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OCHELLE, in the year of grace 1864, is a place of no considerable importance. It is a second-rate commercial town, with a third-class fortress. It exports some excellent brandy,
made in the adjoining province of l'Aurris; but neither for its eau-de-vie, its corn, or its wine, is Rochelle particularly famous. Its fame belongs to a far distant date-to a widely different condition of society to that of the Napoleonic dynasty-to an age when civil discord and religious differences unsheathed every sword in France, and divided the people against each other. Rochelle was the head-quarters of the Huguenot, the Protestant party in France; the great centre and metropolis of the French reformers. There they made their stand against the Catholic party, and openly defied the authority of Church and State. The Huguenots, who had followed the white plume of Henry of Navarre, were men of determination. They were expert in the use of their weapons-weapons not furnished from the spiritual armoury, and were not willing to yield an inch of ground or doctrine. At Rochelle they had defied the royalists shortly after the Bartholomew massacre; at
Rochelle they had maintained their own for more than half a century, working and worshipping, none daring to make them afraid; but in 1628-9, when Louis XIII. was king, and Cardinal Richelieu, prime minister, Rochelle was the scene of one of the most memorable sieges on record; and the visitor to Rochelle to this day is reminded more of that terrible event, than of anything else that has happened in the old town before or since.
The little port of Rochelle is entirely enclosed by the buildings of the town, and consists of an outer tidal basin, and an inner wet dock, protected by a pier, and flanked at its entrance on either side by the round towers of La Chaîne and St. Nicholas. A quay planted with trees runs round the harbour, and forms an agreeable promenade. Opposite the tower in the bay on the shores of which it stands are the islands of Ré and d'Oléron. The island of Ré is the scene of the Duke of Buckingham's unfortunate expedition, and in glancing towards it we can imagine something of that heart sickness which the people of Rochelle must have felt at seeing help so near, and yet so powerless to save. At low water the remains of Richelieu's famous dyke are still to be seen-a long pile of stones, stretching from the point of Coreille to that of Fort Louis, a distance of 1640 yards. Within the town we may visit the house of Guiton, the chief magistrate during the siege—a man of iron will and inflexible determination. We may visit also the Hotel de Ville, where he made his notorious dagger speech; and there we may see the Council table at which he presided, and the chair in which he sat. Everywhere there is something to recall the heroic struggle-to banish the Rochelle of to-day, and restore the Rochelle of 1628. Again the watchmen were on the lofty tower of St. Sauveur, straining their anxious eyes towards the island of Ré; again the mayor, gaunt with famine, and the brave Duchess de Rohan animate the drooping courage of the besieged; again all the horrors of starvation are renewed, and the streets filled with dead and dying. Vauban has changed the aspect of the town, as he has changed the aspect of many another town; but there is more than enough left of ancient Rochelle to recall the chief incident in its history.
Before entering on the story of the siege of Rochelle, we shall take a rapid glance at the events which had transpired in England and the Netherlands, while the Protestants of France were assisting those liberties for the destruction of which Philip of Spain had so long plotted and prayed.
In the Netherlands Prince Maurice, the son of William the Silent, the grandson of Maurice of Saxony, whom he resembled in visage and character, was bravely maintaining the independence of his countrymen. While yet a mere stripling he had taken for his motto, "Tandem fit surculus arbor,"-"The twig shall yet become a tree;" and his career nobly justified the legend. The Spaniards found in him a foeman of no common ability. Against his dashing, daring exploits, even the great Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, found it difficult to maintain his ground; and when at the time of the siege of Paris, Parma was sent to France with a hint from the Escurial, that the relief of the "good city of Paris" would in some measure compensate the failure of the Armada, Prince Maurice availed himself of the opportunity to seize on several important posts, and carry confusion into the very heart of the Spanish provinces. When Parma was dead, and the command devolved on men of less ability and more obstinacy, the young Prince made still further advances; and with very little help from England, continued to obtain many valuable advantages over the Spaniards, thereby distressing King Philip, and perhaps hastening his end.
As an example of what he effected by stratagem, the capture of Breda is characteristic. Some boatmen of the village of Liere, who were accustomed to supply the garrison with turf, were engaged in this enterprise. The vessel was filled with armed men-most of them young, some mere boys-all of whom were concealed in the hold; a quantity of turf was piled on the deck, and to all appearance the vessel was as innocent a craft as ever divided blue water. Unfortunately, as it seemed, but fortunately as it turned out, the ship sprang a leak, and the sailors were forced to work at the pumps to keep her afloat. The men in the hold were up to their waist in water, but they made no sign, and one of them, while the vessel was alongside the quay and the Spaniards coming aboard, begged his nearest companion to stab him, he had a violent cough, and feared that the sound would attract attention; but the noise of the marines labouring at the pumps prevented the sound being heard, and, after taking off a quantity of turf for immediate use, the Spaniards left the ship, promising to unload her in the morning. Under cover of the night, the armed men in the hold, chilled and cramped but nothing daunted in courage, stole forth from their place of concealment, and crept towards the Spanish lines. They were challenged by the sentry, whom they immediately slew, but he had fired his matchlock, and the alarm was given.
A deadly fight followed, in which the Dutchmen obtained a complete victory, for the Spaniards, taken by surprise, and never suspecting the smallness of the number of assailants, capitulated, and Breda was given up to seventy men. For this brave and daring act each soldier received two months pay and a gold medal of twenty-five guelders value; and an annuity for life was settled on the skipper and his men.
The Dutchmen, animated by the spirit of their great leader, William the Silent, still offered the firm undaunted front to all the aggressive measures of Spain which they had presented in the early days of the revolution. The example of their courage and unanimity enflamed the zeal of other Protestant communities writhing beneath the cruel pressure of Spain and Rome. The friends of religious and political liberty pointed to the Netherlands as an instance of what might be done; the foes of freedom came to regard the Seven Provinces as seven plagues, and to suppress with craft or cruelty, or both, all the yearnings of the people to a similar condition.
During the years 1608 and 1609 negotiations were pending between Spain and the United Provinces of the Netherlands. These negotiations were conducted at the Hague, but it was not until March, 1609, that they were brought to a conclusion. The result was a truce of twelve years, which was, in fact, equivalent to a peace,-Spain freely and fully acknowledging the independence of the Dutch States.
James, King of England, had a claim on the United Provinces for eight hundred thousand pounds, on account of men and money supplied by Elizabeth, for which he held the towns of Flushing, Brill, and Rammekens. So anxious was James to obtain his debt, and so bitterly opposed was he to the heroic Hollanders who had struggled for forty years against the power of Spain, that it was reported he intended selling these cautionary towns to Philip III. "But the spirit of Protestantism was too strong in England tamely to witness such an anti-Protestant policy; and, in fact, James himself was rather afraid of an attack from Spain than hoping for a coalition with it." On the conclusion of the treaty, the debt was acknowledged by the States, and engagements entered into for its payment by annual instalments of sixty thousand pounds; the cautionary towns to be held by James until the whole of the debt was discharged.
It is scarcely possible for Spain to have hated the Netherlands more thoroughly than did the King of England. His views of the royal pre
rogative, and of the duties of subjects, were totally incompatible with the opinions held by the Dutchmen. To him a king was a god: no monarch, not even his ill-fated son, ever clung so tenaciously to "right divine" as the first of the Stuart line in England. Kings," he was wont to say, justly called gods, for they exercise a manner or resemblance of Divine power upon earth. For if you will consider the attributes of God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a king. God hath power to create or destroy, to make or unmake at his pleasure; to give life or send death, to judge all and to be judged of nor accountable to none; to raise
low things and to make high things low, at His pleasure; and to God both body and soul are due. And the like power have kings. They make and unmake their subjects; they have power of raising and casting down, of life and of death; judges over all their subjects and in all cases, and yet accountable to none but to God only. They have power to exalt low things and to abase high things, and make of their subjects like men of chess-a pawn to take a bishop or a knight, and to cry up and down with any of their subjects as they do of their money. And to the king is due both the affections of the soul and the service of the body of his subjects."