4: Chapter IV (1610)
<< 3: Chapter III (1610) || 5: Chapter V (1610-12) >>
There were reasons enough why the Advocate could not go to Paris at this
juncture. It was absurd in Henry to suppose it possible. Everything
rested on Barneveld's shoulders. During the year which had just passed
he had drawn almost every paper, every instruction in regard to the peace
negotiations, with his own hand, had assisted at every conference,
guided and mastered the whole course of a most difficult and intricate
negotiation, in which he had not only been obliged to make allowance
for the humbled pride and baffled ambition of the ancient foe of the
Netherlands, but to steer clear of the innumerable jealousies,
susceptibilities, cavillings, and insolences of their patronizing
It was his brain that worked, his tongue that spoke, his restless pen
that never paused. His was not one of those easy posts, not unknown in
the modern administration of great affairs, where the subordinate
furnishes the intellect, the industry, the experience, while the bland
superior, gratifying the world with his sign-manual, appropriates the
applause. So long as he lived and worked, the States-General and the
States of Holland were like a cunningly contrived machine, which seemed
to be alive because one invisible but mighty mind vitalized the whole.
And there had been enough to do. It was not until midsummer of 1609 that
the ratifications of the Treaty of Truce, one of the great triumphs in
the history of diplomacy, had been exchanged, and scarcely had this
period been put to the eternal clang of arms when the death of a lunatic
threw the world once more into confusion. It was obvious to Barneveld
that the issue of the Cleve-Julich affair, and of the tremendous
religious fermentation in Bohemia, Moravia, and Austria, must sooner or
later lead to an immense war. It was inevitable that it would devolve
upon the States to sustain their great though vacillating, their generous
though encroaching, their sincere though most irritating, ally. And
yet, thoroughly as Barneveld had mastered all the complications and
perplexities of the religious and political question, carefully as he
had calculated the value of the opposing forces which were shaking
Christendom, deeply as he had studied the characters of Matthias and
Rudolph, of Charles of Denmark and Ferdinand of Graz, of Anhalt and
Maximilian, of Brandenburg and Neuburg, of James and Philip, of Paul V.
and Charles Emmanuel, of Sully and Yilleroy, of Salisbury and Bacon, of
Lerma and Infantado; adroitly as he could measure, weigh, and analyse all
these elements in the great problem which was forcing itself on the
attention of Europe--there was one factor with which it was difficult for
this austere republican, this cold, unsuseeptible statesman, to deal: the
intense and imperious passion of a greybeard for a woman of sixteen.
For out of the cauldron where the miscellaneous elements of universal
war were bubbling rose perpetually the fantastic image of Margaret
Montmorency: the fatal beauty at whose caprice the heroic sword of Ivry
and Cahors was now uplifted and now sheathed.
Aerssens was baffled, and reported the humours of the court where he
resided as changing from hour to hour. To the last he reported that all
the mighty preparations then nearly completed "might evaporate in smoke"
if the Princess of Conde should come back. Every ambassador in Paris was
baffled. Peter Pecquius was as much in the dark as Don Inigo de
Cardenas, as Ubaldini or Edmonds. No one save Sully, Aerssens,
Barneveld, and the King knew the extensive arrangements and profound
combinations which had been made for the war. Yet not Sully, Aerssens,
Barneveld, or the King, knew whether or not the war would really be made.
Barneveld had to deal with this perplexing question day by day. His
correspondence with his ambassador at Henry's court was enormous, and we
have seen that the Ambassador was with the King almost daily; sleeping or
waking; at dinner or the chase; in the cabinet or the courtyard.
But the Advocate was also obliged to carry in his arms, as it were, the
brood of snarling, bickering, cross-grained German princes, to supply
them with money, with arms, with counsel, with brains; to keep them awake
when they went to sleep, to steady them in their track, to teach them to
go alone. He had the congress at Hall in Suabia to supervise and direct;
he had to see that the ambassadors of the new republic, upon which they
in reality were already half dependent and chafing at their dependence,
were treated with the consideration due to the proud position which the
Commonwealth had gained. Questions of etiquette were at that moment
questions of vitality. He instructed his ambassadors to leave the
congress on the spot if they were ranked after the envoys of princes who
were only feudatories of the Emperor. The Dutch ambassadors,
"recognising and relying upon no superiors but God and their sword,"
placed themselves according to seniority with the representatives of
He had to extemporize a system of free international communication with
all the powers of the earth--with the Turk at Constantinople, with the
Czar of Muscovy; with the potentates of the Baltic, with both the Indies.
The routine of a long established and well organized foreign office in a
time-honoured state running in grooves; with well-balanced springs and
well oiled wheels, may be a luxury of civilization; but it was a more
arduous task to transact the greatest affairs of a state springing
suddenly into recognized existence and mainly dependent for its primary
construction and practical working on the hand of one man.
Worse than all, he had to deal on the most dangerous and delicate topics
of state with a prince who trembled at danger and was incapable of
delicacy; to show respect for a character that was despicable, to lean on
a royal word falser than water, to inhale almost daily the effluvia from
a court compared to which the harem of Henry was a temple of vestals.
The spectacle of the slobbering James among his Kars and Hays and
Villiers's and other minions is one at which history covers her eyes and
is dumb; but the republican envoys, with instructions from a Barneveld,
were obliged to face him daily, concealing their disgust, and bowing
reverentially before him as one of the arbiters of their destinies and
the Solomon of his epoch.
A special embassy was sent early in the year to England to convey the
solemn thanks of the Republic to the King for his assistance in the truce
negotiations, and to treat of the important matters then pressing on the
attention of both powers. Contemporaneously was to be despatched the
embassy for which Henry was waiting so impatiently at Paris.
Certainly the Advocate had enough with this and other, important business
already mentioned to detain him at his post. Moreover the first year of
peace had opened disastrously in the Netherlands. Tremendous tempests
such as had rarely been recorded even in that land of storms had raged
all the winter. The waters everywhere had burst their dykes and
inundations, which threatened to engulph the whole country, and which had
caused enormous loss of property and even of life, were alarming the most
courageous. It was difficult in many district to collect the taxes for
the every-day expenses of the community, and yet the Advocate knew that
the Republic would soon be forced to renew the war on a prodigious scale.
Still more to embarrass the action of the government and perplex its
statesmen, an alarming and dangerous insurrection broke out in Utrecht.
In that ancient seat of the hard-fighting, imperious, and opulent
sovereign archbishops of the ancient church an important portion of the
population had remained Catholic. Another portion complained of the
abolition of various privileges which they had formerly enjoyed; among
others that of a monopoly of beer-brewing for the province. All the
population, as is the case with all populations in all countries and all
epochs, complained of excessive taxation.
A clever politician, Dirk Kanter by name, a gentleman by birth, a scholar
and philosopher by pursuit and education, and a demagogue by profession,
saw an opportunity of taking an advantage of this state of things. More
than twenty years before he had been burgomaster of the city, and had
much enjoyed himself in that position. He was tired of the learned
leisure to which the ingratitude of his fellow-citizens had condemned
him. He seems to have been of easy virtue in the matter of religion, a
Catholic, an Arminian, an ultra orthodox Contra-Remonstrant by turns. He
now persuaded a number of determined partisans that the time had come for
securing a church for the public worship of the ancient faith, and at the
same time for restoring the beer brewery, reducing the taxes, recovering
lost privileges, and many other good things. Beneath the whole scheme
lay a deep design to effect the secession of the city and with it of the
opulent and important province of Utrecht from the Union. Kanter had
been heard openly to avow that after all the Netherlands had flourished
under the benign sway of the House of Burgundy, and that the time would
soon come for returning to that enviable condition.
By a concerted assault the city hall was taken possession of by main
force, the magistracy was overpowered, and a new board of senators and
common council-men appointed, Kanter and a devoted friend of his,
Heldingen by name, being elected burgomasters.
The States-Provincial of Utrecht, alarmed at these proceedings in the
city, appealed for protection against violence to the States-General
under the 3rd Article of the Union, the fundamental pact which bore the
name of Utrecht itself. Prince Maurice proceeded to the city at the head
of a detachment of troops to quell the tumults. Kanter and his friends
were plausible enough to persuade him of the legality and propriety of
the revolution which they had effected, and to procure his formal
confirmation of the new magistracy. Intending to turn his military
genius and the splendour of his name to account, they contrived to keep
him for a time at least in an amiable enthralment, and induced him to
contemplate in their interest the possibility of renouncing the oath
which subjected him to the authority of the States of Utrecht. But the
far-seeing eye of Barneveld could not be blind to the danger which at
this crisis beset the Stadholder and the whole republic. The Prince was
induced to return to the Hague, but the city continued by armed revolt to
maintain the new magistracy. They proceeded to reduce the taxes, and in
other respects to carry out the measures on the promise of which they had
come into power. Especially the Catholic party sustained Kanter and his
friends, and promised themselves from him and from his influence over
Prince Maurice to obtain a power of which they had long been deprived.
The States-General now held an assembly at Woerden, and summoned the
malcontents of Utrecht to bring before that body a statement of their
grievances. This was done, but there was no satisfactory arrangement
possible, and the deputation returned to Utrecht, the States-General to
the Hague. The States-Provincial of Utrecht urged more strongly than ever
upon the assembly of the Union to save the city from the hands of a
reckless and revolutionary government. The States-General resolved
accordingly to interfere by force. A considerable body of troops was
ordered to march at once upon Utrecht and besiege the city. Maurice, in
his capacity of captain-general and stadholder of the province, was
summoned to take charge of the army. He was indisposed to do so, and
pleaded sickness. The States, determined that the name of Nassau should
not be used as an encouragement to disobedience, and rebellion, then
directed the brother of Maurice, Frederic Henry, youngest son of William
the Silent, to assume the command. Maurice insisted that his brother was
too young, and that it was unjust to allow so grave a responsibility to
fall upon his shoulders. The States, not particularly pleased with the
Prince's attitude at this alarming juncture, and made anxious by the
glamour which seemed to possess him since his conferences with the
revolutionary party at Utrecht, determined not to yield.
The army marched forth and laid siege to the city, Prince Frederic Henry
at its head. He was sternly instructed by the States-General, under
whose orders he acted, to take possession of the city at all hazards.
He was to insist on placing there a garrison of 2000 foot and 300 horse,
and to permit not another armed man within the walls. The members of the
council of state and of the States of Utrecht accompanied the army. For
a moment the party in power was disposed to resist the forces of the
Union. Dick Kanter and his friends were resolute enough; the Catholic
priests turned out among the rest with their spades and worked on the
entrenchments. The impossibility of holding the city against the
overwhelming power of the States was soon obvious, and the next day the
gates were opened, and easy terms were granted. The new magistracy was
set aside, the old board that had been deposed by the rebels reinstated.
The revolution and the counterrevolution were alike bloodless, and it was
determined that the various grievances of which the discontented party
had complained should be referred to the States-General, to Prince
Maurice, to the council of state, and to the ambassadors of France and
England. Amnesty was likewise decreed on submission.
The restored government was Arminian in its inclinations, the
revolutionary one was singularly compounded both of Catholic and of
ultra-orthodox elements. Quiet was on the whole restored, but the
resources of the city were crippled. The event occurring exactly at the
crisis of the Clove and Julich expedition angered the King of France.
"The trouble of Utrecht," wrote Aerssens to Barneveld, "has been turned
to account here marvellously, the Archdukes and Spaniards boasting that
many more revolts like this may be at once expected. I have explained to
his Majesty, who has been very much alarmed about it, both its source and
the hopes that it will be appeased by the prudence of his Excellency
Prince Maurice and the deputies of the States. The King desires that
everything should be pacified as soon as possible, so that there may be
no embarrassment to the course of public affairs. But he fears, he tells
me, that this may create some new jealousy between Prince Maurice and
yourself. I don't comprehend what he means, although he held this
language to me very expressly and without reserve. I could only answer
that you were living on the best of terms together in perfect amity and
intelligence. If you know if this talk of his has any other root, please
to enlighten me, that I may put a stop to false reports, for I know
nothing of affairs except what you tell me."
King James, on the other hand, thoroughly approved the promptness of the
States-General in suppressing the tumult.
Nothing very serious of alike nature occurred in Utrecht until the end of
the year, when a determined and secret conspiracy was discovered, having
for its object to overpower the garrison and get bodily possession of
Colonel John Ogle, the military commander of the town. At the bottom of
the movement were the indefatigable Dirk Kanter and his friend Heldingen.
The attempt was easily suppressed, and the two were banished from the
town. Kanter died subsequently in North Holland, in the odour of ultra-
orthodoxy. Four of the conspirators--a post-master, two shoemakers, and
a sexton, who had bound themselves by oath to take the lives of two
eminent Arminian preachers, besides other desperate deeds--were condemned
to death, but pardoned on the scaffold. Thus ended the first revolution
Its effect did not cease, however, with the tumults which were its
original manifestations. This earliest insurrection in organized shape
against the central authority of the States-General; this violent though
abortive effort to dissolve the Union and to nullify its laws; this
painful necessity for the first time imposed upon the federal government
to take up arms against misguided citizens of the Republic, in order to
save itself from disintegration and national death, were destined to be
followed by far graver convulsions on the self-same spot. Religious
differences and religious hatreds were to mingle their poison with
antagonistic political theories and personal ambitions, and to develop on
a wide scale the danger ever lurking in a constitution whose fundamental
law was unstable, ill defined, and liable to contradictory
interpretations. For the present it need only be noticed that the
States-General, guided by Barneveld, most vigorously suppressed the local
revolt and the incipient secession, while Prince Maurice, the right arm
of the executive, the stadholder of the province, and the representative
of the military power of the Commonwealth, was languid in the exertion of
that power, inclined to listen to the specious arguments of the Utrecht
rebels, and accused at least of tampering with the fell spirit which the
Advocate was resolute to destroy. Yet there was no suspicion of treason,
no taint of rebellion, no accusation of unpatriotic motives uttered
against the Stadholder.
There was a doubt as to the true maxims by which the Confederacy was to
be governed, and at this moment, certainly, the Prince and the Advocate
represented opposite ideas. There was a possibility, at a future day,
when the religious and political parties might develop themselves on a
wider scale and the struggles grow fiercer, that the two great champions
in the conflict might exchange swords and inflict mutual and poisoned
wounds. At present the party of the Union had triumphed, with Barneveld
at its head. At a later but not far distant day, similar scenes might be
enacted in the ancient city of Utrecht, but with a strange difference and
change in the cast of parts and with far more tragical results.
For the moment the moderate party in the Church, those more inclined to
Arminianism and the supremacy of the civil authority in religious
matters, had asserted their ascendency in the States-General, and had
prevented the threatened rupture.
Meantime it was doubly necessary to hasten the special embassies to
France and to England, in both which countries much anxiety as to the
political health and strength of the new republic had been excited by
these troubles in Utrecht. It was important for the States-General to
show that they were not crippled, and would not shrink from the coming
conflict, but would justify the reliance placed on them by their allies.
Thus there were reasons enough why Barneveld could not himself leave the
country in the eventful spring of 1610. It must be admitted, however,
that he was not backward in placing his nearest relatives in places of
honour, trust, and profit.
His eldest son Reinier, Seignior of Groeneveld, had been knighted by
Henry IV.; his youngest, William, afterwards called Seignior of
Stoutenburg, but at this moment bearing the not very mellifluous title of
Craimgepolder, was a gentleman-in-waiting at that king's court, with a
salary of 3000 crowns a year. He was rather a favourite with the easy-
going monarch, but he gave infinite trouble to the Dutch ambassador
Aerssens, who, feeling himself under immense obligations to the Advocate
and professing for him boundless gratitude, did his best to keep the
idle, turbulent, extravagant, and pleasure-loving youth up to the strict
line of his duties.
"Your son is in debt again," wrote Aerssens, on one occasion, "and
troubled for money. He is in danger of going to the usurers. He says he
cannot keep himself for less than 200 crowns a month. This is a large
allowance, but he has spent much more than that. His life is not
irregular nor his dress remarkably extravagant. His difficulty is that
he will not dine regularly with me nor at court. He will keep his own
table and have company to dinner. That is what is ruining him. He comes
sometimes to me, not for the dinner nor the company, but for tennis,
which he finds better in my faubourg than in town. His trouble comes
from the table, and I tell you frankly that you must regulate his
expenses or they will become very onerous to you. I am ashamed of them
and have told him so a hundred times, more than if he had been my own
brother. It is all for love of you . . . . I have been all to him
that could be expected of a man who is under such vast obligations to
you; and I so much esteem the honour of your friendship that I should
always neglect my private affairs in order to do everything for your
service and meet your desires . . . . . If M. de Craimgepolder comes
back from his visit home, you must restrict him in two things, the table
and tennis, and you can do this if you require him to follow the King
assiduously as his service requires."
Something at a future day was to be heard of William of Barneveld, as
well as of his elder brother Reinier, and it is good, therefore, to have
these occasional glimpses of him while in the service of the King and
under the supervision of one who was then his father's devoted friend,
Francis Aerssens. There were to be extraordinary and tragical changes in
the relations of parties and of individuals ere many years should go by.
Besides the sons of the Advocate, his two sons-in-law, Brederode,
Seignior of Veenhuizen, and Cornelis van der Myle, were constantly
employed? in important embassies. Van der Myle had been the first
ambassador to the great Venetian republic, and was now placed at the
head of the embassy to France, an office which it was impossible at that
moment for the Advocate to discharge. At the same critical moment
Barneveld's brother Elias, Pensionary of Rotterdam, was appointed
one of the special high commissioners to the King of Great Britain.
It is necessary to give an account of this embassy.
They were provided with luminous and minute instructions from the hand of
They were, in the first place, and ostensibly, to thank the King for his
services in bringing about the truce, which, truly, had been of the
slightest, as was very well known. They were to explain, on the part of
the States, their delay in sending this solemn commission, caused by the
tardiness of the King of Spain in sending his ratification to the treaty,
and by the many disputations caused by the irresolutions of the Archdukes
and the obstinacy of their commissioners in regard to their many
contraventions of the treaty. After those commissioners had gone,
further hindrances had been found in the "extraordinary tempests, high
floods, rising of the waters, both of the ocean and the rivers, and the
very disastrous inundations throughout nearly all the United Provinces,
with the immense and exorbitant damage thus inflicted, both on the public
and on many individuals; in addition to all which were to be mentioned
the troubles in the city of Utrecht."
They were, in almost hyperbolical language, directed to express the
eternal gratitude of the States for the constant favours received by
them from the crown of England, and their readiness to stand forth at
any moment with sincere affection and to the utmost of their power,
at all times and seasons, in resistance of any attempts against his
Majesty's person or crown, or against the Prince of Wales or the royal
family. They were to thank him for his "prudent, heroic, and courageous
resolve to suffer nothing to be done under colour of justice, authority,
or any other pretext, to the hindrance of the Elector of Brandenburg and
Palatine of Neuburg, in the maintenance of their lawful rights and
possession of the principalities of Julich, Cleve, and Berg, and other
By this course his Majesty, so the commissioners were to state, would put
an end to the imaginations of those who thought they could give the law
to everybody according to their pleasure.
They were to assure the King that the States-General would exert
themselves to the utmost to second his heroic resolution, notwithstanding
the enormous burthens of their everlasting war, the very exorbitant
damage caused by the inundations, and the sensible diminution in the
contributions and other embarrassments then existing in the country.
They were to offer 2000 foot and 500 horse for the general purpose under
Prince Henry of Nassau, besides the succours furnished by the King of
France and the electors and princes of Germany. Further assistance in
men, artillery, and supplies were promised under certain contingencies,
and the plan of the campaign on the Meuse in conjunction with the King of
France was duly mapped.
They were to request a corresponding promise of men and money from the
King of Great Britain, and they were to propose for his approval a closer
convention for mutual assistance between his Majesty, the United
Netherlands, the King of France, the electors and princes and other
powers of Germany; as such close union would be very beneficial to all
Christendom. It would put a stop to all unjust occupations, attempts,
and intrigues, and if the King was thereto inclined, he was requested to
indicate time and place for making such a convention.
The commissioners were further to point out the various contraventions
on the part of the Archdukes of the Treaty of Truce, and were to give
an exposition of the manner in which the States-General had quelled the
tumults at Utrecht, and reasons why such a course had of necessity been
They were instructed to state that, "over and above the great expenses of
the late war and the necessary maintenance of military forces to protect
their frontiers against their suspected new friends or old enemies, the
Provinces were burthened with the cost of the succour to the Elector of
Brandenburg and Palatine of Neuburg, and would be therefore incapable of
furnishing the payments coming due to his Majesty. They were accordingly
to sound his Majesty as to whether a good part of the debt might not be
remitted or at least an arrangement made by which the terms should begin
to run only after a certain number of years."
They were also directed to open the subject of the fisheries on the
coasts of Great Britain, and to remonstrate against the order lately
published by the King forbidding all foreigners from fishing on those
coasts. This was to be set forth as an infringement both of natural law
and of ancient treaties, and as a source of infinite danger to the
inhabitants of the United Provinces.
The Seignior of Warmond, chief of the commission, died on the 15th April.
His colleagues met at Brielle on the 16th, ready to take passage to
England in the ship of war, the Hound. They were, however, detained
there six days by head winds and great storms, and it was not until the
22nd that they were able to put to sea. The following evening their ship
cast anchor in Gravesend. Half an hour before, the Duke of Wurtemberg
had arrived from Flushing in a ship of war brought from France by the
Prince of Anhalt.
Sir Lewis Lewkener, master of ceremonies, had been waiting for the
ambassadors at Gravesend, and informed them that the royal barges were to
come next morning from London to take them to town. They remained that
night on board the Hound, and next morning, the wind blowing up the
river, they proceeded in their ship as far as Blackwall, where they were
formally received and bade welcome in the name of the King by Sir Thomas
Cornwallis and Sir George Carew, late ambassador in France. Escorted by
them and Sir Lewis, they were brought in the court barges to Tower Wharf.
Here the royal coaches were waiting, in which they were taken to lodgings
provided for them in the city at the house of a Dutch merchant. Noel de
Caron, Seignior of Schonewal, resident ambassador of the States in
London, was likewise there to greet them. This was Saturday night: On
the following Tuesday they went by appointment to the Palace of Whitehall
in royal carriages for their first audience. Manifestations of as entire
respect and courtesy had thus been made to the Republican envoys as could
be shown to the ambassadors of the greatest sovereigns. They found the
King seated on his throne in the audience chamber, accompanied by the
Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Lord High Treasurer and Lord High
Admiral, the Duke of Lenox, the Earls of Arundel and Northampton, and
many other great nobles and dignitaries. James rose from his seat, took
off his hat, and advanced several paces to meet the ambassadors, and bade
them courteously and respectfully welcome. He then expressed his regret
at the death of the Seignior of Warmond, and after the exchange of a few
commonplaces listened, still with uncovered head, to the opening address.
The spokesman, after thanking the King for his condolences on the death
of the chief commissioner, whom, as was stated with whimsical simplicity,
"the good God had called to Himself after all his luggage had been put on
board ship," proceeded in the French language to give a somewhat
abbreviated paraphrase of Barneveld's instructions.
When this was done and intimation made that they would confer more fully
with his Majesty's council on the subjects committed to their charge,
the ambassadors were conducted home with the same ceremonies as had
accompanied their arrival. They received the same day the first visit
from the ambassadors of France and Venice, Boderie and Carrero, and had a
long conference a few days afterwards with the High Treasurer, Lord
On the 3rd May they were invited to attend the pompous celebration of the
festival of St. George in the palace at Westminster, where they were
placed together with the French ambassador in the King's oratorium; the
Dukes of Wurtemberg and Brunswick being in that of the Queen.
These details are especially to be noted, and were at the moment of
considerable importance, for this was the first solemn and extraordinary
embassy sent by the rebel Netherlanders, since their independent national
existence had been formally vindicated, to Great Britain, a power which a
quarter of a century before had refused the proffered sovereignty over
them. Placed now on exactly the same level with the representatives of
emperors and kings, the Republican envoys found themselves looked upon
by the world with different eyes from those which had regarded their
predecessors askance, and almost with derision, only seven years before.
At that epoch the States' commissioners, Barneveld himself at the head of
them, had gone solemnly to congratulate King James on his accession, had
scarcely been admitted to audience by king or minister, and had found
themselves on great festivals unsprinkled with the holy water of the
court, and of no more account than the crowd of citizens and spectators
who thronged the streets, gazing with awe at the distant radiance of the
But although the ambassadors were treated with every external
consideration befitting their official rank, they were not likely to
find themselves in the most genial atmosphere when they should come to
business details. If there was one thing in the world that James did not
intend to do, it was to get himself entangled in war with Spain, the
power of all others which he most revered and loved. His "heroic and
courageous resolve" to defend the princes, on which the commissioners by
instructions of the Advocate had so highly complimented him, was not
strong enough to carry him much beyond a vigorous phraseology. He had
not awoke from the delusive dream of the Spanish marriage which had
dexterously been made to flit before him, and he was not inclined, for
the sake of the Republic which he hated the more because obliged to be
one of its sponsors, to risk the animosity of a great power which
entertained the most profound contempt for him. He was destined to find
himself involved more closely than he liked, and through family ties,
with the great Protestant movement in Germany, and the unfortunate
"Winter King" might one day find his father-in-law as unstable a reed to
lean upon as the States had found their godfather, or the Brandenburgs
and Neuburgs at the present juncture their great ally. Meantime, as the
Bohemian troubles had not yet reached the period of actual explosion, and
as Henry's wide-reaching plan against the House of Austria had been
strangely enough kept an inviolable secret by the few statesmen, like
Sully and Barneveld, to whom they had been confided, it was necessary for
the King and his ministers to deal cautiously and plausibly with the
Dutch ambassadors. Their conferences were mere dancing among eggs, and
if no actual mischief were done, it was the best result that could be
On the 8th of May, the commissioners met in the council chamber at
Westminster, and discussed all the matters contained in their
instructions with the members of the council; the Lord Treasurer
Salisbury, Earl of Northampton, Privy Seal and Warden of the Cinque
Ports, Lord Nottingham, Lord High Admiral, the Lord Chamberlain, Earl of
Suffolk, Earls of Shrewsbury, Worcester, and several others being
The result was not entirely satisfactory. In regard to the succour
demanded for the possessory princes, the commissioners were told that
they seemed to come with a long narrative of their great burthens during
the war, damage from inundations, and the like, to excuse themselves from
doing their share in the succour, and thus the more to overload his
Majesty, who was not much interested in the matter, and was likewise
greatly encumbered by various expenses. The King had already frankly
declared his intention to assist the princes with the payment of 4000
men, and to send proportionate artillery and powder from England. As the
States had supplies in their magazines enough to move 12,000 men, he
proposed to draw upon those, reimbursing the States for what was thus
consumed by his contingent.
With regard to the treaty of close alliance between France, Great
Britain, the princes, and the Republic, which the ambassadors had
proposed, the--Lord Treasurer and his colleagues gave a reply far from
gratifying. His Majesty had not yet decided on this point, they said.
The King of France had already proposed to treat for such an alliance,
but it did not at present seem worth while for all to negotiate together.
This was a not over-courteous hint that the Republic was after all not
expected to place herself at the council-board of kings on even terms of
intimacy and fraternal alliance.
What followed was even less flattering. If his Majesty, it was
intimated, should decide to treat with the King of France, he would not
shut the door on their High Mightinesses; but his Majesty was not yet
exactly informed whether his Majesty had not certain rights over the
provinces 'in petitorio.'
This was a scarcely veiled insinuation against the sovereignty of the
States, a sufficiently broad hint that they were to be considered in a
certain degree as British provinces. To a soldier like Maurice, to a
statesman like Barneveld, whose sympathies already were on the side of
France, such rebuffs and taunts were likely to prove unpalatable. The
restiveness of the States at the continual possession by Great Britain of
those important sea-ports the cautionary towns, a fact which gave colour
to these innuendoes, was sure to be increased by arrogant language on the
part of the English ministers. The determination to be rid of their debt
to so overbearing an ally, and to shake off the shackles imposed by the
costly mortgages, grew in strength from that hour.
In regard to the fisheries, the Lord Treasurer and his colleagues
expressed amazement that the ambassadors should consider the subjects
of their High Mightinesses to be so much beloved by his Majesty. Why
should they of all other people be made an exception of, and be exempt
from, the action of a general edict? The reasons for these orders in
council ought to be closely examined. It would be very difficult to
bring the opinions of the English jurists into harmony with those of the
States. Meantime it would be well to look up such treaties as might be
in existence, and have a special joint commission to confer together on
the subject. It was very plain, from the course of the conversation,
that the Netherland fishermen were not to be allowed, without paying
roundly for a license, to catch herrings on the British coasts as they
had heretofore done.
Not much more of importance was transacted at this first interview
between the ambassadors and the Ding's ministers. Certainly they had
not yet succeeded in attaining their great object, the formation of an
alliance offensive and defensive between Great Britain and the Republic
in accordance with the plan concerted between Henry and Barneveld. They
could find but slender encouragement for the warlike plans to which
France and the States were secretly committed; nor could they obtain
satisfactory adjustment of affairs more pacific and commercial in their
tendencies. The English ministers rather petulantly remarked that, while
last year everybody was talking of a general peace, and in the present
conjuncture all seemed to think, or at least to speak, of nothing but a
general war, they thought best to defer consideration of the various
subjects connected with duties on the manufactures and products of the
respective countries, the navigation laws, the "entrecours," and other
matters of ancient agreement and controversy, until a more convenient
After the termination of the verbal conference, the ambassadors delivered
to the King's government, in writing, to be pondered by the council and
recorded in the archives, a summary of the statements which had been thus
orally treated. The document was in French, and in the main a paraphrase
of the Advocate's instructions, the substance of which has been already
indicated. In regard, however, to the far-reaching designs of Spain, and
the corresponding attitude which it would seem fitting for Great Britain
to assume, and especially the necessity of that alliance the proposal for
which had in the conference been received so haughtily, their language
was far plainer, bolder, and more vehement than that of the instructions.
"Considering that the effects show," they said, "that those who claim
the monarchy of Christendom, and indeed of the whole world, let slip no
opportunity which could in any way serve their designs, it is suitable to
the grandeur of his Majesty the King, and to the station in which by the
grace of the good God he is placed, to oppose himself thereto for the
sake of the common liberty of Christendom, to which end, and in order the
better to prevent all unjust usurpatiops, there could be no better means
devised than a closer alliance between his Majesty and the Most Christian
King, My Lords the States-General, and the electors, princes, and states
of Germany. Their High Mightinesses would therefore be most glad to
learn that his Majesty was inclined to such a course, and would be glad
to discuss the subject when and wherever his Majesty should appoint, or
would readily enter into such an alliance on reasonable conditions."
This language and the position taken up by the ambassadors were highly
approved by their government, but it was fated that no very great result
was to be achieved by this embassy. Very elaborate documents, exhaustive
in legal lore, on the subject of the herring fisheries, and of the right
to fish in the ocean and on foreign coasts, fortified by copious
citations from the 'Pandects' and 'Institutes' of Justinian, were
presented for the consideration of the British government, and were
answered as learnedly, exhaustively, and ponderously. The English
ministers were also reminded that the curing of herrings had been
invented in the fifteenth century by a citizen of Biervliet, the
inscription on whose tombstone recording that faces might still be
read in the church of that town.
All this did not prevent, however, the Dutch herring fishermen from being
excluded from the British waters unless they chose to pay for licenses.
The conferences were however for a season interrupted, and a new aspect
was given to affairs by an unforeseen and terrible event.
Meanwhile it is necessary to glance for a moment at the doings of the
special embassy to France, the instructions for which were prepared by
Barneveld almost at the same moment at which he furnished those for the
commission to England.
The ambassadors were Walraven, Seignior of Brederode, Cornelis van der
Myle, son-in-law of the Advocate, and Jacob van Maldere. Remembering how
impatient the King of France had long been for their coming, and that all
the preparations and decisions for a great war were kept in suspense
until the final secret conferences could be held with the representatives
of the States-General, it seems strange enough to us to observe the
extreme deliberation with which great affairs of state were then
conducted and the vast amount of time consumed in movements and
communications which modern science has either annihilated or abridged
from days to hours. While Henry was chafing with anxiety in Paris, the
ambassadors, having received Barneveld's instructions dated 31st March,
set forth on the 8th April from the Hague, reached Rotterdam at noon, and
slept at Dordrecht. Newt day they went to Breda, where the Prince of
Orange insisted upon their passing a couple of days with him in his
castle, Easter-day being 11th April. He then provided them with a couple
of coaches and pair in which they set forth on their journey, going by
way of Antwerp, Ghent, Courtray, Ryssel, to Arras, making easy stages,
stopping in the middle of the day to bait, and sleeping at each of the
cities thus mentioned, where they duly received the congratulatory visit
and hospitalities of their respective magistracies.
While all this time had been leisurely employed in the Netherlands in
preparing, instructing, and despatching the commissioners, affairs were
reaching a feverish crisis in France.
The States' ambassador resident thought that it would have been better
not to take such public offence at the retreat of the Prince of Conde.
The King had enough of life and vigour in him; he could afford to leave
the Dauphin to grow up, and when he should one day be established on the
throne, he would be able to maintain his heritage. "But," said Aerssens,
"I fear that our trouble is not where we say it is, and we don't dare to
say where it is." Writing to Carew, former English ambassador in Paris,
whom we have just seen in attendance on the States' commissioners in
London, he said: "People think that the Princess is wearying herself much
under the protection of the Infanta, and very impatient at not obtaining
the dissolution of her marriage, which the Duchess of Angouleme is to go
to Brussels to facilitate. This is not our business, but I mention it
only as the continuation of the Tragedy which you saw begin. Nevertheless
I don't know if the greater part of our deliberations is not founded on
It had been decided to cause the Queen to be solemnly crowned after
Easter. She had set her heart with singular persistency upon the
ceremony, and it was thought that so public a sacrament would annihilate
all the wild projects attributed to Spain through the instrumentality of
Conde to cast doubts on the validity of her marriage and the legitimacy
of the Dauphin. The King from the first felt and expressed a singular
repugnance, a boding apprehension in regard to the coronation, but had
almost yielded to the Queen's importunity. He told her he would give his
consent provided she sent Concini to Brussels to invite in her own name
the Princess of Conde to be present on the occasion. Otherwise he
declared that at least the festival should be postponed till September.
The Marquis de Coeuvres remained in disgrace after the failure of his
mission, Henry believing that like all the world he had fallen in love
with the Princess, and had only sought to recommend himself, not to
further the suit of his sovereign.
Meanwhile Henry had instructed his ambassador in Spain, M. de Vaucelas,
to tell the King that his reception of Conde within his dominions would
be considered an infraction of the treaty of Vervins and a direct act of
hostility. The Duke of Lerma answered with a sneer that the Most
Christian King had too greatly obliged his Most Catholic Majesty by
sustaining his subjects in their rebellion and by aiding them to make
their truce to hope now that Conde would be sent back. France had ever
been the receptacle of Spanish traitors and rebels from Antonio Perez
down, and the King of Spain would always protect wronged and oppressed
princes like Conde. France had just been breaking up the friendly
relations between Savoy and Spain and goading the Duke into hostilities.
On the other hand the King had more than one stormy interview with Don
Inigo de Cardenas in Paris. That ambassador declared that his master
would never abandon his only sister the most serene Infanta, such was the
affection he born her, whose dominions were obviously threatened by these
French armies about to move to the frontiers. Henry replied that the
friends for whom he was arming had great need of his assistance; that his
Catholic Majesty was quite right to love his sister, whom he also loved;
but that he did not choose that his own relatives should be so much
beloved in Spain as they were. "What relatives?" asked Don Inigo.
"The Prince of Conde," replied the King, in a rage, "who has been
debauched by the Spaniards just as Marshal Biron was, and the Marchioness
Verneuil, and so many others. There are none left for them to debauch
now but the Dauphin and his brothers." The Ambassador replied that, if
the King had consulted him about the affair of Conde, he could have
devised a happy issue from it. Henry rejoined that he had sent messages
on the subject to his Catholic Majesty, who had not deigned a response,
but that the Duke of Lerma had given a very indiscreet one to his
ambassador. Don Inigo professed ignorance of any such reply. The King
said it was a mockery to affect ignorance of such matters. Thereupon
both grew excited and very violent in their discourses; the more so as
Henry knowing but little Spanish and the Envoy less French they could
only understand from tone and gesture that each was using exceedingly
unpleasant language. At last Don Inigo asked what he should write to his
sovereign. "Whatever you like," replied the King, and so the audience
terminated, each remaining in a towering passion.
Subsequently Villeroy assured the Archduke's ambassador that the King
considered the reception given to the Prince in the Spanish dominions as
one of the greatest insults and injuries that could be done to him.
Nothing could excuse it, said the Secretary of State, and for this reason
it was very difficult for the two kings to remain at peace with each
other, and that it would be wiser to prevent at once the evil designs of
his Catholic Majesty than to leave leisure for the plans to be put into
execution, and the claims of the Dauphin to his father's crown to be
disputed at a convenient season.
He added that war would not be made for the Princess, but for the Prince,
and that even the war in Germany, although Spain took the Emperor's side
and France that of the possessory princes, would not necessarily produce
a rupture between the two kings if it were not for this affair of the
Prince--true cause of the disaster now hanging over Christianity.
Pecquius replied by smooth commonplaces in favour of peace with which
Villeroy warmly concurred; both sadly expressing the conviction however
that the wrath divine had descended on them all on account of their sins.
A few days later, however, the Secretary changed his tone.
"I will speak to you frankly and clearly," he said to Pecquius, "and tell
you as from myself that there is passion, and if one is willing to
arrange the affair of the Princess, everything else can be accommodated
and appeased. Put if the Princess remain where she is, we are on the eve
of a rupture which may set fire to the four corners of Christendom."
Pecquius said he liked to talk roundly, and was glad to find that he had
not been mistaken in his opinion, that all these commotions were only
made for the Princess, and if all the world was going to war, she would
be the principal subject of it. He could not marvel sufficiently, he
said, at this vehement passion which brought in its train so great and
horrible a conflagration; adding many arguments to show that it was no
fault of the Archdukes, but that he who was the cause of all might one
day have reason to repent.
Villeroy replied that "the King believed the Princess to be suffering and
miserable for love of him, and that therefore he felt obliged to have her
sent back to her father." Pecquius asked whether in his conscience the
Secretary of State believed it right or reasonable to make war for such a
cause. Villeroy replied by asking "whether even admitting the negative,
the Ambassador thought it were wisely done for such a trifle, for a
formality, to plunge into extremities and to turn all Christendom upside
down." Pecquius, not considering honour a trifle or a formality, said
that "for nothing in the world would his Highness the Archduke descend to
a cowardly action or to anything that would sully his honour." Villeroy
said that the Prince had compelled his wife, pistol in hand, to follow
him to the Netherlands, and that she was no longer bound to obey a
husband who forsook country and king. Her father demanded her, and she
said "she would rather be strangled than ever to return to the company of
her husband." The Archdukes were not justified in keeping her against
her will in perpetual banishment. He implored the Ambassador in most
pathetic terms to devise some means of sending back the Princess, saying
that he who should find such expedient would do the greatest good that
was ever done to Christianity, and that otherwise there was no guarantee
against a universal war. The first design of the King had been merely to
send a moderate succour to the Princes of Brandenburg and Neuburg, which
could have given no umbrage to the Archdukes, but now the bitterness
growing out of the affairs of the Prince and Princess had caused him to
set on foot a powerful army to do worse. He again implored Pecquius to
invent some means of sending back the Princess, and the Ambassador
besought him ardently to divert the King from his designs. Of this the
Secretary of State left little hope and they parted, both very low and.
dismal in mind. Subsequent conversations with the leading councillors of
state convinced Pecquius that these violent menaces were only used to
shake the constancy of the Archduke, but that they almost all highly
disapproved the policy of the King. "If this war goes on, we are all
ruined," said the Duke d'Epernon to the Nuncius.
Thus there had almost ceased to be any grimacing between the two kings,
although it was still a profound mystery where or when hostilities would
begin, and whether they would break out at all. Henry frequently
remarked that the common opinion all over Europe was working in his
favour. Few people in or out of France believed that he meant a rupture,
or that his preparations were serious. Thus should he take his enemies
unawares and unprepared. Even Aerssens, who saw him almost daily, was
sometimes mystified, in spite of Henry's vehement assertions that he was
resolved to make war at all hazards and on all sides, provided My Lords
the States would second him as they ought, their own existence being at
"For God's sake," cried the King, "let us take the bit into our mouths.
Tell your masters that I am quite resolved, and that I am shrieking
loudly at their delays." He asked if he could depend on the States, if
Barneveld especially would consent to a league with him. The Ambassador
replied that for the affair of Cleve and Julich he had instructions to
promise entire concurrence, that Barneveld was most resolute in the
matter, and had always urged the enterprise and wished information as
to the levies making in France and other military preparations.
"Tell him," said Henry, "that they are going on exactly as often before
stated, but that we are holding everything in suspense until I have
talked with your ambassadors, from whom I wish counsel, safety, and
encouragement for doing much more than the Julich business. That alone
does not require so great a league and such excessive and unnecessary
The King observed however that the question of the duchies would serve as
just cause and excellent pretext to remove those troublesome fellows for
ever from his borders and those of the States. Thus the princes would be
established safely in their possession and the Republic as well as
himself freed from the perpetual suspicions which the Spaniards excited
by their vile intrigues, and it was on this general subject that he
wished to confer with the special commissioners. It would not be
possible for him to throw succour into Julich without passing through
Luxemburg in arms. The Archdukes would resist this, and thus a cause of
war would arise. His campaign on the Meuse would help the princes more
than if he should only aid them by the contingent he had promised. Nor
could the jealousy of King James be excited since the war would spring
out of the Archdukes' opposition to his passage towards the duchies, as
he obviously could not cut himself off from his supplies, leaving a
hostile province between himself and his kingdom. Nevertheless he could
not stir, he said, without the consent and active support of the States,
on whom he relied as his principal buttress and foundation.
The levies for the Milanese expedition were waiting until Marshal de
Lesdiguieres could confer personally with the Duke of Savoy. The reports
as to the fidelity of that potentate were not to be believed. He was
trifling with the Spanish ambassadors, so Henry was convinced, who were
offering him 300,000 crowns a year besides Piombino, Monaco, and two
places in the Milanese, if he would break his treaty with France. But he
was thought to be only waiting until they should be gone before making
his arrangements with Lesdiguieres. "He knows that he can put no trust
in Spain, and that he can confide in me," said the King. "I have made a
great stroke by thus entangling the King of Spain by the use of a few
troops in Italy. But I assure you that there is none but me and My Lords
the States that can do anything solid. Whether the Duke breaks or holds
fast will make no difference in our first and great designs. For the
honour of God I beg them to lose no more time, but to trust in me. I
will never deceive them, never abandon them."
At last 25,000 infantry and 5000 cavalry were already in marching order,
and indeed had begun to move towards the Luxemburg frontier, ready to co-
operate with the States' army and that of the possessory princes for the
campaign of the Meuse and Rhine.
Twelve thousand more French troops under Lesdiguieres were to act with
the Duke of Savoy, and an army as large was to assemble in the Pyrenees
and to operate on the Spanish frontier, in hope of exciting and fomenting
an insurrection caused by the expulsion of the Moors. That gigantic act
of madness by which Spain thought good at this juncture to tear herself
to pieces, driving hundreds of thousands of the most industrious, most
intelligent, and most opulent of her population into hopeless exile, had
now been accomplished, and was to stand prominent for ever on the records
of human fatuity.
Twenty-five thousand Moorish families had arrived at Bayonne, and the
Viceroy of Canada had been consulted as to the possibility and expediency
of establishing them in that province, although emigration thither
seemed less tempting to them than to Virginia. Certainly it was not
unreasonable for Henry to suppose that a kingdom thus torn by internal
convulsions might be more open to a well organized attack, than capable
of carrying out at that moment fresh projects of universal dominion.
As before observed, Sully was by no means in favour of this combined
series of movements, although at a later day, when dictating his famous
memoirs to his secretaries, he seems to describe himself as
enthusiastically applauding and almost originating them. But there is no
doubt at all that throughout this eventful spring he did his best to
concentrate the whole attack on Luxemburg and the Meuse districts, and
wished that the movements in the Milanese and in Provence should be
considered merely a slight accessory, as not much more than a diversion
to the chief design, while Villeroy and his friends chose to consider the
Duke of Savoy as the chief element in the war. Sully thoroughly
distrusted the Duke, whom he deemed to be always put up at auction
between Spain and France and incapable of a sincere or generous policy.
He was entirely convinced that Villeroy and Epernon and Jeannin and other
earnest Papists in France were secretly inclined to the cause of Spain,
that the whole faction of the Queen, in short, were urging this
scattering of the very considerable forces now at Henry's command in
the hope of bringing him into a false position, in which defeat or an
ignominious peace would be the alternative. To concentrate an immense
attack upon the Archdukes in the Spanish Netherlands and the debateable
duchies would have for its immediate effect the expulsion of the
Spaniards out of all those provinces and the establishment of the Dutch
commonwealth on an impregnable basis. That this would be to strengthen
infinitely the Huguenots in France and the cause of Protestantism in
Bohemia, Moravia and Austria, was unquestionable. It was natural,
therefore, that the stern and ardent Huguenot should suspect the plans
of the Catholics with whom he was in daily council. One day he asked the
King plumply in the presence of Villeroy if his Majesty meant anything
serious by all these warlike preparations. Henry was wroth, and
complained bitterly that one who knew him to the bottom of his soul
should doubt him. But Sully could not persuade himself that a great
and serious war would be carried on both in the Netherlands and in Italy.
As much as his sovereign he longed for the personal presence of
Barneveld, and was constantly urging the States' ambassador to induce
his coming to Paris. "You know," said Aerssens, writing to the French
ambassador at the Hague, de Russy, "that it is the Advocate alone that
has the universal knowledge of the outside and the inside of our
Sully knew his master as well as any man knew him, but it was difficult
to fix the chameleon hues of Henry at this momentous epoch. To the
Ambassador expressing doubts as to the King's sincerity the Duke asserted
that Henry was now seriously piqued with the Spaniard on account of the
Conde business. Otherwise Anhalt and the possessory princes and the
affair of Cleve might have had as little effect in driving him into war
as did the interests of the Netherlands in times past. But the bold
demonstration projected would make the "whole Spanish party bleed at the
nose; a good result for the public peace."
Therefore Sully sent word to Barneveld, although he wished his name
concealed, that he ought to come himself, with full powers to do
everything, without referring to any superiors or allowing any secrets to
be divulged. The King was too far committed to withdraw, unless coldness
on part of the States should give him cause. The Advocate must come
prepared to answer all questions; to say how much in men and money the
States would contribute, and whether they would go into the war with the
King as their only ally. He must come with the bridle on his neck. All
that Henry feared was being left in the lurch by the States; otherwise he
was not afraid of Rome. Sully was urgent that the Provinces should now
go vigorously into the war without stumbling at any consideration. Thus
they would confirm their national power for all time, but if the
opportunity were now lost, it would be their ruin, and posterity would
most justly blame them. The King of Spain was so stripped of troops and
resources, so embarrassed by the Moors, that in ten months he would not
be able to send one man to the Netherlands.
Meantime the Nuncius in Paris was moving heaven and earth; storming,
intriguing, and denouncing the course of the King in protecting heresy,
when it would have been so easy to extirpate it, encouraging rebellion
and disorder throughout Christendom, and embarking in an action against
the Church and against his conscience. A new legate was expected daily
with the Pope's signature to the new league, and a demand upon the King
to sign it likewise, and to pause in a career of which something was
suspected, but very little accurately known. The preachers in Paris and
throughout the kingdom delivered most vehement sermons against the King,
the government, and the Protestants, and seemed to the King to be such
"trumpeters of sedition" that he ordered the seneschals and other
officers to put a stop to these turbulent discourses, censure their
authors, and compel them to stick to their texts.
But the preparations were now so far advanced and going on so warmly that
nothing more was wanting than, in the words of Aerssens, "to uncouple the
dogs and let them run." Recruits were pouring steadily to their places
of rendezvous; their pay having begun to run from the 25th March at the
rate of eight sous a day for the private foot soldier and ten sous for a
corporal. They were moved in small parties of ten, lodged in the wayside
inns, and ordered, on pain of death, to pay for everything they consumed.
It was growing difficult to wait much longer for the arrival of the
special ambassadors, when at last they were known to be on their way.
Aerssens obtained for their use the Hotel Gondy, formerly the residence
of Don Pedro de Toledo, the most splendid private palace in Paris, and
recently purchased by the Queen. It was considered expedient that the
embassy should make as stately an appearance as that of royal or imperial
envoys. He engaged an upholsterer by the King's command to furnish, at
his Majesty's expense, the apartments, as the Baron de Gondy, he said,
had long since sold and eaten up all the furniture. He likewise laid in
six pieces of wine and as many of beer, "tavern drinks" being in the
opinion of the thrifty ambassador "both dear and bad."
He bought a carriage lined with velvet for the commissioners, and another
lined with broadcloth for the principal persons of their suite, and with
his own coach as a third he proposed to go to Amiens to meet them. They
could not get on with fewer than these, he said, and the new carriages
would serve their purpose in Paris. He had paid 500 crowns for the two,
and they could be sold, when done with, at a slight loss. He bought
likewise four dapple-grey horses, which would be enough, as nobody had
more than two horses to a carriage in town, and for which he paid 312
crowns--a very low price, he thought, at a season when every one was
purchasing. He engaged good and experienced coachmen at two crowns a
month, and; in short, made all necessary arrangements for their comfort
and the honour of the state.
The King had been growing more and more displeased at the tardiness of
the commission, petulantly ascribing it to a design on the part of the
States to "excuse themselves from sharing in his bold conceptions," but
said that "he could resolve on nothing without My Lords the States, who
were the only power with which he could contract confidently, as mighty
enough and experienced enough to execute the designs to be proposed to
them; so that his army was lying useless on his hands until the
commissioners arrived," and lamented more loudly than ever that Barneveld
was not coming with them. He was now rejoiced, however, to hear that
they would soon arrive, and went in person to the Hotel Gondy to see that
everything was prepared in a manner befitting their dignity and comfort.
His anxiety had moreover been increased, as already stated, by the
alarming reports from Utrecht and by his other private accounts from the
De Russy expressed in his despatches grave doubts whether the States
would join the king in a war against the King of Spain, because they
feared the disapprobation of the King of Great Britain, "who had already
manifested but too much jealousy of the power and grandeur of the
Republic." Pecquius asserted that the Archdukes had received assurances
from the States that they would do nothing to violate the truce. The
Prince of Anhalt, who, as chief of the army of the confederated princes,
was warm in his demonstrations for a general war by taking advantage of
the Cleve expedition, was entirely at cross purposes with the States'
ambassador in Paris, Aerssens maintaining that the forty-three years'
experience in their war justified the States in placing no dependence on
German princes except with express conventions. They had no such
conventions now, and if they should be attacked by Spain in consequence
of their assistance in the Cleve business, what guarantee of aid had they
from those whom Anhalt represented? Anhalt was loud in expressions of
sympathy with Henry's designs against Spain, but said that he and the
States meant a war of thirty or forty years, while the princes would
finish what they meant to do in one.
A more erroneous expression of opinion, when viewed in the light of
subsequent events, could hardly have been hazarded. Villeroy made as
good use as he could of these conversations to excite jealousy between
the princes and the States for the furtherance of his own ends, while
affecting warm interest in the success of the King's projects.
Meantime Archduke Albert had replied manfully and distinctly to the
menaces of the King and to the pathetic suggestions made by Villeroy to
Pecquius as to a device for sending back the Princess. Her stay at
Brussels being the chief cause of the impending war, it would be better,
he said, to procure a divorce or to induce the Constable to obtain the
consent of the Prince to the return of his wife to her father's house.
To further either of these expedients, the Archduke would do his best.
"But if one expects by bravados and threats," he added, "to force us to
do a thing against our promise, and therefore against reason, our
reputation, and honour, resolutely we will do nothing of the kind. And
if the said Lord King decided on account of this misunderstanding for a
rupture and to make war upon us, we will do our best to wage war on him.
In such case, however, we shall be obliged to keep the Princess closer in
our own house, and probably to send her to such parts as may be most
convenient in order to remove from us an instrument of the infinite evils
which this war will produce."
Meantime the special commissioners whom we left at Arras had now entered
the French kingdom.
On the 17th April, Aerssens with his three coaches met them on their
entrance into Amiens, having been waiting there for them eight days. As
they passed through the gate, they found a guard of soldiers drawn up to
receive them with military honours, and an official functionary to
apologize for the necessary absence of the governor, who had gone with
most of the troops stationed in the town to the rendezvous in Champagne.
He expressed regret, therefore, that the King's orders for their solemn
reception could not be literally carried out. The whole board of
magistrates, however, in their costumes of ceremony, with sergeants
bearing silver maces marching before them, came forth to bid the
ambassadors welcome. An advocate made a speech in the name of the city
authorities, saying that they were expressly charged by the King to
receive them as coming from his very best friends, and to do them all
honour. He extolled the sage government of their High Mightinesses and
the valour of the Republic, which had become known to the whole world
by the successful conduct of their long and mighty war.
The commissioners replied in words of compliment, and the magistrates
then offered them, according to ancient usage, several bottles of
Next day, sending back the carriages of the Prince of Orange, in which
they had thus far performed the journey, they set forth towards Paris,
reaching Saint-Denis at noon of the third day. Here they were met by de
Bonoeil, introducer of ambassadors, sent thither by the King to give them
welcome, and to say that they would be received on the road by the Duke
of Vendome, eldest of the legitimatized children of the King.
Accordingly before reaching the Saint-Denis gate of Paris, a splendid
cavalcade of nearly five hundred noblemen met them, the Duke at their
head, accompanied by two marshals of France, de Brissac and Boisdaulphin.
The three instantly dismounted, and the ambassadors alighted from their
coach. The Duke then gave them solemn and cordial welcome, saying that
he had been sent by his father the King to receive them as befitted
envoys of the best and most faithful friends he possessed in the world.
The ambassadors expressed their thanks for the great and extraordinary
honour thus conferred on them, and they were then requested to get into a
royal carriage which had been sent out for that purpose. After much
ceremonious refusal they at last consented and, together with the Duke of
Vendome, drove through Paris in that vehicle into the Faubourg Saint
Germain. Arriving at the Hotel Gondy, they were, notwithstanding all
their protestations, escorted up the staircase into the apartments by the
"This honour is notable," said the commissioners in their report to the
States, "and never shown to anyone before, so that our ill-wishers are
filled with spite."
And Peter Pecquius was of the same opinion. "Everyone is grumbling
here," about the reception of the States' ambassadors, "because such
honours were never paid to any ambassador whatever, whether from Spain,
England, or any other country."
And there were many men living and employed in great affairs of State,
both in France and in the Republic--the King and Villeroy, Barneveld and
Maurice--who could remember how twenty-six years before a solemn embassy
from the States had proceeded from the Hague to France to offer the
sovereignty of their country to Henry's predecessor, had been kept
ignominiously and almost like prisoners four weeks long in Rouen, and
had been thrust back into the Netherlands without being admitted even to
one audience by the monarch. Truly time, in the course of less than one
generation of mankind, had worked marvellous changes in the fortunes of
the Dutch Republic.
President Jeannin came to visit them next day, with friendly proffers of
service, and likewise the ambassador of Venice and the charge d'affaires
of Great Britain.
On the 22nd the royal carriages came by appointment to the Hotel Gondy,
and took them for their first audience to the Louvre. They were received
at the gate by a guard of honour, drums beating and arms presented, and
conducted with the greatest ceremony to an apartment in the palace. Soon
afterwards they were ushered into a gallery where the King stood,
surrounded by a number of princes and distinguished officers of the
crown. These withdrew on the approach of the Netherlanders, leaving the
King standing alone. They made their reverence, and Henry saluted them
all with respectful cordiality. Begging them to put on their hats again,
he listened attentively to their address.
The language of the discourse now pronounced was similar in tenour to
that almost contemporaneously held by the States' special envoys in
London. Both documents, when offered afterwards in writing, bore the
unmistakable imprint of the one hand that guided the whole political
machine. In various passages the phraseology was identical, and, indeed,
the Advocate had prepared and signed the instructions for both embassies
on the same day.
The commissioners acknowledged in the strongest possible terms the great
and constant affection, quite without example, that Henry had manifested
to the Netherlands during the whole course of their war. They were at a
loss to find language adequately to express their gratitude for that
friendship, and the assistance subsequently afforded them in the
negotiations for truce. They apologized for the tardiness of the States
in sending this solemn embassy of thanksgiving, partly on the ground of
the delay in receiving the ratifications from Spain, partly by the
protracted contraventions by the Archdukes of certain articles in the
treaty, but principally by the terrible disasters occasioned throughout
their country by the great inundations, and by the commotions in the city
of Utrecht, which had now been "so prudently and happily pacified."
They stated that the chief cause of their embassy was to express their
respectful gratitude, and to say that never had prince or state treasured
more deeply in memory benefits received than did their republic the
favours of his Majesty, or could be more disposed to do their utmost to
defend his Majesty's person, crown, or royal family against all attack.
They expressed their joy that the King had with prudence, and heroic
courage undertaken tha defence of the just rights of Brandenburg and
Neuburg to the duchies of Cleve, Julich, and the other dependent
provinces. Thus had he put an end to the presumption of those who
thought they could give the law to all the world. They promised the co-
operation of the States in this most important enterprise of their ally,
notwithstanding their great losses in the war just concluded, and the
diminution of revenue occasioned by the inundations by which they had
been afflicted; for they were willing neither to tolerate so unjust an
usurpation as that attempted by the Emperor nor to fail to second his
Majesty in his generous designs. They observed also that they had been
instructed to enquire whether his Majesty would not approve the
contracting of a strict league of mutual assistance between France,
England, the United Provinces, and the princes of Germany.
The King, having listened with close attention, thanked the envoys in
words of earnest and vigorous cordiality for their expressions of
affection to himself. He begged them to remember that he had always been
their good friend, and that he never would forsake them; that he had
always hated the Spaniards, and should ever hate them; and that the
affairs of Julich must be arranged not only for the present but for the
future. He requested them to deliver their propositions in writing to
him, and to be ready to put themselves into communication with the
members of his council, in order that they might treat with each
other roundly and without reserve. He should always deal with the
Netherlanders as with his own people, keeping no back-door open, but
pouring out everything as into the lap of his best and most trusty
After this interview conferences followed daily between the ambassadors
and Villeroy, Sully, Jeannin, the Chancellor, and Puysieug.
The King's counsellors, after having read the written paraphrase of
Barneveld's instructions, the communication of which followed their oral
statements, and which, among other specifications, contained a respectful
remonstrance against the projected French East India Company, as likely
to benefit the Spaniards only, while seriously injuring the States,
complained that "the representations were too general, and that the paper
seemed to contain nothing but compliments."
The ambassadors, dilating on the various points and articles, maintained
warmly that there was much more than compliments in their instructions.
The ministers wished to know what the States practically were prepared to
do in the affair of Cleve, which they so warmly and encouragingly
recommended to the King. They asked whether the States' army would march
at once to Dusseldorf to protect the princes at the moment when the King
moved from Mezieres, and they made many enquiries as to what amount of
supplies and munitions they could depend upon from the States' magazines.
The envoys said that they had no specific instructions on these points,
and could give therefore no conclusive replies. More than ever did Henry
regret the absence of the great Advocate at this juncture. If he could
have come, with the bridle on his neck, as Henry had so repeatedly urged
upon the resident ambassador, affairs might have marched more rapidly.
The despotic king could never remember that Barneveld was not the
unlimited sovereign of the United States, but only the seal-keeper of one
of the seven provinces and the deputy of Holland to the General Assembly.
His indirect power, however vast, was only great because it was so
It was then proposed by Villeroy and Sully, and agreed to by the
commissioners, that M. de Bethune, a relative of the great financier,
should be sent forthwith to the Hague, to confer privately with Prince
Maurice and Barneveld especially, as to military details of the coming
It was also arranged that the envoys should delay their departure until
de Bethune's return. Meantime Henry and the Nuncius had been exchanging
plain and passionate language. Ubaldini reproached the King with
disregarding all the admonitions of his Holiness, and being about to
plunge Christendom into misery and war for the love of the Princess of
Conde. He held up to him the enormity of thus converting the King of
Spain and the Archdukes into his deadly enemies, and warned him that he
would by such desperate measures make even the States-General and the
King of Britain his foes, who certainly would never favour such schemes.
The King replied that "he trusted to his own forces, not to those of his
neighbours, and even if the Hollanders should not declare for him still
he would execute his designs. On the 15th of May most certainly he would
put himself at the head of his army, even if he was obliged to put off
the Queen's coronation till October, and he could not consider the King
of Spain nor the Archdukes his friends unless they at once made him
some demonstration of friendship. Being asked by the Nuncius what
demonstration he wished, he answered flatly that he wished the Princess
to be sent back to the Constable her father, in which case the affair of
Julich could be arranged amicably, and, at all events, if the war
continued there, he need not send more than 4000 men."
Thus, in spite of his mighty preparations, vehement demands for
Barneveld, and profound combinations revealed to that statesman, to
Aerssens, and to the Duke of Sully only, this wonderful monarch was ready
to drop his sword on the spot, to leave his friends in the lurch, to
embrace his enemies, the Archduke first of all, instead of bombarding
Brussels the very next week, as he had been threatening to do, provided
the beautiful Margaret could be restored to his arms through those of her
He suggested to the Nuncius his hope that the Archduke would yet be
willing to wink at her escape, which he was now trying to arrange through
de Preaux at Brussels, while Ubaldini, knowing the Archduke incapable of
anything so dishonourable, felt that the war was inevitable.
At the very same time too, Father Cotton, who was only too ready to
betray the secrets of the confessional when there was an object to gain,
had a long conversation with the Archduke's ambassador, in which the holy
man said that the King had confessed to him that he made the war
expressly to cause the Princess to be sent back to France, so that as
there could be no more doubt on the subject the father-confessor begged
Pecquius, in order to prevent so great an evil, to devise "some prompt
and sudden means to induce his Highness the Archduke to order the
Princess to retire secretly to her own country." The Jesuit had
different notions of honour, reputation, and duty from those which
influenced the Archduke. He added that "at Easter the King had been so
well disposed to seek his salvation that he could easily have forgotten
his affection for the Princess, had she not rekindled the fire by her
letters, in which she caressed him with amorous epithets, calling him 'my
heart,' 'my chevalier,' and similar terms of endearment." Father Cotton
also drew up a paper, which he secretly conveyed to Pecquius, "to prove
that the Archduke, in terms of conscience and honour, might decide to
permit this escape, but he most urgently implored the Ambassador that for
the love of God and the public good he would influence his Serene
Highness to prevent this from ever coming to the knowledge of the world,
but to keep the secret inviolably."
Thus, while Henry was holding high council with his own most trusted
advisers, and with the most profound statesmen of Europe, as to the
opening campaign within a fortnight of a vast and general war, he was
secretly plotting with his father-confessor to effect what he avowed to
be the only purpose of that war, by Jesuitical bird-lime to be applied to
the chief of his antagonists. Certainly Barneveld and his colleagues
were justified in their distrust. To move one step in advance of their
potent but slippery ally might be a step off a precipice.
On the 1st of May, Sully made a long visit to the commissioners. He
earnestly urged upon them the necessity of making the most of the present
opportunity. There were people in plenty, he said, who would gladly see
the King take another course, for many influential persons about him were
altogether Spanish in their inclinations.
The King had been scandalized to hear from the Prince of Anhalt, without
going into details, that on his recent passage through the Netherlands he
had noticed some change of feeling, some coolness in their High
Mightinesses. The Duke advised that they should be very heedful, that
they should remember how much more closely these matters regarded them
than anyone else, that they should not deceive themselves, but be firmly
convinced that unless they were willing to go head foremost into the
business the French would likewise not commit themselves. Sully spoke
with much earnestness and feeling, for it was obvious that both he and
his master had been disappointed at the cautious and limited nature of
the instructions given to the ambassadors.
An opinion had indeed prevailed, and, as we have seen, was to a certain
extent shared in by Aerssens, and even by Sully himself, that the King's
military preparations were after all but a feint, and that if the Prince
of Conde, and with him the Princess, could be restored to France, the
whole war cloud would evaporate in smoke.
It was even asserted that Henry had made a secret treaty with the enemy,
according to which, while apparently ready to burst upon the House of
Austria with overwhelming force, he was in reality about to shake hands
cordially with that power, on condition of being allowed to incorporate
into his own kingdom the very duchies in dispute, and of receiving the
Prince of Conde and his wife from Spain. He was thus suspected of being
about to betray his friends and allies in the most ignoble manner and for
the vilest of motives. The circulation of these infamous reports no
doubt paralysed for a time the energy of the enemy who had made no
requisite preparations against the threatened invasion, but it sickened
his friends with vague apprehensions, while it cut the King himself to
the heart and infuriated him to madness.
He asked the Nuncius one day what people thought in Rome and Italy of the
war about to be undertaken. Ubaldini replied that those best informed
considered the Princess of Conde as the principal subject of hostilities;
they thought that he meant to have her back. "I do mean to have her
back," cried Henry, with a mighty oath, and foaming with rage, "and I
shall have her back. No one shall prevent it, not even the Lieutenant of
God on earth."
But the imputation of this terrible treason weighed upon his mind and
embittered every hour.
The commissioners assured Sully that they had no knowledge of any
coolness or change such as Anhalt had reported on the part of their
principals, and the Duke took his leave.
It will be remembered that Villeroy had, it was thought, been making
mischief between Anhalt and the States by reporting and misreporting
private conversations between that Prince and the Dutch ambassador.
As soon as Sully had gone, van der Myle waited upon Villeroy to ask, in
name of himself and colleagues, for audience of leave-taking, the object
of their mission having been accomplished. The Secretary of State, too,
like Sully, urged the importance of making the most of the occasion. The
affair of Cleve, he said, did not very much concern the King, but his
Majesty had taken it to heart chiefly on account of the States and for
their security. They were bound, therefore, to exert themselves to the
utmost, but more would not be required of them than it would be possible
Van der Myle replied that nothing would be left undone by their High
Mightinesses to support the King faithfully and according to their
On the 5th, Villeroy came to the ambassadors, bringing with him a letter
from the King for the States-General, and likewise a written reply to the
declarations made orally and in writing by the ambassadors to his
The letter of Henry to "his very dear and good friends, allies, and
confederates," was chiefly a complimentary acknowledgment of the
expressions of gratitude made to him on part of the States-General, and
warm approbation of their sage resolve to support the cause of
Brandenburg and Neuburg. He referred them for particulars to the
confidential conferences held between the commissioners and himself.
They would state how important he thought it that this matter should be
settled now so thoroughly as to require no second effort at any future
time when circumstances might not be so propitious; and that he intended
to risk his person, at the head of his army, to accomplish this result.
To the ambassadors he expressed his high satisfaction at their assurances
of affection, devotion, and gratitude on the part of the States. He
approved and commended their resolution to assist the Elector and the
Palatine in the affair of the duchies. He considered this a proof of
their prudence and good judgment, as showing their conviction that they
were more interested and bound to render this assistance than any other
potentates or states, as much from the convenience and security to be
derived from the neighbourhood of princes who were their friends as from
dangers to be apprehended from other princes who were seeking to
appropriate those provinces. The King therefore begged the States to
move forward as soon as possible the forces which they offered for this
enterprise according to his Majesty's suggestion sent through de Bethune.
The King on his part would do the same with extreme care and diligence,
from the anxiety he felt to prevent My Lords the States from receiving
detriment in places so vital to their preservation.
He begged the States likewise to consider that it was meet not only to
make a first effort to put the princes into entire possession of the
duchies, but to provide also for the durable success of the enterprise;
to guard against any invasions that might be made in the future to eject
those princes. Otherwise all their present efforts would be useless; and
his Majesty therefore consented on this occasion to enter into the new
league proposed by the States with all the princes and states mentioned
in the memoir of the ambassadors for mutual assistance against all unjust
occupations, attempts, and baneful intrigues.
Having no special information as to the infractions by the Archdukes of
the recent treaty of truce, the King declined to discuss that subject for
the moment, although holding himself bound to all required of him as one
of the guarantees of that treaty.
In regard to the remonstrance made by the ambassadors concerning the
trade of the East Indies, his Majesty disclaimed any intention of doing
injury to the States in permitting his subjects to establish a company in
his kingdom for that commerce. He had deferred hitherto taking action in
the matter only out of respect to the States, but he could no longer
refuse the just claims of his subjects if they should persist in them as
urgently as they had thus far been doing. The right and liberty which
they demanded was common to all, said the King, and he was certainly
bound to have as great care for the interests of his subjects as for
those of his friends and allies.
Here, certainly, was an immense difference in tone and in terms towards
the Republic adopted respectively by their great and good friends and
allies the Kings of France and Great Britain. It was natural enough that
Henry, having secretly expressed his most earnest hope that the States
would move at his side in his broad and general assault upon the House of
Austria, should impress upon them his conviction, which was a just one,
that no power in the world was more interested in keeping a Spanish and
Catholic prince out of the duchies than they were themselves. But while
thus taking a bond of them as it were for the entire fulfilment of the
primary enterprise, he accepted with cordiality, and almost with
gratitude, their proposition of a close alliance of the Republic with
himself and with the Protestant powers which James had so superciliously
It would have been difficult to inflict a more petty and, more studied
insult upon the Republic than did the King of Great Britain at that
supreme moment by his preposterous claim of sovereign rights over the
Netherlands. He would make no treaty with them, he said, but should he
find it worth while to treat with his royal brother of France, he should
probably not shut the door in their faces.
Certainly Henry's reply to the remonstrances of the ambassadors in regard
to the India trade was as moderate as that of James had been haughty and
peremptory in regard to the herring fishery. It is however sufficiently
amusing to see those excellent Hollanders nobly claiming that "the sea
was as free as air" when the right to take Scotch pilchards was in
question, while at the very same moment they were earnest for excluding
their best allies and all the world besides from their East India
monopoly. But Isaac Le Maire and Jacques Le Roy had not lain so long
disguised in Zamet's house in Paris for nothing, nor had Aerssens so
completely "broke the neck of the French East India Company" as he
supposed. A certain Dutch freebooter, however, Simon Danzer by name, a
native of Dordrecht, who had been alternately in the service of Spain,
France, and the States, but a general marauder upon all powers, was
exercising at that moment perhaps more influence on the East India trade
than any potentate or commonwealth.
He kept the seas just then with four swift-sailing and well-armed
vessels, that potent skimmer of the ocean, and levied tribute upon
Protestant and Catholic, Turk or Christian, with great impartiality.
The King of Spain had sent him letters of amnesty and safe-conduct,
with large pecuniary offers, if he would enter his service. The King of
France had outbid his royal brother and enemy, and implored him to sweep
the seas under the white flag.
The States' ambassador begged his masters to reflect whether this
"puissant and experienced corsair" should be permitted to serve Spaniard
or Frenchman, and whether they could devise no expedient for turning him
into another track. "He is now with his fine ships at Marseilles," said
Aerssens. "He is sought for in all quarters by the Spaniard and by the
directors of the new French East India Company, private persons who equip
vessels of war. If he is not satisfied with this king's offers, he is
likely to close with the King of Spain, who offers him 1000 crowns a
month. Avarice tickles him, but he is neither Spaniard nor Papist, and I
fear will be induced to serve with his ships the East India Company, and
so will return to his piracy, the evil of which will always fall on our
heads. If My Lords the States will send me letters of abolition for him,
in imitation of the French king, on condition of his returning to his
home in Zealand and quitting the sea altogether, something might be done.
Otherwise he will be off to Marseilles again, and do more harm to us than
ever. Isaac Le Maire is doing as much evil as he can, and one holds
daily council with him here."
Thus the slippery Simon skimmed the seas from Marseilles to the Moluccas,
from Java to Mexico, never to be held firmly by Philip, or Henry, or
Barneveld. A dissolute but very daring ship's captain, born in Zealand,
and formerly in the service of the States, out of which he had been
expelled for many evil deeds, Simon Danzer had now become a professional
pirate, having his head-quarters chiefly at Algiers. His English
colleague Warde stationed himself mainly at Tunis, and both acted
together in connivance with the pachas of the Turkish government. They
with their considerable fleet, one vessel of which mounted sixty guns,
were the terror of the Mediterranean, extorted tribute from the commerce
of all nations indifferently, and sold licenses to the greatest
governments of Europe. After growing rich with his accumulated booty,
Simon was inclined to become respectable, a recourse which was always
open to him--France, England, Spain, the United Provinces, vieing with
each other to secure him by high rank and pay as an honoured member of
their national marine. He appears however to have failed in his plan of
retiring upon his laurels, having been stabbed in Paris by a man whom he
had formerly robbed and ruined.
Villeroy, having delivered the letters with his own hands to the
ambassadors, was asked by them when and where it would be convenient for
the King to arrange the convention of close alliance. The Secretary of
State--in his secret heart anything but kindly disposed for this loving
union with a republic he detested and with heretics whom he would have
burned--answered briefly that his Majesty was ready at any time, and that
it might take place then if they were provided with the necessary powers.
He said in parting that the States should "have an eye to everything, for
occasions like the present were irrecoverable." He then departed, saying
that the King would receive them in final audience on the following day.
Next morning accordingly Marshal de Boisdaulphin and de Bonoeil came
with royal coaches to the Hotel Gondy and escorted the ambassadors to the
Louvre. On the way they met de Bethune, who had returned solo from the
Hague bringing despatches for the King and for themselves. While in the
antechamber, they had opportunity to read their letters from the States-
General, his Majesty sending word that he was expecting them with
impatience, but preferred that they should read the despatches before
They found the King somewhat out of humour. He expressed himself as
tolerably well satisfied with the general tenour of the despatches
brought by de Bethune, but complained loudly of the request now made by
the States, that the maintenance and other expenses of 4000 French in the
States' service should be paid in the coming campaign out of the royal
exchequer. He declared that this proposition was "a small manifestation
of ingratitude," that my Lords the, States were "little misers," and that
such proceedings were "little avaricious tricks" such as he had not
expected of them.
So far as England was concerned, he said there was a great difference.
The English took away what he was giving. He did cheerfully a great deal
for his friends, he said, and was always ready doubly to repay what they
did for him. If, however, the States persisted in this course, he should
call his troops home again.
The King, as he went on, became more and more excited, and showed decided
dissatisfaction in his language and manner. It was not to be wondered
at, for we have seen how persistently he had been urging that the
Advocate should come in person with "the bridle on his neck," and now he
had sent his son-in-law and two colleagues tightly tied up by stringent
instructions. And over an above all this, while he was contemplating a
general war with intention to draw upon the States for unlimited
supplies, behold, they were haggling for the support of a couple of
regiments which were virtually their own troops.
There were reasons, however, for this cautiousness besides those
unfounded, although not entirely chimerical, suspicions as to the King's
good faith, to which we have alluded. It should not be forgotten that,
although Henry had conversed secretly with the States' ambassador at full
length on his far-reaching plans, with instructions that he should
confidentially inform the Advocate and demand his co-operation, not a
word of it had been officially propounded to the States-General, nor to
the special embassy with whom he was now negotiating. No treaty of
alliance offensive or defensive existed between the Kingdom and the
Republic or between the Republic and any power whatever. It would have
been culpable carelessness therefore at this moment for the prime
minister of the States to have committed his government in writing to
a full participation in a general assault upon the House of Austria; the
first step in which would have been a breach of the treaty just concluded
and instant hostilities with the Archdukes Albert and Isabella.
That these things were in the immediate future was as plain as that night
would follow day, but the hour had not yet struck for the States to throw
down the gauntlet.
Hardly two months before, the King, in his treaty with the princes at
Hall, had excluded both the King of Great Britain and the States-General
from participation in those arrangements, and it was grave matter for
consideration, therefore, for the States whether they should allow such
succour as they might choose to grant the princes to be included in the
French contingent. The opportunity for treating as a sovereign power
with the princes and making friends with them was tempting, but it did
not seem reasonable to the States that France should make use of them
in this war without a treaty, and should derive great advantage from
the alliance, but leave the expense to them.
Henry, on the other hand, forgetting, when it was convenient to him, all
about the Princess of Conde, his hatred of Spain, and his resolution to
crush the House of Austria, chose to consider the war as made simply for
the love of the States-General and to secure them for ever from danger.
The ambassadors replied to the King's invectives with great respect,
and endeavoured to appease his anger. They had sent a special despatch
to their government, they said, in regard to all those matters, setting
forth all the difficulties that had been raised, but had not wished to
trouble his Majesty with premature discussions of them. They did not
doubt, however, that their High Mightinesses would so conduct this great
affair as to leave the King no ground of complaint.
Henry then began to talk of the intelligence brought by de Bethune from
the Hague, especially in regard to the sending of States' troops to
Dusseldorf and the supply of food for the French army. He did not
believe, he said, that the Archdukes would refuse him the passage with
his forces through their territory, inasmuch as the States' army would be
on the way to meet him. In case of any resistance, however, he declared
his resolution to strike his blow and to cause people to talk of him.
He had sent his quartermaster-general to examine the passes, who had
reported that it would be impossible to prevent his Majesty's advance.
He was also distinctly informed that Marquis Spinola, keeping his places
garrisoned, could not bring more than 8000 men into the field. The Duke
of Bouillon, however, was sending advices that his communications were
liable to be cut off, and that for this purpose Spinola could set on foot
about 16,000 infantry and 4000 horse.
If the passage should be allowed by the Archdukes, the King stated his
intention of establishing magazines for his troops along the whole line
of march through the Spanish Netherlands and neighbouring districts, and
to establish and fortify himself everywhere in order to protect his
supplies and cover his possible retreat. He was still in doubt, he said,
whether to demand the passage at once or to wait until he had began to
move his army. He was rather inclined to make the request instantly in
order to gain time, being persuaded that he should receive no answer
either of consent or refusal.
Leaving all these details, the King then frankly observed that the affair
of Cleve had a much wider outlook than people thought. Therefore the
States must consider well what was to be done to secure the whole work as
soon as the Cleve business had been successfully accomplished. Upon this
subject it was indispensable that he should consult especially with his
Excellency (Prince Maurice) and some members of the General Assembly,
whom he wished that My Lords the States-General should depute to the
"For how much good will it do," said the King, "if we drive off Archduke
Leopold without establishing the princes in security for the future?
Nothing is easier than to put the princes in possession. Every one will
yield or run away before our forces, but two months after we have
withdrawn the enemy will return and drive the princes out again. I
cannot always be ready to spring out of my kingdom, nor to assemble such
great armies. I am getting old, and my army moreover costs me 400,000
crowns a month, which is enough to exhaust all the treasures of France,
Spain, Venice, and the States-General together."
He added that, if the present occasion were neglected, the States would
afterwards bitterly lament and never recover it. The Pope was very much
excited, and was sending out his ambassadors everywhere. Only the
previous Saturday the new nuncius destined for France had left Rome.
If My Lords the States would send deputies to the camp with full powers,
he stood there firm and unchangeable, but if they remained cool in the
business, he warned them that they would enrage him.
The States must seize the occasion, he repeated. It was bald behind, and
must be grasped by the forelock. It was not enough to have begun well.
One must end well. "Finis coronat opus." It was very easy to speak of a
league, but a league was not to be made in order to sit with arms tied,
but to do good work. The States ought not to suffer that the Germans
should prove themselves more energetic, more courageous, than themselves.
And again the King vehemently urged the necessity of his Excellency and
some deputies of the States coming to him "with absolute power" to treat.
He could not doubt in that event of something solid being accomplished.
"There are three things," he continued, "which cause me to speak freely.
I am talking with my friends whom I hold dear--yes, dearer, perhaps, than
they hold themselves. I am a great king, and say what I choose to say.
I am old, and know by experience the ways of this world's affairs. I
tell you, then, that it is most important that you should come to me
resolved and firm on all points."
He then requested the ambassadors to make full report of all that he had
said to their masters, to make the journey as rapidly as possible, in
order to encourage the States to the great enterprise and to meet his
wishes. He required from them, he said, not only activity of the body,
but labour of the intellect.
He was silent for a few moments, and then spoke again. "I shall not
always be here," he said, "nor will you always have Prince Maurice, and a
few others whose knowledge of your commonwealth is perfect. My Lords the
States must be up and doing while they still possess them. Nest Tuesday
I shall cause the Queen to be crowned at Saint-Denis; the following
Thursday she will make her entry into Paris. Next day, Friday, I shall
take my departure. At the end of this month I shall cross the Meuse at
Mezieres or in that neighbourhood."
He added that he should write immediately to Holland, to urge upon his
Excellency and the States to be ready to make the junction of their army
with his forces without delay. He charged the ambassadors to assure
their High Mightinesses that he was and should remain their truest
friend, their dearest neighbour. He then said a few gracious and cordial
words to each of them, warmly embraced each, and bade them all farewell.
The next day was passed by the ambassadors in paying and receiving
farewell visits, and on Saturday, the 8th, they departed from Paris,
being escorted out of the gate by the Marshal de Boisdaulphin, with a
cavalcade of noblemen. They slept that night at Saint Denis, and then
returned to Holland by the way of Calais and Rotterdam, reaching the
Hague on the 16th of May.
I make no apology for the minute details thus given of the proceedings of
this embassy, and especially of the conversations of Henry.
The very words of those conversations were taken down on the spot by the
commissioners who heard them, and were carefully embodied in their report
made to the States-General on their return, from which I have transcribed
It was a memorable occasion. The great king--for great he was, despite
his numerous vices and follies--stood there upon the threshold of a vast
undertaking, at which the world, still half incredulous, stood gazing,
half sick with anxiety. He relied on his own genius and valour chiefly,
and after these on the brain of Barneveld and the sword of Maurice. Nor
was his confidence misplaced.
But let the reader observe the date of the day when those striking
utterances were made, and which have never before been made public. It
was Thursday, the 6th May. "I shall not always be here," said the King
. . . . . "I cannot be ready at any moment to spring out of my
kingdom." . . . "Friday of next week I take my departure."
How much of heroic pathos in Henry's attitude at this supreme moment!
How mournfully ring those closing words of his address to the
The die was cast. A letter drawn up by the Duc de Sully was sent to
Archduke Albert by the King.
"My brother," he said; "Not being able to refuse my best allies and
confederates the help which they have asked of me against those who wish
to trouble them in the succession to the duchies and counties of Cleve,
Julich, Mark, Berg, Ravensberg, and Ravenstein, I am advancing towards
them with my army. As my road leads me through your country, I desire to
notify you thereof, and to know whether or not I am to enter as a friend
Such was the draft as delivered to the Secretary of State; "and as such
it was sent," said Sully, "unless Villeroy changed it, as he had a great
desire to do."
Henry was mistaken in supposing that the Archduke would leave the letter
without an answer. A reply was sent in due time, and the permission
demanded was not refused. For although France was now full of military
movement, and the regiments everywhere were hurrying hourly to the places
of rendezvous, though the great storm at last was ready to burst, the
Archdukes made no preparations for resistance, and lapped themselves in
fatal security that nothing was intended but an empty demonstration.
Six thousand Swiss newly levied, with 20,000 French infantry and 6000
horse, were waiting for Henry to place himself at their head at Mezieres.
Twelve thousand foot and 2000 cavalry, including the French and English
contingents--a splendid army, led by Prince Maurice--were ready to march
from Holland to Dusseldorf. The army of the princes under Prince
Christian of Anhalt numbered 10,000 men. The last scruples of the
usually unscrupulous Charles Emmanuel had been overcome, and the Duke was
quite ready to act, 25,000 strong, with Marshal de Lesdiguieres, in the
Milanese; while Marshal de la Force was already at the head of his forces
in the Pyrenees, amounting to 12,000 foot and 2000 horse.
Sully had already despatched his splendid trains of artillery to the
frontier. "Never was seen in France, and perhaps never will be seen
there again, artillery more complete and better furnished," said the
Duke, thinking probably that artillery had reached the climax of perfect
destructiveness in the first decade of the seventeenth century.
His son, the Marquis de Rosny, had received the post of grand master of
artillery, and placed himself at its head. His father was to follow as
its chief, carrying with him as superintendent of finance a cash-box of
The King had appointed his wife, Mary de' Medici, regent, with an eminent
The new nuncius had been requested to present himself with his letters
of credence in the camp. Henry was unwilling that he should enter Paris,
being convinced that he came to do his best, by declamation, persuasion,
and intrigue, to paralyse the enterprise. Sully's promises to Ubaldini,
the former nuncius, that his Holiness should be made king, however
flattering to Paul V., had not prevented his representatives from
vigorously denouncing Henry's monstrous scheme to foment heresy and
The King's chagrin at the cautious limitations imposed upon the States'
special embassy was, so he hoped, to be removed by full conferences in
the camp. Certainly he had shown in the most striking manner the respect
he felt for the States, and the confidence he reposed in them.
"In the reception of your embassy," wrote Aerssens to the Advocate,
"certainly the King has so loosened the strap of his affection that he
has reserved nothing by which he could put the greatest king in the world
above your level."
He warned the States, however, that Henry had not found as much in their
propositions as the common interest had caused him to promise himself.
"Nevertheless he informs me in confidence," said Aerssens, "that he will
engage himself in nothing without you; nay, more, he has expressly told
me that he could hardly accomplish his task without your assistance, and
it was for our sakes alone that he has put himself into this position and
incurred this great expense."
Some days later he informed Barneveld that he would leave to van der Myle
and his colleagues the task of describing the great dissatisfaction of
the King at the letters brought by de Bethune. He told him in confidence
that the States must equip the French regiments and put them in marching
order if they wished to preserve Henry's friendship. He added that since
the departure of the special embassy the King had been vehemently and
seriously urging that Prince Maurice, Count Lewis William, Barneveld, and
three or four of the most qualified deputies of the States-General,
entirely authorized to treat for the common safety, should meet with him
in the territory of Julich on a fixed day.
The crisis was reached. The King stood fully armed, thoroughly prepared,
with trustworthy allies at his side, disposing of overwhelming forces
ready to sweep down with irresistible strength upon the House of Austria,
which, as he said and the States said, aspired to give the law to the
whole world. Nothing was left to do save, as the Ambassador said, to
"uncouple the dogs of war and let them run."
What preparations had Spain and the Empire, the Pope and the League,
set on foot to beat back even for a moment the overwhelming onset?
None whatever. Spinola in the Netherlands, Fuentes in Milan, Bucquoy and
Lobkowitz and Lichtenstein in Prague, had hardly the forces of a moderate
peace establishment at their disposal, and all the powers save France and
the States were on the verge of bankruptcy.
Even James of Great Britain--shuddering at the vast thundercloud which
had stretched itself over Christendom growing blacker and blacker,
precisely at this moment, in which he had proved to his own satisfaction
that the peace just made would perpetually endure--even James did not
dare to traverse the designs of the king whom he feared, and the republic
which he hated, in favour of his dearly loved Spain. Sweden, Denmark,
the Hanse Towns, were in harmony with France, Holland, Savoy, and the
whole Protestant force of Germany--a majority both in population and
resources of the whole empire. What army, what combination, what device,
what talisman, could save the House of Austria, the cause of Papacy, from
the impending ruin?
A sudden, rapid, conclusive victory for the allies seemed as predestined
a result as anything could be in the future of human affairs.
On the 14th or 15th day of May, as he had just been informing the States'
ambassadors, Henry meant to place himself at the head of his army. That
was the moment fixed by himself for "taking his departure."
And now the ides of May had come--but not gone.
In the midst of all the military preparations with which Paris had been
resounding, the arrangements for the Queen's coronation had been
simultaneously going forward. Partly to give check in advance to the
intrigues which would probably at a later date be made by Conde,
supported by the power of Spain, to invalidate the legitimacy of the
Dauphin, but more especially perhaps to further and to conceal what the
faithful Sully called the "damnable artifices" of the Queen's intimate
councillors--sinister designs too dark to be even whispered at that
epoch, and of which history, during the lapse of more than two centuries
and a half, has scarcely dared to speak above its breath--it was deemed
all important that the coronation should take place.
A certain astrologer, Thomassin by name, was said to have bidden the King
to beware the middle of the next month of May. Henry had tweaked the
soothsayer by the beard and made him dance twice or thrice about the
room. To the Duc de Vendome expressing great anxiety in regard to
Thomassin, Henry replied, "The astrologer is an old fool, and you are a
young fool." A certain prophetess called Pasithea had informed the Queen
that the King could not survive his fifty-seventh year. She was much in
the confidence of Mary de' Medici, who had insisted this year on her
returning to Paris. Henry, who was ever chafing and struggling to escape
the invisible and dangerous net which he felt closing about him, and who
connected the sorceress with all whom he most loathed among the intimate
associates of the Queen, swore a mighty oath that she should not show her
face again at court. "My heart presages that some signal disaster will
befall me on this coronation. Concini and his wife are urging the Queen
obstinately to send for this fanatic. If she should come, there is no
doubt that my wife and I shall squabble well about her. If I discover
more about these private plots of hers with Spain, I shall be in a mighty
passion." And the King then assured the faithful minister of his
conviction that all the jealousy affected by the Queen in regard to the
Princess of Conde was but a veil to cover dark designs. It was necessary
in the opinion of those who governed her, the vile Concini and his wife,
that there should be some apparent and flagrant cause of quarrel. The
public were to receive payment in these pretexts for want of better coin.
Henry complained that even Sully and all the world besides attributed to
jealousy that which was really the effect of a most refined malice.
And the minister sometimes pauses in the midst of these revelations made
in his old age, and with self-imposed and shuddering silence intimates
that there are things he could tell which are too odious and dreadful to
Henry had an invincible repugnance to that coronation on which the Queen
had set her heart. Nothing could be more pathetic than the isolated
position in which he found himself, standing thus as he did on the
threshold of a mighty undertaking in which he was the central figure,
an object for the world to gaze upon with palpitating interest. At his
hearth in the Louvre were no household gods. Danger lurked behind every
tapestry in that magnificent old palace. A nameless dread dogged his
footsteps through those resounding corridors.
And by an exquisite refinement in torture the possible father of several
of his children not only dictated to the Queen perpetual outbreaks of
frantic jealousy against her husband, but moved her to refuse with
suspicion any food and drink offered her by his hands. The Concini's
would even with unparalleled and ingenious effrontery induce her to make
use of the kitchen arrangements in their apartments for the preparation
of her daily meals?
Driven from house and home, Henry almost lived at the Arsenal. There he
would walk for hours in the long alleys of the garden, discussing with
the great financier and soldier his vast, dreamy, impracticable plans.
Strange combination of the hero, the warrior, the voluptuary, the sage,
and the schoolboy--it would be difficult to find in the whole range of
history a more human, a more attractive, a more provoking, a less
Haunted by omens, dire presentiments, dark suspicions with and without
cause, he was especially averse from the coronation to which in a moment
of weakness he had given his consent.
Sitting in Sully's cabinet, in a low chair which the Duke had expressly
provided for his use, tapping and drumming on his spectacle case, or
starting up and smiting himself on the thigh, he would pour out his soul
hours long to his one confidential minister. "Ah, my friend, how this
sacrament displeases me," he said; "I know not why it is, but my heart
tells me that some misfortune is to befall me. By God I shall die in
this city, I shall never go out of it; I see very well that they are
finding their last resource in my death. Ah, accursed coronation! thou
wilt be the, cause of my death."
So many times did he give utterance to these sinister forebodings that
Sully implored him at last for leave to countermand the whole ceremony
notwithstanding the great preparations which had been made for the
splendid festival. "Yes, yes," replied the King, "break up this
coronation at once. Let me hear no more of it. Then I shall have my
mind cured of all these impressions. I shall leave the town and fear
He then informed his friend that he had received intimations that he
should lose his life at the first magnificent festival he should give,
and that he should die in a carriage. Sully admitted that he had often,
when in a carriage with him, been amazed at his starting and crying out
at the slightest shock, having so often seen him intrepid among guns and
cannon, pikes and naked swords.
The Duke went to the Queen three days in succession, and with passionate
solicitations and arguments and almost upon his knees implored her to
yield to the King's earnest desire, and renounce for the time at least
the coronation. In vain. Mary de' Medici was obdurate as marble to his
The coronation was fixed for Thursday, the 13th May, two days later than
the time originally appointed when the King conversed with the States'
ambassadors. On the following Sunday was to be the splendid and solemn
entrance of the crowned Queen. On the Monday, Henry, postponing likewise
for two days his original plan of departure, would leave for the army.
Meantime there were petty annoyances connected with the details of the
coronation. Henry had set his heart on having his legitimatized
children, the offspring of the fair Gabrielle, take their part in the
ceremony on an equal footing with the princes of the blood. They were
not entitled to wear the lilies of France upon their garments, and the
King was solicitous that "the Count"--as Soissons, brother of Prince
Conti and uncle of Conde, was always called--should dispense with those
ensigns for his wife upon this solemn occasion, and that the other
princesses of the blood should do the same. Thus there would be no
appearance of inferiority on the part of the Duchess of Vendome.
The Count protested that he would have his eyes torn out of his head
rather than submit to an arrangement which would do him so much shame.
He went to the Queen and urged upon her that to do this would likewise be
an injury to her children, the Dukes of Orleans and of Anjou. He refused
flatly to appear or allow his wife to appear except in the costume
befitting their station. The King on his part was determined not to
abandon his purpose. He tried to gain over the Count by the most
splendid proposals, offering him the command of the advance-guard of the
army, or the lieutenancy-general of France in the absence of the King,
30,000 crowns for his equipment and an increase of his pension if he
would cause his wife to give up the fleurs-de-lys on this occasion.
The alternative was to be that, if she insisted upon wearing them,
his Majesty would never look upon him again with favourable eyes.
The Count never hesitated, but left Paris, refusing to appear at the
ceremony. The King was in a towering passion, for to lose the presence
of this great prince of the blood at a solemnity expressly intended as a
demonstration against the designs hatching by the first of all the
princes of the blood under patronage of Spain was a severe blow to his
pride and a check to his policy.'
Yet it was inconceivable that he could at such a moment commit so
superfluous and unmeaning a blunder. He had forced Conde into exile,
intrigue with the enemy, and rebellion, by open and audacious efforts to
destroy his domestic peace, and now he was willing to alienate one of his
most powerful subjects in order to place his bastards on a level with
royalty. While it is sufficiently amusing to contemplate this proposed
barter of a chief command in a great army or the lieutenancy-general of a
mighty kingdom at the outbreak of a general European war against a bit of
embroidery on the court dress of a lady, yet it is impossible not to
recognize something ideal and chivalrous from his own point of view in
the refusal of Soissons to renounce those emblems of pure and high
descent, those haughty lilies of St. Louis, against any bribes of place
and pelf however dazzling.
The coronation took place on Thursday, 13th May, with the pomp and
glitter becoming great court festivals; the more pompous and glittering
the more the monarch's heart was wrapped in gloom. The representatives
of the great powers were conspicuous in the procession; Aerssens, the
Dutch ambassador, holding a foremost place. The ambassadors of Spain and
Venice as usual squabbled about precedence and many other things, and
actually came to fisticuffs, the fight lasting a long time and ending
somewhat to the advantage of the Venetian. But the sacrament was over,
and Mary de' Medici was crowned Queen of France and Regent of the Kingdom
during the absence of the sovereign with his army.
Meantime there had been mysterious warnings darker and more distinct than
the babble of the soothsayer Thomassin or the ravings of the lunatic
Pasithea. Count Schomberg, dining at the Arsenal with Sully, had been
called out to converse with Mademoiselle de Gournay, who implored that a
certain Madame d'Escomans might be admitted to audience of the King.
That person, once in direct relations with the Marchioness of Verneuil,
the one of Henry's mistresses who most hated him, affirmed that a man
from the Duke of Epernon's country was in Paris, agent of a conspiracy
seeking the King's life.
The woman not enjoying a very reputable character found it impossible to
obtain a hearing, although almost frantic with her desire to save her
sovereign's life. The Queen observed that it was a wicked woman, who was
accusing all the world, and perhaps would accuse her too.
The fatal Friday came. Henry drove out, in his carriage to see the
preparations making for the triumphal entrance of the Queen into Paris on
the following Sunday. What need to repeat the tragic, familiar tale?
The coach was stopped by apparent accident in the narrow street de la
Feronniere, and Francis Ravaillac, standing on the wheel, drove his knife
through the monarch's heart. The Duke of Epernon, sitting at his side,
threw his cloak over the body and ordered the carriage back to the
"They have killed him, 'e ammazato,'" cried Concini (so says tradition),
thrusting his head into the Queen's bedchamber.
[Michelet, 197. It is not probable that the documents concerning
the trial, having been so carefully suppressed from the beginning,
especially the confession dictated to Voisin--who wrote it kneeling
on the ground, and was perhaps so appalled at its purport that he
was afraid to write it legibly--will ever see the light. I add in
the Appendix some contemporary letters of persons, as likely as any
one to know what could be known, which show how dreadful were the
suspicions which men entertained, and which they hardly ventured to
whisper to each other].
That blow had accomplished more than a great army could have done, and
Spain now reigned in Paris. The House of Austria, without making any
military preparations, had conquered, and the great war of religion and
politics was postponed for half a dozen years.
This history has no immediate concern with solving the mysteries of that
stupendous crime. The woman who had sought to save the King's life now
denounced Epernon as the chief murderer, and was arrested, examined,
accused of lunacy, proved to be perfectly sane, and, persisting in her
statements with perfect coherency, was imprisoned for life for her pains;
the Duke furiously demanding her instant execution.
The documents connected with the process were carefully suppressed. The
assassin, tortured and torn by four horses, was supposed to have revealed
nothing and to have denied the existence of accomplices.
The great accused were too omnipotent to be dealt with by humble accusers
or by convinced but powerless tribunals. The trial was all mystery,
hugger-mugger, horror. Yet the murderer is known to have dictated to the
Greflier Voisin, just before expiring on the Greve, a declaration which
that functionary took down in a handwriting perhaps purposely illegible.
Two centuries and a half have passed away, yet the illegible original
record is said to exist, to have been plainly read, and to contain the
names of the Queen and the Duke of Epernon.
Twenty-six years before, the pistol of Balthasar Gerard had destroyed the
foremost man in Europe and the chief of a commonwealth just struggling
into existence. Yet Spain and Rome, the instigators and perpetrators of
the crime, had not reaped the victory which they had the right to expect.
The young republic, guided by Barneveld and loyal to the son of the
murdered stadholder, was equal to the burthen suddenly descending upon
its shoulders. Instead of despair there had been constancy. Instead of
distracted counsels there had been heroic union of heart and hand.
Rather than bend to Rome and grovel to Philip, it had taken its
sovereignty in its hands, offered it successively, without a thought of
self-aggrandizement on the part of its children, to the crowns of France
and Great Britain, and, having been repulsed by both, had learned after
fiery trials and incredible exertions to assert its own high and foremost
place among the independent powers of the world.
And now the knife of another priest-led fanatic, the wretched but
unflinching instrument of a great conspiracy, had at a blow decapitated
France. No political revolution could be much more thorough than that
which had been accomplished in a moment of time by Francis Ravaillac.
On the 14th of May, France, while in spiritual matters obedient to the
Pope, stood at the head of the forces of Protestantism throughout Europe,
banded together to effect the downfall of the proud house of Austria,
whose fortunes and fate were synonymous with Catholicism. The Baltic
powers, the majority of the Teutonic races, the Kingdom of Britain, the
great Republic of the Netherlands, the northernmost and most warlike
governments of Italy, all stood at the disposition of the warrior-king.
Venice, who had hitherto, in the words of a veteran diplomatist, "shunned
to look a league or a confederation in the face, if there was any
Protestant element in it, as if it had been the head of Medusa," had
formally forbidden the passage of troops northwards to the relief of the
assailed power. Savoy, after direful hesitations, had committed herself
body and soul to the great enterprise. Even the Pope, who feared the
overshadowing personality of Henry, and was beginning to believe his
house's private interests more likely to flourish under the protection of
the French than the Spanish king, was wavering in his fidelity to Spain
and tempted by French promises: If he should prove himself incapable of
effecting a pause in the great crusade, it was doubtful on which side he
would ultimately range himself; for it was at least certain that the new
Catholic League, under the chieftainship of Maximilian of Bavaria, was
resolved not to entangle its fortunes inextricably with those of the
The great enterprise, first unfolding itself with the episode of Cleve
and Berg and whimsically surrounding itself with the fantastic idyl of
the Princess of Conde, had attained vast and misty proportions in the
brain of its originator. Few political visions are better known in
history than the "grand design" of Henry for rearranging the map of the
world at the moment when, in the middle of May, he was about to draw his
sword. Spain reduced to the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, but
presented with both the Indies, with all America and the whole Orient in
fee; the Empire taken from Austria and given to Bavaria; a constellation
of States in Italy, with the Pope for president-king; throughout the rest
of Christendom a certain number of republics, of kingdoms, of religions--
a great confederation of the world, in short--with the most Christian
king for its dictator and protector, and a great Amphictyonic council to
regulate all disputes by solemn arbitration, and to make war in the
future impossible, such in little was his great design.
Nothing could be more humane, more majestic, more elaborate, more
utterly preposterous. And all this gigantic fabric had passed away
in an instant--at one stroke of a broken table knife sharpened on a
Most pitiful was the condition of France on the day after, and for years
after, the murder of the King. Not only was the kingdom for the, time
being effaced from the roll of nations, so far as external relations were
concerned, but it almost ceased to be a kingdom. The ancient monarchy
of Hugh Capet, of Saint-Louis, of Henry of France and Navarre, was
transformed into a turbulent, self-seeking, quarrelsome, pillaging,
pilfering democracy of grandees. The Queen-Regent was tossed hither and
thither at the sport of the winds and waves which shifted every hour in
that tempestuous court.
No man pretended to think of the State. Every man thought only of
himself. The royal exchequer was plundered with a celerity and cynical
recklessness such as have been rarely seen in any age or country. The
millions so carefully hoarded by Sully, and exhibited so dramatically
by that great minister to the enraptured eyes of his sovereign; that
treasure in the Bastille on which Henry relied for payment of the armies
with which he was to transform the world, all disappeared in a few weeks
to feed the voracious maw of courtiers, paramours, and partisans!
The Queen showered gold like water upon her beloved Concini that he might
purchase his Marquisate of Ancre, and the charge of first gentleman of
the court from Bouillon; that he might fit himself for the government of
Picardy; that he might elevate his marquisate into a dukedom. Conde,
having no further reason to remain in exile, received as a gift from the
trembling Mary de' Medici the magnificent Hotel Gondy, where the Dutch
ambassadors had so recently been lodged, for which she paid 65,000
crowns, together with 25,000 crowns to furnish it, 50,000 crowns to pay
his debts, 50,000 more as yearly pension.
He claimed double, and was soon at sword's point with the Queen in spite
of her lavish bounty.
Epernon, the true murderer of Henry, trampled on courts of justice and
councils of ministers, frightened the court by threatening to convert
his possession of Metz into an independent sovereignty, as Balagny had
formerly seized upon Cambray, smothered for ever the process of
Ravaillac, caused those to be put to death or immured for life in
dungeons who dared to testify to his complicity in the great crime,
and strode triumphantly over friends and enemies throughout France,
although so crippled by the gout that he could scarcely walk up stairs.
There was an end to the triumvirate. Sully's influence was gone for
ever. The other two dropped the mask. The Chancellor and Villeroy
revealed themselves to be what they secretly had always been--humble
servants and stipendiaries of Spain. The formal meetings of the council
were of little importance, and were solemn, tearful, and stately; draped
in woe for the great national loss. In the private cabinet meetings in
the entresol of the Louvre, where the Nuncius and the Spanish ambassador
held counsel with Epernon and Villeroy and Jeannin and Sillery, the tone
was merry and loud; the double Spanish marriage and confusion to the
Dutch being the chief topics of consultation.
But the anarchy grew day by day into almost hopeless chaos. There was no
satisfying the princes of the blood nor the other grandees. Conde, whose
reconciliation with the Princess followed not long after the death of
Henry and his own return to France, was insatiable in his demands for
money, power, and citadels of security. Soissons, who might formerly
have received the lieutenancy-general of the kingdom by sacrificing the
lilies on his wife's gown, now disputed for that office with his elder
brother Conti, the Prince claiming it by right of seniority, the Count
denouncing Conti as deaf, dumb, and imbecile, till they drew poniards on
each other in the very presence of the Queen; while Conde on one
occasion, having been refused the citadels which he claimed, Blaye and
Chateau Trompette, threw his cloak over his nose and put on his hat while
the Queen was speaking, and left the council in a fury, declaring that
Villeroy and the chancellor were traitors, and that he would have them
both soundly cudgelled. Guise, Lorraine, Epernon, Bouillon, and other
great lords always appeared in the streets of Paris at the head of three,
four, or five hundred mounted and armed retainers; while the Queen in her
distraction gave orders to arm the Paris mob to the number of fifty
thousand, and to throw chains across the streets to protect herself and
her son against the turbulent nobles.
Sully, hardly knowing to what saint to burn his candle, being forced to
resign his great posts, was found for a time in strange political
combination with the most ancient foes of his party and himself. The
kaleidoscope whirling with exasperating quickness showed ancient Leaguers
and Lorrainers banded with and protecting Huguenots against the Crown,
while princes of the blood, hereditary patrons and chiefs of the
Huguenots, became partisans and stipendiaries of Spain.
It is easy to see that circumstances like these rendered the position of
the Dutch commonwealth delicate and perilous.
Sully informed Aerssens and van der Myle, who had been sent back to Paris
on special mission very soon after the death of the King, that it took a
hundred hours now to accomplish a single affair, whereas under Henry a
hundred affairs were transacted in a single hour. But Sully's sun had
set, and he had few business conferences now with the ambassadors.
Villeroy and the Chancellor had fed fat their ancient grudge to the once
omnipotent minister, and had sworn his political ruin. The old secretary
of state had held now complete control of the foreign alliances and
combinations of France, and the Dutch ambassadors could be under no
delusion as to the completeness of the revolution.
"You will find a passion among the advisers of the Queen," said Villeroy
to Aerssens and van der Myle, "to move in diametrical opposition to the
plans of the late king." And well might the ancient Leaguer and present
pensionary of Spain reveal this foremost fact in a policy of which he was
in secret the soul. He wept profusely when he first received Francis
Aerssens, but after these "useless tears," as the Envoy called them, he
soon made it manifest that there was no more to be expected of France, in
the great project which its government had so elaborately set on foot.
Villeroy was now sixty-six years of age, and had been secretary of state
during forty-two years and under four kings. A man of delicate health,
frail body, methodical habits, capacity for routine, experience in
political intrigue, he was not personally as greedy of money as many of
his contemporaries, and was not without generosity; but he loved power,
the Pope, and the House of Austria. He was singularly reserved in
public, practised successfully the talent of silence, and had at last
arrived at the position he most coveted, the virtual presidency of the
council, and saw the men he most hated beneath his feet.
At the first interview of Aerssens with the Queen-Regent she was drowned
in tears, and could scarcely articulate an intelligible sentence. So far
as could be understood she expressed her intention of carrying out the
King's plans, of maintaining the old alliances, of protecting both
religions. Nothing, however, could be more preposterous than such
phrases. Villeroy, who now entirely directed the foreign affairs of the
kingdom, assured the Ambassador that France was much more likely to apply
to the States for assistance than render them aid in any enterprise
whatever. "There is no doubt," said Aerssens, "that the Queen is
entirely in the hands of Spain and the priests." Villeroy, whom Henry
was wont to call the pedagogue of the council, went about sighing
dismally, wishing himself dead, and perpetually ejaculating, "Ho! poor
France, how much hast thou still to suffer!" In public he spoke of
nothing but of union, and of the necessity of carrying out the designs of
the King, instructing the docile Queen to hold the same language. In
private he was quite determined to crush those designs for ever, and
calmly advised the Dutch government to make an amicable agreement with
the Emperor in regard to the Cleve affair as soon as possible; a treaty
which would have been shameful for France and the possessory princes, and
dangerous, if not disastrous, for the States-General. "Nothing but
feverish and sick counsels," he said, "could be expected from France,
which had now lost its vigour and could do nothing but groan."
Not only did the French council distinctly repudiate the idea of doing
anything more for the princes than had been stipulated by the treaty of
Hall--that is to say, a contingent of 8000 foot and 2000 horse--but many
of them vehemently maintained that the treaty, being a personal one of
the late king, was dead with him? The duty of France was now in their
opinion to withdraw from these mad schemes as soon as possible, to make
peace with the House of Austria without delay, and to cement the
friendship by the double marriages.
Bouillon, who at that moment hated Sully as much as the most vehement
Catholic could do, assured the Dutch envoy that the government was, under
specious appearances, attempting to deceive the States; a proposition
which it needed not the evidence of that most intriguing duke to make
manifest to so astute a politician; particularly as there was none more
bent on playing the most deceptive game than Bouillon. There would be no
troops to send, he said, and even if there were, there would be no
possibility of agreeing on a chief. The question of religion would at
once arise. As for himself, the Duke protested that he would not accept
the command if offered him. He would not agree to serve under the Prince
of Anhalt, nor would he for any consideration in the world leave the
court at that moment. At the same time Aerssens was well aware that
Bouillon, in his quality of first marshal of France, a Protestant and a
prince having great possessions on the frontier, and the brother-in-law
of Prince Maurice, considered himself entitled to the command of the
troops should they really be sent, and was very indignant at the idea of
its being offered to any one else.
[Aerssens worked assiduously, two hours long on one occasion, to
effect a reconciliation between the two great Protestant chiefs, but
found Bouillon's demands "so shameful and unreasonable" that he
felt obliged to renounce all further attempts. In losing Sully from
the royal councils, the States' envoy acknowledged that the Republic
had lost everything that could be depended on at the French court.
"All the others are time-serving friends," he said, "or saints
without miracles."--Aerssens to Barneveld, 11 June, 1610. ]
He advised earnestly therefore that the States should make a firm demand
for money instead of men, specifying the amount that might be considered
the equivalent of the number of troops originally stipulated.
It is one of the most singular spectacles in history; France sinking into
the background of total obscurity in an instant of time, at one blow of a
knife, while the Republic, which she had been patronizing, protecting,
but keeping always in a subordinate position while relying implicitly
upon its potent aid, now came to the front, and held up on its strong
shoulders an almost desperate cause. Henry had been wont to call the
States-General "his courage and his right arm," but he had always
strictly forbidden them to move an inch in advance of him, but ever to
follow his lead, and to take their directions from himself. They were
a part, and an essential one, in his vast designs; but France, or he
who embodied France, was the great providence, the destiny, the all-
directing, all-absorbing spirit, that was to remodel and control the
whole world. He was dead, and France and her policy were already in a
state of rapid decomposition.
Barneveld wrote to encourage and sustain the sinking state. "Our courage
is rising in spite and in consequence of the great misfortune," he said.
He exhorted the Queen to keep her kingdom united, and assured her that My
Lords the States would maintain themselves against all who dared to
assail them. He offered in their name the whole force of the Republic to
take vengeance on those who had procured the assassination, and to defend
the young king and the Queen-Mother against all who might make any
attempt against their authority. He further declared, in language not to
be mistaken, that the States would never abandon the princes and their
This was the earliest indication on the part of the Advocate of the
intention of the Republic--so long as it should be directed by his
counsels--to support the cause of the young king, helpless and incapable
as he was, and directed for the time being by a weak and wicked mother,
against the reckless and depraved grandees, who were doing their best to
destroy the unity and the independence of France, Cornelis van der Myle
was sent back to Paris on special mission of condolence and comfort from
the States-General to the sorely afflicted kingdom.
On the 7th of June, accompanied by Aerssens, he had a long interview with
Villeroy. That minister, as usual, wept profusely, and said that in
regard to Cleve it was impossible for France to carry out the designs of
the late king. He then listened to what the ambassadors had to urge, and
continued to express his melancholy by weeping. Drying his tears for a
time, he sought by a long discourse to prove that France during this
tender minority of the King would be incapable of pursuing the policy of
his father. It would be even too burthensome to fulfil the Treaty of
Hall. The friends of the crown, he said, had no occasion to further it,
and it would be much better to listen to propositions for a treaty.
Archduke Albert was content not to interfere in the quarrel if the Queen
would likewise abstain; Leopold's forces were altogether too weak to make
head against the army of the princes, backed by the power of My Lords the
States, and Julich was neither strong nor well garrisoned. He concluded
by calmly proposing that the States should take the matter in hand by
themselves alone, in order to lighten the burthen of France, whose vigour
had been cut in two by that accursed knife.
A more sneaking and shameful policy was never announced by the minister
of a great kingdom. Surely it might seem that Ravaillac had cut in twain
not the vigour only but the honour and the conscience of France. But the
envoys, knowing in their hearts that they were talking not with a French
but a Spanish secretary of state, were not disposed to be the dupes of
his tears or his blandishments.
They reminded him that the Queen-Regent and her ministers since the
murder of the King had assured the States-General and the princes of
their firm intention to carry out the Treaty of Hall, and they observed
that they had no authority to talk of any negotiation. The affair of the
duchies was not especially the business of the States, and the Secretary
was well aware that they had promised their succour on the express
condition that his Majesty and his army should lead the way, and that
they should follow. This was very far from the plan now suggested, that
they should do it all, which would be quite out of the question. France
had a strong army, they said, and it would be better to use it than to
efface herself so pitiably. The proposition of abstention on the part of
the Archduke was a delusion intended only to keep France out of the
Villeroy replied by referring to English affairs. King James, he said,
was treating them perfidiously. His first letters after the murder had
been good, but by the following ones England seemed to wish to put her
foot on France's throat, in order to compel her to sue for an alliance.
The British ministers had declared their resolve not to carry out that
convention of alliance, although it had been nearly concluded in the
lifetime of the late king, unless the Queen would bind herself to make
good to the King of Great Britain that third part of the subsidies
advanced by France to the States which had been furnished on English
This was the first announcement of a grievance devised by the politicians
now governing France to make trouble for the States with that kingdom and
with Great Britain likewise. According to a treaty made at Hampton Court
by Sully during his mission to England at the accession of James, it had
been agreed that one-third of the moneys advanced by France in aid of the
United Provinces should be credited to the account of Great Britain, in
diminution of the debt for similar assistance rendered by Elizabeth to
Henry. In regard to this treaty the States had not been at all
consulted, nor did they acknowledge the slightest obligation in regard to
it. The subsidies in men and in money provided for them both by France
and by England in their struggle for national existence had always been
most gratefully acknowledged by the Republic, but it had always been
perfectly understood that these expenses had been incurred by each
kingdom out of an intelligent and thrifty regard for its own interest.
Nothing could be more ridiculous than to suppose France and England
actuated by disinterested sympathy and benevolence when assisting the
Netherland people in its life-and-death struggle against the dire and
deadly enemy of both crowns. Henry protested that, while adhering to
Rome in spiritual matters, his true alliances and strength had been found
in the United Provinces, in Germany, and in Great Britain. As for the
States, he had spent sixteen millions of livres, he said, in acquiring a
perfect benevolence on the part of the States to his person. It was the
best bargain he had ever made, and he should take care to preserve it at
any cost whatever, for he considered himself able, when closely united
with them, to bid defiance to all the kings in Europe together.
Yet it was now the settled policy of the Queen-Regent's council,
so far as the knot of politicians guided by the Nuncius and the Spanish
ambassador in the entresols of the Louvre could be called a council, to
force the States to refund that third, estimated at something between
three and four million livres, which France had advanced them on account
of Great Britain.
Villeroy told the two ambassadors at this interview that, if Great
Britain continued to treat the Queen-Regent in such fashion, she would be
obliged to look about for other allies. There could hardly be doubt as
to the quarter in which Mary de' Medici was likely to look. Meantime,
the Secretary of State urged the envoys "to intervene at once to-mediate
the difference." There could be as little doubt that to mediate the
difference was simply to settle an account which they did not owe.
The whole object of the Minister at this first interview was to induce
the States to take the whole Cleve enterprise upon their own shoulders,
and to let France off altogether. The Queen-Regent as then advised meant
to wash her hands of the possessory princes once and for ever. The
envoys cut the matter short by assuring Villeroy that they would do
nothing of the kind. He begged them piteously not to leave the princes
in the lurch, and at the same time not to add to the burthens of France
at so disastrous a moment.
So they parted. Next day, however, they visited the Secretary again, and
found him more dismal and flaccid than ever.
He spoke feebly and drearily about the succour for the great enterprise,
recounted all the difficulties in the way, and, having thrown down
everything that the day before had been left standing, he tried to
excuse an entire change of policy by the one miserable crime.
He painted a forlorn picture of the council and of France. "I can
myself do nothing as I wish," added the undisputed controller of that
government's policy, and then with a few more tears he concluded by
requesting the envoys to address their demands to the Queen in writing.
This was done with the customary formalities and fine speeches on both
sides; a dull comedy by which no one was amused.
Then Bouillon came again, and assured them that there had been a chance
that the engagements of Henry, followed up by the promise of the Queen-
Regent, would be carried out, but now the fact was not to be concealed
that the continued battery of the Nuncius, of the ambassadors of Spain
and of the Archdukes, had been so effective that nothing sure or solid
was thenceforth to be expected; the council being resolved to accept the
overtures of the Archduke for mutual engagement to abstain from the
Nothing in truth could be more pitiable than the helpless drifting of the
once mighty kingdom, whenever the men who governed it withdrew their
attention for an instant from their private schemes of advancement and
plunder to cast a glance at affairs of State. In their secret heart they
could not doubt that France was rushing on its ruin, and that in the
alliance of the Dutch commonwealth, Britain, and the German Protestants,
was its only safety. But they trembled before the Pope, grown bold and
formidable since the death of the dreaded Henry. To offend his Holiness,
the King of Spain, the Emperor, and the great Catholics of France, was to
make a crusade against the Church. Garnier, the Jesuit, preached from
his pulpit that "to strike a blow in the Cleve enterprise was no less a
sin than to inflict a stab in the body of our Lord." The Parliament of
Paris having ordered the famous treatise of the Jesuit Mariana--
justifying the killing of excommunicated kings by their subjects--to be
publicly burned before Notre Dame, the Bishop opposed the execution of
the decree. The Parliament of Paris, although crushed by Epernon in its
attempts to fix the murder of the King upon himself as the true culprit,
was at least strong enough to carry out this sentence upon a printed,
volume recommending the deed, and the Queen's council could only do its
best to mitigate the awakened wrath of the Jesuits at this exercise of
legal authority.--At the same time, it found on the whole so many more
difficulties in a cynical and shameless withdrawal from the Treaty of
Hall than in a nominal and tardy fulfilment of its conditions that it
resolved at last to furnish the 8000 foot and 2000 horse promised to the
possessory princes. The next best thing to abandoning entirely even this
little shred, this pitiful remnant, of the splendid designs of Henry was
to so arrange matters that the contingent should be feebly commanded, and
set on foot in so dilatory a manner that the petty enterprise should on
the part of France be purely perfunctory. The grandees of the kingdom
had something more important to do than to go crusading in Germany, with
the help of a heretic republic, to set up the possessory princes. They
were fighting over the prostrate dying form of their common mother for
their share of the spoils, stripping France before she was dead, and
casting lots for her vesture.
Soissons was on the whole in favour of the Cleve expedition. Epernon was
desperately opposed to it, and maltreated Villeroy in full council when
he affected to say a word, insincere as the Duke knew it to be, in favour
of executing agreements signed by the monarch, and sealed with the great
seal of France. The Duke of Guise, finding himself abandoned by the
Queen, and bitterly opposed and hated by Soissons, took sides with his
deaf and dumb and imbecile brother, and for a brief interval the Duke of
Sully joined this strange combination of the House of Lorraine and chiefs
of ancient Leaguers, who welcomed him with transport, and promised him
Then Bouillon, potent by his rank, his possessions, and his authority
among the Protestants, publicly swore that he would ruin Sully and change
the whole order of the government. What more lamentable spectacle, what
more desolate future for the cause of religious equality, which for a
moment had been achieved in France, than this furious alienation of the
trusted leaders of the Huguenots, while their adversaries were carrying
everything before them? At the council board Bouillon quarrelled
ostentatiously with Sully, shook his fist in his face, and but for the
Queen's presence would have struck him. Next day he found that the Queen
was intriguing against himself as well as against Sully, was making a
cat's-paw of him, and was holding secret councils daily from which he as
well as Sully was excluded. At once he made overtures of friendship to
Sully, and went about proclaiming to the world that all Huguenots were to
be removed from participation in affairs of state. His vows of vengeance
were for a moment hushed by the unanimous resolution of the council that,
as first marshal of France, having his principality on the frontier, and
being of the Reformed religion, he was the fittest of all to command the
expedition. Surely it might be said that the winds and tides were not
more changeful than the politics of the Queen's government. The Dutch
ambassador was secretly requested by Villeroy to negotiate with Bouillon
and offer him the command of the Julich expedition. The Duke affected
to make difficulties, although burning to obtain the post, but at last
consented. All was settled. Aerssens communicated at once with
Villeroy, and notice of Bouillon's acceptance was given to the Queen,
when, behold, the very next day Marshal de la Chatre was appointed to
the command expressly because he was a Catholic. Of course the Duke
of Bouillon, furious with Soissons and Epernon and the rest of the
government, was more enraged than ever against the Queen. His only hope
was now in Conde, but Conde at the outset, on arriving at the Louvre,
offered his heart to the Queen as a sheet of white paper. Epernon and
Soissons received him with delight, and exchanged vows of an eternal
friendship of several weeks' duration. And thus all the princes of the
blood, all the cousins of Henry of Navarre, except the imbecile Conti,
were ranged on the side of Spain, Rome, Mary de' Medici, and Concino
Concini, while the son of the Balafre, the Duke of Mayenne, and all their
adherents were making common cause with the Huguenots. What better
example had been seen before, even in that country of pantomimic changes,
of the effrontery with which Religion was made the strumpet of Political
All that day and the next Paris was rife with rumours that there was to
be a general massacre of the Huguenots to seal the new-born friendship of
a Conde with a Medici. France was to renounce all her old alliances and
publicly to enter into treaties offensive and defensive with Spain. A
league like that of Bayonne made by the former Medicean Queen-Regent of
France was now, at Villeroy's instigation, to be signed by Mary de'
Medici. Meantime, Marshal de la Chatre, an honest soldier and fervent
Papist, seventy-three years of age, ignorant of the language, the
geography, the politics of the country to which he was sent, and knowing
the road thither about as well, according to Aerssens, who was requested
to give him a little preliminary instruction, as he did the road to
India, was to co-operate with Barneveld and Maurice of Nassau in the
enterprise against the duchies.
These were the cheerful circumstances amid which the first step in the
dead Henry's grand design against the House of Austria and in support of
Protestantism in half Europe and of religious equality throughout
Christendom, was now to be ventured.
Cornelis van der Myle took leave of the Queen on terminating his brief
special embassy, and was fain to content himself with languid assurances
from that corpulent Tuscan dame of her cordial friendship for the United
Provinces. Villeroy repeated that the contingent to be sent was
furnished out of pure love to the Netherlands, the present government
being in no wise bound by the late king's promises. He evaded the
proposition of the States for renewing the treaty of close alliance by
saying that he was then negotiating with the British government on the
subject, who insisted as a preliminary step on the repayment of the third
part of the sums advanced to the States by the late king.
He exchanged affectionate farewell greetings and good wishes with Jeannin
and with the dropsical Duke of Mayenne, who was brought in his chair to
his old fellow Leaguer's apartments at the moment of the Ambassador's
There was abundant supply of smooth words, in the plentiful lack of any
substantial nutriment, from the representatives of each busy faction into
which the Medicean court was divided. Even Epernon tried to say a
gracious word to the retiring envoy, assuring him that he would do as
much for the cause as a good Frenchman and lover of his fatherland could
do. He added, in rather a surly way, that he knew very well how foully
he had been described to the States, but that the devil was not as black
as he was painted. It was necessary, he said, to take care of one's own
house first of all, and he knew very well that the States and all prudent
persons would do the same thing.
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