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Voltaire Age of Louis XIV. Vol. XII—Part I - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. XII.
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Voltaire Age of Louis XIV. Vol. XII—Part I
INTRODUCTION TO THE AGE OF LOUIS XIV.
It is not only the life of Louis XIV. that we propose to write; we have a greater object in view. We mean to set before posterity not only the portrait of one man’s actions but that of the spirit of mankind in general, in the most enlightened of all ages.
Every age has produced heroes and politicians; all nations have experienced revolutions, and all histories are nearly alike to those who seek only to furnish their memories with facts; but whosoever thinks, or, what is still more rare, whosoever has taste, will find but four ages in the history of the world. These four happy ages are those in which the arts were carried to perfection, and which, by serving as the era of the greatness of the human mind, are examples for posterity.
The first of these ages to which true glory is annexed is that of Philip and Alexander, or that of a Pericles, a Demosthenes, an Aristotle, a Plato, an Apelles, a Phidias, and a Praxiteles; and this honor has been confined within the limits of ancient Greece; the rest of the known world was then in a state of barbarism.
The second age is that of Cæsar and Augustus, distinguished by the names of Lucretius, Cicero, Titus, Livius, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Varro, and Vitruvius.
The third is that which followed the taking of Constantinople by Mahomet II. Then a family of private citizens was seen to do that which the kings of Europe should have undertaken. The Medici invited to Florence the learned, who had been driven out of Greece by the Turks; this was the age of Italy’s glory. The polite arts had already recovered a new life in that country; the Italians honored them with the title of “Vertu,” as the first Greeks had distinguished them by the name of Wisdom. Everything tended toward perfection; a Michelangelo, a Raphael, a Titian, a Tasso, and an Ariosto flourished. The art of engraving was invented; elegant architecture appeared again as admirable as in the most triumphant ages of Rome; and the Gothic barbarism, which had disfigured Europe in every kind of production, was driven from Italy to make way for good taste.
The arts, always transplanted from Greece to Italy, found themselves in a favorable soil, where they instantly produced fruit. France, England, Germany, and Spain aimed in their turn to gather these fruits; but either they could not live in those climates, or else they degenerated very rapidly.
Francis I. encouraged learned men, but such as were merely learned men; he had architects, but he had no Michelangelo, nor Palladio; he endeavored in vain to establish schools for painting; the Italian masters, whom he invited to France, raised no pupils there. Some epigrams and a few loose tales made the whole of our poetry. Rabelais was the only prose writer in vogue in the time of Henry II.
In a word, the Italians were in possession of everything that was beautiful, excepting music, which was then in but a rude state, and experimental philosophy, which was everywhere equally unknown.
Lastly, the fourth age is that known by the name of the age of Louis XIV., and is perhaps that which approaches the nearest to perfection of all the four; enriched by the discoveries of the three former ones, it has done greater things in certain kinds than those three together. All the arts indeed were not carried farther than under the Medici, Augustus, and Alexander; but human reason in general was more improved. In this age we first became acquainted with sound philosophy; it may truly be said that from the last years of Cardinal Richelieu’s administration, till those which followed the death of Louis XIV. there has happened such a general revolution in our arts, our genius, our manners, and even in our government, as will serve as an immortal mark to the true glory of our country. This happy influence has not been confined to France; it has communicated itself to England, where it has stirred up an emulation, which that ingenious and deeply learned nation stood in need of at that time; it has introduced taste into Germany, and the sciences into Russia; it has even re-animated Italy, which was languishing; and Europe is indebted for its politeness and spirit of society to the court of Louis XIV.
Before this time the Italians called all the people on this side of the Alps by the name of Barbarians; it must be owned that the French in some degree deserved this reproachful epithet. Our forefathers joined the romantic gallantry of the Moors with the Gothic rudeness: they had hardly any of the agreeable arts among them, which is a proof that the useful arts were likewise neglected; for when once the things of use are carried to perfection, the transition is quickly made to the elegant and agreeable; and it is not at all astonishing that painting, sculpture, poetry, eloquence, and philosophy should be in a manner unknown to a nation who, though possessed of harbors on the Western Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea, were without ships; and who, though fond of luxury to an excess, were hardly provided with the most common manufactures.
The Jews, the Genoese, the Venetians, the Portuguese, the Flemish, the Dutch, and the English carried on in their turn the trade of France, which was ignorant even of the first principles of commerce. Louis XIII., on his accession to the crown, had not a single ship; the city of Paris contained not quite four hundred thousand men, and had not above four fine public edifices; the other cities of the kingdom resembled those pitiful villages which we see on the other side of the Loire. The nobility, who were all stationed in the country, in dungeons surrounded with deep ditches, oppressed the peasants who cultivated the land. The high roads were almost impassable; the towns were destitute of police, and the government had hardly ever any credit among foreign nations.
We must acknowledge that, ever since the decline of the Carlovingian family, France had languished more or less in this infirm state, merely for want of the benefit of a good administration.
For a state to be powerful, the people must either enjoy a liberty founded upon laws, or the royal authority must be fixed beyond all opposition. In France the people were slaves till the reign of Philip Augustus; the noblemen were tyrants till Louis XI., and the kings, always employed in maintaining their authority against their vassals, had neither leisure to think about the happiness of their subjects nor the power of making them happy.
Louis XI. did a great deal for the regal power, but nothing for the happiness or the glory of the nation. Francis I. gave birth to trade, navigation, and all the arts; but he was too unfortunate to make them take root in the nation during his time, so that they all perished with him. Henry the Great was on the point of raising France from the calamities and barbarisms in which she had been plunged by thirty years of discord, when he was assassinated in his capital in the midst of a people whom he had begun to make happy. The cardinal de Richelieu, busied in humbling the house of Austria, the Calvinists, and the grandees, did not enjoy a power sufficiently undisturbed to reform the nation; but he had at least the honor of beginning this happy work.
Thus, for the space of nine hundred years, our genius has been almost always restrained under a Gothic government, in the midst of divisions and civil wars; destitute of any laws or fixed customs; changing every second century a language which still continued rude and unformed; the nobles were without discipline, and strangers to everything but war and idleness. The clergy lived in disorder and ignorance, and the common people without industry, and stupefied in their wretchedness. The French had no share either in the great discoveries or admirable inventions of other nations: they have no title to the discoveries of painting, gunpowder, glasses, the telescope, the sector, compass, the air-pump, or the true system of the universe; they were making tournaments while the Portuguese and Spaniards were discovering and conquering new countries from the east to the west of the known world. Charles V. had already scattered the treasures of Mexico over Europe, before the subjects of Francis I. had discovered the uncultivated country of Canada; but, by the little which the French did in the beginning of the sixteenth century, we may see what they are capable of when properly conducted.
I propose in this place to show what they have been under Louis XIV., and it is to be wished that the posterity of this monarch, and that of his subjects, equally animated with a happy emulation, may use their endeavors to surpass their ancestors.
It must not be expected to meet here with a minute detail of the wars carried on in this age: this would be an endless task; we are obliged to leave to the compilers of annals the care of collecting, with exactness, all these small facts, which would only serve to divert the attention from the principal object. It is their province to point out the marches and countermarches of armies, and the particular days on which the trenches were opened before towns which were taken and retaken again by force of arms, or ceded and restored by treaties. A thousand circumstances which are interesting to those who live at the time are lost to the eyes of posterity, and disappear, to make room for the great events which have determined the fate of empires. Every transaction is not worthy of being committed to writing. In this history we shall confine ourselves only to what is deserving of the attention of all ages, what paints the genius and manners of mankind, contributes to instruction, and prompts to the love of virtue, of the arts, and of our country.
We have already seen what France and the other kingdoms of Europe were, before the birth of Louis XIV.; we shall now describe the great political and military events of his reign. The interior government of the kingdom, as being an object of more importance to the people, shall be treated of by itself. The private life of Louis XIV. and the particular anecdotes of his court and reign shall hold a principal place in this account. There shall be other articles for the arts and sciences, and for the progress of the human mind in this age. Lastly we shall speak of the Church, which has been so long connected with the government, has sometimes disturbed its peace, and at others been its defence; and which, though instituted for the inculcating of morality, too frequently gives itself up to politics and the impulse of the human passions.
THE STATES OF EUROPE BEFORE LOUIS XIV.
For a long time past the Christian part of Europe—Russia excepted—might be considered as a great republic divided into several states, some of which were monarchial, others mixed, some aristocratic, and others popular; but all corresponding with one another; all having the same basis of religion, though divided into several sects, and acknowledging the same principles of public and political equity, which were unknown to the other parts of the world. It is from these principles that the European nations do not make slaves of their prisoners; that they respect the persons of their enemies’ ambassadors; that they agree together concerning the pre-eminence, and some other rights belonging to certain princes; such as the emperor, kings, and other lesser potentates: and particularly in the prudent policy of preserving, as far as they are able, an equal balance of power among themselves; by continually carrying on negotiations, even in the midst of war, and keeping ambassadors, or less honorable spies, at one another’s courts, to give notice to the rest of the designs of any single one, to sound the alarm at once over all Europe, and to prevent the weaker side from being invaded by the stronger, which is always ready to attempt it.
After the death of Charles V. the balance of power inclined too much on the side of the house of Austria. This powerful house was, in the year 1630, possessor of Spain, Portugal, and the riches of America; the Netherlands, the duchy of Milan, the kingdoms of Naples, Bohemia, Hungary, and even Germany—if we may say so—were a part of its patrimony: and had all these states been united under one single head of this house, it is reasonable to believe that he would, at length, have become master of all Europe.
The Empire of Germany is the most powerful neighbor which France has; it is nearly of the same extent; there is not, perhaps, so much money in it, but it abounds more with sturdy men inured to labor. The Germanic nation is governed, with but little difference, as France was under the first kings of the Capetian race, who were chiefs of several great vassals. by whom they were frequently ill obeyed, and of a great number of lesser ones. There are sixty free cities, called imperial; about as many secular princes; nearly forty ecclesiastical ones, as well abbots as bishops, nine electors, among whom we may reckon four kings; and lastly, the emperor, who is head of all these potentates: these at present compose this great Germanic body, which, by the phlegmatic disposition of its members, is maintained in as much order and regularity as there was formerly confusion in the French government.
Each member of the empire has his particular rights, privileges, and obligations; and the knowledge of such a number of laws, which are frequently disputed, makes what is called in Germany “the study of the public law,” for which that nation is so famous.
The emperor should not in fact be much more powerful or rich than a doge of Venice. Germany being divided into cities and principalities, nothing is left for the chief of such a number of states, but the pre-eminence, accompanied with the supreme honors, without either demesnes or money, and consequently without power. He does not possess a single village in virtue of his title of emperor. Nevertheless this dignity, often as vain as supreme, has become so powerful in the hands of the Austrians that it has frequently been feared that they would convert this republic of princes into an absolute monarchy.
The Christian part of Europe, especially Germany, was then, and still is, divided into two parties or sects. The first is that of the Catholics who are all more or less subject to the authority of the pope; the other is that of the enemies to the spiritual and temporal power of the pontiff, and the prelates of the Church of Rome. These latter are called by the general name of Protestants, though divided into Lutherans, Calvinists, and other sects, who all hate one another as much as they do the Church of Rome.
In Germany, the states of Saxony, Brandenburg, the Palatinate, a part of Bohemia and Hungary, the houses of Brunswick and Würtemberg followed the Lutheran religion, which is by them called the evangelical. All the free cities of the empire have likewise embraced this sect, as seemingly more agreeable to a people jealous of their liberty than the religion of the Church of Rome.
The Calvinists, who are scattered among the Lutherans, form but an inconsiderable party. The Roman Catholics constitute the rest of the empire; and, having at their head the house of Austria, they are without doubt the most powerful.
Not only Germany but all the Christian states were still bleeding with the wounds of the many religious wars in which they had been engaged; a madness peculiar to Christians, and unknown to idolaters, and which was the fatal consequence of that dogmatic turn, which had for so long a time been introduced among all ranks of people. Almost every point of controversy occasioned a civil war; and foreign nations—nay perhaps our own posterity—will one day be at a loss to comprehend how their ancestors could have thus butchered one another, while they were preaching the doctrine of patience.
I have already shown how near Ferdinand II. was to changing the German aristocracy into an absolute monarchy. and how he was on the point of being dethroned by Gustavus Vasa. His son, Ferdinand III., who inherited his politics, and like him made war from his cabinet, swayed the imperial sceptre during the minority of Louis XIV.
Germany was not then so flourishing as it has since become. Not only was every kind of luxury wholly unknown there, but even the conveniences of life were very scarce in the houses of the greatest noblemen, till the year 1686, when they were introduced by the French refugees who retired thither and set up their manufactories. This fruitful and well-peopled country was destitute of trade and money: the gravity of manners and the slowness peculiar to the Germans deprived them of those pleasures and agreeable arts which the more penetrating Italians had cultivated for many years, and which the French industry began now to carry to perfection. The Germans, though rich at home, were poor everywhere else; and this poverty, added to the difficulty of uniting in a short time so many different peoples under one standard, made it then, nearly as at this day, impossible for them to carry the war into their neighbor’s dominions, or support it there for any time. Accordingly, we almost always find the French carrying on a war against the empire within the empire. The difference of government and genius makes the French more proper for attacking, and the Germans for acting on the defensive.
The Spanish nation, governed by the elder branch of the house of Austria, after the death of Charles V., made itself more formidable to Europe than the Germanic Empire. The kings of Spain were infinitely more absolute and rich than the emperors: and the mines of Mexico and Peru furnished them with treasures sufficient to purchase the liberties of Europe. You have already seen the project of universal monarchy, or rather universal superiority on the Christian continent, begun by Charles V. and carried on by Philip II.
The Spanish greatness under Philip II. became a vast body without substance, which had more reputation than real strength.
Philip IV., who inherited his father’s weakness, lost Portugal by his neglect; Roussillon by the inferiority of his arms; and Catalonia by the abuse of his absolute authority. Such princes could not long continue successful in their wars against France. If our errors and divisions gave them some few advantages, they soon lost the fruits of them by their own want of capacity. Besides, they had a people to command whose privileges gave them a right to serve ill. The Castilians, for instance, had a privilege by which they were exempted from serving out of their own country. The Aragonese were continually opposing their liberties to the orders of the king’s council; and the Catalans, who looked upon their kings as their enemies, would not even suffer them to raise militia in their provinces.
Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, Spain, by being united to the empire, threw a very formidable weight into the balance of Europe.
At this time Portugal was again made a kingdom. John, duke of Braganza, who passed for a weak prince, had wrested this province from a king who was weaker than himself. The Portuguese, through necessity, cultivated trade, which the Spaniards, through pride, neglected, and had, in 1641, entered into a league with the French and Dutch against Spain. France gained more by the revolution in Portugal than she could have done by the most signal victories. The French ministry, without having in the least contributed to this event, reaped without any trouble the greatest advantage that can be wished for over an enemy; that of seeing him attacked by an irreconcilable power.
Portugal, which thus threw off the Spanish yoke, extended its trade, and augmented its power, puts us in mind of Holland, which enjoyed the same advantages, though in a very different manner.
THE UNITED PROVINCES.
This small state, composed of seven united provinces, a country abounding in excellent pasturage, but destitute of all kinds of grain, unhealthy, and in a manner buried in the sea, was for about half a century almost the only example in the world of what may be done by the love of liberty and unwearied labor. These poor people, few in number and inferior in military discipline to the meanest of the Spanish militia, and of no account in the rest of Europe, made head against the whole collected force of their master and tyrant, Philip II., eluded the designs of several princes who offered to assist them, in hopes of enslaving them, and founded a power which we have seen counterbalancing that of Spain itself. The desperation which tyranny inspires first armed these people; liberty raised their courage, and the princes of the house of Orange made them excellent soldiers. No sooner did they become conquerors of their masters than they established a form of government which preserves, as far as possible, equality, the most natural right of mankind.
This state was soon from its first foundation intimately attached to France: they were united by interest, and had the same enemies. Henry the Great and Louis XIII. had been its allies and protectors.
England, a far more powerful state, arrogated to itself the sovereignty of the seas, and pretended to preserve a balance between the powers of Europe; but Charles I., who began his reign in 1625, was so far from being able to support the weight of this balance, that he found the sceptre already falling through his hands: he had attempted to render his power independent of the laws of England, and to make a change in the religion of Scotland. He was too headstrong to be diverted from his projects, and too weak to carry them into execution. He was a good husband, a good master, a good father, and an honest man, but an ill-advised prince; he engaged in a civil war which lost him his throne and made him end his life on a scaffold, by an unparalleled revolution.
This civil war, which was begun in the minority of Louis XIV., prevented England for some time from taking part in her neighbor’s concerns: she lost her credit in Europe, with her quiet at home; her trade was obstructed, and other nations looked upon her as buried beneath her own ruins, till the time that she at once became more formidable than ever, under the rule of Cromwell, who had enslaved her with the gospel in one hand, the sword in the other, and the mask of religion on his face; and who in his administration concealed, under the qualities of a great king, all the crimes of a usurper.
The balance which England had so long flattered herself with the hope of keeping up by her superior power, Rome endeavored to maintain by her politics. Italy was divided, as she now is, into several sovereignties; that which is possessed by the pope is sufficiently great to render him respectable as a prince, and too small to make him formidable. The nature of the government does not contribute to the peopling of his country, which also has very little trade or money. His spiritual authority, which is always mixed with something of the temporal, is slighted and abhorred by one-half of Christendom: and though he is considered as a father by the other half, yet he has some children who resist his will at times with reason and success. It is the maxim of the French government to look upon him as a sacred and enterprising person whose hands must sometimes be tied, though they kiss his feet. We still see in all the Catholic countries the traces of those steps which the court of Rome has frequently made toward universal monarchy. All the princes of the Romish religion, upon their accession, send an embassy to the pope, which is termed the embassy of obedience. Every crowned head has a cardinal at his court, who takes the name of protector. The pope grants bulls for filling up all vacant bishoprics, and expresses himself in these bulls as if he conferred these dignities by his own pure authority. All the Italian, Spanish, Flemish, and even some of the French bishops, style themselves bishops by divine permission, and that of the holy see. There is no kingdom in which the pope has not several benefices in his nomination; and he receives as a tribute the first year’s revenue of consistorial benefices.
The religious orders, whose principals reside at Rome, are again so many immediate subjects to the pontiff, scattered over all states. Custom, which does everything, and which occasions the world to be governed by abuses as by laws, has not always permitted princes to put an entire stop to this danger, which in other respects is connected with things useful and sacred. To swear allegiance to any other than the sovereign is a crime of high treason, in a layman; but in a convent it is a religious act. The difficulty of knowing how far we are to carry our obedience to this foreign sovereign, the ease with which we suffer ourselves to be seduced, the pleasure there is in throwing off a natural yoke for a voluntary one, the spirit of discord and the unhappiness of the times, have but too often prevailed on whole bodies of religious orders to serve the cause of Rome against their own country.
The enlightened spirit which has reigned in France for this past century, and which has communicated itself to people of all ranks, has proved the most effectual remedy against this abuse. The excellent books which have been written on this subject have done real service both to kings and people; and one of the great changes which was wrought by this means in our manners, under the reign of Louis XIV., is that the religious of all kinds begin now to be persuaded that they should be subject to their king, before they are servants to the pope. The juridical power, which is the essential mark of sovereignty, still remains with the Roman pontiff; and even the French government, notwithstanding all the liberties of the Gallican Church, allows a final appeal to the pope in all ecclesiastical causes.
If anyone is desirous of obtaining a divorce, of marrying a near relation, or of being released from his vows, application is to be made to the court of Rome, and not to the bishop of the diocese; there all indulgences are rated, and the individuals of all states may there purchase dispensations at all prices.
These advantages, which are by many people looked upon as the consequences of the greatest abuse, and by others as the remains of the most sacred rights, are always artfully preserved; and modern Rome employs as much policy in keeping up its credit as the ancient republic did in conquering one-half of the known world.
No court ever knew better how to act agreeably to men and times. The popes are almost always Italians, grown gray in public affairs, and divested of those passions which make men blind to their interest; their council is composed of cardinals, who resemble them, and who are all animated with the same spirit. This council issues mandates which reach as far as China and the extremes of America, in which sense it may be said to take in the whole universe; and we may say of it as a stranger formerly said of the Roman senate: “I have beheld an assembly of kings.” Most of our writers have with reason inveighed against the ambition of this court; but I do not find one who has done sufficient justice to its prudence, neither do I know if any other nation could have so long maintained itself in the possession of so many privileges continually contested; any other court might probably have lost them, either by its haughtiness, its effeminacy, its sloth, or its vivacity; but that of Rome, by an almost constant proper use of resolution and concession, has preserved all that was humanly possible for her to preserve. We have seen her submissive to Charles V.; terrible to our king, Henry III.; by turns the friend and foe of Henry IV.; acting cunningly with Louis XIII.; openly opposing Louis XIV. at a time when he was to be feared; and frequently a private enemy to the emperors, of whom she was more distrustful than even of the Turkish sultan.
Some rights, many pretensions, patience and politics are all that Rome has left now of that ancient power which six centuries ago attempted to subject the empire and all Europe to the triple crown.
Naples is still an existing proof of that right which the popes formerly assumed with so much art and parade, of creating and bestowing kingdoms; but the king of Spain, who is the present possessor of that kingdom, has only left the court of Rome the dangerous honor of having an overpowerful vassal.
THE REST OF ITALY.
As for the rest, the pope’s dominions were situated in a peaceable country, which had never been disturbed but by a trifling war, of which I have already spoken, between the cardinals Barberini, nephews to Urban VIII., and the duke of Parma.
The other provinces of Italy were biassed by various interests. Venice had the Turks and the emperor to fear, and could hardly defend its dominions on the continent against the pretensions of Germany, and the invasion of the Grand Seignior. It was no longer that city which was formerly the mistress of the trade of the whole world, and which one hundred and fifty years before had excited the jealousy of so many crowned heads. The wisdom of its administration continued the same as formerly; but the destruction of its great trade deprived it of almost all its strength, and the city of Venice was by its situation incapable of being conquered, and by its weakness incapable of making conquests.
The state of Florence enjoyed tranquillity and abundance under the government of the Medici; and literature, arts, and politeness, which they had first introduced, still flourished there. Tuscany was then to Italy what Athens had been to Greece.
Savoy, after having been rent by a civil war, and desolated by the French and Spanish armies, was at length wholly united in favor of France, and contributed to weaken the Austrian power in Italy.
The Swiss nation preserved, as at this day, its own liberty, without seeking to oppress its neighbors. They sold the service of their troops to nations richer than themselves: they were poor and ignorant of the sciences, and of all the arts which are begotten by luxury; but they were wise, and they were happy.
THE NORTHERN KINGDOMS.
The Northern nations of Europe, viz.: Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, were like the other powers, always distrustful of and at war with one another. In Poland, both the manners and government were, as they now are, nearly the same as those of the ancient Goths and Franks. The crown was elective; the nobles had a share in the supreme authority; the people were slaves; the infantry was weak; and the cavalry was wholly composed of nobles; there were no fortified towns, and scarcely any trade. These people were attacked at one time by the Swedes, or the Muscovites, and at others by the Turks.
The Swedes, who were a freer nation by their constitution which admits even the lowest class of the people into the assembly of the general estates, but who were at that time more subject to their kings than the Poles, were almost everywhere victorious. Denmark, which had formerly been so formidable to Sweden, was no longer so to any power; and Muscovy had not yet emerged from barbarism.
The Turks were not what they had been under their Selims, their Mahomets, and their Solymans. The seraglio, though corrupted by effeminacy, still retained its cruelty. The sultans were at the same time the most despotic of sovereigns, and the least secure of their throne and life. Osman and Ibrahim had lately been strangled, and Mustapha had been twice deposed. The Ottoman Empire, tottering from these repeated shocks, was also attacked by the Persians; but when it had enjoyed a little respite from them, and the revolutions of the seraglio were at an end, this empire became again formidable to Christendom, and spread its conquests from the mouth of the Boristhenes to the Adriatic Sea. Muscovy, Hungary, Greece, and the Archipelago fell alternately a prey to the Turkish arms; and from the year 1644 they had constantly carried on the war of Candia, which proved so fatal to the Christians.
Such, then, were the situation, strength, and interests of the principal European nations, about the time that Louis XIII. of France departed this life.
THE SITUATION OF FRANCE.
France, who was in alliance with Sweden, Holland, Savoy, and Portugal, and had the favorable wishes of the other nations who remained inactive, was engaged in a war against the empire and Spain, which proved ruinous to both sides, and particularly fatal to the house of Austria. This war was like all those which have been carried on for so many centuries between Christian princes, in which millions of men have been sacrificed, and whole provinces laid waste to obtain a few frontier towns, the possession of which is seldom worth the expense of conquering them.
The generals of Louis XIII. had taken Roussillon; and the Catalans had given their province to France, as the protectress of that liberty which they defended against their kings; but all these successes had not prevented the enemy from making themselves masters of Corbie, in the year 1637, and advancing as far as Pontoise. Fear had driven one-half of the inhabitants out of Paris; and Cardinal de Richelieu, in the midst of his mighty projects for humbling the Austrian power, had been reduced to lay a tax upon the houses with great gates in the city of Paris; every one of which was obliged to furnish a footman armed, to drive the enemy from the gates of the metropolis.
The French there had done the Spaniards and Germans a great deal of mischief, and had suffered as much themselves.
THE MANNERS OF THE AGE.
The wars had produced several illustrious generals, such as a Gustavus Adolphus, a Wallenstein, a duke of Saxe-Weimar, a Piccolomini, a John de Werth, the marshal de Guébriant, the princes of Orange, and the count d’Harcourt; nor was this age less famous for ministers of state. Chancellor Oxenstiern, the famous duke Olivarez, and especially the cardinal duke de Richelieu, had drawn the attention of all Europe upon them. There never was an age which had not some famous statesmen and soldiers: politics and arms seem unhappily to be the two professions most natural to man, who must always be either negotiating or fighting. The most fortunate is accounted the greatest, and the public frequently attributes to merit what is only the effect of a happy success.
War was then carried on differently from what it afterward was in the time of Louis XIV. There were not such numerous armies; since the siege of Metz by Charles V., no general had been at the head of fifty thousand men. They did not make use of so many cannon in besieging and defending places as at present. The art of fortification itself was then in its infancy. Spears and short guns were then in use, as well as the sword, which is now entirely laid aside. One of the old laws of nations was still in force, namely, that of declaring war by a herald. Louis XIII. was the last who observed this custom: he sent a herald at arms to Brussels to declare war against Spain, in the year 1635.
Nothing was more common at that time than to see armies commanded by priests: The cardinal Infante, the cardinals of Savoy, Richelieu, and la Valette, and Sourdis, archbishop of Bordeaux, had put on the cuirass and waged war in person. A bishop of Mendes had been frequently intendant of the army. The popes sometimes threatened these military prelates with excommunication. Pope Urban III., being incensed against France, sent word to Cardinal la Valette, that he would strip him of the purple if he did not lay down the sword; but when the pontiff came afterward to be reconciled to France, he loaded him with benedictions.
Ambassadors, who are equally the ministers of peace with churchmen, made no difficulty of serving in the armies of the allied powers, to whom they were sent. Charnacé, who was envoy from the court of France to Holland, commanded a regiment there in 1637; and some time afterward, even the ambassador d’Estrades was a colonel in the Dutch service.
France had not in all more than eighty thousand effective men on foot. Its marine, which had for some centuries fallen to decay, and had afterward been a little restored by Cardinal de Richelieu, was ruined under Mazarin. Louis XIII. had not more than forty-five millions of real ordinary revenue; but money was then at twenty-six livres the mark, consequently these forty-five millions amounted to nearly eighty-five millions of the present currency, when the arbitrary value of the silver mark is carried to forty-nine and a half livres—an exorbitant numerical value, which justice and the interest of the public forbid ever to be increased.
Trade, which is so universal at present, was then in a very few hands; the police of the kingdom was entirely neglected, a certain sign of a bad administration. Cardinal de Richelieu, wholly taken up with his own greatness, which was linked with that of the state, had begun to render France formidable outside its borders, but had not been able to make it flourishing within. The roads were neither kept in repair nor properly guarded; they were infested by troops of robbers. The streets of Paris, which were narrow, badly paved, and covered with disagreeable filth, swarmed with thieves. It is proved by the registers of parliament that the city watch was at that time reduced to forty-five men, badly paid, and who frequently did no duty at all.
Ever since the death of Francis I., France had been continually rent by civil wars, or disturbed by factions. The people never wore the yoke in a voluntary or peaceable manner. The nobles were trained up from their youth in conspiracies; it was the court art, the same as that of pleasing the sovereign has since been.
This spirit of discord and faction spread itself from the court into the smallest towns, and took possession of all public societies in the kingdom; everything was disputed, because there was no general rule; the very parishes in Paris used to come to blows with one another; and processions have fought together about the honor of their banners. The canons of Notre Dame were frequently seen engaged with those of the Holy Chapel; the parliament and the chamber of accounts battled for the upper hand in the church of Notre Dame, the very day that Louis XIII. put his kingdom under the protection of the Virgin Mary.
Almost all the public corporations of the kingdom were in arms, and almost every individual was inflamed with the fury of duelling. This Gothic barbarism, which was formerly authorized by kings themselves, and had become the distinguishing character of the nation, contributed as much as the foreign and domestic wars to depopulate the country. It is not saying too much, to aver that in the course of twenty years, of which ten had been troubled by war, more French gentlemen died by the hands of Frenchmen than by those of the enemy.
We shall not take any notice of the manner in which the arts and sciences were cultivated: this part of the history of our manners will be found in its proper place. We shall only remark that the French nation was plunged in ignorance, without excepting even those who look upon themselves as removed above the common people.
Astrologers were much consulted, and greatly confided in. All the memoirs of this age, to begin with the history of the president de Thou, are full of predictions: even the grave and rigid duke of Sully himself, very seriously relates those which were made to Henry IV. This credulity, which is the most infallible mark of ignorance, prevailed so much at that time that care was taken to keep an astrologer concealed in Queen Anne of Austria’s chamber, while she was in labor of Louis the XIV.
It is hardly credible, though we find it related by the abbot, Vittorio Siri, a contemporary writer of great authority, that Louis XIII. had the surname of Just given him from his childhood, because he was born under the sign Libra, or the balance.
The same weakness that first brought this absurd chimera of judicial astrology into vogue occasioned a belief in fascinations and witchcrafts; it was even made a point of religion, and nothing was to be seen but priests driving out devils from those who were said to be possessed. The courts of justice, composed of magistrates who should have had more understanding than the vulgar, were employed in trying witches and sorcerers. The death of the famous curate of Loudun, Urbain Grandier, will ever be a stain on the memory of Cardinal de Richelieu. This man was condemned to the stake as a magician, by commissioners appointed by the council of state. We cannot without indignation reflect that the minister and the judges should have been so weak as to believe in the devils of Loudun, and so barbarous as to condemn an innocent man to the flames; and it will be remembered with astonishment by posterity that the wife of Marshal d’Ancre was burnt in the Place de la Grève for a witch.
There is still to be seen, in a copy of some registers of the Châtelet, a trial which was begun in the year 1601, on account of a horse, which his master had with great pains taught to perform tricks, as we now see some every day at our fairs. They wanted to burn both master and horse.
We have already said enough to give an idea of the manners and spirit of the age which preceded that of Louis XIV.
This want of understanding in all orders of the state did not a little to encourage, even among the best people, certain superstitious practices, which were a disgrace to religion. The Protestants, confounding the reasonable worship of the Catholics with the abuses introduced into that worship, were more firmly fixed in their hatred to our Church; to our popular superstitions, frequently intermingled with debaucheries, they opposed a brutal sternness and a ferocity of manners, the character of almost all reformers. Thus was France rent and debased by a party spirit, while that social disposition, for which the nation is now so deservedly famous and esteemed, was unknown among us. There were then no houses where men of merit might meet in order to communicate their ideas to one another; no academies, no theatres. In a word, our manners, laws, arts, society, religion, peace, and war had no resemblance to what was afterward seen in that age known by the name of The Age of Louis XIV.
MINORITY OF LOUIS XIV.—THE VICTORIES OF THE FRENCH UNDER THE GREAT CONDE, THEN DUKE OF ENGHIEN.
Cardinal de Richelieu and Louis XIII. were lately dead, the one admired and hated, the other already forgotten. They had left the French, who were at that time a restless people, in a fixed aversion to the very name of a ministry, and with very little respect for the throne. Louis XIII. had, by his will, settled a council of regency. This monarch, so ill obeyed when he was living, flattered himself with meeting with more observance after his death; but the first step taken by his widow, Anne of Austria, was to procure an arret of the Parliament of Paris for setting aside her husband’s will. This body, which had been so long in opposition to the court, and which under Louis had with difficulty preserved its right of making remonstrances, now annulled its monarch’s will with the same ease as it would have determined the cause of a private citizen. Anne of Austria applied to this assembly to have the regency unlimited, because Mary de Medici had made use of the same court after the death of Henry IV., and Mary de Medici had set this example because any other method would have been tedious and uncertain; because the parliament being surrounded by her guards, could not dispute her will; and that an arret issued by the parliament and the peers seemed to confer an incontestable right.
The custom which always confers the regency on the king’s mother appeared to the French at that time as fundamental a law as that by which women are excluded from the crown. The Parliament of Paris having twice settled this point, that is to say, having by its own authority decreed the regency vested in the queen-mothers, seemed in fact to have conferred the regency; it considered itself, not without some show of reason, as the guardian of our kings, and every counsellor thought he had a part in the sovereign authority. By the same arret, Gaston, duke of Orleans, brother of the late king, had the vain title given him of lieutenant-general of the kingdom, under the queen-regent, who was absolute.
Anne of Austria was, upon her first assuming the reins of government, obliged to continue the war against her brother, Philip IV., king of Spain, whom she affectionately loved. It is difficult to assign any positive reason for the French having undertaken this war; they claimed nothing from Spain, not even Navarre, which should have been the patrimony of the kings of France. They had continued at war ever since the year 1634, because Cardinal de Richelieu would have it so, and it is to be supposed that he was desirous of it in order to make himself necessary. He had engaged in a league against the emperor with the Swedes and Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, one of those generals whom the Italians called condottieri, who sold the service of their troops. He also attacked the Austrian Spanish branch in those ten provinces which we now call by the general name of Flanders; and he had divided this country with the Dutch, at that time our allies, though it was not yet conquered.
The stress of the war lay on the side of Flanders; the Spanish troops marched from the frontiers of Hainault to the number of twenty-six thousand men, under the command of an old experienced general, whose name was Don Francisco de Mello, fell upon and ravaged the borders of Champagne, and attacked Rocroi, and thought soon to advance to the very gates of Paris, as they had done eight years before. The death of Louis XIII., and the weakness of a minority, raised their hopes, and when they saw only an inconsiderable army opposed to them, and that commanded by a young man of only twenty-one years of age, these hopes were changed into full security.
This inexperienced young man, whom they so much despised, was Louis of Bourbon, then duke of Enghien, known since by the name of the great Condé. Most great generals have become so by degrees, but this prince was born a general. The art of war seemed in him a natural instinct. There were only he and the Swede, Torstenson, who, at twenty years of age were possessed of this talent which can dispense with experience.
The duke of Enghien had received, together with the news of Louis XIII.’s death, orders not to risk a battle; Marshal de L’Hôpital, who had been given him as counsellor and guide, backed these timid orders by his own caution; but the prince heeded neither the court nor the marshal: he intrusted his design to no one but Field-Marshal Gassion, a person worthy of being consulted by him. They together obliged the marshal to give his assent to the battle.
It is observed of the prince that, having made all the necessary dispositions the evening before the battle, he slept so soundly that night that the people were obliged to wake him to begin the engagement. The same thing is related of Alexander. It is very natural for a young man, exhausted with the fatigue which must attend the preparations for such a day, to fall into a sound sleep; it is likewise as natural that a genius formed for war, and acting without confusion, should leave the body sufficiently calm for sleep. The prince gained the battle himself, by a quickness of sight, which at once made him discern the danger, and the means of preventing it; and by a cool activity, which carried him to every place at the time his presence was wanted. In person, at the head of the cavalry, he fell upon the Spanish infantry, till then deemed invincible, which were as strong and compact as the ancient phalanx, so greatly esteemed, and could open much more quickly than the phalanx could, in order to give room for the discharge of eighteen pieces of cannon which were placed in its centre. The prince surrounded this body, and charged it three times successively; at length he broke it, and no sooner was he assured of the victory, than he gave orders to put a stop to the slaughter. The Spanish officers threw themselves at his feet for protection against the fury of the victorious soldiery. The duke of Enghien was as assiduous in securing them as he had been in conquering them.
The old count de Fuentes, who commanded this body of foot, was slain on the field of battle; on hearing which, Condé said he should have wished to die like him, if he had not conquered.
The high esteem in which the Spanish arms had till then been held by all Europe was now lost, and those of the French began to gain repute. They had not for a century past gained so great a victory; for the bloody day of Melegnano, which was rather disputed than gained by Francis I. over the Swiss, was as much owing to the black bands of Germany as to the French.
The battles of Pavia and St. Quentin were again two fatal eras to the reputation of France. Henry IV. had the misfortune to gain great advantages only over his own nation. In the reign of Louis XIII., Marshal de Guébriant had had some inconsiderable successes, but they were always counterbalanced by losses. Gustavus Adolphus was the only one at that time who fought those great battles which shake a state, and remain forever in the memory of posterity.
The battle of Rocroi became the era of the French glory, and of the great Condé’s. This general knew how to conquer, and to make the most of conquest. The letters he wrote made the court resolve on the siege of Thionville, which Cardinal Richelieu had not dared to hazard; and when his couriers returned they found everything ready for the expedition.
The prince of Condé marched through the enemy’s country, eluded the vigilance of General Beck, and at length took Thionville; from there he hastened and laid siege to Cirq, which he also reduced. He obliged the Germans to repass the Rhine, followed them over that river, and came upon the frontiers, where he repaired all the defeats and losses which the French had sustained after the death of their commander de Guébriant. He found the town of Freiburg in the enemy’s possession, and General Mercy under its walls, with an army superior to his own. Condé had under him two marshals of France, Gramont and Turenne, the latter of whom had been made marshal about a month before, in consideration of the services he had rendered against the Spaniards at Piedmont, where he laid the foundation of that great reputation which he afterward acquired. The prince with these two generals attacked Mercy’s camp, August 31, 1644, which was intrenched upon two eminences. The fight was renewed three times on three successive days. It is said that the duke of Enghien threw his commander’s staff into the enemy’s trenches, and marched to retake it, sword in hand, at the head of the regiment of Conti. There may sometimes be a necessity for such bold actions in leading on troops to attacks of so dangerous a nature. This battle of Freiburg, rather bloody than decisive, was the second victory the prince had gained. Mercy decamped four days afterward; and the surrender of Philippsburg and Mentz were at once the proofs and fruits of this victory.
The duke of Enghien then returned to Paris, where he was received amidst the acclamations of the people, and demanded of the court the rewards due to his services; he left the command of his army to Marshal Turenne; but this general, notwithstanding his great military skill, was defeated at Marienthal, in April, 1645. Upon this the prince hastens back to his army, resumes the command, and to the glory of commanding the great Turenne, added that of repairing his defeat. He attacked Mercy in the plains of Nördlingen, August 3, 1645, and gained a complete victory. Marshal Gramont was taken; and General Glen, the second in command to Mercy, was also made prisoner, while Mercy himself was among the number of the slain. This general, who was esteemed one of the greatest captains of his age, was interred on the field of battle with this inscription on his tomb: “Sta, viator, heroem calcas”—“Stop, traveller, thou treadest on a hero.”
The name of the duke of Enghien now eclipsed all others. He afterward laid siege to Dunkirk, October 7, 1646, in sight of the Spanish army, and was the first who added that place to the French territories.
These many successes and services, which were looked upon with a suspicious eye by the court, rather than properly rewarded, made him as much feared by the ministry as by his enemies. He was therefore recalled from his theatre of conquest and glory, and sent into Catalonia with a handful of bad troops, as badly paid; then he besieged the town of Lérida, but was obliged to quit the siege. He is accused by several writers of a foolish bravado, in having opened the trenches to the sound of musical instruments. They do not know that this was the custom in Spain.
It was not long, however, before the ticklish situation of affairs obliged the court to recall him to Flanders. Archduke Leopold, the emperor’s brother, was then besieging the town of Lens in Artois. Condé, as soon as he was restored to those troops who had always conquered under his command, led them directly against the Archduke Leopold. This was the third time he had given battle with the advantage of numbers against him. He addressed his soldiers in this short speech: “My friends, remember Rocroi, Freiburg, and Nördlingen.” This battle of Lens put the finishing touch to his reputation.
In person he succored Marshal Gramont, who was giving way with the left wing, and took General Beck prisoner. The archduke with great difficulty saved himself, with the count of Fruensaldagna. The enemy’s army, which was composed of the imperialists and Spaniards, was totally routed, August 20, 1648. They lost upward of a hundred stands of colors and thirty-eight pieces of cannon, which at that time was a considerable number; there were five thousand men taken prisoners, and three thousand slain; the rest deserted, and the archduke was left without an army.
While the prince of Condé was thus numbering the years of his youth by victories, and while the duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIII., maintained the reputation of a son of Henry IV. and that of his country by the taking of Gravelines, Courtray, and Mardyke, the viscount of Turenne reduced Landau, drove the Spaniards out of Trier, and restored the elector.
He gained the battles of Lavingen and Sommerhausen with the Swedes, and obliged the duke of Bavaria to fly out of his dominions, when almost eighty years old. The count d’Harcourt took Balaguier, and beat the Spaniards. They lost Portolongone in Italy, and their fleet was defeated on that coast by twenty ships of war and as many galleys, which was the whole of the French navy, then newly restored by Cardinal de Richelieu.
This was not all; the French army took Lorraine from Duke Charles IV., a warlike, but fickle, imprudent, and unfortunate prince, who at the same time saw his dominions seized on by the French, and himself a prisoner of the Spaniards. The Austrian power was hard pressed by the allies of France in the north and the south. The duke of Albuquerque, the Portuguese general, gained the battle of Badajoz against the Spaniards. Torstenson defeated the imperialists near Tabor, and gained a complete victory; and the prince of Orange, at the head of his Hollanders, penetrated as far as the province of Brabant in Flanders.
The Spanish king was beaten on all sides, and saw Roussillon and Catalonia in the hands of the French. Naples had lately revolted against him, and thrown itself into the hands of the duke de Guise, the last prince of that branch of a house which had teemed with so many illustrious and dangerous men. This prince, who was deemed only a rash and bold adventurer, because he did not succeed, had however the glory of passing alone in a boat through the midst of the Spanish fleet, landing in Naples, and defending it without any other assistance than his own valor.
At the view of so many misfortunes pouring upon the house of Austria, and such a train of victories gained by the French, and seconded by the successes of their allies, one would imagine that Vienna and Madrid only waited the moment when they should be obliged to throw open their gates, and that the emperor and the king of Spain must shortly be almost destitute of dominions; nevertheless, five years of excessive good fortune, hardly chequered by one disappointment, produced but very few real advantages, cost an infinite deal of blood, and brought about no change; or if there was one to be apprehended, it was rather on the side of France, which was bordering upon its ruin, in the midst of so many apparent successes.
THE CIVIL WAR.
Queen Anne of Austria, the absolute regent, had made Cardinal Mazarin master of the kingdom and of herself. He had that power over her, which every artful man must have over a woman weak enough to be governed, and resolute enough to persist in the choice she has made of a favorite.
We read in some of the memoirs of those times that the queen made choice of Mazarin for her confidant only because of the inability of Potier, bishop of Beauvais, whom she had at first chosen for her minister, and who is represented as a man of no mean capacity. This might possibly have been the case, and the queen might have made use of this man for some time as a cipher not to exasperate the nation by the choice of another cardinal, and he a foreigner: but we can never believe that Potier began his short administration by declaring to the Dutch that they must become Catholics if they were desirous of continuing in alliance with France; he might as well have made the same proposal to the Swedes. We find this piece of absurdity related by almost all our historians, because they have read it in the memoirs of some of the courtiers and those concerned in the civil war; there are, however, but too many passages in these memoirs either falsified by prejudice, or related on the authority of popular rumor. Puerilities should never be quoted, and absurdities can never be believed.
Mazarin exercised his power with moderation at the beginning. It is necessary to have lived a long time with a minister to be able to draw his character, to determine what degree of courage or weakness there was in his mind, or how far he was prudent or knavish; therefore, without pretending to guess at what Mazarin really was, we shall only say what he did. In the first days of his greatness he affected as much humility as Richelieu had displayed haughtiness. Instead of taking a guard for his person, and appearing in public with royal pomp, he had at first a very modest retinue, and substituted an air of affability, and even of softness, in all things where his predecessor had shown an inflexible pride. The queen was desirous to make the court and the people fond of her person and authority, in which she succeeded. Gaston, duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIII., and the prince of Condé supported her power, and had no emulation but that of serving the state.
It was found necessary to levy taxes in order to maintain the war with Spain and the empire; some were accordingly imposed, which were in fact very moderate, compared with those which we have since paid, and very insufficient to the wants of the crown.
The parliament, who had the power of authenticating the edicts for these taxes, strongly opposed that of the tariff, and gained the confidence of the people by continually thwarting the schemes of the ministry.
In short, the creation of twelve new places of masters of requests, and the withholding of about eight thousand crowns from the salaries of the superior companies, caused an insurrection among all the people of the long robe, and with them of all Paris; and what at this time would hardly be of consequence enough to make a paragraph in a newspaper, then stirred up a civil war.
Broussel, counsellor-clerk of the upper chamber, a man of no capacity, and whose only merit was that of being the foremost to open all arguments against the court, having been put under arrest, the people expressed more concern than they had ever shown at the death of a good king. The barricades of the league were now revived, the flame of sedition burst out in an instant, and raged so fiercely as hardly to be quenched, being industriously fed by the coadjutor, afterward Cardinal de Retz; this was the first bishop who had ever excited a civil war without a religious pretext. This extraordinary man has given us his own portrait in his memoirs which are written with an air of greatness, an impetuosity of genius, and an inequality, which form a perfect image of his conduct. He was a man who, in the midst of the most debauched course of life, and still languishing with the consequences it produces, had the art of haranguing the people with success, and making himself idolized by them; he breathed nothing but faction and conspiracy. At the age of twenty-three he had been at the head of a conspiracy which was hatched against the life of Cardinal de Richelieu; he was the contriver of the barricades; he always urged the parliament on to cabals, and the people to seditions. What is most extraordinary is that the parliament, wholly guided by him, set up their standard against the court, even before they had the countenance or assistance of any prince.
This assembly had for a long time been looked upon in a different light by the court and the people. According to the declaration of all the ministers of state, and of the court itself, the Parliament of Paris was a court of justice set apart for trying causes between the subjects: this prerogative it held purely from the will of our kings, and had no other pre-eminence over the other parliaments of the kingdom than that of seniority. It was a court of peers only because the court generally resided at Paris: it had no greater right to make remonstrances than the other bodies in the state, and this right was a matter of pure indulgence. It had succeeded those parliaments which heretofore represented the French nation, but it retained nothing more of those ancient assemblies than the bare name; an incontestable proof of which is, that the general estates were actually substituted in the place of the national assemblies; and the Parliament of Paris no more resembled the ancient parliaments held by our first kings, than a consul of Smyrna or Aleppo resembles a Roman consul.
This single mistake in the name served as a pretext to the ambitious pretensions of a body of men in the long robe, all of whom, by having purchased their seats, looked upon themselves as entitled to fill the places of the conquerors of the Gauls, and the lords of crown fiefs. This body has at all times abused the power which a chief tribunal, always existing in a capital, necessarily arrogates to itself. It had the boldness to issue an arret against Charles VII., and to banish him from his kingdom. It began a criminal process against Henry III. It always, to the utmost of its power, opposed its sovereigns; and in this minority of Louis XIV., under the most mild of governments, and the most indulgent of queens, it attempted to raise a civil war against its prince, after the example of the English Parliament, which at that time kept its king a prisoner, and condemned him to lose his head. Such was the manner of speaking, and the thoughts of the cabinet!
But the citizens of Paris, and all those connected with the long robe, looked upon the Parliament of Paris as an august body, that dispensed justice with a laudable integrity; that had the good of the state only at heart, which it cherished at the hazard of its own fortune; that confined its ambition to the glory of curbing the aspiring designs of favorites; that preserved an equal conduct between the prince and the people; and the people, without inquiring into the origin of its rights or authority, supposed it possessed of the most sacred privileges and indisputable authority; and when they saw it maintaining the public cause against ministers whom they hated, gave it the title of “The Father of the State;” and placed a very small difference between the right by which the kings hold their crowns, and that which gives the parliament a power to lay a restriction upon the wills of kings.
It was impossible then to hit upon a medium between these two very opposite extremes, for in short there was no other fixed law but that of time and circumstances. Under a vigorous administration the parliament was nothing; under a weak king it was all-powerful; and that is very applicable which was said by M. de Guimené, when this body, in the reign of Louis XIII., complained of the deputies of the noblesse for having taken precedence of it: “Gentlemen, you will have ample revenge in the minority.”
We shall not repeat in this place all that has been written concerning these troubles, nor copy whole volumes to recall to observation the numerous circumstances which were then thought so important and dear and are now almost buried in oblivion; it is our business to speak of what characterizes the spirit of the nation, and not dwell so much upon what relates to the civil wars in general as to what particularly distinguishes that of the Fronde, as it was called.
Two powers, which were instituted wholly for the maintenance of peace and harmony amongst mankind, namely, an archbishop and a parliament, having begun these troubles, the people looked upon themselves as justified in the greatest extravagances. The queen could no longer appear abroad without being insulted in the grossest manner; she was called by no other name than that of Dame Anne, or if any other title was added, it was generally an injurious one. The populace reproached her in the most virulent terms with her fondness for Mazarin; and, what was yet more insufferable, her ears were filled in all places where she went with ballads and lampoons, the monuments of low ribaldry and malice, which seemed calculated to convey a lasting suspicion of her virtue.
She was now obliged to fly—Jan. 6, 1649—from Paris with her children, her minister, the duke of Orleans, and even the great Condé himself, and to retire to St. Germain, and reduced to pawn the crown jewels for subsistence; the king was frequently in want of necessaries, the pages of his bedchamber were dismissed, because they could no longer be maintained. At that time even Louis XIV.’s aunt, the daughter of Henry the Great, and consort to the king of England, who had taken refuge in Paris after having been expelled from her own kingdom, was then reduced to the utmost extremities of poverty; and her daughter, who was afterward married to the brother of Louis XIV., lay in bed for want of clothes to keep her warm, while the people of Paris, blinded with their mad rage, paid not the least attention to the sufferings of so many royal personages.
The queen, with tears in her eyes, besought the great Condé to protect the young king. The conqueror of Rocroi, Freiburg, Lens, and Nördlingen could not belie those great services. He found himself agreeably flattered with the honor of defending a court which had been ungrateful to his merits, against rebels who sought his assistance. The parliament then had the great Condé to encounter, and yet dared to carry on the war.
The prince of Conti, brother to the great Condé, who was as jealous of his elder brother as he was incapable of equalling him, the dukes of Longueville, Bouillon, and Beaufort, all animated with the same restless spirit as the coadjutor, all fond of novelties, full of the hopes of aggrandizing themselves on the ruins of the state, and of making the blind motions of parliament subservient to their own private interests, went in a body and offered their services to that prelate. The high chamber then proceeded to appoint generals for an army which was not yet raised. Everyone taxed himself to raise troops. There were twenty counsellors possessed of new posts, which had been created by Cardinal de Richelieu; their brethren, by a meanness of spirit of which every society is susceptible, seemed to wreak their vengeance against the memory of Cardinal Richelieu upon them. They gave them a thousand mortifications, would hardly look upon them as members of the parliament, and obliged each of them to pay fifteen thousand livres toward the expense of the war, and to purchase the forbearance of those of their own body.
The high chancellor, the courts of inquests and requests, the chamber of accounts, and the court of aids, who had so loudly inveighed against a trifling and necessary tax which did not exceed a hundred thousand crowns, now furnished a sum amounting nearly to ten millions of our present money, for the subversion of their country. Twelve thousand men were raised by an arret of parliament; every house with a great gate furnished a man and a horse, whence this body of horse got the name of “The Great-Gate Cavalry.” The coadjutor had a regiment of his own, which was called the regiment of Corinth, because he was titular archbishop of Corinth.
Had it not been for the names of the king of France, the great Condé, and the capital of the kingdom, this war of the Fronde would have been as ridiculous as that of the Barberini; no one knew for what he was in arms. The prince of Condé besieged five hundred thousand citizens with eight thousand soldiers. The Parisians came out into the field dressed in ribbons and plumes of feathers, and their evolutions were the sport of the military people; they took to their heels at the sight of two hundred men of the king’s army. All this was made a subject of raillery; the regiment of Corinth having been beaten by a small party of the king’s troops, this little repulse was called “The first of the Corinthians.”
The twenty counsellors who had furnished fifteen thousand livres apiece, had no other distinction than that of being called the Twenty Fifteens.
The duke of Beaufort, who was the idol of the people, and the instrument made use of in stirring them up to sedition, though a popular prince, had but a narrow understanding, and was a public object of raillery both with the court and those of his own party. He was never mentioned but by the name of the “King of the Mob.” The Parisian troops, after sallying out of the city, and always coming back beaten, were received with peals of laughter. They repaired the repulses they met with by sonnets and epigrams; the taverns and brothels were the tents where they held their councils of war, in the midst of singing, laughing, and the most disolute pleasures. The general licentiousness was carried to such a height that one night some of the principal officers of the malcontents, having met the holy sacrament, which was being carried through the streets to a sick person whom they suspected of being a Mazarinian, they drove the priest back again with the flat of their swords.
In short, the coadjutor, coming to take his seat in parliament as archbishop of Paris, the handle of a poniard was seen sticking out of his pocket; upon which some one cried out, “Behold our archbishop’s breviary.”
In the midst of all these troubles, the nobility assembled in a body at the convent of the Augustine friars, appointed syndics, and held public sessions. It might have been supposed this was to remodel the government and convoke the general estates, but it was only to settle a claim to the tabouret, which the queen had granted to Madame de Pons. Perhaps there never was a stronger proof of that levity of mind of which the French were then accused.
The civil discords under which England groaned at the very same time may serve to show the character of the two nations. There was a gloomy desperation and a sort of national rage in the civil wars of the English. Everything was decided by the sword; scaffolds were erected for the vanquished; and their king, who was taken prisoner in a battle, was brought as a culprit before a court of justice, examined concerning the abuse he was said to have made of his power, condemned to lose his head, and executed in sight of all his subjects with as much regularity and with the same forms of justice as if he had been a private man condemned for a crime; while, during the course of these dreadful troubles, the city of London was not even for a moment affected with the calamities incident to a civil war.
The French, on the contrary, ran headlong into seditions through caprice, laughing all the time. Women were at the head of factions, and love made and broke cabals. The duchess of Longueville, in 1649, prevailed on Turenne, lately made a marshal of France, to persuade the army which he commanded for the king to revolt. Turenne failed, and quitted like a fugitive the army of which he was general, to please a woman who made a jest of his passion. From general of France, he descended to be the lieutenant of Don Estevan de Gamara, with whom he was defeated at Rethel by the king’s troops. Everyone knows this billet of Marshal d’Hoquincourt to the duchess of Montbazon: “Perrone belongs to the fairest of the fair;” and the following verses, which the duke of Rochefoucauld wrote on the duchess of Longueville, when he received a wound by a musket at the battle of St. Anthony, by which he was for some time deprived of sight:
The war ended and was renewed again at several different times; and there was not a person who had not frequently changed sides. The prince of Condé, having brought the court back in triumph to Paris, indulged himself in the satisfaction of despising those he had defended; and thinking the rewards bestowed on him unequal to his reputation and the services he had done, he was the first to turn Mazarin into ridicule, to brave the queen, and insult a government which he had disdained. He is said to have written in this style to the cardinal: “To the most illustrious scoundrel;” and that, taking his leave of him one day he said, “Farewell, Mars.” He encouraged the marquis of Jarsai to make a declaration of love to the queen, and pretended to be angry that she was affronted with it. He joined with his brother, the prince of Conti, and the duke of Longueville, who quitted the party of the malcontents. The party formed by the duke of Beaufort at the beginning of the regency had been nicknamed “the Self-Sufficients;” Condé’s faction was called “the Petits-Maîtres,” because they wanted to be masters of the state. There are no other traces left of all these terms except the name of “petit-maître,” which is nowadays applied to young men of agreeable persons, but badly educated, and that of “frondeurs,” or “grumblers,” which is given to those who censure the government.
The coadjutor, who had declared himself an implacable enemy to the adminstration, was privately reconciled to the court, in order to obtain a cardinal’s hat, and sacrificed Condé to the minister’s resentment. In a word, this prince who had defended the state against its enemies, and the court against the rebels; Condé, at the summit of his glory, and who always acted more like the hero than the man of prudence, saw himself arrested, together with the prince of Conti and the duke of Longueville. He might have governed the state, if he would only have endeavored to please; but he was contented with being admired. The people of Paris, who had made barricades for a counsellor-clerk, hardly a degree removed from a fool, made public rejoicings when the hero and defender of France was hurried away to the dungeon of Vincennes.
A year afterward the very men who had sold the great Condé and the other princes to the dastardly revenge of Mazarin, obliged the queen to open the gates of their prisons, and drive her prime minister out of the kingdom. Condé now returned amidst the acclamations of that very people who had shown such hatred to him, and by his presence occasioned new cabals and dissensions.
The kingdom remained for some years longer in this tumultuous situation. The government, always the dupe of weak and uncertain councils, seemed now on the point of ruin; but dissension, which had always prevailed among the rebels, saved the court. The coadjutor, who was sometimes a friend, and at others an enemy, to the prince of Condé, stirred up a part of the parliament and people against him, and boldly undertook at the same time to serve the queen by opposing this prince, and to insult her by obliging her to banish Cardinal Mazarin, who retired to Cologne. The queen, by a contradiction too common to weak administrations, was obliged at once to accept of his services, to put up with his insults, and to nominate to the purple this very man, who, when coadjutor, had been the author of the barricades, and had caused the royal family to quit their capital and besiege it.
CONTINUATION OF THE CIVIL WAR, TILL THE END OF THE REBELLION IN 1654.
At length Condé determined upon a war, which he should have begun in the time of the rebellion, if he was desirous of being master of the state, or never to have undertaken, if he meant to live as a subject. He quitted Paris, armed the provinces of Guienne, Poitou, and Anjou, and applied for aid against his own country to those Spaniards, of whom he had so lately been the most dreadful scourge.
Nothing can better show the madness of these times, and the confused manner of proceeding, than what then happened to this prince. A courier was sent to him from Paris, with proposals for engaging him to return and lay down his arms. The courier by a mistake, instead of going to Angerville, where the prince then was, went to Augerville. The letter came too late; Condé declared that if he had received it sooner he would have accepted the proposals for peace; but since he was now at such a distance from Paris, it was not worth while to go back. Thus, by the mistake of a courier, and the mere capriciousness of this prince, France was once more plunged in a civil war.
And now Cardinal Mazarin, who, while an exile at the farther end of Cologne, had still continued to govern the court, returned to France, in December, 1651, rather like a sovereign who returns to take possession of his dominions, than like a minister coming to resume his post; he was escorted by a small army of seven thousand men, raised wholly at his own expense; that is to say, with the government’s money, which he had appropriated to his own use.
The king, in a declaration at this time, is made to say that the cardinal actually raised those troops with his own money; which at once overturns the opinion of those writers who say that when he first left the kingdom he was very poor. He gave the command of his small army to Marshal d’Hoquincourt; all the officers wore green sashes, which was the color of the cardinal’s livery. Each party at that time had its particular sash. The king’s was white, and the prince of Condé’s yellow: it was surprising that Cardinal Mazarin, who had all along affected so much humility and modesty, should have had the arrogance to make a whole army wear his livery, as if he had been of a different party from the king, his master; but he could not resist this emotion of vanity. The queen approved of it, and the king, who was then of age, with his brother, went to meet him.
On the first news of his return, Gaston, duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIII., who had insisted upon his being banished, began to raise troops in Paris without well knowing how he was to employ them. The parliament renewed its arrets, proscribed Mazarin, and set a price upon his head. They were obliged to consult the registers for the price paid for the head of an enemy to the state, and they found that in the reign of Charles IX. the sum of fifty thousand crowns had been promised by arret to any person who should produce Admiral Coligny alive or dead. It was, therefore, seriously determined to act according to form, by setting the same price on the assassination of a cardinal and prime minister. No one, however, was tempted to gain the fifty thousand crowns offered by the proscription, which, after all, would never have been paid. In any other nation, or at any other time, such an arret would have met with persons to put it in execution; but now it served only to afford new subject of raillery. Blot and Marigni, two witty writers, who mingled gayety with these tumults and disorders, caused a paper to be fixed up in the public places of Paris, offering a reward of one hundred and fifty thousand livres, divided into shares; so much to the person who should cut off the cardinal’s nose, so much for an ear, so much for an eye, and so much for the person who would make him a eunuch. This raillery was the only effect produced by this proscription. The cardinal, on his side, made no use of either poison or assassination against his enemies; and notwithstanding the rancor and madness of so many factions, and their hatred, no very great crimes were committed on any side. The heads of parties were not inclined to cruelty, nor were the people very furious, for it was not a religious war.
The whimsical spirit which prevailed at that time had taken such thorough possession of the body of the Parliament of Paris that, having solemnly ordered an assassination which was laughed at, they issued an arret, by which a certain number of counsellors were ordered to repair to the frontiers and take depositions against the army of Cardinal Mazarin, that is to say, the king’s army.
Two of these counsellors had the imprudence to take some peasants with them, and break down the bridges over which the cardinal was to pass: they were taken prisoners in the attempt by a body of the king’s troops, but were released again, without any further punishment than that of being laughed at by all parties.
At the very time that this body was running into these extremes against the king’s minister, it declared the prince of Condé, who had taken up arms solely to oppose this minister, guilty of high treason; and by a strange reverse of judgment, which nothing but their former actions could render credible, they ordered the fresh troops which had been raised by Gaston, duke of Orleans, to march against Mazarin, and at the same time prohibited any sums to be taken out of the public funds to pay them.
Nothing else could be expected from a body of magistrates which, thrown quite out of its proper sphere, ignorant of its own rights and real power, and as little acquainted with state affairs and war, meeting in a tumultuous manner, and passing decrees in hurry and confusion, took measures which it had not thought of the day before, and which afterward astonished it.
The Parliament of Bordeaux, which was at that time in the prince of Condé’s interest, observed a more uniform conduct, because, being at a greater distance from the court, it was not so much agitated by opposite factions.
But objects of greater importance now engrossed the attention of all France.
Condé, in league with the Spaniards, appeared in the field against the king; and Turenne, having deserted those Spaniards with whom he had been defeated at Rethel, had just made his peace with the court, and commanded the king’s army. The finances were already too much drained to allow either of the two parties to keep large armies on foot; but small ones were sufficient to decide the fate of the kingdom. There are times when an army of one hundred thousand men is barely sufficient to take two towns; and there are others in which eight thousand men may subvert or establish a throne.
Louis XIV., who was brought up in adversity, wandered, with his mother, his brother, and Cardinal Mazarin, from province to province, with not nearly so many troops to attend his person as he afterward had in time of peace for his ordinary guard; while an army of five or six thousand men, part sent from Spain, and part raised by the prince of Condé, pursued him to the very heart of his kingdom.
The prince of Condé, in the meantime, made quick marches from Bordeaux to Montauban, taking towns and increasing his numbers in every place.
All the hopes of the court were centred in Marshal Turenne. The king’s army was at Guienne, on the Loire, and the prince of Condé’s a few leagues distant, under the command of the dukes of Nemours and Beaufort. The misunderstanding between these two generals nearly proved fatal to the prince’s party. The duke of Beaufort was unfit for the least command. The duke of Nemours passed for a brave and amiable, rather than a skilful general. The army was ruined by them both together. The men, who knew that the great Condé was a hundred leagues distant from them, looked upon themselves as lost; when, in the middle of the night, a courier presented himself to the main guard in the forest of Orleans: the sentinels presently discovered this courier to be the prince himself, who had come post from Agen, through a thousand adventures, and always in disguise, to put himself at the head of his army.
His presence did a great deal, and this unforeseen arrival still more: he knew that men are elated with whatever is sudden and unexpected; he therefore took immediate advantage of the confidence and boldness with which his presence had inspired his troops. It was this prince’s distinguishing talent in war to form the boldest resolutions in an instant, and to execute them with equal prudence and promptitude.
The royal army was divided into two corps. Condé attacked that which lay at Bléneau, under the command of Marshal d’Hoquincourt, which was shattered almost as soon as attacked. Turenne could not receive advice of this. Cardinal Mazarin, struck with a panic, flew to Gien in the midst of the night to awaken the king and acquaint him with this news. His little court was struck with consternation: it was proposed to save the king by flight, and convey him privately to Bourges. The victorious Condé advanced toward Gien, and the fear and desolation became universal. Turenne, however, quieted the apprehensions of the people by his steadiness, and saved the court by his dexterity. With the few troops he had left he made such dexterous movements, and so well improved his ground and time, that he prevented Condé from prosecuting the advantage he had gained. It was difficult at that time to determine which of these two generals had acquired the most honor; Condé by the victory he had gained, or Turenne by having snatched the fruits of his victory from him. It is certain that in this battle of Bléneau, which for a long time continued to be famous in France, there were not above four hundred men killed: nevertheless, the prince of Condé was on the point of making himself master of the whole royal family, and of getting his enemy, the cardinal, into his hands. There could not well be a smaller battle, greater concerns depending, or a more pressing danger.
Condé, who did not flatter himself with the notion of surprising Turenne as he had done Hoquincourt, made his army march to Paris, and hastened to enter that city, and enjoy the glory he had acquired in the favorable dispositions of a blinded people. The admiration of this last action, which was exaggerated in all its circumstances, had raised in all ranks of people the general hatred to Mazarin, and the name and presence of the great Condé seemed at first to make him absolute master of the capital: but in fact the minds of the people in general were divided, and each party was split into different factions, as is the case in all civil troubles. The coadjutor, now Cardinal de Retz, who had apparently been reconciled to a court that feared him, and whom he equally distrusted, was no longer master of the people, nor acted the principal part in these transactions. He governed the duke of Orleans, and opposed Condé. The parliament fluctuated between the court, the duke of Orleans, and the prince; but all sides joined in crying out against Mazarin: every one in private took care of his own concerns. The people were like a stormy ocean, whose waves were driven at hazard by many contrary winds. The shrine of St. Geneviève was carried in procession through Paris to obtain the expulsion of the cardinal minister; and the populace did not in the least doubt that the saint would perform this miracle in the same manner as she grants rain.
Nothing was to be seen but negotiations between the heads of parties, deputations from the parliament, meetings of the chambers, seditions among the people, and soldiers all over the country. Guards were mounted even at the gates of convents. The prince had called in the Spanish to his assistance. Charles IV., duke of Lorraine, who had been driven out of his dominions, and who had nothing left but an army of eight thousand men, which he sold every year to the Spanish king, advanced with this army toward Paris: but Cardinal Mazarin offering him more money to return than he was to have from the prince of Condé for advancing, the duke soon withdrew from France, after having laid the countries waste in his march, and carried off a handsome sum of money from both sides.
Condé then remained in Paris, where his power was every day growing weaker, and his army dwindling away, while Turenne conducted the king and his court toward the capital. The king, who was then fifteen years old, beheld from the heights of Charonne, the battle of St. Anthony, in which these two generals, with a handful of troops, performed such great things as considerably increased the reputation of both, which already seemed incapable of addition.
The prince of Condé, with a few noblemen of his party, and a small number of soldiers, sustained and repelled the efforts of the king’s army. The king himself, attended by Cardinal Mazarin, beheld this fight from a neighboring eminence. The duke of Orleans, uncertain which side to take, kept within his palace of Luxembourg, and Cardinal de Retz remained in his archbishopric. The parliament waited the issue of the battle to enact new decrees. The people, who at that time were equally afraid of the king’s troops and the prince’s, had shut the city gates, and would not suffer anyone to come in or go out, while the most noble blood of the kingdom was streaming in the suburbs. There it was that the duke de La Rochefoucauld, who was so famous for his courage and wit, received a blow over his eyes, which deprived him of his sight for some time. Nothing was to be seen but young noblemen killed or wounded, being carried to St. Anthony’s gate, which was kept shut.
At length the daughter of the duke of Orleans, taking Condé’s part, whom her father had not dared to assist, ordered the gates to be opened for the wounded, and had the boldness to fire the cannon of the Bastille upon the king’s troops. The royal army retired. Condé gained only glory; but mademoiselle ruined herself forever with the king, her cousin, by this imprudent violence; and Cardinal Mazarin, who knew the great desire she had to espouse a crowned head, observed that those cannon had killed her husband.
Most of our historians amuse their readers only with accounts of the battles fought, and the prodigies of valor and politics displayed on these occasions; but whoever is acquainted with the shameful expedients which were put in practice, the wretchedness which was brought upon the people, and the meanness to which all sides were reduced, will look upon the glory of the heroes of these times with more pity than admiration; as we may judge from what we find related by Gourville, a man who was devoted to the prince of Condé. This writer acknowledges that he himself, in order to procure money for the prince on a pressing occasion, was obliged to rob a receiver’s office; and that he went one day and seized a director of the posts in his own house, and obliged him to purchase his liberty with a sum of money; he relates all these outrages as common occurrences at that time.
After the bloody and indecisive battle of St. Anthony, the king could neither enter Paris, nor could the prince of Condé think of remaining there much longer. A commotion of the populace and the deaths of several citizens, of which he was thought to be the author, had made him hateful in the eyes of the people. Nevertheless, he had still a party in the parliament. This body, who had then little to apprehend from the resentment of a wandering court driven, as it were, from their capital, being pressed by the duke of Orleans and the prince’s cabals, issued an arret declaring the former lieutenant-general of the kingdom, though the king was then of age. This was the title that had been conferred on the duke of Mayenne in the time of the league. The prince of Condé was appointed generalissimo of the forces. The court, incensed at these proceedings, ordered the parliament to remove itself to Pontoise, which some few of the counsellors did; so that there were now two parliaments, who disputed each other’s authority, enacted contradictory decrees, and would by this means have fallen into universal contempt, had they not always agreed in demanding the cardinal’s expulsion: so much was a hatred to that minister looked upon at that time as the essential duty of a Frenchman.
At that time all parties were alike weak, and the court was as much so as the rest. They all wanted men and money. Factions were daily increasing: the battles which had been fought on both sides had produced only losses and vexations. The court found itself obliged once more to give up Mazarin, whom everyone accused of being the cause of these troubles, while he was in fact only the pretence. Accordingly he quitted the kingdom a second time; and, as an additional disgrace, the king was obliged to issue a public declaration, by which he banished his minister, while he commended his services and lamented his exile.
Charles I. of England had lately lost his head upon a scaffold, for having, at the beginning of his troubles, sacrificed the life of his friend and counsellor, the earl of Strafford, to his parliament’s resentment. On the other hand, Louis XIV. became the peaceable master of his kingdom by agreeing to the banishment of Mazarin. Thus the same weakness had very different successes. The king of England, by giving up his favorite, emboldened a people who delighted in war, and had a hatred to all kings: and Louis XIV.—or rather the queen-mother—by banishing the cardinal, took away all pretence for a revolt from a people who had grown weary of war, and had an affection for the royal character.
No sooner had the cardinal departed on his way to Bouillon, the place fixed for his new retreat, than the citizens of Paris, of their own accord, sent deputies to the king to beseech him to return to his capital, which he accordingly did; and everything appeared so peaceable, that it would have been difficult to suppose that a few days before all had been in confusion. Gaston of Orleans, ever unfortunate in his undertakings, for want of spirit to carry them through, was banished to Blois, where he passed the rest of his days in repentance; and he was the second of the great Henry’s sons who died without glory. Cardinal de Retz, who was perhaps as imprudent as he was bold and aspiring, was arrested in the Louvre, and after being carried from prison to prison, he for a long time led a wandering life, which at length ended in retirement, where he acquired virtues which his high spirit had made him a stranger to, amidst the tumults of his fortune.
Some counsellors of the parliament who had most abused their power paid the forfeit of their faults by banishment; the rest were restricted within the proper limits of the magisterial function; and some were encouraged to do their duty by a yearly gratification of five hundred pounds, which was paid them privately by Fouquet, procureur-general, and comptroller of the finances.
In the meantime the prince of Condé, abandoned in France by almost all his partisans, and but weakly seconded by the Spaniards, still carried on an unsuccessful war on the frontiers of Champagne. There were still some few factions in Bordeaux, but they were soon quelled.
The calm which the kingdom now enjoyed was owing to the banishment of Cardinal Mazarin. Yet scarcely was he expelled by the general cry of the French nation, and by the royal declaration, than he was recalled by the king, and to his infinite surprise, entered Paris once more in full power, and without the least disturbance, in March, 1653. The king received him as a father, and the people as a master. A public entertainment was made for him at the town-house, amidst the acclamations of the citizens: he distributed money among the populace on this occasion; but amidst all the satisfaction he received in this happy change, he is said to have shown a contempt for our levity and inconstancy. The parliament, who had before set a price upon his head as a public robber, now sent deputies to compliment him; and this very parliament, a short time afterward, passed sentence of death on the prince of Condé for contumacy; a change common in such times, and which was the more base, as by this decree they condemned the very man in whose crimes they had been so long partakers.
The cardinal, also, who urged this condemnation of the great Condé, was soon afterward seen to give one of his nieces in marriage to the prince of Conti, Condé’s brother, a proof that this minister’s power would soon become boundless.
FRANCE, TILL THE DEATH OF CARDINAL MAZARIN, 1661.
While the state was thus torn in pieces within, it had been attacked and weakened from without. All the fruits of the victories of Rocroi, Lens, and Nördlingen were lost, the important fortress of Dunkirk was retaken by the Spaniards, who had also driven the French out of Barcelona, and retaken Casale, in Italy. Yet, notwithstanding the tumults of the civil broils, and the weight of a foreign war, Mazarin had, in 1648, been fortunate enough to conclude the famous Peace of Westphalia, by which the emperor and the empire sold the sovereignty of Alsace to the king and the crown of France for three millions of livres—about six millions of our present money—to be paid to the archduke, which became the basis of all future treaties. A new electorate was created in favor of the house of Bavaria. The rights of all the princes and cities of the empire, and even the privileges of every private gentleman, were settled at this peace. The emperor’s power was restricted within very narrow limits, and the French, in conjunction with the Swedes, became the lawgivers of Germany. The glory accruing to France was in part owing to the Swedish arms; Gustavus Adolphus had first begun to shake the empire. His generals had also pushed their conquests quite extensively, under the government of his daughter, Christina. General Wrangel was ready to enter into Austria; Count Königsmarck was master of one half of the city of Prague, and was laying siege to the other half, when this peace was concluded: and to overwhelm the emperor in this manner cost France only a million a year in subsidies to the Swedes.
And indeed the Swedes gained more advantage from this treaty than the French. They had Pomerania, several fortified places, and a considerable sum of money. They obliged the emperor to deliver into the hands of the Lutherans certain benefices which belonged to the Roman Catholics. The court of Rome set up the cry of impiety, and loudly declared that the cause of God and religion was betrayed. The Protestants boasted that they had sanctified the work of peace by stripping the Papists. Everyone speaks as interest dictates.
The Spanish court did not accede to this peace, and with good reason; for seeing France overwhelmed with its civil wars, the Spanish ministry hoped to profit by our dissensions. The German troops, which were now disbanded, served as a fresh reinforcement to the Spaniards. The emperor, after the Peace of Münster, sent thirty thousand men into Flanders, in the space of four years. This was a manifest violation of treaties; but they are seldom executed in any other manner.
The ministers of the court of Madrid had the address in this Treaty of Westphalia to make a separate peace with the Dutch. The Spanish monarchy, in short, thought itself happy to have no longer for enemies, and to acknowledge as sovereigns, those whom they had so long treated as rebels, unworthy of pardon. These republicans increased their wealth, and secured their tranquillity and greatness, by thus treating with Spain without breaking with France.
They were so powerful that, in 1653, in a war which they had with England, they sent a hundred ships of the line to sea: and victory long remained doubtful between Blake, the English admiral, and Tromp, who commanded the Dutch fleet, who were both at sea what Condé and Turenne were on shore. France had not at that time ten ships of fifty guns fit to send to sea; and her navy was every day falling more and more into decay.
Louis XIV. then saw himself, in 1653, absolute master of the kingdom which was still affected by the shocks it had received; full of disorder in every branch of the administration, but abounding in resources; without any ally, except the duke of Savoy, to assist it in carrying on an offensive war, and having no foreign enemies but Spain, which was then in a worse condition than France itself. All the French who had been concerned in the civil war were subjected, except the prince of Condé and some few of his partisans, of which one or two remained faithful to him, through friendship and gratitude, as the counts de Coligny and Bouteville; and some others, because the court would not buy their services at an exorbitant price.
Condé, now made general of the Spanish forces, could not recruit a body which he himself had weakened by the destruction of its infantry in the battles of Rocroi and Lens. He fought with new troops, of which he was not master, against the veteran regiments of the French, who had learned to conquer under him, and were now commanded by Turenne.
It was the fortune of Condé and Turenne to be always conquerors when they fought together at the head of the French, and to be beaten when they commanded the Spaniards. Turenne had with great difficulty saved the shattered remains of the Spanish army at the battle of Rethel, where, from being general to the king of France, he became lieutenant to Don Estevan de Gamarra.
The prince of Condé met with the same fate before Arras: he and the archduke were besieging that town; Turenne came and besieged them in their camp, forced their lines, and the archduke’s troops were put to flight. Condé, with only two regiments of French and Lorrainers, sustained the attack of all Turenne’s army; and, while the archduke was flying, he beat Marshal Hoquincourt, repulsed Marshal de la Ferté, and covered the retreat of the defeated Spaniards, upon which the Spanish king wrote to him in these terms: “I have heard that all was lost, and that you have saved all.”
It is difficult to say by what battles are lost or won; but it is certain that Condé was one of the greatest military geniuses that had ever appeared, and that the archduke and his council refused to do anything that day which Condé had proposed.
Though raising the siege of Arras, forcing the enemy’s lines, and putting the archduke to flight, reflected the highest glory on Turenne, it was observed that in the letter written in the king’s name to the parliament upon this victory, the whole success of the campaign was attributed to Cardinal Mazarin, without the least mention of Turenne’s name. The cardinal was actually within a few leagues of Arras with the king. He had even gone into the camp at the siege of Stenai, a town which Turenne had taken before he relieved Arras. Several councils of war had been held in the cardinal’s presence: on this he founded his pretension to the honor of these events; and by this piece of vanity he drew ridicule upon himself, which not all the authority of prime minister could efface.
The king was not present at the battle of Arras, though he might have been so; he had been in the trenches at the siege of Stenai; but the cardinal would not suffer him to hazard a person on which the tranquillity of the state and the power of the minister seemed alike to depend.
This war, which was but weakly supported, was carried on in their masters’ names, on one side by Mazarin, who was absolute master of France and its young monarch; and on the other by Don Luis de Haro, who governed the Spanish kingdom under Philip IV. The name of Louis XIV. was not then known to the world, and the king of Spain had never been spoken of. There was no crowned head at that time in Europe who enjoyed any share of personal reputation. Queen Christina of Sweden was the only one who governed alone, and supported the dignity of the throne, which was abandoned, disgraced, or unknown in other kingdoms.
Charles II., king of England, then a fugitive in France, with his mother and brother, had brought thither his misfortunes and his hopes; a private subject had subdued England, Scotland, and Ireland. Cromwell, that usurper so worthy of reigning, had prudently taken the title of Protector, and not that of King, as he knew that the English were acquainted with the extent of the royal prerogative, but did not so well know the limits of a protector’s authority.
He strengthened his power by knowing when to restrain it: he made no attempt upon the rights of the people, of which they were always jealous; he never quartered soldiers upon the city of London, nor imposed any tax which might occasion murmurings; he did not offend the public eye with too much pomp; he did not indulge himself in any pleasures; nor did he heap up riches: he took care that justice should be observed with that stern impartiality which knows no distinction between the great and small.
The brother of Pantaleon Sá, the Portuguese ambassador in England, thinking that he might act as he pleased with impunity, because the person of his brother was sacred, had committed an outrage upon some citizens of London, and afterward caused some to be assassinated by his own people, in revenge for the opposition he had met with from the rest; for this he was condemned to be hanged. Cromwell, though he had it in his power to save him, suffered him to be executed, and the next day signed a treaty with the ambassador.
Never had the trade of England been in so free and so flourishing a condition, nor the state so rich. Its victorious fleets made its name respected in every sea, while Mazarin, wholly employed in governing and heaping up riches, suffered justice, trade, navigation, and even the revenue itself, to languish and decline in France. As much master in France as Cromwell was in England, after a civil war, he might have procured the same advantages for the country which he governed as Cromwell had done for his; but Mazarin was a foreigner, and though of a less cruel disposition than Cromwell, wanted his greatness of soul.
All the nations of Europe, who had neglected an alliance with England during the reigns of James I. and Charles, solicited it under Cromwell. Queen Christina herself, though she had expressed her detestation at the murder of Charles I., entered into an alliance with a tyrant whom she esteemed.
Mazarin and Don Luis de Haro vied with each other in exerting their politics to engage the protector in an alliance; and he had for some time the satisfaction of seeing himself courted by the two most powerful kingdoms in Christendom.
The Spanish minister offered to assist him to take Calais; Mazarin proposed to him to besiege Dunkirk, and to put that place into his hands. Cromwell had then at his option the keys of France and Flanders. He was also strongly solicited by the great Condé; but he would not enter into a negotiation with a prince who had nothing to depend upon but his name, and who was without a party in France, and without power among the Spaniards.
The protector then determined in favor of France; but without making any particular treaty, or sharing conquests beforehand: he was desirous to render his usurpation illustrious by great undertakings. He had formed the design of taking America from the Spaniards, but they had timely notice of his intention. His admirals, however, took the island of Jamaica in May, 1655, which is still in possession of the English, and secures their trade in the new world. It was not till after the expedition to Jamaica that Cromwell signed his treaty with the French king; and then no mention was made of Dunkirk. The protector treated with the French king as a prince with his equal, and obliged him to acknowledge his title of Protector. His secretary signed before the French plenipotentiary on the copy of the treaty which remained in England; but he treated as a real superior when he obliged the French king to compel Charles II. and his brother, the duke of York, both grandsons of Henry IV., and to whom France consequently owed an asylum, to quit his dominions.
While Mazarin was engaged in this treaty, Charles II. asked one of his nieces in marriage: but the bad condition of this prince’s affairs, which had obliged him to take this step, was the cause of his meeting with a refusal; and the cardinal was even suspected of an intention to marry the very niece, whom he had refused to the king of England, to Cromwell’s son. This, however, is certain, that when he afterward found Charles’s affairs take a more favorable turn, he was for setting this match on foot again; but then he met with a refusal in his turn.
The mother of these two princes, Henrietta of France, daughter of Henry the Great, who was left in France destitute of all assistance, saw herself reduced to beg of the cardinal to intercede with Cromwell, that she might at least receive her jointure. It was certainly the most extreme and grievous of all humiliations, to be obliged to sue for subsistence to the man who had spilled her husband’s blood on a scaffold. Mazarin, after some few remonstrances in the queen’s favor to the English court, acquainted her that he had not been able to obtain anything. She therefore continued in poverty at Paris, and with the shame and mortification of having implored Cromwell’s pity, while her sons went into the army commanded by the prince of Condé and Don John of Austria, to learn the art of war against France, which had abandoned them.
The children of Charles I., thus driven out of France, took refuge in Spain. Upon this the Spanish ministry loudly inveighed, both by word of mouth and writing, in all courts, and especially at Rome, against the behavior of the cardinal, who, they said, had sacrificed all laws, divine and human, all honor and religion, to the murderer of a king, and had driven out of France Charles II. and the duke of York, though cousins of Louis XIV., to please their father’s executioner. No other reply was made to these outcries of the Spaniards, than the production of the very offers which they themselves had made to the protector.
The war was still carried on in Flanders with various success. Turenne having laid siege to Valenciennes, together with the marshal de la Ferté, experienced the same reverse of fortune which had befallen Condé before Arras. The prince, seconded at that time by Don John of Austria, more worthy of fighting by his side than the archduke had been, forced Marshal de la Ferté’s lines, took him prisoner, and delivered Valenciennes, July 17, 1656. Turenne then did what Condé had done before in a like defeat. He saved the routed army, made head everywhere against the enemy, and in less than a month afterward went and laid siege to and took the small town of La Capelle: this was perhaps the first time that a defeated army had dared to undertake a siege.
This march of Turenne’s, which was so greatly admired, and after which La Capelle was taken, was eclipsed by a still finer march of Condé’s. Turenne had hardly sat down before Cambray, when Condé, at the head of two thousand horse, penetrated through the army of the besiegers, and, after having routed everything that attempted to stop him, threw himself into the town on May 30, 1658; he was received by the citizens on their knees as their deliverer. Thus did these two great men display all the power of their military genius in opposition to each other. They were equally admired for their retreats, for their victories, for their good conduct, and even for their faults, which they always knew how to repair. By their talents they alternately checked the progress of the two monarchies whom they served; but the disordered state of the finances, both in France and Spain, still proved a great obstacle to their success.
At length France acquired a more distinguished superiority, by the league it had made with Cromwell. On one hand Admiral Blake went and burned the Spanish galleons at the Canary Islands, and thus deprived them of the only treasures with which they could carry on the war; and, on the other, twenty sail of English ships blocked up the port of Dunkirk, while six thousand veteran soldiers, who had been concerned in the revolution in England, were sent to reinforce Turenne’s army.
And now Dunkirk, the most important place of all Flanders, was besieged by land and sea. The prince of Condé and Don John of Austria having assembled all their forces, presented themselves before the city to raise the siege. The eyes of all Europe were attentively fixed on this great event. Cardinal Mazarin carried Louis XIV. into the neighborhood of the theatre of war, without suffering him to act a part therein, though he was then upward of twenty years old. The king remained in Calais while his army attacked that of Spain, and gained, on June 14, 1658, the most glorious victory which had been known since that of Rocroi.
The prince of Condé’s genius could do nothing that day against the superior forces of France and England. The Spanish army was destroyed, and Dunkirk capitulated soon after. The king and his minister repaired thither, to see the garrison march out. The cardinal would not permit Louis XIV. to appear either in the light of a king or a warrior. He had not money to distribute among the soldiers, and indeed had hardly proper attendants: whenever he went with the army, he used to eat at Mazarin’s, or at the viscount Turenne’s table.
This neglect of the royal dignity was not the effect of any contempt that Louis XIV. had for show and parade, but from the bad state of his affairs, and the care taken by the cardinal to arrogate all splendor and authority to himself.
Louis took possession of Dunkirk only to deliver it up to Lockhart, Cromwell’s ambassador. Mazarin endeavored, by some finesse, to elude the treaty, and prevent the place being given up to the English; but Lockhart’s threats and the English resolution got the better of Italian cunning.
It has been asserted by several persons that the cardinal, who had arrogated to himself the affair of Arras, wanted to prevail on Turenne to yield him likewise the honor of this battle. Du Bec-Crespin, count of Moret, was sent, they say, in the minister’s name, to propose to the general to write a letter, by which it might appear that the cardinal himself had laid down the whole plan of operations. Turenne received these insinuations with the contempt they deserved, and would not consent to avow a thing which would have brought disgrace on a general, and ridicule on a churchman. Mazarin, after this weakness, had that of continuing at enmity with Turenne till the day of his death.
Some time after the siege of Dunkirk, Sept. 13, 1658, Cromwell died, aged fifty-five years, in the midst of the vast projects he had formed for the establishment of his own power and the glory of the nation he governed. He had humbled the Dutch, dictated the conditions of a treaty with the Portuguese, conquered Spain, and forced France to solicit his protection. Not long before his death, on being informed of the haughty manner in which his admirals behaved at Lisbon, “I am resolved,” said he, “to make the English republic as much respected as that of Rome was in former times.” He was interred like a lawful sovereign, and left behind him the reputation of a great king, which threw a veil over the crimes of the usurper.
Sir William Temple pretends that Cromwell designed before he died to enter into an alliance with Spain against France, and to recover Calais by the help of the Spanish arms, as he had got Dunkirk by those of France. Nothing was more agreeable to his character and politics; he would have rendered himself the idol of the English, by thus stripping, one after another, two nations whom they equally hated. Death, however, at once overturned his great designs, his tyranny, and the English greatness. It is observable, that the court of France went in mourning for Cromwell; and that the daughter of the duke of Orleans was the only person who refused to pay this mark of respect to the memory of the murderer of a king, her kinsman.
Richard Cromwell succeeded his father in the protectorship, without any opposition, and in the same manner as a prince of Wales would have succeeded a king of England.
Richard was a proof that the fate of a kingdom frequently depends upon the character of one man. His genius was wholly different from that of his father, Oliver; he was possessed of all the meek virtues which make the good citizen, and had none of that brutal intrepidity which sacrifices everything to its own interests. He might have preserved the inheritance which his father had acquired by his labors, if he would have consented to put to death three or four of the principal officers of the army, who opposed his elevation; but he chose rather to lay down the government than to reign by assassination, and lived retired, and almost unknown, till the age of ninety, in a country of which he had once been the sovereign. After quitting the protectorship he made a voyage to France, where being one day at Montpellier, the prince of Conti, brother of the great Condé, discoursing with him, without knowing who he was, observed: “Oliver Cromwell was a great man, but his son Richard was a poor wretch, not to know how to enjoy the fruits of his father’s crimes.” This Richard, however, lived contented, whereas his father had never known what happiness was.
Some time before, France had seen another much more extraordinary example of the contempt of a crown in the famous Christina of Sweden, who came to Paris. Everyone admired a young princess, so worthy of reigning, who had resigned the sovereign authority for the sake of leading a life of ease and freedom. It is shameful in the Protestant writers to assert, without the least shadow of proof, that she resigned the crown only because she could keep it no longer. She had formed this design from the time she was twenty years of age, and had allowed seven years to bring it to maturity. A resolution so much above all vulgar conception, and which had been formed for such a length of time, should stop the mouths of those who reproach her with levity of disposition, and of having been compelled to this abdication. One of these accusations destroys the other: but everything great and noble is sure to be attacked by narrow minds.
The extraordinary turn of mind of this princess is sufficiently shown by her letters. In that which she wrote to Chanut, who had formerly been ambassador from France at her court, she thus expresses herself: “I wore the crown without ostentation, and I resign it with readiness: after this you have nothing to fear for me, my happiness is out of the reach of fortune.” She wrote thus to the great Condé: “I think myself as much honored by your esteem as by the crown I have worn. If after having resigned that, you shall think me less deserving of the other, I will own to you that the tranquillity I have so much desired will appear dearly bought; but I shall never repent of having purchased it at the price of a crown; nor will ever sully an act which to me appears so glorious, by a mean repentance: and if perchance you should condemn what I have done, I shall only tell you in excuse, that I should never have resigned the possessions which fortune bestowed on me, had I judged them necessary to my happiness; and should even have aspired to the sovereignty of the world, could I have been as certain of succeeding or dying in the attempt as the great Condé would have been.”
Such was the soul of this extraordinary personage, and such her style in our language, which she was but rarely accustomed to speak. She understood eight different languages; she had been the friend and pupil of Descartes, who died in her palace at Stockholm, after having in vain tried to obtain a pension in France, where his works were even forbidden to be read, on account of the only good things which were in them. She invited into her kingdom all who were capable of bringing any knowledge into it; and the vexation of finding no men of learning among her own subjects had given her a dislike to reigning over a people who were unacquainted with everything but arms. She judged it more eligible to live privately among thinking men than to rule over a people who had neither learning nor genius. She patronized and cultivated all the arts, in a country where they were till her time unknown, and designed to make Italy the place of her retreat, where she might indulge herself in the midst of them; and, as they had but just begun to make their appearance in France, she only passed through that kingdom on her way to Rome, where her inclination determined her to fix her abode; and with this view she quitted the Lutheran religion for the Catholic. Equally indifferent to either, she made no scruple of outwardly conforming to the sentiments of a people among whom she was desirous of passing her life. She quitted the throne in 1654, and publicly performed the ceremony of her abjuration at Innspruck. She was admired at the French court, though she surpassed all the women there in understanding. The king saw her, and did her the greatest honors; but he did not discourse much with her. He had been bred in ignorance, and his natural good sense made him bashful.
The only extraordinary thing that the ladies and courtiers remarked in this philosophical queen was that she did not dress after the French fashion, and that she danced badly. The learned found nothing to condemn in her except the murder of Monaldeschi, her master of horse, whom she caused to be assassinated at Fontainebleau in the second journey she made to France, for some fault he had been guilty of toward her. As she had laid down the sovereign authority, she had no longer a right to impose a sentence. She could no longer be considered as a queen who punished a misdemeanor of state, but as a private woman who ended a love affair by a murder. This infamous and cruel action sullied that philosophy which had made her quit a throne. Had she been in England, she would have been punished; but the court of France winked at this insult against the royal authority, the law of nations, and humanity.
After Cromwell was dead, and his son Richard deposed, England continued for a year in anarchy and confusion. Charles Gustavus, to whom Queen Christina had resigned the kingdom of Sweden, made himself formidable in the North and in Germany. Emperor Ferdinand died in 1657. His son, Leopold, who was seventeen years old, and was already king of Hungary and Bohemia, had not been chosen king of the Romans during his father’s lifetime. Mazarin endeavored to have Louis XIV. chosen emperor. This was a wild scheme: he should have compelled or corrupted the electors to his interest; but France was not in itself sufficiently powerful to seize on the empire, nor rich enough to purchase it; consequently the first overtures of this kind, made at Frankfort by Marshals de Gramont and Lionne, were laid aside almost as soon as proposed, and Leopold was chosen emperor. All that Mazarin’s policy could then effect was to engage the German princes in a league for securing the observance of the Treaties of Münster, and to curb the emperor’s authority in the empire.
After the affair of Dunkirk, France became powerful abroad by the reputation of her arms, and the bad condition to which other nations were reduced; but she suffered greatly at home; she was drained of money, and in want of peace.
In Christian monarchies the state itself is seldom interested in its sovereign’s wars. Mercenary armies, raised by the order of a minister, and commanded by generals blindly devoted to his will, carry on several destructive campaigns, without the princes in whose name they fight having the least expectation or even intention of depriving each other of their whole patrimony. The people of the victorious state reap no advantage from the spoils of those who are conquered. They pay all expenses, and are alike sufferers, whether their country be prosperous or unsuccessful. Peace, therefore, is as necessary to them, even after the greatest victory, as if their enemies were in possession of all their frontier places.
There were two things wanting for the cardinal to finish his administration happily: the one was to bring about a peace, and the other to secure the tranquillity of the nation by marrying the king. The young monarch had been dangerously ill after the campaign of Dunkirk, insomuch that his life was despaired of. The cardinal, who knew he was not liked by the king’s brother, had some intention, at this dangerous juncture, of securing his immense riches, and preparing for a retreat. These considerations determined him to marry his royal pupil as soon as possible. Two parties presented themselves at that time; the king of Spain’s daughter and the princess of Savoy. The king’s heart, however, had been previously engaged in a different way; he was desperately in love with Mademoiselle de Mancini, one of the cardinal’s nieces, and as he was by nature amorous, positive in his will, and void of experience, it was not unlikely that in the warmth of his passion, he might have determined to marry his favorite mistress.
Madame de Motteville, the queen-mother’s confidante, whose memoirs carry a great air of truth, pretends that Mazarin was tempted to give way to the king’s passion, and place his niece on the throne. He had already married one of his nieces to the prince of Conti, and a second to the duke of Mercœur; and she whom Louis XIV. was so fond of had been demanded in marriage by the king of England. These were so many encouragements to justify his ambition. Being one day alone with the queen-mother, he artfully attempted to sound her on this subject. “I am afraid,” said he, “that the king has a strong inclination to marry my niece.” The queen-mother, who knew the cardinal perfectly well, presently conjectured that he wished what he affected to fear, and with all the haughtiness of a princess of the Austrian blood, the daughter, wife, and mother of kings, and full of resentment against a minister who seemed to have shaken off all dependence upon her, she made him this reply: “Were the king himself capable of such a meanness, I would instantly put myself, with my second son, at the head of the people against the king and you.”
It is said that Mazarin never forgave the queen for this spirited answer: but he was wise enough to fall in with her sentiments, and made a merit of opposing the king’s passion; his power did not stand in need of a queen of his own blood to support it. He was even apprehensive of his niece’s disposition, and thought he should more effectually secure the authority of his place by shunning the dangerous glory of too greatly exalting his family.
He had in the year 1656, sent Lionne into Spain to bring about a peace, and demand the infanta in marriage; but Don Luis de Haro, sensible that weak as Spain was, France was not much stronger, had rejected the cardinal’s offers. The infanta, who was the child of a former marriage, was destined for young Leopold. The Spanish king had at that time only one son by his second wife, and this young prince was of so infirm a constitution, that it was imagined he could hardly live. It was therefore determined that the infanta, who was likely to become heiress to such large dominions, should transfer her claims to the house of Austria, rather than to the family of an enemy: but Philip IV. having afterward another son (Don Philip Prospero), and his queen being again with child, there did not appear so much danger in giving the infanta to the French king; besides, the battle of Dunkirk had made him wish for a peace.
The Spanish court then promised the infanta to Louis XIV., and desired a cessation of arms. Mazarin and Don Luis de Haro met on the frontiers of the two kingdoms, on the Isle of Pheasants. Notwithstanding that the design of their meeting was no less than that of settling the marriage of the king of France, and a general peace, a whole month was taken up in determining the disputes which arose about precedence, and in adjusting certain points of ceremony. The cardinals insisted upon being equal with kings, and superior to other sovereign princes. France with more justice pretended to the pre-eminence over all other kings. However, Don Luis de Haro kept up a perfect equality between Mazarin and himself, and between the crowns of France and Spain.
The conferences lasted four months, in which Don Luis and Mazarin displayed the whole strength of their politics. The cardinal excelled in finesse, Don Luis was remarkable for his deliberation. The former never spoke but with a double meaning, the latter very sparingly. The Italian minister’s talent lay in endeavoring to surprise; that of the Spaniard, in guarding against a surprise. It is reported that in speaking of the cardinal he said: “There is one great fault in his politics, he is always endeavoring to deceive.”
Such is the vicissitude of human affairs that there are hardly two articles of this famous Treaty of the Pyrenees now subsisting. The French king kept Roussillon, which he would always have kept without this peace; but with respect to Flanders, the Spanish monarchy has now nothing left there. The court of France was at that time necessarily in friendship with Portugal; we are now no longer so; everything is changed. Though Don Luis de Haro accused Cardinal Mazarin of deceit, the world has since acknowledged that he had the gift of foresight. He had for a long time formed the design of an alliance between France and Spain; witness that famous letter of his which he wrote during the conferences at Münster. “If his most Christian majesty could have the Low Countries and Franche-Comté, as a marriage portion with the infanta, in that case we might aspire to the Spanish succession, notwithstanding any renunciation made in the infanta’s name; neither would it be a very distant prospect, seeing that there is only the life of the prince, her brother, to exclude her from it.” This prince was Balthazar, who died in 1649.
It is plain that the cardinal was deceived, in supposing that the court of Spain would give the Low Countries and Franche-Comté with the infanta. There was not a single town stipulated for a dowry with her; on the contrary, we restored several considerable towns to the Spanish monarchy, which we had taken from it during the course of the war; such as St. Omer, Ypres, Menin, Oudenarde, and some other places. The cardinal, however, was right in supposing that the renunciation would one day be of no effect; but those who give him the honor of this prediction, suppose him to have likewise foreseen that Prince Balthazar would die in 1649; that afterward the three children by the second wife would all die in the cradle; that Charles, the fifth of all these male children, would die without issue; and that this Austrian king would one day make a will in favor of Louis XIV.’s grandson. But the truth is, that Cardinal Mazarin foresaw what value would be set upon a renunciation, in case the male issue of Philip IV. should all fail; and this was justified by a series of extraordinary events, above fifty years afterward.
The infanta Maria Theresa, who might have had for her dowry those towns which France by this treaty of marriage was obliged to restore, instead of that had only five hundred thousand golden crowns for her fortune: it cost the king more to go and receive her on the frontiers. However, these five hundred thousand crowns, worth at that time about two million five hundred thousand livres, were the subject of much altercation between the two ministers, and at last we never received more than one hundred thousand francs.
So far was this marriage from being of any real present advantage, excepting that of peace, that the infanta renounced forever all right or claim to any of her father’s territories, and Louis XIV. ratified this renunciation in the most solemn manner, and caused it to be registered in parliament.
These renunciations, and a portion of five hundred thousand crowns, seemed to be customary clauses in the marriage contracts between the infantas of Spain and the kings of France. Queen Anne of Austria, daughter of Philip III., was married to Louis XIII. on the same conditions; and when Isabella, daughter of our Henry the Great, was married to Philip IV., king of Spain, there were no more than five hundred thousand crowns agreed upon for a portion with her, and no part of that was ever paid; so that there did not seem at that time to be any great advantage in these grand marriages.
Charles IV., duke of Lorraine, of whom France and Spain had great reason to complain, or rather who had great reason to complain of them, was included in this treaty; but on the footing of an unfortunate prince, whom they punished because he could not make himself feared. France restored him his dominions, after dismantling Nancy, and prohibiting him from keeping any troops. Don Luis de Haro obliged Cardinal Mazarin to procure the prince of Condé’s pardon, threatening otherwise to bestow on him the sovereignty of Rocroi, Châtelet, and other places in which he was in possession. Thus France at once gained these towns and the great Condé. However, he lost his post of master of the household to the king, and returned with little else than glory.
Charles II., the titular king of England, who was still more unfortunate than the duke of Lorraine, came to the Pyrenees, while they were negotiating the peace, to implore the assistance of the cardinal and Don Luis de Haro. He flattered himself that their kings, who were his cousins-german, being now in alliance, would, as Cromwell was no more, have the courage to avenge a cause which concerned every crowned head; but he could not even obtain an interview with either of the ministers. Lockhart, Cromwell’s ambassador, was at St. John de Luz, and made himself still respected, notwithstanding the death of his master; and the two ministers fearing to disoblige him, refused to see Charles. They thought it impossible that he should ever be restored, and were persuaded that all the English factions, though at variance among themselves, would unanimously join to exclude forever the kingly authority; but herein they were both deceived, and fortune a few months afterward brought about that which these ministers might have had the honor of undertaking. Charles was recalled by the English, without a single potentate having interfered, either to prevent the murder of the father, or the son’s restoration. He landed at Dover, and was received by twenty thousand of his subjects on their knees. I have been told by some old people who were on the spot, that almost every one present was bathed in tears. There never was perhaps a more affecting sight, nor a more sudden revolution. This change was brought about in less time than the Treaty of the Pyrenees took in concluding; and Charles II. was in quiet possession of the English throne before Louis XIV. was even married by proxy.
And now Cardinal Mazarin conducted the king and his new consort back to Paris. His behavior on this occasion was like that of a father who had married his son, without allowing him to have the management of his estate. This minister returned more powerful and more jealous of his authority and dignity than ever. He no longer gave the upper hand to the princes of the blood, in a third place, as formerly; and he who had behaved toward Don Luis de Haro as his equal, attempted to treat the great Condé as his inferior. He now appeared in public with royal pomp, having, besides his ordinary guard, a company of musketeers, the same which is now the second company in the king’s musketeers. There was no longer any access to be had to the royal person; and whosoever was so little of a courtier as to apply to the king for any favor, was surely ruined. The queen-mother, who had so long been this minister’s firm protectress against the whole French nation, saw herself left without credit, as soon as he was no longer in want of her assistance. The king, her son, who had been brought up in a blind submission to this minister, was unable to throw off the yoke she had imposed upon him as well as herself: she had a respect for her own work, and Louis XIV. never dared to reign while Mazarin was alive.
A minister is excusable for the evil he may do when the helm of the government is forced into his hands by storms of state; but when there is a calm, he is answerable for all the good he does not do. Mazarin did good to no one but himself and those related to him; of the eight years of absolute and undisturbed authority which he enjoyed, from his last return till the day of his death, not one was distinguished by any honorable or useful establishment; for the college of the four nations was erected only in consequence of his last will. He managed the finances like a steward whose master is immersed in debt.
The king would sometimes ask Fouquet for money, who used to answer: “Sire, there is none in your majesty’s coffers, but my lord cardinal can lend you some.” Mazarin was worth about two hundred millions, according to the present value of money. It is said, in several memoirs, that he acquired a great part of his wealth by means which were beneath the dignity of his post; and that he obliged those who fitted out privateers to allow him a share in the profits of their cruises; this has never been proved; but the Dutch suspected him of something of this nature, a suspicion they could never have entertained of his predecessor, Cardinal Richelieu.
It is said that he was troubled with some scruples of conscience on his death-bed, though he died apparently with great courage. He was certainly in apprehension for his riches, of which he made a full donation to the king, supposing that his majesty would restore them to him again; in this he judged right, for three days afterward the king returned his deed of gift. Soon afterward he died, seemingly unregretted by anyone except the king, who had already learned the art of dissembling. The yoke began to sit heavy on his shoulders, and he grew impatient to reign; nevertheless, he thought it prudent to wear the appearance of concern for a death which put him in possession of his throne.
Louis XIV. and his court went into mourning for the cardinal; a very extraordinary mark of honor, and what Henry IV. had paid to the memory of the fair Gabrielle d’Estrées.
We shall not undertake in this place to examine whether Cardinal Mazarin was a great minister or not; we leave his actions to speak for him, and posterity to judge; but we cannot forbear opposing that mistaken notion, which ascribes a more than common understanding, and an almost divine genius, to those who have governed great kingdoms with tolerable success. It is not a superior share of penetration that makes statesmen, it is their particular character; anyone that has a tolerable degree of understanding can usually discern what is to his interest. A common citizen of Amsterdam or of Berne knows as much on this head as Sejanus, Ximenes, Buckingham, Richelieu, or Mazarin: but our conduct and our undertakings depend wholly upon the temperament of our souls, and our successes depend upon fortune.
For example: if one with a genius like that of Pope Alexander VI. or his son, Borgia, had undertaken to reduce Rochelle, he would have invited the principal citizens of the place into his camp, under the sanction of the most solemn oaths, and then have murdered them all. Mazarin would have got possession of the town two or three years later, by gaining over some of the citizens, and sowing dissension among the rest. Don Luis de Haro would never have hazarded the undertaking. Richelieu, after the example of Alexander, built a mole in the sea, and entered as a conqueror; but a stronger tide than usual, or a little more diligence on the part of the English, would have saved Rochelle and have made Richelieu pass for a mad adventurer.
We may judge of a man’s character by the nature of his undertakings. We may safely affirm that Richelieu’s soul was full of pride and revenge; that Mazarin was prudent, supple, and avaricious; but to know how far a minister is a man of understanding, we must either have frequently heard him discourse, or have read what he has written. That which we every day see among courtiers frequently happens among statesmen. He who has the greatest talents often fails, while he who is of a more patient, resolute, supple, and equable disposition succeeds.
In reading Mazarin’s letters, and Cardinal de Retz’s memoirs, we may easily perceive de Retz to have been the superior genius; nevertheless, the former attained the summit of power, and the latter was banished. In a word, it is a certain truth, that, to be a powerful minister, little more is required than a middling understanding, good sense, and fortune; but, to be a good minister, the prevailing passion of the soul must be a love for the public good; and he is the greatest statesman who leaves behind him the noblest works of public utility.
LOUIS XIV. GOVERNS ALONE—HE OBLIGES THE SPANISH BRANCH OF THE HOUSE OF AUSTRIA TO YIELD HIM THE PRECEDENCY EVERYWHERE, AND THE COURT OF ROME TO GIVE HIM SATISFACTION—HE PURCHASES DUNKIRK, SENDS AID TO THE EMPEROR, THE DUTCH, AND THE PORTUGUESE, AND RENDERS HIS KINGDOM POWERFUL AND FLOURISHING.
Never was a court so full of intrigues and expectations as that of France, while Cardinal Mazarin lay dying. Those among the women who had any claim to beauty, flattered themselves with the hopes of governing a young prince, who was only twenty-two years old, and whom love had already influenced to make a tender of his crown to a favorite mistress. The young courtiers imagined that they should easily renew the reign of favorites. Every one of the officers of state thought that he should fill the first place in the ministry, not one of them suspecting that a king who had been brought up in such an ignorance of state affairs would venture to take the burden of government upon his own shoulders. Mazarin had kept the king in a state of nonage as long as he was able, and had not till very lately let him into the mystery of reigning, and then only because he had insisted upon being instructed.
They were so far from wishing to be governed by their sovereign that of all those who had been concerned with Mazarin in the administration, not one applied to the king to know when he would give them an audience; on the contrary, every one asked him to whom they were to apply, and were not a little surprised when Louis answered, “To me;” their astonishment was still increased, on finding him persevere. He had for some time consulted his own strength, and made a trial in secret of his capacity for reigning. His resolution once taken, he maintained it to the last moment of his life. He appointed every minister proper limits to his power, obliging them to give him an account of everything at certain hours, showing them as much confidence as was necessary to give a proper weight to their office, and carefully watching over them to prevent their abuse of it. He began by restoring order in the finances, which had been miserably mismanaged through a continuance of rapine.
He established proper discipline among the troops. His court was at once magnificent and decent; even the pleasures appeared there with a degree of lustre and greatness. The arts were all encouraged and employed, to the glory of the king and kingdom.
This is not the place for painting his character in private life, nor in the domestic government of his kingdom; we shall reserve this for a part by itself. It is sufficient to say that the people, who, since the death of Henry IV. had never seen a true king, and who detested the authority of a prime minister, were filled with admiration and hope, when they saw Louis XIV. do, at twenty-two years of age, what Henry did at fifty. Had Henry IV. had a prime minister, he would have been lost, because the hatred against a private man would have awakened twenty different factions, which would have become too powerful. If Louis XIII. had not had a minister, that prince, whose feeble and sickly constitution made his soul weak and enervated, would have sunk beneath the weight of government; Louis XIV. might or might not have had a prime minister without any danger. There were not the least traces left of the old factions which had distracted the state. There was now only a master and subjects in France; Louis, at the very beginning, showed that he aspired after glory, and that he was resolved to make himself respected at home and abroad.
The ancient kings of Europe had always pretended to an exact equality with each other; this was natural; but the kings of France always claimed that precedence which was due to the antiquity of their race and kingdom; and if they yielded place to the emperors, it was because mankind have hardly ever the courage to abolish a long-established custom. The head of the German republic, though an elective prince, with very little power of his own, has undoubtedly the precedence of all kings, in virtue of his title of Cæsar and heir to Charlemagne. His German chancery does not even give the title of majesty to any other crowned head. The kings of France might dispute the precedence with the emperors, as France had founded the real western empire, of which the name only subsists in Germany. They could plead not only the superiority of a hereditary crown over an elective dignity, but the advantage of being descended in an uninterrupted succession of sovereigns, who reigned over a great monarchy several centuries before any of those houses who are now in possession of crowns had attained to the least degree of dignity. However, they were determined to assert their right of precedence over all the other potentates of Europe. They alleged in support of their claim the title of “Most Christian,” to which the Spanish kings opposed theirs of “Most Catholic;” and since Charles V. had had a king of France prisoner at Madrid, the Spanish pride had made them more tenacious than ever of their rank. The English and Swedes, who pleaded none of these surnames at present, acknowledged as little as was possible this superiority.
Rome was the place where these pretensions were formerly canvassed; the popes, who disposed of kingdoms by a bull, imagined they had a much greater right to settle the rank among crowned heads. This court, where everything passes in ceremony, was the tribunal for trying these varieties of greatness. France had always had the superiority there when she was more powerful than Spain; but since the reign of Charles V. Spain had let slip no opportunity of maintaining an equality. The dispute was left undetermined; the precedence at a procession, or an elbow-chair placed near the altar, or opposite the pulpit, were matters of triumph, and established titles to that precedence. The chimerical point of honor in these articles was at that time carried to as great extremes among crowned heads as duels were among private persons.
It happened, in 1661, that at the entry of a Swedish ambassador at London, Count d’Estrade, ambassador from France, and Baron Watteville, ambassador from the court of Spain, disputed the way. The Spaniard, having more money and a greater train of servants, gained the English populace over to his interest, who began to kill the French ambassador’s coach horses, and soon afterward fell upon his people, who being wounded took to their heels, and left the Spaniards to proceed in triumph with their swords drawn.
Louis XIV. being informed of this insult offered to his ambassador, immediately recalled the minister he had at Madrid, and ordered the Spanish ambassador to leave France; broke off the conferences which were then in progress in Flanders, on the subject of the limits, and sent word to his father-in-law, Philip IV., that, unless he acknowledged the superiority of the French crown, and repaired the affront which had been offered its ambassador, by a public satisfaction, he would instantly renew the war. Philip IV. was not willing to plunge his kingdom into a fresh war for the sake of an ambassador’s precedence; he sent the count of Fuentes to declare to the king at Fontainebleau, in presence of all the foreign ministers who were then in France, that the Spanish ministers could no longer dispute the precedence with those of France. This was not clearly acknowledging the king’s pre-eminence, but it was a sufficient avowal of the weakness of the Spanish court. This court, which still preserved its haughtiness, murmured for a long time at its humiliation. Since then several Spanish ministers have renewed their old pretensions, and actually obtained an equality at Nimeguen; but Louis XIV. at that time acquired by his resolution a real superiority in Europe, by convincing all the powers how much he was to be feared.
He had scarcely concluded this small affair with so much dignity, when he showed still more on an occasion in which his glory seemed not so much interested. During the long wars carried on against the Spaniards in Italy, the behavior of the young French gentry had inspired the cautious and jealous Italians with the notion of their being a headstrong and impetuous people. The Italians looked upon all the nations by whom theirs was overrun as barbarians, and the French as barbarians more gay, but at the same time more dangerous, than the rest, as they introduced, into all families where they came, a taste for pleasures, with an air of contempt, and debauchery with outrage; in short, they were dreaded everywhere, and especially at Rome.
The duke de Créqui, the French ambassador at the pope’s court, had greatly displeased the people of Rome by his arrogant behavior; his servants, a set of people who always carry the faults of their masters to extremes, committed the same disorders in Rome as the unbridled youth of France did in Paris, who at that time prided themselves in attacking the city watch every night.
Some of this nobleman’s servants took it into their heads to fall, sword in hand, upon a party of the Corsi—who are the city guard at Rome—and put them to flight. The whole body of the Corsi, incensed at this ill usage, and cheered by Don Mario Chigi, brother of Alexander VII., the reigning pope, who hated the duke de Créqui, went with a multitude of his followers in arms, and besieged the duke in his own house. They even fired upon the ambassadress’s coach, as she was driving into her palace, killed one of her pages, and wounded several of her other servants. The duke de Créqui left Rome, loudly accusing the pope’s relatives, and even his holiness himself, of having countenanced this insult and murder. The pope deferred giving him satisfaction as long as he possibly could, in the belief that it requires only a little temporizing with the French, for everything to be forgotten. At the end of about four months he caused one of the Corsican guard, and a sbirro, to be hanged, and banished the governor of Rome, who was suspected of having authorized these violent proceedings: but he was in no small consternation when he learned that the French king threatened to lay siege to Rome; that he had already ordered troops to be transported into Italy for that purpose; and that Marshal du Plessis-Praslin was appointed general. This affair had become a national quarrel, and the king was determined to support the dignity of his crown. The pope, before he could be brought to make the concessions demanded of him, implored the mediation of all the Catholic princes, and at the same time did all in his power to stir them up against Louis XIV., but the situation of affairs was at that time unfavorable for the holy father. The emperor was attacked by the Turks; and Spain was engaged in an unsuccessful war against the Portuguese.
The court of Rome therefore only irritated the king, without being able to hurt him. The Parliament of Provence summoned the pope to appear, and seized upon his county of Avignon. At any other time such an insult upon the papal dignity would have been followed by a peal of excommunications from the Vatican, but those arms were now equally useless and ridiculous. The holy father found himself under the necessity of giving way, and was obliged to banish his own brother from Rome; to send his nephew, Cardinal Chigi, in character of legate a latere, to render the king satisfaction; to break the Corsican guard; and to erect a pillar in the city of Rome, with an inscription expressing the injury and reparation.
Cardinal Chigi was the first legate who had ever been sent from the papal court to ask pardon. Before that, the legates had always been sent to give laws, and impose the tax of the tenth penny. The king did not content himself with accepting these temporary ceremonies in return for an injury offered, nor yet with monuments which are equally so—for, some years afterward, he permitted this pyramid to be destroyed—but he obliged the court of Rome to restore Castro and Ronciglione to the duke of Parma; to indemnify the duke of Modena for his claims on Commachio; and thus, from an insult offered him, he derived the solid honor of being the protector of the Italian princes.
While he thus supported his dignity, he forgot not to increase his power. The good management of his finances, under Colbert, enabled him to purchase Dunkirk and Mardyke of the king of England, for five millions of livres, at twenty-six livres ten sous the mark. Charles II., who was a spendthrift and a beggar, to his eternal disgrace, sold this place, which his subjects had purchased with their blood. Lord-Chancellor Hyde, who was accused of having advised or connived at this meanness, was banished on Oct. 27, 1662, by the English Parliament, who frequently punish the crimes of favorites, and sometimes even pass sentence upon its kings.
In 1663, Louis set thirty thousand men to work to fortify Dunkirk both toward land and sea. A large basin was dug between the town and the citadel, capable of containing several men of war; so that the English had hardly sold this place, when it became the object of their terror. A short time afterward, in 1663, the king obliged the duke of Lorraine to give him up the stronghold of Marsal. This unfortunate prince, who, though he had a reputation as a soldier, was of a weak, fickle, and imprudent disposition, and had lately made a treaty, by which he gave the duchy of Lorraine to France after his death, on condition that the king should permit him to raise a million upon the territory; and the princes of the blood-royal of Lorraine should take rank as princes of the blood of France. This treaty, which was in vain registered by the Parliament of Paris, served only to produce new instances of levity on the side of the duke, who in the end thought himself very happy to give up Marsal, and throw himself upon the king’s clemency.
Louis increased his dominions even in peace, and always kept himself in readiness for war, fortifying the frontier towns, augmenting the number of his troops, keeping them well disciplined, and frequently reviewing them in person.
The Turks were then a very formidable people in Europe; they attacked the emperor and the Venetians at one and the same time. It has been a maxim in politics with the kings of France, ever since Francis I., to be in alliance with the Turkish emperors, not only on account of the advantage arising to their trade, but for the sake of preventing the house of Austria from becoming too powerful. However, a Christian king could not well refuse his assistance to the emperor, when so hard pressed. It was to the interest of France that the Turks should raise disturbances in Hungary, but not that they should get possession of it; and, lastly, the treaties in which Louis was engaged with the empire made this step as indispensable as it was honorable to him.
Louis then sent six thousand men into Hungary, under the command of the count of Coligny, the only remaining branch of the family of Coligny, formerly so famous in our civil wars, and who perhaps deserves to be as much renowned as the admiral for his valor and virtuous qualifications. He was strictly connected by friendship with the great Condé; and not all the offers of Cardinal Mazarin could ever make him fail in what he owed to his friend. He was accompanied by the flower of the French nobility; and, among others, by the young Feuillade, a man of enterprising disposition, and unquenchable thirst for riches and glory. These went together into Hungary, to serve under General Montecuculi, who was making head against the Turkish vizier, Kiuperli, and who afterward, when he served against France, counterbalanced the reputation of the great Turenne. A great battle was fought at Saint Gothard, on the banks of the Raab, between the Imperial and Turkish armies, in which the French performed such prodigies of valor that the Germans themselves, who were not fond of them, could not help doing them justice. The Germans, however, are not treated with the same justice by those writers who pretend to ascribe the honor of the victory wholly to the French.
The king, while he thus settled his greatness in openly assisting the emperor, and raising the glory of the French arms, made a point of politics in secretly aiding the Portuguese against the king of Spain. Cardinal Mazarin had solemnly given up the cause of Portugal by the Pyrenean treaty; but the Spanish court, having been guilty of several little tacit infractions of that treaty, the French, in their turn, made a more bold and decisive one. Marshal Schomberg, a foreigner, and a Huguenot, was sent over to Portugal with four thousand French soldiery, who, under pretence of being in the pay of the Portuguese, were in fact maintained by the French king’s money. These French troops, in conjunction with a body of Portuguese, gained a complete victory over the Spanish army at Villa Viciosa, in June, 1664, by which the house of Braganza was fixed on the throne of Portugal. Louis now began to be looked upon as a warlike and politic prince; and Europe stood in dread of him even before he had declared war.
By the same policy, he eluded the performance of the promises he had made, to join the few ships he had at that time with the Dutch fleet. He had entered into an alliance with the states-general, in the year 1662, about which time that republic had renewed a war with England, on the vain and idle subject of the honor of the flags, and its real claim to a trade in the Indies; Louis beheld with pleasure these two maritime powers sending fleets of a hundred sail every year to destroy each other, by the most obstinate fights that had ever been known, which only tended to the weakening of both sides. One of these engagements lasted for three days, and here it was that the Dutch admiral, de Ruyter, acquired the reputation of being the greatest seaman that had yet appeared. This was the man who burned the finest ships the English nation had, in their own harbors, not above four leagues distant from London. He made the Dutch flag triumphant at sea, where the English had hitherto always been the masters, and where Louis XIV. was as yet nothing.
The empire of the sea was for some time divided between these two nations. They were then the only people who rightly understood the art of building ships, and employing them either for trade or war. France, during Richelieu’s ministry, thought herself powerful at sea, because, out of about threescore vessels, which was then the whole of its marine, it had about thirty fit to send to sea, the largest of which mounted only seventy guns. In Mazarin’s administration, they purchased what few ships they had from the Dutch. They were in want of sailors, officers, and manufactories, both for building and fitting out ships. The king with incredible diligence set about repairing the ruined condition of the marine, and to supply his kingdom with all it wanted; but in 1664 and 1665, while the English and Dutch covered the ocean with nearly three hundred sail of large men of war, he had not above fifteen or sixteen and those of the smallest rates, which were employed under the duke of Beaufort against the Barbary corsairs; and when the states-general pressed Louis XIV. to join his fleet to theirs, there was only one fireship in Brest harbor, which it was shameful to send, till upon their repeated remonstrances it was at last sent. This was no small disgrace to the French nation; but Louis, by his extraordinary vigilance, speedily and effectually removed it.
But he furnished the states with much more essential and honorable assistance by land; he sent six thousand French to defend them against the bishop of Münster, a prelate of a warlike disposition, and implacable in his enmity, who was paid by England to distress the Dutch; but Louis made them pay dearly for this assistance, and behaved toward them like a great man in power, who sells his protection to a body of rich merchants. Colbert made them accountable, not only for the pay of these troops, but even for the charges of an embassy which was sent to England to conclude a peace for them with Charles II. Never was aid given with a worse grace, nor accepted with less thankfulness.
The king, having thus exercised his troops in martial discipline, formed a number of good officers by the campaigns in Hungary, Holland, and Portugal, and asserted the honor of his name, and made it respected at Rome, beheld not a single potentate of whom he had occasion to stand in awe. England, visited by a plague, which laid waste the whole kingdom, and London reduced to ashes by a fatal conflagration, which was falsely charged on the Roman Catholics; the prodigality and continual indigence of Charles II., which proved as fatal to his affairs as the scourges of pestilence and fire, made France perfectly easy with respect to that nation. The emperor had scarcely recovered the losses he had suffered in the war with the Turk. The Spanish king, Philip IV., being on the point of death, and his kingdom in as weak a condition as himself, Louis XIV. remained the only powerful and formidable sovereign in Europe. He was young, rich, well served, blindly obeyed, and impatient to signalize himself and to become a conqueror.
THE CONQUEST OF FLANDERS.
The king was not long without an opportunity he so earnestly desired. His father-in-law, Philip IV., died; this prince had by his first wife, sister of Louis XIII., the princess Maria Theresa, who was married to her cousin, Louis XIV., by which match the Spanish monarchy fell at length into the house of Bourbon, which had been so long its enemy. By his second marriage, he had Charles II., a weak and unhealthy child, but who lived to inherit his father’s crown, being the only surviving of three male children, the other two having died in their infancy. Louis XIV. pretended that Flanders and Franche-Comté, two provinces belonging to the kingdom of Spain, should by the laws of those provinces devolve to his wife, notwithstanding her former renunciation. Were the causes of kings to be tried by the laws of nations, before an impartial tribunal, perhaps this affair might have appeared a little doubtful.
Louis submitted his claims to the examination of his council and the body of theologians, who declared them indisputable; but the council and confessor of Philip IV.’s widow, thought them very ill founded. This princess had a very powerful argument in her favor, the express law made by Charles V.; but Charles V.’s laws were very little attended to by the court of France.
One of the pretexts made use of by the French king’s council was, that the five hundred thousand crowns which had been granted in dowry with his wife, had never been paid; but they had forgotten at the same time, that the marriage portion of Henry IV.’s daughter had likewise never been paid. The two courts at first waged a paper war with each other, in which the nicest calculations and most learned arguments were displayed on both sides; but reasons of state silenced all other pleas.
The king, considering more in strength than arguments, marched in person into Flanders, in 1667, at the head of thirty-five thousand men; while another body of eight thousand was despatched toward Dunkirk, and a third, consisting of four thousand, to Luxemburg. Turenne had the command of this army, under his majesty. Colbert had multiplied the resources of the state, to furnish the necessary expenses. Louvois, the new secretary at war, had made immense preparations for carrying on the campaign, and magazines of all kinds were distributed over the frontiers. He was the first who introduced the advantageous method of supplying the army by magazines, which the weak condition of the government had hitherto rendered impracticable. Whatever place the king chose to lay siege to, or whithersoever he turned his arms, he was sure of finding supplies and subsistence ready. The quarters for the troops were all fixed, and their marches regulated. The officers were all kept close to their duty, by the strict discipline which this minister caused to be observed among them: and the presence of a young monarch, who was the idol of his army, made the strictness of their duty light, and even pleasing to them. The military degree became a right more inviolably observed than even that of birth. It was the man’s services, and not his family, that was considered; a thing which had hitherto been rarely seen. By this means an officer, however inconsiderable in point of birth, met with the encouragement due to his merit; and those of the most exalted rank had no reason for complaint. The infantry, who sustained all the weight of the war, since the disuse of lances, shared with the cavalry in those rewards of which they had till then been in sole possession. These new maxims in the government inspired everyone with a new kind of courage.
The king, assisted by a general and minister of equal abilities, both jealous of each other, and striving who should best serve him, at the head of the best troops in Europe, and newly engaged in an alliance with Portugal, with all those advantages, attacks an ill-defended province of a ruined and distracted kingdom. He had only his mother-in-law, Philip IV.’s widow, to deal with, and she a weak woman, whose unfortunate administration left her kingdom defenceless. She had made her confessor, one Father Nitard, a German Jesuit, prime minister, a man as fit for lording it over his penitent, as he was unfit for governing a state, having nothing of the minister or the churchman but haughtiness and ambition. He had the insolence one day to say to the duke of Lerma, even before he came into the administration: “It is you who ought to show me respect, since I have every day your God in my hands, and your queen at my feet.” With all this insolence, so contrary to true greatness of mind, he suffered the treasury to remain without money, all the fortifications in the kingdom to go to ruin, the harbors to be without shipping, and the army without discipline, destitute of generals, badly paid, and still worse commanded, in presence of an enemy who possessed all the requisites which Spain wanted.
The art of attacking places was not as perfect as it now is, because that of fortifying and defending them was not so well known. The frontiers of Spanish Flanders were almost destitute of fortifications, and even garrisons.
Louis then had nothing more to do than to present himself before them. He entered Charleroi as he would Paris; Ath and Tournay were taken in two days; Furnes, Armentières, and Courtrai made as little resistance. The king entered the trenches before Douay, July 6, 1667, and the next morning it capitulated. Lille, which was the finest town in that country, and the only one well fortified, having a garrison of six hundred men, capitulated after nine days’ siege. The Spaniards had only eight thousand men to oppose a victorious army, and even the rear guard of this small body was cut in pieces by the marquis, afterward marshal, de Créqui: the remainder hid itself within the walls of Brussels and Mons, leaving Louis to carry on his conquests, without striking a blow.
This campaign, which was made in the midst of abundance, and had been attended with such easy successes, seemed a party of pleasure made by a court. High living, luxury, and pleasures were then first introduced into our armies, at the same time that the strictest discipline was established. The officers performed military duty much more exactly than before; but with every kind of convenience. Marshal Turenne had for a long time been served only upon iron plates, when in camp. Marquis d’Humières was the first, at the siege of Arras, in 1658, who was served in plate in the trenches, and had different courses at his table. But in this campaign of 1667, where a young monarch, who was fond of magnificence, held the most brilliant court amidst the fatigues of the field, everyone prided himself in showing a taste for splendor, elegant living, dress, and equipage. This luxury, the certain mark of riches in a great state, and frequently the cause of ruin to a small one, was nothing in comparison with what has been seen since. The king, his generals, and ministers, then went to the rendezvous of the army on horseback; whereas now, there is not a captain of horse, nor the secretary of a general officer, but has his postchaise hung on springs, in which he travels with greater ease and convenience than in those days a person could make a visit from one part of Paris to another.
This delicacy in the officers did not hinder them from going into the trenches with their steel caps and cuirasses: the king himself set the example. This prudent precaution preserved many a great man. It has been too much neglected since by our young people, who are naturally tender and effeminate, though courageous, and who seem to dread fatigue more than danger.
The rapidity of the king’s conquests filled Brussels with alarm. The inhabitants already began to remove their effects to Antwerp. All Flanders might have been conquered in a single campaign. The king only wanted a sufficient number of troops to put into those places which were ready to open their gates at his approach. Louvois advised him to put large garrisons into the conquered towns, and to fortify them; and Vauban, one of the many great men and surprising geniuses who appeared in this century, for the service of Louis XIV., was appointed for this purpose. He constructed the fortifications on a new method of his own, which is now the standard for all good engineers. It was a matter of surprise to see towns surrounded by walls which were almost on a level with the neighboring country. The old lofty and menacing ramparts were only more exposed by their height to the force of the artillery; but by making them sloping or shelving, they were the less liable to this inconvenience. He built the citadel of Lille on these principles. At that time—1686—the government of a town and its citadel were among the French always vested in the same person; but now an innovation was made in favor of Vauban, who was the first governor of a citadel: and here we may observe that the first of those plans in relief, which are to be seen in the gallery of the Louvre, was that of the fortifications of Lille.
The king now hastened back to Paris to enjoy the acclamations of his people, the adorations of his courtiers and mistresses, and partake of the splendid entertainments which he gave to his court.
CONQUEST OF FRANCHE-COMTÉ—PEACE OF AIX-LA-CHAPELLE.
The whole court was taken up with the diversions at St. Germain, when, in the midst of winter, in the month of January, everyone was surprised to see troops in motion on all sides, and several bodies coming and going on the road to Champagne, in the three bishoprics. Several trains of battering cannon, and wagons loaded with ammunition, stopped under different pretences on the route which leads from Champagne to Burgundy. This part of France was the scene of movements, of which no one could conjecture the cause. Foreigners, through interest, and the courtiers, through curiosity, exhausted themselves in surmises; Germany was alarmed; but everyone was alike ignorant of the object of these vast preparations and irregular marches. Never was more secrecy observed in a conspiracy than in this expedition of Louis XIV. At length, on February 2, the king himself set out from St. Germain, with the young duke of Enghien and some of his courtiers, the other officers being at the place of rendezvous appointed for the troops. He made long journeys on horseback, and arrived at Dijon. Twenty thousand men, who had been assembled on different routes, met the same day in Franche-Comté, some leagues from Besançon, and the great Condé appeared at their head, having his friend Bouteville-Montmorency for his lieutenant-general, lately made duke of Luxembourg, and who had always preserved an inviolable attachment to him through every change of his fortune. Luxembourg had studied the art of war under the great Condé, and his great merit obliged the king, who did not love him, to employ him.
The springs of this unforeseen expedition were these: the prince of Condé was jealous of Turenne’s reputation; and Louvois of his favor with his master. Condé’s jealousy was that of a hero, Louvois’s that of a minister. The prince, who was governor of Burgundy, which borders on Franche-Comté, had formed the project of making himself master of this province during the winter season, in as short a time as Turenne had taken in the foregoing summer to make the conquest of French Flanders. He immediately communicated his scheme to Louvois, who eagerly embraced it, glad of an opportunity of removing Turenne to a distance, and making him useless, and at the same time of serving his master.
This province, which was then very poor, but extremely well peopled, is forty leagues long, and twenty broad. It was called Franche-Comté—the free country—and was actually so; for the Spanish kings were rather its protectors than its masters: and though this country was in the government of Flanders, yet it was very little dependent on it. The administration was divided and disputed between the parliament and the governor of Franche-Comté. The people enjoyed many privileges, which the court of Madrid were cautious of infringing on, being desirous to keep fair with a province that was jealous of its rights, and so near a neighbor to France. Never did people live under a milder government, or were more attached to their sovereigns. They had preserved an affection for the house of Austria for almost two generations; but this was rather the love of their liberty.
In a word, Franche-Comté was happy, though poor; but as it was a kind of republic, there were necessarily some factions among its inhabitants; and notwithstanding what is said by Pellisson, Louis did not confine himself merely to force on this occasion.
He began by gaining over some of the inhabitants, by presents and promises. He made sure of the abbot, John Watteville, brother of him who, having insulted the French ambassador at a public entry into London, had by this outrage occasioned the humiliation of the Spanish branch of the house of Austria. This abbot, who had formerly been an officer, then a Carthusian friar, afterward a Turk, and last of all a churchman, had the promise of being made high dean, and of having several other preferments in the church. The count of St. Amour, the governor’s nephew, was likewise bribed, and the governor himself at last proved not inflexible. A number of the counsellors of the parliament were bought at a reasonable rate, and these private intrigues were at their very beginning seconded by an army of twenty thousand men. Besançon, the capital of the province, was invested by the prince of Condé. Luxembourg marched to Salins; and the next day Besançon and Salins surrendered. Besançon insisted on no other terms of capitulation than that it should remain in possession of the holy handkerchief, which was held in great reverence in that city, and which was readily granted them. The king having arrived at Dijon, Louvois, who had hastened to the frontiers to direct all the marches, informed him that these two towns were besieged and taken. The king hastened to show himself to fortune, who did everything for him.
In person, he next laid siege to Dôle, a place reputed very strong, in which the count of Montrevel commanded; a man of distinguished valor, who was faithful to the Spanish government, which he hated, and a parliament which he despised. His garrison consisted of no more than four hundred soldiers and the inhabitants of the place, and yet he bravely resolved to defend it. The trenches were not carried on in form; for no sooner were they opened than a crowd of young volunteers, who had followed the king, flew to attack the counterscarp, on which they made a lodgment. The prince of Condé, whose age and experience gave him a more sedate courage, supported them properly, and by sharing in their danger extricated them from it. This prince was everywhere with his son, and went to give an account of all that passed to the king, as if he had been an officer who had his fortune to make. The king remained in his quarters, where he displayed the dignity of a monarch in his court, rather than that impetuous ardor which is by no means necessary. The same ceremonials were observed there as at St. Germain. He had his great couch and his lesser one; he had his drawing-rooms, his public audience-hall in his tent, and never stooped from the dignity of the throne in any other respect than that of permitting his general officers and aides-de-camp to dine at the same table with him. He never was seen to expose himself to the ruder fatigues of war, nor to show that rash courage for which Francis I. and Henry IV. were so famous, who greedily sought after danger in all shapes. He was contented with not fearing it himself, and with encouraging all about him to rush into it with ardor for his service. He entered Dôle after four days’ siege, and twelve days after his departure from St. Germain, and in less than three weeks the whole province of Franche-Comté was reduced. The Spanish council, both amazed and incensed at the small resistance which had been made, wrote the governor that, “the French king should have sent his valets to take possession of the province, instead of marching against it in person.”
So much ambition and good fortune roused Europe from its lethargy. The empire began to stir, and the emperor to raise troops. The Swiss nation, who are neighbors to the people of Franche-Comté, and who have nothing to depend upon but their liberty, trembled for themselves. The rest of Flanders might be invaded the ensuing spring; the Dutch, whose interest it had always been to have the French their friends, shuddered at the thoughts of having them for neighbors. Spain had then recourse for protection, and actually received it from that inconsiderable nation, which it had hitherto looked upon as a contemptible and rebellious people.
Holland was then governed by John de Witt, who had been chosen grand pensionary, when he was only twenty-five years old; a man who had the freedom of his country as much at heart as his own personal greatness; wedded to the old republican principles, frugality and moderation, he kept only one man and a maid, and always went on foot at The Hague, while in the negotiations of Europe his name was ranked with that of the most powerful kings: he was a person of unwearied application, of the greatest regularity, prudence, and assiduity in public affairs; an excellent citizen, a great politician, and yet in the end very unfortunate.
He had contracted a friendship with Sir William Temple, the English ambassador at The Hague, which is rarely to be found between statesmen. Sir William was a philosopher, who blended a taste for literature with public affairs, and an honest man, notwithstanding that Bishop Burnet has reproached him with atheism. He was born with a prudent republican genius, and loved Holland like his own country, because it was the seat of liberty, of which he was as jealous as the grand pensionary himself. These two excellent members of the community, joined with Count Dohna, the Swedish ambassador, to stop the French king’s progress.
This period was distinguished by rapid events. French Flanders had been taken within three months and Franche-Comté in the space of three weeks. The treaty entered into between Holland, England, and Sweden, for maintaining the balance of power in Europe, and bridling the ambition of Louis XIV., was proposed and concluded in five days.
The French monarch was not a little incensed that a pitiful state like that of Holland should have presumed to think of setting bounds to his conquests, and being the arbiter between crowned heads; and still more so, that it was in a condition to do it. He was sensibly affected by this indignity put upon his greatness by the Dutch, which he was obliged to swallow for the present; but for which he from that instant meditated revenge.
Ambitious, powerful, and incensed as he was, he yet found it most prudent to divert the storm which began to gather from all parts of Europe. He, himself, made the first overtures for peace. Aix-la-Chapelle was selected by the courts of France and Spain for the place of conference, and Pope Clement IX. was chosen mediator.
The court of Rome, to cover its weakness with a show of credit, earnestly contended for the honor of being the arbiter between crowned heads. It had been disappointed at the Peace of the Pyrenees; but it seemed to have carried its point at this of Aix-la-Chapelle. A nuncio was sent to the congress, to be a phantom of an arbiter between phantoms of plenipotentiaries. The Dutch, who already felt a thirst for honor, would not share that of concluding what they had begun with any other. Accordingly everything was in fact settled at St. Germain, by their ambassador, Van Beuning. What had been privately agreed upon there with him was sent to Aix-la-Chapelle to be signed in great pomp by the ministers assembled at the congress. Who could have supposed thirty years before, that a burgher of Holland would oblige the kings of France and Spain to abide by his arbitration?
This Van Beuning, who was burgomaster of Amsterdam, had all the vivacity of a Frenchman, with the pride of a Spaniard. He took pleasure in thwarting the king’s imperious disposition on all occasions; and opposed a republican inflexibility to the magisterial tone, which the French ministers began to assume. “Do you doubt the king’s word?” said M. de Lionne to him, one day at a conference. “I know not what the king may intend,” said Van Beuning, “I only consider what he may do.” In short, at the court of the proudest monarch in the world, a simple burgomaster concluded by his own authority a peace by which the king was obliged to restore Franche-Comté. The Dutch would have been much better pleased had he restored Flanders, by which they would have been freed from so formidable a neighbor: but all Europe thought the king showed sufficient moderation in parting with Franche-Comté. However, he was a greater gainer by keeping the towns in Flanders, as by this means he opened himself a way into Holland, whose destruction he meditated even while he appeared to make the greatest concessions.
MAGNIFICENCE OF LOUIS XIV.—CONQUEST OF HOLLAND.
Louis XIV., being obliged to remain peaceable for some time, continued, as he had begun, to regulate, fortify, and embellish his kingdom. His example showed that an absolute prince, who has good intentions, can compass the greatest things without difficulty. He had only to command; and the successes in the administration were no less rapid than his conquests had been. It was a thing truly wonderful to see the seaports, which were in a manner desolate and in ruins, now surrounded with works which served at once for their ornament and defence, full of shipping and seamen, and containing upward of sixty large vessels, which might occasionally be fitted for war. New colonies were every day sailing from all the ports in the kingdom, under the protection of the French flag, for America, the East Indies, and the coast of Barbary. At the same time, thousands of hands were employed at home under the king’s eye, in raising immense edifices, and in all the arts which architecture introduces; while those of the more noble and ingenious kind embellished the court and capital, and diffused a degree of delight and fame over the kingdom, of which the preceding age had not even an idea. Literature flourished, and good taste and sound reasoning made their way into the schools of error and barbarism. But a more circumstantial account of these things, which made the happiness and glory of France, will be found in their proper place in this work; at present we must confine ourselves to general and military affairs.
At this period Portugal exhibited a strange spectacle to the rest of Europe. Don Alphonso, the unworthy son of the fortunate Don John of Braganza, reigned in that kingdom. He was a weak and hot-headed man. His wife, a daughter of the duke of Nemours, had conceived a passion for his brother, Don Pedro, and had the boldness to form a design of dethroning her husband and marrying the man she loved. The brutality of her husband in some measure justified this bold attempt of the queen’s. Alphonso was of a more than common bodily strength: he had had a child by a courtesan, whom he publicly acknowledged for his own: he had for a long time cohabited with his wife, and yet, notwithstanding all this, she accused him of impotence, and having by her dexterous management acquired that authority in the kingdom which her husband had lost by his mad frenzy, she shut him up in a prison, and obtained a dispensation from the pope to marry her brother-in-law. It is not in the least surprising that the court of Rome should grant these dispensations; but it is extraordinary that those who have the power in their own hands should stand in need of them. This event, which affected only the royal family, and caused no revolution in the kingdom of Portugal, nor produced any change in the affairs of Europe, merits our attention only on account of its singularity.
France soon afterward gave asylum to a king who descended from the throne in another manner; this was John Casimir, king of Poland, who renewed the example of Queen Christina. Tired by the fatigues of government, and desiring to live happily, he chose Paris for the place of his retreat, and retired to the abbey of St. Germain, of which he was abbot. Paris, which had for some years past been the abode of all the arts, afforded a delightful residence for a prince who sought the enjoyment of social pleasures, and was a lover of learning. He had been a Jesuit and a cardinal, before he was king; and now, equally disgusted with the regal and ecclesiastical state, was only desirous of living as a private person and a philosopher, and would never suffer the title of majesty to be given him at Paris.
But an affair of a more interesting nature took up the attention of all the Christian potentates.
The Turks, who, though not so formidable as under their Mahomets, their Selims, and their Solymans, were still dangerous, and strengthened by our divisions, had been laying siege to the island of Candia for over two years, with all the forces of the empire. We can hardly say whether it was more astonishing that the Venetians made so long a defence, or that the princes of Europe should have abandoned them.
Times were greatly changed. Formerly, when Christendom was in a barbarous state, a pope, or even a monk, could send forth millions of Christians to make war upon the Mahometans in their own empire: our dominions were stripped of men and money, to make the conquest of the wretched and barren province of Judæa; and now that the island of Candia, deemed the bulwark of Christendom, was overrun by sixty thousand Turks, the Christian kings looked on with indifference while it was lost. A few galleys sent by the Maltese and the pope were the only reinforcements this republic received to defend itself against the whole Ottoman Empire. The senate of Venice, with all its prudence, was unable with such weak aid to withstand the grand vizier, Kiuperli, who was an able minister, a still more able general, and master of the Turkish Empire, assisted by a formidable army, and even provided with good engineers.
Louis vainly attempted to set the other princes of Europe an example in assisting Candia. The galleys and ships of war which he had newly built in the port of Toulon transported thither seven thousand men, under the command of the duke of Beaufort: but this assistance proved too weak in this dangerous juncture, no other court choosing to imitate the generosity of France.
A private French gentleman, named la Feuillade, did an action on this occasion which had no example but in the old times of chivalry. He carried nearly three hundred gentlemen over to Candia at his own expense, though he had but a moderate fortune. If any other nation had assisted the Venetians in the same proportion with la Feuillade, it is more than probable that the island might have been saved. These reinforcements, however, only served to retard its fall for some days, and to spill a great deal of blood to no purpose. The duke of Beaufort was killed in a sally; and the city, reduced to a heap of ashes, capitulated on Sept. 16, 1669.
At this siege, the Turks had showed themselves superior even to the Christians, in the knowledge of the military art. The largest cannon which had hitherto been seen in Europe were cast in their camp. They were the first who drew parallel lines in the trenches. It is from them that we learned this custom; but they were indebted for it to an Italian engineer. It is certain that a victorious people, such as the Turks were, with their experience, courage, riches, and that unwearied perseverance which was their distinguishing characteristic, might have conquered Italy, and made themselves masters of Rome in a very little time; but the dastardly emperors they have since had, their bad generals, and their faulty administration have preserved Christendom.
The king, little affected with these distant events, waited only for the ripening of his grand project of conquering all the Netherlands, and beginning by Holland. The opportunity became every day more favorable. This little republic was mistress of the seas, but by land nothing could be more weak. In alliance with England and Spain, and at peace with France, she placed too much security in treaties, and the advantages accruing from an immense trade: and with a well-disciplined and invincible naval power her land forces were as badly provided and contemptible. The cavalry was composed only of burghers, who never stirred out of their houses, and paid the dregs of the people to do duty in their stead. The infantry was nearly upon the same footing. Commissions in the army, and even the command of garrison towns, were given to children, or to the relations of burgomasters, brought up in idleness and inexperience, who considered their posts in the same light as priests do their benefices. The pensionary, John de Witt, endeavored to reform this abuse; but he did not endeavor sufficiently, and this was one of the great faults of this famous republican.
In order to facilitate Louis’s scheme, it was previously necessary to detach England from its alliance with the Dutch, whose ruin seemed inevitably to follow upon their being deprived of this support. The king found it no difficult matter to persuade Charles II. to concur in his designs. This monarch was not much affected by the disgrace thrown upon his reign and the English nation, when his ships were burned in the river Thames by the Dutch fleet. He entertained no thoughts of revenge or conquest. He was desirous of enjoying a life of pleasure, and reigning as much as possible without control. This was his weak side; accordingly Louis, who had only to speak the word, and be supplied with what money he had occasion for, promised Charles a very considerable sum, who was not able to raise any himself without the concurrence of his parliament. This secret alliance between the two kings, which was formed in 1670, was known to no one in France but to the king’s sister-in-law, to Louvois, and Turenne.
A young princess, then, who was only twenty-five years of age, was the plenipotentiary pitched upon to put the finishing hand to this treaty with Charles. A visit which the king was to make to his new conquests of Dunkirk and Lille served as a pretence for his sister-in-law’s journey over to England. The pomp and grandeur of the ancient kings of Asia were nothing in comparison with the magnificence of this excursion. The king was always preceded or followed by thirty thousand men while on the road, some of whom were destined to reinforce the garrisons of the conquered countries, others to work at the fortifications, and the rest to level the roads. His majesty was also accompanied by the queen, his consort, all the princesses of the blood, and the most beautiful ladies of his court, among whom his sister-in-law shone with a superior lustre, and secretly enjoyed the glory and satisfaction of all this parade, which was wholly on her account. It was one continual feast from St. Germain to Lille.
The king, willing to gain the hearts of his new subjects, and to dazzle the eyes of the neighboring states, distributed his liberalities wherever he came, to a degree of profusion. The most magnificent presents were lavished on everyone who had the least pretext for speaking to him. Princess Henrietta embarked at Calais to pay a visit to her brother, who had already come as far as Canterbury to receive her. Charles, blinded by the love he bore his sister, and the great sums promised him from France, signed everything that Louis XIV. desired, and laid a foundation for the ruin of Holland, in the midst of feastings and diversions.
The loss of the duchess of Orleans, who died in a sudden and shocking manner, immediately upon her return from England, drew great suspicions upon the duke of Orleans, her husband, but made no alteration in what had been resolved upon between the two kings. The spoils of the republic they had devoted to destruction were already shared by the secret treaty between them, in the same manner as Flanders had been shared between the Dutch and the French in 1635. Thus states frequently change their views, their alliances, and their enmities, and are not unfrequently disappointed in all their projects. The rumor of this approaching expedition began to spread abroad, but Europe listened to it without being stirred. The emperor, taken up with seditions in Hungary, the Swede lulled asleep by negotiations, and the Spanish monarchy still weak and ever irresolute and slow in its determinations, left Louis XIV. to follow the career of his ambition uninterrupted.
To complete its misfortune, Holland was at that time divided into two factions, the one composed of rigid republicans, to whom the least shadow of absolute authority seemed a monster contrary to the laws of human society; the other of republicans of a more moderate disposition, who were desirous of investing the young prince of Orange, afterward the famous William III., with the posts and dignities of his ancestors. The grand pensionary, John de Witt, and his brother Cornelius, were at the head of the rigid sticklers for liberty; but the young prince’s party began to gain ground. The republic was more attentive to its domestic dissensions than to the danger which threatened it from without, and thus contributed to its own ruin.
Louis not only purchased the king of England, but he brought over the elector of Cologne, and the famous Van Galen, bishop of Münster, who was greedy for war and plunder, and was naturally an enemy to the Dutch. Louis had formerly assisted them against the bishop, and now joined with him for their destruction. The Swedes, who had joined with the republic in 1668, to check the progress of a conqueror who had then no designs against them, abandoned her as soon as they saw her threatened with ruin, and renewed their old connections with France, on condition of receiving the former subsidies.
It is somewhat singular and worthy of remark that of all the enemies who were about to fall upon this petty state, there was not one that could allege a lawful pretext for entering into the war. This was much such an undertaking as the league between Louis XII., the emperor Maximilian, and the king of Spain, who entered into a covenant to destroy the republic of Venice, only for being rich and haughty.
The states-general, in the utmost consternation, wrote to the king, beseeching him in the humblest manner to let them know if the great preparations he was making were really destined against them, his ancient friends and faithful allies. They asked how they had offended him, or what satisfaction he required. To these remonstrances he returned the answer that he should employ his troops in such manner as became his dignity, for which he should be accountable to no one. All the reasons his ministers could give were that the writer of the Dutch Gazette had been too insolent, and that Van Beuning was said to have caused a medal to be struck reflecting upon the honor of Louis XIV. Van Beuning’s Christian name was Joshua. A taste for devices prevailed at that time in France. Louis XIV. had taken a sun for his, with this legend: “Nec pluribus impar.” Now, it was pretended that Van Beuning, in the medal in question, which, however, never had existence, was represented with a sun, and these words for the motto: In conspectu meo stetit sol: “At sight of me the sun stood still.” It is certain that the states-general had ordered a medal to be struck, expressing all the glorious deeds of the republic in the following legend: “Assertis legibus, emendatis sacris, adjutis, defensis, conciliatis regibus, vindicata marium libertate, stabilita oribis Europæ quiete:” “The laws asserted, religion amended, princes succored, defended, and reconciled; the freedom of the ocean vindicated, and peace restored to Europe.”
In all this they boasted of nothing more than they had done, and yet they ordered the mould of this medal to be destroyed in order to appease Louis’s anger.
The king of England on his side pretended that their fleet denied the honors due to the English flag, by refusing to lower their topsails to an English pleasure-boat, and complained of a certain picture in which Cornelius de Witt, the pensionary’s brother, was painted with the ensigns of a conqueror. On the background the painter had exhibited a representation of ships on fire. The truth is, that Cornelius de Witt, who bore a considerable share in the maritime exploits against England, had indulged himself in this trifling monument of his fame; but the picture itself was in a manner unknown, and hung in a room where hardly anyone ever entered. The English ministers, who had transmitted their master’s pretended grievances in writing to the states-general, made mention of certain “abusive pictures.” Now, the Dutch, who always translate the memorials of foreign ministers into French, had rendered the term “abusive,” by the French word fautis, trompeurs, false or lying pictures; upon which they answered that they did not know what was meant by “lying pictures;” in short, they never once conceived that it related to this portrait of their fellow-citizen, nor could they imagine this to be a pretext for the war.
All that the efforts of ambition and human foresight could devise for the destruction of a nation was put in practice by Louis XIV. The history of mankind hardly furnishes us with an instance of such formidable preparations being made for so small an expedition. Of all the different conquerors that have invaded a part of the world, not one ever began the career of conquest with so many regular troops and so much money as Louis employed in subduing the petty state of the United Provinces. No less than fifty millions, which were worth ninety-seven millions of our present currency, were expended in these pompous preparations. Thirty men of war, of fifty guns each, joined the English fleet, consisting of a hundred sail. The king, accompanied by his brother, the duke of Orleans, marched at the head of one hundred and twelve thousand men toward Maestricht and Charleroi, on the frontiers of Spanish Flanders and Holland. The bishop of Münster and the elector of Cologne had about twenty thousand more. Prince Condé and Marshal Turenne were the generals of the king’s army, and the duke of Luxembourg commanded under them. Vauban had the direction of the sieges. Louvois was present in all places, with his customary vigilance. Never was there an army so magnificent, and at the same time so well disciplined; but the king’s household troops, which were newly reformed, made a most glorious spectacle. They consisted of four companies of gardes du corps, or body-guards, each company composed of three hundred gentlemen, among whom were a considerable number of young cadets, who served without pay, but were equally subject to strict military discipline with the rest; two hundred gendarmes of the guard, two hundred light horse, five hundred musketeers, three hundred chosen gentlemen remarkable for their youth and handsome appearance, twelve companies of gendarmerie, since augmented to the number of sixteen; even the hundred Swiss regiment accompanied the king on this occasion, and the royal regiment of French and Swiss guards mounted before the house where he took up his residence, or at the door of his tent. These troops, the greater part of whom were covered with gold and silver, were at once the object of terror and admiration to a people who were strangers to all kinds of magnificence; and the exact discipline which was kept up in this army made it appear in a different light from any that had yet been seen. There were at that time no inspectors of the horse and foot, as there have since been; but these offices were performed by two men who were singular in their way. Martinet put the infantry upon the footing of discipline in which we now see it; and the chevalier de Fourilles did the same by the cavalry. Martinet had, a year before, introduced the use of the bayonet among some of the regiments: before him it had never been made use of in a constant or uniform manner. This last effort of what perhaps is the most terrible of the whole military art was already known, but had been little practised, because spears were still much in use. This same officer likewise invented copper boats for bridges, which might easily be transported in wagons, or on horseback. The king, confident of success and glory from all these advantages, carried along with him a historian to write his conquests. This was Pellisson, of whom mention will be made in the article of polite arts, a person whose talent lay more in good writing than avoiding flattery.
Against the great Condé, Turenne, Luxembourg, Vauban, an army of one hundred and thirty thousand men, an incredible train of artillery, and immense sums of money to bribe the fidelity of those who commanded garrison towns, what had the republic of Holland to oppose? A young prince of weak constitution, who had never seen a battle or a siege, and about twenty-five thousand bad soldiers, which were all the strength of the country. William, prince of Orange, who was about twenty-two years old, had lately been elected captain-general of the land forces, in spite of the opposition of John de Witt, who could no longer withstand the wishes of the nation. This prince, under the Dutch phlegm, concealed an ardent ambition and love of glory, which ever afterward manifested itself in his conduct, without ever appearing in his discourse. He was of a cold and sour disposition, but of an active and penetrating genius. His courage, which never abandoned him, supported his feeble and languid body under fatigues which seemed above his strength. He was valiant without ostentation, ambitious without being fond of vainglory, and endowed by nature with a phlegmatic obstinacy, formed for combating adversity. He delighted in war and politics, and was equally a stranger to the joys of society, or the pleasures attendant upon greatness; in a word, he was in almost every respect the direct opposite to Louis XIV.
He was at first unable to stem the torrent which overflowed his country; his forces were but inconsiderable, and even his authority was greatly limited by the states. The whole power of France was ready to fall upon a republic which had nothing to defend it. The imprudent duke of Lorraine, who endeavored to raise troops in order to join his fortune with that of the republic, had just beheld his country seized upon by the French troops, with as much facility as they can seize upon Avignon on any quarrel with the papal see.
In the meantime the king caused his armies to advance on the side of the Rhine, into those countries which border upon Holland, Cologne, and Flanders. He ordered money to be distributed among the inhabitants of all the villages which were likely to suffer from the march of his troops through them. If a private gentleman made the least complaint to him, he was sure of being dismissed with a present. An envoy being sent from the governor of the Netherlands to make a representation of some disorders committed by the soldiers, the king with his own hand presented him with his picture, richly set in diamonds, and valued at over twelve thousand francs. This behavior attracted the admiration of the people, and made them stand more in awe of his power.
The king was at the head of his household, and a body of his choicest troops, in all amounting to thirty thousand men. Turenne had the command under him. Prince Condé was likewise at the head of as strong an army. The other corps, commanded alternately by Luxembourg and Chamilly, occasionally formed separate armies, which could all join one another in case of necessity.
The campaign was opened by the siege of four towns at once, Rheinberg, Orsoi, Wesel, and Borbeck; names which merit a place in this history only on account of the event. These were taken almost as soon as they were invested; Rheinberg, which the king thought proper to besiege in person, did not stand a single attack; and, in order to make more sure of its reduction, means had been found to corrupt the lieutenant of the garrison, one Dosseri, an Irishman, who, after having been base enough to sell his trust, was so imprudent as to retire to Maestricht, where the prince of Orange punished his treachery with death.
All the strongholds on the Yssel capitulated. Some of the garrisons sent the keys of their town as soon as they perceived two or three squadrons of the French appear in sight. Several officers fled from the towns where they were in garrison, even before the enemy had entered their territories: in short, the consternation was general. The prince of Orange had not a sufficient force to take the field. All Holland prepared to submit to the yoke as soon as the king should cross the Rhine. The prince of Orange caused lines to be drawn with the utmost haste on the other side the river; and even after he had done this, he was sensible how impossible it was for him to defend them. Nothing now remained but to discover, if possible, in what part the French intended to throw over a bridge, in order to oppose their passage. In fact, it was the king’s intention to pass the river on a bridge of those little copper boats, invented by Martinet. At that time the prince of Condé had received information from some of the country people that the dryness of the season had formed a ford on a branch of the Rhine, near an old castle, which served as an office for the toll-gatherers, and was called Toll Huis, or the Toll-house. The king ordered this ford to be sounded. According to Pellisson, who was an eye-witness of the whole, there was not above forty or fifty paces to swim over in the midst of this arm of the river. This was in fact nothing, for a number of horses abreast entirely broke the current of the water, which was of itself very weak. The landing on the opposite side was very easy, as it was defended only by four or five hundred horsemen, and two weak regiments of foot, without any cannon. The French artillery played upon those in flank, while the household troops, and some of the best of the cavalry, crossed the river without any hazard, to the number of fifteen thousand men. Condé crossed at the same time in one of the copper boats. Some few Dutch officers, who at first made a show of advancing into the water in order to oppose their landing, took to their heels the instant the French troops drew near to the shore, unable to stand before the multitude which came pouring on them. The foot immediately laid down their arms, and called for quarter. This passage was effected with the loss of only a few drunken horsemen, who had swum out of their depth; and there would not have been a single life lost that day—June 12, 1672—had it not been for the imprudence of the young duke of Longueville, who, being, it is said, overheated with wine, fired his pistol at some of the enemy’s people, who had laid down their arms and were begging their lives, crying out, “Give the scoundrels no quarter;” and drawing his trigger, shot an officer dead. Upon this the Dutch infantry, in a fit of despair, instantly flew to their arms and made a general discharge, by which the duke of Longueville himself was killed. A captain of their horse, named Ossembrouk, who had not fled with the rest, rode up to the prince of Condé, who had just reached shore and was going to mount his horse, and pointed his pistol at his head. The prince, by a sudden motion of his body, turned aside the piece, and received only a wound in his wrist, which was the first wound he had ever received in all his campaigns. The French immediately fell upon the small body, sword in hand, who began to fly on all sides. In the meantime the king crossed the river with the rest of the army, on a bridge of boats.
Such was the passage of the Rhine; an action which made a great noise, was singular in its kind, and was celebrated at that time as one of those great events which ought to occupy the memory of mankind. The air of greatness with which the king performed all his actions, the rapid success of his victories, the glory of his reign, the adulation of his courtiers, and, lastly, the fondness which the common people, especially those of Paris, have in general for everything that appears extraordinary, or else that ignorance of military operations, which prevails among those who pass a life of idleness in great cities, made this passage of the Rhine appear a prodigy. It was the common opinion, that the whole army swam across the river in presence of the enemy, intrenched on the opposite side, and in defiance of the fire from an impregnable fortress, called the Toll-house. It is a certain truth, that the enemy themselves were greatly imposed upon in this affair, and that if they had had a body of good troops on the other side of the river, the attempt would have been extremely dangerous.
As soon as the French army had passed the Rhine, it took Doesborgh, Zütphen, Arnheim, Nosembourg, Nimeguen, Skenk, Bommel, and Crèvecœur, and there was hardly an hour in the day in which the king did not receive the news of some fresh conquest. An officer, named Mazel, sent Turenne word that, if he would send him fifty horse, he would engage to make himself master of two or three places.
The inhabitants of Utrecht sent the keys of their city to the conqueror, and it capitulated, together with the whole province which bears its name. Louis made his entry into this city in triumph, on June 20, 1672, accompanied by his high-almoner, his confessor, and the titular bishop of Utrecht. The high church was with great solemnity delivered up to the Catholics; and the bishop of Utrecht, who had hitherto only held the empty title, was now for a little time put in possession of the real dignity.
The provinces of Utrecht, Overyssel, and Guelders were actually reduced, and Amsterdam only waited the hour of its slavery or destruction. The Jews settled there made interest with Gourville, the prince of Condé’s confidant and chief manager of his affairs, to accept two millions of florins, to save them from being plundered.
Naarden, which is in the neighborhood of Amsterdam, was already taken. Four horsemen, who were on a marauding party, advanced to the very gates of Muiden, which is not above a mile from Amsterdam, and where are the sluices by which the country may be laid under water. The magistrates, struck with a panic at the sight of these four soldiers, came out and offered them the keys of the town; but at length perceiving that no other troops came up, they took back the keys and shut the gates again. A moment’s more diligence would have put Amsterdam into the king’s hands. This capital once taken, not only the republic itself must have fallen, but there would no longer have been such a republic as Holland, and even the country itself would have been annihilated. Some of the richest families, and those who were most zealous lovers of liberty, were preparing to fly to the extremity of the globe, and embark for Batavia. There was actually a list made out of the shipping fit for undertaking this voyage, and a calculation of the numbers they would carry; when it was found that fifty thousand families might be thus transported into their new country. Holland then would have existed only in the East Indies: its provinces in Europe, who purchase their corn wholly with the riches they import from Asia, who subsist wholly upon their commerce and their liberty, if I may use that expression, would have been almost in an instant depopulated and ruined. Amsterdam, the staple and warehouse of Europe, where three hundred thousand souls are daily employed in cultivating arts and trade, would have become one vast marsh. All the lands round about require an immense expense and thousands of men to raise their dikes: those would, in all probability, have been stripped at once of their inhabitants and riches, and at length buried under water.
The distresses of the state were still further increased by the divisions which commonly arise among unfortunate people, who impute to one another the public calamities. The grand pensionary, John de Witt, thought there was no other way left to save what remained of his wretched country but by suing to the victors for peace. Full of a republican spirit, and jealous of his personal authority, he dreaded the aggrandizement of the house of Orange still more than the conquests of the French king; on this account he had obliged the prince of Orange himself to swear to the observance of a perpetual edict, by which he, the prince, was excluded from the stadtholdership. Honor, authority, party spirit, and interest all combined to make de Witt a strenuous asserter of this oath; and he chose rather to see his country subdued by a victorious king, than under subjection to a stadtholder.
The prince of Orange, on his side, who had more ambition than de Witt, was as much attached to his country, more patient under public calamities, and expecting everything from time and his own unshaken constancy, tried all means to obtain the stadtholdership, and opposed a peace with as much vehemence as de Witt promoted it. The states, however, resolved to sue for peace in spite of the prince, but the prince was raised to the stadtholdership in spite of de Witt.
In 1672, four deputies arrived in the king’s camp, to implore mercy in the name of a republic, which, six months before, looked upon itself as the arbiter of kings. Louis’s ministers did not receive the deputies with that French politeness which blends the mildness of civility with the severity of government. Louvois, who was of a haughty and arrogant disposition, and seemed better suited to serve his master well than to make him beloved, received the suppliants in a disdainful manner, and even with insulting raillery. They were obliged to go back and forth several times before the king would deign to make his will known to them. At length they were told that his majesty decreed that the states-general should give up all the places they were in possession of on the other side of the Rhine, with Nimeguen, and several other towns and forts in the heart of their country; that they should pay him twenty millions of livres; that the French should be masters of transporting merchandise on all the principal roads in Holland, both by land and water, without ever paying any duty; that the Roman Catholic religion should be everywhere established; that the republic should send an extraordinary embassy to the French court every year, together with a golden medal, on which should be engraved a legend, importing that they held their freedom of Louis XIV.; lastly, that they should make satisfaction to the king of England, the elector of Cologne, and the bishop of Münster, who had joined in the desolation of their country.
A peace on these conditions, which were little better than articles of slavery, appeared insupportable; the haughtiness of the conqueror inspired the vanquished with a desperate courage, and it was unanimously resolved to die fighting. The hearts and hopes of everyone were now fixed upon the prince of Orange. The populace grew furious against the grand pensionary, who had asked for peace. The prince, by his politics, and his party, by their animosity, increased the ferment. An attempt was made upon the grand pensionary’s life; and afterward his brother Cornelius was accused of a design to murder the prince, and was put to the rack. In the midst of his tortures he repeated the beginning of this ode of Horace, “Justum & tenacem propositi virum,” which perfectly well suited with his condition and courage, and which may be thus translated, for the sake of those who do not understand Latin:
On Aug. 20, 1672, the two brothers were massacred at The Hague, by the mad multitude, after one of them had governed the state for over nineteen years, with the most unspotted integrity, and the other had defended it at the hazard of his life. The most shocking cruelties that could enter into the imagination of a furious populace were exercised upon their dead bodies. These barbarities are common in all nations; the French themselves had exercised them upon Marshal d’Ancre, Admiral Coligny, and others, for the populace is almost everywhere the same. They wreaked their revenge on all the pensionary’s friends; even de Ruyter himself, the republic’s admiral, and who was the only one who fought her battles with success, had his house at Amsterdam surrounded by assassins.
In the midst of this disorder and desolation the magistrates gave an example of integrity rarely found in republics. Those private persons who were possessed of bank notes, ran in crowds to the Bank of Amsterdam, apprehending that the public stock had been broken in upon: everyone was for being paid with the little money supposed to be left. The magistrates immediately ordered the vaults to be opened, when it was found entire, as it had been deposited there for more than sixty years. The money was still black and discolored, with the fire which had burned down the town-house several years before. The bank notes had been negotiated till that time, and the money had never been touched; everyone that chose to receive it was then paid with this money, in lieu of notes. So much integrity and so powerful a resource were at that time the more admirable, as Charles II. of England, not satisfied with the money he had received from France, and wanting a further supply to carry on his war against the Dutch and answer the expense of his pleasures, had lately turned bankrupt. If it was shameful in this monarch thus to violate public faith, it was no less glorious in the magistrates of Amsterdam to preserve it, at a time when they might have had a plausible excuse for failure.
To this republican virtue they added that courageous spirit which resorts to the utmost extremities in irremediable evils. They ordered the dikes which kept out the sea to be thrown down. The country seats, which are in prodigious numbers about Amsterdam, the villages, and the neighboring cities of Leyden and Delft, were in an instant laid under water. The peasant beheld his flocks drowned in the pastures, without once murmuring. Amsterdam stood like a vast fortress in the midst of the waves, encircled by ships of war, which had water enough to ride all around the city. The people suffered great want; they were particularly distressed for fresh water, which sold for six sous a pint; but these extremities seemed less grievous than slavery. It is a thing worthy of observation that Holland, thus distressed by land, and no longer a state, still retained its power at sea, which was this nation’s true element.
While Louis XIV. was crossing the Rhine, and reducing these provinces, the Dutch admiral, de Ruyter, with a hundred sail of men of war and fifty fireships, sailed for the English coast in quest of the combined fleets of the two sovereigns, who, notwithstanding they had united their forces by sea, were not able to fit out a naval armament superior to that of the Dutch. The English and Dutch fought like people accustomed to dispute the empire of the sea with each other. This battle, which was fought on June 7, 1672, near Solebay, lasted a whole day. De Ruyter, who gave the signal for beginning the engagement, attacked the English admiral’s ship, in which was the duke of York, the king’s brother. De Ruyter gained all the glory of this single combat; the duke of York was obliged to go on board another ship, and never faced the Dutch admiral afterward. The French squadron, consisting of thirty ships, had little share in this action; and so decisive was the fortune of this day, that it put the coast of Holland out of danger.
After this battle, de Ruyter, notwithstanding the fears and contradictions of his countrymen, conveyed the fleet from the East Indies safe to Texel; thus defending and enriching his country on one side, while she was falling, overwhelmed with ruin, on the other. The Dutch even kept up their trade, and no colors but theirs were to be seen in the Indian seas. One day the French consul told the king of Persia, that his master, Louis XIV., had conquered almost all Holland. “How can that be,” replied the monarch, “when there are now in the port of Ormus twenty Dutch ships for one French?”
The prince of Orange, however, had the ambition of being a good citizen. He made an offer to the state of the revenues of his posts, and of all his private fortune, toward the support of the common cause. He overflowed all the passes by which the French could penetrate into the rest of the country. By his prompt and secret negotiations he raised the emperor, the empire, the Spanish council, and the government of Flanders, from their lethargy: he even disposed the English court to listen to peace. In a word, Louis had entered Holland in May, and by the month of July all Europe was in confederacy against him.
Monterey, governor of Flanders, sent a few regiments privately to the assistance of the United Provinces. The emperor Leopold’s council likewise despatched Montecuculi, at the head of twenty thousand men; and the elector of Brandenburg took the field with twenty-five thousand troops, whom he kept in his own pay.
The king now quitted his army, as there were no more conquests to be made in a country that was overflowed. It was even become difficult to keep the provinces which had been conquered. Louis, desirous to secure the glory he had acquired, contented himself with having taken such a number of towns in the space of two months; and leaving Turenne and Luxembourg to finish the war, he returned to St. Germain about the middle of the summer, to enjoy his triumphs. But while his subjects were everywhere erecting monuments of his conquests, the powers of Europe were at work to snatch them out of his hands.
HOLLAND EVACUATED—FRANCHÉ-COMTE CONQUERED A SECOND TIME.
We think it necessary to advise those who may read this work that they are to remember it is not a bare relation of campaigns, but rather a history of the manners of mankind. There are already a sufficient number of books filled with the minute particulars of military actions, and details of human rage and misery. The design of this essay is to describe the principal characters of these revolutions, and to remove the multitude of trifling facts, in order to set to view those only which are considerable, and the spirit by which they were actuated.
France was at that time in the zenith of her glory. The names of her generals inspired veneration. Her ministers were regarded as geniuses superior to the counsellors of other princes; and Louis XIV. seemed almost the only king in Europe. As to the emperor Leopold, he never appeared with his armies. Charles II., king of Spain, son of Philip IV., was as yet a child; and the king of England showed no activity but in the pursuit of his pleasures.
The princes of Europe and their ministers were all guilty of great blunders. England acted against the common principles of reason in joining with France to aggrandize a power which it was to her interest to weaken.
The emperor, the empire, and the king of Spain’s council committed still a greater error in not opposing this torrent in the beginning; and even Louis himself was as blamable as any of them, for not rapidly pursuing conquests which were so easily made. Condé and Turenne were for demolishing the greatest part of the fortified places taken from the Dutch, alleging that states were not to be taken by garrisons but by armies; and that, keeping one or two strongholds only for a retreat, they should proceed immediately to complete the conquest of the whole country. Louvois, on the contrary, was for making every place a garrison or fortress. This was his peculiar genius, and it was likewise the king’s own taste. Louvois had by this means more employments in his disposal, and increased his ministerial influence; besides, he took a pride in thwarting the two greatest captains of the age. Louis implicitly believed what he said, by which he was deceived, as he afterward acknowledged. He let slip the opportunity of entering the capital of Holland; he weakened his army by dividing it into too many detachments, and gave the enemy breathing time. The history of the greatest princes is frequently a narrative of human errors.
After the king had quitted the army, affairs took a different turn. Turenne was obliged to march into Westphalia, to oppose the imperialists. Monterey, the governor of Flanders, whom the Spanish council were afraid of countenancing openly, reinforced the prince of Orange’s small army with about ten thousand men, by which the prince found himself strong enough to oppose the French till the winter. It was doing a great deal to be able to hold fortune in suspense. At length winter came on, and covered the overflowed country of Holland with ice. Luxembourg, who commanded in Utrecht, carried on a new kind of war, to which the French themselves were strangers, and threw the Dutch into a fresh dilemma, as terrible as anything they had yet experienced.
One night he got together nearly twelve thousand foot soldiers, drawn from the neighboring garrisons; and having ordered every man to be furnished with a pair of skates, he put himself at their head, and began his march over the ice toward Leyden and The Hague: a thaw came on, which saved The Hague; and his little army, surrounded by the waters, knowing no longer which way to go, and being destitute of provisions, was on the point of perishing. There was a narrow and muddy dike, where four men could barely walk abreast, which he was obliged to march over before he could get back to Utrecht; and there was no way to get at this dike, but by attacking a fort which seemed impregnable without artillery; and had those who were in it defended it but for a single day, the French army must inevitably have perished with hunger and fatigue. Luxembourg now looked upon himself as lost; but the same good fortune which had preserved The Hague saved his army, through the cowardice of the commandant of the fort, who abandoned his post without the least reason. There are a thousand events in war, as in civil life, which are altogether incomprehensible, and this was of the number. This expedition was productive of nothing but a piece of cruelty, which rendered the French name completely odious in this country. Bodegraven and Swammerdam, two considerable villages, each well peopled, and as large as some of our middling towns, were given up to the soldiery for plunder, as a reward for the fatigues they had undergone. They immediately set fire to both towns, and indulged themselves by the light of the flames in all the excesses of debauchery and cruelty. It is surprising that the common soldiers among the French can be so barbarous, seeing they are commanded by officers who have with justice the reputation of being as humane as they are brave. The sacking of these two places was so exaggerated that I myself, above forty years afterward, saw some Dutch books in which children were taught to read, where this affair was recapitulated, in order to inspire the rising generation with a hatred to the French.
In 1673 the king cut out work for the cabinets of all Europe, by his negotiations. He gained over the duke of Hanover. The elector of Brandenburg, in entering into the war, had made a treaty which he soon broke. There was not a court in Germany where Louis had not some pensioners. By his emissaries in Hungary he fomented the troubles of that province, which had been severely treated by the emperor’s council. He lavished great sums on Charles II. of England, to engage him to declare war once more against the Dutch, notwithstanding the outcries and murmurs of all his subjects, who were filled with indignation at being made tools to raise the French king’s greatness, which it was to their interest and desire to humble. In a word, Louis disturbed all Europe by his arms and negotiations; but, after all, he could not prevent the emperor, the empire, and Spain from joining the Dutch, and publicly declaring war against him. He had so far changed the course of things that the Dutch, who were his natural allies, were become friends to Spain. The emperor Leopold sent aid slowly; but he showed great animosity against the French. It is reported that, as he was going to Eger to see the troops, which were there assembled, he took the sacrament on the road, and that after having communicated, he took a crucifix in his hand, and called God to witness the justice of his cause. This action would have done very well in the time of the Crusades; however, the emperor’s invocation did not in the least stop the progress of the French king’s arms.
It was soon apparent how greatly his marine was improved. Instead of thirty ships, which had been sent the year before to join the English fleet, he now sent forty, without reckoning fireships. The officers had learned from the English the judicious manner of working their ships in their engagements with the Dutch. The duke of York, afterward King James II., was the person who first invented the method of giving orders in a naval fight by the different dispositions and motions of flags. Till that time the French did not know how to draw up a fleet in line of battle. All their experience consisted in fighting ship to ship, without knowing how to make a number move in concert, or to imitate at sea the evolutions of armies on shore, whose several different corps mutually sustain and assist each other. In this they resembled the Romans, who in one year’s time learned the art of fighting at sea from the Carthaginians, and soon became equal with their masters.
The vice-admiral, d’Estrées, and his second in command, Martel, did honor to the industry of the French nation in three successive engagements, which were fought in June, 1673, between the Dutch fleet and the combined squadrons of France and England. Admiral de Ruyter was more admired than ever in these three engagements. D’Estrées, in a letter to Colbert, expressed himself in these terms: “I would willingly have died to purchase the glory which de Ruyter has acquired.” D’Estrées deserved that Ruyter should have said the same by him. In short, the valor and conduct were so equal on both sides that it remained doubtful which had the victory.
Louis, having thus made seamen of his French subjects, through the diligence of Colbert, improved the art of war on land by the industry of Vauban. He went in person to lay siege to Maestricht, at the time that these three naval battles were fought. Maestricht was the key of the Low Countries and the United Provinces. The place was prodigiously strong, and defended by an intrepid governor, named Farjaux, a Frenchman by birth, who had gone into the Spanish service, and afterward into the Dutch. The garrison consisted of five hundred men. Vauban, who had the direction of the siege, made use for the first time of the parallel lines, which were invented by the Italian engineers in the service of the Turks at the siege of Candia. To these he added the places d’armes, or parade of arms, which is made in the trenches, for ranging the troops in order of battle, and better rallying them in case of sallies from the besieged. Louis, in this siege, showed himself more strict and assiduous than he had ever yet done. By his example he accustomed his subjects to endure labor patiently, who had hitherto been regarded as a nation which had only an impetuous courage that is soon exhausted by fatigues. Maestricht surrendered, June 29, after a week’s siege.
The desire of establishing strict military discipline among his troops carried him rather to an excess of severity. The prince of Orange at first had only a few officers without emulation, and soldiers without courage, to oppose the rapid conquests of the French arms, and therefore was obliged to employ the utmost rigor in training them, and to hang everyone who quitted his post. The king likewise made use of punishments. Naarden, the first place he lost, a very brave officer named du Pas gave up to the prince of Orange. It is true, he held out only four days, but he did not give it up till after an obstinate engagement of five hours on bad works, and to prevent a general assault, which it would have been impossible for him to have sustained with a weak and dispirited garrison. The king, incensed at this first affront which his arms had received, ordered du Pas to be led through Utrecht by the common hangman, with a shovel in his hand, and to have his sword broken before his face. This ignominious treatment was perhaps not altogether necessary, as the French officers have too nice a sense of honor to need being governed by the fear of disgrace. It is to be observed that, according to the tenor of his commission, the governor of a fortress is obliged to stand three assaults; but this is one of those laws which are hardly ever put in force.
But not all the king’s diligence, Vauban’s genius, Louvois’s strict vigilance, the knowledge and great military experience of Turenne, nor the active intrepidity of the prince of Condé were sufficient to repair the fault which had been committed in keeping such a number of places, weakening the army, and missing the opportunity of taking Amsterdam.
The prince of Condé in vain attempted to penetrate into the heart of Holland, which was all under water. Turenne could neither prevent the junction of Montecuculi with the prince of Orange, nor hinder the latter from making himself master of the town of Bonn. The bishop of Münster, who had sworn the destruction of the states-general, was himself attacked by them.
The English Parliament obliged its king to enter seriously into a treaty of peace, and to cease being the mercenary instrument of aggrandizing France. And now the French were obliged to evacuate the three Dutch provinces as rapidly as they had conquered them; but not till they had made them pay dearly for their deliverance. The intendant, Robert, had raised in the single province of Utrecht in one year, no less than sixteen hundred and sixty-eight thousand florins. So great was their hurry to evacuate the country which they had overrun with such rapidity, that twenty-eight thousand Dutch prisoners were restored at a crown a man. The triumphal arch of St. Denis’s gate, and the other monuments of Louis’s conquests, were hardly finished when those conquests were already abandoned. During the course of this invasion, the Dutch had the honor of disputing the empire of the sea, and the dexterity to remove the theatre of the war out of their own country. Louis XIV. was considered throughout Europe as one who had enjoyed the glory of a transient triumph with too much precipitation and pride. The fruits of this expedition were, that he had a bloody war to support against the united forces of the Empire, Spain, and Holland; saw himself abandoned by England, and at length by the bishop of Münster, and even the elector of Cologne; and left the countries he had invaded and was compelled to quit, more hated than admired.
The king maintained his ground alone against all the enemies he had drawn upon him. The foresight of his administration and the strength of his kingdom appeared to much greater advantage, when he had so many combined powers and great generals to defend himself against, than even when he took French Flanders in a party of pleasure, and Franche-Comté, and one half of Holland, from a defenceless enemy.
It now appeared how great an advantage an absolute sovereign, whose finances are well managed, has over all other kings. He at one and the same time furnished Turenne with an army of twenty-three thousand men, against the imperialists; Condé, with one of forty thousand, against the prince of Orange; and a body of troops was stationed on the borders of Roussillon. A fleet of transports, full of soldiers, was sent to carry the war among the Spaniards, even to the gates of Messina; while he himself marched in person to subdue Franche-Comté a second time. In a word, he at once defended himself, and attacked his enemies on every side.
As soon as Louis began his expedition against Franche-Comté, the superiority of his administration showed in the fullest manner. It was necessary to bring over, or at least to amuse, the Swiss nation, who are as formidable as poor, are always in arms, jealous to an excess of their liberty, invincible on their own frontiers, and who already began to murmur and take umbrage at seeing Louis a second time in their neighborhood. The emperor and the court of Spain warmly solicited the thirteen cantons to grant a free passage to their troops, who were going to the assistance of Franche-Comté, which had been left defenceless by the negligence of the Spanish ministry; but the emperor and the Spaniard were only lavish in arguments and entreaties. The French king, on the contrary, by a million of livres in ready money, and the assurance of six hundred thousand more, prevailed on those people to do as he pleased. They refused to grant a passage to the Spanish troops. Louis, accompanied by his brother and the great Condé’s son, laid siege to Besançon. He was fond of this part of war, which he understood perfectly well, and left the care of the campaign to Condé and Turenne. Besides, he never laid siege to a town without being morally sure of taking it. Louvois made such excellent preparations; the troops were so well found in everything; Vauban, who had almost always the direction of the sieges, was so great a master in the art of reducing places, that the king was secure of his reputation. Vauban directed the attacks against Besançon, which was taken in nine days; and, at the end of six weeks, all Franche-Comté submitted to the king. It has ever since remained in the hands of France, and seems to be forever annexed to it, a monument of the weakness of the Austro-Spanish ministry, and of the vigor of that of Louis XIV.
THE GLORIOUS CAMPAIGN AND DEATH OF MARSHAL TURENNE.
While the king was proceeding in the conquest of Franche-Comté, with that rapidity, ease, and glory which seemed inseparably annexed to his arms, Turenne, who was only defending the frontiers toward the Rhine, displayed all that was great and consummate in the art of war. Our esteem for men is generally measured by the difficulties they surmount; and this it was that gained Turenne such great reputation in this campaign.
In the first place, in June, 1674, he made a long and hasty march, passed the Rhine at Philippsburg, marched all night to Sinsheim, which he took by storm, and at the same time attacked and routed the emperor’s general, Caprara, and the old duke of Lorraine, Charles IV., a prince who had spent his life in losing his dominions and raising troops; and who had lately joined his little army to a part of the emperor’s. Turenne, after having defeated him, pursued him, and routed his cavalry at Ladenburg; then he, by hasty marches, came up with the prince of Bournonville, another of the imperial generals, who was only waiting for fresh troops to open a way into Alsace. Turenne prevented him from being joined by these troops, attacked him, and obliged him to quit the field of battle.
The empire now assembled all its forces against him; seventy thousand Germans occupied Alsace and blocked up the towns of Breisach and Philippsburg. Turenne’s army did not consist of over twenty thousand effective men; but having received a small reinforcement of cavalry from the prince of Condé, who was then in Flanders, in December, 1674, he crossed the mountains covered with snow, marched through Tanne and Belfort, entered Upper Alsace, and appeared in the midst of the enemy’s quarters, who thought him lying inactive in Lorraine, and looked upon the campaign as already finished. He beat up the quarters at Mülhausen that resisted, and made two thousand of them prisoners. He then marched to Colmar, where the elector of Brandenburg, who was called the great elector, and was at that time general of the armies of the empire, had his headquarters, and came upon him just as he and the rest of the princes and general officers were going to sit down to dinner. They had hardly time to escape, and in one instant the country was covered with the flying.
Turenne, who thought he had done nothing while there was anything left to be done, lay in wait near Türkheim, for a party of the enemy’s foot who were to march that way. He had chosen so advantageous a pass that he was certain of success: accordingly he entirely defeated this body. In short, this army of seventy thousand men was beaten and dispersed almost without any great battle. Alsace fell into the king’s hands, and the generals of the empire were obliged to repass the Rhine.
All these actions, following so rapidly upon one another, conducted with so much art, managed with such patience, and executed with so much promptitude, were equally admired by France and her enemies. But Turenne’s reputation received a considerable addition when it was known that all he had done in this campaign had been done without the consent of the court, and even against the repeated orders sent to him by Louvois, in the king’s name. It was not the least instance of Turenne’s courage, nor the least memorable exploit of this campaign, thus to oppose the powerful Louvois, and take upon himself the consequences, in defiance of the outcries of the court, his master’s orders, and the hatred of the ministry.
It is certain that those who had more humanity than esteem for military exploits were greatly displeased at this glorious campaign; which was as much distinguished by the miseries of the private people as by the great deeds of Turenne. After the battle of Sinsheim he laid waste with fire and sword the Palatinate, a level and fertile country, full of rich cities and villages: and the elector palatine, from his castle at Mannheim, beheld two cities and twenty-five villages burned before his eyes. This unhappy prince, in the first emotions of his rage, wrote a letter to Turenne, filled with the bitterest reproaches, and defying him to single combat. Turenne having sent this letter to the king, who forbade him to accept the challenge, he made no other return to the elector’s reproaches and defiance than an empty compliment, which signified nothing. This was agreeable to the general behavior and style of Turenne, who always expressed himself in a cool and ambiguous manner.
He, in the same cold blood, destroyed the ovens and burned all the corn-fields in Alsace, to prevent the enemy from finding subsistence. He afterward permitted his cavalry to ravage Lorraine, where they committed such disorders that the intendant, who, on his side, laid waste that province with his pen, wrote to desire the marshal to put a stop to the excesses of the soldiery; who always replied coolly: “I shall take notice of it in the orders.” Turenne was better pleased to be esteemed the father of the men who were entrusted to his care, than of the people who, according to the rules of war, are always the victims. All the evil he did seemed necessary: his reputation covered everything; and, besides, the seventy thousand Germans whom he prevented from entering France would have done more mischief there than he did in Alsace, Lorraine, and the Palatinate.
The prince of Condé, on his side, fought a battle in Flanders, which was much more bloody than all the victories of Turenne, though it proved neither so fortunate nor decisive; or rather because he had abler generals and better troops to encounter. This was the battle of Seneffe. The marquis of Feuquières insists that it should be called only a fight; because it was not an action between two armies drawn up in battle array, and that the corps were not all engaged; but it seems generally agreed to give the title of battle to this hot and bloody day. It is always the importance of an affair which determines its appellation. Had three thousand men, ranged in battle array, been engaged with each other, and even all their different corps been in action, it would have been only called a fight.
The prince of Condé, who was to keep the field with only forty-five thousand men, against the prince of Orange with more than sixty thousand, waited for the enemy’s army to pass a defile at Seneffe, near Mons, and fell upon a part of the rear guard, composed of Spaniards, over whom he gained a considerable advantage. The prince of Orange was blamed for not having taken sufficient precaution in passing through this defile; but everyone admired the dexterous manner in which he repaired this accident; and Condé himself was censured for attempting to renew the fight against an enemy so strongly intrenched. The combat was renewed three different times. The two generals, in this medley of errors and great deeds, equally distinguished themselves by their presence of mind and courage. Of all the battles in which the great Condé had been engaged, there was no one in which he hazarded his own life and that of his soldiers so much as in this. After having sustained three bloody attacks, he was for attempting the fourth. “The prince of Condé,” said one of the officers who was there present, “seemed to be the only person who had an inclination for fighting.” What was most remarkable in this action was that both armies, after having stood the most obstinate and bloody engagement, were seized with a sudden panic in the night, and took to flight. The next day they retreated, without either side having kept the field of battle, or claimed the victory; both being equally weakened and defeated. There were about seven thousand killed, and five thousand made prisoners, on the side of the French; and the enemy’s loss was nearly equal. This useless carnage prevented either army from undertaking anything of moment against the other: but the appearance of advantage was at that time so necessary that the prince of Orange, in order to make the world believe that he had gained the victory, laid siege to Oudenarde; however, the prince of Condé soon showed that he had not lost the battle, by obliging him to raise the siege, and pursuing him in his retreat.
It was the practice with the French and the allies to observe the idle ceremony of giving public thanks for a victory they had not gained; a custom established to keep up the spirit of the populace, who must always be deceived.
Turenne, with his little army, continued to make some progress in Germany, by the mere efforts of his military genius. The Council of Vienna not daring to trust any longer the fate of the empire to princes who had made so bad a defence, once more delivered the command of its armies to General Montecuculi, who had defeated the Turks in the battle of St. Gothard, and who, in spite of the endeavors of Turenne and Condé, had effected a junction with the prince of Orange, and checked the career of Louis’s conquest, after he had reduced three of the seven United Provinces.
It has been elsewhere remarked that the empire had been frequently indebted to Italy for its greatest generals. This country, though in a state of degeneration and slavery, still produces men who put us in mind of what it has once been. Montecuculi was the only person fit to be opposed to Turenne. They had both brought war to an art. They spent four months in following and observing each other in their marches and encampments, which were held in greater esteem by the French and Germans officers than even victories. Each of them judged what his adversary had in view, by the very steps which he himself would have taken on the same occasion, and they were seldom deceived. They opposed each other with perseverance, cunning, and activity. At last they were on the point of coming to an engagement, and staking their reputations on the fate of a battle near the village of Saltzbach, when, on July 27, 1675, Turenne was killed by a cannon ball as he was going to fix upon a place for erecting a battery. Everyone is acquainted with the particulars of this great man’s death; but we cannot refrain from repeating some of the principal circumstances of an event which continues to be spoken of to this day. There is one indeed which it is hardly possible to repeat too often. The ball which deprived Turenne of his life carried off the arm of St. Hiliare, lieutenant-general of the artillery, whose son threw himself down by his side in a flood of tears. “Weep not for me,” said that brave officer, “but for that great man,” pointing to Turenne. These words are equal to anything that history has consecrated as most heroic, and form the worthiest eulogium of the great Turenne. It is seldom that in a despotic government, where everyone is wholly taken up with his own private concerns, those who have served their country die regretted: nevertheless, Turenne was lamented by his own soldiers and by the people. Louvois was the only one who rejoiced at his death. Everyone knows that the king caused the greatest honors to be paid to his memory; and that he was interred at St. Denis, as the constable du Guesclin had been, to whom the public voice declares him as much superior as the age he lived in was superior to that of the constable.
Turenne had not always been successful in the field. He had been beaten at Mariendal, Rethel, and Cambray; he had likewise been guilty of some faults, and was great man enough to own them. He had never gained very striking victories, nor fought any of those pitched battles which decide the fate of one or the other nation; but by always repairing his defeats, and doing a great deal with a little, he passed for the ablest general in Europe, in an age when the art of war was better understood than ever it had been. In like manner, though he had been accused of having deserted his party in the civil wars, and though, when almost sixty years of age, he had suffered love to make him reveal a secret of state, and had exercised some unnecessary barbarities in the Palatinate, yet he still preserved the character of an upright, prudent, and honest man; because his virtues and great talents, which were peculiar to himself, made the world forget those weaknesses and failings which were common to the rest of mankind. If we were to compare him to anyone, we might venture to say that of all the generals of past ages, Gonsalvo de Cordova, surnamed the Great Captain, was the person whom he most resembled.
He was born a Protestant, but in 1688 he embraced the Roman Catholic religion. It was not supposed by either Protestant or philosopher that this change was the effect of mere persuasion only, in a warrior and a statesman of fifty years old who still kept mistresses. It is well known that Louis XIV., when he created him marshal-general of his armies, spoke to him in these very words, which we find related by Pellisson in his letters, and others: “I wish you would lay me under an obligation of doing more for you.” These words—according to these writers—might, together with time, have been the means of bringing about this conversion. The place of constable might perhaps have entered into an ambitious mind; it is also possible that this conversion might be sincere. The human heart frequently unites politics, ambition, religious sentiments, and amorous weaknesses; but the Catholics, who triumphed in this change, would never be persuaded that the great soul of Turenne was capable of double dealing.
The turn which affairs took in Alsace immediately after the death of Turenne made his loss more sensibly felt. Montecuculi, who had for three months been kept on the other side of the Rhine by the French general, passed that river the instant he knew he no longer had Turenne to fear; he then fell upon a part of the army, which remained thunderstruck with its loss, under the command of the two lieutenant-generals, de Lorges and Vauban. Though the French defended themselves with great valor, they could not hinder the imperialists from penetrating into Alsace, from which Turenne had always kept them at a distance.
The army stood in need of a leader not only to conduct it, but also to retrieve the late defeat which had happened to Marshal de Créqui, a man of enterprising genius, capable at once of the noblest and rashest actions, and equally dangerous to his country and its enemies. He had, through his own fault, been beaten at Consarbruck, August 11, 1675, and his little army routed and cut to pieces by a body of twenty thousand Germans, who were laying siege to Trier. Hardly one-fourth of his troops escaped. After this accident, he marched with the utmost precipitation through a thousand dangers, and threw himself into Trier, which he defended with the greatest valor; whereas he should have relieved it by a prudent management. He resolved to bury himself in the ruins of the place before he would give it up; and even when a breach was made practicable, he still continued to hold out. The garrison began to murmur at this obstinacy; and one Captain Bois-Jourdan, who was at the head of the mutineers, repaired to the breach, and proposed a capitulation. Never was cowardice carried on with so much boldness; he threatened to kill the marshal, unless he would sign the capitulation; Créqui upon this retires, with some officers who remained faithful to him, to a neighboring church, and chose rather to be a prisoner at discretion than to capitulate.
To recruit the great loss of men which the kingdom had sustained by so many sieges and battles, Louis XIV. was advised not to confine himself to the usual levies from among the militia, but to issue his orders for assembling the ban and arrière-ban. By an ancient custom, which is now laid aside, all those that held lands in fee were obliged to serve their lords paramount in the wars, at their own expense, and to continue in arms for a certain number of days. This service was one of the principal laws of our barbarous nations. Things are at present on a very different footing in Europe: every kingdom now raises soldiers, who are kept in constant pay, and form a regular and disciplined body.
Louis XIII. had once, during his reign, assembled the nobility of his kingdom; Louis XIV. now followed his example. The body of nobility took the field under the command of the marquis, afterward marshal, of Rochefort, and marched to the frontiers of Flanders, and thence to the borders of Germany; but this body was neither great in its numbers, nor useful in its operations, nor indeed could be rendered so. The gentlemen who had a military turn, and were fit for service, had all commissions in the army; those whom age or discontent had kept at home remained there; and the rest, who were employed in improving their estates, came with repugnance, to the number of about four thousand. In short, they were far from having the appearance of military troops. They were all differently mounted and accoutred, void of experience, ignorant of discipline, and either incapable or averse to regular service; so that they caused only confusion, and were forever laid aside. This was the last trace of ancient chivalry which appeared in our regular armies, of which those armies were formerly composed, and which, though possessed of all the courage natural to their nation, never fought well.
Turenne dead, Créqui beaten and a prisoner, Trier taken, and Montecuculi laying all Alsace under contribution, the king thought that the prince of Condé alone was able to revive the drooping spirits of the army, discouraged by the death of Turenne. Condé left Marshal Luxembourg to support the French in Flanders, and hastened to check the progress of Montecuculi. On this occasion, he showed as much coldness as he had shown impetuosity at Seneffe; and, with a genius which conformed itself to everything, he displayed the same art as Turenne had done. By two encampments only, he stopped the progress of the German army, and obliged Montecuculi to raise the sieges of Haguenau and Saverne, during August and September, 1675. After this campaign, which was indeed less brilliant but more esteemed than that of Seneffe, this prince no longer appeared in the character of a warrior. He was desirous of having his son appointed to the command in his stead, and offered to assist him with his advice; but the king did not choose to have either young men or princes for generals; it was even not without reluctance that he had employed the prince of Condé, who owed his being at the head of the army to Louvois’s jealousy of Turenne, as much as to his own great reputation.
The prince retired to Chantilly, and rarely came to Versailles, to see his glory eclipsed in a place where the courtier regards only favor. During the remainder of his life he was greatly tormented with the gout; but he consoled himself in the midst of his anguish and disgrace, by the conversation of men of genius of all kinds, with which France then abounded. He was truly worthy of their acquaintance, being himself acquainted with most of the arts and sciences in which they excelled. He still continued the object of admiration, even in his retirement; till at length that devouring fire, which had in his youth made him the impetuous hero and subject to a number of passions, having by degrees consumed the vigor of a body, which was by nature formed rather active than robust, he experienced a total decay before his time; and his mind growing as weak as his body, nothing of the great Condé remained during the last two years of his life. He died in 1680. Montecuculi retired from the emperor’s service about the time that the great Condé resigned the command of the armies of France.
FROM THE DEATH OF TURENNE TILL THE PEACE OF NIMEGUEN, IN 1678.
Notwithstanding that Turenne was dead, and the prince of Condé withdrawn from the army, the king still continued the war against the emperor, the Spaniards, and the Dutch, with as much success as before. He had a number of officers who had been trained up under these great men; he had Louvois, who was as good as a general to him, because, by his ready foresight, he furnished the generals with means of undertaking everything they desired; and the troops, by a long series of victories, retained that ardor with which the presence of a monarch, ever fortunate in his undertakings, had inspired them.
During the course of this war, he in person took Condé, Bouchain, Valenciennes, and Cambray. He was accused by some of having been afraid to engage the prince of Orange, who, at the siege of Bouchain, presented himself with an army of fifty thousand men, in order to relieve the place. The prince of Orange was reproached with not having given battle to Louis, when he might have done it; for such is the fate of kings and generals, that they are always blamed for what they do, and for what they do not do; but neither the king nor the prince of Orange was in the least to blame: the former did not give battle, although he was desirous of it, because Monterey, who was governor of the Netherlands, and who was then in his army, did not choose to expose his province to the chance of a decisive action; and the honor of the campaign was undoubtedly on the king’s side, since he did what he pleased, and took a town in sight of his enemy.
With regard to the town of Valenciennes; it was taken by assault, by one of those singular events which characterize the impetuous courage of the French nation.
The king carried on this siege, assisted by his brother and five marshals of France, namely, d’Humières, Schomberg, La Feuillade, Luxembourg, and de Lorges. The marshals had each their day of command in turn, and Vauban had the direction of all the operations.
They had not yet made themselves masters of any of the outworks of the place. The first thing to be done was to attack two half-moons; behind which was a large crown-work, guarded with palisades and friezes, and surrounded by a ditch, intersected with several traverses. Within this crown-work was another work, surrounded by another ditch. When all these intrenchments were carried, there was still a branch of the Scheldt to be passed. Even after this, there remained another work, called a pâté; behind this pâté ran the main stream of the Scheldt, which was very deep and rapid, and which serves as a ditch to the town wall, which was defended by strong ramparts. All these works were covered with artillery, and a garrison of three thousand men promised a long resistance.
The king held a council of war about attacking the outworks. It had always been a custom to make these attacks in the night, in order to steal upon the enemy unperceived, and save the lives of the men. Vauban proposed to make the attack in the day. This proposal was strongly opposed by the marshals, and Louvois joined in condemning it; Vauban, however, maintained his opinion, with the confidence of a man who is sure of what he advances: “You are desirous,” said he, “of saving your men as much as possible; you will certainly do this much better by day, when they will be able to fight without confusion and tumult, or being apprehensive of one party firing upon another, as too often happens in attacks by night. We want to surprise the enemy, who are always on their guard against an attack by night; we shall therefore effectually surprise them if we oblige them to stand the attack of our fresh troops, after they have been wearied out by the fatigue of the night’s watch. Add to this, that if there are any of our men who want courage, the night favors their backwardness; but, in day, the eye of the master inspires them with courage, and makes them surpass themselves.”
The king was convinced by Vauban’s arguments, and agreed to his proposal, notwithstanding the objections of the five marshals of France.
At nine o’clock in the morning, on March 17, 1677, the two companies of musketeers, a hundred grenadiers, a battalion of the guards, and another of the regiment of Picardy, mounted the great crown-work on all sides. Their orders were only to make a lodgment there, and this was a great deal; but some of the black musketeers having found entrance by a private passage into the inner intrenchments which were in this work, presently made themselves masters of it; at the same time the gray musketeers made way through another passage; these were followed by the battalion of guards, who fell upon the besieged, killed some of them, and put the rest to flight. By this time the musketeers had let down the drawbridge which joined this work to the rest: they followed the enemy from one intrenchment to another, both on the greater and lesser branch of the Scheldt. The guards pressed on in crowds, and the musketeers were in possession of the town before the king knew that the first work, which he had ordered to be attacked, was carried.
But this was the least considerable part of the action. It is likely enough that a number of young musketeers, inflamed with the ardor of success, might fall upon the troops or burghers whom they met in the streets, and lose their lives, or else plunder the town; but what is most extraordinary in this affair is, that these young men, under the command of a cornet called Moissac, drew up in rank behind some wagons, and while the rest of the troops who came in were forming with deliberation, other musketeers took possession of the neighboring houses, and covered with their fire those who were in the street. Hostages were now exchanged on each side; the town council assembled and despatched a deputation to the king, and all this was transacted without pillage, confusion, or the least outrage of any kind. The king made the garrison prisoners of war, and entered Valenciennes with astonishment. The singularity of this action engaged us to enter into this minute detail.
The king gained additional honor by the taking of Ghent in eight days, and Ypres in seven. His generals met with still greater success.
In Germany, indeed, the duke of Luxembourg, at the beginning of the war, suffered Philippsburg to be taken in his sight, after a fruitless attempt to relieve it with an army of fifty thousand men. The general who took Philippsburg was Charles V., the new duke of Lorraine, who succeeded his uncle, Charles IV., and was, like him, stripped of his dominions. He had all the good qualifications of his unhappy uncle, without any of his faults. He commanded the armies of the empire with great renown; but, notwithstanding that he had reduced Philippsburg, and was at the head of an army of sixty thousand men, he could never get possession of his dominions; and it was to no purpose that he carried these words on his colors: “Aut nunc aut nunquam”—“Now or never.” Marshal Créqui, now ransomed from his confinement, and rendered more prudent by his defeat at Consarbruck, always kept the entrance into Lorraine shut from him. He beat him in a small skirmish at Kokersberk, in Alsace, on October 7, 1677, and continually harassed him in his marches. He took Freiburg in his sight on November 14, 1677, and beat a detachment of his army at Rheinfelden, in July, 1678. He passed the river Keres in his view, pursued him to Offenburg, fell upon him in his retreat, and having immediately afterward carried the fort of Rethel, sword in hand, he proceeded to Saarburg, where he burned the bridge by which that city, which was still free, had so many times afforded a passage for the imperial troops into Alsace. Thus did Marshal Créqui make amends for the imprudence of one day, by a series of successes which were wholly owing to his prudence; and, had he lived some time longer, it is probable he would have acquired an equal reputation with Turenne.
The prince of Orange was not more successful in Flanders than the duke of Lorraine had been in Germany; he was not only obliged to raise the siege of Maestricht and Charleroi, but, after having suffered Condé, Bouchain, and Valenciennes to fall into the hands of Louis XIV., he lost the battle of Montcassel, against the king’s brother, in attempting to relieve St. Omer. The marshals Luxembourg and d’Humières were in command. It is said that the gaining of the battle was owing to an error committed by the prince of Orange, and a dexterous movement made by Luxembourg. Monsieur (as the brother of Louis XIV. was at that time called) fought with a courage and presence of mind that was never expected from so effeminate a prince. There could not be a stronger proof that valor is not incompatible with delicacy. This prince, who frequently used to go dressed like a woman, and who had the same inclinations, behaved on this occasion like a general and a soldier. It is said that the king was jealous of the reputation he acquired. He took very little notice of the victory he had gained, and did not so much as go to see the field of battle, though he was near by. Some of the staff of the duke of Orleans, who were more discerning than the rest, prophesied to him then that he would never again have the command of an army, and their predictions were verified.
The taking of so many towns, and the gaining of so many battles, were not the only successes which attended the arms of Louis XIV. during this war. The count of Schomberg and Marshal Navaille beat the Spaniards in the Lampourdan, at the foot of the Pyrenees, and attacked them even in Sicily.
This island, since the time of the tyrants of Syracuse, under whom it was of some note in the world, has always fallen a prey to foreigners: it has been successively enslaved by the Romans, the Vandals, the Arabians, the Norman princes, vassals to the popes, the French, the Germans, and the Spaniards; still hating its masters and rebelling against them, without making any noble efforts to gain their liberty, and continually engaged in fresh seditions, only to change its chains.
The magistrates of Messina had lately stirred up a civil war against their governors, and called in the French to their assistance. Their harbor was blocked up by a Spanish fleet, and they were reduced to the last extremities of famine.
The chevalier de Valbille was immediately sent with a few frigates to their assistance. He passed through the Spanish fleet, and threw a supply of provisions, arms, and men into the city. Soon after, the duke of Vivonne arrived with seven men of war of sixty guns, two of eighty, and a number of fireships; engaged the enemy’s fleet, which he defeated, and entered the harbor of Messina in triumph, February 9, 1675.
The Spaniards were obliged to have recourse to the Dutch, their ancient enemies, who were still looked upon as masters of the sea, to help them to defend Sicily. De Ruyter sailed from the Zuyder Zee, passed the mole of Messina, and reinforced the Spanish fleet of twenty ships with twenty-three large men of war.
And now the French, who, when joined with the English, had not been able to beat the Dutch fleets, gained a victory alone over the combined squadrons of Spain and Holland, on January 8, 1676. The duke of Vivonne, who was obliged to remain in Messina to restrain the populace, who already began to be displeased with their defenders, left the care of this engagement to Duquesne, his lieutenant-general, who was a man as extraordinary in his way as de Ruyter; he had, like him, risen to the command entirely by merit, but had never before had the management of a naval armament, having hitherto signalized himself rather in the character of a captain of a privateer than as the commander of a regular fleet. But whosoever possesses a genius for his art, and for carrying command, passes with great ease and quickness from the little to the great. Duquesne showed himself a very able officer in this action against de Ruyter, even though he only gained a small advantage over this experienced Hollander. He gave battle a second time to the enemy’s fleets off Aosta, March 12, 1676. In this engagement, de Ruyter received the wound which put an end to his glorious life. He was one of those men whose memories are still held in great veneration by the people of Holland. On his first entrance into sea life he was only a cabin boy, or captain’s servant, which makes him so much the more respectable. His name is equal with those of the princes of Nassau. The Spanish council gave him the title and patent of duke, an odd and ridiculous dignity to confer on a republican; the patent, however, did not arrive till after he was dead, when his children, proving themselves worthy of such a father, refused a title which is so earnestly sought after in our monarchies, but which is by no means to be preferred to the name of a good citizen.
Louis XIV. had too noble a soul not to be concerned at his death; and, when some of his courtiers represented to him that he was now rid of a troublesome and dangerous enemy, he replied: “Nevertheless, I cannot help being afflicted with the loss of a great man.”
Duquesne, the de Ruyter of the French, attacked the combined fleets a third time, immediately upon the death of the Dutch admiral, and sank, burned, and took several of their largest ships. The marshal, the duke of Vivonne, had chief command in this action; but it was nevertheless Duquesne who gained the victory. Europe stood amazed to see France, in so short a space of time, become as formidable on sea as on land. It is certain that these armaments and victories only served to spread the alarm through every state. The king of England, having entered upon the war to support the interest of France, was now desirous of joining the prince of Orange, who had lately married his niece. Besides, the great reputation gained in Sicily cost too much money, and lastly, the French evacuated Messina April 8, 1678, at the very time when they were thought to be on the point of making themselves masters of the island. Louis XIV. was greatly blamed for having, during the course of this war, undertaken many things which he could not go through with, and for quitting Messina, as he had done Holland, after a fruitless conquest.
However, it must be allowed that a prince is very formidable who is no other way unsuccessful than in not being able to keep all his conquests. He pressed his enemies in every part of Europe. The war in Sicily had not cost him nearly so much money as it did the Spaniards, who were distressed and beaten in every place. He likewise raised up new enemies against the house of Austria; he fomented the troubles in Hungary, and his ambassadors at the Ottoman Porte pressed the sultan to carry the war into Germany, though at the same time common decency would have obliged him to send aid against those very people whom his politics had called in: for, at that time, the Swedes, his old allies, were engaged in an unsuccessful war against the elector of Brandenburg. This elector, father of the first king of Prussia, had begun to exalt his country to that degree of reputation which has since received so considerable an addition. He had just then taken Pomerania from the Swedes.
It is remarkable, that during the course of this war, there were almost continual conferences held for peace; first at Cologne, upon the fruitless mediation of the Swedes, and afterward at Nimeguen, by the equally useless interposition of the English, whose mediation was almost as idle a piece of ceremony as the arbitration of the pope. At the Treaty of Nimeguen, Louis XIV. was actually the only real arbiter: he made proposals for a peace, April 9, 1678, in the midst of his victories, and gave the enemy till May 10 to accept of them. He afterward allowed the states-general six weeks longer, upon their asking it in the most submissive manner.
He now entirely laid aside all ambitious views upon Holland; that republic had been so lucky, or skilful, as to appear only as an auxiliary in a war which was begun for its destruction; while the empire and Spain, who were at first only auxiliaries, were at length the principal parties.
The king greatly favored the trade of the Dutch by the conditions which he imposed upon them; he restored to them the city of Maestricht, and gave the Spaniards some towns to serve as barriers to the United Provinces; as Charleroi, Courtrai, Oudenarde, Ath, Ghent, and Limburg: but he reserved Bouchain, Condé, Ypres, Valenciennes, Cambray, Maubeuge, Aire, Saint Omer, Cassel, Charlemont, Popering, and Bailleul, which made a great part of Flanders. To these he added Franche-Comté, which had been already twice conquered; and these two provinces were no despicable fruits of the war.
He demanded nothing more of the empire than Freiburg or Philippsburg, which he left to the emperor’s choice. He reinstated the two brothers Fürstemberg in the bishopric of Strasburg, and their family estate, of which they had been stripped by the emperor, who still detained one of them in prison.
He protected his allies, the Swedes, unhappily joined with him against the king of Denmark and the elector of Brandenburg. He insisted that Denmark should give up all it had taken from Sweden, lower the toll duties in the Baltic Sea; that the duke of Holstein should be restored to his dominions; that the elector of Brandenburg should give up Pomerania, which he had lately conquered; and that every article of the Treaty of Westphalia should be again renewed. His will was law throughout Europe; the elector of Brandenburg in vain wrote a letter to him, in the most submissive terms, in which he styles him “Lord and Master,” humbly entreating that he might be permitted to keep what he had conquered, with many assurances of his zeal and future service; but his submission proved as useless as his resistance, and the conqueror of the Swedes was obliged to restore all he had taken from them.
And now the ambassador of France insisted upon taking the upper hand of the electors. Brandenburg proposed every kind of modification, in order to settle a conference with the count, afterwards marshal, d’Estrades, who was ambassador to the states-general; but the king would never suffer a person who represented him to yield to an elector, and the count d’Estrades could not treat.
Charles V. had put the grandees of Spain in the same rank as the electors, consequently the peers of France had pretensions to the same equality. At present, we see that things are changed in every point, since in the imperial diets the ambassadors of electors are now recognized as those of crowned heads. As to Lorraine, Louis offered to restore the new duke, Charles V., but insisted upon remaining master of Nancy, and all the great roads.
These conditions were imposed with the haughtiness of a conqueror; but yet they were not so unreasonable as to drive his enemies to despair, or oblige them to join together against him, as the only thing left. He at once dictated to Europe as a master, and acted as a politician.
At the conferences at Nimeguen he found means to sow jealousy among his allies. The Dutch were in haste to sign, despite the prince of Orange, who resolved at all events to carry on war, alleging that the Spaniards were too weak to assist them, should they refuse to sign.
The Spaniards, seeing that the Dutch had accepted terms of peace, followed their example; alleging that the empire did not seem hearty in the common cause.
In the last place, the Germans, abandoned by Spain and Holland, signed after all the others, ceding Freiburg to the king, and confirming the Treaties of Westphalia.
There was no alteration made in the conditions prescribed by Louis XIV. The enemy in vain affected to make some extravagant proposals, in order to disguise their own weakness. He gave laws and peace to all Europe. The duke of Lorraine was the only one who refused to accede to a treaty which appeared to him in so oppressive a light. He chose rather to be a prince, and wander through the empire, than to be a sovereign without power or honors in his own dominions; and waited in expectation, till time and his own courage should bring about a favorable change of fortune.
During the conferences at Nimeguen, and four days after the plenipotentiaries of France and Holland had signed the treaty of peace, the prince of Orange showed how dangerous an enemy Louis XIV. had in him. Marshal Luxembourg, who was then besieging Mons, had lately received an account of the conclusion of the peace; upon which he lay lulled in full security in the village of St. Denis, and dined that day with the intendant of the army. The prince of Orange, with his whole army, attacked the marshal’s quarters, and forced them: a long and bloody engagement ensued, from which the prince had the greatest reason to expect the most signal victory; for he not only gave the attack, which is a great advantage, but he attacked an army which depended upon the faith of treaties, and grew remiss in their military rigor. Marshal Luxembourg could with great difficulty resist the fury of this attack; and if the advantage lay on any side, it was with the prince of Orange, whose foot remained master of the field of battle where they had fought.
Did ambitious men pay any regard to the lives of their fellow creatures, the prince of Orange would not have fought this battle. He certainly knew that the peace was already signed, or on the point of being so; he knew that this peace would prove advantageous to his country, and yet he hazarded his own life, and that of thousands of men besides, as the first fruits of a general peace, which was then so far advanced that, had he even beaten the French army, it would have made no alteration in the congress. This act, as inhuman as it was glorious, and which at that time was more esteemed than blamed, did not produce one single additional article in the treaty; and the lives of two thousand French, and as many of the enemy, were thrown away to no end. By this peace we may see how much projects are contradicted by events. Holland, against whom alone the war was undertaken, and whose destruction seemed inevitable, lost nothing at all; on the contrary, she gained a barrier, while every other crowned head who had preserved it from destruction, lost by it.
The king was now at the height of his greatness. He had been victorious ever since he came to the throne; never had besieged any place without taking it; was superior in all things to those in league against him; the terror of Europe for six years together; and at length the arbiter and peace-maker: he added to his estates Franche-Comté, Dunkirk, and one-half of Flanders; and, what he should have looked upon as one of the greatest blessings, he was king over a happy kingdom, now the model for all other nations.
Some time afterward—in 1680—the town-house of Paris solemnly bestowed upon him the epithet of “Great,” and ordered this title alone to be placed upon all public monuments. Several medals had been struck as early as 1673, with this surname on them; and Europe, though jealous of his glory, did not cry out against these honors. Nevertheless, the name of Louis XIV. has prevailed among the public more than that of Great. Custom governs all things. Henry, who had the surname of Great conferred on him after his death, is commonly called Henry IV., and that name alone is sufficiently expressive. The prince of Condé is always called the Great Condé, not only on account of his heroic deeds, but from a lucky facility of distinguishing him by that means from the other princes of Condé. Had he been called Condé the Great, that title would never have remained with him. We say the great Corneille, to distinguish him from his brother. We do not say the great Virgil, the great Horace, or the great Tasso. Alexander the Great is now only known by the simple name of Alexander. Charles V., whose successes were more dazzling than those of Louis XIV., had never the surname of Great. It continues to be given to Charlemagne, only as a proper name. Titles are of no use to posterity; the name of a man who has done great things commands more respect than the most sounding epithet.
THE TAKING OF STRASBURG—THE BOMBARDING OF ALGIERS—THE SUBMISSION OF THE GENOESE—THE EMBASSY FROM THE EMPEROR OF SIAM—THE POPE BRAVED IN ROME—THE SUCCESSION TO THE ELECTORATE OF COLOGNE DISPUTED.
The general peace proved no restraint upon Louis’s ambition. The empire, Spain, and Holland disbanded their extraordinary troops, but he still kept his in pay. Peace was to him a time of conquests. He was so secure in his power at that time that he established courts of jurisdiction in Mentz and Breisach for annexing to the crown all the territories which were formerly dependent upon Alsace or the three bishoprics; but which had from time immemorial been in the hands of other masters. Several sovereign princes of the empire, the elector palatine, the king of Spain himself, who had several bailiwicks in these countries, and the king of Sweden, as duke of Deux Ponts, were summoned before these courts, to do homage to the king of France, under pain of having their possessions forfeited. He was the only prince since the time of Charlemagne who had acted thus like the lord and judge of crowned heads, and conquered countries by judicial decrees.
The elector palatine, and the elector of Trier, were dispossessed of the lordships of Falkenberg, Germersheim, Velden, etc. They carried their complaints before the diet of the empire, assembled at Ratisbon, but in vain; for that assembly contented itself with entering protests against these proceedings.
The king did not think it sufficient to be thus master of ten free cities of Alsace, by the same titles which the emperors formerly had: no one dared even to mention liberty in any of those cities. Strasburg yet remained a great and opulent city, and mistress of the Rhine, by means of the bridge which it had over that river; of itself a powerful republic, and famous for its arsenal, which contained nine hundred pieces of cannon.
Louvois had for a long time cherished the design of putting this city into his master’s hands. He had already prepared the way by bribery, intrigues, and menaces. The magistrates were seduced, and the people were struck with consternation at seeing their ramparts on a sudden surrounded by twenty thousand French; their forts, by which they were guarded on the side of the Rhine, attacked and taken in an instant; Louvois at their gates, and their burgomasters talking of surrendering, which Louvois accepted, taking possession of the town on Sept. 30, 1681. Vauban has since fortified it in such a manner that it has become the strongest barrier of France.
The king kept no better measures with Spain; he claimed the town of Alost, in the Netherlands, together with its whole bailiwick, which, as was pretended, his ministers had ministers had forgotten to insert in the articles of peace; and upon the Spanish court making some hesitation in complying with his demand, he ordered the city of Luxemburg to be blockaded.
At the same time he purchased the city of Casal of the petty duke of Mantua, who would have sold all his dominions to supply his pleasures.
Europe began to be alarmed at seeing a power which thus extended itself on all sides, and had acquired in the midst of peace more than ten preceding monarchs of France had gained by all their wars. The emperor, the Dutch, and even the Swedes themselves, finding great reason to be displeased with Louis’s proceedings, entered into a treaty of association. The English threw out some threats, the Spaniards resolved on war, and the prince of Orange left no stone unturned to fan the flame; but no power as yet dared to strike the first blow.
The king, who was feared everywhere, sought only how to make himself more formidable. He increased the power of his marine beyond the most sanguine hopes of his subjects, or the liveliest apprehensions of his enemies. He had sixty thousand sailors in pay; and this rude body of men were kept to their duty by laws as severe as those observed with respect to the military forces. The English and Dutch, on the contrary, though such powerful maritime nations, had neither so many seamen, nor such good regulations. Several companies of cadets and marine guards were formed and stationed in the frontier towns and the seaports, who were trained in all the arts requisite to their profession, under the care of masters paid out of the public treasury.
The harbor of Toulon, in the Mediterranean, was formed at immense expense, capable of containing a hundred ships of war, with an arsenal and magnificent storehouses. The port of Brest was formed in the western ocean at an equal expense. Dunkirk and Havre-de-Grâce were filled with shipping, and nature herself was forced at Rochefort.
At length Louis had above a hundred ships of the line, of which several mounted a hundred guns, and others more. These were not suffered to lie idle in port. His squadrons under the command of Duquesne cleared the seas of the Algerine and Tripoline pirates which infested them, and punished Algiers by the help of a new art, the discovery of which was owing to the care he took to encourage all kinds of genius in his reign. This fatal but admirable art is that of bomb-vessels, with which seaport towns may be reduced to ashes. There was a young man named Bernard Renaud, better known by the name of Little Renaud, who, by mere strength of genius, became an excellent mariner, without ever having served on board a ship. Colbert, who found out merit wherever it was hidden, had frequently sent for this man to the council of marine, even when the king was present: it was in pursuance of his diligent observations and instructions that they afterward devised a more uniform and easy method of building ships. Renaud had the boldness to propose in council to bombard Algiers with a fleet of ships. Everyone present started at the proposal, not having the least conception that a mortar could be fired anywhere but on solid ground: in short, he underwent all the raillery and contradiction which one must expect who offers a new invention; but his firmness, and that eloquence which naturally accompanies those who are forcibly struck with their own invention, prevailed upon the king to permit a trial of this new project.
Renaud then caused five vessels to be built of a lesser size than common, but much stronger, without any upper decks, and only a platform or false deck on the keel, in which hollow spaces were formed for receiving the mortars as in beds. Thus equipped he set sail under the command of old Duquesne, who had charge of this expedition, from which he expected little success: but the effect of the bombs filled both the admiral and the Algerines with surprise, half of the town being beaten down and laid in ashes, on Oct. 28, 1681. However, this art being soon communicated to other nations, served only to multiply the calamities of humankind, and proved more than once fatal to France, where it was invented.
This improvement in the marine within a few years was wholly owing to the care and vigilance of Colbert. Louvois was continually employed in fortifying upward of one hundred citadels; besides building the new ones of Hüningen, Saarlouis, the fortresses of Saarburg, Mont-Royal, and others, and while the kingdom was acquiring this exterior strength, the arts flourished within, and pleasure and abundance reigned everywhere. Strangers came in crowds to admire the court of Louis XIV. whose name was carried to the most distant nations of the earth.
His glory and success received a further addition from the weakness of most of the other crowned heads in Europe, and the miserable state of their people. The emperor Leopold was at that time in fear of the rebellious Hungarians, and especially of the Turks, whom they had called in to their assistance, and were preparing to invade Germany. Louis thought it politic to persecute the Protestants of his own kingdom, in order to prevent them from being able to create any disturbance; but he underhandedly protected the Protestants and rebels in Hungary, because they might be of service to him. His ambassadors at the Turkish court had importuned the sultan to fit out an armament before the Peace of Nimeguen. The divan by an unaccountable singularity has almost always waited till the emperor was at peace to break with him. The war in Hungary was not begun until 1682, and the ensuing year the Turkish army of two hundred thousand men, reinforced by several bodies of Hungarian troops, meeting with no fortified towns, such as there are in France, nor any regular army to oppose its progress, advanced to the very gates of Vienna, after laying all waste in its march.
The emperor Leopold, at the approach of the Turks, quitted Vienna with the utmost precipitation, and retired to Linz; and when he heard that they had invested his capital, he only retired to a still greater distance, to Passau, leaving the duke of Lorraine at the head of a small army, which had already been attacked by the Turks in their march, to defend the empire as well as he could.
No one had the least doubt that the grand vizier, Cara-Mustapha, who commanded the Ottoman army, would soon be master of Vienna, a badly fortified city, abandoned by its sovereign, and defended only by a garrison of ten thousand effective men, though called sixteen thousand. In short, a dreadful revolution was momentarily expected.
Louis XIV. had the greatest reason to expect that Germany, thus distressed by the Turks, and having no resource but in a chief whose flight had increased the general terror, would soon be forced to fly to the protection of France. He had an army on the borders of the empire ready to defend it against those very Turks whom he had brought thither by his former negotiations. By this means he hoped to become protector of the empire, and to make his son king of the Romans.
At first, when the Turks threatened Austria with an invasion, he added generosity to his political views; not that he sent help a second time to the emperor, but he declared that he would not attack the Low Countries; but would leave the Austrian-Spanish branch at liberty to assist that of Germany, which was on the point of being overwhelmed. All that he asked in return for lying quiet was to be satisfied with respect to some disputable points in the Treaty of Nimeguen, and chiefly relating to the bailiwick of Alost, which had by mistake been omitted in the treaty. He actually ordered the blockade of Luxemburg to be raised in 1682, without waiting to be satisfied, and abstained from all hostilities for one whole year. But he did not observe the same generosity afterward, during the siege of Vienna. The Spanish council, instead of soothing, incensed him; and he renewed hostilities in the Netherlands, at the very time that Vienna was on the point of falling into the hands of the Turks: this was in the beginning of September; but, contrary to all expectation, Vienna was relieved. The presumption, effeminacy, ignorance, and slothfulness of the grand vizier, together with his brutal contempt for the Christians, proved his ruin. Nothing less than such a combination of faults could have preserved the capital of the empire. John Sobieski, king of Poland, had time to march to its relief; and having joined the duke of Lorraine, he presented himself before the Ottoman army on Sept. 12, 1683, who fled at his first appearance. The emperor returned to his capital, grieved and astonished at having quitted it. He entered just as his deliverer was coming out of the high church, where they had been singing Te Deum, and the preacher had taken these words for his text: “There was a man sent from God, and his name was John.” You may have already observed that the same words were applied by Pope Pius V. to Don John of Austria after the victory of Lepanto. You know that what at first appears new is frequently no other than a repetition. The emperor Leopold was at once triumphant and humbled. The French king, having no longer any measures to keep, bombarded Luxemburg, and seized upon Courtrai and Dixmude, in Flanders: he then made himself master of Trier, and demolished its fortifications; and all this, as he said, to fulfil the spirit of the Treaty of Nimeguen. The Imperialists and Spaniards entered into a negotiation with him at Ratisbon, while he was taking their towns; and the Treaty of Nimeguen, which had been infringed, was changed into a truce for twenty years, by which the king was left in possession of the city of Luxemburg, and its principality, which he had lately conquered.
Louis was still more formidable on the coast of Barbary, where, till his time, the French had been known only by some of their nation, which fell into the hands of the barbarians, and were made slaves.
The inhabitants of Algiers, after their city had been twice bombarded, sent deputies to make their submission, and demand peace. They delivered up all the Christian captives in their possession, besides paying a considerable sum of money, which is the greatest punishment that can be inflicted on a corsair.
Tunis and Tripoli made like submission; and here it may not be impertinent to relate the following anecdote. One d’Amfreville, captain of a French ship of war, having come to Algiers to release all the Christian captives there, in the French king’s name, found several Englishmen among them, who, after they were on board, insisted to d’Amfreville that it was on the king of England’s account that they had been set at liberty; upon which the French captain sent for the Algerine officers, and putting the English into their hands again, said: “These people pretend that they are released wholly in their own king’s name; mine, therefore, will not take the liberty of offering them his protection; I therefore deliver them up to you again. It now remains with you to show what you owe the king of England.” The English were carried back to their former slavery. This anecdote may serve to show the pride of the English, the weakness of Charles II., and the respect which all nations had for Louis XIV.
This respect was so general that new honors were granted to his ambassador at the Ottoman Porte, the same as to the sufis, at the very time that he was humbling the people of Barbary, who are immediately under the protection of the Grand Seignior.
The republic of Genoa humbled itself before him still more than that of Algiers. The Genoese had sold powder and bombs to the Algerines; they were also building four galleys for the service of the king of Spain. The king sent St. Olon, one of his gentlemen in ordinary, in character of an envoy, to forbid their launching those galleys, threatening them with instant punishment if they did not comply with his will. The Genoese, incensed at this attempt on their liberties, and reckoning too much upon the assistance of Spain, refused to give the king any satisfaction. Immediately fourteen large ships, twelve galleys, six bomb-vessels, and several frigates set sail from the port of Toulon, having on board the new secretary of the marine, Seignelay, son of the famous Colbert, who had procured him this post before his death. This young man was full of ambition, courage, wit, and vivacity, and wanted to be at once the soldier and the minister; he was greedy for honor, ardent in all his undertakings, and knew how to blend pleasures with business, without impeding either. Old Duquesne had the command of the large ships, and the duke of Mortemart of the galleys; but they were both dependents on the secretary of state. The fleet arrived before Genoa on March 17, 1684, and the ten bomb-vessels threw fourteen thousand shells into the town, by which a part of those noble marble buildings, whence Genoa had its name of superb, were reduced to ashes. Four thousand men were then landed from the fleet, who advanced to the gates of the city and burned the suburb of St. Pietro d’Arena. The inhabitants now found it necessary to submit, in order to avoid total ruin. The king insisted that the doge and four of the principal senators of Genoa should repair to his palace at Versailles, there to implore his clemency; and lest the Genoese should elude the required satisfaction, and diminish his glory on this occasion, he further insisted that the doge should be continued in his office, notwithstanding a perpetual law in Genoa, by which any doge who is absent but a moment from the city is deprived of his dignity.
Imperialo Lescaro, doge of Genoa, accompanied by senators Lomelino, Garebardi, Durazzo, and Salvago, arrived in Versailles Feb. 22, 1685, to perform all that the king demanded of them. The doge, dressed in his robes of state, with a red velvet cap on his head, which he frequently took off while he spoke, made his submission; the words and gestures he used on this occasion were all dictated by Seignelay. The king gave him audience sitting, and covered; but, as in every action of his life he always joined politeness with dignity, he behaved toward Lescaro and the senators with as much goodness as pomp. His ministers, Louvois, Croissi, and Seignelay, treated them more haughtily, which made the doge say: “The king deprives our hearts of liberty, by the manner in which he receives us; but his ministers restore it to us again.” This doge was a man of great wit and understanding. Everyone knows the answer he made to the marquis of Seignelay, when he asked him what he thought most remarkable at Versailles: “To see myself there,” replied he.
The great fondness which Louis XIV. had for pomp and show was still more gratified by an embassy which he received from Siam, a country which, till that time, had never heard of such a kingdom as France. It happened by one of those extraordinary events which prove the superiority of the Europeans over all other nations, that a Greek, named Faulcon Constance, the son of a tavern-keeper at Cephalonia, was made barcalon, that is prime minister, or grand vizier, of the kingdom of Siam. This man, desirous of strengthening and increasing his authority, wanted for that purpose to call in some foreign assistance, but did not dare to trust either the Dutch or the English, who are dangerous neighbors in the Indies. The French had lately settled some factories on the coast of Coromandel, and had brought the fame of their monarch with them into that extreme part of Asia. Constance thought Louis XIV. a proper person to be flattered by homage coming from so distant a place, and so little expected. Religion, which is the master-spring of worldly politics from Siam to Paris, proved subservient to his design; accordingly in 1684 he sent a solemn embassy and magnificent presents, in the name of the king of Siam, his master, to Louis XIV., to acquaint him that the Indian monarch, charmed with his fame, was resolved to enter into a treaty of commerce with no other nation than the French, and that he even had some thoughts of becoming a Christian. The king thus flattered in his greatness, and deceived on the side of religion, engaged to send the king of Siam two ambassadors and six Jesuits, to whom he afterward added some officers and eight hundred soldiers. But the pomp of this embassy was all the fruit it produced. Constance, four years afterward, fell a victim to his own ambition. Part of the French who remained with him were massacred, and the rest were obliged to fly; while his widow, after having been on the point of becoming queen, was, by the king of Siam’s successor, condemned to serve in his kitchen as a cook, an employment which suited her birth.
That thirst for glory which led Louis XIV. to distinguish himself in everything from other kings, showed itself again in the haughty manner with which he affected to treat the court of Rome. Odescalchi, the son of a banker of Milan, was at that time in the papal chair, with the name of Innocent XI. He was a virtuous man, a prudent pontiff, a middling divine, and a courageous, resolute, and magnificent prince. He assisted the empire and the Poles against the Turks with his money, and the Venetians with his galleys. He blamed Louis XIV., in the severest terms, for joining with the Turks against the Christians. It was surprising to see a pope thus warmly espousing the cause of the emperors, who style themselves kings of the Romans, and would, if they could, establish the seat of their empire in Rome; but Odescalchi was born under the Austrian dominion, and had even made two campaigns in the army of Milan. All men are governed by habit and humor: his pride was hurt by the haughtiness of Louis XIV., who on his side did everything to mortify him that a king of France can do to a pope, without absolutely separating from his communion. An abuse had prevailed for a long time in Rome, which was the more difficult to be eradicated as it was founded on a point of honor upon which the Catholics piqued themselves. Their ambassadors at Rome extended the right of franchise and asylum belonging to their palaces to a great distance, under the general name of quarters. These privileges, which were strictly maintained, made one-half of Rome an asylum for all kinds of villainy. By another abuse, whatever was brought into Rome under the ambassador’s name was free from all duty. By this means trade suffered, and the state was impoverished.
At length Pope Innocent XI. prevailed on the emperor, the kings of Spain and Poland, and on the new king of England, James II., who was a Catholic, to give up these odious privileges. The nuncio Ranucci proposed to Louis to concur with these princes in restoring the peace and good order of Rome; but Louis, who in his heart hated the pope, returned for answer that he never regulated his conduct by the example of others, who rather ought himself to serve as an example for them. He then sent the marquis de Lavardin on an embassy to Rome, purposely to insult the pope. Lavardin accordingly made his entrance into that city in November, 1687, in spite of the pope’s prohibition, and escorted by four hundred of the marine guards, the same number of volunteer officers, and two hundred men in livery, all armed. He immediately went and took possession of his palace, the quarters thereunto belonging, and the church of St. Louis, round which he ordered sentinels to be placed, and to go the rounds as in a garrison. The pope is the only sovereign to whom such an embassy can be sent; for the superiority which he always affects over crowned heads makes them always desirous of humbling him, and the weakness of his dominions permits them to insult him with impunity. All that Innocent XI. could do was to attack the marquis de Lavardin with the worn-out weapon of excommunication, a weapon which is now as little regarded in Rome as elsewhere, but which nevertheless was employed by an ancient ceremonial, in the same manner as the pope’s soldiers carry arms, merely for form’s sake.
Cardinal d’Estrées, a man of sense, but generally unfortunate in his negotiations, was at that time resident from the court of France at Rome. D’Estrées, being obliged to make frequent visits to the marquis de Lavardin, could not afterward be admitted to an audience of the pope without receiving absolution; he in vain endeavored to evade this ceremony; Innocent persisted in giving it to him, in order to keep up an imaginary power, by the customs on which it was founded.
Louis, through the same motives of pride, though secretly supported by politics, endeavored to make an elector of Cologne. Full of the scheme of dividing or making war with the empire, he thought to confer this electorate on Cardinal Fürstemberg, bishop of Strasburg, his creature and the victim of his interests, and an irreconcilable enemy to the emperor, who had ordered him to be imprisoned in the preceding war as a German who had sold himself to France.
The chapter of Cologne, like all the other chapters of Germany, has a right to nominate its bishop who by that becomes elector. The person who then filled this see was Ferdinand of Bavaria, formerly the ally, and afterward the enemy, of Louis, as many other princes had been. He now lay at the point of death. The king, by money, intrigues, and promises, prevailed on the canons to choose Fürstemberg coadjutor; and after the death of Ferdinand he was chosen a second time by a majority of votes. By the Germanic concordat the pope has the right of conferring the bishopric on the bishop-elect, and the emperor that of confirming him in the electorate. The emperor and Pope Innocent, persuaded that to leave Fürstemberg in possession of the electoral dignity was the same as if they had given it to Louis XIV., joined together to bestow this principality upon young Bavaria, brother to the deceased prince. The king avenged himself on the pope by taking Avignon from him in October, 1688, and made preparations for a war against the emperor. At the same time he disturbed the elector palatine, on account of the rights of the princess palatine, second wife of the duke of Orleans, rights which she had renounced by her marriage articles. The war began in Spain, in the year 1667, on account of the claims of Maria Theresa, notwithstanding that a like renunciation made, which plainly proves that contracts can only bind private persons.
In this manner did the king, in the height of his greatness, perplex, strip, or humble almost all the princes of Europe, but they in return almost all joined in league against him.
JAMES II. OF ENGLAND DETHRONED BY HIS SON-IN-LAW, WILLIAM III., AND PROTECTED BY LOUIS XIV.
The prince of Orange, still more ambitious than even Louis XIV., had conceived vast designs, which might appear chimerical in a stadtholder of Holland, but which he justified by his great abilities and courage. He wanted to humble the king of France and dethrone the king of England. He found no great difficulty in getting the powers of Europe to join with him against France; the emperor, some princes of the empire, the Dutch, and the duke of Lorraine had at first entered into a private league at Augsburg, in 1681, and were soon after joined by Spain and the duke of Savoy. The pope, without being actually one of the confederates, set them all to work by his intrigues. The Venetians, without openly declaring themselves, favored their designs in secret, and all the princes of Italy were sympathetic. In the North, Sweden at that time sided with the imperialists, and Denmark was a useless ally to France. Upward of five hundred thousand Protestants, who had been driven out of France by the persecution of Louis, and had carried with them their industry and an irreconcilable hatred to the French king, were as a new body of enemies, who dispersed themselves through all the courts of Europe, and animated the confederate powers, already inclined to war. We shall speak of the flight of these people in the chapter on religion. The king was surrounded by enemies on all sides, and had no friend but King James of England.
James II., who succeeded his brother, Charles II., was a Catholic; but Charles did not consent to become a Catholic till toward the latter part of his life, and then only out of compliance with his mistresses and his brother. In fact, he acknowledged no other religion but that of pure deism. His perfect indifference in those points which divide mankind in their disputations had contributed not a little to render his reign peaceable among the English. James, on the contrary, attached by strong persuasion to the Roman Catholic religion from his youth, joined to his belief the spirit of party and zeal. Had he been a Mahometan, or of the religion of Confucius, the English would never have disturbed his reign; but he formed a design to establish the Roman Catholic religion in his kingdom, which was looked upon with the utmost horror by these republican royalists, as a religion of slavery. It is sometimes a very easy matter to establish a religion in a country; Constantine, Clovis, Gustavus Vasa, and Queen Elizabeth did, without any danger, introduce a new religion into their kingdoms by different methods, and had it received by the people; but to bring about changes of this kind there are two things absolutely necessary—a depth of politics, and a lucky concurrence of circumstances, both of which were wanting here.
He could not without indignation reflect that so many kings of Europe were despotic; that those of Sweden and Denmark had lately become so; and, in a word, that Poland and England were the only kingdoms in the world where the liberty of the people subsisted at the same time with royalty. He was encouraged by Louis XIV. to render himself absolute at home, and the Jesuits persuaded him to restore their religion, and with it their credit; but he took such unfortunate measures to compass this that at his first setting out he turned all hearts against him. He began as if he had already obtained the end he aimed at: he entertained a nuncio from the pope publicly at his court, with a train of Jesuits and Capuchin friars; he threw seven English bishops into prison, whom he should have won over by gentle means; deprived the city of London of its privileges, instead of indulging it with new ones; and overturned the laws with a high hand, which he should have secretly undermined; in a word, he acted with so little discretion that the cardinals at Rome used to say of him by way of jest that he ought to be excommunicated, as a person who was going about to destroy the little Catholic religion that remained in England.
Pope Innocent XI. conceived such indifferent hopes of James’s projects that he never would grant a cardinal’s hat, which that prince solicited for his confessor, Father Peters. This Jesuit was a hot-headed, intriguing man who, mad with the ambition of becoming a cardinal and primate of England, pushed his master to the brink of the precipice. The principal persons of the kingdom combined in secret to prevent the king’s designs, and sent a deputation to the prince of Orange. They conducted their plot with such prudence and secrecy that the court was lulled into full security.
The prince of Orange fitted out a fleet, on board of which were to be embarked between fourteen and fifteen thousand men. This prince, who was only an illustrious private person, and had hardly five hundred thousand livres a year of his own estate, was nevertheless so happy in his politics that he saw himself master of money, a fleet, and the hearts of the states-general. He was truly a king in Holland by his skilful conduct, while James lost all regal power in England by his precipitate rashness.
It was at first stated that this armament was designed against France. The true destination was kept a profound secret, though intrusted to more than two hundred persons. Barillon, the French ambassador at London, a man of pleasure, and more conversant in the intrigues of James’s mistresses than those of Europe, was the first imposed upon. Louis XIV., however, was not to be thus deceived; he saw what was going forward, and offered his assistance to his friend and ally, who, thinking himself secure, rejected that aid which he afterward solicited when it was too late, and the prince of Orange’s fleet was under sail. He had been wanting to himself, and he now found everything fail him at once. He in vain wrote to the emperor Leopold; that prince returned for answer, “Nothing has befallen you but what we had foretold.” He depended on his fleet, but his ships suffered those of the enemy to pass them. He might, however, have defended himself by land; he had an army of twenty thousand men, and if he had led them on without giving them time for reflection, it is probable they would have done their duty; but instead of that, he gave them leisure to fix their determination. Several of his general officers abandoned him, and among the rest the famous Churchill, who afterward proved as fatal to Louis as he had done to James, and became so illustrious under the name of the duke of Marlborough. He was the favorite of James, his creature, brother of his mistress, and a lieutenant-general in his army; notwithstanding which he left him, and went over to the prince of Orange at his camp. James saw himself abandoned by his son-in-law, the prince of Denmark, and even by his own daughter, the princess Anne.
And now finding himself attacked and pursued by one of his sons-in-law, abandoned by the other, deserted by his own daughters and bosom friends, and hated even by those of his subjects who were of his own party, he looked upon his fortune as desperate; and, without waiting for the issue of a battle, resolved upon flight, the last resource of a vanquished prince. At length, after being stopped in his flight by the populace, ill-treated by them, and carried back to London, receiving submissively the orders of the prince of Orange in his own palace, seeing his guard relieved by that prince’s, without the least resistance, driven from his house, and made a prisoner at Rochester, he took advantage of the liberty purposely given him to quit his kingdom, and sought an asylum in France.
This was the epoch of the true English liberty. The nation, represented by its parliament, fixed the long-contested limits of the royal prerogative, and the privileges of the people; and having prescribed to the prince of Orange the conditions on which he was to reign, chose him for their king jointly with his wife, Mary, the daughter of King James. From that time this prince was acknowledged by the greater part of Europe as the lawful king of England, by the name of William III., and the deliverer of that nation; but in France they considered him only as the prince of Orange, the usurper of the dominions of his father-in-law.
In January, 1689, the fugitive king came with his wife, the daughter of the duke of Modena, and their son, the prince of Wales, as yet an infant, to implore the protection of Louis XIV. The queen of England, who arrived a little before her husband, was astonished at the splendor with which the French monarch was surrounded, and that profusion of magnificence which she beheld at Versailles; and still more so at the reception she met with from the king, who went as far as Chatou to meet her. “I now do you a melancholy service, madam,” said he, “I hope, before very long, to render you one more considerable and fortunate.” He then conducted her to the palace of St. Germain, where she met with the same attendance as the queen of France herself would have had, and was furnished with everything that ministers to convenience or luxury; presents of all kinds, in gold, silver, plate, jewels, and rich stuffs.
Among other presents she found a purse of ten thousand louis d’or laid on her toilet. The same attention was paid to her husband, who arrived just one day after her; he had six hundred thousand francs a year settled on him for the expenses of his household, besides an infinite number of presents which were made him. He had the king’s own officers and guards. But this noble reception was little, in comparison with the preparations which were made for restoring him to his throne. Never did monarch appear so grand as Louis on this occasion, and James seemed as mean. Those of the court and city, by whose opinions the reputations of men are decided, conceived very little esteem for him. He saw nobody but Jesuits. He alighted at their college in the Rue St. Antoine in Paris; he told them that he was a Jesuit as well as themselves; and, what is still more extraordinary, he said the truth. He had got himself admitted into this order with certain ceremonies, by four English Jesuits, when he was only duke of York. This weakness of mind in a prince, joined to the manner in which he had lost his crown, rendered him so despicable that the courtiers diverted themselves every day with making songs about him. He was driven from England and ridiculed in France, where no one gave him any credit for being a Catholic. The archbishop of Rheims, brother of Louvois, the minister, said openly in his antechamber at St. Germain: “There’s a good man, who has given up three kingdoms for a mass.” From Rome he received only indulgences and pasquinades. In a word, throughout the whole of this revolution, his religion was of so little service to him that when the prince of Orange, who was the head of the Calvinists, set sail to go and dethrone his father-in-law, the Catholic king’s minister at The Hague ordered masses to be said for the success of his expedition.
In the midst of the humiliations which befell this fugitive prince, and the liberality of Louis XIV. toward him, it was a spectacle worthy of attention to see James touching for the king’s evil in the little convent of the English nuns—whether the kings of England have arrogated this singular privilege to themselves, as pretenders to the crown of France, or that this ceremony has been established among them since the time of the first Edward.
The king soon sent him over to Ireland, where the Roman Catholics still formed a strong party; a squadron of thirteen ships of the first rate lay in Brest road, ready to carry him over. All the officers, courtiers, and even the priests who had repaired to James at St. Germain, had their passage to Brest defrayed at the French king’s expense. An ambassador—M. d’Avaux—was nominated to attend the dethroned king, and followed him in great state. Arms and ammunition of all kinds were put on board the fleet, and every sort of utensil, from the meanest to the most valuable. The king went to St. Germain to take his leave of him; where, for the last present, he gave him his own suit of armor, and embracing him affectionately, said: “The best thing I can wish you is never to see you here again.” James had scarcely landed in Ireland with this great preparation, when he was followed by twenty-three more large ships, and a prodigious number of transports, under the command of Château-Renaud. This fleet having, on May 12, 1689, engaged and dispersed the English squadron, which attempted to oppose its passage, and landed the troops in safety, on its return fell in with and took seven Dutch merchantmen, and came back to Brest victorious over the English, and laden with the spoils of the Dutch.
Shortly after, in March, 1690, a third supply set sail from the harbors of Brest, Toulon, and Rochefort. The ports of Ireland and the English Channel were covered with French ships. At length Tourville, vice-admiral of France, with seventy-two sail of large ships, fell in with the English and Dutch fleet of sixty sail, and a fight ensued which lasted ten hours; on this occasion Tourville, Château-Renaud, d’Estrées, and Nemond signalized themselves by their courage and skill, and reflected honor on the French navy, to which it had till then been a stranger. The English and Dutch, who till then had been masters of the ocean, and from whom the French had but a little time before learned the art of fighting their ships in line of battle, were totally defeated. Seventeen of their ships dismasted, or rendered useless, were run ashore and burned by themselves; the rest took refuge in the Thames, or on the banks of Holland. In this whole engagement the French lost but one small vessel. And now, what Louis had been wishing for upward of twenty years, and which seemed so little probable, came to pass; he had the empire of the sea, an empire which indeed was but of short duration. The enemy’s ships of war fled before his fleets; Seignelay, who dared to attempt the greatest things, brought the galleys of Marseilles upon the main ocean; and the seacoast of England beheld this kind of vessel for the first time; by the help of these galleys a descent was made at Tynemouth, and upward of thirty merchant-ships burned in that bay. The privateers of St. Malo and the new harbor of Dunkirk enriched themselves and the state by continual prizes. In a word, for the space of two years there was not a ship to be seen on the sea but those of France.
King James did not second in Ireland these great efforts made by Louis in his favor. He had with him nearly six thousand French, and fifteen thousand Irish soldiers. The river Boyne ran between his army and King William’s: this river was fordable, the water not being higher than the men’s shoulders; but after it was passed there was a deep marsh to cross before they could attack the Irish army, after which a steep ground presented itself, which formed a kind of natural intrenchment. William made his army pass the river in three places, and began the battle in July, 1690. The Irish, who are known to be such good soldiers in France and Spain, have always behaved ill in their own country. There are certain nations which seem made to be subject to another; the English have always been superior to the Irish in genius, riches, and arms. Ireland has never been able to throw off the English yoke since first subdued by an English nobleman. The French stood their ground at the battle of the Boyne; the Irish gave way and fled. King James, who had not once made his appearance during the engagement, either at the head of the French or Irish, was the first to retreat, and yet he had given proofs of great courage on other occasions; but there are times when valor is lost in dispiritedness. King William having had his shoulder grazed by a cannon-ball before the battle, it was reported and believed in France that he was killed. This false report was received in Paris with a scandalous and indecent joy. The citizens and populace, encouraged by some of the under magistrates, made illuminations, rang the bells, and, in several quarters of the town, they burned figures made of osier, to represent the prince of Orange, in the same manner as they burn the pope in London. The cannon of the Bastille were fired, not by the king’s order, but through the indiscreet zeal of the commandant. It might be supposed, from these great marks of satisfaction, and from what is said by a number of writers, that this mad joy at the supposed death of an enemy was the effect of the great dread they had of him. Almost every writer, French and English, has observed that these rejoicings were the greatest panegyric that could be made on William III. Nevertheless, if we only consider the circumstances of the times, and the spirit which then reigned, we shall presently discover that these transports of joy were not produced by fear. The lower class of citizens and the populace know not what it is to fear an enemy, unless when he threatens their city. Far from dreading the name of William III., the common people in France were so unjust as to despise him. He had almost always been beaten by French generals. The vulgar were ignorant how much real glory that prince had acquired even in his defeats. William, the victor of James in Ireland, did not yet appear, in the eyes of the French, an enemy worthy of Louis XIV. The people of Paris, who idolized their monarch, thought him absolutely invincible. The rejoicings then were not the effect of fear, but hatred; most of the Parisians, who were born under the reign of Louis, and moulded to despotic sway, looked upon a king at that time as a demigod, and a usurper as a sacrilegious monster. The common people, who had seen James going every day to mass, detested William as a heretic. The idea of a son-in-law and a daughter, Protestants, driving their father, a Catholic, from his throne, and reigning in his stead, together with that of an enemy to their king, transported the Parisians to a degree of fury; but prudent people were of a more moderate way of thinking.
James returned to France, leaving his rival to gain new battles in Ireland, and settle himself on the throne. The French fleets were then employed in bringing back their countrymen, who had fought to no purpose, and the Irish Roman Catholics, who, being extremely poor in their own country, chose to go over to France and subsist upon the king’s liberality.
Fortune had apparently very little share in any part of this revolution, from the beginning to the end. The characters of William and James did everything. Those who delight to trace the causes of events in the conduct of men will remark that King William, after his victory, caused a general amnesty to be published; and that King James, on the contrary, on his way through a little town called Galway, hanged some of the inhabitants, who had advised shutting the gates against him. Of two men behaving in this manner, we may easily perceive who would be more likely to prevail.
There were still some towns in Ireland that remained in James’s interest, and among the rest Limerick, in which there were above twelve thousand soldiers. The French king, who still persevered in supporting James’s desperate fortunes, ordered three thousand regular troops to be transported to Limerick; and by an additional generosity he sent all provisions necessary for the maintenance of a numerous garrison. Forty transport vessels, under the convoy of twelve ships of war, carried over every needful supply of workmen’s tools, carriages, engineers, gunners, bombardiers, with two hundred masons, a number of saddles, bridles, and harnesses for upward of twenty thousand horse; cannon with their carriages; muskets, pistols, and swords for twenty-six thousand men; besides provisions and clothing, even to shoes. Limerick, though besieged, being thus abundantly furnished with supplies of every kind, hoped to see its king fight in its defence; but James not appearing, Limerick surrendered, and the French ships returned once more to the coast of Ireland, and brought back to France about twenty thousand soldiers and inhabitants.
What is perhaps more extraordinary than all the rest is, that Louis was not discouraged by these continued disappointments; and though he had a difficult war to support against the greatest part of Europe, he nevertheless endeavored once more to change the fortune of the unhappy king of England, by the decisive stroke of making a descent in England with twenty thousand men which were assembled between Cherbourg and La Hogue. More than three hundred transport vessels lay ready to receive them at Brest. Tourville, with forty-four capital ships, cruised off the coast of Normandy to wait for them. D’Estrées arrived in the port of Toulon with thirty ships more, on July 29, 1692. As there are some misfortunes which arise from bad conduct, so there are others that can only be imputed to fortune. The wind, which was at first favorable to d’Estrées’ squadron, changed, and made it impossible for him to join Tourville, who with his forty-four ships was attacked by the combined fleets of England and Holland, consisting of nearly a hundred sail: the French were obliged to yield to superior numbers, but not till after an obstinate fight of ten hours. Russell, the English admiral, pursued him for two days. Fourteen large ships, of which there were two that carried one hundred and four guns, ran ashore, and the captains set fire to them, to prevent their being burned by the enemy. King James, who was a spectator of this disaster, from the neighboring shore, saw all his hopes at once swallowed up.
This was the first check which had been given to the power of Louis XIV. at sea. Seignelay, who after the death of Colbert, his father, had continued to improve the French navy, died in 1690. Pontchartrain, who had been raised from the place of first president of Brittany to that of secretary for the marine department, did not suffer it to decay under his jurisdiction. The same spirit still continued in the administration. France had as many ships at sea after the fatal blow at La Hogue as she had before; for Tourville commanded a fleet of sixty ships of the line, and d’Estrées one of thirty, exclusive of those which were in harbor; and not more than four years afterward—in 1696—the king fitted out another armament, still more formidable than any of the former ones, to transport James over to England, at the head of twenty thousand French. But this fleet only made its appearance on the coast, for the measures of James’s party in London were as ill concerted as those of his protector were well laid in France.
The dethroned king’s party had now no hope left but in hatching plots against the life of his rival; and almost all those who were concerned in these attempts suffered by the hands of the executioner: besides, it is more than probable that, had they succeeded, he would never have recovered his kingdom. He passed the remainder of his days at St. Germain, where he lived on Louis’s bounty, and a pension of seventy thousand francs, which he was mean-spirited enough to receive privately from his daughter Mary, who had been accessory in dethroning him. He died at St. Germain in the year 1700. Some Irish Jesuits pretended to assert that miracles were performed at his tomb. They even talked at Rome of canonizing after his death a prince whom they had abandoned when living.
Few princes were more unhappy than James; nor have we an example in history of a family for so long a time unfortunate. The first of the kings of Scotland, his ancestors, who bore the name of James, after having been detained for eighteen years a prisoner in England, was murdered, together with his queen, by his own subjects. James II., the son of this prince, was killed in battle against the English, at nineteen years of age. James III., after being imprisoned by his subjects, was slain by the rebels in fight. James IV. fell in a battle which he lost. Mary Stuart, his granddaughter, after being driven from her throne, and forced to take refuge in England, where she languished eighteen years in prison, was at length condemned to die by English judges, and lost her head on a scaffold; Charles I., grandson of this Mary, and king of England and Scotland, was sold by the Scots, sentenced to death by the English, and executed publicly as a traitor. His son, James, the subject of this chapter, was driven from three kingdoms, and, to crown the misfortunes of the family, even the birth of his son was disputed. This son, by the efforts he made to recover the throne of his fathers, brought many of his friends to an untimely end; and of late days we have seen Prince Charles Edward, in whom the virtues of his ancestors and the valor of King John Sobieski, his grandfather by the mother’s side, were in vain united, performing exploits, and suffering calamities almost beyond the reach of credit. If anything can justify those who believe in an unavoidable fatality, it must be the continued series of misfortunes which have befallen the family of the Stuarts for over three hundred years.
THE CONTINENT WHILE WILLIAM III. WAS INVADING ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, AND IRELAND, TILL THE YEAR 1697—BURNING OF THE PALATINATE—VICTORIES OF MARSHALS CATINAT AND LUXEMBOURG.
Not having been willing to break in upon the chain of affairs in England in the preceding chapter, I now return to what passed on the continent.
While Louis was thus forming a maritime force that had never been exceeded by any state, he had to make head against the emperor and princes of the empire, Spain, the two maritime powers of England and Holland become both more formidable under one chief, Savoy, and almost all Italy. One such enemy as England and Spain would have been quite sufficient in former times to ruin France; and yet all of them united would not now make any impression upon her. The king had almost constantly five different armies on foot during the course of this war; sometimes six, but never less than four. The armies in Germany and Flanders frequently amounted to one hundred thousand effective men. The frontier places were at the same time provided with garrisons. Louis had four hundred and fifty thousand men in arms, including the marine troops. The Turkish Empire, so powerful in Europe, never had so great a number; and even the Roman Empire had not more; nor were there ever so many wars carried on at a time. Those who blame Louis XIV. for having made himself so many enemies cannot but admire the measures which he took to defend himself, and even to be beforehand with his enemies.
These had not as yet entirely declared themselves, nor were they all united. The prince of Orange had not yet sailed from Texel on his expedition against his father-in-law, when France had armies upon the frontiers of Holland, and on the borders of the Rhine. The king had sent his son, the dauphin, who was called Monseigneur, into Germany, with an army of twenty thousand men. This prince was gentle in his manners, modest in his deportment, and seemed greatly to resemble his mother. He was then twenty-seven years old, and this was the first time he had been intrusted with a command, after his behavior had given sufficient proofs that he would not make an ill use of his power. The king spoke to him in public thus, at his departure: “My son, in sending you to command my armies, I give you an opportunity of making your merit known; go and display it to all Europe, that when I depart this life it may not be perceived that the king is dead.”
The prince had a special commission for this command, as if he had been only a private general whom the king had made choice of. The king’s letters were directed “To our son, the dauphin, our lieutenant-general, commanding our armies in Germany.”
Everything had been so ordered and disposed beforehand, that the son of Louis XIV. who assisted in this expedition with his name and presence, might not be apt to meet with an affront. Marshal de Duras had in fact the command of the army. Bouflers had a body of troops on this side of the Rhine, and Marshal d’Humières another near Cologne, to watch the movements of the enemy. Heidelberg and Mentz were taken: the siege of Philippsburg, which is always the first step to be taken when the French make war in Germany, was already begun, under the inspection of Vauban. Such matters as were not in his department fell to the share of Catinat, then lieutenant-general, a man capable of everything, and formed for all exploits. Monseigneur arrived six days after the trenches had been opened. He exactly observed his father’s conduct, exposing his person as much as was necessary, but never rashly; treating everyone with affability, and extending his liberality even to the private soldier. The king felt a sincere joy in having a son who thus imitated, without exceeding him, and who made himself beloved by everyone, without giving his father any occasion to fear him.
Philippsburg was taken in nineteen days, and Mannheim in three; Frankenthal surrendered in two; and Spires, Trier, Worms, and Oppenheim threw open their gates at the first approach of the French.
The king had resolved to make a desert of the Palatinate as soon as those towns were taken. His design in this was rather to cut off all means of subsistence from the enemy, than to take vengeance on the elector, whose only crime was that of having done his duty in joining with the rest of Germany against France. An order came to the army from the king, signed Louvois, to reduce the whole country to ashes. The French generals were then obliged to obey; and though it was in the very midst of winter, caused notice to be sent to the inhabitants of all these flourishing towns, and the villages round about, and to the masters of above fifty castles, to quit their dwellings; that they were going to destroy everything with fire and sword. Upon this dreadful summons, men, women, old people, and children, hurried out in the utmost haste: some of whom wandered up and down in the fields, and the rest took refuge in neighboring countries, while the soldiery, who always exceed commands of rigor, and seldom or never execute those of clemency, burned and pillaged their country. They began with Mannheim, the residence of the electors, whose palaces they levelled to the ground, as well as the private houses of the citizens; broke open their very tombs, thinking to satisfy their avarice with the immense treasures they expected to find there, and scattered their ashes abroad. This was the second time that this beautiful country had been laid waste by Louis’s orders; but the burning of two cities and twenty villages by Turenne was but a spark in comparison to this conflagration. All Europe was struck with horror at this action. The very officers who executed it were ashamed of being the instruments of such cruelty. The blame was thrown on the marquis of Louvois, who had contracted that insensibility of heart which arises from a long administration. He was certainly the person who advised this proceeding; but Louis had it in his power to reject or follow his counsel. Had the king been a witness to this spectacle, he would have gone in person to extinguish the flames. From his palace in Versailles, where he was surrounded by pleasures, he signed the destruction of a whole country, because he there beheld only his own glory and the fatal right of conquest in the order he gave; but had he been nearer to the spot, he would have seen all the horror of it. The nations, who till then had only blamed his ambition, and admired his other qualifications, now cried out against his cruelty, and even condemned his politics: for had his enemies penetrated into his dominions, as he did into theirs, they would have set all the cities in his kingdom on fire.
Nor was this a very remote danger; Louis, in covering his frontiers with one hundred thousand soldiers, taught Germany to make the same efforts. This country, being better peopled than France, may be able to raise larger armies. They have more difficulty indeed in raising, getting together, and paying them, and they are longer before they take the field; but their strict discipline and patience under fatigues make them at the end of a campaign as formidable as the French are at the beginning. The army of the empire was commanded by the duke of Lorraine, Charles V. This prince, who was still kept out of his dominions by Louis XIV., had preserved the empire for Leopold, and given him the victory over the Turks and Hungarians. He now came, with the elector of Brandenburg, to put a check to the success of the French king’s arms. He retook Bonn and Mentz, two towns which were very badly fortified, but defended in a manner which was esteemed a model for the future defence of places. Bonn did not surrender till after a siege of nearly four months, and the baron d’Asfeld who commanded there, was mortally wounded in a general assault.
The marquis d’Uxelles, afterward marshal of France, a most prudent and wary general, had made such excellent dispositions for the defence of Mentz, that his garrison suffered hardly any fatigue in the great service it performed: besides the care he took to provide for the safety of the place, he made twenty-one sallies on the enemy, and killed over five thousand of their men. He sometimes made one or two sallies in open daylight: in short, he maintained the place for seven weeks, and surrendered at length only for want of powder. This vigorous defence deserves a place in history, both on account of its own merit, and the approbation it met with from the world. Paris, that immense city, whose indolent inhabitants pretend to judge of everything, and who have so many ears and tongues, with so few eyes, looked upon d’Uxelles as a timorous man, and deficient in judgment. When this great commander, on whom every good officer will bestow just praise, after his return from the campaign, went to the theatre, the populace hooted him, and cried out “Mentz!” upon which he was obliged to retire, not without heartily contemning, as every wise man must, a people who are such bad judges of merit, and whose praise, nevertheless, is so greedily sought after.
About the same time—June, 1689—Marshal d’Humières was beaten at Walcourt, on the Sambre, in the Netherlands, by the prince of Waldeck; but this check, though it hurt his reputation, very little affected the French arms. Louvois, whose creature and friend he was, found himself under the necessity of taking from him the command of this army, which was conferred on Marshal Luxembourg, whom neither the king nor Louvois liked; but their regard for the state got the better of their aversion to the man, and they made use of his services, though with some repugnance. He was therefore appointed commander in the Netherlands. Louvois was remarkable for correcting a too hasty choice, or for making a good one. Catinat was sent with a command into Italy. Marshal de Lorges defended himself everywhere in Germany. The duke de Noailles had some little success in Catalonia; but under Luxembourg in Flanders, and Catinat in Italy, there was a continual succession of victories. These two generals were at that time esteemed the greatest in Europe.
The marshal duke of Luxembourg, in some parts of his character, resembled the great Condé, whose pupil he was in the art of war. He had a fiery genius, a prompt execution, a quick discernment, a mind greedy for knowledge, but too extensive and irregular: he was continually engaged in intrigues with the ladies, always in love, and frequently beloved, though deformed and ill-favored, and had more of the qualifications of a hero than a wise man.
Catinat had an application and activity in his disposition that made him capable of everything, though he never piqued himself upon any one particular qualification. He would have been equally as good a minister and chancellor as he was a general. In the earlier part of his life he followed the law; but quitted that profession at the age of twenty-three, because he lost a cause in which he had justice on his side. He then took up arms, and was at first an ensign in the French guards. In the year 1667, at the attack on the counterscarp of Lille, he performed an action in the presence of the king, which required both understanding and courage. The king took notice of him, and this was the beginning of his good fortune. He rose by degrees, without making any interest: he was a philosopher in the midst of war and grandeur, those two fatal rocks to moderation; exempt from all kind of prejudice, without the affectation of appearing to despise them too much; and an utter stranger to gallantry and the arts of courts, but a sincere friend, and an honest man. He lived a professed foe to interest and vainglory, and was equally the philosopher in all respects at the hour of his death that he was through the course of his life.
Catinat commanded at that time in Italy, where he was opposed by Victor Amadeus, duke of Savoy; who was then a wise, politic, and still more unfortunate prince; a warrior of remarkable courage, who always led his own armies, and exposed his person like a common man; no one better understood that deceitful kind of war which is carried on in a mountainous and uneven country, such as his was; he was active, vigilant, a lover of order, but sometimes guilty of errors, both as a prince and a general. He is said to have committed an essential one in the bad manner in which he drew up his army in presence of that of Catinat. The French general took advantage of his mistake, and gained a complete victory over him, in sight of Saluzzo, near the abbey of Stafarola, from which that battle took its name. When there are a number of men killed on one side and hardly any on the other, it is a certain proof that the army which is beaten was drawn up on a ground where it must necessarily be overpowered. The French had only three hundred men killed, and the allied army, commanded by the duke of Savoy, more than four thousand. After this battle, all Savoy, except Montmêlian, submitted to the king. Catinat then marched into Piedmont, in 1691, forced the enemy’s intrenchments near Susa; took that town, together with Villafranca, Montalban, Nice, deemed impregnable, Veillano, and Carmagnola, and returned to Montmélian, of which he made himself master after an obstinate siege.
After all these successes the ministry lessened the army which he commanded, and the duke of Savoy augmented his. Catinat, inferior in numbers to his conquered enemy, remained a long time on the defensive; but at length having received reinforcements, he descended the Alps, near Marsala, and there, on Oct. 4, 1693, gained a second pitched battle which was the more glorious, as Prince Eugene of Savoy was then one of the enemy’s generals.
At the other extremity of France, toward the Netherlands, Marshal Luxembourg gained the battle of Fleurus, and by the confession of all the officers, this victory was entirely owing to the superiority of genius in the French general over Prince Waldeck, who then commanded the allied army. Eight thousand men taken prisoners, six thousand killed, two hundred stands of colors, almost all the cannon and baggage, and the flight of the enemy, were sufficient proofs of the victory.
King William had just returned from his victory over his father-in-law. This great genius, ever fertile in resources, made more advantage of the defeat of his party than the French often did of their victories. He had been obliged to have recourse to intrigues and negotiations, to procure men and money sufficient to oppose a king who had only to say, “I will.” Nevertheless, after the defeat at Fleurus—Sept. 19, 1691—he came to meet Marshal Luxembourg with an army as strong as that of the French.
They each consisted of about eighty thousand men; but the marshal had already invested Mons, when William thought the French had hardly left their winter quarters. Louis himself came to be present at the siege, and entered the town the ninth day after opening the trenches, in sight of the enemy’s army. After that he returned to Versailles, and left Luxembourg to dispute the field during the whole campaign, which ended with the battle of Liège, a very extraordinary action, in which twenty-eight squadrons of the king’s household troops and the gendarmerie defeated seventy-five squadrons of the enemy’s army.
The king next repaired to the siege of Namur, the strongest place in the Netherlands, both by its situation, which is at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse, and by its citadel, which is built on rocks. He took the town in eight days, and the castles in twenty-two, while the duke of Luxembourg prevented King William from passing the Mehaigne, at the head of eighty thousand men, to raise the siege. After this conquest Louis returned again to Versailles, and Luxembourg still continued to make head against the enemy’s force. Now it was that the battle of Steinkirk was fought, so famous for the art and courage displayed therein. A spy, whom the French king had sent to watch the motions of King William, was discovered, and compelled, before he was led to execution, to write false information to Marshal Luxembourg, who, immediately upon receipt of this intelligence, made such dispositions as must necessarily bring on a battle. His army was attacked at daybreak, while everyone was asleep, and one entire brigade cut to pieces before the general knew anything of the matter. Without the extremest diligence and bravery, all would have been lost.
It was not enough to be a great general to prevent a total defeat; it likewise required well-disciplined troops, capable of rallying in an instant, general officers sufficiently skilful to recover these troops from the disorder into which they were thrown, and willing to do their duty; for a single officer of rank who had a mind to take advantage of the general confusion to cause his general’s defeat might easily have done it without exposing himself to detection.
The marshal was then ill, a fatal circumstance, at a time when uncommon activity was required; but the greatness of the danger restored him to his strength: it was necessary to perform prodigies not to be overcome, and he performed them; he changed his ground, gave a field of battle to his army, which before had none, recovered the right wing, which was all in confusion, rallied his men three times, and three times charged at the head of the household troops, and all this in less than two hours. He had with him in his army the duke of Chartres, afterward regent of the kingdom, a grandson of France, who was then not above fifteen years old. He could be of no service in striking a decisive blow; but it contributed not a little to animate the soldiers, when they saw a grandson of France charging at the head of the king’s household troops, and, though wounded in the fight, returning again to the charge.
A grandson and grandnephew of the great Condé both served in this army as lieutenant-generals; one of these was Louis of Bourbon; called Monsieur, the duke, and the other Armand, prince of Conti, both rivals in courage, wit, ambition, and fame. Monsieur was of a more austere disposition, and had perhaps more solid qualifications, and the prince of Conti more brilliant ones. Being both called by the public voice to the command of armies, they earnestly longed for that honor, which, however, they never obtained; because Louis, who was as well acquainted with their ambition as their merit, always remembered that the prince of Condé had made war against him.
The prince of Conti was the first who recovered the army from its confusion, by rallying some of the brigades, and making the rest advance. Monsieur did just the same, without standing in need of emulation. The duke of Vendôme, grandson of Henry IV., was also a lieutenant-general in this army; he had served ever since he was twelve years of age, and though he was then over forty, he had never yet commanded in chief. His brother, the grand prior, was by his side.
It was necessary that all these princes should put themselves at the head of the king’s household troops in order to drive a body of English from an advantageous post, on which the success of the battle depended. The French household troops and the English were the best troops in the world. The slaughter was great; but the French, animated by the crowd of princes and young noblemen who fought about the general’s person, at length carried the post; and when the English were defeated, the rest were obliged to yield.
Bouflers, who was afterward marshal of France, flew with a body of dragoons from a place where he was, at some distance from the field of battle, and his arrival completed the victory. King William, after having lost about seven thousand men, retired in as good order as he had attacked; and always beaten, and always formidable, he still kept the field. This victory, which was due to the valor of the young princes and the flower of the nobility of the kingdom, produced an effect at court, in the city, and in the provinces, that no former victory had ever done.
Monsieur, the duke, the prince of Conti, M. de Vendôme, and their friends, on their return home from this campaign, found the roads lined with people, whose acclamations and expressions of joy were carried even to a degree of madness. The women all strove to attract their regard. The men at that time wore lace cravats, which took some time and pains to adjust. The princes, having dressed themselves in a hurry, threw these cravats negligently about their necks. The ladies wore handkerchiefs made in this fashion, which they called Steinkirks. Every new toy was a Steinkirk. Any young man who happened to have been present at this battle was looked upon with delight. The populace followed the princes everywhere in crowds, and they were the more beloved because the court did not show them favor equal to their reputation and merit.
In the ensuing campaign the same general, the same princes, with the same troops, who had been surprised and yet victorious at Steinkirk, made a forced march of seven leagues, and came unexpectedly upon William at Neerwinden, and beat him. Neerwinden is a village near the Layette, a few leagues distant from Brussels. William had time to put his army in order of battle. Luxembourg and the princes carried the village, sword in hand, two different times, and the instant the marshal turned another way, the enemy retook it; at length the general and the princes carried it a third time, and the battle was won, on July 29, 1693. Few actions proved more bloody. There were about twenty thousand killed on both sides; the allies lost twelve thousand, and the French eight. On this occasion, it was said there was more room to sing De profundis, than Te Deum.
These numerous victories were productive of much glory, but few great advantages. The allies, though defeated at Fleurus, Steinkirk, and Neerwinden, had never been completely beaten; King William always made fine retreats; and, in a fortnight’s time after one battle it was necessary to fight another with him to be master of the campaign. The cathedral of Paris was filled with colors taken from the enemy. The prince of Conti called Marshal Luxembourg “the Upholsterer of Notre Dame.” Nothing was talked of but victories, and yet Louis XIV. had formerly conquered one-half of Holland and Flanders, and all Franche-Comté, without fighting a single battle; whereas now, after the greatest efforts and the most bloody victories, they could hardly force an entrance into the United Provinces; they could not even lay siege to Brussels.
Marshal de Lorges had also gained a considerable advantage over the allies near Spirebach, and had even taken the old duke of Würtemberg prisoner, and penetrated into his country; but, after having invaded it as a conqueror, he was obliged to quit it again. Monseigneur took and plundered the city of Heidelberg a second time, which the enemy had retaken, and after all was obliged to act upon the defensive against the imperialists.
Marshal Catinat, notwithstanding his great victory at Stafarde, and his having conquered Savoy, could not prevent the duke of that country from making an irruption into Dauphiny, nor, after his victory at Marsala, could he save the important city of Casale.
In Spain Marshal de Noailles gained a battle on the banks of the Ter, on May 27, 1694; he took Gironde and some small places; but his army was weak, and he was obliged, after his victory, to retire from before Barcelona. The French, everywhere victorious, and weakened by their successes, had a hydra to engage in the allies, that was continually rising up afresh. France began to find it difficult to raise recruits, and still more so to procure money. The rigor of the season, by which the fruits of the earth were at that time wholly destroyed, brought on a famine. Numbers perished for want, while the whole kingdom resounded with Te Deums and rejoicings. The spirit of confidence and superiority, which had been the soul of the French troops, began visibly to diminish. Louis XIV. no longer appeared at their head. Louvois was dead, and Barbésieux, his son, was generally disliked by them. To crown all, the death, in January, 1695, of Marshal Luxembourg, under whom they thought themselves invincible, seemed to put an end to the rapid victories of the French.
The art of bombarding towns with ships now turned upon its inventors; not that the engine called “Infernal,” with which the English attempted to burn St. Malo, and that failed of success, was of French invention; machines of this kind had been for a long time in use in Europe. It was the art of throwing bombs with as much certainty from a moving vessel as from the solid ground, that the French invented; and it was by this art that the English had from their ships bombarded the towns of Dieppe, Havre-de-Grâce, St. Malo, Dunkirk, and Calais; Dieppe, as being the most easy of access, was the place which suffered the most damage. This town, which was now so delightful on account of the regularity of its buildings, and which seems to owe its beauty to its misfortunes, was almost reduced to ashes. There were not above twenty houses beaten down and burned in Havre-de-Grâce; but the fortifications of the place were entirely destroyed. In this sense it is that the medal struck by the Dutch is true, notwithstanding that so many French writers have inveighed against its falsity. In the exergue we find these words in Latin: “The harbor of Havre burned and destroyed,” etc. This inscription does not tell us that the town was burned; that would have been false; it only says that the harbor was burned, which is true.
Soon afterward the French lost Namur, which they had taken. The nation had lavished encomiums on Louis XIV., for having conquered this place; and the most indecent sallies had been thrown out against King William for not having succored it with an army of eighty thousand men. William at length became master of it, by the same manner in which it had been lost. He attacked it in the face of an army much stronger than his own was at the time that Louis XIV. laid siege to it. He now met with new fortifications of Vauban’s raising. The French garrison which defended this town was an army of itself; for while they were preparing matters to invest it, Marshal Bouflers found means to throw himself into it with seven regiments of dragoons; so that Namur was not only defended by sixteen thousand men, but was daily in expectation of being relieved by an army of a hundred thousand.
Marshal Bouflers had a great share of merit, was an active and diligent general, and a good citizen, who had nothing so much at heart as the welfare of the service, to promote which he valued neither his pains nor his life. The marquis de Feuquières, in his memoirs, accuses him of several faults in the defence of the town and citadel, and even blames his conduct in the defence of Lille, by which he gained so much honor. Those who have written the history of Louis XIV. have servilely copied Marquis de Feuquières in military matters, and Abbé de Choisi in private anecdotes. They could not know that Feuquières, who was an excellent officer, and perfectly well versed both in the theory and practice of war, was of a disposition as morose as discerning, and sometimes the Aristarchus, sometimes the Zoilus of generals. He alters facts, to have the pleasure of censuring; he complains of everyone, and everyone of him; he was esteemed the bravest man in Europe, because he slept quietly in the midst of a hundred thousand of his enemies. His merit not having been rewarded with the staff of marshal of France, he employed his talents too much against the servants of the state, which would have been extremely useful, had he been as mild and charitable as he was discerning, diligent, and bold.
He charged Marshal de Villeroi with a greater number of faults, and those more essential, than even Bouflers. Villeroi, at the head of twenty thousand men, was to have relieved Namur; but even had the two marshals, Villeroi and Bouflers, done everything, generally speaking, they might have done—which is very seldom the case—the situation of the ground was such that Namur could not be relieved, and must be taken sooner or later. An army of observation posted along the banks of the Mehaigne had prevented King William from bringing up his reinforcements; the same thing now necessarily happened to Marshal Villeroi.
Though Marshal Bouflers, the count de Guiscard, governor of the town, the count de Laumont du Châtelet, commandant of the infantry, and all the officers and soldiers in the place defended it with remarkable obstinacy and bravery, it retarded the capitulation only two days. When a town is besieged by a superior army, when the works are well carried on, and the season favorable, they can judge nearly within what time it will be taken, be the defence ever so vigorous. King William made himself master of the town and citadel in September, 1695, though not in so short a time as Louis XIV.
The king, while he was thus losing Namur, bombarded Brussels; a poor revenge, which he took on the emperor for his towns which had been bombarded by the English; all this occasioned a war equally ruinous and fatal to both parties.
One of the effects of human industry and fury, of these two centuries past, has been that of not confining the havoc of war to our own continent of Europe. We drain ourselves of men and money to carry destruction against each other in Asia and America. The Indians, whom we have compelled by force or artifice to admit our settlements among them, and the Americans, from whom we have wrested their continent, after having dyed it with their blood, look upon us as the foes of humankind, who came from the farthest part of the globe to butcher them, and afterward to destroy one another.
The French had no other colony in the East Indies but Pondicherry, which had been formed by Colbert with great pains, and at an immense expense, and whence no considerable advantage could be drawn for several years; the Dutch easily made themselves masters of it, and thus destroyed the trade of the French in the East Indies, almost in its infancy.
Our plantations in San Domingo were destroyed by the English, in 1695, and one of the Brest privateers laid waste theirs at Gambia, on the coast of Africa. The privateers of St. Malo carried fire and sword into the eastern part of Newfoundland, of which they were in possession; and our squadrons insulted their island of Jamaica, took and burned their shipping there, and ravaged the coast.
Pointis, commander of a squadron of ships of war and some privateers off America, sailed as far as the line, and surprised the town of Cartagena, the magazine and staple for the Spanish treasures, which come from Mexico, in May, 1697; the damage he did there was computed at twenty million livres, and the booty he got at about half that sum. There is always some deduction to be made from such calculations, but little or none from the grievous calamities occasioned by these glorious expeditions.
The French privateers, and especially Duguay-Trouin, were every day making prizes of the English and Dutch merchant ships. This man was very extraordinary in his way, and wanted only a numerous fleet to have acquired as great reputation as Dragut or Barbarossa. The enemy made less rich prizes from the French, because they had less to be taken. Our trade was greatly impaired by the death of Colbert and the war.
A general misery was the result of these expeditions by sea and land. Those who delight more in humanity than politics will readily observe that in this war Louis XIV. took up arms against his brother-in-law, the king of Spain, against the elector of Bavaria, to whose sister he had married his son, the dauphin, and against the elector palatine, whose country he ravaged, though his brother was married to the princess palatine. King James was driven from his throne by his son-in-law and his own daughter; and since that time we have seen the duke of Savoy in league against France, where he had one daughter a dauphiness, and against Spain, where another was queen. Most of the wars between Christian princes are, in some sort, civil wars.
The most criminal enterprise in all this war proved the only truly fortunate one; William was perfectly successful in England and Ireland; in other places the successes were more equal. When I call this a criminal undertaking, I do not examine whether the nation, after having shed the blood of the father, were right or wrong in banishing the son, and maintaining its religion and privileges; I only say that, if there is any justice on earth, the daughter and son-in-law of King James should not have driven him from his throne and kingdom.
TREATY WITH SAVOY—MARRIAGE OF THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY—PEACE OF RYSWICK—STATE OF FRANCE AND EUROPE—DEATH AND LAST WILL OF CHARLES II., KING OF SPAIN.
France still maintained her superiority over all her enemies; some she had crushed, as the duke of Savoy and the elector palatine, and she carried the war to the frontiers of the others, like a powerful and robust body, fatigued with long resistance, and exhausted by its victories; a well-directed blow would have made her stagger. Whoever has a number of enemies at once can at last find safety only in their division, or in a peace. Louis XIV. obtained both.
Victor Amadeus, duke of Savoy, was a prince easily persuaded to break his engagements, when his interest was concerned; to him the court of France addressed itself. The count de Tessé, afterward marshal of France, an amiable and able man, of a genius formed for pleasing, which is the first qualification of a negotiator, had begun a private treaty at Turin; and Marshal Catinat, who was equally capable of making peace and war, put the finishing hand to the affair. There did not want two such able men to determine the duke of Savoy to accept of what was to his advantage; they restored him his country, gave him a sum of money, and proposed a marriage between the young duke of Burgundy, son of the heir apparent of France, and his daughter. Matters were soon agreed upon: in July, 1696, the duke and Catinat concluded the treaty at Our Lady of Loretto, whither they went under pretence of a pilgrimage of devotion, which, however, imposed on no one. Pope Innocent XIV. entered heartily into this negotiation. His view was to deliver Italy at once from the invasions of the French, and the taxes which the emperor was continually levying to pay his troops. It was thought necessary that the imperialists should evacuate Italy, and leave it neutral; this the duke of Savoy engaged himself by the treaty to observe. The emperor gave a flat denial at first; for the court of Vienna rarely came to a determination, but at the last extremity. Upon the emperor’s refusal, the duke joined his troops to the French army; and, from generalissimo to the emperor, became, in less than a month, generalissimo to Louis XIV. His daughter, who was only eleven years of age, was carried into France to be married to the duke of Burgundy, who was thirteen. After the defection of the duke of Savoy, it happened, as at the Peace of Nimeguen, that each of the allies thought proper to treat. The emperor agreed to leave Italy neutral. The Dutch proposed the castle of Ryswick, near The Hague, as the place for holding the conferences for a general peace. Four armies, which the king had on foot, contributed not a little to bring matters to a speedy conclusion. There were eighty thousand men in Flanders under Villeroi; Marshal de Choiseul had forty thousand men on the banks of the Rhine; Catinat had another army in Piedmont; and the duke of Vendôme, who had at length attained the rank of general, after having passed through all the degrees, from that of the king’s guard, like a private soldier of fortune, commanded a body of troops in Catalonia, where he gained a battle, and took Barcelona. These new efforts and successes proved the most effectual mediation. The court of Rome offered its arbitration, which was refused, as at Nimeguen. Charles XI., king of Sweden, was the mediator. At length the peace was concluded in October, 1697; no longer with that haughty superiority and those advantageous conditions which had distinguished the greatness of Louis XIV., but with a condescension and concession of rights on his side, that equally amazed the French and the allies. It was long believed that this peace had been concerted with the deepest policy.
It was pretended that the French king’s grand design was, what it certainly should have been, to prevent the entire succession of the vast Spanish monarchy from devolving upon the other branch of the house of Austria. It is said he entertained hopes that the house of Bourbon might at least come in for a share in the dismemberment, and perhaps one day succeed to the whole. The formal renunciations made by his wife and mother seemed no other than trivial agreements, which should give way to new conjunctures. In this light, to aggrandize the house of France, it was necessary to show some moderation toward Europe; not to incense so many powers, who were still full of suspicions. The peace gave him time to form new alliances, settle the finances, gain over those whom he had occasion for, and to form new bodies of militia in the kingdom. It was necessary to give up something, in hope of obtaining much more.
These were thought to be the private motives of the Peace of Ryswick, which in the event actually procured the throne of Spain for the grandson of Louis XIV. This notion, probable as it may appear, is not, however, true; neither Louis XIV. nor his council had the views that they should have had in this affair. It is a strong example of the connection of the revolutions in this world, which govern men, by whom they seem to be conducted. The obvious interest of quickly possessing Spain, or at least a part of that monarchy, had not the least influence in the Peace of Ryswick; this is acknowledged by Marquis de Torci, in his manuscript memoirs. They made peace merely because they were weary of the war, and this war itself had been carried on without any particular object; at least on the side of the allies: it was only from the idle desire of humbling the greatness of Louis; and in that monarch it was merely the consequence of that greatness which would not hearken to concessions. King William had drawn over to his cause the emperor, the empire, Spain, the United Provinces, and Savoy; Louis XIV. found himself too far engaged to recede. The finest part of Europe had been laid waste, because the French king made use of the advantages he gained by the Peace of Nimeguen in too haughty a manner. The league was formed rather against his person than the kingdom of France; the king thought himself secure in the reputation he had gained by arms, and was now desirous of adding that of moderation; the weakness which began to be sensibly felt in the finances made him more ready to adopt such a method.
The political affairs were debated in the king’s council, and the resolutions taken there; Marquis de Torci, then young, was only charged with the execution of them. The whole council was for peace, especially the duke of Beauvilliers, who set forth the miseries of the people with such energy, that Madame de Maintenon was affected by it, and the king himself appeared not insensible; and it made the more impression, as they had fallen from that flourishing state to which the minister Colbert had raised the kingdom. The great establishments of all kinds had cost immense sums, and no economy had been used to retrieve the confusion occasioned by these extraordinary expenses. This inward calamity astonished everyone, because it had never been felt since Louis XIV. had governed alone: these were the true causes of the Peace of Ryswick, though doubtless some virtuous sentiments had an influence in it. Those who think that kings and ministers incessantly, and without bounds, sacrifice everything to their ambition, are no less mistaken than he who thinks they continually sacrifice to worldly happiness.
The king then restored to the Spaniards all those places near the Pyrenees that he had taken from them, and likewise the conquests he had made in Flanders during the last war, as Luxemburg, Mons, Ath, and Courtrai. He acknowledged William III. lawful king of England, whom he had till then treated as prince of Orange, a tyrant, and an usurper. He promised not to assist his enemies for the future; and King James, whose name was left out in the treaty, remained at St. Germain with the empty title of king, and a pension from Louis XIV. Thus sacrificed by his protector to the necessity of the times, and already forgotten in Europe, he ceased to publish any new manifestoes.
The sentences which the courts of Breisach and Metz had awarded against so many sovereigns, and the reunions made at Alsace, those monuments of a dangerous power and pride, were abolished, and the bailiwicks that had been seized upon by form of law were restored to their right masters.
Besides these concessions, Freiburg, Breisach, Kehl, and Philippsburg were restored to the empire; the king even submitted to destroy the fortress of Strasburg on the Rhine, Fort Louis, Traerbach, and Mount Royal, works on which the great Vauban had exhausted his art, and the king his treasury. Europe was surprised, and the French displeased, to see Louis XIV. make peace as if he had been conquered. Harlai, Créci, and Callières, who signed this peace, dared not show themselves either at court or in the city; they were loaded with reproaches and derision, as if they had taken a single step they had not been ordered by the ministry; they were reproached by the court with having betrayed the honor of the French nation, and afterward they were applauded for having, by this treaty, prepared the way for the succession to the Spanish monarchy: but in truth, they deserved neither censure nor praise.
It was by this peace, that France at length restored Lorraine to the family which had been in possession of it for more than seven hundred years. Duke Charles V., the prop of the empire, and conqueror of the Turks, was dead; his son Leopold, at the Peace of Ryswick, took possession of his sovereignty, with the loss indeed of his real privileges, he not being allowed to have ramparts to his capital; but they could not deprive him of a much more noble privilege, that of doing good to his subjects; a privilege of which no prince ever made a better use than himself.
It were to be wished that latest posterity may be informed, that one of the least powerful sovereigns in Europe was he who did the most good to his people. He found Lorraine a desert waste; he repeopled and enriched it, and preserved it in peace, while the rest of Europe was desolated by war. He had always the prudence to keep well with France, and to make himself beloved in the empire; happily preserving that just medium, which hardly any prince, without power, has ever been able to maintain between two great potentates. He procured his people plenty, to which they long had been strangers; his noblesse, reduced to the last degree of wretchedness, were raised to a state of opulence, solely by his benefactions. If he saw the family seat of a gentleman in ruins, he rebuilt it at his own expense; he paid their debts, portioned out their daughters, and lavished presents with that art of giving which raises them even above benefactions; bestowing his gifts with the magnificence of a prince, and the politeness of a friend. The arts, which were held in the highest honor throughout his little province, produced a new circulation, which makes the riches of a state. His court was formed after the model of that of France, and the traveller hardly perceived a change of place in going to Lunéville from Versailles. After the example of Louis XIV. he advanced the belles-lettres; he established a kind of university, without pedantry, at Lunéville, where the young German nobility went to be formed. The true sciences were there taught in schools, where the theory of natural philosophy was demonstrated to the eye by the most curious apparatus. He sought out men of talents even in the shops and in the woods, brought them to light, and was himself their patron and rewarder. In a word, the whole business of his reign was to procure his nation tranquillity, riches, knowledge, and pleasure: “I would quit my sovereignty to-morrow,” said he, “if I could no longer do good.” Accordingly he tasted the satisfaction of being beloved, and I myself saw, long after his death, his subjects shed tears in mentioning his name. When he died he left an example to be followed by the greatest kings; but he could not, during his life, be instrumental in preparing the way for his son to the throne of the empire.
At the time that Louis XIV. was managing the affair of the Peace of Ryswick, which was to give him the Spanish succession, the throne of Poland became vacant. This was the only regal crown, then elective, in the world; natives and foreigners had equally a right to pretend to it, but to retain it required either a merit sufficiently striking, and properly supported by intrigues, to engage the suffrages—as was the case with John Sobieski, the late king—or else, money enough to buy the kingdom, which is almost always put up at auction.
The abbé, afterward cardinal, Polignac, had at first the art to engage the suffrages in favor of the prince of Conti, known by the valiant actions he had performed at Steinkirk and Neerwinden. He never had the command in chief, nor was he admitted into the king’s councils. The duke of Bourbon had an equal reputation as a warrior, the duke of Vendôme a still greater, and yet his fame surpassed that of all others, by the great art of pleasing, and making himself of consequence, which no one possessed in a more eminent degree than himself. Polignac, whose talent lay in persuasion, determined the minds of the people in his favor; and, by dint of eloquence and promises, counterbalanced the money which Augustus, elector of Saxony, lavished among them. Louis Francis, prince of Conti, was elected king by the majority of the nation, and proclaimed by the primate of the kingdom, on June 17, 1697. Augustus was elected two hours afterward by another party, inferior in numbers; but he was a sovereign prince, and powerful, and had a body of troops in readiness on the frontiers of Poland. The prince of Conti was absent, destitute of money, men and power, and had nothing on his side but his name, and Cardinal de Polignac. It was necessary that Louis XIV. should either prvent his accepting the crown, or furnish him with proper assistance to get the better of his competitor. It was thought that the French ministry did too much in sending the prince of Conti over, and too little in furnishing him with only a small squadron of ships and a few bills of exchange, with which he arrived in the road of Dantzic; this was acting with that lukewarm policy which begins an affair only to quit it again. They would not even receive the prince at Dantzic, and his bills of exchange were protested. The intrigues of the pope and the emperor, and the money and troops of Saxony, had already secured the crown on his rival’s head; he returned then with the glory of having been chosen king, and France had the mortification of having made it appear that she was not sufficiently powerful to make a king of Poland.
This disgrace which befell the prince of Conti did not interrupt the peace which subsisted between the Christian powers of the North. The south of Europe was soon afterward restored to its tranquillity by the Peace of Ryswick.
There was no longer any war but that which the Turks carried on against Germany, Poland, Venice, and Russia; and here the Christians, though under a bad administration, and divided among themselves, had the superiority. The battle of Zenta, in 1695, in which Prince Eugene beat the Grand Seignior in person, and remarkable by the deaths of the grand vizier, seventeen pashas, and upward of twenty thousand Turks, humbled the Ottoman pride, and brought about the Peace of Carlowitz, in 1699, in which the Turks submitted to the laws imposed by the conquerors. The Venetians had the Morea, the Muscovites Azov, the Poles Kamenets-Podolski, and the emperor Transylvania. All Christendom was then happy and tranquil, the sound of war was no longer heard, either in Asia or Africa, and the whole world was at peace during the last two years of the seventeenth century, an epoch, alas! of too short duration.
The public calamities were soon awakened again. The peace of the North was disturbed in the year 1700, by two men the most extraordinary the world ever produced; one was Czar Peter Alexeievitch, emperor of Russia, the other young Charles XII., king of Sweden. Czar Peter, though born a barbarian, became a great man, and by his genius and surprising labors, was the reformer, or rather founder, of his empire. Charles XII., more courageous than the czar, and yet less serviceable to his subjects, formed to command soldiers but not nations, was the first hero of his age, but died with the character of an imprudent king. The desolation the North underwent during a war of eighteen years, owed its rise to the ambitious politics of the czar and the kings of Denmark and Poland, who wanted to take advantage of the youth of Charles XII. to strip him of a part of his dominions; but Charles, at the age of sixteen, conquered all three. He was the terror of the world, and was already esteemed a hero, at an age in which other men have hardly finished their studies. He was for nine years the most formidable monarch in the world, and for nine years the most miserable.
The troubles of the South arose from another cause. The king of Spain lay at the point of death, and it was in dispute who should share the spoils he was to leave behind him. The powers, who already devoured in imagination this immense succession, did, on this occasion, what we frequently see practised during the illness of a rich old man who has no children; the wife, the relatives, the priests of the sick king, and even the officers appointed to receive the last commands of those who are dying, beset him on all sides to get a favorable word from him. Some of the inheritors agree to divide the spoils, and others prepare to dispute them.
Louis XIV. and the emperor Leopold were both grandsons of Philip III., and both had married daughters of Philip IV., therefore monseigneur the dauphin, the king’s son, and Joseph, king of the Romans, son of the emperor, were doubly in the same degree. The right of eldership was in the house of France, the king and monseigneur being sons of the elder daughters: but the imperial house reckoned as rights, first, the formal renunciation to the crown of Spain, made and ratified by Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. with the name of Austria; the blood of Maximilian, whence Leopold and Charles II. were descended; the almost perpetual union which had subsisted between the two branches of the house of Austria; the still more constant hatred of those two branches against the Bourbons; the aversion which the Spanish nation had at that time to the French; and lastly, the secret springs of the policy which governed the Spanish council.
Nothing at that time seemed more natural than to perpetuate the throne of Spain in the house of Austria; all Europe expected this before the Peace of Ryswick, but the weakness of Charles II. had disturbed this order of succession in the year 1696, and the Austrian house had been already sacrificed in secret. The king of Spain had a grandnephew, son of the elector of Bavaria; the king’s mother, who was still living, was great-grandmother of this young prince of Bavaria, who was then about four years old; and this princess, notwithstanding that she herself was of the house of Austria, being a daughter of Emperor Ferdinand III., prevailed on her son to disinherit the imperial family, in consequence of a pique she had entertained against the court of Vienna. She therefore cast her eyes on the prince of Bavaria, though hardly out of his cradle, and destined him for the Spanish monarchy, and that of the new world. Charles II., who was then entirely governed by her, made a private will in the year 1696, in favor of the electoral prince of Bavaria; but having afterward lost his mother, he was governed by his wife, Mariana, of Bavaria Neuburg. This Bavarian princess, who was a sister-in-law of the emperor Leopold, had as great an attachment to the house of Austria as the Austrian queen-mother had to that of Bavaria. Thus the natural course of things was all along inverted in this affair, which concerned the most extensive monarchy in the world. Mariana of Bavaria procured the destruction of that will by which the young prince of Bavaria was called to the succession, and obtained a promise from the king that he would never have any other heir than a son of the emperor Leopold, and would not name the house of Austria. Matters were on this footing at the Peace of Ryswick. The kings of France and Austria were equally fearful and suspicious of each other, and had likewise Europe to fear. England and Holland, two powerful states, whose interest it was to maintain the balance of power between crowned heads, would never consent that the head which wore the crown of Spain should wear that of France or the empire.
It is not positively known who it was that first conceived the notion of making the premature and unheard-of partition of the Spanish monarchy, during the lifetime of Charles II. Most probably it was the minister, Torci, for it was he who first opened it to Bentinck, earl of Portland, ambassador from William III. to Louis XIV.
King William entered with great alacrity into this new project; and in concert with the count de Tallard, at The Hague, disposed of the Spanish succession. To the young prince of Bavaria they gave Spain and the East Indies, without knowing that Charles II. had before that bequeathed to him all his dominions. The dauphin, son of Louis XIV., was to have Naples, Sicily, and the province of Guipuzcoa, together with some few towns. The archduke Charles, second son of the emperor Leopold, had only the duchy of Milan given him, and nothing was allotted for the archduke Joseph, Leopold’s eldest son, and heir to the empire.
The destiny of a part of Europe and the half of America thus settled, Louis promised by this treaty of partition to renounce the entire succession to the Spanish dominions; the dauphin promised and signed the same thing. France thought to make an addition to its territories; England and Holland had in view the settlement of peace of a part of Europe; but all these politics were vain. The dying king, being informed how they were tearing his monarchy in pieces during his lifetime, was filled with indignation. It was generally expected that, upon hearing this news, he would declare either the emperor or one of his sons his successor, as a reward for his not having intermeddled in this shameful partition; and that he would make such a will as the house of Austria should dictate to him. He did indeed make a will, but he, a second time, declared the prince of Bavaria sole heir to his dominions. The Spanish nation, who dreaded nothing so much as the dismembering of its monarchy, applauded the disposition the king had made, which seemed calculated to bring about a peace. This hope proved as vain as the treaty of partition. The prince of Bavaria, the intended king, died at Brussels.
The house of Austria was unjustly charged with the sudden death of this prince, merely from the probability that those to whom the crimes are useful will be guilty of crimes, and new intrigues began to be revived again at the courts of Madrid, Vienna, Versailles, London, The Hague, and Rome.
Louis XIV., King William, and the states-general disposed once more of the Spanish monarchy in idea in March, 1706, and assigned to Archduke Charles, the emperor’s youngest son, that part which they had before given to the infant, lately dead.
They gave Milan to the duke of Lorraine, and Lorraine, so often invaded, and so often restored again to France, was to be annexed to it forever. This treaty, which set the politics of all the princes at work, to thwart or support it, proved as useless as the first. Europe was again deceived in its attempt, as almost always happens.
When this treaty of partition was offered to the emperor to sign, he refused, because he hoped to get the entire succession. The French kings, who had strongly pressed the signing of it, waited in uncertainty for the event.
The king of Spain, who saw himself at the point of death in the flower of his age, was for bestowing all his dominions on the archduke Charles, his queen’s nephew, and second son of the emperor Leopold; he did not dare to leave them to the eldest son, so prevalent was the system of a balance of power in all minds, and so certain was it that the apprehension of seeing Spain, the Indies, the empire, Hungary, Bohemia, and Lombardy in the same hands, he was about to arm all Europe. Charles II. wanted the emperor Leopold to send his second son, Charles, to Madrid, at the head of ten thousand men; but neither France, England, the states-general, nor Italy would have permitted such a step to be taken at that time; everyone was for the partition. The emperor would not send his son alone, to be at the mercy of the Spanish council, and he could not transport ten thousand men thither; he only wanted to march troops into Italy to secure that part of the Austrian-Spanish monarchy. There now happened in the most important of concerns between two great princes, what happens every day between private persons in the most trifling affairs; they disputed, they grew warm; the Castilian haughtiness was offended by the German pride. The countess of Perlitz, who governed the wife of the dying king, alienated the minds of those in Madrid, whom she should have won over, and the court of Vienna disgusted them still more by its haughtiness.
The young archduke, who was afterward Emperor Charles VI., never mentioned the Spaniards but with some opprobrious appellation. He then experienced how incumbent it is on princes to weigh all their words. The bishop of Lérida, who was ambassador from the court of Madrid to that of Vienna, on some occasion of dislike against the Germans, collected these expressions and transmitted them with exaggerations to his court in his despatches, and even treated the Austrian council more injuriously in his letters than the archduke had done the Spaniards by his speeches. “Leopold’s ministers,” said he, “have understandings like the horns of the goats in my country, small, hard, and crooked.” This letter was made public. The bishop of Lérida was recalled, and on his return to Madrid he doubly increased the aversion which his countrymen had to the Germans.
While the Austrian party made itself thus hated by the court of Madrid, the marquis, afterward marshal, duke d’Harcourt, the French ambassador, gained all hearts by his prodigious magnificence, his dexterity, and perfect knowledge in the art of pleasing. He was the first who changed into benevolence that antipathy which the Spanish nation had nourished against the French, ever since the reign of Ferdinand the Catholic, and by his prudent conduct laid the foundation for that period, when France and Spain renewed the ancient bonds by which they were united before the time of that Ferdinand. “Crown with crown, nation with nation, and man with man.” He brought the Spanish court to have an affection for the house of France, its ministers to be no longer startled at the renunciations made by Maria Theresa and Anne of Austria, and the king himself to waver between his own house and that of Bourbon. He was, therefore, the primum mobile of the greatest change in the administration and the minds of the people in general. But this change was yet at a considerable distance. The emperor employed entreaties and threats. The king of France represented his rights, but without venturing to ask the entire succession for his grandson.
The Council of Madrid were as yet undetermined which side to take, and Charles II., who was every day drawing nearer to his grave, was in equal uncertainty. Leopold, in a pique, recalled his ambassador, the count de Harrach, from Madrid, but soon afterward he sent him back again, and then the hopes in favor of the house of Austria were revived. The king of Spain wrote to the emperor that he would choose the archduke for his successor. Then the French king threatened in his turn; assembled an army on the frontiers of Spain, and the marquis d’Harcourt was recalled from his embassy, to command these forces, leaving only an officer of foot at the court of Madrid, who had served as secretary to the embassy, and now remained in quality of resident, as de Torci tells us. Thus the dying king, threatened alternately by those who pretended to the succession, and plainly perceiving that the hour of his death would be that of a bloody war, and that his dominions were on the point of being torn in pieces, drew toward his end comfortless, irresolute, and involved in disquietudes.
In this violent crisis of affairs, Cardinal Portocarrero, archbishop of Toledo, the count of Monterey, and others of the Spanish grandees, determined to save their country, and joined together to prevent the dismembering of the monarchy. Their hatred of the Austrian government added a double weight to reasons of state in their breasts, and did the court of France the most essential service without her knowing it. They persuaded Charles II. to prefer the grandson of Louis XIV. to a prince at so great a distance from them, and incapable of defending them. This was not an invalidation of the solemn renunciations of the Spanish crown made by the mother and wife of Louis XIV., because these had been made only to prevent the elder sons of their descendants from uniting the two kingdoms under one rule; and here it was an elder son that was chosen. It was at the same time doing justice to the rights of blood, and preserving the Spanish monarchy from a partition. The scrupulous king caused all his divines to be consulted on this head, who were all of opinion with the council; and ill as he was, wrote a letter with his own hand to Pope Innocent XII., proposing the same case to him. The pope, who thought the liberty of Italy depended upon the weakening of the house of Austria, wrote back to the king that the laws of Spain and the good of Christendom required of him to give the preference to the house of France. This letter of the pope’s was dated July 16, 1700. He treated this case of conscience proposed by a sovereign as an affair of state; while the king of Spain made a case of conscience of an important affair of state.
Louis XIV. was informed of these dispositions by Cardinal de Janson, who then resided at Rome, and this was all the share that the court of Versailles had in this event. Six months had passed without there being any ambassador at the court of Madrid. This was perhaps a fault; but perhaps also this very fault secured the Spanish monarchy in the house of France. The king of Spain then made his third will, that was for a long time thought to be the only one, by which he bequeathed all his dominions to the duke of Anjou.
It was generally thought in Europe that this will of Charles II. had been dictated at Versailles. The dying king consulted only the interest of his kingdom, and the wishes and even fears of his people; for the French king had ordered his troops to advance to the frontiers, in order to secure to himself a part of the inheritance at the time the dying king determined to leave him the whole. Nothing is more true than that the reputation of Louis XIV. and the notion of his power were the only negotiations that completed this great revolution.
Charles of Austria, after having signed the ruin of his house, and the aggrandizement of that of France, languished about a month longer, when he ended, at the age of thirty-nine, the obscure life he had led while on the throne. It may perhaps not be altogether useless toward giving an insight into the human mind, to mention that this monarch, a few months before his death, caused the tombs of his mother and his first wife, Maria Louisa of Orleans, to the poisoning of whom he was suspected to have been privy, to be opened, and kissed the remains of their dead bodies. In this he either followed the example of some of the ancient kings of Spain, or was willing to accustom himself to the horrors of death, or from a secret superstition thought that opening these tombs would retard the hour in which he was to be carried to his own.
This prince was from his birth as weak in mind as body; and this weakness had spread itself through his dominions. It is the fate of monarchies to have their prosperity depend upon the disposition of a single man. Charles II. had been brought up in such profound ignorance that when the French were beseiging Mons, he thought that place had belonged to the king of England. He neither knew whereabouts Flanders lay, nor what place belonged to him there. This king left the duke of Anjou all his dominions without knowing what he had given him.
His will was kept so secret that the count de Harrach, the emperor’s ambassador, still flattered himself that the archduke would be acknowledged his successor. He waited a long time for the issue of the great council, which was held immediately upon the king’s death; at length seeing the duke of Abrantes coming toward him with open arms, he made sure in that instant that the archduke was king, and when the duke embraced him, accosted him thus: “Vengo á expedirme de la casa de Austria”—“I am come to take leave of the house of Austria.”
Thus, after two hundred years of war and negotiations for some few frontier towns of the Spanish dominions, the house of France, by the single stroke of a pen, was put in possession of the whole monarchy, without treaties, without intrigues, and even without having entertained hopes of the succession. We thought ourselves obliged to bring to light the simple truth of a fact which has till now been obscured by so many statesmen and historians, led away, by their own prejudices and by appearances, that are almost always fallacious. What we find related in a number of books concerning the sums of money distributed by Marshal d’Harcourt, and the bribing of the Spanish ministers to get this will signed, may be ranked in the number of political lies and popular errors. But the king of Spain, in choosing for his successor the grandson of a king who had so long been his enemy, had always in view the consequences that naturally follow from a notion of a general equilibrium of power. The duke of Anjou, Louis XIV.’s grandson, was called to the Spanish succession only because he could never pretend to the crown of France; and in this very will, by which, in default of younger children of the blood of Louis XIV., the archduke Charles—afterward the emperor Charles VI.—is called to the succession, it is expressly declared, that the empire and Spain shall never be united under one sovereign.
Louis XIV. might still have abided by the treaty of partition, which was profitable for France, or he might have accepted the will, which was to the advantage of his family. This matter was actually in debate in an extraordinary council, held Nov. 11, 1700. The chancellor, Pontchartrain, and the duke of Beauvilliers, were for abiding by the treaty, as they foresaw the danger of having a new war to support. Louis saw nothing like this; but he was accustomed not to fear war. He therefore accepted the will, and as he was coming out of the council, meeting the princess of Conti, with madame, the duchess; “Well,” said he to them, smiling, “on which side are you?” and then, without giving them time to reply, “Whichsoever side I take,” added he, “I am sure to be blamed.”
The actions of kings, though often extravagantly flattered, are also liable to the severest strictures, insomuch that the king of England himself underwent the reproaches of his parliament, and his ministers were prosecuted for having been concerned in the treaty of partition. The English, who reason better than any other nation, but who frequently suffer the rage of party spirit to extinguish that reason, exclaimed unanimously against William, who had made this treaty, and against Louis, who had broken it.
Europe at first seemed lost in surprise, and unable to bestir itself when it saw the Spanish monarchy become subject to France, whose rival it had been for over three hundred years. Louis XIV. seemed the most fortunate and powerful monarch in the world. He saw himself, at the age of sixty-two, surrounded with a numerous posterity, and one of his grandsons going to rule, under his orders, the kingdom of Spain, America, one half of Italy, and the Low Countries. The emperor as yet could do nothing but complain.
King William, now fifty-two years of age, infirm and feeble, no longer appeared the formidable enemy he had been. He could not make war without the consent of his parliament; and Louis had taken care to send sums of money over to England with a view to purchasing several votes in that assembly. William and the Dutch, not being strong enough to declare themselves, wrote to Philip V., as to the lawful king of Spain. Louis XIV. was sure of the elector of Bavaria. This elector, who governed the Netherlands in the name of the deceased king, Charles II., immediately secured the possession of Flanders to Philip V., and left a passage open for the French army through his electorate to the capital of Germany, in case the emperor should venture to declare war. The elector of Cologne, brother of the elector of Bavaria, was as intimately connected with France as his brother, and these two princes seemed to act with reason on their side. The party of the house of Bourbon was at that time the strongest. The duke of Savoy, father-in-law of the duke of Burgundy, and prospective father-in-law of the king of Spain, was to have the command of the French forces in Italy. It was hardly imagined then that the father of the duchess of Burgundy and the queen of Spain would ever make war upon his two sons-in-law.
The duke of Mantua, who had been sold to France by his minister, now sold himself, and received a French garrison into Mantua. The duchy of Milan acknowledged Louis’s grandson without hesitation; and even Portugal, who was naturally the enemy of Spain, immediately joined with it. In a word, from Gibraltar to Antwerp, and from the Danube to Naples, all seemed to be at the disposal of the Bourbons. The king was so elated with his prosperity that, talking with the duke de la Rochefoucauld one day on the subject of the proposals which the emperor made him at that time, he expressed himself thus: “You will find them still more insolent than you have been told.”
King William, who to the hour of his death continued an enemy to Louis XIV., promised the emperor to arm England and Holland in his cause: he likewise engaged the court of Denmark in his interest; at length, in September, 1701, he signed at The Hague that league which had been already set on foot against the house of France. The king, however, was not much surprised at this, and depending upon the divisions he hoped to cause in the English parliament by the money he had sent over, and still more on the united forces of France and Spain, seemed to despise his enemies.
At this time King James died at St. Germain. Louis might on this occasion have paid what appeared due to decency and good politics in not too hastily acknowledging the prince of Wales for king of England, after having already acknowledged William’s title by the Peace of Ryswick. He was at first determined, from an emotion of pure generosity, to give the son of King James the consolation of a title and dignity which his unfortunate father had borne till the hour of his death, and which the Treaty of Ryswick did not take from him. The principal ministers of the council, however, were of a different opinion. The duke of Beauvilliers, especially, set forth in the most eloquent manner the many scourges of war which were likely to be the consequence of so dangerous a magnanimity. This nobleman was governor to the duke of Burgundy, and in everything thought like that prince’s preceptor, the famous archbishop of Cambray, so well known by his humane maxims of government, and the preference he gave to the interests of the people over the grandeur of the monarch. The marquis de Torci enforced as a politician what the duke de Beauvilliers had advanced as a citizen. He represented how impolitic it was to incense the English nation by so rash a step. Louis yielded to the opinions of his council, and resolved not to acknowledge the son of James II. as king. The same day Mary of Modena, widow of the deceased James, went to Madame de Maintenon’s apartments to speak with Louis XIV. She found him there, and with a flood of tears conjured him not to treat her son, herself, and the memory of a king he had protected, with so much indignity as to refuse a title, the only remains of all their former greatness. She observed that as her son had always received the honors of a prince of Wales, he ought to be treated as king after the death of his father; and that even William himself could not complain of this, provided he was left to enjoy his usurpation. To these arguments she added others, which concerned the interest and glory of Louis XIV. She represented to him that whether he acknowledged the son of James II. or not, the English would nevertheless declare against France; and that he would only feel the vexation of having sacrificed the most noble sentiments to a fruitless precaution. These representations and tears were powerfully seconded by Madame de Maintenon. The king resumed his former sentiments, and the noble resolution of protecting distressed kings to the utmost of his power. In a word, James III. was acknowledged the same day that it had been determined in council not to acknowledge him.
The marquis de Torci has frequently owned this remarkable anecdote; he has not indeed inserted it in his memoirs, because, as he himself observes, he thought it was not to the honor of his master to be prevailed upon by two women to alter a resolution which had been taken in his council. Some English gentlemen have told me that, had it not been for this step, their parliament might not perhaps have taken part against the houses of Bourbon and Austria; but that this acknowledging as their king a person whom they had banished appeared an insult offered to the nation, and an attempt toward exercising an absolute authority over Europe. The spirit of freedom which then prevailed among the English, which was not a little increased by the hatred they bore to Louis, on account of his great power, made the nation contribute with cheerfulness to all the supplies which William demanded.
It appears more probable that the English would have declared war against Louis XIV., even though he had refused the empty title of king to the son of James II. His grandson’s being in possession of the Spanish monarchy seemed alone sufficient to arm all the maritime powers against him. A few members of the house of commons bribed to favor his cause, could never have opposed the torrent of the nation. It remains to be decided whether Madame de Maintenon judged better than the French council, and whether Louis XIV. was in the right to indulge the pride and sensibility of his soul.
The emperor Leopold first began this war in Italy in the spring of the year 1701. Italy has always been the favorite object in all the concerns of the emperors. He knew his arms could more easily penetrate here through the Tyrolese and the Venetian states; for Venice, though neutral in appearance, still inclined more to the house of Austria than to that of France, and, moreover, being obliged by treaties to allow a passage to the German troops, she found no great difficulty in accomplishing these treaties.
The emperor, before he ventured to attack Louis XIV. on the side of Germany, waited till the Germanic body began to stir in his favor. He had correct reports from the Spanish court, and even a party there; but neither of these could prove of service without the presence of one of his sons, and he could not be transported thither but with the assistance of the English and Dutch fleets. King William hastened the necessary preparations; his soul more active than ever, in a feeble and almost lifeless body, set everything in motion; not so much with a view to serving the house of Austria as to humbling Louis XIV.
He was to have headed the armies himself, at the beginning of the year 1702, but death prevented his design. A fall from his horse completed the disorder of his enfeebled organs, and a slight fever carried him off March 16, 1702. He died without making any reply to what the English clergymen who attended at his bedside said to him in relation to their religion, and showed no concern but for the affairs of Europe.
He left behind him the character of a great politician, though he was never popular, and a formidable general, though he had lost so many battles; always circumspect in his conduct, and spirited only in the day of battle; he reigned peaceably in England merely because he did not attempt to be absolute; he was called the English stadtholder and the Dutch king; he understood all the European languages, but spoke none of them well, as he had a much greater share of reflection than imagination; he affected to hate flatterers and flattery, perhaps because Louis XIV. seemed to take rather too much pleasure in them. His reputation was of a different kind from that of the French monarch; those who admired most the advantage of having acquired a kingdom without any natural right, and of maintaining the rule over a people without being beloved by them; of having governed Holland with all the authority of a sovereign, without enslaving it; of having been the soul and head of half of Europe, without possessing the talents of a general or the courage of a soldier; of never having persecuted anyone on the score of religion; of having a contempt for the superstitious prejudices of mankind; of having been simple and moderate in his manners, such, I say, will doubtless give the title of great to William, rather than to Louis: while those who are more delighted with the pleasures of a brilliant court, with magnificence, with the protection given to the arts, with a zeal for the public good, a thirst for glory, and a talent for reigning, who are more struck with the lofty manner in which ministers and generals added whole provinces to France, only on an order from their king; who are more astonished to see a single state prevail against so many powers; who have greater esteem for a king of France who procures the kingdom of Spain for his grandson, than for a son-in-law who dethrones his wife’s father; in a word, those who admire more the protector than the persecutor of King James, will give Louis the preference.
William III. was succeeded by Princess Anne, daughter of King James by the daughter of Lawyer Hyde, afterward chancellor and one of the principal men of the kingdom. She was married to the prince of Denmark, who ranked only as the first subject in the kingdom. As soon as she came to the crown she adopted all the measures of her predecessor, King William, though she had been at open variance with him during his life. These measures were those of the nation. In other kingdoms, a prince obliges his people to enter blindly into all his views; but in England a king must enter into those of his people.
The dispositions made by England and Holland for placing, if possible, the archduke Charles, son of the emperor Leopold, on the throne of Spain, or at least to oppose the establishment of the Bourbon family, were such as perhaps may be said to merit the attention of all ages.
The Dutch on their side were to maintain an army of one hundred and two thousand men in pay, either in garrison or in the field. This was much more than the vast Spanish monarchy could furnish at that time; a province of merchants, who, thirty years before, had been almost totally subdued in the space of two months, could now do more than the masters of Spain, Naples, Flanders, Peru, and Mexico. England promised to furnish forty thousand men. It happens in most alliances that, in the long run, the parties concerned fall short of their promised quotas; but England, on the contrary, furnished fifty thousand men the second year instead of forty, which she had promised; and, in the latter part of the war, she had to pay, on the frontiers of France, in Spain, Italy, Ireland, America, and on board her fleet, more than one hundred and twenty thousand fighting men, soldiers and sailors, partly her own troops, partly those of her allies; an expense which appears almost incredible to those who reflect that England, properly so called, is not a third as large as France, and has not half the quantity of coin; but will appear probable in the eyes of those who know what trade and credit can do. The English always bore the greatest share of the burden in this alliance; while the Dutch insensibly lessened theirs; for, after all, the republic of the states-general is only an illustrious trading company, whereas England is a fruitful country, abounding in merchants and soldiers.
The emperor was to furnish eighty thousand men, exclusive of the troops of the empire and those allies whom he hoped to detach from the house of Bourbon; and yet the grandson of Louis XIV. was already seated peaceably on his throne at Madrid, and Louis, at the beginning of the century, was at the zenith of his power and glory: but those who penetrated into the resources of the several courts of Europe, and especially that of France, began to fear some reverse. Spain, which had been weakened under the last kings of the race of Charles V., was still more feeble during the early part of the reign of the Bourbons. The house of Austria had partisans in several provinces of this monarchy; Catalonia seemed ready to shake off the new yoke, and acknowledge the archduke Charles. It was impossible that Portugal, sooner or later, should not side with the house of Austria. It was plainly to its interest to encourage a civil war among the Spaniards, its natural enemies, that might turn to the advantage of Lisbon. The duke of Savoy, lately become father-in-law to the new king of Spain, and linked to the Bourbons by ties of blood as well as by treaties, seemed already displeased with his sons-in-law. Fifty thousand crowns a month, afterward raised to two hundred thousand francs, did not appear a sufficiently valuable consideration to bind him to their interest; he wanted Montferrat, Mantua, and a part of the duchy of Milan. The haughty treatment he met with from the French generals, and from the ministry at Versailles, made him apprehensive, and not without reason, that he should soon be held for nothing by his two sons-in-law, who kept his dominions surrounded on every side. He had already quitted the emperor for France without any ceremony; and it seemed more than probable that, finding himself so little regarded by the latter, he would change sides the first opportunity.
As to the court of Louis XIV. and his kingdom, discerning spirits already perceived a change in them, which is only visible to the grosser ones when the decline is far advanced. The king, now over sixty years of age, was more retired, and consequently knew less of mankind; he saw things at too great a distance, and with eyes less discerning, and dazzled with prosperity. Madame de Maintenon, with all the amiable qualities of which she was mistress, had neither the strength, greatness, nor courage of mind requisite for supporting the glory of a state; she was instrumental in procuring the management of the finances in 1698, and the department of war in 1701, for her creature, Chamillard, who was more of the honest man than the minister, and had ingratiated himself with the king by his discreet conduct, when employed at St. Cyr; but, notwithstanding an outward appearance of modesty, he had the misfortune to think himself capable of bearing two burdens, which Colbert and Louvois had with difficulty supported separately. The king, depending on his own experience, thought that he could successfully direct his ministers; and when Louvois died, he said to King James: “I have lost a good minister, but neither your affairs nor mine shall go the worse for it.” When he made choice of Barbésieux to succeed Louvois as secretary of war, he said to him: “I formed your father, and I will form you.” He expressed himself much in the same manner to Chamillard. A king who had been so long engaged in public affairs, and with such great success, seemed to have a right to talk in this manner.
In regard to the generals whom he employed, they were frequently confined by the strict orders they received from him, like ambassadors who must not depart from their instructions. He and Chamillard directed the operations of the campaign in Madame de Maintenon’s closet. If a general was desirous of executing any great undertaking, he was frequently obliged to despatch a courier to court for permission, who at his return found the opportunity lost, or the general beaten.
Military rewards and dignities were profusely lavished under Chamillard’s administration; numbers of young persons, hardly out of their leading-strings, were allowed to purchase regiments, which, with the enemy, was the reward of twenty years’ service. This difference was very sensibly felt on many occasions, in which an experienced officer might have prevented a total rout. The cross of the Knights of St. Louis, a reward invented by the king in 1693, and then the object of emulation among the officers, was exposed to sale in the beginning of Chamillard’s ministry, and could be bought for fifty crowns apiece, at any of the war offices. Military discipline, the soul of service, which had been so strictly kept up by Louvois, had degenerated into a fatal remissness; the companies were not complete in their number of men nor the regiments in their officers. Hence arose a defect, which, supposing an equality in other respects, must infallibly occasion the loss of all their battles; for to have an equal extent of front with that of the enemy, they were obliged to oppose weak battalions to strong and numerous ones. The magazines were no longer so well provided, nor at such convenient distances, nor were the arms so well tempered as formerly. Those, therefore, who perceived these defects in the administration, and knew what generals France had to deal with, trembled for her, even in the midst of those first advantages which seemed to promise her greater success than ever.