Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVI.: 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. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV)
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CHAPTER XVI.: 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. - 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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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.
Voltaire Age of Louis XIV. VOL. XII—Part II