VENETIAN PAPERS 

[Ambassadors of foreign powers regularly sent reports to their superiors at home. The Venetian ambassadors were especially zealous in this respect. In the twentieth century, the British government published "calendars" of official correspondence pertaining to England by Venetian ambassadors from the sixteenth and seventeenth century. "Calendars" are chronologically arranged and contain whatever extracts from various documents that the editor considered significant and worthy of translation. Consequently, some passages of significance to the Goodwin-Fortescue dispute may have been left out. Calendar of State Papers . . . in the Archives . . . of Venice, 10 (1603-1607): 14-15, 141, 142, 143, 147-8. ]

{p14} [Simon Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate:]

{p15}. . . I enclose . . . a copy of a letter, written by the French Ambassador in England, to the French Ambassador here . . . .

                                                                                                  Valladolid, the first of May, 1603
 

         A few days before the death of the Queen all the nobility and commons of England prepared themselves for the immediate election and nomination of the King of Scotland as her successor.  To-day, the third of the month, at three o'clock in the morning, she died .... The King of Scotland was at once proclaimed in the Court at Richmond, and at the same day was proclaimed in the city by the King-at-Arms on horseback, surrounded by all the Lords of the Council, the Archbishops, Bishops, Earls, Barons and Knights to the number of three hundred.  Cecil read the proclamation I now enclose.  The change has been accomplished in this manner, though for years all Christendom held for certain that it must be attended with trouble and confusion.  The satisfaction is universal among the English, and so miraculous is the unanimity of the King's own nation that one sees his hand or his luck to be great, and his prudence even greater; for on this question of his assumption of the throne, which he dared not have broached to the Scottish earlier, he now finds such conformity to his wishes and such rapid union among all, notwithstanding the great difference of temperament which exists between the English and the Scottish, not merely in the matter of religion, but on account of the last events of the Queen's reign, and of that rooted and ancient hostility of the English to the Scottish, which seemed destined to retard the arrival of the King at the throne of England.  But his title is most legitimate and is supported by the good opinion the English have of his character, by the fact that he has sons, and because he is already versed in government.  Add to this the alarm that everyone feels lest discord should open the door to foreigners.  All these considerations have counselled to unanimity and promptness in receiving and recognising him . . . .
 
             London, 3rd April, 1603
 

{p141} [Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate:]

         . . . Parliament is composed of three orders, the nobility, which is restricted to those bearing titles such as Earls, Marquises, Barons, and the clergy--these two orders from the Upper Chamber, as it is called, which numbers about one hundred and thirty persons; the third order is that of the citizens or burgesses, who form the Lower Chamber.  It numbers about five hundred and fifty persons; each city, town, or big village sending two members.  Every member has the right to move the repeal, amendment or passing of laws.  The resolutions of the Lower Chamber are then carried by a special officer to the Upper Chamber, where they receive confirmation, and are submitted for approval by the Crown . . . .

             London, 7th April, 1604

[Same to same:]
 
         {p142}. . . Every day it becomes more and more apparent that, between the Lords and Commons there is great friction and ill feeling.  It has shown itself on various occasions, but more especially in the case where the county of Buckingham has refused to return Sir John Fortescue, who is a member of the Privy Council, and has elected in his stead a man of small or rather of low condition.   This has caused an altercation and the exchange of threats between certain members of the Privy Council and the burgesses.  The King is greatly disturbed, for he desires nothing so much as concord, with a view to the union of England and Scotland, a favourite scheme of his but one which will meet with difficulties, as he well knows, and, therefore, he does all he can to secure unanimity. In order to win over Parliament the King has divested himself of the right to nominate an undertaker, a right which Elizabeth had usurped in defiance of the laws of the Realm.  It is an office of the highest importance, for it is he who lays all matters before the House, and it is his duty to carry up the bills from the Lower to the Upper Chamber.  I have no doubt the King's object is to facilitate the union, but some say he wishes to raise subsidies.  He is resolved not to apply to Parliament for money without being sure of getting it.
         Very little is going on just now in Parliament.  It will be adjourned for Easter in four or six days.  The King is on the point of leaving London on a hunting expedition forty miles away from here.  He is only delayed by his desire to smooth away the disagreement between the two Houses.  His Majesty is inclined to be favourable to the Lords, but the Commons show great firmness in standing by their privilege.

         London, 8th April, 1604

[Same to same:]
 
         {p143} The quarrel between the Lower House and the Privy Council over the case of the county of Buckingham and the exclusion of Sir John Fortescue is more active than ever.  Neither the authority nor the entreaties of the King were of any avail, and he has gone to the chase.  The Council is very ill-pleased; and his Majesty has shown himself clearly of their part, for he has used contemptuous language of Sir John's opponent, calling him a "Bankrupt, outlaw"  and threatening to clap him in the Tower. The Council hoped that with the help of the royal authority the affair would be concluded as they desired; for they could not believe that the Commons, the county of Buckingham, or the member would venture to continue long in their pertinacity, when they saw the King's obvious displeasure.  Some members of Parliament, desiring to accommodate the affair, wrote to the county of Buckingham, urging it to hold a fresh election; but at that election Sir John polled very few votes, while his opponent polled one hundred and fifty more than on the previous election, and the county had announced its resolve to maintain his cause to the death, as a just cause and one based upon the ancient privileges of the Realm.  The affair is in such a state that no one can guess how it will end.  The King's return is awaited.  I am informed that the regrets the extremity to which the affair has been pushed, for he sees that he must either give or receive considerable damage . . . .

         London, 15th April, 1604

[Same to same:]
         {p147} The King came back from the chase on Maunday-Thursday, more in compliance with the prayers of the Council than from any particular wish of his own.  All Friday was spent in a discussion between the Privy Council and a committee of the Commons, which was held in his Majesty's presence, the subject being the Buckinghamshire election.  On Saturday the King ordered the county to proceed to the election of another member, as neither Fortescue nor his opponent were members for the county.  He hoped in this way to remove all occasion for further scandals, as blood was growing warm on both sides.  This Settlement was with difficulty acepted by the Commons, who held that the King was therein committing a breach of privilege of the counties, which had always enjoyed full liberty of election, and of Parliament as well, for no case had ever occurred in which a member, elected by a county and admitted to the House, had been expelled without any legitimate reason. . . .  However, when they saw that the Council, in spite of all its weight with the King, was unable to carry Fortescue, they finally calmed down.  A writ has issued for a fresh election in Buckinghamshire, and it is hoped that it will take place at once.
         {p148} Nothing of moment has taken place in Parliament as yet; they have merely declared the succession of this King and the right of his legitimate heirs to the throne; and reinstated some Barons and Earls in their titles and possessions, notably the Earl of Arundel, son of the eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk, the son of the Earl of Essex, and the Earl of Southampton.
         On Monday the question of the union of England and Scotland came up.  The King greatly desires it, but various difficulties arise . . . .

         London, 28th April, 1604
 
 
 
 
 


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