Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 38, 1673-1675. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1947.
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Owing to the exceptional circumstances of the time this volume has been enlarged beyond the dimensions usual of late years. It thus contains papers for three years, 1673 to 1675. The material consists chiefly of the despatches of the Venetian ministers in London. Girolamo Alberti, who had taken charge in December 1670, completed his term of service in June 1675. He was succeeded, without a break, by Paolo Sarotti, who bore the higher title of resident. The use made of Alberti's letter books, preserved in the library of St. Mark at Venice, and of the translation made from them, existing at the Public Record Office, have been described in the preface to the preceding volume. Of the other series of despatches two, Rome and Milan, come into some prominence, the former because of the negotiations about a dispensation for the Modena match, the other for the same alliance and also because Sarotti was resident there before his transfer to England. The Venetian minister at Rome, who interested himself in these affairs, was Piero Mocenigo, who shortly before had been ambassador in England. The arrival at Venice in July 1674 of Sir Thomas Higgons as ambassador extraordinary, brings the series Esposizioni Principi again into the picture. Mr. Rawdon Brown's MSS at the Public Record Office contain extracts of those portions which concern his offices. (fn. 1) Vol. LIX of the series Dispacci Inghilterra at the Frari, which contains Alberti's despatches from November 1673 to June 1674 is in a bad state of preservation and it is fortunate that the letter book is available to supply passages that are undecipherable. Of the other series consulted, Vol. CLI of Dispacci Francia is so perished with damp that the paper cannot be handled with safety, and it was not possible to make any extracts for the first two months of 1673, the period with which it is concerned.
The Dutch war, which on the part of England had been waged exclusively at sea, had passed almost without incident during the winter months, but with the turn of the year measures were being taken for its energetic resumption. Early in January Admiral Sir Edward Spragge proceeded to Paris to concert arrangements with the French for the coming campaign. The lack of confidence between the allies was betrayed by the strange fact that a matter of prime concern was to make sure that the French contingent should not be too large. It was suspected that Louis intended to fit out sixty ships instead of fifty in order that his subjects might have an opportunity of learning by experience (No. 1).
Spragge did not return to England until March, but in the interval he had contrived to arrange matters entirely to the satisfaction of his country. The allied fleet was to be two-thirds English and one-third French, giving the former the preponderance they desired. After some demur the French had consented to Prince Rupert having the supreme command (No. 45), to which the king had appointed him, being dissatisfied with his brother's performance in that capacity.
With his usual energy Rupert showed great activity over the equipment of his fleet. Among other experiments he tested a new sort of shell filled with explosives, which was expected to set the enemy's ships on fire; but it failed to answer expectation (No. 63). He also set his face against having volunteers in the fleet, as they only caused confusion on board without rendering any service (No. 67). He was granted more freedom in the handling of the fleet than James had enjoyed, being authorised to act on his own discretion in case of need (No. 74).
Active operations were delayed by the tardiness of the French squadron, which did not reach the rendezvous at Rye until 16 May, old style, and then not at full strength. The Dutch also were late in getting to sea, although they were the first to do so, coming out to blockade the mouth of the Thames. Having failed to surprise 400 Scotch colliers, Ruyter withdrew to the protection of his sandbanks, when he learned of the junction of the enemy fleets.
According to the English plan of campaign it was proposed, after dealing with the hostile fleet, to effect a landing in Zeeland. By conquests there the government hoped to justify itself to its own people, who complained that the country was being sacrificed to the glory of France (No. 81). To carry this into effect a force of 12,000 men had been collected, with forty ships to transport them, and Buckingham was mentioned as the one selected to command the landing.
After the junction with the French had been effected Rupert crossed over to engage Ruyter on his own shores. He began the action by sending in 35 light frigates and 13 fire ships to engage the enemy. In the engagement which followed the loss in ships was slight but casualties on both sides were numerous. In the event the Dutch withdrew further inshore to repair their losses and the action was not renewed. Two captains of fireships were accused of missing a chance of burning Ruyter and Tromp (No. 88). In this action the English would seem to have used up most of their ammunition, for when Ruyter came out to engage them in the open a while later, after only three hours fighting Rupert found it necessary to break off the action and to retire with his whole fleet to the Nore. The Dutch also had retreated; if they had followed the English vigorously they might have hoped for victory, as the prince was incapable of defending himself. He reached port short of powder, ball and beer (No. 95).
The result of this affair was a bitter blow to the English, who had counted on an easy victory. Recriminations followed. The commanders were blamed while Rupert's friends accused James of encouraging Spragge, whom the prince disliked, to criticise his tactics (No. 100). In spite of the statements put about by the allies, Michiel, the Venetian ambassador in France, declares that according to impartial persons, some of them eye witnesses, the allied fleets were certainly worsted in these encounters (No. 129).
The failure was a serious blow to the king's plans and Charles was particularly anxious that the fleet should put to sea as soon as possible in order that the Dutch should not claim to be masters there. The fleet itself had suffered little and Alberti, who had seen it after both engagements, declares that the ships had not received half as much damage as they suffered in the last campaign (No. 95).
In spite of the king's eagerness various circumstances combined to delay the sailing of the fleet, while in France it was reported that Ruyter was in force at the mouth of the Thames (No. 110).
Notwithstanding the inauspicious start, the project of a landing had not been abandoned. At the end of June Louis was besieging Maastricht, and it was expected, when that place had fallen, that he would co-operate with the English to facilitate this plan. The English force for the purpose was in readiness, under the command of the count of Schomberg, a German in the French service (No. 100). But when Maastricht was taken Colbert was told to explain that his master thought it necessary to go against the imperialists first (No. 106),
That the supreme command in both services should be entrusted to foreigners, did not escape remark and caused much heartburning. Buckingham had been discarded because Schomberg refused to serve under him. On the other side some English officers objected to serving under Schomberg (Nos. 112, 118). In addition to this the two commanders themselves were not working in harmony. This was due in part to the arrogance of Rupert, but also to a difference of opinion about the plan of campaign. Schomberg thought that his force might be taken over at once while Rupert insisted that it was necessary first to defeat the enemy fleet.
This victory he failed to achieve. At the battle of the Texel the allies were definitely worsted. With Dutch reinforcements coming up the allies were obliged to withdraw, though the officers were furious at leaving the enemy master of the field without contesting the issue again (No. 156). A French account of the action credits Spragge, who was killed in the battle, with having sacrificed himself in protecting the retirement (No. 155). (fn. 2)
The most disastrous consequence of the battle for the allies was the outcry caused by the behaviour of the French squadron. Alberti goes so far as to say that because of this there was no longer room to hope for great results at sea (No. 150). Rupert roundly accused the French of having deserted him. The low popular opinion of French valour at sea was confirmed with a suspicion of treachery in addition. The Court was in the utmost consternation, as the king could neither accuse nor defend the French (No. 151).
The king's venture in embarking on a war without the support of the country, relying on an easy victory with French help, had landed him in a bog of difficulty. There were no funds to revictual the fleet, so that it was obliged to return to port. The Dutch being thus left in undisputed command, great anxiety was felt as to the fate of the numerous merchantmen which were then on their way to London (No. 172). The safe arrival a few weeks later of the East and West India fleets restored tranquillity and the mart breathed again (No. 182). It so happened that it was the Dutch who suffered the most serious mercantile losses, through the capture of five rich ships from the Indies.
A spell of stormy weather brought the campaign at sea to a close and the capital ships on both sides were put up for the winter at the end of September (No. 189). The French sailed for home after their ships had been in some danger from the storm. Before their departure Rupert, under pressure from the king was induced to make a declaration to several officers that he esteemed the French nation and considered Estrées a brave man (No. 182). This was a hollow show for when parliament re-opened in the following year Rupert was intending to accuse the French of misconduct in the war and to charge their ambassador Colbert with preventing Estrées from coming to London to justify himself, as he wished to do (No. 255).
In the mean time Rupert had been deprived of the command of the fleet, which after some talk of giving it to Monmouth, was entrusted to Ossory. The new commander was anxious to go out and fight, but he put back to port on hearing that the Dutch had gone home for the winter. Sir John Harman was left in command of such ships as remained in commission. A report that he had succeeded in capturing 800 Dutch fishing boats proved to be unfounded.
The battle of the Texel struck a deadly blow at the conspiracy embodied in the treaty of Dover. That it did not prove immediately fatal was due to the efforts of Charles alone. The French alliance had never been anything but distasteful to the people at large and the behaviour of the French squadron on that occasion stirred up all the natural antipathy to that country. Matters were not improved by reports that reinforcements for the English troops sent to serve in France had been allowed to starve to death by the callous neglect of those charged with supplying them with food (No. 247). The effect upon ministers produced a rather curious reversal. Arlington, rather unfairly credited with the main responsibility for the French connection, was denounced for selling the interests of the king and country alike. Buckingham, who had been one of the strongest supporters of the alliance, now openly advocated breaking with France and making peace with the Dutch (No. 151).
Popular feeling was still further stirred when it became probable that a continuance of the war with Holland would, before long, involve one with Spain as well. By a treaty signed at the Hague Spain had undertaken to declare war upon England if her efforts to bring about peace between that country and the Dutch should prove unavailing. The English government had been inclined at first to make light of this threat because of the notorious weakness of Spain. That country, however, did not stand alone. About the same time as the Hague treaty the emperor issued a manifesto denouncing French aggression and calling upon the empire to take steps to resist. This encouraged the Spaniards, who placed great reliance on German assistance, while they thought England to be of little account because of internal dissensions (No. 151). So far as England was concerned they built upon the influence of the mercantile classes who would be seriously affected by the loss of Spanish trade. It was these who, in Alberti's words, clamoured outrageously against a war with Spain (No. 200). The treasurer Danby himself admitted that such a war would bring trade to a standstill owing to the extent of the Spanish coast. All the ministers were ready to use parliament to force the king to abandon France and to sacrifice Arlington (No. 218).
At the end of the year 1673 Charles could not get a single suggestion from any of his ministers about means for pursuing the war. He had to squeeze them for an hour before he could elicit a single word (No. 262). In the meantime the other side was not idle. Spanish efforts to detach England from France had begun early, Salinas, their minister at the Hague, having been sent over for the purpose in July. He brought peace proposals which had been discussed between Monterey, the governor of Flanders and van Beuningen (No. 111). He also tried to rouse suspicion against France by intimating that she was pledged to Holland by secret treaties. On hearing this Colbert went forthwith to assure Charles that his master would do nothing save in concert with England (No. 118). In response to this Charles communicated to Colbert all the negotiations of Salinas, assuring him at the same time of his unswerving loyalty to France (No. 131). It was suspected in England that Salinas had only come in order to sow distrust between England and France, and after a short stay that minister returned to the Hague without having effected anything (No. 125). A few weeks later Arlington was sent to the Spanish ambassador Fresno to tell him to stop Salinas from coming again to London (No. 182), a clear indication of the king's determination to persevere with the French alliance at any cost. To leave no doubt on this score he told Fresno, not long after, that he was pledged to the French king and meant to assist him to the uttermost (No. 200).
In spite of all this Colbert grew very uneasy, especially as the time for the reassembling of parliament drew near. Fearing that all his work was about to be undone, he was pressing hard for his recall (No. 247). Before that happened he received an intimation that as the war had produced results unanticipated by the English government and involving exceptional danger, the king proposed to avert greater mischief by making the best peace he could (No. 253). Colbert left early in 1674. Before his departure he told the king that his master, in his early years, had been driven from Paris, and the cities of France had refused to receive him; but in spite of this he would do nothing unworthy of the crown. Colbert expressed the hope that Charles would never be reduced to such a pass. The sure way not to hazard everything was not to yield everything (No. 271).
The situation looked threatening for Louis. Without English assistance he could not face the Dutch at sea (No. 279), and on land he was threatened by a powerful coalition. He was thus confronted with the alternative either of providing Charles with sufficient funds to render him independent of parliament or to make up his mind to the defection of England. Adopting the first expedient he sent very rich remittances to England to provide the necessary resources for arming for the coming campaign (Nos. 274, 279). In return Charles gave the most positive assurances that he would not take any steps prejudicial to France unless forced by necessity.
Yet, in spite of the French subsidies, paid to enable him to dispense with parliament, Charles allowed the Houses to reassemble at the appointed time. No doubt he found the subsidies insufficient to meet his needs and he may have reflected that if France rendered no better help at sea than in the past, there was small chance of the results being any better. There was also the attitude of Spain to consider, for Fresno had warned him at a special audience that the queen of Spain would be obliged to fulfil her engagement to the Dutch if the peace overtures were rejected (No. 255). The government still cherished some hope that this was not seriously meant and that Spain would not take the final plunge. If this hope proved vain they were not prepared to face a war with Spain. Arlington spoke querulously of the Spanish attitude. They were not making war like a king, sword in hand, he said, but treacherously, by stirring up rebellion (No. 260).
In the interval between the prorogation of parliament in November and its reassembling in January the king had considered various expedients. His first idea was to saddle parliament with the responsibility for a precipitate peace, thereby securing a grant of supply for himself and declining the French subsidies as inadequate for the war (No. 255). He then considered an appeal to the patriotism of parliament, showing them the necessity for the war as the Dutch had no real desire for peace. He hoped in this way to gain popularity and to replenish his exchequer (No. 262). He found little to encourage him with either plan. He received no help from his ministers who for the most part kept silence and had no suggestions to offer.
The people at large were openly critical of the government and bent on making peace with the Dutch, however hollow and disadvantageous it might prove, while parliament was intent on forcing the king to break the alliance with France (No. 265). In his speech at the opening of the session the king appealed to the loyalty of the members. He was not averse from peace but no serious offer had been made. The best way to get a good peace was to send out a strong fleet (No. 268). The speech awakened no response in the Commons and they showed no inclination to open their purses. They argued that the king had begun the war on his own responsibility and it was for him to end it. It was an abuse to wage war by force on the purse of the nation (No. 271).
While they were still examining the causes of the war and the arguments in favour of peace, the king unexpectedly sent for them. He told them that he had received an offer of peace from the Dutch ambassador, and he asked for their advice (No. 281). He had taken this step by the advice of Ormonde and Arlington, whose object was to get the matter settled speedily so that parliament might be prorogued again. The king accepted this advice upon the consideration that he would be able to justify his breach of faith with France on the score of popular clamour, and that the people would be satisfied with the terms obtained, whether good or bad, if they had the approval of parliament.
To the general surprise the Houses received the royal advances very coolly. They let it be known that they approved of the idea of peace without committing themselves to examine or approve the terms (No. 282).
At this stage Ruvigny, who had succeeded Colbert at the French embassy, interposed with an attempt to save the situation. He told the king that the case was not hopeless. His subjects were getting out of hand, but their leaders were only a quarrelsome lot. Desertion of France could only be justified by absolute necessity. He had a remedy to suggest and produced a memorial to present to parliament, representing that England ought not to break faith with her ally and could not do so in her own interest. At first Charles seemed to think well of this plan, but on reflection he told Ruvigny that it would only make matters worse, because the country was inflexible. Nevertheless he allowed the memorial to be printed. It was duly circulated among the members of both Houses, but it fell completely flat (Nos. 282, 286).
The king had now been forced to make up his mind that peace with the Dutch was inescapable. Sending for Fresno he told him that since he had the trouble of ripening the negotiation, the matter would be left entirely in his hands for completion. Commending the way in which the ambassador had conducted himself, the king remarked that he might not have felt an equal confidence in Monterey (No. 286).
Although Fresno had warned the king that Spain would stand by her treaty obligations he had, on the whole, favoured a conciliatory policy. He had undoubtedly counted on parliamentary support to effect his purpose, but he was sensible that Spain might lose rather than gain by an outbreak of rebellion in England (No. 271). He aimed rather at bringing about peace with Holland than at breaking the alliance with France. He did not favour the violent methods of Monterey and had given no countenance to the mission of Salinas. The event provided him with a complete personal triumph. In his hands the negotiations were rapidly carried through to completion.
On 11/21 February the king went in state to parliament and announced that in accordance with their wish and advice peace had been arranged with the Dutch. Seventeen days later the peace was publicly proclaimed and in the evening it was celebrated in London with bonfires and the ceaseless ringing of bells (No. 308). On the whole the nation felt satisfied with what had been done. They praised the king for having accepted the situation, but blamed the ministers for having committed the country to a war that it had not desired. Fresno enjoyed an immense reputation as he had the entire credit of having achieved this result.
The defection of England left France practically alone to face what looked like a formidable coalition. It was quite possible that before long England also might be added to her foes, for popular sentiment there would have favoured a war with France. Against such an eventuality they had always the king to count on. He had hastened to send the most positive assurances of his good will, accompanied by his regrets that he had been obliged to break his promises (No. 311). He professed his desire to extend the peace so that France also should be included.
The English minister in Paris at this time was Sir William Lockhart, the former republican soldier and diplomatist. He now showed himself a zealous servant of the crown, while in France his ability inspired respect and confidence (No. 327). His excuses and apologies for his king's desertion seem to have been accepted and he at once set to work to promote the extension of the peace. He sought to persuade the French Court that the generosity of his master rose superior to considerations of interest and ambition and that he would rather satisfy the pressing requirements of France to the prejudice of his own country than do wrong to those generous sentiments or show ingratitude by taking an opposite course (No. 313). To this end he advocated the mediation of England as the only way to secure a good peace.
The policy of mediation was thus taken up by the English government as a means of currying favour with France and also of restoring the prestige of the country which had suffered so much by the poor showing made in the war just concluded. In addition to the efforts made by Lockhart Charles himself took up the matter personally, by writing to the emperor; while Godolphin at Madrid made a similar offer to Spain, though this is represented as the result of his own initiative (No. 326).
Unfortunately for the success of this policy the mediation of England as represented by the king, did not commend itself to the allies. The bias of Charles in favour of France was too notorious for him to be readily accepted as an impartial arbitrator by the enemies of that country. Although they were to be bitterly disillusioned, the allies believed that their united forces were strong enough to enable them to exact favourable terms. Spain flattered herself that with the help of her allies she would be able to force Louis to restore all the conquests made since the peace of the Pyrenees.
In Holland opinion was divided. The losses suffered in the war and the destruction of trade supplied strong arguments in favour of peace. The old de Witt party or Lowenstein faction, traditionally in favour of an understanding with France, was beginning to lift its head again. On the other hand the young prince of Orange wished to continue the war, upon which his power and influence so largely depended. An independent arrangement between France and Holland was considered quite possible in England and it was the one thing they most dreaded.
At the conclusion of hostilities the Dutch had been left in virtual command of the sea. This was realised in England and bitterly resented (Nos. 385, 396). Just before the peace was concluded the Court had been in a panic that the Dutch might take advantage of the situation to blockade the English ports (No. 427).
In the course of the year 1674 the relations between England, France and Holland became very complicated. Although the prince of Orange had won great glory and influence with his countrymen by leading the resistance against the French, his prestige aroused the apprehension of the republicans in the Provinces who feared that he might be tempted to aim at absolute power. The independence shown by the prince had offended Charles who would have favoured his nephew's rise to power if he had remained under his influence. By getting the mediation into his hands Charles hoped to render a service to France and at the same time to obtain control of Dutch affairs (No. 390).
In the summer of 1674 Orange seemed anxious to conciliate his uncle. Of the ambassadors sent over from the Hague at that time Odijk represented specially the interests of the prince. The proposals he brought indicated a desire to comply with the wishes of the English Court (No. 386). The English ministers conceived a position in which England supported the prince while France took the side of the States General. They thought it would be easy to stir up the people against the latter and so destroy the Provinces (No. 400). But the success of this design was jeopardised by the possibility that the prince might come to terms with France. By this means he could win the goodwill of the States, to whom he could render no greater service than such a reconciliation (No. 404). Negotiations between the prince and France were actually on foot, conducted by means of Estrades, the French governor of Maastricht (No. 405).
Reports of these proceedings caused the greatest alarm in England. To avert the threatened danger it was decided to send over Arlington and Ossory on a special mission to the prince. They were to offer him the hand of the duke of York's eldest daughter. The results of the mission were anxiously awaited in England, though with mixed feelings. Some believed that it offered the last hope of mediation for a general peace. Even so most of the ministers at home hoped that it would fail (No. 409). The partisans of James were opposed to the proposed match and the duke himself suspected Orange of having an eye to the succession. The prince, however, did not jump at the offered bait (fn. 3); nevertheless he gave Arlington an assurance that he would make no separate treaty with France (Nos. 415, 433).
Although these assurances did not bring conviction to the English government, the suspicion in Spain of a Franco-Dutch agreement completely vanished away and the Spaniards looked forward to the prince's active co-operation in prosecuting the coming campaign (No. 426). For this he was, in fact, making vigorous preparations, having secured the full support of the United Provinces. The queen regent of Spain showed her confidence by directing her governor in Flanders to resign the chief command of her forces in those parts to the prince (No. 438).
With so much mutual suspicion, though there was a great deal said about a general peace, no serious move was made in that direction. In the spring of 1675 it had been agreed that a congress should be held at Nijmegen to discuss and settle a general peace, but the rest of the year was spent in haggling over several minor questions and it was not until the very end that the parties chiefly concerned began to send their plenipotentiaries.
Throughout that year Charles had continued to manifest his interest in peace, but not with a steady aim. There were too many cross currents. He wished to have the glory of the achievement all to himself but at the same time to oblige France. On the other hand the continuance of the war was proving very profitable for England which was gathering into her own hands the trade of the belligerents (No. 570). Parliament and the people would have welcomed war with France, whose successes excited alarm. The earl of Castelhaven, who was in the Spanish service, arriving in London in April, drew attention to the dangerous situation that would be created if France overran the whole of the Spanish Netherlands. His report created a strong impression in parliament (No. 495). Independent reports from the Low Countries indicated that the Dutch alone could not be relied on to uphold that bulwark.
French successes in the earlier part of the campaign had damped the hopes of the allies, but after the defeat of the Swedes by the elector of Brandenburg and the death of Turenne in July, the tide seemed to have turned and their attitude stiffened. Thus when in October Charles had letters prepared inviting all the powers concerned to send their plenipotentiaries to the congress, the Spanish minister Ronquillo interposed with the suggestion that they ought first to send to Madrid to learn what the Spanish Court thought about it (No. 561). The ministers of Denmark and Brandenburg also favoured delay from fear that a settlement would compromise the success of their masters in the field (No. 565). Ronquillo openly criticised the king's action, saying that it was ill conceived and could not turn out well (Nos. 566, 572). It is not surprising, under the circumstances that Charles sent off his letters without informing the Spanish minister but he gave emphasis to the slight by getting his minister at the Hague to apply to the governor of Flanders for the passports required (No. 572).
Ronquillo was an exuberant personality, on whose character these papers throw some light. He had been minister in Poland and he owed his appointment to the circumstance that he was expected to reach England more quickly from there. In spite of this he was in no hurry to move. The appointment was made before January, yet although he received incitements from Madrid to bestir himself, he did not arrive in England until June. He was an ambitious man and one reason for the delay was his desire to obtain a higher title than ambassador. It was also due to lack of funds as he spent lavishly. He meant to cut a figure with a numerous establishment, for which he hired a large and expensive house (No. 506). Bergeik, the minister from Flanders, represented his appointment as a compliment to the English Court, as he was the best informed person about the affairs of Flanders and enjoyed the full confidence of his king (No. 490). Bergeik himself had adopted a conciliatory attitude and was popular at Court. Ronquillo also had instructions to place relations between the two countries on the best footing (No. 495) but he was too aggressively self assertive to abide by such a policy. His criticism of the king and ministers was outspoken and he freely taxed them with the neglect of public business. Unscrupulous in the discharge of his duties he was apt to regard no promises as sacred except those made to his queen (No. 457). It does not do to attach importance to all that he says, declares Sarotti, because he talks a great deal, is very presumptuous and changes his utterances, ideals and proposals from one day to another (No. 584). At the same time he did not allow his public capacity to prejudice his private relations. Politically he and the French minister Ruvigny were in ceaseless and bitter opposition, yet when they met in the royal apartments Ronquillo frequently accosted the Frenchman and they had long talks together as if they were the best of friends (No. 529). Similarly his relations with Sarotti were of the most friendly character, but this did not prevent him from attacking the Venetian vigorously and persistently about an alleged unfriendly action of the republic in the Gulf. Finally, in spite of his efforts to hamper and delay the meeting of the peace congress, he was making elaborate preparations to proceed thither himself. He meant to cut a splendid figure there and was ready to set out, even without instructions from home, so that he might not be forestalled by any of his colleagues (No. 584).
The negotiations for a marriage between the duke of York and the archduchess of Innsbruch met with a severe check at the end of 1672 when it was realised in England that the imperial Court was using them as a means to detach England from France. (fn. 4) Yet they were by no means broken off, indeed Peterborough, ambassador designate to the Court of Vienna, was all ready to start for that city the moment he heard from Sir Bernard Gascoigne, the minister in charge of the negotiations there (No. 26). He had got as far as Paris, to be well on the road, when word came of the sudden and unexpected death of the empress. This at once put an end to the whole business, as it was an understood thing that the emperor would himself marry the archduchess after the expiry of a seemly interval for mourning. To wind up the matter decently Gascoigne was sent back with a letter to Charles in which the emperor explained the situation (No. 90).
Although there had been some talk of the king himself marrying the archduchess, in the event of the queen's death, he had not appeared to take the least interest in the affair while many of his ministers were opposed to it (No. 36). Accordingly the sudden collapse of the project caused no great concern. But for James it was another matter. He had to begin all over again, without delay, as the question of the succession made it desirable for him to remarry as soon as possible. His affections are said to have been engaged to a lady of the Court, who is not named (No. 78); but this was not taken seriously, as the king would not be likely to countenance a second misalliance of his brother. (fn. 5)
France was deeply interested in the question and instructions were promptly sent to Peterborough at Paris to open negotiations at that Court (No. 50). There they had already anticipated the move by sending to the duke of Neuburg to suggest that he should propose his daughter (No. 47). It is said that Charles would have favoured such an alliance (No. 145); but after James had seen a portrait of the lady he no longer desired to marry her, and Peterborough was recalled from Paris.
The names of various other ladies were canvassed. Louis displayed a special interest in the business and made it known that he would contribute largely to the dowry, for the sake, says Alberti, of purchasing thereby a female minister to render him good service in his neighbour's house (No. 81).
In July it was suggested that some Italian lady might be found to fit the part and in the following month Peterborough received instructions to proceed to Mantua to treat for a marriage with the princess there. This was Mary Beatrice of Este, whose mother was a cousin of the famous Cardinal Mazarin. She was barely fifteen at the time but had already been suggested as a possible second wife for the duke of Orleans. Her uncle had intimated at the time that her hand would be at the disposal of the French king (No. 175). Upon such slender grounds Louis took up the matter as if his honour were concerned.
It is remarkable with what precipitancy the affair was rushed through once it was started, every obstacle being ruthlessly brushed aside. In this race the Spaniards found themselves hopelessly outdistanced. (fn. 6) They could only look on critically. In London Fresno remarked dryly that it was very strange that the duke of York should marry by Peterborough's eyes (No. 186).
The Court of Modena showed no desire whatever for this alliance. The duchess had an ambition to marry her daughter to the king of Spain and the girl herself had scruples against going to England (No. 190). It was objected that she wished to be a nun and that she was too young. James was now forty and the state of his health doubtful. It was even said to be responsible for the death of his first wife (No. 164). This idea is at least an indication of continental opinion about the morals of the Court of Charles II.
A definite refusal of the proposed alliance was actually reported in Paris, but in the meantime the objections of the duchess had been overcome. The marquis Dangeau, sent to Modena from Paris, backed the offices of Peterborough with such effect that he found his task greatly facilitated. At Rome Cardinal Barberino and the French Cardinal Estrées persuaded the pope to send the duchess a hortatory brief, representing that the marriage would be in the interest of the Catholic religion (No. 187). This brief served to remove the scruples of the duchess whose thrifty mind had also been influenced by a promise from Dangeau that his king would attend to the matter of the dowry (No. 185).
The Court of Rome seems to have been rushed off its feet in this affair. The pope and his nephew, Cardinal Altieri, were notoriously Spanish in sympathy, (fn. 7) and they almost immediately repented of what had been done. A courier was despatched to try and recover the brief from the bishop of Modena to whom it had been consigned. The congregation of cardinals, assembled for consultation about the necessary dispensation, began to raise difficulties about granting it.
This extraordinary reversal caused consternation at Modena, and a desire to draw back, so that Peterborough felt disposed to throw up the business and to leave the city. At this crisis Dangeau came to the rescue and succeeded in persuading the duchess, backed by her own theologians, that the pope's brief had the force of a dispensation (No. 193). As Peterborough intimated that if a decision was not taken at once he would depart forthwith, the duchess consented to the conclusion of the marriage without waiting for a formal dispensation. Without further delay the ceremony was performed with great pomp, Peterborough acting as proxy for James (No. 197).
Having taken the bull by the horns the duchess at once wrote to inform the pope about the marriage. She told him of the assurances received that her daughter would enjoy complete freedom in her religion and that she had been induced to consent to this union by the vigorous counsel of his Holiness, contained in his hortatory brief. This communication only served to infuriate Cardinal Altieri. He described it as showing contempt for the Holy See and the pope himself refused to receive the duchess's letter. But Rome thundered in vain, for the marriage was completed and consummated without any dispensation.
Although the matter might be considered as settled negotiations continued at Rome for months. At first the Holy See pitched its demands high. It required from the duchess an acknowledgment of her fault and a humble petition for pardon. Supported by the French ambassador the House of Modena declined to submit to any such humiliation and the admission of error was reduced to very modest dimensions. A more extraordinary demand was that guarantees should be obtained that the promises made to the princess in the matter of religion should be performed. As the Holy See could not accept the promises of heretics, Louis was asked to write a letter to the pope undertaking to see that these engagements were carried out. Obviously such an undertaking could only be made good with the sword in the last extreme. It is easy to imagine the storm that would have been raised in parliament by any suspicion of a guarantee of this sort. It is possible that the Spanish-minded Altieri designed in this way to make mischief between France and England.
The French ambassador and Cardinal Barberino, aided by the Venetian minister Mocenigo did their best to get these extravagant pretensions abated and set to work to devise some formula that would serve to save the face of the Curia. The question dragged on for months, though outside Rome no one paid much attention to it. The papal brief formally approving of the marriage was not issued until the spring of 1675 (No. 480).
Immediately after the ceremony at Modena the princess set out for England preceded by Peterborough and accompanied by her mother and Prince Rinaldo. The journey was uneventful apart from some questions of punctilio, raised by the vanity of the Italian princes, which caused great amusement to Osuna, the Spanish governor of Milan (No. 207). In France the king and all his Court went out of their way to show the princess the most distinguished honours (No. 233). The ceremonies and excitement proved too much for her and she became slightly indisposed.
In England Charles was growing anxious at the delay, because the time for the reassembling of parliament was drawing near. He sent repeated couriers to urge the princess to come as soon as possible (No. 238). She actually landed at Dover on Thursday, 20 November, old style. James had arrived there the night before to receive her. He had been delighted at the successful conclusion of the affair. To Alberti he remarked that God had brought it about, contrary to the expectation of those who thought that they had spoiled it (No. 190).
The marriage ceremony took place almost immediately after the landing. The bishop of Oxford had been sent for and after putting questions to the bride and bridegroom and receiving their answers, he pronounced them man and wife. The procedure adopted was similar to that which had been followed in the case of Charles and his queen. (fn. 8) After two days' rest the newly-married couple proceeded in leisurely fashion to London, arriving there on Wednesday, six days after the landing. In parliament opposition to this alliance was strong and outspoken, but the citizens of London received the bride with acclamations and the bells never ceased ringing all that night (No. 250).
The new duchess was only a child and at the outset she failed to make herself popular. She did not understand the national character and neglected to propitiate the people by courtesy and generosity (No. 262). But by the time she had been in England eighteen months, the danger to her life from a miscarriage revealed the warm affection which she had won for herself in her adopted country (No. 506).
In April 1672, after the closing of the exchequer and issuing the declaration of indulgence, Charles had caused general surprise by proroguing parliament until the end of October. Alberti believed that he had burned his boats. Relying upon the support of Louis and looking for victory in the coming campaign he counted on being in a position to reduce the power of parliament and to give his people a triumphant peace. (fn. 9) The events of the war did not justify these expectations, but when October came the king caused further astonishment by extending the prorogation until February. Before that date arrived it had become evident that he could neither wage war nor conclude peace without the help of parliament. Although the war had not gone propitiously, he was still sanguine enough to anticipate that he could get supply voted without difficulty. To strengthen the royal arm and to intimidate the unruly he was raising fresh regiments and bringing troops from Scotland (No. 1). To the same end he decided to raise eight new regiments of infantry, to be commanded by persons whom he could trust (No. 13). A member of the Privy Council, a person of great quality, told Alberti that the king was determined to reform abuses in the Lower House. He meant to punish those who spoke disrespectfully and he would not allow irrelevant questions to be introduced to impede his service (No. 21).
In opening the session the king explained the need for supply, justified the declaration of indulgence and told the Commons that he had ordered fresh elections to fill the vacant seats in their House. The last point was immediately taken up as the Commons claimed the sole right to order the election of their own members. After two days' debate they declared the writs issued in the king's name to be void and directed the Speaker to issue new writs for the vacancies.
They next proceeded to attack the declaration of indulgence, or rather the implied claim of the crown to have power to dispense the laws. The king at first seemed inclined to stand to his guns. Some ministers advised him to give way in order to get his grant. Four of the principal ones, whose identity is not disclosed, advocated gentle means at first, but on no account to yield a jot of the royal authority or the king would lose it entirely (No. 31). Following the counsel of the last Charles sent a message to the Commons justifying the indulgence, but offering to listen to any proposals they had to make (No. 35). This by no means allayed the storm. Some said that the king meant to make them all Catholics and it was necessary to watch his proceedings closely. They demanded not only the withdrawal of the indulgence but a renunciation of the claim to have power to dispense the laws (No. 35). On Friday 7/17 March the king held a council attended by the five ministers forming the Cabal, and by James and Rupert. They discussed the situation for six hours. James, Buckingham and Clifford boldly recommended a dissolution; Shaftesbury advocated caution and moderation, while Rupert, Lauderdale and Arlington represented the absolute necessity of ready money to carry on the war. They argued that the king might break faith about the indulgence without discredit, for the sake of a grant of millions of pounds sterling. On the following day the king went in state to the House of Lords where he not only renounced the indulgence but promised to enforce the penal laws against the Catholics. In the afternoon both Houses went in a body to thank his Majesty for the concession and in the evening bonfires were lighted all over the city to celebrate the event (No. 43).
This abject surrender is attributed by Alberti to sheer panic fear. The king would have been glad to dissolve parliament, but did not dare to do so. In addition to the loss of the expected grant he feared that the members would disperse about the country saying that they had been dismissed because they would not consent to be all made Catholics by force (No. 40). It would seem that the country's vague suspicions of his secret design preyed upon the guilty conscience of the king.
James favoured strong measures and deplored his brother's weakness. He himself felt discouraged at the turn of events and contemplated retiring to France if things got worse (No. 58). The king's friends were dismayed, especially those with leanings to Catholicism. Some had already committed themselves. Those who had not congratulated themselves on their caution; but all blamed the king for deserting the cause through fear, after everything had been carefully planned and prepared for nearly two years (No. 48). This plain reference to the secret clauses of the treaty of Dover is of great significance.
Among those most deeply committed was the treasurer Clifford. On refusing to take the oath prescribed by the Test Act he resigned his staff and retired to his country seat, where he died three months later. There is some mystery about the manner of his death and Evelyn repeats a circumstantial story that he had destroyed himself, (fn. 10) but Alberti says definitely that he died of the stone (No. 227).
The French ambassador Colbert took great credit to himself for having advised the king to give way to parliament in this matter. He hoped thereby to curry favour with the people. But all they said was that the only object of France was to keep England in the alliance and to obtain funds for the war (No. 43). After some delay, the king did indeed obtain his grant, and then, almost immediately, he prorogued parliament until October. To attain his end and to stay further proceedings against the Catholics, he is said to have bribed the leaders of the Commons, distributing over 40,000l. (Nos. 51, 55).
Although parliament had ceased to sit, political agitation continued unabated. The more extreme agitators began to talk of banishing James and of compelling the king to divorce the queen and to marry again (No. 101). The escape from the harassing by parliament did not free the king from his difficulties, as he found himself embarrassed by the number of rewards and honours expected for services rendered. He was unable to satisfy every one, and as an unfortunate result of the policy he had adopted, he was constantly rewarding the least deserving (No. 104).
James had begun to recover confidence. He was engaged in forming a new party and he urged the king to repudiate his promises and to give relief to his good and faithful subjects persecuted for their faith. But the king hoped to gain time by temporising and to outwit his opponents in the end by his skill (No. 62). Counting upon success in the coming campaign, he looked forward to making an advantageous peace in October, and when parliament reassembled he would then call upon it to vote the money required for paying off the troops and the discharge of his debts. With James at the head of the army he would then be in a strong position to enforce obedience and to return to the policy which he had abandoned in the spring (No. 85).
Ill success in the war and the indignation excited by the behaviour of the French at sea, completely ruined this plan. When the time for the reassembling of parliament drew near the king, in a panic, was ready to sacrifice his friends and to yield everything to the parliamentarians to obtain a money grant (No. 200).
The Cabal ministers were divided among themselves. Arlington had joined forces with Shaftesbury to get rid of Clifford. This availed him little for in spite of his entreaties, backed by the king's mistresses, Cleveland and Portsmouth, the king appointed Sir Thomas Osborne to the treasurership, who was a dependant of James and of Arlington's deadly enemy, Buckingham (No. 107). Sensible of the precariousness of his position, Arlington talked of resigning the secretaryship and was in treaty with St. Albans for his office of chamberlain (No. 104).
Before the session re-opened all the leading ministers obtained from the king a general pardon for all misdemeanours committed by them, including the acceptance of pensions. In his opening speech the king asked for money to carry on the war which, he said, was continuing against his will. When the members returned to the Lower House the Speaker produced a wooden shoe found on his chair, with the arms of France carved on one side and those of England on the other. It bore an inscription which was supposed to signify that it was a toss-up whether they should be French and Catholics or remain English (No. 234).
The temper of the House was shown at once by a vigorous attack upon the Modena match, which the king was asked to veto. In addition to this they decided not to impose any new taxes before those voted in the previous session had been paid. They showed their determination to require full satisfaction from the king in the matter of religion; the dismissal of all the troops newly raised, proof that it was not the Dutch who objected to peace and the dismissal of popish ministers and councillors. They went so far as to consider an inquiry into the king's private pleasures and his privy purse, as being too costly (No. 239).
At the instance of James the king held a cabinet council to discuss what Alberti calls this boundless licence and audacity of the House of Commons. Many of those present declared that it was an attempt to start a new republic and that the only remedy was to dissolve parliament. Those members who were in communication with the Spanish ambassador Fresno ought to be sent to the Tower (No. 240). Anglesey advised the king to dissolve parliament and to continue doing so until he got one to his taste. But Charles feared that if he tried this he might easily fare worse, if the wealthy Presbyterians won seats through their money (No. 234).
On 14 November the king sent for the Commons. He told them he was sensible what advantages his enemies would reap from the least appearance of a difference between him and his parliament. To prevent this he thought fit to make a short recess, promising in the meantime to show his care for the effectual suppression of popery. He fixed 17 January for the resumption, after they had sat only 16 days. The day after happened to be Guy Fawkes day, when the people showed their sentiments by burning the pope in effigy and by putting up the figure of a Frenchman to shoot at, because of their behaviour in the sea fights (No. 239).
As usual James was all for vigorous measures. He said the prorogation would only cause exasperation and it was a vicious policy to buy off opponents by rewarding them. An example should be made of the leaders, and a list of fifty is said to have been drawn up. But the king could not be induced to go further and his faithful servants complained that they dared not declare themselves lest they should be left at the mercy of their opponents (No. 242).
The French ambassador Colbert, who saw all that he had worked for in danger of crumbling, was in a hurry to get away from the country. He felt an indescribable dread of the next session of parliament. His successor Ruvigny offered the king 700,000l. to keep in with France in the coming year, but on condition that he dissolved parliament or prorogued it (No. 251). James urged that this offer should be accepted and not to wait until parliament opened. He considered it most advantageous and that it would put the king in a position to make war or peace independently of parliament (No. 253).
But Charles was in desperate need of money and the French offer was insufficient for carrying on the war. Moreover things had come to such a pass that when he summoned a council he paid no attention to what his ministers said. He knew of the animosities that were rife among them and preferred to rely solely upon his own judgment. They on their side mistrusted the king and would not unbosom themselves, knowing that they would be betrayed, as each of them revealed the opinions of the others. So they sought rather to please the people and parliament, by whom they might be called to account, in preference to serving the king (No. 255).
Obviously the war could not be carried on under such conditions and the king decided to allow parliament to re-assemble at the appointed time, hoping to saddle them with the odium of a precipitate peace. This device did not succeed as even the most moderate argued that as the king had begun the war on his own responsibility, it was for him to end it (No. 271).
The immediate concern of the members was with the conduct of the king's ministers, and Arlington, Lauderdale and Buckingham in particular were singled out for attack. The Commons seemed intent on introducing a new fashion of refusing to grant the king money so long as he retained them in his service (No. 275). James and the treasurer exclaimed against these encroachments of the Commons who were claiming, they said, to dictate what ministers the king should employ, whereas their only right was to discuss methods of taxation. To this the king replied that the English were naturally disposed to rush at obstacles. It was always dangerous to draw the sword on the multitude and it would be fatal for the kings of England, whom all parties would abandon when the liberty of the country was in question. So he intended to give the people their head in order to curb them the better when they were tired of their gallop (No. 276).
It was under such circumstances that the peace with Holland was made. But though, when the session opened the cry had been that if the king had only broken with France he would have gained the heart of the whole nation, it soon became apparent that the peace had not sufficed to tranquillise men's minds or to dissipate their suspicions (No. 293). Instead of voting the money for which the king had asked, parliament continued the course on which it had embarked. Seeing little hope of obtaining a grant the king announced the prorogation of parliament until November shortly after the ratification of the peace had arrived from Holland. By this step all the measures taken in the session became null and void, much to the relief of the Catholics.
Alberti gives several reasons which induced the king to take this action. The Lords had voted for the removal of James's daughters from his charge because their stepmother was a Catholic. They had even spoken against his succession to the crown. The Commons had voted for the disbanding of all troops raised since 1663 and that it was treason to raise money from the people without the consent of parliament. The king also learned that they intended to accuse his brother of treason (Nos. 289, 303).
The prorogation came as a relief to the ministers, who had been in constant dread of attack while parliament was sitting. But the Cabal had, none the less, been broken up. Clifford was dead. Buckingham's hostility to Arlington had recoiled on himself. He had also offended the king by revealing council secrets, and so he was left with a broken head and an empty purse (Nos. 270, 299). Arlington, who had been contemplating retirement, seems to have flattered himself for a moment that he might, after all, survive. He had successfully defended himself in the Commons. He believed himself to be the most capable of all the ministers, as he was certainly the best informed and the most industrious (No. 304). But his position had been too rudely shaken. The king had lost confidence in him, and though he had won in the contest with Buckingham, the whole nation considered him the more guilty of the two (No. 299). In September he resigned the secretaryship, being succeeded by Williamson, a dark horse who had always kept the public in doubt about his politics (No. 386).
Shaftesbury had gone over to the opposition and started the agitation for the exclusion of James from the succession. He aspired to succeed to the secretaryship, by dint of stirring up trouble and making himself necessary to suppress it (No. 299). The king did indeed send for him at the end of April, but shortly after struck off his name from the roll of the privy Council (Nos. 332, 347).
The sole survivor of the quintette was Lauderdale, who owed this to the support of James (No. 308). Like the others he had been fiercely attacked in the Commons and the king was asked to dismiss him. Allying himself with the new treasurer Osborne, he began to form a new party and held out hopes to the king that he would be able to overcome difficulties in the next session of parliament and obtain a money grant (No. 348). He thus rose to the highest place in the king's favour, who rewarded him by the grant of an English peerage (No. 350). James had now become all powerful with the king, actively supported by Lauderdale and Osborne.
When the time for the re-assembling of parliament drew near, the king prorogued it again until April, acting on his brother's advice, who thought there was more to be gained by punishing agitators than by rewarding them (No. 390). The parliamentarians complained that the king only sent for them when he wanted money, and circumstances had now placed him in a stronger position in this respect than he had ever been before. Thanks to the skill of the new treasurer and to the spurt given to trade by his being at peace while his neighbours were at war, in August of this year he is said to have had one and a half millions in his coffers while Osborne had enough in hand to pay both the fleet and the army (Nos. 371, 382).
Although the king's financial position was so much more favourable, he still wished to secure sufficient control over parliament to make sure of his grants as well as to strengthen the throne. To this end a complicated series of political manoeuvres took place between the last prorogation and the re-assembling of parliament. According to Alberti there were four parties in England: the bishops, meaning the Church, the Presbyterians, the Independents and “the very recent one of the parliament,” meaning, no doubt, those who attacked the indulgence and the Cabal ministers (No. 450). Of the bishops he expresses a very poor opinion as men of small talent, generally of ordinary birth and even less courage. They had few adherents and were but lightly esteemed. The Presbyterian party, on the other hand, comprised the longest purses and the clearest intellects in the kingdom (No. 409).
Although the Protestant nonconformists were opposed to the royal claim to have dispensing power, they were attracted by the idea of toleration. Before the first prorogation some of their leaders had offered the king a sum of money if he would dissolve a parliament, which to them represented church bigotry. The Presbyterians counted on their wealth to win them a sufficient number of seats to give them a majority in the new House (No. 318). They hoped in this way to secure not only liberty of conscience, but a share in ecclesiastical patronage. Accordingly they approached Lauderdale, offering to comply with the king's wishes if he would detach himself from France. That minister thought that this chance of securing their support was worth considering and he discussed the matter with James. The duke was inclined to be mistrustful because the Presbyterians wished to promote the marriage of his eldest daughter to the prince of Orange (No. 403). It is even suggested that Orange was in correspondence with them, fomenting their jealousy of Catholicism and keeping the kingdom divided (No. 404). At the same time strong representations were made to the Presbyterians that their opposition to James was a mistake, setting forth his virtues and asserting that he would make a good king (No. 409). Alberti records that he was present at the house of one of the Presbyterian leaders, when they discussed what steps should be taken to promote their designs (No. 404). It had been suggested that if the Presbyterians were won over to the king's side they should hold a conference with the bishops for the reconciliation of their opinions.
In the meantime the king summoned a conference of bishops to advise him as to the best means for suppressing popery, so that they might not be able to charge him with conniving at it (No. 409). This conference was held at Lambeth where the archbishop of Canterbury and four bishops were reinforced by the treasurer, the lord keeper, Lauderdale and the two secretaries of state. To the general surprise they recommended not only the enforcement of the laws against the Catholics, but that the Protestant nonconformists also should be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law and their conventicles suppressed. This unexpected addition may have been due to a knowledge of the negotiations on foot with the Presbyterians and the talk of a possible amalgamation with them. The bishops, led by Salisbury and Winchester were strongly opposed to any such idea. According to Alberti they realised that once the Presbyterians were admitted they would, by their wealth and intelligence obtain the distribution of church preferment, to the exclusion of the episcopalians (fn. 11) (No. 405).
The recommendations of the Lambeth conference caused some stir and when they were submitted to the Privy Council Lords Holles, Halifax, Carlisle and Dorchester asked for time to consider the proposals (No. 450). The lawyers to whom they were submitted pointed out that as the bishops recommended the enforcement of all the laws against the Catholics, including the sanguinary ones, they ought to be immediately suspended a divinis (No. 455).
James was very ill pleased with this development because it prejudiced his own dealings with the nonconformists. He considered that Lauderdale and Osborne had betrayed him. They hastened to him to explain why they had supported the bishops' recommendations at the conference. They justified themselves on the ground that the declaration would remove the suspicions of the people and enable the king to raise money with which to assert his authority. They had been unable to prevent the resolution and made no effort to do so. The duke replied that no good could be expected from a measure that began by persecuting so many persons of tender conscience. To curry favour with the parliament they had supported a plan which seriously prejudiced both himself and the king (No. 450). Reproaching them for ingratitude he dismissed them. His annoyance was not caused by any tenderness for the nonconformists, but because the course taken by Osborne and Lauderdale, who were known to be his creatures, would make them suspicious of his good faith. His plan, it would seem, was merely to play off one party against the other. He told his brother that at the time of the restoration he had succeeded in keeping apart the various parties of the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Independants, at considerable expense. During the civil wars there had never been a union between any two of these parties without notable prejudice to the government. If the king meant to change his policy it would be prudent to manage the union himself, upon conditions to guarantee his own safety (No. 458).
The Whig lords (fn. 12) and the nonconformists were naturally deeply incensed at the way Lauderdale had turned on them and they swore to be avenged and to wage war on him in parliament without quarter (No. 450). The time for the re-assembling of that body was now drawing nigh and the treasurer and Lauderdale, realising their unpopularity, tried desperately hard to induce the king to prorogue it again. James, who had earned the distrust of the people by advising the last prorogation, had regained their good opinion because he was supposed, on no very good authority, to be influencing the king against the two ministers in this respect (No. 465).
The long interval of parliament, instead of quieting the feelings of dissatisfaction, had precisely the opposite effect, especially among the members opposed to the king's policy; Alberti even speaks of their blind rage against the Court (No. 479). Among the people at large the leaning of James to Catholicism, which became more and more obvious, aroused a general fear that he meant not only to compel them to change their religion, but to make himself an absolute monarch, reducing them to the level of French subjects (No. 409). The bias of the king and his ministers in favour of France and their desire to keep that country friendly to counterbalance the rebellious spirits at home added fuel to the flame (No. 433). To this natural tendency were added the incitements of the Spanish and Dutch ministers. Some of the more extreme spirits even hoped that the Dutch might again appear off London as Ruyter had done in 1667 (No. 479). The Spaniards flattered themselves that they could induce parliament to force the king to take sides with them openly (No. 478).
The Presbyterians and the more responsible of the nonconformists, with the Whig peers, were more patriotically disposed. They recognised that they could not rely on foreign support and they hoped that they might be able to make terms with the Court. In their view a general toleration would destroy the factions which only tended to ruin the state. As part of this policy it was desirable that James should return to the Admiralty, in order to render the country strong at sea (No. 479). James seemed to be in a strong position as Holles and Bedford and their associates assured him of their desire to serve him and even Shaftesbury made his submission (No. 486). The ministers were unpopular, but both Charles and his brother were ready to sacrifice them to please parliament.
Lauderdale and the treasurer would thus appear to be in bad case; but although James was offended with them, he did not wish them to be called to account by parliament, as in his opinion it was the business of the king to discipline his own ministers (No. 458).
Having failed to bring about a union of the Anglicans and Presbyterians and in persuading the king to order a further prorogation, Lauderdale and Danby set to work to build up a Court party in parliament which, in memory of the Civil War they called the Cavaliers. This was formed on the cry that the papists, Presbyterians, Independents and other sectaries had banded together to threaten religion and the government (No. 486).
When the Houses re-assembled, instead of attending to the question of supply, as the king desired, they at once plunged into controversial matters such as the growth of popery and the conduct of ministers. A significant proposal, after the long interval, was to petition the king not to prorogue parliament again until certain matters of importance to the country had been decided.
The king bore these ebullitions with patience, hoping that the first heat would expend itself. At the same time he protested that he would dissolve parliament unless it acted with moderation (No. 488). This threat was an empty one which only affected those who valued parliamentary privilege chiefly as a protection against arrest for debt. The country at large had grown tired of this body which had now been in existence for fourteen years. The king's method of securing votes had its effect and the integrity of many of the members was suspect. In the view of many it was intolerable that these men alone should be allowed to barter and sell the nation at the price of offices and rewards from which their fellow subjects were excluded (No. 486). Many sections of the people were pressing for it, including the nonconformists, reported by both Alberti and Sarotti to form a majority in the country (Nos. 458, 512). The malcontents hoped that in the ensuing elections all those known to be partisans of the king and Court would lose their seats (No. 577), an opinion which seems to have been shared by Charles himself (No. 581). He therefore had no reason for dissolving, expecially as he entertained good hopes of getting a substantial grant (No. 500). To this end it is alleged he had made sure of many of the members by the promise of considerable pensions and a share out of the subsidy which he expected them to vote for him (No. 498). So he did not listen to the promptings of Ruvigny, who in his fear that parliament might force Charles to take up arms against France, was urging dissolution or a prorogation in return for a considerable subsidy and a promise of support to help him to put down parliament (No. 500).
In the Commons the attention of the House was chiefly directed to attacks on the ministers, to an inquiry into expenditure and to repeated demands for the recall of the English troops serving in France. A division upon this last question led to a scene in which the members proceeded to spit in each others' faces and to draw their swords (No. 503). The excitement seems to have been largely due to the closeness of the divisions. A suspicion that the supporters of the Court might take advantage of the absence of members in the country, led to a resolution that all members should be required to remain in London (No. 506). In order to keep up attendances the roll of members present was taken on more than one occasion and the speaker was directed to notify constituencies whose members made default (No. 509).
In the Lords Lindsey introduced a proposal for a new oath, which foreshadowed the doctrine of non resistance. The motion was supported by all the bishops and by those of the peers who were dependent on the Court, but it was strongly opposed by the Catholics, Presbyterians and other nonconformists (No. 494). The king highly approved of the motion and exerted all his influence in its favour. It was hotly debated for three days, when twelve of the peers entered a protest condemning it as oppressive to the conscience and prejudicial to liberty. For this they were called upon to apologise and some even suggested that they should be sent to the Tower. But, so far from being abashed, they caused their protest to be entered in the Journals (No. 498). After a short interval the matter was taken up again when, after a debate of ten hours, the form of the oath was so altered that little of its substance was left and none of its essence (No. 506).
After all these happenings and with the question of supply still unsettled, the Commons entered upon a violent quarrel with the Lords upon the right of the Upper House to hear appeals. This grew so heated as to supersede all other business. In this state of affairs the king sent for both Houses. After warning them that these quarrels were fomented of set purpose to constrain him to dissolve parliament, he counselled them to confer together in order to arrive at a settlement of their differences. As this admonition produced no effect the king sent for them again and prorogued parliament until October. To mark his displeasure he announced the exclusion from the Court of two prominent members of the Commons (No. 527).
The news of the prorogation was received with relief in France and there is an intimation that French gold had a good deal to do with the king's decision (No. 519). Ruvigny was especially pleased as he was in great fear that parliament would insist on the recall of the English troops serving in the French army (No. 518).
Parliament being thus put out of the way, the king and his ministers departed for the country to enjoy themselves, dismissing all present cares from their minds. Commenting on this Ronquillo declared that the king had run away from business. He could find no one to listen to him. Among the royal ministers there was not one who cared to apply himself zealously to current affairs, which were understood by few (No. 532).
As the time for the re-assembling of parliament drew near once again, the king held various councils with James, Rupert and the leading ministers to decide whether they should allow parliament to meet at the appointed time or prorogue it again. In spite of representations from Ruvigny, they decided that it should meet in order to obtain money which could not be got otherwise (No. 552). In his opening speech the king adjured the members not to return to past disputes, promised to uphold the Protestant religion and asked for money to pay his debts and to build ships.
When proceedings opened attention was drawn to a letter sent by the king's secretaries, which caused many members to come who had not put in an appearance in past sessions (No. 569). To meet this it was moved that, in future, members should be summoned by proclamation only. After a long debate upon supply the motion to pay the king's debts was rejected, but they decided to find the money required for the fleet. As it was suspected that money previously voted for this had not all been applied for the purpose, it was suggested that the proceeds should be placed in the coffers of the city of London, instead of being paid to the treasurer. This proposal was only defeated by nine votes. To prevent the raising of money irregularly without the consent of parliament a motion was brought forward that steps should be taken to prevent illegal exactions by ministers (Nos. 573, 577).
Numerous other questions were taken up with great energy, largely directed against the Court, against which the number of malcontents seemed to be growing. Strong feeling was shown against France and against the influence that the duchess of Portsmouth was supposed to exercise. The demand for the recall of the troops serving in France was renewed and the help of the Lords was invoked to support it. A resolution to appoint a committee to make a thorough examination into the state of the country caused no little concern at Court (No. 573). Finally the dispute with the Lords about appeals was renewed with increased animosity. As it became clear that parliament had no intention of obliging the king and was growing ever less inclined to do so, he took counsel with a few of his ministers as to what he should do. After signing a few bills of minor importance, he appeared in state and announced that parliament would be prorogued for fifteen months.
This drastic step caused a great deal of comment. Many members of the Commons stayed on in London and spoke with great freedom. Scandalous libels were posted up, even in the king's own chamber. It was observed that when he walked abroad he was always attended by some of his guards.
In the meantime there was no money to meet the most important requirements, either for arming new ships or for maintaining those already in service. To make ends meet various economies were considered, such as the stopping of pensions granted out of the royal bounty, amounting to 100,000l. a year, as well as reductions in the royal household (No. 594). Nine consultations were held upon this question, but nothing had been decided at the end of the year (No. 598).
Although the terms of the treaty of Dover touching the Catholic religion had been kept rigidly secret, the country generally had a suspicion that something of the sort was afoot. In the popular mind as in the treaty itself Catholicism and French despotism were closely associated. This lent a sharpness to the general attitude towards popery that it might not otherwise have possessed. The attitude of the heir presumptive to the throne, the conversion of prominent persons and the growing numbers of those who professed the faith all tended to increase the feeling of uneasiness. The public worship of Catholics was restricted as only the chapels of the ambassadors of Catholic powers were open to them. They were usually thronged; the number of Catholics in London being estimated at 40,000 (No. 270). Alberti took a prominent part in rendering this service. The Venetian republic was always most careful to avoid giving offence in matters of religion, but Alberti took pride in providing a large and well-furnished chapel at his embassy. For this he had to take a larger house than he would have needed otherwise, which cost him 700 ducats a year.
Although the penal statutes were severe, they were not rigorously enforced. As Catholics were incapacitated by the Test Act from holding any office, there was no desire to persecute them for their faith. They only suffered because they were made the battle ground in the strife between the king and parliament (No. 353). The resolution of the Lambeth conference in favour of enforcing the penal laws, seems only to have excited compassion for them, so that the bishops themselves apologised, saying that they had been led astray by Danby and Lauderdale (No. 455). Sarotti also bears witness that in spite of all the severe orders and proclamations issued against the Catholics, little result was to be seen from them and no execution; the heretics themselves not only sympathised with them, but blessed those who helped and protected them, and in the city, which contained so many sects and beliefs, every one was applauded who favoured his co-religionists (No. 513).
At the same time the suspicions entertained of the king's intentions made it necessary for him to move with caution where Catholics were concerned. This was illustrated by the case of Alexander Burnett, a chaplain of Alberti, arrested as a seminary priest and convicted of treason. Alberti made strenuous efforts to save him, but he found the secretary of state and the justices of the King's Bench alike fearful of consequences and unwilling to interfere. The slightest favour shown by the king, says Alberti, would compromise him. When Charles expressed his intention to grant a pardon, many of the ministers and all the courtiers warned him to beware of the next session of parliament and to consider the popular outcry against this supposed Jesuit (No. 420). In spite of this the king granted a reprieve. As many Catholics and their friends feared that the king's clemency might provoke the people to do worse, they advised Alberti to suggest to the king that the chaplain should be transported, and this was the course eventually followed.
At the promotion of Cardinals in May 1675 Philip Howard, brother of the earl marshal and the queen's almoner, received the red hat. There was some misgiving at Rome that the honour was ill timed and that it might lead to unpleasant consequences for the Catholics in England, at a time when parliament was in session (No. 508). A bishop did indeed sound an alarm in the House of Lords about intercourse with the pope, but this failed to make any stir (No. 512). The English Catholics looked on the promotion as a miracle. When James was asked to account for it he replied: “It was by the rest of you, by your persecutions.” The appointment was indeed received with perfect calm, as Philip Howard was a person not considered likely to cause trouble. One learns, incidentally, that he was not the nominee originally contemplated by Cardinal Altieri.
The queen had hoped that her claims to nominate a candidate would be considered. She was desirous to see the appointment of a bishop whose authority would prevail against the endless differences which were rife among the English Catholics (No. 455). The king also was supposed to think it well that the Cardinal or some other ecclesiastic should exercise authority over all the priests and Jesuits and reduce them to obedience. According to Sarotti there were more than six hundred in England alone, who lived with little observance and attended more to their own pleasure and profit than to the salvation of souls. They went about dressed in the fashion, with a curled periwig and wearing a sword, and they caused frequent scandals. They were lavishly entertained by the Catholic gentry and their ladies, who spared neither money nor attentions to keep them in a good humour (No. 523).
Both Alberti and Sarotti had ample opportunity for observing Charles, as well personally as in the conduct of affairs. As regards his private life his notorious infidelity caused the queen infinite distress. Early in 1673 she was suffering from some bronchial affection which caused fever, and she expected to die. Complaining to one of her ladies of the king's amours she said he had killed her, suspecting that her disorder had been caused deliberately (No. 21). The ministers, counting on her death, were anticipating the king's marriage to the Archduchess Claudia instead of his brother (No. 26). But by March she had recovered. In September the king was cohabiting with her, a practice he had abandoned for years. As the physicians held out no hope of offspring and as everyone knew that it did not spring from affection, this behaviour caused some surprise (No. 186). But the king soon tired of the nuptial bed and ere long the queen was again suffering from seeing him flaunting his mistresses, rendering her incapable of disguising her sorrows by any show of indifference (No. 400).
In the spring of 1675 the queen was again ill, this time from distress over the attack made by parliament on the Catholics (No. 469). She seemed to be wasting away and both herself and her friends attributed this to poison. If she should die, says Sarotti, there is no doubt but that the king would marry again within three months (No. 476). A month later he says that she was disposed to receive with indifference the announcement of her separation from the king and ready to retreat to Portugal. It is a sign of grace in Charles that, in order to please her, he allowed her to appoint Melo, the Portuguese ambassador, as her chamberlain. He did this in spite of an objection to the same person holding two incompatible offices and although there were many other candidates for the post, some of whom he favoured. The appointment was known at Court to be the work of the queen, but the courtiers dissimulated any disappointment they may have felt because she was beloved by all (No. 538).
In the spring of 1674 the king was unwell. This was kept secret, but it is intimated that the malady was due to his disorders (No. 332). In the following year he was in some danger because his physicians could not stop the bleeding for a whole day, after the extraction of a tooth (No. 549).
In August 1675 Charles made three of his bastard sons dukes and peers of the realm. This action increased the murmurs of the disaffected because of the great sums he was constantly consuming to satisfy his numerous favourites and in providing for his children (No. 538). There was even sharper criticism of the quantity of gold lavished on the duchess of Portsmouth who was suspected of being the instrument of the French ministers to persuade Charles to do all that they wished (No. 587). In October the London apprentices insulted the coach of the duchess of Cleveland, but she escaped without injury (No. 200).
The king's sentiments towards his brother seem to have fluctuated. In the last year of the Dutch war he deprived him of the command of the fleet for reasons kept secret from every one (No. 21). Rupert, who succeeded James, was given a freer hand. When there was some talk of James being made general on land Alberti felt sure that the king would not invest him with such authority (No. 36). He asked personally for the command of the force to be landed in Holland, but the king refused on the pretext that he did not wish to expose him to danger (No. 81). In the matter of the Innsbruck match Charles showed the most complete indifference (No. 36). In the crisis over the indulgence and the Test Act, in which Charles seemed to have abandoned his brother completely, James blamed him for his weakness, while the king retorted by charging him with lack of policy (No. 44). Though the king treated the duke with great confidence, it was whispered that his feeling for his brother was neither deep nor sincere and that he was ready to abandon both him and his followers (No. 101). In effect James resigned all his offices almost immediately after.
At the beginning of 1674 it was suspected that Charles was ready to do anything that was asked to obtain a grant from parliament, and that he would not spare his brother, to pay him back for the bad advice he had given about the French alliance and the indulgence (No. 299). But from that time forward the influence of James increased. By the summer the royal brothers were inseparable and the duke's influence was all powerful, living him an opportunity to advance his creatures (No. 366). At the end of the year, at a dinner at which Alberti was present, the king, throwing aside all reserve, embraced the duke several times and declared, with tears, that those who sought to separate them were rebels and he would never wrong himself so much as not to place complete confidence in his dear brother. This maudlin exhibition was no doubt inspired by good wine and cheerful company, but Alberti adds that no one doubted the genuineness of the demonstration (No. 412).
In affairs of state Alberti gives the king a bad character. His maxim was inconstancy and no one could rely on him (No. 112). He lacked courage for great things and his faithful servants complained that they dared not declare themselves from fear of being left at the mercy of their opponents (No. 242). He always left it to time and chance to settle his most important affairs (No. 403). He reserved his decisions to the last moment, living from hand to mouth, and his firmest resolves were always the most futile (No. 353). His issue of the declaration of indulgence did not arise from any zeal for religion, but was probably merely a sop to the Catholics, known to be quiet and obedient subjects (No. 31).
During the closing sessions of 1675 the king regularly attended the debates in the House of Lords for several hours. He is said to have found them as interesting as the play. He was considered to be present incognito and the opponents of the Court were not restrained by his presence from speaking against it with the utmost freedom (No. 587). Yet he was sensitive to criticism. Both he and his brother were considerably upset by Andrew Marvel's lampoon entitled “His Majesty's most gracious speech to both Houses of Parliament.” This was hawked about the streets by boys shouting “Declaration of His Majesty for sweetmeats for the parliament” (No. 458).
Before his recall from Venice in 1672 the Resident Dodington had drawn up a scheme for a commercial treaty with the republic. With his departure and the preoccupation of Arlington with other matters, the project would seem to have lapsed. Although England exported a considerable quantity of salt fish to the republic as well as other commodities, the chief business between the two states was the export of currants from the Ionian islands. The English merchants engaged in this had become extremely dissatisfied and complained of heavy exactions, both regular and irregular. This dissatisfaction was notorious and Alberti was convinced that unless some other arrangements were made and concessions granted the English would gradually give up exporting currants from those islands (No. 389). The trade had already dwindled to nearly nothing, though this may have been largely due to the war. In the autumn of 1673 both Zante and Cephalonia were in great distress from the absence of English ships to take the crops of currants, upon the export of which they relied so entirely (Nos. 184, 199). In the following year the Venetian Proveditore General reported that there were only two English houses at Zante (No. 374). This state of affairs caused grave concern to the Senate and they were anxious to take measures to revive the trade. Inducements were to be held out to the English merchants, with a promise of the best possible treatment. How this should be carried into effect was another question. As in the case of Dodington, they much resented any presentation of the merchants' grievances. They accused Sir Clement Harby, the English consul at Zante, of being a mischief maker and instructed Alberti to try and get him removed (No. 229). In reply the Secretary explained that any idea that Harby's removal was sought because he had zealously upheld the interests of his countrymen would win him support and sympathy (No. 252). So Harby did not share the fate of Dodington.
Trade between England and Venice was very one-sided in character as although there were several English trading houses at Venice, said to be enjoying advantages of a secure and permanent nature, there was not a single Venetian firm in London (No. 452). Alberti thought it would be possible to redress the balance, particularly by the revival of the Venetian glass trade. This was suffering from restrictions on both sides. There were heavy duties in England on Venetian drinking glasses and mirrors, while at Venice the interest of the mirror makers secured a veto on the exportation of unpolished glass sheets. As Venice imported 25,000 barrels of herrings a year from England besides other salt fish Alberti thought that concessions in respect to these might be used to obtain some relaxation of the duties. As things were Venetian drinking glasses, costing six shillings a dozen, found scarcely any sale. Under cover of the duties and with the assistance of skilled workers from Murano English glass was rapidly improving in quality. Alberti himself pays tribute to the extreme beauty of the English drinking glasses. They were very white and thick, in imitation of rock crystal, though they were soft, fragile and extremely dear (No. 350).
To obtain plate glass for coaches the English had turned from Venice to France which was not so far off (No. 357). Mirror making was also becoming an important and flourishing industry, though there were only four glass foundries in the country. One of these belonged to Buckingham and is said to have yielded him a profit of 4000l. yearly. They had no difficulty in obtaining unpolished glass sheets, and so there was no demand for the polished ones, which were all that Venice would sell. For these reasons and because of the heavy duties Venetian mirrors could hardly be sold in London at the price of those of far inferior quality imported from France, Flanders and Holland (No. 174).
Nothing seems to have resulted from Alberti's representations, but in their desire to promote trade the Senate asked their minister for a report on English methods of trading, especially in the Levant (No. 550). In reply Sarotti sent particulars of the Levant Company, their organisation and their exports and imports. Their ships, he said, were convoyed at the king's expense without the merchants bearing any charge (No. 562). It is strange that the Senate should have asked for this information, as they had only recently received fuller particulars in Mocenigo's relazione of June 1671 and in Alberti's despatch of 16 September 1672. (fn. 13)
The conditions of trade with Venice were considered unsatisfactory by parliament when it took up the question of foreign trade at the beginning of 1674. At that time attention was directed chiefly to France. The strong anti French feeling was stirred still further by a representation of the loss entailed by the trade carried on with that country. It was pointed out that French wines were imported to the value of 700,000l. a year besides silk stuffs to the value of over 300,000l. On the other side the French taxed English woollens so heavily as to destroy the sale, while they received nothing but ready money for their own productions (No. 294). Amidst the rejoicings of the people French hats, gloves and other manufactures were burned daily as contraband. It may be noted that Alberti lamented this procedure as encouraging the English tradesmen to charge exorbitant prices for inferior goods (No. 312). Further investigations by parliament into these matters was brought to an end by the prorogation in February.
An order published in June 1673 forbidding the wearing of foreign silks at Court caused consternation at Florence, because England was the principal mart for all their goods, especially silk (No. 114). So severe was the blow that every trading house cancelled its orders for fabrics. To meet the situation the Grand Duke began to look about for another market for his wares. A few months later Sir John Finch was at Florence on his way to Constantinople. He took the occasion to discuss matters of trade with the Grand Duke. As a consequence he was able to negotiate an arrangement whereby English woollen manufactures would be admitted at Leghorn for circulation in Italy in return for the admission of Florentine silk to England (Nos. 224, 237).
Another trade question raised in parliament was concerned with the importation of cattle from Ireland. This had been forbidden by an act of 1666. The result had been to give a monopoly to the English cattle breeders, graziers and butchers. On this account the repeal of the act was strongly urged. Another argument was that the embargo might induce the Irish to extend the cattle trade which they had begun with France and Spain, to which countries they also exported several manufactured articles (No. 300). This question also fell through owing to the prorogation.
The peace with Holland led to a great expansion of trade. While that country and her allies continued at war with France, England carried off the trade of both countries. Trade in London had never been so brisk. A year after the conclusion of peace the trade of the city was breaking all records. Everything flowed into that channel. From this state of affairs the king profited by a considerable increase of his revenues. For the farm of the customs for that year ten leading merchants offered 80,000l. a year more than the average for the preceding five years and they agreed to pay a year's revenue in advance (No. 475). Similarly the revenues of Ireland were farmed out in September 1675 with an advantage to the king of over 80,000 crowns above the previous grant (No. 554). The Royal African Company which had been refounded at the instance of the duke of York, proved a most successful venture. In two years the 100l. shares had risen to 150l. and none of the proprietors was willing to sell (No. 406).
In August 1675 a serious riot broke out among the Spitalfields weavers which spread to other parts of London. The trouble arose from the introduction of a machine of French invention for making ribbons and various trimmings. These machines, by multiplying the production of such articles reduced their cost, and those who could only afford to use the ordinary looms suffered accordingly, as even at the best of times they found it very difficult to procure the abundance of food and comfort which, in the words of Sarotti, “is customary here and enjoyed even by the lowest of the populace.” As the magistrates refused to listen to petitions for prohibiting the new machines, the unfortunate weavers took the law into their own hands and went about in bands to break up and burn them. Meeting with resistance in some quarters they caused casualties, some of them fatal. The rioting lasted a day and a night before it was put down by the city authorities. They showed considerable slackness over this and the king found it necessary to send some of his guards to assist the city militia (No. 546). The affair was not taken too seriously. To make an example some of the rioters were arrested and ten were sentenced to stand in the pillory. It was usual for delinquents thus punished to be pelted by the mob, but on this occasion not a single action of that sort was seen; there was rather a sentiment of universal sympathy (No. 566).
At the conclusion of the peace with Holland the British fleet was in no condition to pursue a major war. When parliament reassembled before peace was made the Speaker shocked the House of Commons by telling them that even if they had ready all the money they would require they had neither the munitions nor the ships that they would need for keeping the sea. (fn. 14) More than a year later Samuel Pepys, secretary to the Admiralty, was sent for by the Commons to give an account of the state of the fleet. He told them that the French as well as the Dutch had larger ships and in greater numbers. He tried to impress them with the need to build an equal number in England for the safety of their commercial ports, opposite such dangerous neighbours (No. 498). (fn. 15)
The country certainly chafed at the predominance at sea which the Dutch could claim at the conclusion of the war (No. 385), but their willingness to grant the supplies needed for re-establishing the nation's sea power was checked by a profound lack of confidence in the king. Ministers were also concerned to economise as much as possible in order to fill the royal coffers. Yet at the end of 1674 it was decided to send Sir John Narbrough to the Mediterranean to deal with the Barbary corsairs, a decision gratifying to naval officers who welcomed the chance of promotion (No. 394). The origin of the expedition seems to have been a demand from Algiers for the money promised for the ransom of slaves, in accordance with the treaty of 1671, amounting to 25,000l. (No. 398). As the tone of the Algiers letters was popularly reported to be lacking in the respect due to a great king, particular pains were taken to correct this idea (No. 428). The government wished to create the impression that a considerable expedition was intended, hoping that it would tend to uphold the naval reputation of the country. The treasurer himself encouraged the belief, in order to stifle the murmurs of his enemies, who accused him of having drained the exchequer without a care for the equipment of ships on which the defence of the country depended (No. 440). Alberti himself seems to have been deceived, at least for a time. As a matter of fact equipment proceeded very slowly, from lack of funds. The merchants also, when asked to find the ransom money, refused to contribute. The king did not see why he should pay it out of his own purse, as the merchants, captains and sailors might become careless of their own safety if they expected to be ransomed at the cost of others (No. 398).
It was not until the end of the year that Narbrough saied in the Henrietta, accompanied only by eight merchantmen he was convoying. He was to form his squadron from the ships that he would find already in the Mediterranean (No. 418). The business with Algiers was speedily settled and in February Narbrough sent the Bristol back home with 130 ransomed slaves (No. 453).
With Tripoli things did not proceed so smoothly and the situation soon deteriorated to a state of open war. To wage this it was necessary to blockade the port of Tripoli. This involved keeping a force permanently in the Mediterranean, and that in turn necessitated a naval base for refitting and supplies. Two places were under consideration for this, Malta and Little Cephalonia or Ithaca, the latter a Venetian possession. In May the duke of York sounded Alberti on the subject. He told him that the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta had offered them the harbour of the island with every facility. Unfortunately the island was not well supplied with provisions. Some shipmasters had suggested Ithaca, which could be supplied from Venice. They would ask permission of the republic to mount a battery there to protect the base (No. 503). At the time of this interview it would seem that instructions had already been sent to Sir Thomas Clutterbuck at Leghorn to choose one of the two places, (fn. 16) without troubling to ask the consent of the Senate. The attitude taken by Venice was very decided. The recent and disastrous war of Candia made the republic determined to do nothing that could possibly give offence to the Turks and Alberti received instructions to see to it that no such request should be made (No. 514). As Malta was chosen the question was not again raised either with Alberti or Sarotti. The good will of the Porte had also to be considered in England, for reasons of trade and the Ambassador Finch was careful to notify the Grand Vizier of the breach with the Tripolitans (No. 521).
In the meantime preparations were going forward in England to send reinforcements to Narbrough; six ships, including two fireships, being made ready to sail at once. Before these could arrive Narbrough scored a considerable success against the Tripolitans, so great as to persuade them to ask for a settlement. As they would not consent to renounce for ever the right to search English ships the negotiations broke down and the blockade continued. In November Narbrough with three of his squadron was at Zante, where he had already been cruising to intercept the ships of the corsairs. He told the Proveditore that he had eight ships under his command and was expecting six more from England. He was going to Malta where he had magazines and a great hulk for careening the whole fleet. With his reinforced fleet he was supposed to be devising some attempt upon the shipping in the port of Tripoli (No. 580). The attempt was actually made with success in the following January.
In June 1675 Girolamo Alberti ended his service as Venetian minister in London. After acting as secretary to the Ambassador Quirini at Rome, he came to England in August 1668 to serve in the same capacity Piero Mocenigo, who was the first and only ambassador in ordinary accredited by the republic to Charles II. When Mocenigo took leave in November 1670, he left Alberti in charge with the title of secretary. Sometime in 1673 or perhaps earlier, he married Margaret Paston, daughter of Sir Robert Paston, soon after created Viscount Yarmouth. Among the state papers there is a grant of lands in Gorleston, Suffolk, forfeited by Margaret, daughter of Viscount Yarmouth, by her marriage with Jeronino Alberti de Contie, an alien born in Venice, (fn. 17) under which guise the secretary may undoubtedly be identified. The grant is dated 10 August, 1674, but the marriage must have occurred much earlier. On 7 April, 1673, Alberti applied to the Signory to relieve him of his post (No. 52). The request was promptly granted and his successor was chosen (No. 61). But instead of leaving Alberti stayed on for over two years more. There is no explanation in the papers printed here of the reasons for this delay. But the Tuscan resident Salvetti Antelminelli, writing on 29 September of that year, reports that Alberti had taken leave of the Court that week and was all ready to depart. He goes on to say that according to some the relations of his wife had prevailed on him to remain in England or at least to leave his wife behind while he went to Venice to settle his affairs before returning to establish himself in the country, (fn. 18) It is strange that in his despatch of that same 29 September, Alberti says never a word about taking leave or of any approaching departure. When his successor had duly arrived and taken over the charge, Alberti still made no sign of an intention to leave the country. Once again on the authority of Salvetti, he was lying hid at the embassy, not daring to go abroad for fear of being arrested for debt; but he was said to be hoping for the king's protection to defend him from his creditors. (fn. 19) The Signory was surprised at the secretary's delay in obeying the summons to return to Venice and Alberti was constrained to send his explanation. He says that his wife was expecting the birth of a second child in the autumn and their joint fortunes were hampered by lawsuits. Honour and conscience bound him to liquidate several matters of business and he intimated that the heavy cost of serving the state in England had seriously embarrassed his finances (No. 516).
Paolo Sarotti, Alberti's successor, was resident at Milan at the time of his selection. He stood high in his profession as, according to Arlington's clerk Richards, he had already held four residentships, though not yet forty. (fn. 20) He was not at all eager for the appointment, in spite of the greater importance of the post. The excessive cost of living in England was notorious and Sarotti intimates that was the chief reason why the embassy there was so thoroughly shunned by every one (No. 196). Everything in England, he says later, down to the wages of the servants, costs double as much as in Italy, while all the foreign ministers were treated with great splendour (No. 491). The foreign ministers were constantly entertaining each other on a lavish scale; without following their example it was not possible to gain their confidence or esteem (No. 561). A dinner, says Alberti, is the most efficacious means of captivating the good opinion of these people and after dinner the most opportune time for negotiating (No. 479); and Sarotti laments the heavy drain on his purse occasioned by the constant entertaining (No. 573).
The English minister to Venice in this period was Sir Thomas Higgons, brother-in-law to the earl of Bath. He had been appointed in June 1672, but he did not arrive in Venice until over a year later. Obviously he was not at all eager to take up his post. As a member of the House of Commons he had taken an active part on the side of the Court, notably on the question of the Modena match. He believed his services to be necessary in this capacity and hoped that they would bring him some reward (Nos. 227, 252, 300). In this he was disappointed and so, at long last, he took his departure. He had very little of consequence to perform. His chief duty was to maintain friendly relations with the republic. He believed that it became a gentleman to encourage friendly intercourse. He would not make himself troublesome, like his predecessor Dodington by seeking redress for the grievances of the English merchants (No. 173). His chief business was about the consulage which the Consul Hailes wished to exact on a new basis. (fn. 21) The Privy Council had decided the matter in favour of the consul; but at Venice Higgons gave everything away. In excusing this surrender he wrote home “it is not in any man's power to make them here do anything which they are persuaded is against their own interest.” (fn. 22) The Consul Hailes was naturally dissatisfied at having his affairs left in the hands of such an advocate. The only serious action taken by Higgons on behalf of the merchants was the presentation of a memorial protesting against the unfair method of exacting a security against smuggling. He kept this by him for months and when at last he presented it, he did so with a half apology (No. 543). The Senate, knowing their man, replied after a considerable interval, that the practice was an old one, that there was no abuse, and that there was no complaint from the merchants (No. 588). “The Senate have given him a flat denial to the only memorial he troubled them with since he came among them,” is the comment of Hailes. (fn. 23)
In conclusion attention may be drawn to a few miscellaneous items of interest. Both Venetians are struck by the free expression of opinion in England. The lowest in the land arrogates to himself the right to discuss both religion and politics (No. 251). Here every one can print with impunity what he likes against any one he likes, not excepting parliament or the king himself (No. 532). A commissioner for trade drew an unfavourable comparison between the present day and the time of Cromwell. Then the wise republic appointed to her offices and government the most gifted persons in the world. Then favour and partiality were put aside, posts were conferred solely on men of parts and rare ability, who formed a united body and towered above the rest. They were thus able to display in high relief the might of England (No. 356). By contrast with the antipathy for the French the English had a natural liking for the Spaniards (No. 350). Although parliament wished to withdraw the English troops serving in France, they had to admit that it was the paid school in which British subjects learned the art of war (No. 494). Pleasure yachts were being built at Portsmouth for the ornamental water at Versailles (No. 529). In the autumn of 1675 warships of Algiers made their appearance in the Channel, where they made many prizes, though they seem to have spared English ships (Nos. 552, 565). Sarotti comments on the large incomes of the higher clergy. These born exceedingly poor, from students in the colleges were promoted to these dignities with revenues much exceeding their needs. He estimated the incomes of the bishops and deans as amounting to 500,000l. a year (No. 577). In January 1675 the mayor and aldermen of London petitioned the king for leave to annex the borough. The citizens anticipated great benefit from this for their guilds which suffered from the competition of the borough tradesmen, who shared the trade without having to bear the many burdens to which the London citizens were liable (No. 428). The Dr. Burnet, a “person in the confidence of the duke of York,” who acted as intermediary with lords Falconbridge and Carlisle at the beginning of 1675 (No. 441) may be identified with confidence as the future bishop of Salisbury and historian.
I cannot close without expressing the deep regret I feel that those with whom I have been pleasantly associated for so many years in preparing these Calendars must now be reckoned among the enemies of my country.
Wimbledon, A. B. HINDS.