1939), pp. 171-187. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=90320 Date accessed: 27 November 2014.


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March 1672

March 4.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
171. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The despatch of the queen of Spain was consigned to a merchant at Madrid who passed privily through Paris, getting safe to Brussels, where the governor published the ratification of the alliance with Holland. On the day the articles came to hand Lord Arlington told me they were simple, and he utterly disbelieves in the treaty. But he added in confidence that the French were much surprised and it was not yet known what course affairs would take. I notified last week what I had been able to discover, and I do not find that the confirmation of the news increases the apprehensions of the English cabinet, which is waiting to know what decisions the Most Christian will take in consequence, and whether they will differ from the measures hitherto taken in concert by France and England.
In the mean time much curiosity is excited by the audience had this morning by the Ambassador Borel, whose chief object apparently is to inform the king of the decision of the States to send here, as a special ambassador, Beverninghen, who was lately at the Spanish Court in the same capacity. I am also told that he added that Holland had no other intention than to satisfy his Majesty as far as was in her power and she regretted that he was impressed by contrary information. This mission will serve to revive the negotiations which were broken off by Deuninghen, whose mere imprisonment has had the effect of convincing the United Provinces of the king's regret and encouraging them to resume the business at a moment when it may prove very agreeable to England.
Yet the levies of the duke of Monmouth are busily going on, 1000 men having already embarked for Dieppe; indeed several captains are going into the country to muster companies in haste, with the intention of arming them later in France.
The marquis del Fresno arrived two evenings ago and has been introduced to the king and queen and the duke of York, always incognito. As he immediately assumed a livery, it is supposed that for the time being he does not intend to commit himself by making his public entry. The ministers have begun to visit him, although he has not notified his arrival to any one. So far he has not made much progress in negotiations, or if he has the fact will not be discovered until next post day.
Colonel Guasconi has gone, with the commissions reported; as news has arrived of the empress's delivery, (fn. 1) hopes are entertained of the success of his negotiations.
The suspicion that the queen's illness has been caused deliberately has at length blossomed out (si matura finalmente il sospetto che la malattia della Regina sia per opera fatta a mano). She has been afraid of this these last four weeks, but does not know from whence the blow comes. (fn. 2) The truth is, and I know it on good authority, that Guasconi has orders not to hasten his negotiations in order to give time for the result of the illness, and if it kills the queen he has orders to get the archduchess for the king himself. There is also a great stir at the Court on account of the king's old mistress, the duchess of Cleveland, (fn. 3) which if not arranged will produce exceptional disturbance.
London, the 4th March, 1672.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 9.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
172. Francesco Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
A report is circulating here that in London the regiment of the duke of Monmouth is not being assembled with much energy. It is stated indeed that the soldiers already collected are being disbanded from the suspicion and on the revelation being made that they were to make war on the Spaniards.
Paris, the 9th March, 1672.
[Italian.]
March 9.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
173. Carlo Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The duke of Albucherque, councillor of state, has been to the house of your Serenity to inform me, in his Majesty's name, of the proposals of the French and British ambassadors and of the replies given to them respectively. He said that the French had spoken of projects of alliance for a joint attack upon the States of Holland. The British said that their king had induced the Most Christian to embrace the opportunity to conspire with him to avenge the outrages inflicted by that government upon their two nations. They offered to the Catholic crown such strong places, contiguous to their own, as might suit them best and they would be ready to exchange with France the conquests made in accordance with what would be most agreeable to either crown. If his Catholic Majesty did not think fit to associate his arms with those of the two kings they hoped that he would at least remain neutral, as he did in the last war between England and Holland. In the end they made a categorical demand that the treaty of alliance made between Count Monterey and the States General should not be ratified.
Such are the proposals which the duke assured me had been presented by the ministers of these crowns respectively. The reply enlarged upon the desire of his Majesty, above all other things, to maintain the peace in Christendom and they hoped that God would second his wishes by giving them His blessing. He considered himself bound, nevertheless, to point out the inconveniences that would arise from disturbing the present quiet of Europe and from loosening the bond of the triple alliance in which his Britannic Majesty had so much merit and in which he holds so worthy a place. Once war is kindled in one part it is much to be feared that the conflagration will spread to many others and render all Christendom the woeful theatre of calamities and miseries. To procure suitable satisfaction being rendered to their Majesties by the Lords States they offered the mediation of the crown, which was ready to make immediate choice of ministers if this was accepted by the parties. But if they proceeded to force of arms reason itself persuaded them to side by preference with the party of those who were not promoters but the provoked, the more so because the treaty of the Pyrenées, confirmed by that of Aix la Chapelle, permits auxiliary arms without breaking the peace. They had further stated, so the duke told me, that the crowns of France and England had been allowed to assist Portugal, although this had been expressly forbidden in the treaty of the Pyrenées, without it coming to a rupture with either crown on that account. So there was no reason why this should not be permitted to Spain the more so because it was permitted by that same treaty. In the reply to England they inserted in addition that at the first outrage received from that crown because of assistance to Holland they will immediately take away the trade, with such loss as is known to England. (fn. 4) Her Majesty requested me to give your Serenity all these particulars so that her well justified and correct procedure might be made manifest to all the world.
They feel confident here that they will receive assistance from the emperor. In the mean time they are in the utmost impatience to negotiate at the Hague with the ministers of England. Moreover Don Emanuel di Lira is charged by the crown to induce the General Assembly there to consent to give reasonable satisfaction and to facilitate such act ion by those means that are believed to be most efficacious.
The Marquis del Freno in London is instructed to disseminate in the Chambers there and especially in the Lower the injury that will be done to trade by its suspension in these realms. (fn. 5) He is also to study to introduce suspicion and mistrust at the intention which is displayed to limit the calling of parliament. Above all he is to make play with the important point that the arming has been done with the money of France.
I can assure the Senate that the resolute tenor of the commissions of the English has greatly surprised the ministers here and they have been very seriously impressed by the statement that his Britannic Majesty had induced the Most Christian to attack Holland. One of the most distinguished ministers of the Junta told these ministers that their king is going to the scaffold and that they want to see a repetition of the case of his father, by whose example he has not profited.

Madrid, the 9th March, 1672.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 11.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
174. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The French ambassador had not previously announced the Most Christian's sentiments since news was received of the Spanish alliance, but a few days ago he had audience and said that his Majesty would now be convinced in how little account Spain held his friendship, in allying herself with Holland after so many assurances and offers in Flanders and Spain. The Most Christian was determined to attack the States and, to invade Flanders the moment Monterey helped them, feeling certain that England would not only wage war on Holland at sea, but declare it against Spain as well. The king replied that he could not yet perceive that Spain seriously intended to succour Holland, having merely declared herself for appearances' sake, and for the rest the arrangements made against Holland would remain unchanged.
This much was told me by Colbert himself, but Fresno, whom I visited at his house, like the rest, maintains that the queen will act boldly next campaign, so as either to f all or resist in company. The ambassador also spoke to the king and ministers in order at least to elicit from them a declaration that England would never break the peace with the queen. But to this they turned a deaf ear, or merely complained that Spain had allied herself with a power whom England openly mistrusted, without giving the slightest notice of the f act. Here they complain of the Ambassador Sonderland because he neither discovered the resolve nor notified it. On the other hand they remark that Fresno seeks to gain this Court through the marriage of the archduchess of Innsbruck. Considering this a reserve stroke, they say nothing to him about it, and I am sure that England will never change her policy for the sake of that connection.
Beverning having been destined for another employment, Merman is coming here with the title of envoy and with authority to declare himself ambassador, a post he filled previously at this Court. (fn. 6) Some believe him to be the bearer of great offers; others that the States are merely sending him in order not to leave untried any attempt at adjustment, and I really believe they have no wish for it. On the other hand the prince of Orange would like to deserve well of the Provinces by procuring for them so great an advantage, as his first service after being restored to the offices held by his father. They have already named the prince captain general and admiral for the next campaign, though with the restriction of not commanding at sea except by express permission of the States, and to be guided on land by commissioners, of whom he will be one. On attaining the age of 22 he will have a fresh commission, apparently more ample, and for life. In the mean time the attainment of his wishes is being celebrated by banquets and illuminations.
Although interested in favour of the prince the government here will not be induced to change its policy by this and my opinion, based on accounts received from the best informed at Court, is that France will make war on Holland in order to follow it up by an attack on Spain. To avoid losing the money paid out or the friendship of England which they have gained the king here will avail himself of the opportunity for compelling Holland to make great concessions, with the help of France, and will declare against the Provinces, and will delay committing himself against Spain. But after the first encounters, the course of events will create jealousies, to the confusion of all negotiations and with the risk, unless a speedy remedy be applied, that the war begun in Holland will end, with much bloodshed, in Flanders.

The ducali of the 5th and 12th February reached me before I saw Lord Arlington, to whom I could not give a full account because he asked me for time, not yet having had leisure to read Dodington's letters. He desired me to tell your Serenity that with merchants constantly presenting petitions about matters that were just and fair he had no other means of obliging them than by writing to the resident and sometimes to the republic. Nevertheless if the Signory did not consider the demands well founded, you were not to scruple to reject them, as the king never meant to sanction anything but what was just. Two days ago Arlington left his very urgent business and came to my house where he discussed the matter at great length, blaming Dodington's proceedings, but referring to the services of his father (fn. 7) and other considerations. He said he would try once more what good correction would do, without leaving me room to enter into the nature of the matter. I told him that from the way in which the Senate granted the demands about Pendarvis, the lawyer and certain creditors he might infer how much the republic wished for the best relations with England and how peculiarly English subjects were loved by the state.
On the unnecessary innovation about the two vice consuls I was more diffuse, convincing him that it was impossible on account of the rules of the Sanità and from the injury it would do to the subjects of both nations. The conversation ended with protests from Arlington that nothing would ever impair the mutual friendly relations and he would desire the resident to say no more about it.
One thing Arlington told me, that he knew Pendarvis, after taking the first steps, wished the resident to stop, but that Dodington went on of his own accord. I believe I have carried out your Excellencies' wishes by preventing the resident's persistence, without entering into the circumstances, with which Arlington was already acquainted, being disposed to reprimand the resident of his own accord, which, I believe, is all that your Serenity desired.
London, the 11th March, 1672.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure.
175. The most serene republic, following its usual style, has readily listened to the instances of the Resident of his Britannic Majesty, as a sign of predilection for the English nationals.
When the Resident intimated that an advocate had maligned the Protestant religion the Senate referred the matter to a supreme magistrate, who suspended the advocate, and would have gone farther if the Resident had not interceded for him.
For the satisfaction of money owed to certain English the Senate replied that it was engaged in putting straight the confused affairs of the late war, in order to give due satisfaction to all in due course.
When a memorial sent by me reached the Senate, the Proveditore General da Mar was directed to take energetic steps for trying the affair of Pendarvis, but when the Resident asked that the matter might be examined at Venice, the republic referred it to the Avogadori di Commun, to proceed with all speed, the ways suggested by the Resident not being praticable especially in a case many years old.
On the appointment of two vice consuls, a complete innovation and prejudicial to the English as much as to the republic, the Senate answered definitely last November that as the magistrates had provided for the convenience of English ships and sailors for the supply of water and provisions, any fresh rule was superfluous, and it was not accepted on the grounds of health.
The republic was influenced in this reply by the equivocation discovered in making two new offices, since the vice consuls would only bear the name and for the rest they would merely be sutlers, as shown by the patent which appoints them to provide quarters and food for the English.
The truth is that today ships in time of quarantine are served by persons deputed by the state, the captains having free access to the Collegio in case of excessive prices or defect in the provisions. When the ships leave quarantine the Senate permits the captains to lodge as they please and the sailors to buy when and how they like. On the other hand, the new method of the Resident, would have to be allowed to the other nations, with manifest danger in time of quarantine that the barques of a number of vice consuls, bearing the arms of their princes, would prejudice the regulations for the health of the city with impunity, and would result in the English losing the liberty which they enjoy on coming out of quarantine, binding them to the discretion of the vice consuls, without any recourse from severe treatment than an appeal to England, as once authority was given to the vice consuls the republic would have no further hold over them, to oblige them to maintain the necessary arrangements for the ships and sailors, when even now the Resident complains that abundant provisions reach them and that they enjoy too much courtesy and liberty.
From these considerations it is easy to ascertain which conditions are better for the English, the liberty accorded by the republic or the restrictions recently proposed. The Resident has moreover been informed that, in the absence of the consul, the vice consul, substituted to take his place for all ordinary occurrences, will always be well received.
[Italian.]
March 12.
Senato,
Secreta.
Deliberazioni,
Corti.
Venetian
Archives.
176. To the Secretary Alberti in England.
We learn from Antwerp that the queen of Spain has ratified the treaty with the Dutch. You will try to find out what impression this has made and what steps they contemplate taking.
The English consul has been to the Collegio to notify them that he is going on his affairs to Court and he has asked for the settlement of a debt in which he is personally interested. Suitable orders have been issued to the Savii of the Collegio to afford him every possible facility. You will assure him, when he arrives in London, of the goodwill of the Signory and of our fixed purpose to cultivate the most perfect correspondence with that part. You will keep your ears open to find out what report he makes in order to report everything to us.
The circumstances of the present time have brought about some alteration in the price of currants at the islands of Zante. We have accordingly sent strict injunctions to our representatives that they must devote themselves to maintaining things in their customary moderation. You are informed of this in order that you may notice what is said about it, and if anything is said to you, that you may be able to make them realise our excellent intentions.
Ayes, 133. Noes, 1. Neutral, 4.
[Italian.]
March 14.
Collegio,
Secreta.
Esposizioni,
Principi.
Venetian
Archives.
177. The resident of his Britannic Majesty came into the Collegio and presented the memorial below, which was read. Sig. Sebastiano Bernardo, the senior councillor, in the absence of the doge, said that they would consider the request, being always anxious to gratify his Majesty. The resident said, Old Galaleo has come with me to the doors of the Collegio and I think, if he gets the half of the debt he will be content to wait for the other half until next year. I am sorry to come with demands of this kind, but I have to obey, and the affair is of such a nature that I feel sure it will have sympathetic attention. The councillor replied: You may be sure that you are always welcome, and that what is right and just will be done. After this, with the usual reverences, the resident departed.
Gio. Battista Nicolosi, secretary.
The Memorial. (fn. 8)
In one of my recent memorials I referred to my duty to ask payment of certain debts to certain subjects who had applied to his Majesty for his mediation. He mentioned one or two, namely the ships Vivian and Relief. His Majesty has again directed me to solicit your Serenity on behalf of Thomas Galileo, captain of the Relief, to whom your Serenity owes about 9500 ducats, besides the interest for 22 years. The case is well known. He fought alone for 16 hours in sight of your Serenity's fleet with 26 Turkish galleys, and was at length captured after his ship was in flames. He remained in slavery for nearly 22 years. The money may recompense him but never make up for the lost years. His Majesty has directed me to present him for your justice and compassion, and I ask that you will not consider it as an ordinary case, and I think your Serenity would act worthily not only by paying him promptly but by rewarding him. I have no more to add except to ask for the despatch of these two matters.
[Italian.]
March 18.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
178. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador Colbert, not content with the declaration made to the king has frequent conferences with the ministers, who have at length elicited that the king of France perseveres in the agreement to wage war on Holland solely for the purpose of keeping England pledged and the Provinces busy, whilst he invades Spanish Flanders. This and not the observance of the promise is the real object of France, and the king of England must not look for the alliance to last when once it has ceased to be advantageous for the French king. (fn. 9) Thus do the leading men express themselves in their closets and the French deceive themselves in thinking that they can ever establish sincerely confidential relations with these English, who from interest alone mask their irreconcileable antipathy to that nation.
With this secret distrust the negotiations proceed. It is well known how and when the war will begin, hut not what its end will be. The object of England being to extort concessions from Holland and that of France to begin an attack on Spain, it does not seem very probable that the league which is based on such conflicting interests can last long. The arrangement is that England, having been offended by the States, is to wage war on them, assisted by the French as auxiliaries, while they attack Spain, if she helps the opposite party. By this device the Spanish contention of the right to assist Holland by virtue of the peaces of the Pyrenées and Aix la Chapelle is demolished, because the cause being that of the king of Great Britain, who has no obligation under those treaties, he may at once resent the aid given to his enemies by Spain; and the king of France will reply that he is making war for the sake of England, his ally, whom he is bound to serve by every possible diversion.
Your Excellencies may imagine how many obstacles the Spanish ambassador encounters, though outwardly he has the friendliest reception, and he announces the arrangements for his public entry, though he believes it to be still remote.
Fresno adopts too high a tone and says constantly that his queen will certainly act resolutely; but here they answer him briefly, letting it be understood that the engagement with France is too far advanced; that they would kindle a war dangerous for all neighbouring states and always hinting that by abstaining from helping the United Provinces Spain would fulfil her pledge, as she had implied that the alliance was entered upon as a mere matter of form.
The Dutch, expecting to make a stout resistance with Spanish support and the Spaniards, hoping to make the first figure in this confusion, Merman's mission to London is not hastened, though they are expecting him, but with no appearance of negotiations for an adjustment or of any settlement. People in general here are not satisfied with this, as they would prefer peace, being convinced that it is only at the instigation of the Most Christian that war is being waged on Holland, no longer styled the “rebel of Spain”, but of France, to whom those Provinces pertain in right of the queen.

The armament neverthless continues with all diligence, the duke of York having been a second time to inspect the ships which, for the most part are being fitted out at the mouth of the Thames. There will be sixty large men of war besides small vessels, fire ships and others, for the service of the fleet.
London, the 18th March, 1672.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 19.
Senato,
Secreta.
Deliberazioni,
Corti.
Venetian
Archives.
179. To the Secretary Alberti in England.
Acknowledgment of receipt of his letters and commendation for his application. Every movement and resolution of that part has become of consequence since upon it may depend the travail or the repose of Christendom. Consequently his constant diligence in investigating in detail the successive emergencies is rendered necessary. He is to cultivate the goodwill of the Secretary Arlington and to inform him about the resolution touching Captain Galileo.
That a Savio of the Collegio be charged to examine the account produced by the Resident of England touching the ship Relief and to report thereupon to the Collegio, so that a suitable resolution may be taken for the relief of Captain Galileo.
Ayes, 142. Noes, 0. Neutral, 1.
[Italian.]
March 23.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
180. Francesco Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
There was disclosed some days ago, in this Court, under very essential and credible circumstances the intention of the British king about the interest taken by the Spaniards for the succour of the Dutch. It is stated for a fact that England does not intend in any circumstances to be united with this power to make war on Spain, but only to injure the Dutch, over questions of essential differences which affect the dignity and standing of that crown. Every one draws the consequences of this in his own mind. This is that as England does not agree to the decision to molest the states of the Catholic for the succour which they afford to the Dutch, their friends. France, which is interested with her for the future enterprises, will not want to upset for herself the chance of future conquests and break that knot of alliance and friendship which has been concluded and established after so many negotiations, at the cost of such a quantity of hard cash and over the space of several years, with such advantage to this crown and so greatly to the prejudice of its enemies.
It is further stated that the British king has expressed this intention in very clear and resolute terms. I have been told, as absolutely certain, that the Ambassador Colbert, residing at that Court in this king's name, has sent by a servant the capitulations and the ratified treaties.
What division has been arranged between two such powerful allies in the event of their attacks succeeding with a glory equal to the power and valour with which they are directed, is not as yet made public or come to human knowledge. But other essential particulars have come to light which may be of interest to the Senate if they have not yet reached their ears. These are concerned with the arrangements for the fleets at sea. As the English claim equality of position and superiority in experience it was difficult to see how they could unit two fleets of nations with equal pretensions, each equally punctilious towards the other, without the fear of disputes arising precisely about punctilio and without losing through rivalry and strife those victories which the world looks for from the experience of the English and to the desire and courage which move this nation to open the way to victories and to conquests at sea.
Success is also expected from seeing two nations at last become friends, united by such strong bonds of interest and glory, which causes astonishment to those who do not remember ever to have seen such a conjunction in past ages and such friendship, but rather constant bickering and perpetual rivalry. Thus the command in chief of all the naval forces is entrusted to the duke of Hyorc. He will enjoy the title of Admiral at sea both of England and of France. The count of Etre, who already has the honour to be vice admiral of this kingdom, will as a consequence be decorated with that of second admiral of England as well. There will be no difference in the flags flown than that of colour and the white and the blue will be flown together, these being preserved by each of these crowns.
The outward signs of dignity being thus arranged for, the sentiments and opinions of the commanders will also be at one for the most courageous decisions. The two fleets will unite and will consist of 105 vessels, of which they say the majority will be English.
The Dutch are also announcing with these reports the strength of their own armaments. If they cannot equal those of their enemies in numbers they hope to surpass them in courage and in the superior quality of their ships. They declare that they hope for victory in the fight and add that they will keep a sharp look out to prevent the union of these two fleets in order to fight them apart if possible, and in this way initiate the series of their victories.
It only remains now to await the course of events as everything is ordered for war. While the two crowns are marching in step to make their attack, the Dutch are working with might and main to provide trenches against such an irruption.
Paris, the 23rd March, 1672.
[Italian.]
March 23.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
181. Carlo Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English ambassadors, as a counterblast to the arguments or rather paradoxes made to them in their reply, have presented a fresh paper to the count of Pegneranda. (fn. 10) This does not advance the business but sets forth at greater length the advantage, consistency, reasonableness and equity of their last proposals. I must here speak of the excessive confidence shown by the ministers here that the peace will be maintained, notwithstanding any succour which they profess to give to the Dutch. They also feel sure that England may be separated from France without contributing any means or encouragement thereto. And yet from the lips of Obeville himself it has been learned that the alliance is under this principal obligation that neither crown shall be able to make peace without the consent of the other; that for this purpose millions have already been received by the British king and that the union is further pensioned monthly at a great cost in gold. Such results cannot at present be achieved by this monarchy by superior sums in the present scarcity.
Madrid, the 23rd March, 1672.
[Italian.]
March 25.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
182. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The duke of York, when returning from inspecting the ships at Chatham fell in with the Dutch man of war, mounting 30 guns, on board of which was Merman, the envoy from the States. He saluted the English flag with nine guns, which the duke acknowledged by five, and thanks were returned with three. A short distance astern of the duke's yacht was a small ketch which fired a shotted gun at the Dutchman, but without damaging him, laying claim to be saluted in like manner. The man of war complied and the encounter did not cause any further dispute, though the duke expected that Merman would have come on board his yacht, as a mark of respect, especially as the Dutch launch was all ready to bring him; and it displeased the duke to see that he changed his mind.
With this news the duke arrived in London on Saturday last at four in the morning and that same morning Merman was taken to audience of the king. It had been debated whether he should appear as envoy, gentleman extraordinary or something else, before he appeared as ambassador extraordinary. Borel accompanied him and the king chose to withdraw into his own closet. The duke of York also received them in like manner, the queen alone on that same Saturday evening having received Merman in the presence chamber where he addressed her in French.
The words uttered in public were general and those on affairs were even less conclusive. I learn that Merman told the king he was sent by the States to reply to Deuninghen's memorial about the salute, about which they no longer made any difficulty and were ready to declare that even the combined Dutch fleet would strike if it met the English flag, a point so far undecided and never conceded by the peace of Breda. The king then urged Merman to put this offer in writing and sign it, but the ambassador replied that they were only permitted to do so if the king previously pledged himself to keep peace with the Provinces, who would not otherwise make the concession. Many other words passed, but all on the same points, concerning which Arlington and Lauderdele, the commissioners appointed, held a long conference at the ambassador's house, though without any conclusion, and on Monday night they sent an express to the Hague with news to that effect.
That the king of Great Britain should rely on the fine promises of Holland, which are always ambiguous, make peace, disarm and lose his friendly allies is no less improbable than it is evident that the Dutch aim in fact at justifying themselves before the world by fair offers, which they call carte blanche, endeavouring to convince the people here that the king is unreasonable and thus render them more than ever averse from the war.
These proceedings coupled with the persistence and repeated protestations of Colbert have induced the king to tell the ambassadors that for the sake of obtaining better replies he will batter the Dutch ships. It would seem that from punctiliousness they are proceeding to words and blows, adapting themselves more and more daily to the suspicions which they entertain of France. The alliance, as I mentioned before, is not dissolved thereby, but they have merely discovered the secret which causes the Most Christian to adhere to it.
The order having been given a few days ago to stop all Dutch ships, Sir Robert Holmes with twelve men of war on Tuesday night fell in with sixty merchantmen and their convoy of six sail, all of the rich Smyrna fleet, the greater part carrying thirty guns each. The engagement is still going on and the last advices report that Holmes is slightly wounded, and being still to windward of the Dutch he is holding on and hopes to prevent them getting into port. For this purpose eleven other ships are being sent, vice Admiral Spragh, who has just arrived at Court, not having received the order in time. (fn. 11)
It is not known what result the attempt will have. It is observed that the wind has veered to favour the escape of the Dutch, and nothing has yet been said about the consequences of the capture, should it be effected. The general belief is that war is understood to be already declared; but the chief ministers are not yet agreed on this point, and perhaps as an apology for omitting to declare war formally the king will say that he made the seizure to compel the Dutch to answer him, and meant to delay entering upon war until there was no other remedy.
In the mean time sailors are being taken everywhere to man the fleet, and the sixty large ships will be ready by the 10th of next month; but their destination is not yet settled, as they are to be joined by thirty French ships, the least of which will carry sixty guns, and the largest ninety.
Holland on her side does not fail to hasten the equipment of her fleet. Arlington told me that even the Pensionary de Witz intends to be on board as commissioner, for the purpose of encouraging great undertakings, and in order to be away from the Hague and from personal danger in case of untoward events.
The duke of Monmouth, only two evenings ago, sent his steward to France for the actual preparation of his equipage, a clear sign that his departure is caused by some fresh resolve. But when conversing with me last week he said that he did not know when he should move in that direction. Possibly these movements are accelerated by the arrival, a few evenings ago, of an express from the French Court announcing the departure of the Most Christian as fixed for the 25th April, and it has also been decided to send to Paris as envoy extraordinary Lord Locard, who will afterwards proceed to some other Court in Germany. I will send any further news on Monday, by way of France.
The king, the Court and all the foreign ministers have gone into mourning for the death of the daughter of the king of France. (fn. 12) This is the third time I have been put to similar expense, without any help from the state's munificence.
London, the 25th March, 1672.
[Italian.]
March 28.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Inghilterra.
Venetian
Archives.
183. Girolamo Alberti, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
During the whole of last Saturday confused accounts of the sea fight with the Dutch continued to reach the Court. The true Archives. advices having arrived yesterday afternoon I forward them by the unusual Lyons route in order that your Serenity may have the news earlier, as Dutch passion and other causes may possibly falsify it.
Admiral Robert Holmes should have had twelve ships with him, but four, not being ready to put to sea, remained in port, and three having parted company he had only five when he fell in with the whole Dutch Smyrna fleet of fifty sail, convoyed by six men of war. Thirty of the merchantmen carried from 20 to 40 guns each. On nearing the Hollanders Vice Admiral Lord Osseri fired an unshotted gun, demanding the salute. His second discharge was with ball, which killed a soldier, the third went through the ship's side. The Dutchman sent immediately to tell Lord Osseri that his lieutenant was gone to Sir Robert Holmes, requesting Osseri to suspend his fire until an answer had been received. The Dutch admiral's proposals were so preposterous and so insolently worded that Holmes hoisted the red flag and the action began, the combatants being separated by nightfall, under cover of which the English admiral changed his ship, which together with two others had had their sails and rigging torn by the enemy's shot. In the mean time Holmes' three consorts had come up and on Thursday morning he was able to get the weather gauge of the Dutch, and he renewed the fight, which ended in the evening. Six of the richest merchantmen were captured and the third flagship sunk, as after she had been taken by boarding there was not time to stop a leak. (fn. 13) On Friday Sir Robert endeavoured to give chase, but a heavy gale favoured the escape of the Dutch into their harbours. They had suffered severely, and lost three brave captains and a very large number of men, whereas the English loss was small and it will be easy for the ships to put to sea again in a few days.
On receiving this account the king held a cabinet council and forthwith decided to sent the commissioners Lauderdele and Arlington to the Dutch ambassadors to declare war on the United Provinces. But as the declaration will be printed together with the causes which have induced his Majesty to make it, I withold particulars until I can send the document, next post. I can say now that the refusal of the Dutch to concede the salute has hastened the war, as it was the king's intention to seize all the Dutch ships he could and detain them until the Provinces made the necessary concessions. The Dutch ambassadors answered in general terms, but Colbert, being assured of the movements of this side, informed the king last evening, and also told me, that the Most Christian was only waiting for a sign from his Majesty here, to declare and wage war on the Dutch. In the mean time he urges the duke of Monmouth to cross over to France, as he is preparing to do, hoping to be ready, with his regiment completed, in three weeks.
The fitting out of the fleet is now accelerated and the king has decided to go to inspect it tomorrow morning, with the duke of York. They reckon that it may be ready to put to sea in a fortnight.
Such is the result of the negotiations of the Dutch ambassadors, and indeed no other could be expected, especially as at their subsequent conference and according to their instructions, they insisted on receiving assurance of peace before offering England the satisfaction demanded concerning the salute or allowing the terms to be examined by the king and Council, a clear proof that their second intention was to make the world believe that Holland was inclined towards peace, and to convince the people of England that the king was averse from it, solely out of complaisance for France and from regard for the engagements contracted with her.
All this has not the slightest influence upon the policy of the government here, which being based upon clear arguments does not despair of convincing the country of the king's zeal for the prestige of the realm and its greater honour.
On this occasion the king issued another very important proclamation, which I enclose, showing that his Majesty, knowing by experience that severity fails to extirpate the sects of the Nonconformists, has granted them most gracious toleration, not merely suspending the penal laws, but promising to all sorts of nonconformists as many meeting houses as they may think requisite.
The Roman Catholic recusants will also be exempt from the penalties of the law, but will not have stated places of worship. As the proclamation deserves a more exact account of the motives which induced it and of the immediate and ultimate effects which it may produce, I will report on them later, for it is incredible how much excitement the measure causes all over the country and in what different ways it is received, because of the conflicting opinions of this people.
Your Excellencies may know that Monterey having demanded 300,000 florins of the city of Brussels for the fortifications, the magistrate hesitated to grant the sum, whereupon the mob rushed tumultuously to the burgomaster's house and tried to sack it; but as it was well guarded they merely broke all the windows, their resentment having been caused because he did not provide the money immediately. The governor had some difficulty in quieting the too zealous rioters, and promised the nations that he would withdraw his demands, thinking it well to pacify them, possibly with a view to obtain more on some future occasion; and so dispersed the rioters.
London, the 28th March, 1672.
Postscript: I have just returned from the Court where a merchant told the king that with his own money he had been obliged to ransom a ship seized in Holland, together with many other English ships, which have been sequestrated and sold there. (fn. 14) The truth will be better known by the next post.
[Italian.]
Enclosure.184. Declaration of Indulgence. (fn. 15)
Dated 15 March, 1672.
[Printed pamphlet and Italian translation.]
March 30.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
185. Francesco Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Report of the English attack upon the Dutch fleet from Smyrna.
This news revives their hopes at this Court and confirms them in the belief that they will see England involved in their engagements and obliged to support the operations which are in course of preparation. The voices of the Court do not altogether and in every way approve of the conduct of England. Some condemn it as showing lack of foresight when they might, by a previous arrangement, have arranged for a stronger reinforcement for their own forces by a junction with a certain number of French vessels which were in the ports of France towards the British sea. Rendered stronger by this support they could have acted with more vigour, won a more glorious victory and achieved a more profitable conquest. Others criticise their excessive rashness in exposing themselves with a few craft to the risk of a fierce conflict supported by the vigour of an entire fleet. But these voices are only the opinions of private individuals who comment with freedom upon passing events; but the government takes nothing into consideration except the essential matters of victories and losses.
Paris, the 30th March, 1672.
[Italian.]

Footnotes

1 Of a daughter, Maria Anna, on the 9th February, who died on the 23rd of that month.
2 Salvetti Antelminelli gives a less sensational account of the illness: La regina ha languida per molti giorni passati d'una indispositione malancolica che ne la Maesta sua ne gli medici ne potevano dir la ragione. Non stava molto male ne leve, onde l'imputorono a qualche umore malancolica. Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 27962 T, fol. 278.
3 No doubt on account of the rising fortunes of Louise de Keroualle. She is said to have gone through a mock marriage with Charles at Arlington's house at Euston in the preceding October, and in this month of March was reported by Madame de Sevigné to be in an “interesting condition.” On 29 July she gave birth to a son, Charles Lennox, later duke of Richmond. Forneron: Louise de Keroualle, duchess of Portsmouth, pp. 70–3.
4 The text of the reply, signed by the Conde de Peñaranda and dated 25 February is in S.P. Spain, Vol. lix, with an English translation.
5 Tous les marchands de cette ville sont entièrement allarmés de la crainte que l'ambassadeur d'Espagne leur fait donner d'une guerre avec le roi son maître que Ton considère ici comme la ruine entière du commerce. Colbert to the King on 24 March. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts.
6 Johan Meerman was sent by de Witt to England in September 1667, soon after the conclusion of the treaty of Breda.
7 Sir Francis Dodington of Dodington in Somerset, who had been active for the king in the Civil War and had gone to live in France during the Commonwealth, his estates being confiscated. See Collinson: History of Somerset, Vol. iii, p. 619.
8 There are copies of this memorial in Italian, with an English translation in S.P. Venice, Vol. li, ff. 127–34. In his despatch covering these copies Dodington says that as Galilee was coming in person he might succeed in obtaining some part of his demands, but “my fears exceed my hopes.” Ibid., f. 125.
9 It is interesting to compare Colbert's own report, shortly before this date. He wrote “Milord Arlington … m'a toujours parlé dans même sens, que le roi son maître me priant de compatir a leur faiblesse et a la necessité où ils se trouvent de menager l'Espagne jusqu'a ce qu'elle assiste effectivement les Hollondais, et que comme l'amitié et l'appui de V.M. sont infiniment plus … necessaires au roi d'Angleterre que tous les autres puissances de l'Europe, non seulement pout le dessein qu'il a d'embrasser la religion Catholique, mais même pour le maintien de son autorité. Cette raison d'interêt, qu'il ne feignait pas de dire est plutôt la regle de la durée des traités que la bonne foi, obligerait toujours le dit roi et ses plus fideles ministers a entretenir inviolablement pendant tout son règne l'etroit union qui est a present entre V.M. et lui a faire toutes choses possibles pour votre satisfaction,” Colbert to the king on 1 March. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts.
10 The answer was given on 6th March. Sunderland and Godolphin to Arlington. March 6/16, 1672. S.P. Spain, Vol. lix.
11 It was said in London that but for the jealousy between Holmes and Spragge the whole of the Dutch fleet would have been taken. If Holmes had forewarned Spragge, as he might have done, not a single ship of the fleet would have escaped. Colbert to the king on 28 March. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts.
12 Maria Theresa, third daughter of Louis XIV, born 2 Jan. 1667, died 1 March, 1672.
13 Holmes changed from the St. Michael into the Cambridge. The Dutchman captured and sunk was the Little Holland of 46 guns. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1671–2, p. 204.
14 Salvetti Antelminelli, writing on 3 April, says: Diversi marinari Inglesi, scampati d'Olanda, dicono che quelli Stati habbino detenuti molti legni Inglesi nelli loro porti et che alcuni sono di maggiore importanza che queste stampe riconoscono; ma in ogni modo si crede che due volte tanti siano stati confiscati delli loro in quest' Amiralita. Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 27962 T, fol. 293d.
15 Printed in Neal: Hist. of the Puritans, Vol. iv, p. 407; Kennet: Hist. of Eng., Vol. iii, p. 287, etc.