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Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 9

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William was scarcely arrived in Holland when he had the satisfaction of finding that he had rendered essential service by his fleet to his Swedish ally. He had not long before renewed an old treaty betwixt England and Sweden as a means of drawing that power from the intrigues of Louis of France, who was always endeavouring to combine Sweden and Denmark against Holland, the emperor, and England. A stripling king, only eighteen years of age, was now on the throne of Sweden, under the guardianship of his grandmother. The northern powers, Russia, and Peter I., called the Great, Denmark and Frederick IV., and Poland, under Augustus II., also elector of Saxony, thought it a good opportunity to fall upon Sweden, and divide amongst themselves the Swedish possessions on their side of the Baltic. Peter bargained for as much of Finland and Esthonia as he could master; Poland for Livonia; and Denmark for the states which Sweden had formerly conquered from it, and some then swallowed up by Prussia; Prussia, too, was eager for a share, assuming this year the style of a kingdom. But the young king of Sweden, who had till that moment shown no particular talents or taste but for hunting, suddenly started forth in a shape which astonished both his friends and enemies. He threw off the guardianship of his grandmother, was declared by the parliament of age, and demanded to lead his own troops against his united enemies. He called on England to render that aid by sea which was stipulated for by the late treaty. William was never in a condition less able to answer this demand. His parliament this session had continued the army at eight thousand, as before, but had reduced the navy from twelve thousand to seven thousand. William was, moreover, on such bad terms with his parliament, that he did not venture to lay this demand before it, lest, instead of assistance, they should put some new insult on him. The king of Denmark and his allies calculated on William's embarrassments, and had boasted openly that the king of England would not be able to do anything. William was piqued by this remark, and, being well supported by Holland, he sent a powerful fleet to the Baltic under Sir George Rooke. There he was joined by the Swedish fleet, and the combined fleet now amounting to fifty-two ships of the fine, he chased the Danes from the Baltic, and cooped them up in the harbour of Copenhagen. The Danes made their first attack by land on the territories of the duke of Holstein-Gottorp, the cousin and ally of Charles of Sweden. But the troops of Sweden, under the duke of Lunenburg, crossed the Elbe, and marched to the assistance of Holstein. The Danes were compelled to abandon the siege of Tonnenberg; and the troops of Saxony, which had entered Brunswick, whose elector was the ally of Sweden, were compelled to retire in disorder. Whilst affairs were thus running unexpectedly adverse to Denmark, Charles XII. of Sweden, a name destined speedily to electrify the whole civilised world, crossed the Belt under protection of the combined fleet, and threw himself into Zealand at the head of his army. He forced a landing in the face of powerful batteries only five Swedish miles from Copenhagen itself. As the balls whistled round his head, he asked a Scottish officer in his pay, major-general Stuart, what that noise was. "They are the balls of the enemy," replied Stuart. "Good," said Charles; "they shall henceforth be my music." As he said this, Stuart on one side of him, and a lieutenant on the other, fell dead; but the boy-hero rushed on, and drove the enemy from their batteries. He then marched on Copenhagen, which he attacked from the land, whilst the fleet bombarded it from the sea; and the Danes, thus stormed in their own capital, and their country already traversed by the Swedish armies, were glad to make peace. Meantime Augustus of Poland had besieged Riga; but the brave old octogenarian Swedish general, Dahlberg, compelled him to retire with disgrace; and Charles XII., retiring to Schonen, prepared to direct his arms against Peter the czar, and as autumn came on, the allied fleets retired from the Baltic.

William during this spring had been busy contracting a new treaty of partition. Tallard, Portland, and Jersey had assisted in it. It was signed by them in London on the 21st of February, and by Briord and the plenipotentiaries of the States at the Hague on the 25th of March. It had substituted the archduke Charles, the second son of the emperor, for the deceased electoral prince of Bavaria, as heir to Spain with the Spanish Flanders and colonies; but the dauphin was still to possess Naples and the other Italian states with Lorraine and Bar, and the duke of Lorraine was to have Milan. In case of the archduke dying without issue, some other son of the emperor was to succeed, but not the king of the Romans, for it was stipulated that Spain and the empire, or France and Spain, were never to be united under one crown. The treaty was now made known to the different powers, and excited much astonishment and disapprobation. The emperor of Germany, notwithstanding his son was made successor to the Spanish monarchy, Flanders, America, and the Indies, was by no means conciliated. He expressed his astonishment that the kings of other kingdoms should take upon them to carve up the Spanish monarchy without the consent of the present possessor and the estates of the kingdom. He denied the right of these powers to compel him to accept a part when he was heir to the whole, and to pronounce his forfeiture of even that part if within three months he did not consent to this unwarrantable proceeding. The other princes of Germany were unwilling to excite the enmity of the house of Austria by expressing their approval of the scheme, and Brandenburg, which was just now in treaty with the emperor for the acknowledgment of Prussia as a kingdom, which was signed on the 16th of November, of course united with him. The Italian states were alarmed at the prospect of being handed over to France, and the Swiss declined to sanction the treaty. In Spain the aristocracy, who had vast estates in Sicily, Naples, and the other Italian provinces, and who enjoyed the vice-royalties, and governorships, and other good offices there, were greatly incensed at the idea of all these passing to the French. The miserable and dying king was in agonies. He had already made a will, leaving the crown and all its dependencies to the emperor, but neither he nor the emperor had taken the precaution of securing the Italian provinces by marching a strong army thither - probably from fear of arousing Louis to a premature war. He now called a council of state to deliberate on the succession; but the unfortunate prince had to deliberate with a council which had long been bought over by the French. Even the queen, who was young and childless, was tempted by the private proposal that, on the king's death, and the succession of the son of the dauphin - for still, spite of Louis's treaty with William, it was the son of the dauphin that he meant to succeed - she should marry him and still share the crown. Though the king still adhered to the house of Austria, he found that ten out of twelve of the council were for a Bourbon prince. They contended that Spain had fallen into such a state of weakness, that nothing but being under the care and alliance of France could prevent the different powers seizing on her dependencies and dismembering her; that Austria could not do this; she was too distant, had no fleets, was too poor, and too much dependent on the support of heretic princes. France, on the other hand, was truly catholic, and had shown that she could overawe all Europe. They had only to provide that the two crowns should never be united.

Only two of the council had the patriotism to vote that the question should be submitted to the cortes; they were overborne by the voices of the rest, who had been bought over by Harcourt, the French minister. Amongst them were prominent the marquis de Monterey and cardinal Portocarrero. They advised that they should consult the faculties of law and theology, and these faculties were already bribed by France. Portocarrero removed the king's confessor, who was in the interest of Austria, and by whom the queen kept the king firm to that house. He introduced instead one Froylan Diaz, a Dominican friar, who was perfectly his creature, and, by the aid of this friar, Portocarrero and the inquisitor-general persuaded Charles that all his complaints arose from sorcery which had been practised on him by his own mother, Mariana, who was of the house of Austria, and who was hated by the Spaniards for her insolent carriage and rapacious disposition. This scheme was, however, defeated by the death of the inquisitor-general, and the succession of the bishop of Segovia, who was in the German interest, and who convinced Charles that he had been grossly imposed upon. This diabolical plot having failed, the French faction persuaded the starving people that all their troubles had been produced by the partisans of Austria; and the enraged mob surrounded the palace and demanded to see the king, who was compelled to show himself, though he was too weak to stand without help.

The people being somewhat quieted, the faculties of law and theology decided that the French prince had the best claim, provided care was taken to keep the two crowns asunder, and that the oath imposed on Maria Theresa when she married Louis meant no more. The cardinal Portocarrero and the priests and monks that he had about the king alarmed his conscience by representing that eternal damnation awaited him if he wronged the legitimate heir, the son of his sister. Charles was in a dreadful state of mind, and the contending factions about him were by their alternate importunities hurrying him with double speed to his grave. He declared that he was only for the rights of his own family, the house of Austria, but then he could not run the risk of his soul on their account. He sent, therefore, the duke of Uzeda to consult the pope. This was appealing from Beelzebub to Satan; for the pope, Innocent XII., was a creature of Louis's, and the whole conclave of cardinals had been bought over to the French interest. The money spent by Louis for this object must have been equal to the cost of a war. The pope, after consulting, with all the appearance of deep cogitation, with the cardinals for forty days, of course decided that the renunciation of Maria Theresa was a forced one, and therefore wholly invalid, and that the crown of Spain descended without question to her son, the dauphin, and that, in accordance with the will of the nation, must be received by his second son, Philip, duke of Anjou, so as to keep apart the two crowns. The old pope, who was himself failing, and actually died before Charles, added weight to his decision by saying that he was about to appear before Christ, and give an account of his stewardship, and therefore gave the king only such advice as would allow him, with a clear conscience, to go to the judgment-seat of God.

But the wretched Charles's conflict was by no means ended. The queen, on the death of the inquisitor-general, had managed to expel the intriguing confessor, and to reintroduce her own. Every effort was now made to counteract the French plans. Austria was alarmed; her troops were invited to enter Spain, and the duke of Medina Celi was sent to Naples to act for Austria, and receive Austrian troops into the garrisons. The duke of Mantua was treated with to admit Austrian troops also. But all was in vain; both these noblemen were already secured by France, and Austria had neither troops to march in sufficient numbers, nor money to pay them; but Louis, on the contrary, marched large armies to the frontiers ready to repel Austria and take possession at a moment's warning. All this time the condition of the king of Spain was frightful. His conscience, accustomed to be swayed by his religious advisers, was torn to and fro by the contending exertions of Portocarrero and the queen. Portocarrero was a man of vast influence; he was not only cardinal but archbishop of Toledo, and affected a deep concern for the king. Charles, intensely attached to his own family, and having a strong persuasion that its claims were the claims of the nation, was yet so tortured by the arguments of the priests of the opposite factions, and the entreaties of the queen, that no poor soul was ever in so dreadful a purgatory. At length, after the most violent contests, he sunk in passive weakness, and on the 2nd of October he signed the will dictated by France. Having done it, he burst into tears, and sighed out "Now I am nothing!"

But this signing was effected in deepest secresy; neither the queen nor any one but a small junto of the French faction was aware of it. As Charles, however, still lingered between life and death for a month yet, the French made every preparation for the event, and Portocarrero took possession of the great seals, and dispersed all his agents, so as to secure the certain transfer of the crown to France. On the 1st of November the unhappy monarch died, at the age of thirty-nine, and the will was made known, to the consternation of the queen and the Austrian and English ambassadors, who were till the moment in profound ignorance of it. As soon as the news reached Paris, count Zinzendorf, the imperial ambassador, presented himself at Versailles, and inquired whether the king meant to abide by the treaty of partition or accept the will. The marquis de Torcy answered for Louis that he meant certainly to abide by the treaty. But this was only to gain time. Louis had long made up his mind, and when he heard that Charles was dead, he exclaimed, "There are no longer Pyrenees." Yet he acted the part of one who doubted the propriety or the expedience of accepting the will with some success. He affected to feel the necessity of keeping faith with the king of England and the States-General. Madame Maintenon had warmly advocated the right of the dauphin's son. In her chamber the council was assembled, and it was only after much apparent reluctance that Louis gave way. The whole was well got up. No sooner was it decided to accept the will than Louis took the duke of Anjou into his closet, and addressed him with all the pious wisdom of a Haroun Alraschid: - "Sir, the king of Spain has made you a king. The grandees demand you, the people wish for you, and I give my consent. Remember, only, you are a prince of France. I recommend you to love your people, to gain their affection by the lenity of your government, and to render yourself worthy of the throne you are going to ascend."

What must have been the sensations of William on the receipt of the news of the death of Charles and of this will, it would not be easy to describe. Never had a man of sense and caution been led into a dirty and unwarrantable meddling with his neighbour's property and been so completely duped. He had been engaged with the most unprincipled man of the age, and perhaps of any age, in dissecting and giving away a monarchy with which he had no more right to meddle than he had with France itself; and now he saw that all along his brother robber had merely been amusing him. The partition intended was not so bad certainly as the more recent partition of Poland, because they were separate nationalities which it was intended to detach from Spain; but the crime lay in this, that no regard was paid to the interests or wishes of these separate nationalities. Italian states were handed over from Spain to France as if they had no inherent rights of their own, but were to be disposed of as so many cattle. The disgust which this proposed partition created in England when it had become known was almost as great as in Spain. The parliament highly resented the fact that the king had presumed to compromise the honour and integrity of England by so unjust a transaction without consulting them. They protested against any English monarch voluntarily consenting to place so many Italian states under the control of France, to the imminent peril of our commerce in the Mediterranean. They observed that the possession of Guipuscoa would on any future rupture furnish a fresh inlet for France into Spain. The Jacobites laid hold on these arguments, and contended loudly that it was time to acknowledge the succession to the crown in the prince of Wales. William fell under universal odium on this account; but when the fact of the king of Spain's will became known, not only his moral character but his intellectual sagacity suffered great depreciation. William's error resulted from the want of that highest quality of a statesman - to let things take their natural course, and put his trust in the Supreme Arbiter of events, rather than sully his soul by anxiously endeavouring, by unjustifiable means, to avert menacing dangers. Had William never meddled in the partition treaty he would now have stood erect and strong to resist by all laudable means the undue influence of Europe, backed by the opinion of the whole civilised world and by the spirit of his own great people. As it was, he stood weak and despised, and he never again recovered his former estimation by his subjects. He had now to return to England under the cloud of this unpopularity; and before doing so he took measures to lessen the irritation which he had so recklessly aroused in Scotland.

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