Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V.: FRANCE, TILL THE DEATH OF CARDINAL MAZARIN, 1661. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV)
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CHAPTER V.: FRANCE, TILL THE DEATH OF CARDINAL MAZARIN, 1661. - 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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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.