Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

zeal had prompted them to undertake, and desirous of securing a protector against the formidable forces by which they might expect soon to be attacked, they sent some of their number to Francis, offering not only to acknowledge him as their sovereign, and to put him in immediate possession of Ghent, but to assist him with all their forces in recovering those provinces in the Netherlands, which had anciently belonged to the crown of France, and had been so lately re-united to it by the decree of the parliament of Paris. This unexpected proposition coming from persons who had it in their power to have performed instantly one part of what they undertook, and who could contribute so effectually towards the execution of the whole, opened great as well as alluring prospects to Francis's ambition. The counties of Flanders and Artois were of greater value than the dutchy of Milan, which he had so long laboured to acquire with passionate but fruitless desire; their situation with respect to France Tendered it more easy to conquer or to defend them; and they might be formed into a separate principality for the duke of Orleans, no less suitable to his dignity than that which his father aimed at obtaining. To this, the Flemings, who were acquainted with the French manners and government, would not have been averse ; and his own subjects, weary of their destructive expeditions into Italy, would have turned their arms towards this quarter with more good will, and with greater vigour. Several considerations, nevertheless, prevented Francis from laying hold of this opportunity, the most favourable in appearance which had ever presented itself, of extending his own dominions, or distressing the emperor. From the time of their interview at Aigues-mortes, Charles had continued to court the king of France with wonderful attention; and often flattered him with hopes of gratifying at last his wishes concerning the Milanese, by granting the investiture of it either to him or to one of his sons. But though these hopes and promises were thrown out with no other intention than to detach bim from his confederacy with the grand seignior, or to raise suspicions in Solyman's mind by the appearance of a cordial and familiar intercourse subsisting between the courts of Paris and Madrid, Francis was weak enough to catch at the shadow by which he had been so often amused, and from eagerness to seize it, relinquished what must have proved a more substantial acquisition. Besides this, the dauphin, jealous to excess of his brother, and unwilling that a prince who seemed to be of a restless and enterprising nature, should obtain an establishment, which from its situation might be considered almost as a domestic one, made use of Montmorency, who, by a singular piece of good fortune, was at the same time the favourite of the father and of the son, to defeat the application of the Flemings, and to divert the king from espousing their cause. Montmorency, accordingly, represented, in strong terms, the reputation and power which Francis would acquire by recovering that footing which he formerly had in Italy, and that nothing would be so efficacious to overcome the emperor's aversion to this as a sacred adherence to the truce, and refusing, on an occasion so inviting, to countenance the rebellious subjects of his rival. Francis, apt of himself to overrate the value of the Milanese, because he estimated it from the length of time as well as from the great efforts which he had employed in order to reconquer it, and tond of every action which had the appearance of generosity, assented without dificulty to sentiments so agreeable to his own, rejected the propositions of the citizens of Ghent, and dismissed their deputies with a harsh answer.*

Not satisfied with this, by a further refinement in generosity, he communicated to the emperor his whole negotiation with the malecontents, and all that he knew of their schemes and intentions. This convincing

[graphic]

• Mem de Bellay, p. 263. P. Heuter. Rer. Austr. lib. xi. 263.

Sandov. Histor. tom. ll. 984.

proof of Francis's disinterestedness relieved Charles from the most dis quieting apprehensions, and opened a way to extricate himself out of all his difficulties. He had already received full inforination of all the transactions in the Netherlands, and of the rage with which the people of Ghent had taken arms against his government. He was thoroughly acquainted with the genius and qualities of his subjects in that country; with their love of liberty; their attachment to their ancient privileges and customs; as well as the invincible obstinacy with which their minds, slow but firm and persevering, adhered to any measure on which they bad deliberately resolved. He easily saw what encouragement and support they might have derived from the assistance of France; and though now free from any danger on that quarter, he was still sensible that some immediate as well as vigorous interposition was necessary, in order to prevent the spirit of disaffection from spreading in a country where the number of cities, the multitude of people, together with the great wealth diffused among them by commerce, rendered it peculiarly formidable, and would supply it with inexhaustible resources. No expedient, after long deliberation, appeared to him so effectual as his going in person to the Netherlands; and the governess his sister being of the same opinion, warmly solicited him to undertake the journey. There were only two routes which he could take; one by land through Italy and Germany, the other entirely by sea, from some port in Spain to one in the Low-Countries But the former was more tedious than suited the present exigency of his affairs; nor could be in consistency with his dignity, or even his safety, pass through Germany without such a train both of attendants and of troops, as would have added greatly to the time he must have consumed in his journey; the latter was dangerous at this season, and while he remained uncertain with respect to the friendship of the king of England, was not to be ventured upon, unless under the convoy of a powerful fleet. This perplexing situation, in which he was under the necessity of choosing, and did not know what to choose, inspired him at last with the singular and seemingly extravagant thought of passing through France, as the most expeditious way of reaching the Netherlands. He proposed in his council to demand Francis's permission for that purpose. All his counsellors joined with one voice in condemning the measure as no less rash than unprecedented, and which must infallibly expose him to disgrace or to danger; to disgrace, if the demand were rejected in the manner that he had reason to expect; to danger, if he put his person in the power of an enemy whom he had often offended, who had ancient injuries to revenge, as well as subjects of present contest still remaining undecided. But Charles, who had studied the character of his rival with greater care and more profound discernment than any of his ministers, persisted in his plan, and flattered himself that it might be accomplished not only without danger to his own person, but even without the expense of any concession detrimental to his crown.

With this view he communicated the matter to the French ambassador at his court, and sent Granville his chief minister to Paris, in order to obtain from Francis permission to pass through his dominions, and to promise that he would soon settle the affair of the Milanese to his satisfaction. But at the same time be entreated that Francis would not exact any new promise, or even insist on former engagements, at this juncture, lest whatever he should grant, under his present circumstances, might seem rather to be extorted by necessity than to flow from friendship or the love of justice. Francis, instead of attending to the snare which such a slight artifice scarcely concealed, was so dazzled with the splendour of overcoming an enemy by acts of generosity, and so pleased with the air of superiority which the rectitude and disinterestedness of his proceedings gave him on this occasion, that he at once assented to all that was demanded. Judging of the

[graphic]

emperor's heart by his own, he imagined that the sentiments of gratitude, arising from the remembrance of good offices and liberal treatment, would determine him more forcibly to fulfil what he had so often promised, than the most precise stipulations that could be inserted in any treaty.

Upon this, Charles, to whom every moment was precious, set out, notwithstanding the fears and suspicions of his Spanish subjects, with a smail but splendid train of about a hundred persons. At Bayonne, on the frontiers of France, he was received by the dauphin and the duke of Orleans, attended by the constable Montmorency. The two princes offered to go into Spain, and to remain there as hostages for the emperor's safety; but this he rejected, declaring, that he relied with implicit confidence on the king's honour, and had never demanded, nor would accept of any other pledge for his security. In all the towns through which he passed, the greatest possible magnificence was displayed; the magistrates presented him the keys of the gates; the prison doors were set open ; and by the royal honours paid to him, he appeared more like the sovereign of the country than a foreign prince (1540). The king advanced as far as Chatelherault to meet him, their interview was distinguished by the warmest expressions of friendship and regard. They proceeded together towards Paris, and presented to the inbabitants of that city, the extraordinary spectacle of two rival monarchs, whose enmity bad disturbed and laid waste Europe during twenty years, making their solemn entry together with all the symptoms of a confidential harmony, as if they had forgotten for ever past injuries, and would never revive hostilities for the future.*

Charles remained six days at Paris ; but amidst the perpetual caresses of the French court, and the various entertainments contrived to amuse or to do him honour, be discovered an extreme impatience to continue his journey, arising as much from an apprehension of danger which constantly haunted him, as from the necessity of his presence in the Low-Countries. Conscious of the disingenuity of his own intentions, he trembled when be reflected that some fatal accident might betray them to his rival, or lead him to suspect them; and though his artifices to conceal them should be successful, he could not belp fearing that motives of interest might at last triumph over the scruples of honour, and tempt Francis to avail himself of the advantage now in his hands. Nor were there wanting persons among the French ministers, who advised the king to turn his own arts against the emperor, and as the retribution due for so many instances of fraud or falsehood, to seize and detain bis person until he granted him full satisfaction with regard to all the just claims of the French crowd. But no consideration could induce Francis to violate the faith which he had pledged, nor could any argument convince him that Charles, after all the promises that he bad given, and all the favours which he had received, might still be capable of deceiving him. Full of this false confidence, he accompanied him to St. Quintin; and the two princes, who had met him on the borders of Spain, did not take leave of bim until he entered his do minions in the Low-Countries.

As soon as the emperor reached his own territories (Jan. 24), the French ambassadors demanded the accomplishment of what he had promised concerning the investiture of Milan : but Charles, under the plausible pretext that his whole attention was then engrossed by the consultations necessary towards suppressing the rebellion in Gbent, put off the matter for some time. But in order to prevent Francis from suspecting his sincerity, he still continued to talk of his resolutions with respect to that matter in the same strain as when he entered France, and even wrote to the king much to the same purpose, though in general terms, and with equivocal expressions, which he might afterwards explain away or interpret at pleasure.

Thuan. Hist. lib, c. 14. Mop, De Bellay,264,

| Memoires de Rivier i. Sus

Meanwhile, the unfortunate citizens of Ghent, destitute of leaders, capable either of directing their councils, or conducting their troops; abandoned by the French king, and unsupported by their countrymen; were unable to resist their offended sovereign, who was ready to advance against them with one body of troops which he had raised in the Netherlands, with another drawn out of Germany, and a third which had arrived from Spain by sea. The near approach of danger made then., at last, so sensible of their own folly, that they sent ambassadors to the emperor, imploring his mercy, and offering to set open their gates at his approach. Charles, without vouchsafing them any other answer than that he would appear among them as their sovereign, with the sceptre and the sword in his hand, began his march at the head of his troops. Though he chose to enter the city on the twenty-fourth of February, his birth-day, he was touched with nothing of that tenderness or indulgence which was natural towards the place of his nativity. Twenty-six of the principal citizens were put to death (April 20); a greater number were sent into banishment; the city was declared to have forfeited all its privileges and immunities; the revenues belonging to it were contiscated; its ancient form of government was abolished; the nomination of its magistrates was vested for the future in the emperor and bis successors; a new system of laws and political administration was prescribed ;* and in order to bridle the seditious spirit of the citizens, orders were given to erect a strong citadel, for defraying the expense of which a fine of a hundred and fifty thousand florins was imposed on the inhabitants, together with an annual tax of six thousand florins for the support of the garrison.t By these rigorous proceedings, Charles not only punished the citizens of Gbent, but set an awful example of severity before his other subjects in the Netherlands, whose immunities and privileges, partly the effect, partly the cause of their extensive commerce, circumscribed the prerogative of their sovereign within very narrow bounds, and often stood in the way of measures which he wished to undertake, or feltered and retarded him in his operations.

Charles having thus vindicated and re-establiste i his authority in the LowCountries, and being now under no necessity of continuing the same scene of falsehood and dissimulation with which he had long annused Francis, began gradually to throw aside the veil under which he had concealed his intentions with respect to the Milanese. At first, he eluded the demands of the French ambassadors, when they again reminded him of bis promises ; then he proposed, by way of equivalent for the dutchy of Milan, to grant the duke of Orleans the investiture of Flanders, clogging the offer, however, with impracticable conditions, or such as he knew would be rejected. At last, being driven from all his evasions and subterluges by their insisting for a categorical answer, he peremptorily refused to give up a territory of such value, or voluntarily to make such a liberal addition to the strength of an enemy, by diminishing his own power. He denied, at the same time, that he had ever made any promise which could bind him to an action so foolish, and so contrary to bis own interest.ll

Of all the transactions in the emperor's life, this, without doubt, reflects the greatest dishonour on bis reputation. I Though Charles was not extremely scrupulous at other times about the means which he employed for accomplishing his ends, and was not always observant of the strict precepts of veracity and honour, he had hitherto maintained some regard for the maxims of that less precise and rigid morality by which monarchs think themselves entitled to regulate their conduct. But, on this occasion, the scheme that he formed of deceiving a generous and open-hearted prince;

• Les Coutumes et Loix du Compé de Flandre, par Alex. le Grande, 3 tom. fol, Cambray, 1719, tom. I. p. 169. 1 Harri Anale Brabantir, vol. i. 616.

Mrin. de Ribier, i. 509.514. Ribier, .. 519, Bellay, 345, 306. 1 Jovu Hist. lib. XXXIX. p. 238. a.

the illiberal and mean artifices by which he carried it on; the insensibility with which he received all the marks of his friendship, as well as the ingratitude with which he requited them, are all equally unbecoming the dignity of his character, and inconsistent with the grandeur of bis views.

This transaction exposed Francis to as much scorn as it did the emperor to censure. After the experience of a long reign, after so many opportunities of discovering the duplicity and artifices of his rival, the credulous simplicity with which he trusted him at this juncture seemed to merit no other return than what it actually met with. Francis, however, remonstrated and exclaimed, as if this had been the first instance in which the emperor had deceived him. Feeling, as is usual, the insult which was offered to his understanding still more sensibly than the injury done to his interest, he discovered such resentment, as made it obvious that he would lay hold on the first opportunity of being revenged, and that a war, no less rancorous than that which had so lately raged, would soon break out anew in Europe.

But singular as the trans ction which has been related may appear, this year is rendered still more memorable by the establishment of the order of Jesuits ; a body whose influence on ecclesiastical as well as civil affairs hath been so considerable, that an account of the genius of its laws and government justly merits a place in history. When men take a view of the rapid progress of this society towards wealth and power; when they contemplate the admirable prudence with which it has been governed ; when they attend to the persevering and systematic spirit with which its schemes have been carried on; they are apt to ascribe such a singular institution to the superior wisduin of its founder, and to suppose that he had formed and digested his plan with profound policy. But the Jesuits, as well as the other monastic orders, are indebted for the existence of their order not to the wisdom of their founder, but to his enthusiasm. Ignatio Loyola, whom I have already mentioned on occasion of the wound which he received in defending Pampeluna,* was a fanatic distinguished by extravagancies in sentiment and conduct, no less incompatible with the marims of sober reason, than repugnant to the spirit of true religion. The wild adventures, and visionary schemes, in which his enthusiasm engaged him, equal any thing recorded in the legends of the Romish saints ; but are unworthy of notice in history.

Prompted by this fanatical spirit, or incited by the love of power and distinction, from which such pretenders to superior sanctity are not exempt, Loyola was ambitious of becoming the founder of a religious order. The plan, which he formed of its constitution and laws, was suggested, as he gave out, and as his followers still teach, by the immediate inspiration of heaven.t But not withstanding this high pretension, his design met at first with violent opposition. The pope, to whom Loyola had applied for the sanction of bis authority to confirm the institution, referred his petition to a committee of cardinals. They represented the establishment to be unnecessary as well as dangerous, and Paul refused to grant his approbation of it. At last, Loyola removed all his scruples by an offer which it was impossible for any pope to resist. He proposed, that besides the three vows of poverty, of chastity, and of monastic obedience, which are common to all the orders of regulars, the members of his society should take a fourth vow of obedience to the pope, binding themselves to go whithersoever he should command for the service of religion, and without requiring any thing from the holy see for their support. At a time wben the papal authority had received such a shock by the revolt of so many nations from the Romish church; at a time when every part of the popish system was

* See Book ti. p. 150. Compte rendu des constitutiones des Jesuites au Parlement de Pro vence, par M. de Monclar, p. 225.

« ForrigeFortsett »