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Reign of George I page 18

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Parliament was prorogued on the 18th of April, and the king soon after set out for his German dominions, taking Stanhope along with him, and his mistress, the duchess of Kendal. In appointing the regency to administer affairs in the king's absence, the prince of Wales was entirely passed over, to his great indignation; nor were he and the princess allowed to hold levees, that duty being assigned to the young princesses, to the great scandal of the public, and further exposure of the discord raging in the royal family. Even during the session the ministers had brought in a bill to "settle and limit the peerage in such a manner that the number of English peers should not be enlarged beyond six of the present number, which, upon failure of male issue, might be supplied by new creations; that, instead of the sixteen elective peers of Scotland, twenty-five should be made hereditary on the part of that kingdom; and that this number, upon failure of heirs male, should be supplied from the other members of the Scotch peerage." Both the king and ministers flattered themselves that they should carry this bill, and thus fetter the prince of Wales when he came to the throne. The king was desirous to do this out of sheer jealousy and hatred of his own son, and the ministers, Sunderland in particular, out of dread of his vengeance in that case; for, if he created a dozen peers at a time, as Anne had done, he could easily swamp the whigs and put the present ministers in peril of impeachment. But though the whigs had been clamorous against the act of Anne, some of them now, Cowper and Townshend at their head, as vehemently denounced this measure as a gross infringement of the royal prerogative. The debate became very bitter, and many friendships were broken up by it, amongst others that of Addison and Steele, who took different sides; but the bill was finally dropped.

Scarcely had parliament ceased to sit, and the king was gone to spend the summer months in Germany, when the vigilance of the ministry was demanded to ward off a fresh invasion. Alberoni, defeated in his schemes on France, and his hopes of the invasion of England by Charles XII. crushed by that monarch's death, determined now to make a grand effort to support the pretender himself. For this purpose, he invited him to Spain, and at the same time began the equipment of a formidable fleet to carry over a Spanish force, under the command of the duke of Ormonde, to the shores of Britain. The pretender was not intended to accompany the expedition, but to be in readiness to follow on the first news of its successful landing. James joyfully accepted the invitation of Alberoni. He set out from Rome; but, to avoid being intercepted by the imperialists, who were in strong force in Italy, and who were supported by a powerful fleet of the English in the Mediterranean, he pretended to set out on a journey northward in company with the earls of Mar and Perth. A most treacherous act on the part of the Austrians, perpetrated at the request of the English, had satisfied him that neither of those powers would be scrupulous in the means of getting him into the power of England. He had of late contracted a marriage with the princess Clementina, the daughter of John Sobiesky, the late king of Poland. His party was delighted at the prospect of a continuance of the Stuart line, and the English government as much chagrined. Whilst on her way, therefore, to join her betrothed husband in Italy, the princess was arrested, at the instance of the king of England, and kept confined at Innspruck. This was an act disgraceful to the English king, and much more disgraceful to the emperor of Germany as perpetrated towards the daughter of that noble Pole who had rescued Vienna from the Turks. Thus warned, instead of really accompanying the two Scotch earls, James stole away to the little port of Nettuno, where he embarked, and after touching at Cagliari, arrived safe at Rosas in the commencement of March. Meantime, Mar and Perth were arrested by the Austrian authorities at Voghera, proving too truly the just fears of the pretender, who was supposed to be concealed in their train. They were conveyed in great triumph to the castle of Milan, the news was spread on all sides that James was captured, and lord Stair announced it in high glee from Paris to ministers in London; and it was some time before the truth was discovered.

James, whilst supposed to be a prisoner, was entering Madrid in great festal rejoicing. Alberoni was proud to let the English government see that he had the power of annoying them. The pretender was received as king of England, and his residence was fixed in the palace of Buen Retiro, where the Spanish monarch and his queen visited him in state. The armament was immediately put in motion; it was to sail from Cadiz, and to consist of five men-of-war and twenty transports, carrying five thousand troops, many of them Scotch and Irish refugees, who were eager to obtain one more chance of regaining a footing on their native soil. Several of the leading insurgents of 1715 were amongst them. Ormonde was to take the command on the arrival of the fleet at Corunna, with the title of captain-general of the king of Spain. The last time Ormonde had been in Spain it was at the head of an English fleet and army to storm Vigo and bombard Cadiz for the queen of England; now he was leading back a Spanish force to attack his own monarch and country! Yet he does not seem to have had much faith in the enterprise, for he wrote from Corunna to Alberoni, informing him that the English were well aware of the expedition, and prepared both by sea and land to resist it; and that, under the circumstances, to invade England with only five thousand men was madness. The cardinal, however, does not seem to have paid any regard to this prudent statement. The command continued to sail, and Ormonde was provided with a proclamation to publish on landing in England, announcing the king of Spain's determination to support the just cause of king James, and bidding every one have no fear of the result, for that, in case the enterprise did not succeed, all who took part in it were promised a secure retreat in Spain; that every sea and land officer should retain the rank he had enjoyed in his own country, and all the soldiers be received and treated as his own.

But, as Ormonde had intimated, England had made a vigorous preparation for the enemy. The regent of France had offered George the aid of any number of troops; but, as if too proud to owe the safety of England to France, these tenders were courteously declined; yet the same feeling did not prevent the government accepting the service of six battalions from the Austrians in the Netherlands, and of two thousand men from the Dutch. These and the English troops were disposed so as best to meet any invasion in the north or west, and Sir John Norris rode with a powerful squadron in mid-channel. A reward of ten thousand pounds was set on Ormonde's head in London, and five thousand pounds upon it in Dublin - as if he were of less consequence in Ireland than in England; and thus Great Britain awaited this new Spanish armada.

But it was no more destined to reach these shores than the grand armada. It has always been the fate of invading squadrons to encounter providential tempests in coming hitherward, and the usual hurricane was ready to burst. Scarcely, indeed, had the fleet lost sight of cape Finisterre before the storm swooped down upon it. For twelve days the terrible Bay of Biscay was swept by a frightful wind, j which drove the vessels in all directions, and rendered it impossible to manage them. The struggling and confounded crews threw overboard cannon, ammunition, arms of all kinds, and horses, to save the ships, but in vain. Many were lost, and those which managed to regain the port returned mere shattered wrecks.

Fortunate would it have been if every vessel had failed to reach the shores at which they aimed; but two vessels, on board of which were the earls Marshal and Seaforth, and the marquis of Tullibardine, accompanied by about three hundred Spanish soldiers, reached Scotland, and landed, on the 16th of April, at Kintail, in Rosshire. In the hope that Ormonde would still reach England, this small force lay quiet for some time, and so little did they excite notice, that the government imagined that they had re-embarked. Their presence there, however, had the mischievous effect of exciting some few of the Highlanders to join them. They seized Donan Castle, and thus attracted the attention of tho English. Some vessels of war arrived upon the coast. The castle was speedily retaken, and lord Carpenter, the commander of the forces in Scotland, sent some troops from Inverness against them. General Wightman, the officer thus dispatched, was attended by about a thousand men, and found the enemy, now swollen to about two thousand, strongly posted at Glenshiel. He immediately attacked them, and the miscellaneous force speedily dispersed. The Highlanders, who knew the country, rapidly disappeared amongst the hills, and the Spaniards had no other resource than to lay down their arms. They were conducted as prisoners to Edinburgh, where the Jacobites did all in their power to succour their distress and relieve their necessities, which were great. Wightman meantime pursued the flying Highlanders through the hills, chastising - probably with no very correct or merciful hand - the rebels by burning their houses and laying waste their fields. The three lords, Tullibardine, Seaforth, and Marshal, made their escape to the Western Isles, and after some time succeeded in again reaching Spain instead of the block, which would have been their goal if taken. Seaforth lived to return to Scotland, and ended his days there in retirement, having received a pardon in 1728; Tullibardine to engage again in the enterprise of 1745, and die of a broken heart in the Tower. The earl Marshal, with his brother, James Keith, entered the Prussian service, where he was engaged in various diplomatic missions to France and Spain, and is mentioned by Rousseau, in his " Confessions," with great eulogium. His brother became a marshal in the army of the great Frederick, and was killed in the bloody battle of Hochkirchen.

Such was the winding up of the mighty schemes of Alberoni against France and England. His puppet, the pretender, was now no longer of any use to him, and he was anxious to be rid of hirn, and fortune, in this one point, favoured him James heard that his betrothed, the princess Sobiesky, had contrived, by the aid of Charles Wogan, a devoted partisan of his, who had been one of the prisoners of Preston, to make her escape from Innspruck, and to reach the state of Venice. He therefore took leave of Spain, and hastened to Italy to complete his marriage.

Alberoni now found himself in turn attacked by France. Whilst busying himself to repair a few of the shattered ships which had escaped from the tempest, in order to harass the coast of Brittany in conjunction with the malcontents there, he beheld an army of thirty thousand Freneh menacing the Pyrenean frontier. Villars had declined the command, being wholly averse to the quadruple alliance, but it was accepted by the duke of Berwick, though it must have been anything but an agreeable one to him. He it was who more than any other man had established Philip on the throne of Spain. He had won the decisive victory of Almanza, and was the stanch friend of the Bourbon cause in Spain, as well as half-brother to the pretender, whose interests Spain was endeavouring to maintain when France had abandoned them. But Berwick was a man in whom a sense of duty predominated over all other considerations, and it was sufficient for him to have received the regent's commands for this service. He now, therefore, became the antagonist, as he had before been the champion, of Philip.

Philip had but a few regiments of worn-out veterans or raw recruits to oppose to the powerful army of Berwick, for the flower of his troops were engaged in Sicily; but he put himself at their head confidently, for his agents had represented that the grandson of Louis XIV. had only to present himself before a French army for it to desert in a body to him, He arrived, therefore, at Pampeluna, attended by the queen, the prince of Asturias, and Alberoni. Addresses were drawn up to distribute amongst the soldiers of Berwick; and so strong was the king's infatuation, that he proposed to ride alone into the French army and claim their allegiance, assured of instantly receiving it. Alberoni, however, was not so mad; and when he could not prevent this fatal folly by argument, he disconcerted it by issuing false orders to the king's attendants, by which they were not ready in time, and the absurdity of the proposal was shown by the proclamations being distributed and their producing no effect. The safety of Philip was thus ensured by undeceiving him as to the real sentiment of the French army, and he soon beheld M. de Silly, who commanded the army till the arrival of Berwick, advancing upon him with a force that compelled him to retreat before it. The French army passed the Bidassoa and reduced the Port Passages, where Silly found six large men-of-war on the stocks. Colonel William Stanhope, who had been sent to ensure the most complete destruction of the Spanish naval preparations, recommended that they should be burnt, and it was done. The Biscayan provinces had been the most zealous in carrying out Alberoni's maritime schemes; and both France and England were alive to the importance of crushing these preparations in the bud. In all the ports ships were building, and magazines of arms and ammunition preparing. The French destroyed the magazines and arsenal - a loss calculated at two millions of dollars. By the aid of an English squadron, eight hundred French soldiers were conveyed to Santona, where the garrison fled at once, and the allies burnt three more ships-of-war, and materials for seven more. This completed the annihilation of the Spanish navy, which was attributed to the jealousy of England.

Berwick having now arrived, advanced on the town of St. Sebastian, which surrendered on the 2nd of August, and the citadel on the 17th of the same month. Philip retreated once more to Madrid in hopeless weakness. Berwick soon overrun the whole of Guipuscoa, which had been greatly exasperated by Alberoni attempting to abolish some of its ancient laws and privileges, in order to assimilate it to the rest of Spain. They therefore not only submitted, but offered to acknowledge themselves part of France on their ancient privileges being guaranteed to them. The French pushed their conquests into Catalonia, took several forts, and made an assault on Rosas. In September, an English squadron, commanded by lord Cobham, and having on board four thousand troops, appeared before Corunna to take vengeance on that fort for the offence of Ormonde s expedition having sailed from it. A near view of the defences of the place, however, deterred Cobham, and he coasted along to Vigo, where many of Ormonde's stores still remained. There the English landed, the place having but a feeble garrison, and commenced an attack upon it. The troops nimbly evacuated the place, and commenced a brisk fire on the invaders from the neighbouring hills, but at such a distance that not a ball reached the English. In the town the English found forty-three pieces of ordnance, eight thousand muskets, two thousand barrels of powder, and seven sloops in the harbour, which were all seized and carried off. The citadel held out till the 21st of October. The English troops made themselves so drunk with the wine which they found in the shops and cellars, that, had the enemy been aware of it, they might have readily surprised them; but they never appeared again. The neighbouring towns of Redondella and Pontevedra were also sacked, and the utmost consternation prevailed in the court of Madrid, where the number of the English was totally unknown, and a great army and general invasion were expected. But the English, though they had failed in the chief object of the expedition, had done what they deemed substantial damage, and so re-embarked and returned home.

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