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- History of the United Netherlands, 1603-04 - 1/10 -
Death of Queen Elizabeth--Condition of Spain--Legations to James I. --Union of England and Scotland--Characteristics of the new monarch --The English Court and Government--Piratical practices of the English--Audience of the States' envoy with king James--Queen Elizabeth's scheme far remodelling Europe--Ambassador extraordinary from Henry IV. to James--De Rosny's strictures on the English people--Private interview of De Rosny with the States' envoy--De Rosny's audience of the king--Objects of his mission--Insinuations of the Duke of Northumberland--Invitation of the embassy to Greenwich--Promise of James to protect the Netherlands against Spain--Misgivings of Barneveld--Conference at Arundel House--Its unsatisfactory termination--Contempt of De Rosny for the English counsellors--Political aspect of Europe--De Rosny's disclosure to the king of the secret object of his mission--Agreement of James to the proposals of De Rosny--Ratification of the treaty of alliance-- Return of De Rosny and suite to France--Arrival of the Spanish ambassador.
On the 24th of March, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died at Richmond, having nearly completed her seventieth year. The two halves of the little island of Britain were at last politically adjoined to each other by the personal union of the two crowns.
A foreigner, son of the woman executed by Elizabeth, succeeded to Elizabeth's throne. It was most natural that the Dutch republic and the French king, the archdukes and his Catholic Majesty, should be filled with anxiety as to the probable effect of this change of individuals upon the fortunes of the war.
For this Dutch war of independence was the one absorbing and controlling interest in Christendom. Upon that vast, central, and, as men thought, baleful constellation the fates of humanity, were dependent. Around it lesser political events were forced to gravitate, and, in accordance to their relation to it, were bright or obscure. It was inevitable that those whose vocation it was to ponder the aspects of the political firmament, the sages and high-priests who assumed to direct human action and to foretell human destiny, should now be more than ever perplexed.
Spain, since the accession of Philip III. to his father's throne, although rapidly declining in vital energy, had not yet disclosed its decrepitude to the world. Its boundless ambition survived as a political tradition rather than a real passion, while contemporaries still trembled at the vision of universal monarchy in which the successor of Charlemagne and of Charles V. was supposed to indulge.
Meantime, no feebler nor more insignificant mortal existed on earth than this dreaded sovereign.
Scarcely a hairdresser or lemonade-dealer in all Spain was less cognizant of the political affairs of the kingdom than was its monarch, for Philip's first care upon assuming the crown was virtually to abdicate in favour of the man soon afterwards known as the Duke of Lerma.
It is therefore only by courtesy and for convenience that history recognizes his existence at all, as surely no human being in the reign of Philip III. requires less mention than Philip III. himself.
I reserve for a subsequent chapter such rapid glances at the interior condition of that kingdom with which it seemed the destiny of the Dutch republic to be perpetually at war, as may be necessary to illustrate the leading characteristics of the third Philip's reign.
Meantime, as the great queen was no more, who was always too sagacious to doubt that the Dutch cause was her own--however disposed she might be to browbeat the Dutchmen--it seemed possible to Spain that the republic might at last be deprived of its only remaining ally. Tassis was despatched as chief of a legation, precursory to a more stately embassy to be confided to the Duke of Frias. The archdukes sent the prince of Arenberg, while from the United States came young Henry of Nassau, associated with John of Olden-Barneveld, Falk, Brederode, and other prominent statesmen of the commonwealth. Ministers from Denmark and Sweden, from the palatinate and from numerous other powers, small and great, were also collected to greet the rising sun in united Britain, while the, awkward Scotchman, who was now called upon to play that prominent part in the world's tragi-comedy which had been so long and so majestically sustained by the "Virgin Queen," already began to tremble at the plaudits and the bustle which announced how much was expected of the new performer.
There was indeed a new sovereign upon the throne. That most regal spirit which had well expressed so many of the highest characteristics of the nation had fled. Mankind, has long been familiar with the dark, closing hours of the illustrious reign. The great queen, moody, despairing, dying, wrapt in profoundest thought, with eyes fixed upon the ground or already gazing into infinity, was besought by the counsellors around her to name the man to whom she chose that the crown should devolve.
"Not to a Rough," said Elizabeth, sententiously and grimly.
When the King of France was named, she shook her head. When Philip III. was suggested, she made a still more significant sign of dissent. When the King of Scots was mentioned, she nodded her approval, and again relapsed into silent meditation.
She died, and James was King of Great Britain and Ireland. Cecil had become his prime minister long before the queen's eyes were closed. The hard-featured, rickety, fidgety, shambling, learned, most preposterous Scotchman hastened to take possession of the throne. Never--could there have been a more unfit place or unfit hour for such a man.
England, although so small in dimensions, so meager in population, so deficient, compared to the leading nations of Europe, in material and financial strength, had already her great future swelling in her heart. Intellectually and morally she was taking the lead among the nations. Even at that day she had produced much which neither she herself nor any other nation seemed destined to surpass.
Yet this most redoubtable folk only numbered about three millions, one- tenth of them inhabiting London. With the Scots and Irish added they amounted to less than five millions of souls, hardly a third as many as the homogeneous and martial people of that dangerous neighbour France.
Ireland was always rebellious; a mere conquered province, hating her tyrant England's laws, religion, and people; loving Spain, and believing herself closely allied by blood as well as sympathy to that most Catholic land.
Scotland, on the accession of James, hastened to take possession of England. Never in history had two races detested each other more fervently. The leeches and locusts of the north, as they were universally designated in England, would soon have been swept forth from the country, or have left it of their own accord, had not the king employed all that he had of royal authority or of eloquent persuasion to retain them on the soil. Of union, save the personal union of the sceptre, there was no thought. As in Ireland there was hatred to England and adoration for Spain; so in Scotland, France was beloved quite as much as England was abhorred. Who could have foretold, or even hoped, that atoms so mutually repulsive would ever have coalesced into a sympathetic and indissoluble whole?
Even the virtues of James were his worst enemies. As generous as the day, he gave away with reckless profusion anything and everything that he could lay his hands upon. It was soon to appear that the great queen's most unlovely characteristic, her avarice; was a more blessed quality to the nation she ruled than the ridiculous prodigality of James.
Two thousand gowns, of the most, expensive material, adorned with gold, pearls, and other bravery--for Elizabeth was very generous to herself-- were found in the queen's wardrobe, after death. These magnificent and costly robes, not one of which had she vouchsafed to bestow upon or to bequeath to any of her ladies of honour, were now presented by her successor to a needy Scotch lord, who certainly did not intend to adorn his own person therewith. "The hat was ever held out," said a splenetic observer, "and it was filled in overflowing measure by the new monarch."
In a very short period he had given away--mainly to Scotchmen--at least two millions of crowns, in various articles of personal property. Yet England was very poor.
The empire, if so it could be called, hardly boasted a regular revenue of more than two millions of dollars a year; less than that of a fortunate individual or two, in our own epoch, both in Europe and America; and not one-fifth part of the contemporary income of France. The hundred thousand dollars of Scotland's annual budget did not suffice to pay its expenses, and Ireland was a constant charge upon the imperial exchequer.
It is astounding, however, to reflect upon the pomp, extravagance, and inordinate pride which characterized the government and the court.
The expenses of James's household were at least five hundred thousand crowns, or about one quarter of the whole revenue of the empire. Henry IV., with all his extravagance, did not spend more than one-tenth of the public income of France upon himself and his court.
Certainly if England were destined to grow great it would be in despite of its new monarch. Hating the People, most intolerant in religion, believing intensely in royal prerogative, thoroughly convinced of his regal as well as his personal infallibility, loathing that inductive method of thought which was already leading the English nation so proudly on the road of intellectual advancement, shrinking from the love of free inquiry, of free action, of daring adventure, which was to be the real informing spirit of the great British nation; abhorring the Puritans-- that is to say, one-third of his subjects--in whose harsh, but lofty. nature he felt instinctively that popular freedom was enfolded--even as the overshadowing tree in the rigid husk--and sending them forth into the far distant wilderness to wrestle with wild beasts and with savages more ferocious than beasts; fearing and hating the Catholics as the sworn enemies of his realm; his race, and himself, trampling on them as much as he dared, forcing them into hypocrisy to save themselves from persecution or at least pecuniary ruin--if they would worship God according to their conscience; at deadly feud, therefore, on religious grounds, with much more than half his subjects--Puritans or Papists--and yet himself a Puritan in dogma and a Papist in Church government, if only the king could be pope; not knowing, indeed, whether a Puritan, or a Jesuit whom he called a Papist-Puritan, should be deemed the more disgusting or dangerous animal; already preparing for his unfortunate successor a path to the scaffold by employing all the pedantry, both theological and philosophical at his command to bring parliaments into contempt, and to place the royal prerogative on a level with Divinity; at the head of a most martial, dauntless, and practical nation, trembling, with unfortunate physical timidity, at the sight of a drawn sword; ever scribbling or haranguing in Latin, French, or broad Scotch, when the world was arming, it must always be a special wonder that one who might have been a respectable; even a useful, pedagogue, should by the caprice of destiny have been permitted, exactly at that epoch to be one of the
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