Post-classical history


AS THE VENETIAN AMBASSADOR Andrea Trevisan journeyed on horseback from Dover to London in late August 1497, he was most struck by how thinly inhabited the English countryside appeared to be. He would gather the same impression from travelers who had been north to Scotland and west to Bristol and Cornwall: “The population of this island does not appear to me to bear any proportion to her fertility and riches.” England’s population had been devastated by plague and wars at home and abroad, but what the nation lacked in people it more than made up for in sheep. The wealth in wool was obvious to any visitor.

Arriving in the capital to await an audience with Henry VII, Trevisan likely was housed by the ambassador-designate Piero Contarini. His fine courtyard home had twelve bedchambers (some of which were probably used as offices), a stable, a larder house, and a garden house. It served as a place of business for the Contarinis and their Venetian partners and was well chosen for commerce. It was located on Buttolph (now Botolph) Lane, next to St. Buttolph’s churchyard, in the heart of Billingsgate Ward, just downriver from London Bridge and next to St. Katharine’s Pool, where shipping in and out of London anchored.

Trevisan would have found himself in the very heart of the London so recently frequented by John Cabot. A short walk north on Buttolph Lane could take him to Lombard Street, locus of Italian banking and trade in the capital and the source of Cabot’s funding. To the north of Lombard, just inside the old city walls, was the friary of Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis’s Augustinian order. Among the vessels that called at London virtually within sight of the Contarini home in the summer of 1497 was the Pasqualiga, which the Venetian senate had chosen to provide haul-back service for much-desired English goods in lieu of the continued suspension of the Flanders Galleys. In late August, the ship had probably moved on to Southampton, where the senate had ordered it to wait three months before loading for the return voyage. Lorenzo Pasqualigo, who was minding the family’s affairs in England, nevertheless was in London when he wrote his brothers Alvise and Francesco back in Venice on August 23, just as Trevisan arrived at Dover.

Pasqualigo’s letter conveyed the first news from England of Cabot’s return from the 1497 voyage, one day ahead of the letter to the Duke of Milan written in London. Both may have been penned around the same time in order to take advantage of a mail packet that was about to leave the city. Pasqualigo’s account was far more detailed and evidently wasn’t the first news of Cabot that he had passed along to his brothers. Although the letter noted that Cabot was now in Bristol with his wife and children, Pasqualigo’s account suggested a firsthand encounter with the Venetian explorer during a visit to London.

“That Venetian of ours who went with a small ship from Bristol to find new islands has come back,” he explained, “and says he has discovered mainland 700 leagues away, which is the country of the Grand Khan [Gram Cam].” Cabot had coasted this land for three hundred leagues and landed on it, and while he did not see any people, he had returned with some artifacts: snares for capturing game, a needle for making nets. Cabot had also seen felled trees, which he thought was a sign of inhabitants. “Being in doubt he returned to his ship; and he has been three months on the voyage; and this is certain. And on the way back he saw two islands, but was unwilling to land, in order not to lose time, as he was in want of provisions. The king here is much pleased at this; and he [Cabot] says that the tides are slack and do not run as they do here.”

Pasqualigo understood that Henry VII promised to fulfill Cabot’s desire to have ten armed ships for another voyage in the spring “and has given him all the prisoners to be sent away, that they may go with him, as he has requested; and has given him money that he may have a good time until then, and he is with his Venetian wife and sons at Bristol.”

For once, someone actually took notice of this adventurer’s name. “His name is Zuam Calbot and he is called the Great Admiral and vast honor is paid to him and he goes dressed in silk, and those English run after him like mad, and indeed he can enlist as many of them as he pleases, and a number of our rogues as well. The discoverer of these things planted on the land which he has found a large cross with a banner of England and one of St. Mark, as he is a Venetian, so that our flag has been hosted very far afield.”

We can well imagine Lorenzo Pasqualigo’s bemusement as he watched Cabot swan around London, using the king’s reward to outfit himself with fine garments made from silk that Venetian ships brought to England. Gone was the somber black hooded cloak that Venetians wore in the Rialto. Cabot had taken to sporting the finery that his social standing also would never have permitted in Spain. The fact that he was being called the Great Admiral underscored his determination to remake himself as a Columbus of the North. Nothing in the letters patent from Henry promised him such an exalted title, nor does any record survive of Henry conferring this honorific.

Cabot was shaping his next effort according to the parameters of Columbus’s second voyage. He expected to have a considerable number of ships: Where Pasqualigo said there would be ten, the August 24 letter to the Duke of Milan promised fifteen to twenty, which was essentially the size of Columbus’s 1493 armada of seventeen vessels. Cabot also imagined establishing a colony along the lines of La Isabella and would need all the prisoners that Henry reportedly was willing to release to him to serve as labor. Columbus had been empowered to pardon criminals for his first voyage, and had sprung three men from the jail in Palos to serve aboard the Santa María in 1492. But Cabot had not been granted a similar power in his 1496 patent. Pasqualigo’s mention of prisoners being provided to Cabot for the next voyage instead evoked the decision earlier that summer by Fernando and Isabel to release criminals to Columbus as labor on Española; Cabot remained well informed about the latest developments in Columbus’s enterprise and was incorporating them into his own plans.

Andrea Trevisan was in London only four days after Pasqualigo wrote his brothers with the stunning news that the Signoria’s banner of San Marco had been planted in the land of the Great Khan by one of their fellow citizens. Pasqualigo was also in close touch with Trevisan’s contacts in London. The senate had called for the Pasqualiga to have at least 120 additional men for its protection and had ordered the new Venetian consul in London, Almorò Pisani, to call a muster roll on the ship before its return passage and send it home with the seal of Venice, so that the senate could be sure its manning orders had been followed. Failure to do so would result in heavy fines for the ship’s masters and a suspension of their licenses for ten years.

It was thus altogether remarkable that after arriving in London to await an audience with Henry VII at Woodstock, Trevisan apparently heard nothing about John Cabot’s exploits, so recently the talk of London’s Italian merchant community, including its Venetians. Or if he did hear about it, he didn’t think it worth sharing with the doge and senate. Only days after arriving in London, more urgent matters were before him.

ANDREA TREVISAN LEFT LONDON September 1 to meet Henry VII on September 3 at Woodstock, which he found “a sorry village.” He was joined there by his traveling companion, the Milanese ambassador Raimundo di Raimundis, for a shared audience. Henry knew how to stage a greeting, to impress with his wealth. They found him “in a small hall, hung with very handsome tapestry, leaning against a tall gilt chair, covered with cloth of gold,” Trevisan reported. “His Majesty wore a violet colored gown, lined with cloth of gold, and a collar of many jewels, and on his cap was a large diamond and a most beautiful pearl.”

When Trevisan and Raimundis arrived in England, war and rebellion seemed to belong to an unhappy if very recent past. They could concentrate on welcoming Henry into the Holy League and assessing progress on the new peace between England and Scotland that had just been brokered by Pedro de Ayala. Trevisan expected to confer again shortly with Henry when the king returned to London, but England suddenly was being plunged back into political and military turmoil. There was now nothing on anyone’s mind but a fresh threat to Henry’s reign. On September 8, Perkin Warbeck came ashore in Cornwall with a few hundred supporters, mainly from Ireland. Warbeck proclaimed himself the true king, Richard IV, and united with elements of the summer’s tax rebellion. After laying siege to the gates of Exeter on September 18 and 19, the mob army several thousand strong had nothing to show for its efforts but a few hundred casualties among its own numbers. Warbeck remustered his force in Taunton, where the Cornwall rebels made a show of murdering the abducted proctor of Penryn in the marketplace; they “slewe hym pytuously, in such wise that he was dismembred and kutte in many and sundry peces.” The proctor had been butchered for allegedly having been one of the commissioners in the country who gathered more money from the people than reached the king.

Warbeck then fled his own army with several chief accomplices, including a London mercer named John Heron, who had left the capital to avoid debts there. They took refuge in Beaulieu (“Bewley”) abbey, a Cisterian sanctuary near Southampton answerable only to the pope. The rebellion was over. Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis, Cabot’s promoter and banking connection, raced to Exeter and kept Henry abreast of events. The king then rode for Exeter, and Warbeck’s whereabouts were soon discovered.

The pretender and Heron agreed to come to Taunton and surrender there to Henry, who spared the lives of both men. Warbeck soon confessed to the ruse of his claim to be Richard IV and admitted to his humble Flemish origins (“ffirst it is to be knowen that I was born in the Towne of Turney, and my ffaders name is called John Osbek; which said John Osbek was controller of the Towne of Turney. And my moders name is Kateryn de ffaro . . .”).

Trevisan secured an audience with Henry on the king’s return to London in late November. Trevisan’s reports were terse, in marked contrast to those of Raimundis, who made intensive inquiries about the uprising and wrote in detail to the Duke of Milan. Trevisan did not even report what he and Henry discussed at Westminster. He had had his fill of Henry’s kingdom and, on November 28, he wrote the Venetian senate for permission to return home, “perceiving that his stay in England is of no importance.” His parents had died recently, and his relatives in the Signoria were agitating for the senate to approve his early recall.

Trevisan had never warmed to the country, or its people. In the report Trevisan would write for the senate and doge after returning to Venice the following spring, he found the English self-satisfied, convinced of their superiority. He begged to differ. “They are gifted with good understanding, and are very quick at everything they apply their minds to; few, however, excepting the clergy, are addicted to the study of letters; and this is the reason why anyone who has learning, though he may be a layman, is called by them a Clerk.” The English were also uncouth, and he shuddered at how they shared one wine cup among three or four people.

He detected little loyalty to Henry VII: “They generally hate their present [king], and extol their dead sovereigns.” He added: “The people are held in little more esteem than if they were slaves.” Yet he assured the doge and senate: “From the time of William the Conqueror to the present, no king has reigned more peaceably than he has, his great prudence causing him to be universally feared.”

On January 31, 1498, Trevisan again pleaded to be recalled. The senate acquiesced. In the meantime, he had missed altogether John Cabot’s reappearance at Henry’s court.

ONLY WHEN THE CORNWALL rebellion and Perkin Warbeck’s easily crushed attempt to secure the crown had run their course could John Cabot resume his efforts to press for the king’s support of a follow-up voyage. With Henry back in London, Cabot returned to court to pursue his vision of a large-scale venture modeled on Columbus’s second voyage of 1493.

Cabot first secured a lifetime reward from Henry for his achievement. On December 13 at Westminster, the king “graunted unto our welbiloved John Calbot of the parties of Venice” an annual pension of twenty pounds, to be paid out of Bristol customs receipts “for the tyme beying” in two annual equal installments, at Easter and Michaelmas, with an initial reward to be backdated to the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. It was while Cabot was at Westminster, securing this reasonably generous stipend, that the Milanese ambassador Raimundo di Raimundis encountered him and his entourage. Raimundis listened with fascination as Cabot explained what he had found and what he hoped to achieve.

Raimundis may have witnessed a lecture Henry arranged for Cabot to give at court, but as the Milanese ambassador professed to having become a friend of the explorer, he also enjoyed private exchanges with Cabot and his small circle of associates. How Andrea Trevisan managed not to encounter Cabot or write anything about him is one of the oddities of both the Venetian explorer’s career and the ambassador’s tenure in England. Trevisan and Raimundis were at court together on December 14, the day after Cabot was awarded his pension, having been summoned to hear the king clarify his position with respect to France and the Holy League. It was most certainly around this time that Raimundis had the encounter with Cabot that provoked a voluble letter to the Duke of Milan on December 18.

But in addition to Trevisan’s weariness of England and distraction of the deaths of his parents, which dulled his enthusiasm for the posting and made him yearn to quit the country, the Milanese ambassador had a circumstantial advantage over his Venetian counterpart: Most connections to Cabot in London revolved around the Duchy of Milan (and its protectorate Genoa) rather than Venice. There was Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis, who was so prominent at court and also a link to Cabot’s London bankers. Although those bankers were Florentine rather than Genoese, in the House of Bardi, the Duke of Milan maintained communications channels with England through Florentine merchants. Raimundis, in discussing how best to get letters to him on September 8, 1497, had mentioned both “the Genoa letter bag” as well as “such Florentine merchants as are in your confidence, as their correspondence passes through France without impediment and is but little searched.” Florentines in London also would have had no time for the company of a Venetian ambassador, as they were still smarting from the loss of the lucrative English wool staple at Pisa arranged in 1490, after Venice crushed it through trade and duty countermeasures.

The Milanese sphere of Cabot’s enterprise included the barber (surgeon) that Raimundis met, who was from greater Genoa. Even the mysterious Burgundian qualified, because the Duke of Milan had forged a close alliance with Maximilian and the Burgundian Netherlands by engineering with the aid of a massive dowry the 1494 marriage of Maximilian (a widower since the death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482) and his niece, Bianca Maria Sforza.

“Perhaps amid the numerous occupations of your Excellency, it may not weary you to hear how his Majesty here has gained a part of Asia, without a stroke of the sword,” Raimundis wrote the duke.

There is in this Kingdom a man of the people, Messer Zoane Caboto by name, of kindly wit and a most expert mariner. Having observed that the sovereigns first of Portugal and then of Spain had occupied unknown islands, he decided to make a similar acquisition for his majesty. After obtaining patents that the effective ownership of what he might find should be his, though reserving the rights of the Crown, he committed himself to fortune in a little ship, with eighteen persons. He started from Bristol, a port on the west of this kingdom, passed Ireland, which is still further west, and then bore towards the north, in order to sail to the east, leaving the north on his right hand after some days. After having wandered for some time he at length arrived at the mainland, where he hoisted the royal standard, and took possession for the king here; and after taking certain tokens he returned.

Because Cabot was “a foreigner and a poor man,” he would not have been believed in his discovery claims, “had it not been that his companions, who are practically all English and from Bristol, testified that he spoke the truth.” The ambassador mentioned the world map and the globe that showed his findings. “In going towards the east [i.e., Asia] he passed far beyond the country of the Tanais”—in other words, far to the east of the river Don that empties into the Sea of Azov. “They say that the land is excellent and temperate, and they believe that Brazil wood and silk are native there. They assert that the sea there is swarming with fish, which can be taken not only with the net, but in baskets let down with a stone, so that it sinks in the water. I have heard this Messer Zoane state so much.”

Cabot’s English companions said

they could bring so many fish that this kingdom would have no further need of Iceland, from which place there comes a very great quantity of fish called stockfish. But Messer Zoane has his mind set upon even greater things, because he proposes to keep along the coast from the place at which he touched, more and more towards the east [i.e., Asia], until he reaches an island which he calls Cipango, situated in the equinoctial region, where he believes that all the spices of the world have their origins, as well as the jewels.

The fact that Raimundis had never heard of Cipango, made famous by Marco Polo, was an initial clue to his credulousness. He went on to relate an assured lie by Cabot: “He says that on previous occasions he has been to Mecca, whither spices are borne by caravans from distant countries.”

Although a journey to Mecca was within the realm of physical possibility, the ratio of risk to reward was absurdly high. Cabot would have had to disguise himself as a Muslim to make a truly epic round-trip journey of about two thousand miles from the Venetian trade port of Alexandria. There was no mercantile purpose to visit the holy city near the Red Sea on the Arabian Peninsula, and if he was caught, he likely would never have seen home again.

No westerner is known to have visited Mecca covertly until a daring Bolognese, Ludovico di Varthema, began his journey there from Venice in 1500. Varthema first studied Arabic in Damascus before disguising himself as a Muslim in a Mamluk escort for a hajj caravan bound for the holy city in 1503. Varthema did find Mecca erupting with spices, silks, jewels, and other precious goods, but the supply chain of the European market through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait did not involve a detour through a city barred to nonbelievers fifty miles into the desert from the Red Sea. Cabot’s visit to Mecca, if it was true—and he baldly claimed to have made more than one—would have been so extraordinary that he squandered the opportunity to publish a Renaissance bestseller about his experiences. As it happened, Varthema produced his own book in 1510.

There were, however, plenty of travelers’ tales for Cabot to embellish as his own. Venice teemed with Holy Land pilgrims who were transported on the Signoria’s galleys, and many endured the desert trek of some three hundred miles from Alexandria to Mount Sinai at the height of Cabot’s activities in the Signoria. The German Dominican friar Felix Fabri made pilgrimages to Jerusalem in 1480 and to Mount Sinai in 1483–84, on both occasions traveling to and from Venice on a merchant galley. Fabri wrote about his experiences in the Holy Land, Arabia, and Egypt in the massive Evagatorium in Terrae Sanctae, Arabiæ et Egypti peregrinationem, which included an account of crossing the desert with Muslim guides to reach Mount Sinai as well as a purely imaginative rendering of a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Cabot could well have cobbled together his Mecca adventure from Fabri’s published account.

Most striking about Cabot’s idiosyncratic championing of Mecca as a trading center through which Asia’s precious goods flowed is that it echoed a notion Columbus expressed around the time of his own second voyage. In a letter written in 1500, Columbus recounted how his initial discoveries had promised to yield to Fernando and Isabel “just as much as would the traffic of Arabia Felix [southern Arabia] as far as Mecca, as I wrote to their Highnesses by Antonio de Torres in my reply respecting the repartition of the sea and land with the Portuguese.” Not only had Cabot appeared to sail on that second voyage; he would have returned to Spain with Torres in the February 1494 flotilla that most likely was the one to deliver the letter Columbus later mentioned. The letter of 1500 was written to Antonio de Torres’s sister, Juana de La Torre, and both were probably related to Diego de Torres, the governor of Valencia, with whom Cabot had dealt on the Valencia harbor project.

Cabot used his claim of a journey (or journeys) to Mecca to anchor his supposed sagacity on the sources of spices. According to Raimundis:

When he asked [at Mecca] those who brought them what was the place of origin of these spices, they answered that they did not know, but that other caravans came with this merchandise to their homes from distant countries, and these again said that the goods had been brought to them from other remote regions. He therefore reasons that these things come from places far away from them, and so on from one to the other, always assuming that the earth is round, it follows as a matter of course that the last of all must take them in the north towards the west. He tells all this in such a way, and makes everything so plain, that I also feel compelled to believe him.

The idea that Cabot had some special insight into the source of Asia’s riches—and that Cipango was the source of spices—only emphasized Raimundis’s own naiveté. The general trade routes were fairly well understood by Cabot’s time, and some of that knowledge had been gathered by two Venetian diplomats who had journeyed into Persia during Cabot’s years in the Signoria. Josophat Barbaro had been sent to Persia as an ambassador in 1471 and met an ambassador from India at the court of the king, Assembei. Barbaro reported at length on the trade route through the Strait of Ormuz to the mercantile center Calicut and to points farther east where goods were sourced. Another Venetian ambassador, Ambrogio Contarini, also visited Persia on an exhaustive journey overlapping with Barbaro’s embassy between 1473 and 1477.

In 1487, João II had dispatched overland expeditions through the Levant by Pero Covilham and Alfonso de Payva, whose orders included determining Venice’s specific sources of drugs and spices in the East and gathering what they could learn about the possibility of reaching India by sailing around Africa. Payva was murdered, but Covilham reached Calicut and Goa. Once back in Cairo, he sent a report describing the trade at Calicut in cinnamon, pepper, ginger, and cloves and the feasibility of the round-Africa route.

The trade routes to the East were so well known that around 1494, a Genoese merchant named Hieronimo di Santo Stefano set out from Cairo on a business venture that took him all the way to India and beyond to Ceylon, Malaya, and Pegu in southeast Asia; after a number of ordeals, he resurfaced in Tripoli in September 1499. His sea passage from Aden to Calicut alone, requiring thirty-five days, was as long as those of Cabot and Columbus. While Santo Stefano’s fellow Genoese Columbus was claiming to have reached the Indies, this intrepid merchant was actually there, taking note of pearls, jewels, coconuts, pepper, ginger, and sandalwood. Meanwhile, all Cabot could offer Raimundis in London was some vague and spurious insight, allegedly gathered from traders at Mecca, that their goods came “from places far away” and that he had deduced that because the world is round, he could reach these faraway places in the East by sailing west.

Either Raimundis was not a very attentive listener or Cabot was a fabricator who should have done more homework. Perhaps Trevisan was right, in that the English did not value schooling as much as his fellow Venetians, which had made Cabot the proverbial one-eyed king in the land of the blind where knowledge of the Indies was concerned. Raimundis’s fascination with the purported novelty of Cabot’s ideas was an embarrassing if inadvertent confession of his own ignorance, which would have been apparent to the Duke of Milan himself. Nicolò de’ Conti’s account of his travels as far east as Borneo, as set down by Giovanni Francesco Poggio Bracciolini, had been published in 1492 by Cristoforo da Bollate, a senator of the Duke of Milan, and dedicated to a senator of the Duke of Savoy, Pero Caro (Pietro Cara), who was embarking on his own journey to India and beyond. Raimundis was aware of Ludovico Sforza’s curiosity regarding the voyages of Columbus; otherwise he never would have bothered writing to the duke at such length about Cabot. But Raimundis had shown himself as gullible to Cabot’s pedestrian wisdom as any Englishmen far removed from the ferment of discussion in the most learned courts of Italy.

Henry VII too appeared to be easily dazzled by the Venetian’s patter. “What is much more, his Majesty, who is wise and not prodigal, also gives him some credence, because he is giving him a fairly good provision, since his return, so Messer Zoane himself tells me.” Cabot was decidedly optimistic about the level of support the king would provide, to hear Raimundis tell it.

Before very long they say that his majesty will equip some ships, and in addition he will give them all the malefactors [imprisoned criminals], and they will go to that country and form a colony. By means of this they hope to make London a more important mart for spices than Alexandria. The leading men in this enterprise are from Bristol, and great seamen, and now they know where to go, say that the voyage will not take more than a fortnight, if they have good fortune after leaving Ireland.

But the king was not as captivated by Cabot as Raimundis—or Cabot himself—thought. The confirmation of Englishmen had been necessary to persuade Henry that Cabot had actually found a new landfall.

Raimundis then mentioned two unnamed Cabot companions. One was sua barbero da castione Genovese—his Genoese barber, who could have been from the community in London but was probably originally from Castiglione Chiavarese, a municipality of no more than two thousand souls about thirty miles southeast of the city of Genoa, which had been sold to the Genoese republic in 1276. The other was the intriguing Burgundian (uno Borgognone), with whom Raimundis spoke at length and who demonstrated considerable knowledge because he “corroborates everything.” Each accomplice was expecting an award of an “island” on the next voyage. Cabot’s cohorts “both consider themselves counts, while my lord the Admiral esteems himself at least a prince.” A life of hustling, of dodging creditors, of fleeing angry nobles, had finally yielded an opportunity that made Cabot almost giddy with inflated self-regard.

“I also believe that some poor Italian friars will go on this voyage, who have the promise of bishoprics,” Raimundis added. “As I have made friends with the Admiral, I might have an archbishopric if I chose to go there, but I have reflected that the benefices which your Excellency reserves for me are safer, and I therefore beg that possession may be given me of those which fall vacant in my absence, and the necessary steps taken so that they may not be taken away from me by others, who have the advantage of being on the spot.” Raimundis was probably only half serious about taking Cabot up on the opportunity to be an archbishop, as he concluded, tongue firmly in cheek: “Meanwhile I stay on in this country, eating ten or twelve courses at each meal, and spending three hours at table twice every day, for the love of your Excellency, to whom I humbly commend myself.”

Raimundis would pass on the opportunity to secure an archbishopric from Cabot and, in early 1498, was recalled by the duke to assume fresh duties in Italy, his position in London assumed by Agostino Spinola. But the duke was soon sending Raimundis back to London to deal with a profound crisis that may have made the ambassador regret not taking Cabot up on his offer to make him an archbishop across the Ocean Sea.

Charles VIII died on April 8, 1498, the result of a freak accident in which he cracked his head on a low door lintel, purportedly while playing indoor tennis. The French crown shifted to his cousin, the Duc d’Orleans, who became Louis XII, and a recent major political realignment was shattered.

On November 25, 1497, Charles VIII and Fernando and Isabel had achieved at Alcala, near Madrid, an extraordinary pact reversing their recent enmity, forming an alliance aimed at divvying up territories in Italy. The Duke of Milan had seemed relatively safe under the new alliance. But with Charles VIII’s death and Louis XII’s ascent, Ludovico Sforza was suddenly at great risk.

A veteran of the 1494–95 Italian campaign, Louis XII had a claim to Milan through his grandmother and was intent on seizing it. In a letter to Agostino Spinola in London on May 11, 1498, Sforza alluded to “this new French king who calls himself Duke of Milan.” Raimundis was returned to England to drum up support to oppose Louis’s designs on the duchy. He did not arrive until September 7, 1498. By then, it was too late for Raimundis to resume his acquaintance with John Cabot.

On February 9, 1499, France and Venice signed a pact that made Milan their joint enemy. Raimundis left England for Flanders on July 12, all diplomacy now futile; Sforza fled Milan for the sanctuary of Maximilian’s domain as French and Venetian forces conquered the duchy in a campaign that lasted from August to October. Raising a force of his own, Sforza launched a counterattack in 1500 but was captured and removed to France, at one point being transported ignominiously in an iron cage sheathed in wood. He would die forgotten in 1508.

Raimundo di Raimundis, who had opened such an intriguing window onto John Cabot’s activities, character, and aspirations in December 1497, never again wrote of the Venetian explorer. The Milanese ambassador was also the first and last eyewitness to the presence in Cabot’s entourage of an unnamed Burgundian who corroborated his claims, expected title to part of the 1497 discoveries, and already fancied himself a count.

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