Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

terity, the great statesman appeared to his contemporaries, and appears to us, omnipotent, his tenure of office did not depend on the affection or on the fear of his sovereign. He was neither a favourite nor a master.

During the king's illness at Lyons, the two queens, one of whom hated Richelieu for having begun to make love to her, and the other for having left off, extorted from Louis a promise

a to dismiss their common enemy. When the cardinal returned to Lyons to wear the laurels which he had well earned in his victorious campaign, his situation was nearly desperate. The French envoys had taken advantage of the king's illness, and of Richelieu's absence, to sign, without authority, the Peace of Ratisbon. The emissaries of Gaston, whom he had always persecuted, filled the town, eager to clutch the crown from the brows of the dying monarch. Whether the king lived or died, Richelieu seemed lost. By a miracle the king recovered. At this moment the queens introduced a new character upon the stage.

Louis XIII. had always some reigning favourite-some very young man, whom he undertook to bring up in the way in which he should go; but till now he had appeared to be insensible to the charms of female beauty.

“ Still weak from the effects of recent illness, the king,” says M. Michelet, “ went to return thanks at the shrine of St. Jean de Lyon. The eyes of the convalescent fell upon a new-comer, Malle. de Hautefort. This Aurora, as she was called, on account of her rosy complexion and her waving hair, gilded now by the reflection of the painted window, seemed a ray from heaven-a new life—to the royal Lazarus. He ordered the hassock on which he was kneeling to be carried to her. A northern maiden would have been overcome with surprise and confusion, and have committed some blunder. She, however, with a slight blush, which added to the brightness of her large blue eyes, took the hassock, and, without using it, placed it respectfully by her side.”

From that day the king was an altered man. He became assiduous in his attendance in the queen's circle, avowedly for the new maid-of-honour. Entirely devoted to her royal mistress, Malle. de Hautefort used her influence in favour of Anne of Austria, whose mouthpiece she became.

What was Richelieu to do? He tried to soften the heart of his old patroness the queen-mother. He established himself in her barge as it slowly descended the Loire, and he passed long hours on one knee by her couch“ filant le parfait amour,” trying to revive a spark of an extinct flame.

It was in vain. The queen-mother reached Paris more angry, if possible, than ever. She demanded his dismissal. The king seemed to waver. In the midst of the discussion Richelieu

[ocr errors]

burst into the apartment, and entreated her forgiveness. She replied by a torrent of abuse. The king fled to Versailles. Marie de Medicis remained at the Luxembourg in triumph, and received the congratulations of the courtiers.

Richelieu had the wisdom to follow his master, Louis XIII. already had missed him. Oppressed by public cares, surrounded by enemies, foreign and domestic, what should he do without his right hand? At that instant Richelieu appeared. He humbly tendered his resignation, and was commanded to remain.

So ended the 11th November 1630, the famous journée des dupes, by which the only gainer was Richelieu.

Clemency was not one of his attributes. Death, exile, and imprisonment were the fate of the enemies who were already rejoicing over his downfall. The king never again attempted to part from him.

Somewhat similar to the relation between Louis XIII. and Richelieu, and equally galling, was the bond which united the cardinal to his prime minister, the celebrated Père Joseph, who, under his flannel robe, hid a heart as ambitious as that of his patron.

"In spite," says Michelet, “ of his bare feet, his rope girdle, and his humility, he aimed at the cardinal's hat, which would no doubt have enabled him to supplant his friend. Richelieu, who saw his object, tried as early as the year 1628 to get rid of him by shutting him up in a country town. Ée offered him the bishopric of La Rochelle. But Joseph, with equal cunning, declined the honour of being buried alive, and insisted upon remaining a Capuchin. Joseph had four chief secretaries belonging to his order, an establishment of his own, horses, carriages, and apartments in all the royal palaces. Nothing pleased the king so much as to see the ministry filled with these gray gowns.

He thought that much might be permitted to a king who provided Capuchins with carriages.

On the other hand, Richelieu, who had experienced the falsehood of Joseph, while he made him so important, took care to keep him under his eye. He said that he loved his dear brother so much that he must live with him. So the Père Joseph, with his Capuchins and his secretaries, were established on the same floor and in the same apartment with the cardinal, who was thus himself a spy upon this chief of spies.”

Joseph was violently anti-Austrian. A contemporary historian (Tallemant des Réaux) says of him, that he imagined himself born to defeat the House of Austria; and at this time he assisted Richelieu in obtaining the king's consent to the masterpiece of his foreign policy,—the alliance with Gustavus Adolphus.

The Thirty-Years War was raging. The leaders of the Catholic party were the two fanatical heads of the House of Austria,

6

the Emperor Ferdinand II. and Philip IV. of Spain. They thought that the banner of their faith was a cloak for every crime. Under its cover they oppressed their own subjects, broke faith with their allies, and persecuted their enemies without hesitation or remorse.

In 1629, the emperor, after exterminating heresy by the sword in Austria and Bohemia, prepared to reconvert Protestant Germany. At the head of his armies was Wallenstein.

We insert Michelet's description of this great adventurer. The portrait, indeed, is too picturesque to be faithful. The shadows are blacker, and the features more exaggerated, than the colouring or the forms of nature; but it is an impressive sketch, after the manner of Rembrandt :

“He was a tall, thin man, of sinister aspect and doubtful origin. He signed • Waldstein,' in imitation of the great German families ; his round head pronounced him of Sclavonic race. Every thing about him was contradictory. His reddish hair would have proclaimed him German, if it had not been qualified by his dark olive complexion. He was born at Prague, amidst ruin, fire, and massacre, and went forth from Bohemia like an evil spirit to ravage and destroy the rest of Germany. Each peak of that volcanic country still seems to be dyed in blood. Wallenstein had no faith and no God; he trusted in the stars, in fate, and in gold. At first a Protestant, he changed his religion for his first wife's large fortune, which he realised in base Austrian coin, and bought up confiscated estates : afterwards he bought soldiers, regiments, armies. The avalanche increased daily.

Sombre, silent, inaccessible, he spoke only to pronounce sentence of death, and yet all flocked to him. Was it a miracle? No, it was natural. Wallenstein made the soldier a king, and gave him absolute power over the people, their property, their lives, their women and children.

There can no longer be crime ; for all is permitted,—the horrors of sack and pillage, and the delirium which follows victory, renewed every day in defenceless villages and families; men beaten, wounded, and murdered ; women passing from hand to hand; the voice of weeping heard every where. Yet no complaints. How was it possible to reach Wallenstein, intrenched in the midst of his camp? The spectre was blind and deaf.

An excellent Dutch picture in the Louvre represents a wretched countrywoman kneeling in urgent entreaty at the feet of a captain in red velvet. She looks so miserable and so dirty, she has evidently suffered so much, that one knows not what more she can fear. They have killed her husband and children ; how can they harm her ? In the background is a group of soldiers throwing dice. What is their stake? Perhaps this woman ; the pleasure of torturing her. She is made of flesh and blood, poor creature, and she shudders."

Such was the army, and such, or nearly such, the leader, which the wicked folly of Gaston called to ravage the fair plains of his country

The army of Wallenstein amounted to 160,000 seasoned troops. Besides these, many bands, almost armies, in Germany, Poland, and Italy, were ready to join him, in order to fall upon the rich prize of France.

Two centuries later, in our own day, we have seen a mighty conqueror, regardless of the ruin of nations and of individuals, and of every thing but the satisfaction of his own ambition, advance with apparently resistless force to destroy all intellectual and moral progress, and to establish the dominion of the sword. But Providence will not suffer such a career to remain unpunished. In the seventeenth century a champion was raised up in the person of the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, in whose favour M. Michelet allows himself the only burst of genuine admiration contained in the volume.

We have copied his portrait of Wallenstein; we give as a pendant that of Gustavus:

“ He was tall; it has been said that he was the tallest man in Europe. His forehead was broad, his nose aquiline, his eyes were light gray, small according to the engravings, but penetrating, although short-sighted. He inherited from his German mother a tendency to fat, which was probably increased by his calmness and serenity in a life of danger and struggle. His size was inconvenient, as he could scarcely find a horse to carry him ; but on one occasion it saved his life-a bullet which would have killed a thin man buried itself in his flesh.

His temperament was sanguine, and subject to short fits of irritation, at which he himself laughed when they were over. He exposed himself too much, like a soldier more than a general. These are the only faults that have been attributed to him, and they leave him more nearly perfect than seems to be compatible with human nature.

He was wonderfully just, and never complained when unsuccessful in private affairs before the Swedish tribunals. In the horrible ThirtyYears War, when there was neither law nor God, he appeared as a divine avenger, a judge, nay as Justice herself.

The perfect purity of his camp was in itself a revolution. One of his men, who had just stolen a cow, felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. Turning round, he beheld the good giant Gustavus, who gently addressed him in these words : 'My son, my son, you must offer yourself up to justice;' which meant, you must be hanged.

He was the representative of the oppressed principle, Protestantism, which then in Europe represented liberty. For his father became king of Sweden only in consequence of the ruin of the Catholic John. Gustavus was king as her defender against Poland and the Jesuits. While yet a child, his father pointed him out as the avenger of this cause : ‘I shall not complete this work,' said he ; “it will be my son.' Germany understood that it was to be so. And when Gustavus reached the age

a

of twenty (in 1614), the great and enlightened towns of the empire - Strasbourg, Nuremberg, and Ulm-named him as their defender against the house of Austria.

He had received an excellent education. He wrote and spoke German, Dutch, Latin, Italian, and French ; he understood Polish and Russian. But, what was still more important, in the twelve years' truce between Holland and Spain, numbers of officers of all nations, who came to serve in the Swedish army, taught to him the famous Dutch art of war. He was, in fact, the successor of Prince Maurice.

It was a war of sieges, of canals, and of marshes. But the master of real strategy,--the art of manoeuvring on a grand scale in the field,

- was in Sweden. Pontus de la Gardie was the first upon whom the light of this new system dawned ; it shone fully upon his son Jacques, who put it in practice, and taught it to Gustavus."

The principle of this new system was that of moral force as opposed to brute force. The victories of Wallenstein were achieved rather by numbers than by discipline, and the premium which he offered was license. Gustavus came, not to conquer, but to deliver. He trusted in the courage of his men and in the righteousness of his cause.

But M. Michelet, as we have seen, will not allow even his favourite Gustavus to have been the inventor of the new art. Europe of course owes it, as she does every other good thing, to France.

“A Frenchman had discovered a mode of warfare opposed to the three systems which were then in vogue. It may be thus describedthat real strength lay not in the dash of the Turks, the storm of their cavalry, not in the weight of the imperial cuirassiers, nor even in the walls and skilful fortifications of Holland,—but in human walls,—the firm foot-soldier in the open field,—and in the breast of man."

M. Michelet seems to have forgotten that the power of the foot-soldier had already been discovered by Spain. The famous Spanish infantry was invincible till 1643, when its destruction at Rocroy was the first triumph of the grand Condé. As we do not find in other historians the same importance attached to the lessons of Jacques de la Gardie, our readers will perhaps forgive us if we attribute the improvement to Gustavus himself. Otherwise, how could he lay claim to the preëminence which was freely granted to him by his great rival Wallenstein, later by Turenne and Condé, who raised their hats when his name was mentioned, and lastly, by Napoleon, who places him among the eight great generals of ancient and modern times ?* If we deny him the inventive faculty, he falls from the first rank of men into the second, from the man of genius to the man of talent; the

• Alexander, Hannibal, Julius Cæsar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Prince Eugène, Frederick II., and Napoleon.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »