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The History of England from the Accession of James II
By Thomas Babington MacAulay
Volume 5 Part 4


Portland was naturally the very opposite of a flatterer, and, having been the intimate friend of the Prince of Orange at a time when the interval between the House of Orange and the House of Bentinck was not so wide as it afterwards became, had acquired a habit of plain speaking which he could not unlearn when the comrade of his youth had become the sovereign of three kingdoms. He was a most trusty, but not a very respectful, subject. There was nothing which he was not ready to do or suffer for William. But in his intercourse with William he was blunt and sometimes surly. Keppel, on the other hand, had a great desire to please, and looked up with unfeigned admiration to a master whom he had been accustomed, ever since he could remember, to consider as the first of living men. Arts, therefore, which were neglected by the elder courtier were assiduously practised by the younger. So early as the spring of 1691 shrewd observers were struck by the manner in which Keppel watched every turn of the King's eye, and anticipated the King's unuttered wishes. Gradually the new servant rose into favour. He was at length made Earl of Albemarle and Master of the Robes. But his elevation, though it furnished the Jacobites with a fresh topic for calumny and ribaldry, was not so offensive to the nation as the elevation of Portland had been. Portland's manners were thought dry and haughty; but envy was disarmed by the blandness of Albemarle's temper and by the affability of his deportment.

Portland, though strictly honest, was covetous; Albemarle was generous. Portland had been naturalised here only in name and form; but Albemarle affected to have forgotten his own country, and to have become an Englishman in feelings and manners. The palace was soon disturbed by quarrels in which Portland seems to have been always the aggressor, and in which he found little support either among the English or among his own countrymen.

William, indeed, was not the man to discard an old friend for a new one. He steadily gave, on all occasions, the preference to the companion of his youthful days. Portland had the first place in the bed-chamber. He held high command in the army. On all great occasions he was trusted and consulted. He was far more powerful in Scotland than the Lord High Commissioner, and far deeper in the secret of foreign affairs than the Secretary of State. He wore the Garter, which sovereign princes coveted. Lands and money had been bestowed on him so liberally that he was one of the richest subjects in Europe. Albemarle had as yet not even a regiment; he had not been sworn of the Council; and the wealth which he owed to the royal bounty was a pittance when compared with the domains and the hoards of Portland. Yet Portland thought himself aggrieved. He could not bear to see any other person near him, though below him, in the royal favour. In his fits of resentful sullenness, he hinted an intention of retiring from the Court. William omitted nothing that a brother could have done to soothe and conciliate a brother. Letters are still extant in which he, with the utmost solemnity, calls God to witness that his affection for Bentinck still is what it was in their early days. At length a compromise was made. Portland, disgusted with Kensington, was not sorry to go to France as ambassador; and William with deep emotion consented to a separation longer than had ever taken place during an intimacy of twenty-five years. A day or two after the new plenipotentiary had set out on his mission, he received a touching letter from his master. "The loss of your society," the King wrote, "has affected me more than you can imagine. I should be very glad if I could believe that you felt as much pain at quitting me as I felt at seeing you depart; for then I might hope that you had ceased to doubt the truth of what I so solemnly declared to you on my oath. Assure yourself that I never was more sincere. My feeling towards you is one which nothing but death can alter." It should seem that the answer returned to these affectionate assurances was not perfectly gracious; for, when the King next wrote, he gently complained of an expression which had wounded him severely. But, though Portland was an unreasonable and querulous friend, he was a most faithful and zealous minister. His despatches show how indefatigably he toiled for the interests, and how punctiliously he guarded the dignity, of the prince by whom he imagined that he had been unjustly and unkindly treated.

The embassy was the most magnificent that England had ever sent to any foreign court. Twelve men of honourable birth and ample fortune, some of whom afterwards filled high offices in the State, attended the mission at their own charge. Each of them had his own carriage, his own horses, and his own train of servants. Two less wealthy persons, who, in different ways, attained great note in literature, were of the company. Rapin, whose history of England might have been found, a century ago, in every library, was the preceptor of the ambassador's eldest son, Lord Woodstock. Prior was Secretary of Legation. His quick parts, his industry, his politeness, and his perfect knowledge of the French language, marked him out as eminently fitted for diplomatic employment. He had, however, found much difficulty in overcoming an odd prejudice which his chief had conceived against him. Portland, with good natural abilities and great expertness in business, was no scholar. He had probably never read an English book; but he had a general notion, unhappily but too well founded, that the wits and poets who congregated at Will's were a most profane and licentious set; and, being himself a man of orthodox opinions and regular life, he was not disposed to give his confidence to one whom he supposed to be a ribald scoffer. Prior, with much address, and perhaps with the help of a little hypocrisy, completely removed this unfavourable impression. He talked on serious subjects seriously, quoted the New Testament appositely, vindicated Hammond from the charge of popery, and, by way of a decisive blow, gave the definition of a true Church from the nineteenth Article. Portland stared at him. "I am glad, Mr. Prior, to find you so good a Christian. I was afraid that you were an atheist." "An atheist, my good lord!" cried Prior. "What could lead your Lordship to entertain such a suspicion?" "Why," said Portland, "I knew that you were a poet; and I took it for granted that you did not believe in God." "My lord," said the wit, "you do us poets the greatest injustice. Of all people we are the farthest from atheism. For the atheists do not even worship the true God, whom the rest of mankind acknowledge; and we are always invoking and hymning false gods whom everybody else has renounced." This jest will be perfectly intelligible to all who remember the eternally recurring allusions to Venus and Minerva, Mars, Cupid and Apollo, which were meant to be the ornaments, and are the blemishers, of Prior's compositions. But Portland was much puzzled. However, he declared himself satisfied; and the young diplomatist withdrew, laughing to think with how little learning a man might shine in courts, lead armies, negotiate treaties, obtain a coronet and a garter, and leave a fortune of half a million.

The citizens of Paris and the courtiers of Versailles, though more accustomed than the Londoners to magnificent pageantry, allowed that no minister from any foreign state had ever made so superb an appearance as Portland. His horses, his liveries, his plate, were unrivalled. His state carriage, drawn by eight fine Neapolitan greys decorated with orange ribands, was specially admired. On the day of his public entry the streets, the balconies, and the windows were crowded with spectators along a line of three miles. As he passed over the bridge on which the statue of Henry IV. stands, he was much amused by hearing one of the crowd exclaim: "Was it not this gentleman's master that we burned on this very bridge eight years ago?" The Ambassador's hotel was constantly thronged from morning to night by visitors in plumes and embroidery. Several tables were sumptuously spread every day under his roof; and every English traveller of decent station and character was welcome to dine there. The board at which the master of the house presided in person, and at which he entertained his most distinguished guests, was said to be more luxurious than that of any prince of the House of Bourbon. For there the most exquisite cookery of France was set off by a certain neatness and comfort which then, as now, peculiarly belonged to England. During the banquet the room was filled with people of fashion, who went to see the grandees eat and drink. The expense of all this splendour and hospitality was enormous, and was exaggerated by report. The cost to the English government really was fifty thousand pounds in five months. It is probable that the opulent gentlemen who accompanied the mission as volunteers laid out nearly as much more from their private resources.

The malecontents at the coffeehouses of London murmured at this profusion, and accused William of ostentation. But, as this fault was never, on any other occasion, imputed to him even by his detractors, we may not unreasonably attribute to policy what to superficial or malicious observers seemed to be vanity. He probably thought it important, at the commencement of a new era in the relations between the two great kingdoms of the West, to hold high the dignity of the Crown which he wore. He well knew, indeed, that the greatness of a prince does not depend on piles of silver bowls and chargers, trains of gilded coaches, and multitudes of running footmen in brocade, and led horses in velvet housings. But he knew also that the subjects of Lewis had, during the long reign of their magnificent sovereign, been accustomed to see power constantly associated with pomp, and would hardly believe that the substance existed unless they were dazzled by the trappings.

If the object of William was to strike the imagination of the French people, he completely succeeded. The stately and gorgeous appearance which the English embassy made on public occasions was, during some time, the general topic of conversation at Paris. Portland enjoyed a popularity which contrasts strangely with the extreme unpopularity which he had incurred in England. The contrast will perhaps seem less strange when we consider what immense sums he had accumulated at the expense of the English, and what immense sums he was laying out for the benefit of the French. It must also be remembered that he could not confer or correspond with Englishmen in their own language, and that the French tongue was at least as familiar to him, as that of his native Holland. He, therefore, who here was called greedy, niggardly, dull, brutal, whom one English nobleman had described as a block of wood, and another as just capable of carrying a message right, was in the brilliant circles of France considered as a model of grace, of dignity and of munificence, as a dexterous negotiator and a finished gentleman. He was the better liked because he was a Dutchman. For, though fortune had favoured William, though considerations of policy had induced the Court of Versailles to acknowledge him, he was still, in the estimation of that Court, an usurper; and his English councillors and captains were perjured traitors who richly deserved axes and halters, and might, perhaps, get what they deserved. But Bentinck was not to be confounded with Leeds and Marlborough, Orford and Godolphin. He had broken no oath, had violated no law. He owed no allegiance to the House of Stuart; and the fidelity and zeal with which he had discharged his duties to his own country and his own master entitled him to respect. The noble and powerful vied with each other in paying honour to the stranger.

The Ambassador was splendidly entertained by the Duke of Orleans at St. Cloud, and by the Dauphin at Meudon. A Marshal of France was charged to do the honours of Marli; and Lewis graciously expressed his concern that the frosts of an ungenial spring prevented the fountains and flower beds from appearing to advantage. On one occasion Portland was distinguished, not only by being selected to hold the waxlight in the royal bedroom, but by being invited to go within the balustrade which surrounded the couch, a magic circle which the most illustrious foreigners had hitherto found impassable. The Secretary shared largely in the attentions which were paid to his chief. The Prince of Condé took pleasure in talking with him on literary subjects. The courtesy of the aged Bossuet, the glory of the Church of Rome, was long gratefully remembered by the young heretic. Boileau had the good sense and good feeling to exchange a friendly greeting with the aspiring novice who had administered to him a discipline as severe as he had administered to Quinault. The great King himself warmly praised Prior's manners and conversation, a circumstance which will be thought remarkable when it is remembered that His Majesty was an excellent model and an excellent judge of gentlemanlike deportment, and that Prior had passed his boyhood in drawing corks at a tavern, and his early manhood in the seclusion of a college. The Secretary did not however carry his politeness so far as to refrain from asserting, on proper occasions, the dignity of his country and of his master. He looked coldly on the twenty-one celebrated pictures in which Le Brun had represented on the coifing of the gallery of Versailles the exploits of Lewis. When he was sneeringly asked whether Kensington Palace could boast of such decorations, he answered, with spirit and propriety: "No, Sir. The memorials of the great things which my master has done are to be seen in many places; but not in his own house."

Great as was the success of the embassy, there was one drawback. James was still at Saint Germains; and round the mock King were gathered a mock Court and Council, a Great Seal and a Privy Seal, a crowd of garters and collars, white staves and gold keys. Against the pleasure which the marked attentions of the French princes and grandees gave to Portland, was to be set off the vexation which he felt when Middleton crossed his path with the busy look of a real Secretary of State. But it was with emotions far deeper that the Ambassador saw on the terraces and in the antechambers of Versailles men who had been deeply implicated in plots against the life of his master. He expressed his indignation loudly and vehemently. "I hope," he said, "that there is no design in this; that these wretches are not purposely thrust in my way. When they come near me all my blood runs back in my veins." His words were reported to Lewis. Lewis employed Boufflers to smooth matters; and Boufflers took occasion to say something on the subject as if from himself. Portland easily divined that in talking with Boufflers he was really talking with Lewis, and eagerly seized the opportunity of representing the expediency, the absolute necessity, of removing James to a greater distance from England. "It was not contemplated, Marshal," he said, "when we arranged the terms of peace in Brabant, that a palace in the suburbs of Paris was to continue to be an asylum for outlaws and murderers." "Nay, my Lord," said Boufflers, uneasy doubtless on his own account, "you will not; I am sure, assert that I gave you any pledge that King James would be required to leave France. You are too honourable a man, you are too much my friend, to say any such thing." "It is true," answered Portland, "that I did not insist on a positive promise from you; but remember what passed. I proposed that King James should retire to Rome or Modena. Then you suggested Avignon; and I assented. Certainly my regard for you makes me very unwilling to do anything that would give you pain. But my master's interests are dearer to me than all the friends that I have in the world put together. I must tell His Most Christian Majesty all that passed between us; and I hope that, when I tell him, you will be present, and that you will be able to bear witness that I have not put a single word of mine into your mouth."

When Boufflers had argued and expostulated in vain, Villeroy was sent on the same errand, but had no better success. A few days later Portland had a long private audience of Lewis. Lewis declared that he was determined to keep his word, to preserve the peace of Europe, to abstain from everything which could give just cause of offence to England, but that, as a man of honour, as a man of humanity, he could not refuse shelter to an unfortunate King, his own first cousin. Portland replied that nobody questioned His Majesty's good faith; but that while Saint Germains was occupied by its present inmates it would be beyond even His Majesty's power to prevent eternal plotting between them and the malecontents on the other side of the Straits of Dover, and that, while such plotting went on, the peace must necessarily be insecure. The question was really not one of humanity. It was not asked, it was not wished, that James should be left destitute. Nay, the English government was willing to allow him an income larger than that which he derived from the munificence of France. Fifty thousand pounds a year, to which in strictness of law he had no right, awaited his acceptance, if he would only move to a greater distance from the country which, while he was near it, could never be at rest. If, in such circumstances, he refused to move, this was the strongest reason for believing that he could not safely be suffered to stay. The fact that he thought the difference between residing at Saint Germains and residing at Avignon worth more than fifty thousand a year sufficiently proved that he had not relinquished the hope of being restored to his throne by means of a rebellion or of something worse. Lewis answered that on that point his resolution was unalterable. He never would compel his guest and kinsman to depart. "There is another matter," said Portland, "about which I have felt it my duty to make representations. I mean the countenance given to the assassins." "I know nothing about assassins," said Lewis. "Of course," answered the Ambassador, "your Majesty knows nothing about such men. At least your Majesty does not know them for what they are. But I can point them out, and can furnish ample proofs of their guilt." He then named Berwick. For the English Government, which had been willing to make large allowances for Berwick's peculiar position as long as he confined himself to acts of open and manly hostility, conceived that he had forfeited all claim to indulgence by becoming privy to the Assassination Plot. This man, Portland said, constantly haunted Versailles.

Barclay, whose guilt was of a still deeper dye,--Barclay, the chief contriver of the murderous ambuscade of Turnham Green,--had found in France, not only an asylum, but an honourable military position. The monk who was sometimes called Harrison and sometimes went by the alias of Johnson, but who, whether Harrison or Johnson, had been one of the earliest and one of the most bloodthirsty of Barclays accomplices, was now comfortably settled as prior of a religious house in France. Lewis denied or evaded all these charges. "I never," he said, "heard of your Harrison. As to Barclay, he certainly once had a company; but it has been disbanded; and what has become of him I do not know. It is true that Berwick was in London towards the close of 1695; but he was there only for the purpose of ascertaining whether a descent on England was practicable; and I am confident that he was no party to any cruel and dishonourable design." In truth Lewis had a strong personal motive for defending Berwick. The guilt of Berwick as respected the Assassination Plot does not appear to have extended beyond connivance; and to the extent of connivance Lewis himself was guilty.

Thus the audience terminated. All that was left to Portland was to announce that the exiles must make their choice between Saint Germains and fifty thousand a year; that the protocol of Ryswick bound the English government to pay to Mary of Modena only what the law gave her; that the law gave her nothing; that consequently the English government was bound to nothing; and that, while she, her husband and her child remained where they were, she should have nothing. It was hoped that this announcement would produce a considerable effect even in James's household; and indeed some of his hungry courtiers and priests seem to have thought the chance of a restoration so small that it would be absurd to refuse a splendid income, though coupled with a condition which might make that small chance somewhat smaller.

But it is certain that, if there was murmuring among the Jacobites, it was disregarded by James. He was fully resolved not to move, and was only confirmed in his resolution by learning that he was regarded by the usurper as a dangerous neighbour. Lewis paid so much regard to Portland's complaints as to intimate to Middleton a request, equivalent to a command, that the Lords and gentlemen who formed the retinue of the banished King of England would not come to Versailles on days on which the representative of the actual King was expected there. But at other places there was constant risk of an encounter which might have produced several duels, if not an European war. James indeed, far from shunning such encounters, seems to have taken a perverse pleasure in thwarting his benefactor's wish to keep the peace, and in placing the Ambassador in embarrassing situations.

One day his Excellency, while drawing on his boots for a run with the Dauphin's celebrated wolf pack, was informed that King James meant to be of the party, and was forced to stay at home. Another day, when his Excellency had set his heart on having some sport with the royal staghounds, he was informed by the Grand Huntsman that King James might probably come to the rendezvous without any notice. Melfort was particularly active in laying traps for the young noblemen and gentlemen of the Legation. The Prince of Wales was more than once placed in such a situation that they could scarcely avoid passing close to him. Were they to salute him? Were they to stand erect and covered while every body else saluted him? No Englishman zealous for the Bill of Rights and the Protestant religion would willingly do any thing which could be construed into an act of homage to a Popish pretender. Yet no goodnatured and generous man, however firm in his Whig principles, would willingly offer any thing which could look like an affront to an innocent and a most unfortunate child.

Meanwhile other matters of grave importance claimed Portland's attention. There was one matter in particular about which the French ministers anxiously expected him to say something, but about which he observed strict silence. How to interpret that silence they scarcely knew. They were certain only that it could not be the effect of unconcern. They were well assured that the subject which he so carefully avoided was never, during two waking hours together, out of his thoughts or out of the thoughts of his master. Nay, there was not in all Christendom a single politician, from the greatest ministers of state down to the silliest newsmongers of coffeehouses, who really felt that indifference which the prudent Ambassador of England affected. A momentous event, which had during many years been constantly becoming more and more probable, was now certain and near. Charles the Second of Spain, the last descendant in the male line of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, would soon die without posterity. Who would then be the heir to his many kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, lordships, acquired in different ways, held by different titles and subject to different laws? That was a question about which jurists differed, and which it was not likely that jurists would, even if they were unanimous, be suffered to decide. Among the claimants were the mightiest sovereigns of the continent; there was little chance that they would submit to any arbitration but that of the sword; and it could not be hoped that, if they appealed to the sword, other potentates who had no pretension to any part of the disputed inheritance would long remain neutral. For there was in Western Europe no government which did not feel that its own prosperity, dignity and security might depend on the event of the contest.

It is true that the empire, which had, in the preceding century, threatened both France and England with subjugation, had of late been of hardly so much account as the Duchy of Savoy or the Electorate of Brandenburg. But it by no means followed that the fate of that empire was matter of indifference to the rest of the world. The paralytic helplessness and drowsiness of the body once so formidable could not be imputed to any deficiency of the natural elements of power. The dominions of the Catholic King were in extent and in population superior to those of Lewis and of William united. Spain alone, without a single dependency, ought to have been a kingdom of the first rank; and Spain was but the nucleus of the Spanish monarchy. The outlying provinces of that monarchy in Europe would have sufficed to make three highly respectable states of the second order. One such state might have been formed in the Netherlands. It would have been a wide expanse of cornfield, orchard and meadow, intersected by navigable rivers and canals. At short intervals, in that thickly peopled and carefully tilled region, rose stately old towns, encircled by strong fortifications, embellished by fine cathedrals and senate-houses, and renowned either as seats of learning or as seats of mechanical industry. A second flourishing principality might have been created between the Alps and the Po, out of that well watered garden of olives and mulberry trees which spreads many miles on every side of the great white temple of Milan. Yet neither the Netherlands nor the Milanese could, in physical advantages, vie with the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, a land which nature had taken pleasure in enriching and adorning, a land which would have been paradise, if tyranny and superstition had not, during many ages, lavished all their noxious influences on the bay of Campania, the plain of Enna, and the sunny banks of Galesus.

In America the Spanish territories spread from the Equator northward and southward through all the signs of the Zodiac far into the temperate zone. Thence came gold and silver to be coined in all the mints, and curiously wrought in all the jewellers' shops, of Europe and Asia. Thence came the finest tobacco, the finest chocolate, the finest indigo, the finest cochineal, the hides of innumerable wild oxen, quinquina, coffee, sugar. Either the viceroyalty of Mexico or the viceroyalty of Peru would, as an independent state with ports open to all the world, have been an important member of the great community of nations.

And yet the aggregate, made up of so many parts, each of which separately might have been powerful and highly considered, was impotent to a degree which moved at once pity and laughter. Already one most remarkable experiment had been tried on this strange empire. A small fragment, hardly a three hundredth part of the whole in extent, hardly a thirtieth part of the whole in population, had been detached from the rest, had from that moment begun to display a new energy and to enjoy a new prosperity, and was now, after the lapse of a hundred and twenty years, far more feared and reverenced than the huge mass of which it had once been an obscure corner. What a contrast between the Holland which Alva had oppressed and plundered, and the Holland from which William had sailed to deliver England! And who, with such an example before him, would venture to foretell what changes might be at hand, if the most languid and torpid of monarchies should be dissolved, and if every one of the members which had composed it should enter on an independent existence?

To such a dissolution that monarchy was peculiarly liable. The King, and the King alone, held it together. The populations which acknowledged him as their chief either knew nothing of each other, or regarded each other with positive aversion. The Biscayan was in no sense the countryman of the Valencian, nor the Lombard of the Biscayan, nor the Fleeting of the Lombard, nor the Sicilian of the Fleeting. The Arragonese had never ceased to pine for their lost independence. Within the memory of many persons still living the Catalans had risen in rebellion, had entreated Lewis the Thirteenth of France to become their ruler with the old title of Count of Barcelona, and had actually sworn fealty to him. Before the Catalans had been quieted, the Neapolitans had taken arms, had abjured their foreign master, had proclaimed their city a republic, and had elected a Loge. In the New World the small caste of born Spaniards which had the exclusive enjoyment of power and dignity was hated by Creoles and Indians, Mestizos and Quadroons. The Mexicans especially had turned their eyes on a chief who bore the name and had inherited the blood of the unhappy Montezuma. Thus it seemed that the empire against which Elizabeth and Henry the Fourth had been scarcely able to contend would not improbably fall to pieces of itself, and that the first violent shock from without would scatter the ill- cemented parts of the huge fabric in all directions.

But, though such a dissolution had no terrors for the Catalonian or the Fleming, for the Lombard or the Calabrian, for the Mexican or the Peruvian, the thought of it was torture and madness to the Castilian. Castile enjoyed the supremacy in that great assemblage of races and languages. Castile sent out governors to Brussels, Milan, Naples, Mexico, Lima. To Castile came the annual galleons laden with the treasures of America. In Castile was ostentatiously displayed and lavishly spent great fortunes made in remote provinces by oppression and corruption. In Castile were the King and his Court. There stood the stately Escurial, once the centre of the politics of the world, the place to which distant potentates looked, some with hope and gratitude, some with dread and hatred, but none without anxiety and awe. The glory of the house had indeed departed. It was long since couriers bearing orders big with the fate of kings and commonwealths had ridden forth from those gloomy portals. Military renown, maritime ascendency, the policy once reputed so profound, the wealth once deemed inexhaustible, had passed away. An undisciplined army, a rotting fleet, an incapable council, an empty treasury, were all that remained of that which had been so great. Yet the proudest of nations could not bear to part even with the name and the shadow of a supremacy which was no more. All, from the grandee of the first class to the peasant, looked forward with dread to the day when God should be pleased to take their king to himself. Some of them might have a predilection for Germany; but such predilections were subordinate to a stronger feeling. The paramount object was the integrity of the empire of which Castile was the head; and the prince who should appear to be most likely to preserve that integrity unviolated would have the best right to the allegiance of every true Castilian. No man of sense, however, out of Castile, when he considered the nature of the inheritance and the situation of the claimants, could doubt that a partition was inevitable. Among those claimants three stood preeminent, the Dauphin, the Emperor Leopold, and the Electoral Prince of Bavaria.

If the question had been simply one of pedigree, the right of the Dauphin would have been incontestable. Lewis the Fourteeenth had married the Infanta Maria Theresa, eldest daughter of Philip the Fourth and sister of Charles the Second. Her eldest son, the Dauphin, would therefore, in the regular course of things, have been her brother's successor. But she had, at the time of her marriage, renounced, for herself and her posterity, all pretensions to the Spanish crown. To that renunciation her husband had assented. It had been made an article of the Treaty of the Pyrenees. The Pope had been requested to give his apostolical sanction to an arrangement so important to the peace of Europe; and Lewis had sworn, by every thing that could bind a gentleman, a king, and a Christian, by his honour, by his royal word, by the canon of the Mass, by the Holy Gospels, by the Cross of Christ, that he would hold the renunciation sacred.

The claim of the Emperor was derived from his mother Mary Anne, daughter of Philip the Third, and aunt of Charles the Second, and could not therefore, if nearness of blood alone were to be regarded, come into competition with the claim of the Dauphin. But the claim of the Emperor was barred by no renunciation. The rival pretensions of the great Houses of Bourbon and Habsburg furnished all Europe with an inexhaustible subject of discussion. Plausible topics were not wanting to the supporters of either cause. The partisans of the House of Austria dwelt on the sacredness of treaties; the partisans of France on the sacredness of birthright. How, it was asked on one side, can a Christian king have the effrontery, the impiety, to insist on a claim which he has with such solemnity renounced in the face of heaven and earth? How, it was asked on the other side, can the fundamental laws of a monarchy be annulled by any authority but that of the supreme legislature? The only body which was competent to take away from the children of Maria Theresa their hereditary rights was the Comes. The Comes had not ratified her renunciation. That renunciation was therefore a nullity; and no swearing, no signing, no sealing, could turn that nullity into a reality.

Which of these two mighty competitors had the better case may perhaps be doubted. What could not be doubted was that neither would obtain the prize without a struggle which would shake the world. Nor can we justly blame either for refusing to give way to the other. For, on this occasion, the chief motive which actuated them was, not greediness, but the fear of degradation and ruin. Lewis, in resolving to put every thing to hazard rather than suffer the power of the House of Austria to be doubled; Leopold, in determining to put every thing to hazard rather than suffer the power of the House of Bourbon to be doubled; merely obeyed the law of self preservation. There was therefore one way, and one alone, by which the great woe which seemed to be coming on Europe could be averted. Was it possible that the dispute might be compromised? Might not the two great rivals be induced to make to a third party concessions such as neither could reasonably be expected to make to the other?

The third party, to whom all who were anxious for the peace of Christendom looked as their best hope, was a child of tender age, Joseph, son of the Elector of Bavaria. His mother, the Electress Mary Antoinette, was the only child of the Emperor Leopold by his first wife Margaret, a younger sister of the Queen of Lewis the Fourteenth. Prince Joseph was, therefore, nearer in blood to the Spanish throne than his grandfather the Emperor, or than the sons whom the Emperor had by his second wife. The Infanta Margaret had indeed, at the time of her marriage, renounced her rights to the kingdom of her forefathers. But the renunciation wanted many formalities which had been observed in her sister's case, and might be considered as cancelled by the will of Philip the Fourth, which had declared that, failing his issue male, Margaret and her posterity would be entitled to inherit his Crown. The partisans of France held that the Bavarian claim was better than the Austrian claim; the partisans of Austria held that the Bavarian claim was better than the French claim. But that which really constituted the strength of the Bavarian claim was the weakness of the Bavarian government. The Electoral Prince was the only candidate whose success would alarm nobody; would not make it necessary for any power to raise another regiment, to man another frigate, to have in store another barrel of gunpowder. He was therefore the favourite candidate of prudent and peaceable men in every country.

Thus all Europe was divided into the French, the Austrian, and the Bavarian factions. The contests of these factions were daily renewed in every place where men congregated, from Stockholm to Malta, and from Lisbon to Smyrna. But the fiercest and most obstinate conflict was that which raged in the palace of the Catholic King. Much depended on him. For, though it was not pretended that he was competent to alter by his sole authority the law which regulated the descent of the Crown, yet, in a case in which the law was doubtful, it was probable that his subjects might be disposed to accept the construction which he might put upon it, and to support the claimant whom be might, either by a solemn adoption or by will, designate as the rightful heir. It was also in the power of the reigning sovereign to entrust all the most important offices in his kingdom, the government of all the provinces subject to him in the Old and in the New World, and the keys of all his fortresses and arsenals, to persons zealous for the family which he was inclined to favour. It was difficult to say to what extent the fate of whole nations might be affected by the conduct of the officers who, at the time of his decease, might command the garrisons of Barcelona, of Mons, and of Namur.

The prince on whom so much depended was the most miserable of human beings. In old times he would have been exposed as soon as he came into the world; and to expose him would have been a kindness. From his birth a blight was on his body and on his mind. With difficulty his almost imperceptible spark of life had been screened and fanned into a dim and flickering flame. His childhood, except when he could be rocked and sung into sickly sleep, was one long piteous wail. Until he was ten years old his days were passed on the laps of women; and he has never once suffered to stand on his ricketty legs. None of those tawny little urchins, clad in rags stolen from scarecrows, whom Murillo loved to paint begging or rolling in the sand, owed less to education than this despotic ruler of thirty millions of subjects, The most important events in the history of his own kingdom, the very names of provinces and cities which were among his most valuable possessions, were unknown to him. It may well be doubted whether he was ware that Sicily was an island, that Christopher Columbus had discovered America, or that the English were not Mahometans. In his youth, however, though too imbecile for study or for business, he was not incapable of being amused. He shot, hawked and hunted. He enjoyed with the delight of a true Spaniard two delightful spectacles, a horse with its bowels gored out, and a Jew writhing in the fire. The time came when the mightiest of instincts ordinarily wakens from its repose. It was hoped that the young King would not prove invincible to female attractions, and that he would leave a Prince of Asturias to succeed him. A consort was found for him in the royal family of France; and her beauty and grace gave him a languid pleasure. He liked to adorn her with jewels, to see her dance, and to tell her what sport he had had with his dogs and his falcons. But it was soon whispered that she was a wife only in name. She died; and her place was supplied by a German princess nearly allied to the Imperial House. But the second marriage, like the first, proved barren; and, long before the King had passed the prime of life, all the politicians of Europe had begun to take it for granted in all their calculations that he would be the last descendant, in the male line, of Charles the Fifth. Meanwhile a sullen and abject melancholy took possession of his soul. The diversions which had been the serious employment of his youth became distasteful to him. He ceased to find pleasure in his nets and boar spears, in the fandango and the bullfight. Sometimes he shut himself up in an inner chamber from the eyes of his courtiers.


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