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12: Chapter XII

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Besides matters of predestination there were other subjects political and personal which increased the King's jealousy and hatred. The debt of the Republic to the British crown, secured by mortgage of the important sea- ports and fortified towns of Flushing, Brielle, Rammekens, and other strong places, still existed. The possession of those places by England was a constant danger and irritation to the States. It was an axe perpetually held over their heads. It threatened their sovereignty, their very existence. On more than one occasion, in foreign courts, the representatives of the Netherlands had been exposed to the taunt that the Republic was after all not an independent power, but a British province. The gibe had always been repelled in a manner becoming the envoys of a proud commonwealth; yet it was sufficiently galling that English garrisons should continue to hold Dutch towns; one of them among the most valuable seaports of the Republic,--the other the very cradle of its independence, the seizure of which in Alva's days had always been reckoned a splendid achievement. Moreover, by the fifth article of the treaty of peace between James and Philip III., although the King had declared himself bound by the treaties made by Elizabeth to deliver up the cautionary towns to no one but the United States, he promised Spain to allow those States a reasonable time to make peace with the Archdukes on satisfactory conditions. Should they refuse to do so, he held himself bound by no obligations to them, and would deal with the cities as he thought proper, and as the Archdukes themselves might deem just.

The King had always been furious at "the huge sum of money to be advanced, nay, given, to the States," as he phrased it. "It is so far out of all square," he had said, "as on my conscience I cannot think that ever they craved it 'animo obtinendi,' but only by that objection to discourage me from any thought of getting any repayment of my debts from them when they shall be in peace . . .. . . . Should I ruin myself for maintaining them? Should I bestow as much on them as cometh to the value of my whole yearly rent? "He had proceeded to say very plainly that, if the States did not make great speed to pay him all his debt so soon as peace was established, he should treat their pretence at independence with contempt, and propose dividing their territory between himself and the King of France.

"If they be so weak as they cannot subsist either in peace or war," he said, "without I ruin myself for upholding them, in that case surely 'minus malunv est eligendum,' the nearest harm is first to be eschewed, a man will leap out of a burning ship and drown himself in the sea; and it is doubtless a farther off harm for me to suffer them to fall again in the hands of Spain, and let God provide for the danger that may with time fall upon me or my posterity than presently to starve myself and mine with putting the meat in their mouth. Nay, rather if they be so weak as they can neither sustain themselves in peace nor war, let them leave this vainglorious thirsting for the title of a free state (which no people are worthy or able to enjoy that cannot stand by themselves like substantives), and 'dividantur inter nos;' I mean, let their countries be divided between France and me, otherwise the King of Spain shall be sure to consume us."

Such were the eyes with which James had always regarded the great commonwealth of which he affected to be the ally, while secretly aspiring to be its sovereign, and such was his capacity to calculate political forces and comprehend coming events.

Certainly the sword was hanging by a thread. The States had made no peace either with the Archdukes or with Spain. They had made a truce, half the term of which had already run by. At any moment the keys of their very house-door might be placed in the hands of their arch enemy. Treacherous and base as the deed would be, it might be defended by the letter of a treaty in which the Republic had no part; and was there anything too treacherous or too base to be dreaded from James Stuart?

But the States owed the crown of England eight millions of florins, equivalent to about L750,000. Where was this vast sum to be found? It was clearly impossible for the States to beg or to borrow it, although they were nearly as rich as any of the leading powers at that day.

It was the merit of Barneveld, not only that he saw the chance for a good bargain, but that he fully comprehended a great danger. Years long James had pursued the phantom of a Spanish marriage for his son. To achieve this mighty object, he had perverted the whole policy of the realm; he had grovelled to those who despised him, had repaid attempts at wholesale assassination with boundless sycophancy. It is difficult to imagine anything more abject than the attitude of James towards Philip. Prince Henry was dead, but Charles had now become Prince of Wales in his turn, and there was a younger infanta whose hand was not yet disposed of.

So long as the possible prize of a Most Catholic princess was dangling before the eyes of the royal champion of Protestantism, so long there was danger that the Netherlanders might wake up some fine morning and see the flag of Spain waving over the walls of Flushing, Brielle, and Rammekens.

It was in the interest of Spain too that the envoys of James at the Hague were perpetually goading Barneveld to cause the States' troops to be withdrawn from the duchies and the illusory treaty of Xanten to be executed. Instead of an eighth province added to the free Netherlands, the result of such a procedure would have been to place that territory enveloping them in the hands of the enemy; to strengthen and sharpen the claws, as the Advocate had called them, by which Spain was seeking to clutch and to destroy the Republic.

The Advocate steadily refused to countenance such policy in the duchies, and he resolved on a sudden stroke to relieve the Commonwealth from the incubus of the English mortgage.

James was desperately pushed for money. His minions, as insatiable in their demands on English wealth as the parasites who fed on the Queen- Regent were exhaustive of the French exchequer, were greedier than ever now that James, who feared to face a parliament disgusted with the meanness of his policy and depravity of his life, could not be relied upon to minister to their wants.

The Advocate judiciously contrived that the proposal of a compromise should come from the English government. Noel de Caron, the veteran ambassador of the States in London, after receiving certain proposals, offered, under instructions' from Barneveld, to pay L250,000 in full of all demands. It was made to appear that the additional L250,000 was in reality in advance of his instructions. The mouths of the minions watered at the mention of so magnificent a sum of money in one lump.

The bargain was struck. On the 11th June 1616, Sir Robert Sidney, who had become Lord Lisle, gave over the city of Flushing to the States, represented by the Seignior van Maldere, while Sir Horace Vere placed the important town of Brielle in the hands of the Seignior van Mathenesse. According to the terms of the bargain, the English garrisons were converted into two regiments, respectively to be commanded by Lord Lisle's son, now Sir Robert Sidney, and by Sir Horace Vere, and were to serve the States. Lisle, who had been in the Netherlands since the days of his uncle Leicester and his brother Sir Philip Sidney, now took his final departure for England.

Thus this ancient burthen had been taken off the Republic by the masterly policy of the Advocate. A great source of dread for foreign complication was closed for ever.

The French-Spanish marriages had been made. Henry IV. had not been murdered in vain. Conde and his confederates had issued their manifesto. A crisis came to the States, for Maurice, always inclined to take part for the princes, and urged on by Aerssens, who was inspired by a deadly hatred for the French government ever since they had insisted on his dismissal from his post, and who fed the Stadholder's growing jealousy of the Advocate to the full, was at times almost ready for joining in the conflict. It was most difficult for the States-General, led by Barneveld, to maintain relations of amity with a government controlled by Spain, governed by the Concini's, and wafted to and fro by every wind that blew. Still it was the government, and the States might soon be called upon, in virtue of their treaties with Henry, confirmed by Mary de' Medici, not only to prevent the daily desertion of officers and soldiers of the French regiments to the rebellious party, but to send the regiments themselves to the assistance of the King and Queen.

There could be no doubt that the alliance of the French Huguenots at Grenoble with the princes made the position of the States very critical. Bouillon was loud in his demands upon Maurice and the States for money and reinforcements, but the Prince fortunately understood the character of the Duke and of Conde, and comprehended the nature of French politics too clearly to be led into extremities by passion or by pique. He said loudly to any one that chose to listen:

"It is not necessary to ruin the son in order to avenge the death of the father. That should be left to the son, who alone has legitimate authority to do it." Nothing could be more sensible, and the remark almost indicated a belief on the Prince's part in Mary's complicity in the murder of her husband. Duplessis-Mornay was in despair, and, like all true patriots and men of earnest character, felt it almost an impossibility to choose between the two ignoble parties contending for the possession of France, and both secretly encouraged by France's deadly enemy.

The Treaty of Loudun followed, a treaty which, said du Maurier, had about as many negotiators as there were individuals interested in the arrangements. The rebels were forgiven, Conde sold himself out for a million and a half livres and the presidency of the council, came to court, and paraded himself in greater pomp and appearance of power than ever. Four months afterwards he was arrested and imprisoned. He submitted like a lamb, and offered to betray his confederates.

King James, faithful to his self-imposed part of mediator-general, which he thought so well became him, had been busy in bringing about this pacification, and had considered it eminently successful. He was now angry at this unexpected result. He admitted that Conde had indulged in certain follies and extravagancies, but these in his opinion all came out of the quiver of the Spaniard, "who was the head of the whole intrigue." He determined to recall Lord Hayes from Madrid and even Sir Thomas Edmonds from Paris, so great was his indignation. But his wrath was likely to cool under the soothing communications of Gondemar, and the rumour of the marriage of the second infanta with the Prince of Wales soon afterwards started into new life. "We hope," wrote Barneveld, "that the alliance of his Highness the Prince of Wales with the daughter of the Spanish king will make no further progress, as it will place us in the deepest embarrassment and pain."

For the reports had been so rife at the English court in regard to this dangerous scheme that Caron had stoutly gone to the King and asked him what he was to think about it. "The King told me," said the Ambassador, "that there was nothing at all in it, nor any appearance that anything ever would come of it. It was true, he said, that on the overtures made to him by the Spanish ambassador he had ordered his minister in Spain to listen to what they had to say, and not to bear himself as if the overtures would be rejected."

The coyness thus affected by James could hardly impose on so astute a diplomatist as Noel de Caron, and the effect produced upon the policy of one of the Republic's chief allies by the Spanish marriages naturally made her statesmen shudder at the prospect of their other powerful friend coming thus under the malign influence of Spain.

"He assured me, however," said the Envoy, "that the Spaniard is not sincere in the matter, and that he has himself become so far alienated from the scheme that we may sleep quietly upon it." And James appeared at that moment so vexed at the turn affairs were taking in France, so wounded in his self-love, and so bewildered by the ubiquitous nature of nets and pitfalls spreading over Europe by Spain, that he really seemed waking from his delusion. Even Caron was staggered? "In all his talk he appears so far estranged from the Spaniard," said he, "that it would seem impossible that he should consider this marriage as good for his state. I have also had other advices on the subject which in the highest degree comfort me. Now your Mightinesses may think whatever you like about it."

The mood of the King was not likely to last long in so comfortable a state. Meantime he took the part of Conde and the other princes, justified their proceedings to the special envoy sent over by Mary de' Medici, and wished the States to join with him in appealing to that Queen to let the affair, for his sake, pass over once more.

"And now I will tell your Mightinesses," said Caron, reverting once more to the dreaded marriage which occupies so conspicuous a place in the strangely mingled and party-coloured tissue of the history of those days, "what the King has again been telling me about the alliance between his son and the Infanta. He hears from Carleton that you are in very great alarm lest this event may take place. He understands that the special French envoy at the Hague, M. de la None, has been representing to you that the King of Great Britain is following after and begging for the daughter of Spain for his son. He says it is untrue. But it is true that he has been sought and solicited thereto, and that in consequence there have been talks and propositions and rejoinders, but nothing of any moment. As he had already told me not to be alarmed until he should himself give me cause for it, he expressed his amazement that I had not informed your Mightinesses accordingly. He assured me again that he should not proceed further in the business without communicating it to his good friends and neighbours, that he considered My Lords the States as his best friends and allies, who ought therefore to conceive no jealousy in the matter."

This certainly was cold comfort. Caron knew well enough, not a clerk in his office but knew well enough, that James had been pursuing this prize for years. For the King to represent himself as persecuted by Spain to give his son to the Infanta was about as ridiculous as it would have been to pretend that Emperor Matthias was persuading him to let his son-in-law accept the crown of Bohemia. It was admitted that negotiations for the marriage were going on, and the assertion that the Spanish court was more eager for it than the English government was not especially calculated to allay the necessary alarm of the States at such a disaster. Nor was it much more tranquillizing for them to be assured, not that the marriage was off, but that, when it was settled, they, as the King's good friends and neighbours, should have early information of it.

"I told him," said the Ambassador, "that undoubtedly this matter was of the highest 'importance to your Mightinesses, for it was not good for us to sit between two kingdoms both so nearly allied with the Spanish monarch, considering the pretensions he still maintained to sovereignty over us. Although his Majesty might not now be willing to treat to our prejudice, yet the affair itself in the sequence of time must of necessity injure our commonwealth. We hoped therefore that it would never come to pass."

Caron added that Ambassador Digby was just going to Spain on extraordinary mission in regard to this affair, and that eight or ten gentlemen of the council had been deputed to confer with his Majesty about it. He was still inclined to believe that the whole negotiation would blow over, the King continuing to exhort him not to be alarmed, and assuring him that there were many occasions moving princes to treat of great affairs although often without any effective issue.

At that moment too the King was in a state of vehement wrath with the Spanish Netherlands on account of a stinging libel against himself, "an infamous and wonderfully scandalous pamphlet," as he termed it, called 'Corona Regis', recently published at Louvain. He had sent Sir John Bennet as special ambassador to the Archdukes to demand from them justice and condign and public chastisement on the author of the work--a rector Putianus as he believed, successor of Justus Lipsius in his professorship at Louvain--and upon the printer, one Flaminius. Delays and excuses having followed instead of the punishment originally demanded, James had now instructed his special envoy in case of further delay or evasion to repudiate all further friendship or intercourse with the Archduke, to ratify the recall of his minister-resident Trumbull, and in effect to announce formal hostilities.

"The King takes the thing wonderfully to heart," said Caron.

James in effect hated to be made ridiculous, and we shall have occasion to see how important a part other publications which he deemed detrimental to the divinity of his person were to play in these affairs.

Meantime it was characteristic of this sovereign that--while ready to talk of war with Philip's brother-in-law for a pamphlet, while seeking the hand of Philip's daughter for his son--he was determined at the very moment when the world was on fire to take himself, the heaven-born extinguisher of all political conflagrations, away from affairs and to seek the solace of along holiday in Scotland. His counsellors persistently and vehemently implored him to defer that journey until the following year at least, all the neighbouring nations being now in a state of war and civil commotion. But it was in vain. He refused to listen to them for a moment, and started for Scotland before the middle of March.

Conde, who had kept France in a turmoil, had sought aid alternately from the Calvinists at Grenoble and the Jesuits in Rome, from Spain and from the Netherlands, from the Pope and from Maurice of Nassau, had thus been caged at last. But there was little gained. There was one troublesome but incompetent rebel the less, but there was no king in the land. He who doubts the influence of the individual upon the fate of a country and upon his times through long passages of history may explain the difference between France of 1609, with a martial king aided by great statesmen at its head, with an exchequer overflowing with revenue hoarded for a great cause--and that cause an attempt at least to pacificate Christendom and avert a universal and almost infinite conflict now already opening--and the France of 1617, with its treasures already squandered among ignoble and ruffianly favourites, with every office in state, church, court, and magistracy sold to the highest bidder, with a queen governed by an Italian adventurer who was governed by Spain, and with a little king who had but lately expressed triumph at his confirmation because now he should no longer be whipped, and who was just married to a daughter of the hereditary and inevitable foe of France.

To contemplate this dreary interlude in the history of a powerful state is to shiver at the depths of inanity and crime to which mankind can at once descend. What need to pursue the barren, vulgar, and often repeated chronicle? France pulled at by scarcely concealed strings and made to perform fantastic tricks according as its various puppets were swerved this way or that by supple bands at Madrid and Rome is not a refreshing spectacle. The States-General at last, after an agitated discussion, agreed in fulfilment of the treaty of 1609 to send 4000 men, 2000 being French, to help the King against the princes still in rebellion. But the contest was a most bitter one, and the Advocate had a difficult part to play between a government and a rebellion, each more despicable than the other. Still Louis XIII. and his mother were the legitimate government even if ruled by Concini. The words of the treaty made with Henry IV. were plain, and the ambassadors of his son had summoned the States to fulfil it. But many impediments were placed in the path of obvious duty by the party led by Francis Aerssens.

"I know very well," said the Advocate to ex-Burgomaster Hooft of Amsterdam, father of the great historian, sending him confidentially a copy of the proposals made by the French ambassadors, "that many in this country are striving hard to make us refuse to the King the aid demanded, notwithstanding that we are bound to do it by the pledges given not only by the States-General but by each province in particular. By this no one will profit but the Spaniard, who unquestionably will offer much, aye, very much, to bring about dissensions between France and us, from which I foresee great damage, inconvenience, and difficulties for the whole commonwealth and for Holland especially. This province has already advanced 1,000,000 florins to the general government on the money still due from France, which will all be lost in case the subsidy should be withheld, besides other evils which cannot be trusted to the pen."

On the same day on which it had been decided at the Hague to send the troops, a captain of guards came to the aid of the poor little king and shot Concini dead one fine spring morning on the bridge of the Louvre. "By order of the King," said Vitry. His body was burned before the statue of Henry IV. by the people delirious with joy. "L'hanno ammazzato" was shouted to his wife, Eleanora Galigai, the supposed sorceress. They were the words in which Concini had communicated to the Queen the murder of her husband seven years before. Eleanora, too, was burned after having been beheaded. Thus the Marshal d'Ancre and wife ceased to reign in France.

The officers of the French regiments at the Hague danced for joy on the Vyverberg when the news arrived there. The States were relieved from an immense embarrassment, and the Advocate was rewarded for having pursued what was after all the only practicable policy. "Do your best," said he to Langerac, "to accommodate differences so far as consistent with the conservation of the King's authority. We hope the princes will submit themselves now that the 'lapis offensionis,' according to their pretence, is got rid of. We received a letter from them to-day sealed with the King's arms, with the circumscription 'Periclitante Regno, Regis vita et Regia familia."

The shooting of Concini seemed almost to convert the little king into a hero. Everyone in the Netherlands, without distinction of party, was delighted with the achievement. "I cannot represent to the King," wrote du Maurier to Villeroy, "one thousandth part of the joy of all these people who are exalting him to heaven for having delivered the earth from this miserable burthen. I can't tell you in what execration this public pest was held. His Majesty has not less won the hearts of this state than if he had gained a great victory over the Spaniards. You would not believe it, and yet it is true, that never were the name and reputation of the late king in greater reverence than those of our reigning king at this moment."

Truly here was glory cheaply earned. The fame of Henry the Great, after a long career of brilliant deeds of arms, high statesmanship, and twenty years of bountiful friendship for the States, was already equalled by that of Louis XIII., who had tremblingly acquiesced in the summary execution of an odious adventurer--his own possible father--and who never had done anything else but feed his canary birds.

As for Villeroy himself, the Ambassador wrote that he could not find portraits enough of him to furnish those who were asking for them since his return to power.

Barneveld had been right in so often instructing Langerac to "caress the old gentleman."

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