In a letter dated December 24 1608, the Venetian ambassador Marco Antonio Correr thanked John Florio for having invited him to a special event, possibly a court masque, performed during the Christmas holiday.

With the accession of James I, John Florio’s life at court began a new chapter: he held a prestigious position at the centre of power as Italian reader and private secretary to the Queen 1 Moreover, from 1604 to Anne’s death in 1619 Florio was also in close contact with many Italian secretaries and ambassadors, as the dispatches of those years testify.

Through John Florio, these figures would have sought an audience with Queen Anne at one of her palaces, or would have attended a banquet, an official ceremony, court masque, or semi-public meal that she either held, or was present. 2 In this context, Queen Anne was an important patron of the Jacobean theatre through her participation in, and popularisation of, the court masque, and John Florio a central figure having an instrumental role both with the ambassadors and the arrangement of the court entertainments.

Foreign ambassadors saw these invitations to the Queen’s masques as special marks of favour shown to them by the monarchy.  In one example, a French ambassador bristled for a period of several weeks when the Spanish ambassador was invited to a masque and he was not. 3 As was the case with Anne’s masques, all the leading nobles and ambassadors expected to be among the guests and vied for invitations.

On January 27 1605, Molino wrote to the Doge that he assisted to a masque “which was very beautiful and sumptuous” 4 Two weeks earlier, Ottaviano Lotti, on January 10, commented on on the Queen’s masque that was performed on the Twelfth Night:

“With much more magnificence and rarer invention than the other [Susan De Vere’s wedding]. Also it was staged in a larger room which was most adorned, quite apart from the assembly of so many of the nobility, which made a lovely sight.” 5

This new way of arranging sumptuously court entertainments, primarily connected with political relationships, were introduced by Queen Anne, and had John Florio, her first and most important confidant, as the go-between who played a central role with both parties.

The Italian ambassador Giorgio Giustinian, who wrote various letters to Florio, saw a production of Pericles at the Globe during his visit to London between January 1606 and December 1608. When he left England, Giustinian was replaced by Marc’ Antonio Correr, a Venetian nobleman.

Correr is known for having written different letters in which he described the courtly masques and plays of Florio’s time. In one letter dated February 1610, Correr stated that Arabella Stuart complained of “una certa circonscrittione della sua persona”, 6 or a parody of herself, that the “comici pubblici” had purposed to bring on the stage. By the comici pubblici, may not be improbably be meant the King’s players who, by turning Arabella into ridicule, expected to please their chief patron.

In a letter dated December 24 1608 that Marco Antonio Correr sent to Florio, it is attested that the Anglo-Italian personally invited him to a special event, possibly a court masque, performed during the Christmas holiday. The ambassador happily replied to be honoured to have received the invitation, that would have given him “the opportunity to spend the Christmas holidays happily”.

TNA PRO 30/25/65. Correr’s letter to John Florio dated December 24, 1608. Copyright: The National Archives &

Marianna Iannaccone provides now the full transcription of the letter, followed by the English translation:

Marc Antonio Correr to John Florio:

La cortese invitatione che mi ha fatto Vostra Signoria mi da l’occasione di far più allegramente queste feste del Natale; la ringratio infinitamente et me litengo ubligatissimo. Io ero molto ben impresso di quanta benignità sia la illustrissima Regina verso li rapresentanti la Regina nostra; hora resto consolatissimo della speranza che sia confirmata la sua gratia nella mia persona, et proverò in ogni moddo di meritarla; così che a Vostra Signoria auguro molta prosperità.

24 Decembris 1608

Marco Antonio Corraro

English Translation:

Your Lordship’s gracious invitation allows me to spend the Christmas holidays happily; I thank you infinitely and consider myself most grateful to you. I was very impressed by how gracious the most illustrious Queen is to our representatives; now I am most reassured with the hope that her grace will be confirmed in my person, and I will strive in every way to merit it; thus, I wish Your Lordship much prosperity.

December 24, 1608

Marco Antonio Corraro



“JOHN FLORIO, VENETIAN AMBASSADORS, AND THE JACOBEAN COURT ENTERTAINMENTS” by Marianna Iannaccone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Other permissions may be acquired at

  1. For further information about Florio’s years at court as groom of the privy chamber, please consult the page:
  2. R. Malcolm Smuts, Art and the Material Culture of Majesty in Early Stuart England, in Smuts, Stuart Court, p. 93
  3. Courtney, T., Politics and Culture at the Jacobean Court: The Role of Queen Anna of Denmark, Quidditas, 2008, p. 3
  4. Molino to the Doge and Senate, 27th January, 1605, CSP Venetian, no. 332, p. 213
  5. Barroll, L., Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography, 2001, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 103
  6. PRO 30/25/65
Giovanni Florio, known as John Florio, is recognised as the most important humanist in Renaissance's England.

Leave a Reply