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Reign of Charles I. page 7


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Charles thoroughly believed in the walk to Tyburn, but the queen stoutly denied it, representing it to have originated in an accidental walk on a summer's afternoon in the parks of St. James's and Hyde Park; and Bassompierre, in an eloquent speech before the privy council, maintained that view of it. After much exertion Bassompierre succeeded, but not before the latter end of November, in settling all difficulties and reconciling all parties. He first produced a reconciliation betwixt the queen and Buckingham, which delighted Charles so much, that it facilitated greatly an amicable arrangement for the queen's future household. It was conceded that the queen should have a bishop and ten priests, a confessor and his coadjutor, and ten musicians for her chapel. The chapel of St. James's was to be finished, and another built for her at Somerset House. She was to have in attendance on her person two ladies of the bedchamber, three bed-chamber women, one lingere, and a clear-starcher, all French. Two physicians, an apothecary, and a surgeon. A grand chamberlain, a squire, a secretary, a gentleman-usher of the privy-chamber, one of the chamber of presence, a valet of the privy chamber, and a baker. All her officers of the mouth and the goblet were to be French.

Ample as these concessions appear, Bassompierre found the queen still unsatisfied, and plainly told her that he would the next day take his leave, return to France, and declare to the king her brother, and her mother, that she alone was in fault. This appeared to have full effect, and Bassompierre had the merit of a most perfect success in this arduous case; for ever after the king and queen lived in great unity and affection, and however the world went with them, showed a genuine and deep attachment to each other; an ample proof of the mischief having originated with her mischievous attendants.

From the question of domestic difference, Bassompierre and the king in council proceeded to topics of national difference. Each party had something to complain of. Bassompierre complained that the marriage treaty had been violated at every point; that Charles had bound himself both to permit the free exercise of the queen's religion, and toleration of the catholics at large; but that his treatment of the queen and her retinue, and his persecution of the catholics were, notwithstanding, patent breaches of this contract. The council denied the persecution, endeavouring to get rid of the charge by alleging that Charles himself had made no new laws against the catholics, but had only administered those which had descended to him. This was no answer, for it was a suppression of those laws of his father's that the French had bargained for; and when this point was pressed, the council admitted that Charles had agreed to certain clauses in the marriage treaty, and had confirmed them since coming to the throne; but they declared that his majesty had regarded these clauses as merely pro forma, and only intended to satisfy the catholic party in France, and the pope, without whom the marriage could not be effected. This was a doctrine so profligate, and so destructive of all faith in those that used it, that none but the believers in the treacherous principle of kingcraft, could have used it. It was with better show of reason that they objected, the French king had pledged himself to an alliance offensive and defensive for the restoration of the prince palatine, but had done nothing, furnished neither money nor men; on the contrary, he had refused a passage to the troops of count Mansfeldt, Frederick's general. They accused Louis also of infraction of the treaty with regard to the Huguenots, especially those of Rochelle; and avowed that Charles felt himself bound by that contract to support them in their just demands. They also contended that as it regarded the queen's religion, no restraint had been put upon it, for that her priests and attendants had not been sent back because they were catholics, but because they had been disturbers of his majesty's household and government.

It was finally concluded that Henrietta should have one French bishop, twelve French priests, none of whom were to be Jesuits, and various other functionaries, as already mentioned; with which Bassompierre expressed himself fully satisfied, on Charles promising not to enforce the penalties against recusants, and releasing the catholic priests now in prison on account of their religion. Charles promised, but his promises were worth nothing after his avowal in council of making promises or taking oaths just for present convenience; and he actually gave up the priests, seventeen in number, who went over to France in the train of the ambassador, a clear proof that they had no faith in the king's pledge of abstaining from persecution.

Bassompierre, on arriving at Paris, was coldly received by the king and queen-mother, because he had not insisted on the rigid performance of all the marriage articles; which had he done, would have certainly left the reconciliation unaccomplished. One request which he had to prefer he knew beforehand would be rejected. Buckingham, unabashed by the blunt and significant refusal of his proposal to return to Paris, had importuned Bassompierre to again request that he might go there as ambassador. A still more prompt and blunt denial was given, and the foolish duke determined to have his revenge. From that moment the attack of France was prepared for with all the diligence of rancour.

The state of feeling on both sides of the channel, indeed hastened an open rapture. The French were highly incensed at the treatment of the queen's retinue, and the most, sinister reports were propagated amongst the people, who readily imbibed the idea that their princess was a victim in the hands of her heretic husband; and they were ready to avenge themselves on England or on the protest-ants of their own country. On the other hand, Charles regarded his disasters, the defeat of his brother-in-law's allies in Germany, and his consequent unpopularity at home, to the failure of Louis of France in giving the aid which he had promised. Through this defaulture Charles considered that he had sunk a million of money, ten thousand soldiers, and lost the favour of his own people. In these ideas he was strengthened by the emissaries of the French protestants; and very soon Devic and Montague were despatched by Charles to concert measures with the Huguenots, and Soubise and Brancard were received at London as their envoys here. It was finally determined that Charles should send a fleet and army to Rochelle, which the duke de Rohan should join with four thousand men. It was rumoured that it was planned for a protestant state to be established betwixt the Loire and the Garonne, at the head of which Buckingham should be placed. That there was some great scheme of the kind is certain, for Charles, in dismissing ambassadors from his uncle, the king of Denmark, said that he kept his full intent from them, "for," he says, "I think it needless, or rather hurtful, to discover my main intent in this business, because divulging it, in my mind, must needs hazard it."

Meantime France, on its side, had not been inactive. Richelieu had listened not only to the discontent of the French at the concessions made by Bassompierre, but to the urgent entreaties of the pope's nuncio, who had never ceased, since the expulsion of Henrietta's priests, to call on Louis to avenge that insult to the church, and had concluded a treaty with Spain, for mutual defence, and for the punishment of England. They regarded the fleet preparing in the English ports, on the pretence of chastising the Algerines, and giving aid to the palsgrave, as really destined against France and Spain, and they planned not only a defence of their own coasts, but a descent on those of England. It was agreed that Spanish ships should be received in French ports, and French ones in those of Spain.

The English, on their part, swept the ships of all nations from the sea, on the plea that they might contain Spanish goods. Letters of mark were issued, and no nations were spared by the cruisers, not even those in alliance with England, The Hanse Towns, the Dutch States, and even the king of Denmark, had to make zealous remonstrances. Louis of France had not confined himself to remonstrances even before signing the treaty with Spain, but had laid an embargo on all English ships in French harbours. But now orders were issued by both the French and English courts for the suspension of all commercial intercourse betwixt the two nations.

On the 27th of June, 1627, the English fleet sailed out of Portsmouth. It consisted of forty-two ships of war, thirty-four transports, and carried seven regiments of infantry, of nine hundred men each, a squadron of cavalry, and a numerous body of French protestants, altogether about seven or eight thousand men. That it might this time succeed, Buckingham took the command of it, for in his self-conceit he attributed all the former failures to his not being on the spot in person, to give the troops the advantage of his consummate genius and experience; the whole of his military genius, if he had any, being yet to be discovered, and the whole of his experience amounting to having seen soldiers on parade. His plans were kept so secret - even from the friends with whom he was to co-operate - that arriving on the 11th of July before Rochelle, the inhabitants refused to permit him to land. It was in vain that Sir William Beecher and their own envoy Soubise entreated them to receive those who were come as their allies and defenders: the people distrusted Buckingham, and declared that they would make no hostile demonstration against Louis till they had consulted the other churches, and got in their harvest. This displayed a dreadful want of management on the part of the English; and Buckingham, thus shut out by those whom he came to support, turned his attention to the neighbouring isles of Rhe and Oleron, which the Huguenots had some time ago surrendered to their king. He decided to invade Rhe, and made his descent the very next day, on the 12th of July. His sudden diversion in this direction took Toiras, the governor of the island, by surprise; the small force with which he attempted to prevent their landing was defeated; but Buckingham, loitering on the shore for four or five days, in landing the remainder of his troops, allowed Toiras to convey the provisions, wine, and ammunition on the island, into the strong citadel of the town of St. Martin. A small fort called St. Free lay in Buckingham's path, but he did not stay to take that, but pushed on to St. Martin. The castle stood on a rock overlooking the town and bay, and experienced officers were struck with great misgivings at the sight of it. Buckingham talked of taking it by a coup de main, but Sir John Burrough, an officer who had acquired a real knowledge of war and sieges in the Netherlands, shook his head, and pronounced the place next to impregnable, and that an attempt to storm it would be a useless waste of lives. It was then determined to invest the place in form; but Burrough was equally dissatisfied with the unscientific construction of the trenches and batteries which were prepared. Buckingham, instead of benefiting by the counsels of this experienced officer, reprimanded him with a sternness which silenced more compliant men. In a few clays a shot silenced altogether the honestly officious Burrough, and the duke went on with his siege only to find that, as that officer had predicted, the fort defied all his efforts.

The news of this attack on France spread consternation amongst the allies of the palsgrave; the prince himself, the States of Holland, and the king of Denmark, all hastened to express their astonishment and dismay at this rupture betwixt the two great powers who should have enabled them by their united efforts to re-conquer the Palatinate. They would not admit Charles's representation of his obligation to support the French protestants, as of sufficient moment to induce him to destroy the hopes of protestantism in Germany, and of his own sister and brother-in-law. They begged to be permitted to mediate betwixt the two crowns: Denmark sent ambassadors instanter to Paris, to use its influence for that purpose with the French court; and the Dutch deprived of their commissions all English officers in their service, who had joined the expedition to Rochelle.

But they could not move Charles. He wrote to Buckingham, congratulating him on the success of his attempt on Rhe, which was yet no success at all; promising him fresh reinforcements and provisions, and exhorting him to prosecute the war with vigour, and to listen to no proposals of peace. He applauded a proclamation which Buckingham had prepared, to assure the French protestants that the king of England had no intention of conquest, his sole object being to compel the king of France to fulfil his engagements towards the French protestants into which he had entered with them. That, spite of these engagements, he had not dismantled the Fort Louis, in the vicinity of Rochelle; but, on the contrary, had endeavoured to surprise the town and reduce it by force to comply with his own religious demands. Charles, however, ordered Buckingham to make an alteration in the manifesto, so that instead of the defence of the protestants being the sole cause of his coming, it should be the chief cause, and allow him to put forward other reasons for his hostilities as occasion might require.

With this proclamation in his hand, the duke de Rohan made a tour amongst the Huguenot churches in the south of France, where the people listened to him with enthusiasm, and all who dissented from the vow to live and die with the English liberators, were denounced as traitors. Rohan was empowered to raise forces and advance to the support of Rochelle; but Rochelle itself was in no haste to declare itself, for Richelieu had marched an army into the neighbourhood, and kept it in check. It was the last to hoist the flag of revolt, and it was for the last time.

But all this time Buckingham was experiencing the truth of the warnings of Burrough: no impression whatever was made on the citadel of St. Martin. Charles's promised reinforcements did not arrive. He wrote to explain the causes of the delay - being the difficulty of obtaining mariners, and the slowness of the commissioners of the navy; but he assured him that the earl of Holland was preparing to bring out fresh forces. On the 12th of August there was a rumour of an attempt to assassinate Buckingham by a Jesuit, with a thick three-edged knife; but a real wound was inflicted on his reputation by a French flotilla bursting the boom which he had drawn across the harbour, spite of his fleet, and throwing provisions into fort St. Martin, spite of himself. This disaster produced the most violent altercations betwixt his ill-managed army and fleet. The army charged the misfortune to the sheer negligence of the fleet, and the fleet only answered by loud clamours for pay, having, it appeared, received nothing the whole time.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 7

Charles I.
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