Page images
PDF
EPUB

spondence through Ottaviano Lotti, secretary to the Florentine embassy. “La Regina lo aveva ammesso al segreto del suo cattolicismo ed esso la serviva in procurarle da Roma delle indulgenze e delle devozioni.' Lotti was employed to negotiate the marriage of Prince Henry with Catharine de' Medici. The Pope refused his consent, notwithstanding a letter written in her own hand, by Anne of Denmark, in which she declared herself his obedientissima figlia.' She had before given Lotti instructions to represent her zeal for the restoration of Catholicism in the country, and her hopes of regaining the unsettled mind of Prince Henry by the attractions of a Catholic wife. Those attractions, from which the mother hoped so much influence over her elder son, might have been employed by Spain, and were by France, though, as far as his religion was concerned, without effect, yet with most fatal consequences as to his future destiny, upon the younger Charles.

On the negotiations, relating first to the Spanish, afterwards to the French match, Mr. Ranke's work contains nothing new. But with regard to a later period, there is a remarkable statement which deserves the diligent examination of the English historian. Nothing is more unaccountable than the change in the policy of England when Charles I. seemed suddenly and wantonly to involve himself in a war with both the great Roman Catholic powers, France and Spain, at the time in which the growing and insuperable jealousy of parliament seemed to make it impossible to obtain supplies by legal means for the conduct of a war so perilous and expensive. This perplexing act, apparently of providential political dementation, is usually ascribed to the caprice or the passion of Buckingham-his quarrel with France arising from his wild love-adventure with Anne of Austria. The expedition against the Isle of Rhé, and the sudden attempt to re-organize the Huguenots against the government, have appeared almost as unjustifiable as impolitic, ill-timed, and disastrous. But Mr. Ranke brings strong evidence to prove that, at this time, Urban VIII. had matured his favourite plan—a strict confederacy of the Catholic powers for the subjugation of England. He had made overtures which can be clearly traced to both of these powers. His arguments were favourably heard by both. The treaty was drawn by Olivarez and amended by Richelieu. On April 20, 1627, it was ratified by the ministers of the two countries. The amount of forces to be furnished by either power was stipulated—the time of invasion fixed for the ensuing spring. Measures were to be taken for dispersing the English fleet, and for gaining the superiority in the seas, even over the combined navies of England and Holland, by means of an armed company, established under the pretence of protecting the commerce of Flanders, France, Spain, and Italy: overtures were made to the Hanse Towns to join this league. Mr. Ranke finds no distinct stipulations as to the partition of the spoil between France and Spain ; but Ireland was to be the portion of the Pope. In the July of the same year in which the treaty was signed, Buckingham made his descent on the Isle of Rhé. Had, then, Charles obtained intelligence of the secret league; and was this a bold measure of his minister to anticipate the invasion, and by encouraging and supporting the insurrection of the Huguenots, to disconcert the plans and occupy the forces of France? The general difficulty of entirely suppressing such state secrets may favour this notion --but it is a still more important fact, that it was known to the ambassador of Venice. Zorzo Zorzi, the ambassador, writes in these words :—“Si aggiungeva che le due corone tenevano insieme macchinationi e trattati di assalire con pari forze e dispositioni l'isola d'Inghilterra.' Venice was in the closest correspondence with England: their common interests were opposed to the union and aggrandizement of the two great powers; and Venice (Relat. di Francia, 1628) was suspected of having advised the expedition against the Isle of Rhé.

* M. Capefigue, in his Richelieu, Mazarin, La Fronde, &c. (v. iv. c. 42)—a work in which the philosophical affectations are compensated by the value of some of the original documents, recites this secret treaty from the Archives of Simancas :« C'était donc la plus vaste, la plus grande des entreprises que celle que préparaient alors les deux couronnes de France et d'Espagne : il ne s'agissait de rien moins que de la conquête de l’Angleterre, et du rétablissement de la foi catholique, de cette unité, principe exclusif de la politique de San Lorenzo.' M. Capefigue seemed not to be aware of the Popo's share in this transaction, and suspects that both parties were playing false, and secretly negotiating, for their private advantage, with England.

The strong, and to us most embarrassing, objection to this view of the subject is the silence of Buckingham himself, and, after his death, of Charles, when such a vindication of his measures might, at least, have allayed the general discontent of the nation, so strongly painted by Clarendon, and the angry accusations of the Commons against Buckingham. If the disclosure of this Catholic league had not at once rallied the whole nation around the standard of the king and his minister, now the champions of endangered Protestantism and British liberty, yet Parliament would not have had the disposition to withhold supplies for the maintenance of a war so just and so inevitable—or if it had, it would have arrayed the general spirit of England against any such attempt.

The running into this war with France-(writes Clarendon)-from whence the queen was so newly and joyfully received—without any colour of reason, or so much as the formality of a declaration from the king, containing the ground and provocation, and end of it, according to custom and obligation in like cases—(for it was observed that the manifesto which was published was in the duke's name, who went admiral and general of the expedition)-opened the mouths of all men to inveigh against it with all bitterness, and the sudden ill effects of it, manifested in the return of the fleet to Portsmouth, within such a distance of London that nothing could be concealed of the loss sustained. -Hist. of the Rebellion, vol. i. p. 75.

When the charges of the Commons against Buckingham embodied these general sentiments of the people, it is unaccountable that Buckingham should be so scrupulous, or so proud, as not to appeal to this justification of his measures. He might hope by the success of the second expedition to Rochelle (for which he was about to embark when he was assassinated) to redeem the disgrace and disaster of the former one; but still he would hardly have thrown away this chance of attaining popularity, perhaps as unmeasured as the obloquy and indignation with which he was pursued from all quarters. Though secresy might be of much importance, and the evidence of the league, however convincing to the king and his ministers, might be somewhat defective—as in the case of the designs of Buonaparte prevented by our attack on Copenhagen) --yet even Buckingham would scarcely have locked his secret in his own bosom. After his death, Charles, though not too faithful to the memory of a dead friend, would scarcely have persisted in the blind and obstinate determination to bear all the blame attached to an unprovoked and unsuccessful war, when he might have thrown it off at any time, by avowing the cause and ground of it, before the nation and before Europe. We have stated the evidence for, and the objections which have occurred to us against, this very remarkable story—and so we leave it for the consideration of the more profound inquirers into English history.

If the influence of Urban VIII. was strong enough to combine France and the house of Austria for one great effort, he had neither sufficient power or impartiality to maintain the good understanding. The rapid successes of the Emperor in Germany aroused the jealousy of Richelieu; the dispute about the inheritance of Mantua brought the two powers into direct collision. Urban was his own minister; he scarcely consulted the college ; he had no private council; and his self-will displayed itself in nothing more strongly than in his partial adherence to one party in Catholicism. In his policy he was decidedly French: he insultingly refused the Emperor the spoils of his victories—the first appointment (for the Emperor humbled himself to this request) to the sees and benefices which his arms reconquered from the Protestants—the establishment of the Jesuits in the vacant cloisters. This last demand awoke the general animosity of all the other orders against the Jesuits. So complete was the estrangement between the Pope and the Emperor, that Wallenstein, who commanded the Imperial army in Italy, dropped the significant menace,— Rome has not been plundered for a century; it must be richer now than it was. Europe was now again divided by the rivalry of France and the Austrian-Spanish house. England, distracted by civil wars, had lost all European influence. On one side were arranged the Emperor at the head of his triumphant armies and the King of Spain. On the other, France, some of the Catholic princes of Germany, the Protestants, with the King of Sweden at their head, and the Pope !-So formidable was the league, that the Emperor was obliged to surrender, at the Diet of Ratisbon, all his advantages in Italy, and to abandon Wallenstein to his foreign enemies. By the disgrace of Wallenstein he dissolved his army.

Yet Urban obstinately persisted in closing his eyes to the fact, which the rapid and brilliant successes of Gustavus Adolphus made daily more manifest, that the Thirty Years' War was a war of religion. The Emperor vainly pressed him to assist, by espousing his cause, the falling fortunes of Catholicism, and implored subsidies from the Papal treasury against the common enemy. "The King of Sweden,' said Ferdinand's ambassador, “if the Emperor is supported, may easily be conquered, he has but 30,000 men.' With 30,000 men,' said the Pope, Alexander conquered the world. It was not till the victorious Swede, having overrun the Palatinate, occupied Bavaria, and actually approached the Alps, that the Pope awoke from his dream of security.

The Thirty Years' War was, as it were, the last general effort of the two conflicting systems. The Peace of Westphalia not merely silenced the strife of arms, but, at least in Germany, the strife of religion. Each party was content to rest upon its present possessions. In both the aggressive power was worn out. The strong impulse of Protestantism had long subsided, that of Roman Catholic re-action expired in the same manner. The torpor of death seemed to have succeeded to these last, these most violent and exhausting convulsions.

But from the instant that Romish re-action ceased, the Pope sunk into the respected, but neither feared nor courted, primate

« PreviousContinue »