Imágenes de páginas

the people raised thunders of acclamations as the victorious vessels sailed into port."

The capture of Cadiz and the destruction of his fleet roused again the old enmity of Philip. So long as life remained he entertained the hope of achieving the conquest of his two great enemies-Henry of France and Elizabeth of England-and of completing the subjugation of the revolted Dutch provinces. One more blow he determined to strike, and having prepared a fleet, gave it into the command of the Adelantado of Castille. The expedition fitted out by Elizabeth was again commanded by Essex; but entertaining some doubt as to her favorite's loyalty-Philip had praised his soldiership, and it may be flattered his vanity-sent for him and "talked" to him privately for some hours, sending him away at last pale and flurried, but still high in the queen's favour. The fleet set sail on the 11th of July, 1597, the queen having published a prayer—a very remarkable specimen, in its way, of queen's English, in which divine help was sought to "assist with wonder our just cause, not founded on pride's motion, nor begun on malice's stock." "The effect of the royal prayer, however," says an historian already quoted, "was very transient, for the fleet had not sailed more than forty leagues when it was driven back by a tempest, which raged for four days. Essex himself disdained to turn back, but, with his utter contempt of danger and his dogged obstinacy, he, to use his own words, beat up his ship in the teeth of the storm, till it was actually falling asunder, having a leak which obliged them to pump eight tons of water per day out of her; her main and foremast cracked, and most of her beams broken and reft, besides the opening of all her seams. The gentlemen volunteers were so completely satisfied with sailing with such a man, that on reaching land at Falmouth they all stole away home. But Essex himself was as resolved as ever to prosecute the voyage, though the queen would advance nothing more for refitting the fleet. He got as many of his ships into order as he could, and on the 17th of August was enabled to sail again, though the men had by this time consumed most of their provisions. He made now, not for the coast of Spain, but the Azores, where they took Fayal, Graciosa, and Flores-useless conquests, as they could not keep them, and which led to immediate quarrels, for Raleigh, with his indomitable ambition, took Fayal himself without orders, which Essex very properly deeming an honour stolen from him, resented greatly. He ordered several of the officers concerned to be arrested; but when he was advised to try Raleigh by a court-martial, he

replied, "So I would had he been one of my friends." Such was Essex's high feeling of honour, that he would not risk his proceedings against the offender being attributed to malice or pique. What was worse than this dispute, however, was that the Spanish treasure vessels returning from America, which Elizabeth had expressly ordered them to lay wait for,

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

had escaped into Tercera, and they were obliged to return with the capture of three Spanish ships and other plunder, valued at one hundred thousand pounds.

"In the meantime the Adelantado had sailed from Ferrol and menaced the British coast. He contemplated seizing the Isle of Wight, or some

town on the Cornish coast, which he might retain till the next spring, so as to favour the landing of the grand fleet, which was then to sail. Essex was already returning, and approaching this Spanish fleet without being aware of it, and a day or two might have seen the two navies engaged; but another storm arose when the Adelantado was off the Scilly Isles, and dispersed his fleet. Essex's fleet was also involved in the same tempest, but could escape into friendly ports, whilst the Spanish was compelled to brave the hurricane, and, pursued by it across the Bay of Biscay, reached the Tagus minus sixteen of its best ships."

At the commencement of the following year, Henry of France made known to the Queen of England his intention of seeking a peace with Spain. He was heartily wearied of the anarchy which prevailed throughout his own country, and of the evil which threatened all Christendom while Spain was in open hostility with the leading States of Europe. He loved his people, and was most anxious to advance their social comfort and to deliver them from the miseries of war. Enough had already been done for honour's sake-he had never shunned the field when there was occasion for martial valour-his chivalrous spirit was above suspicion, but he yearned for peace. At the Conference, the English ambassador extraordinary, Sir Robert Cecil, strongly opposed the terms proffered; this opposition was warmly supported by the Dutch deputies, who saw risk for the United Provinces in the withdrawal of France fron the antiSpanish league; in England, also, much opposition was offered to all terms of peace, and no man was more vehement in his demand for war than Essex. In the midst of one of the debates in the council, Burleigh put his pocket Bible gently before the earl, open at the words in the Psalms-"Bloodthirsty men shall not live out half their days." Essex took no notice of it, but it came to be looked upon as prophetic.

The peace between Spain and France was signed in the spring of 1598, all the places held by the Spaniards in France being given up. Six months after the signing of this treaty, the voluminous correspondent of the Escurial laid down his pen for the last time. He died on the 13th of September, in the seventy-first year of his age.

So after forty years of civil war France breathed at last, the royal power established above the reach of private ambition, and Henry of Navarre the great centre of European influence. But there was a want still felt something which disturbed the serenity of those who remembered that kings were but mortal. Who should take the place of Henry

when death summoned him away? He had no child by Margaret Valois. The second union of the king was regarded with extreme interest by the nation. No man regarded it with more anxiety than Sully. To him the king was attached both with justice and reason; and notwithstanding his personal affection for the beautiful Gabrielle d'Estrees, he listened to the suggestions of his councillor and accepted the hand of Marie de Medici, daughter of the Duke of Tuscany.

This marriage cost the king a bitter pang, for he loved Gabrielle with all his heart; and when she heard his decision she shed "tears as big as

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

little peas." They were alone together under the famous oak of Fontainebleau-Gabrielle pleading, the king tempted to yield, tempted to risk a private alliance contrary to the wishes of Sully, rather than ally himself with a royal house. Suddenly, it is said, Sully appeared. He heard and saw all-saw that the king was yielding, and by that step imperilling his own crown and the peace of France.

"Your Majesty," said he, bowing respectfully, "appears to have decided. You have determined to do that which I believe to be ruinous to the prospects of the country, fatal to the peace of France. I have but

one duty—a solemn and unpleasant duty—and that is, to request your Majesty to appoint my successor.”

"You desert me, Sully!" exclaimed the king in a reproachful tone.

"Sire, I cannot, loving my country, and desiring an honest fame, incur the odium of having connived at an unpopular and unwise act. I must resign, to save my honour and my reputation."

"Your Majesty will find many as faithful and attached ministers," exclaimed Gabrielle d'Estrees, beginning to recover hopes.

"And so, Rosny," said the king affectionately, "you have made up your mind, in this case, to leave me."

"I say it, your Majesty, with deep regret; but it is my duty" "Then, Rosny, it must be that you are right. You would never leave me, were you not persuaded of the justness of your cause. This afternoon send the demand for the hand of Marie de Medici. Go, my friend."

The minister bowed, without a word, and retired.

"Your Majesty," exclaimed the alarmed Lady Gabrielle, who had not yet learned to understand the king's fickleness, "your Majesty prefers that Rosny to your beloved Gabrielle.”

"That Rosny, Gabrielle," said the king gravely, "is the guardian of my crown."

Gabrielle tried every art to persuade the king to disgrace the minister, and take one more compliant. Then it was that Henry made his historical reply to the fair dame.

"Pardi, madame! this is too much. You have been incited to this by some enemies of mine. In order, then, that you may be quite at ease on the subject, let me tell you, that I would rather lose one hundred women as beautiful as you, than one man like Sully.”

Gabrielle d'Estrees was silenced. After dinner she renewed the conflict in Sully's pavilion, but in vain.

The hand of Marie de Medici was formerly asked by the king, and Gabrielle d'Estrees returned to Paris, after begging the monarch's pardon on her bended knees.

She retired to her apartments in the Hotel Zamet, where a few days later she died, after eating a meal which had been all poisoned. It was never known, nor even suspected, by whom this poison was administered, as the object could not very well be discovered. It has even been suggested that she ate only some mushrooms which were of a poisonous tribe, and was thus accidentally killed.

« AnteriorContinuar »