Изображения страниц

time with all and against most of the sovereigns of Europe. His principal aim was to humble the house of Austria; he wanted to establish a duke of Mantua independent of the king of Spain; he proposed to harass the Austrian dominions in Flanders, and had prevailed with Gustavus Adolphus, the king of Sweden, to make a descent upon Germany. But while these great schemes were in agitation, a formidable cabal at court was secretly undermining his power. Gaston, duke of Orleans, the king's brother, detested the cardinal de Richelieu; Mary of Medicis was jealous of that very power which she had contributed to raise; and most of the nobility were his secret enemies. This illustrious man, whose intrepidity was equal to all situations, suppressed these cabals in a manner which astonished all Europe. The maréchal de Marillac, one of the nobles who was most obnoxious to him, was arrested at the head of an army, and condemned and executed for treason. The duke of Orleans, the king's brother, apprehensive of a similar fate, quitted the kingdom; and the queen-mother, Mary of Medicis, removed from all concern in the government, ended her career of ambition in voluntary exile at Brussels.

The duke of Orleans, however, flattered himself with the idea of being the avenger of the royal family. He was supported by the duke de Montmorenci, who raised at his own expense an army of several thousand men. The king's army, or rather that of the cardinal, came to an engagement with him, which terminated all the hopes of Orleans and his adherents. Montmorenci was taken prisoner, condemned and executed for treason, and

the duke, after making all submissions, thought himself extremely happy to be allowed to quit the kingdom and retire to Brussels, to keep his mother company. The most surprising circumstance in the whole of these transactions is, that cardinal Richelieu found himself able to make such exertions of the most despotic power while the nation were his enemies. He surmounted all opposition; and while the genius of most men, even of great abilities, would have found it sufficient occupation to wage war against those cabals and factions which were continually meditating his downfall, this extraordinary man not only completely foiled the schemes of his enemies, but found means to raise the kingdom of France to a most flourishing condition at home, while he extended her glory and influence over all Europe. While he was making open war against the house of Austria in Germany, Italy, and Spain, he was at this very time employing his thoughts in the establishment of the French Academy. He held meetings in his palace of the most celebrated literary geniuses of the age; he cultivated the belles lettres with success, and composed himself some dramatic pieces, which were exhibited on the French theatre.

The war against Austria, however, did not succeed to his wishes, till the duke of Weimar gained at length a complete victory, in which he took prisoners four of the imperial generals; and till the Spanish branch of the house of Austria was stripped of Portugal by the revolution in that kingdom, and dispossessed likewise of Catalonia by an open rebellion in the year 1640.

Lewis XIII., who, though a prince of a gloomy

disposition, had his favourites among the court ladies, was weak enough sometimes to listen to those reports which they were fond of circulating to the prejudice of the cardinal de Richelieu. The queen herself, Anne of Austria, had been so imprudent as to signify her aversion to him. Richelieu laid his hands upon her father confessor; ordered the queen's papers to be seized, on the pretence of a correspondence with the enemies of the state; and Anne of Austria had very nearly undergone the same fate with Mary of Medicis. The king himself had sometimes hastily expressed his indignation at the violent conduct of his minister. A favourite of the king, the young marquis de Cinque Mars, encouraged by these expressions, which he took for a certain presage of the downfall of Richelieu, entered into a conspiracy with Gaston, duke of Orleans, and the duke de Bouillon, against the cardinal's life. The plot was discovered; Cinque Mars was put to death, the duke de Bouillon had his estate confiscated, and Gaston, after making an humble submission, consented to remain a prisoner at the castle of Blois. The detection of this conspiracy was the last scene of the life of cardinal Richelieu, as well as that of Lewis XIII., who survived him but a few months.

The administration of cardinal Richlieu, though stained with factions, with civil war, and with daily executions, was, on the whole, extremely glorious for the kingdom.

France, in his time, was opulent at home; her finances were in good order; and she was most respectable abroad. There appeared at this time

likewise the dawn of that good taste which arrived at such distinguished splendour in the succeeding age of Lewis XIV.


From the period of the death of Philip II., the Spanish monarchy visibly declined in its influence abroad-though, at the same time, the authority of its sovereigns, or the power of the prince over the subject, was daily increasing. The government, absolute as it was, was ill administered. There was no regulation or system of supplies for the exigencies of the state. So great was the neglect and the disorder of the revenues during the reign of Philip III., that in the war which still continued with the United Provinces, he had not money to pay his troops. His naval forces were inferior to those of Holland and Zealand, and they stripped him of the Molucca islands and of Amboyna in the East Indies, while, at the same time, his armies in the Netherlands could make no impression on the power of this infant republic. He was obliged, in fine, to conclude a truce with Holland for twelve years, to leave the Dutch in possession of all they had acquired, to promise then a free trade to the East Indies, and to restore to the house of Nassau its estates situated within the dominions of the Spanish monarchy.

It is impossible to fathom the reasons of a policy so very destructive as that which was embraced by Philip III. in this juncture of national weakness. The Moors, who had still subsisted in Spain from the period of the conquest of Grenada,

[ocr errors]

and were a peaceable, an useful, and a most industrious race of subjects, were computed to amount at this time to six or seven hundred thousand. Some trifling insurrections, occasioned by the persecutions of the Inquisition, attracted the notice of the sovereign, who, with the most indiscreet, impolitic, and destructive zeal, decreed, that all the Moors should be expelled from the kingdom of Spain. Two years were spent by Philip in transporting the most industrious part of his subjects out of the kingdom, and in depopulating his dominions. A few of these wretched exiles betook themselves to France; the rest, and the greatest part, returned to Africa, their ancient country. Spain became an immense body without vigour or motion. The court of Philip III. was a chaos of intrigues, like that of Lewis XIII. The monarch was governed by the duke of Lerma; but the confusion in which every thing was involved, at length drove him from his station of a minister. The disorders increased under Philip IV., who was ruled by Olivarez, as his father had been by Lerma. It is a curious fact, that the best information we have of the court intrigues during these reigns, and of the character of the prime ministers, Lerma and Olivarez, is to be found in a book of romance, the Adventures of Gil Blas, written by M. le Sage, who, in treating occasionally of state affairs, has interspersed a great deal of genuine history. We may observe, at the same time, that the account which the same author has given of the state of literature in Spain is extremely just, and that his picture of the manners of the people is in general very faithful.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »