An Introduction to ‘Historia delle cose occorse nel regno d’Inghilterra,’ by Giulio Raviglio Rosso (1560)

An introduction to Giulio Raviglio Rosso’s ‘Historia delle cose occorse nel regno d’Inghilterra, in materia del Duca di Nortomberlan dopo la morte di Odoardo VI’ first published in 1560.


Historia delle cose occurse nel regno d’Inghilterra was probably written in the summer of 1554, though the edition transcribed and translated here was not published until 1558. Given the level of descriptive detail included, its author was seemingly among the Venetian ambassadorial delegation sent to England on the occasion of the marriage between Mary, Queen of England, and Philip, Prince of Spain, on 25 July 1554. It was standard practice upon their return home for Venetian ambassadors to create written reports of their missions and to submit those reports to the Venetian Senate. The Historia has many of the hallmarks of just such a report, not least of which is its focus on large public ceremonies and spectacles of state.

The narrative content of the Historia begins with the final illness of King Edward VI, proceeds through his death and the subsequent abortive reign of Queen Jane, then follows with detailed descriptions of Queen Mary’s entrance into London and her subsequent coronation. The report discusses the betrothal late in 1553 of Queen Mary to Philip, Prince of Asturias and son of the King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. It then offers an account of the rebellions in early 1554 of Sir Thomas Wyatt and of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, both in reaction to that betrothal. The Historia ends with a very detailed, seemingly-eyewitness, narrative of the wedding ceremony itself, held in the city of Winchester and attended by groups of ambassadors from numerous rival countries. Because the Historia ends abruptly at the close of the wedding banquet, it is reasonable to assume that its author left England shortly after the conclusion of those festivities, having been in England solely for the purpose of representing Venice during what was an event of great international political and diplomatic significance.

The Historia was issued in three editions. The edition transcribed here was the first, published in 1558 by the Venetian Academy. No credit was given by the publisher to any individual author. In a subsequent edition, under the title I successi d’Inghilterra dopo la morte di Odoardo sesto and issued at Ferrara in 1560, Giulio Raviglio Rosso claimed authorship of both editions (those of both 1558 and 1560). A third was issued in 1590, also at Ferrara and also under Rosso’s name.

Little is known about Rosso, though he stated in his dedication and introduction to the Ferrara edition of 1560 that he had been part of the ambassadorial mission to England in 1554. He also complained bitterly that the Venetian edition of 1558 had been, in essence, stolen from him by members of the Academy. Since Academians are known to have been included among either the Venetian or Imperial delegations to England in 1554, and since there are some differences in content between the Venetian and Ferrarese editions, it seems possible that the Venetian edition seen here was compiled from accounts by multiple contributors, of which Rosso’s misappropriated one represents the bulk. Modern cataloguing librarians now tend, however, to credit all editions to Rosso alone.

Yet antiquarians and historians writing in the nineteenth century attributed the 1558 edition of Historia not to Rosso, but rather to either the founder of the Venetian Academy, Federico Badoaro, or to the editor of the volume, Luca Contile.

Federico Badoaro (1519–1593), or Badoer, was a Venetian politician, diplomat, and founder in 1556 of the Venetian Academy. The Academy was modeled on other similar institutions then arising in the Italian city-states and kingdoms and was intended both to bring together the leading scholars in a variety of fields of academic study and to publish their works. Badoaro initially provided out of his personal funds the financial backing for operation of the Academy, hoping eventually to obtain external support. Efforts to acquire such support were largely unsuccessful, however, and the Academy was short-lived, failing spectacularly in 1561–62 following the personal bankruptcy and imprisonment of Badoaro.

Because his is the first personal name to appear in the work (other than that of the dedicatee, Margaret of Austria), Agnes Strickland, James A. Froude, Richard Davey, and others assumed Badoaro (misspelled by all as ‘Baoardo’) to have been the actual author of the volume, despite Rosso’s clear — though later — assertion that Badoaro had only read and approved of the work. That Badoaro was himself a far-roving ambassador during the period is evident. Though a citizen of Venice and formerly a member of its governing Council of Ten, Badoaro eventually took up diplomatic employment under successive members of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty that then controlled or directly ruled much of the Italian peninsula. Badoaro served Ferdinand I, the Spanish-Habsburg King of the Romans, of Hungary, and of Bohemia, in Austria in 1550, and Ferdinand’s older brother the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in Spain in 1554. Surviving correspondence between and from various Venetian and Imperial ambassadors indicates that Badoaro was in Brussels in the summer of 1554, though there is no evidence to suggest that he himself ever crossed the Channel to England for the royal wedding. He did, however, receive frequent eyewitness reports from Giovanni Michiel, the Venetian ambassador to Queen Mary. The level of Badoaro’s participation in this specific edition therefore remains ambiguous, though he is probably at best a secondary ‘hearsay’ source.

Luca Contile (1505–1574) was a member of the Venetian Academy, and himself a prolific author, poet, and even diplomat. During a diplomatic career spanning more than two decades, Contile served such masters as Alfonso d’Avalos, Marquis of Vasto, an Italian noble in command of all Spanish Imperial forces in Italy, and Ferrante Gonzaga, successor to Avalos as Spanish Governor of Milan. From 1552 until 1558, however, Contile was in service to the Cardinal Bishop of Trent, Cristoforo Madruzzo. The Cardinal was in turn employed by Charles V for a variety of diplomatic missions, mostly within the territories of the Holy Roman Empire and involving primarily religious councils (e.g.: the Council of Trent, in which Madruzzo played a prominent role). It is unlikely that Contile traveled into England in service to either Cardinal Madruzzo or Charles V, and thus equally unlikely that he contributed in any substantive way to the narrative content of the Historia.

Contile did nonetheless pen the dedication for this edition, to Margaret of Austria, illegitimate daughter of Charles V. At the time of the publication of the first edition of the Historia, Margaret was residing in the Spanish-controlled Netherlands, then under the governorship of her half-brother Philip, King Consort of Mary Tudor and newly acceded in his own right in 1556 as King of Spain. Margaret assumed governorship of the Netherlands in the following year (1559) when Philip returned to Spain to take up in person his royal duties there. In making the dedication to Margaret, Contile was following the standard practice of dedicating a publication to a highly-placed and wealthy individual as a means of soliciting financial patronage from that individual. In this instance, the implicit solicitation on behalf of the Venetian Academy seems to have fallen on deaf ears, since the Academy collapsed in bankruptcy and scandal just three years later.

To my knowledge, no English translation of Historia delle cose occorse nel regno d’Inghilterra has ever been published in its entirety, though limited extracts have been included in numerous modern works. The Historia has until now remained an obscure work accessible only to those able to read the archaic sixteenth-century Venetian dialect of the Italian language. It is my hope that this online publication of my translation will allow greater access to a fascinating account of events in England in 1553 and 1554.

Historia delle cose occurse nel regno d’Inghilterra, in materia del Duca di Nortomberlan dopo la morte di Odoardo VI.

History of the things that occurred in the realm of England, in relation to the Duke of Northumberland after the death of Edward VI.


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