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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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answer, but she laughed. When the pope heard
this, he said that he must now devise means for
depriving her of her kingdom by force.

Hitherto he had only hinted at such a scheme ; in
the spring of 1586, he openly declared his inten-
tions, and boasted that he would assist the king of
Spain in an attack upon England, with far different
zeal and efficiency from those with which Charles V.
had been supported by former popes*.

In January 1587, he complained loudly of the
dilatoriness of the Spaniards, and enumerated the
advantages which would accrue to them from a
victory in England, with a view^ to the recon quest
of the Netherlands f.

sub Elizabetha etiamnum regnante peractorum descriptiones." It
contains prints of unheard-of tortures ; a terrific sight.

* Dispaccio Gritti, 31 Maggio, 1586 : " Accresciuto quatro
volte tanto. II papa vorria che si fingesse d'andar contra Draco
e si piegasse poi in Inghilterra."

t Dispaccio Gritti, 10 Jan. 1587.


He soon became bitter on this subject. On
Philip II. publishing a pragmatic decree, by which
the spiritual dignities generally, and consequently
those claimed by the Roman curia, were abridged,
the pope broke out into a fiery passion : " How,"
exclaimed he, " will Don Philip brave us, and yet
allow himself to be trampled upon by a woman ? * "

In truth the king was not spared, since Elizabeth
openly espoused the cause of the Netherlands, and
Drake rendered every coast of America and Eu-
rope unsafe. What pope Sixtus expressed was, at
bottom, the feeling of all catholics. They were
amazed at the long-suffering of the powerful mon-
arch who could consent to endure so much. The
cortes of Castile exhorted him to avenge himself.

Philip was indeed personally insulted ; he was
held up to ridicule in comedies and masques : — on
this being once reported to him, the aged monarch,
accustomed only to reverence, started up from his
seat with an indignation which had never been
witnessed before.

Such was the temper of both the pope and the
king, when the news arrived that Elizabeth had
ordered the execution of the captive queen of Scot-
land. This is not the place to inquire into her
legal right to authorize such an act ; it is princi-
pally to be regarded as an act of political justice.
The first idea of it arose, as far as I have been able
to discover, as early as the time of the massacre of

* Dolendosi che'l re si lascia strapazzar da una donna e vuol
poi bravar con lei (S. S^.).


St. Bartholomew. The bishop of London, in one
of his letters to lord Burleigh, expresses his anxiety
lest so treacherous a deed should extend its in-
fluence to England, and his opinion that the source
of the danger lay principally in the Scottish queen :
" the safety of the realm," he exclaims, " requires
that her head should be cut off*." Since these
words were uttered^ how much more powerful had
the catholic party become in Europe, how much
greater was its fermentation and excitement even in
England ! Mary Stuart was incessantly in secret
correspondence with her cousins the Guises, with
the malcontents in England, with the king of Spain,
and with the pope. She represented the principle
of Catholicism, in so far as it was opposed to the ex-
isting government, since she would infalhbly have
been called to the throne at the first success of the
catholic party. She expiated with her life a posi-
tion into which she was forced by circumstances,
but from which she certainly made no effort to

This execution, however, brought to maturity
the schemes of the king of Spain and the pope ;
they determined to forbear no longer. Sixtus
filled the consistory with his invectives against the
English Jezebel, who had laid violent hands on the
sacred head of a princess subject to none but Jesus

* Edwin Sandys to Lord Burghley, Fulham, Vth of Sept. 1572,
" The saftie of our Quene and Realme, yf God wil, furtwith to
cutte of the Scotish Quenes heade : ipsa est nostri fundi calami-
tas." Ellis's Letters, second series, vol. iii. p. 25.


Christ, and, as she herself admitted, to his repre-
sentative. In order to show how completely he
approved of the activity of the catholic opposition
in England, he created William Allen, the first
founder of the seminaries, a cardinal ; an appoint-
ment which, in Rome at least, was looked upon as
a declaration of war against England. A formal
treaty was now concluded by king Philip II. and
the pope*, by which the latter promised to the
king a subsidy of a million of scudi towards his
attack upon England ; but as he was always on his
guard, particularly in money matters, he pledged
himself to pay the money whenever the king had
actual possession of an English port. " Let your
majesty delay no longer," he writes to Philip ;
*' every delay will change good intentions into bad
performances." The king strained to the utmost
every resource of his kingdom, and fitted out that
armada which was called the Invincible.

Thus did the united powers of Italy and Spain,
from which such mighty influences had gone forth
over the whole world, now rouse themselves for an
attack upon England ! The king had already com-
piled, from the archives of Simancas, a statement
of the claims which he had to the throne of that
country on the extinction of the Stuart line ; the
most brilliant prospects, especially that of an uni-

* The original views of the pope ; Dispaccio Gritti, 27 Giugno,
1587. " II papa fa gran offerta al re per I'impresa d' Inghilterra^
ma vuole la denomination del re e che'l regno sia feudo dclla


Versal dominion of the seas, were associated in his
mind with this enterprise. Everything seemed to
conspire to one end ; — the predominancy of Catho-
licism in Germany, the renewed attack upon the
huguenots in France, the attempt upon Geneva,
and the enterprise against England. At this same
moment a thoroughly catholic prince, Sigismund
III., (of whom w^e shall say more hereafter) ascend-
ed the throne of Poland, with the prospect also of
future succession to the throne of Sweden.

But whenever any principle or power, be it what
it may, aims at unlimited supremacy in Europe,
some vigorous resistance to it, having its origin in
the deepest springs of human nature, invariably

Philip II. had to encounter newly-awakened
powers braced by the vigour of youth, and elevated
by a sense of their future destiny. The intrepid
corsairs, who had rendered every sea insecure, now
clustered round the coasts of their native island.
The protestants in a body, — even the puritans, al-
though they had been subjected to as severe oppres-
sions as the catholics, — rallied round their queen,
wdio now gave admirable proof of her masculine
courage, and her princely talent of winning the af-
fections, and leading the minds, and preserving the
allegiance of men. The insular position of the
country, the very elements, lent themselves to its
defence ; the invincible armada was annihilated,
even before it had made its attack ; the enterprise
was utterly abortive.

It must, however, be understood that the funda-


mental plan, the great intention itself, was not im-
mediately given up.

The cathohcs were reminded by the writers of
their party, that both Julius Caesar and Henry VII.,
the grandfather of Elizabeth, had failed in their first
attempt upon England, but had, notwithstanding,
eventually become masters of the country. God,
they said, often delayed giving the victory to his
faithful servants. The children of Israel had been
twice beaten with great loss in their wars with the
tribe of Benjamin ; although undertaken upon the
express command of God, victory followed only
the third attack ; " then did the devouring flames
make desolate the towns and villages of Benjamin,
and the edge of the sword smote both man and
beast." " The English," they exclaimed, " should
ponder on this, and not be puffed up because their
chastisement was deferred*'." Nor had Phihp II.
in any degree lost his courage. His intention was
to fit out smaller and more manageable vessels, and
not to attempt to form a junction with the forces of
the Netherlands in the channel, but to sail direct
for the English coast and endeavour to effect a
landing. The arsenal at Lisbon was in a state of
the greatest activity. The king was determined to

* Andrese Philopatri (Parsoni) ad Elizabeth«; regiiife Anglic
edictum responsio, § 146, 147. " Nulla," he adds, " ipsorum for-
titudine repulsa vis est, sed iis potius casibus qui ssepissime in res
bellicas solent incidere, aeris nimirum inclementia, maris incog-
niti inexperientia nonnullorumque fortassis hominuin vel negli-
gentia vel inscItIa,DeI denlque voluntate, quia forte misericors Do-
minus arborem infructuosam dimittere adhuc voluit ad tertium
annum evangelicum."


persevere to the last extremity, even were he com-
pelled, as he once said at table, to sell the silver
candlesticks which stood before him*.

But while his thoughts were employed on this
scheme, other prospects opened upon him ; a new
arena for the display of the energies and the re-
sources of Catholicism, of the characteristic spirit of
Italy and Spain, presented itself.


Soon after the disastrous end of the Spanish ar-
mada, a reaction arose in France, unexpected, and,
(as so often has been the case in that country) vio-
lent and bloody.

At the very moment when Guise led the estates
of Blois at his will ; at the very moment when it
appeared that by his office of constable he must
of necessity grasp the whole business of the king-
dom in his hands, Henry III. caused him to be as-

* Dispacci Gradenigo, 29 Sept. 1588. Si come il re ha sen-
tito molto questo accidente di mala fortuna, cosi mostra di esser
piu che mai risoluto di seguitar la impressa con tutte le sue
forze. — 11 Ott. S. Mä. sta ardentissima nel pensar e trattar le
provisioni per I'annofuturo. — 1 Nov. " Si venderanno," the king
exclaimed, " esti candellieri, quando non vi sia altro modo di far


sassinated. This king, who felt that he was made
tlie captive and the tool of the catholic or Spanish
jiarty, suddenly broke loose from their chains, and
placed himself in opposition to them.

But with Guise, neither his party nor the League
were destroyed ; on the contrary, it now assumed a
more undisguisedly hostile attitude, and entered
into stricter alliance than before with Spain.

Pope Sixtus was completely on their side. The
assassination of the duke, whom he loved and ad-
mired, and in whom he beheld a pillar of the
church, had already filled him with grief and indig-
nation * ; the murder of cardinal Guise also ap-
peared to him intolerable. " A cardinal priest,"
he exclaimed in the consistory, " a noble member
of the holy see, — without trial or judgment, and by
the secular arm, — as if there were no pope in the
world, — as if no God existed." He reproached his
legate Morosini for not having immediately ex-
communicated the king ; he ought to have done it,
had it cost him a hundred times his lifef.

The king was little troubled by the anger of

* The pope likewise particularly complained, that the king had
obtained a brief from him, " che li concesse poter esser assolto
da qualsivoglia peccato anco riservato alia sede apostolica, col
quale si voglia hora coprire il grave peccato che ha fatto." (Disp.

t Tempesti gives, ii. 137, both the speech of the pope, in all
its length, and the letter to Morosini. " Essendo ammazzato il
Cardinale," it is there said, " in faccia di V. S"*. 111"^., legato a
latere, come non ha publicato I'interdetto, ancorche gliene fos-
sero andate cento vite ?"


the pope, and was not to be frightened into setting at
Hberty cardinal Bourbon or the archbishop of Lyons,
whom he kept prisoners. Demands were constantly
sent from Rome that he should declare Henry of
Navarre incapable of succeeding to the throne ; in
defiance of which he entered into alliance with him.
Upon this the pope determined to proceed to ex-
tremities ; he cited the king to appear in person at
Rome to justify himself for the murder of the car-
dinal, and threatenedhimwithexcommunicationif he
did not set the prisoners free within a specified time
This, he declared, was the course he was bound to
pursue ; should he act otherwise, he must expect to
be called to account by God, as the most useless of
all popes. Having thus fulfilled his duty, he need
not fear the whole world ; he doubted not but that
Henry in. would perish like king Saul*.

The king was moreover looked upon by the zeal-
ous catholics and the partisans of the League as an
accursed outcast ; the proceedings of the pope en-
couraged them in their furious opposition, and sooner
than could have been expected his prophecy was ful-
filled. On the 23rd of June the monitorium of the
pope was published in France ; on the 1st of August
the king was assassinated by Clement.

The pope himself was astonished. " In the midst
of his own army," exclaims he, " on the point of

* Dispaccio Veneto, 20 Maggio, 1589. " II papa accusa la
sua negligentia di non haver fatto dipoi mesi 5 che gli 6 stato
ammazzato un cardinale e tenutone un' altro prigione con un
arcivescovo, alcuna rimostratioue o provisioae. Dubita dell' ira
di Dio," etc.



taking Paris, in his very cabinet, was he killed by a
poor monk, with one stroke*." He ascribes this
to the immediate hand of God, who thus testified
that he would not desert France.

How is it that men can be so utterly blinded by
fanaticism ? This conviction was shared by innu-
merable catholics. " It is only to the hand of the
Almighty himself," writes Mendoza to Philip, " that
this fortunate event is to be ascribed f." The
young Maximilian of Bavaria, who was then study-
ing at Ingolstadt, in one of the first letters of his
which are extant, expresses to his mother his joy
that the king of France was killed j.

This event had, however, another aspect. Henry
of Navarre, whom the pope had excommunicated,
and the Guises so relentlessly persecuted, now
stepped into his lawful rights. A protestant as-
sumed the title of king of France. The League,
Philip IL, and the pope were determined on no con-
ditions to suffer him to obtain the enjoyment of
those rights. In the room of Morosini, who had
shown himself far too lukewarm, Sixtus V. sent
to France another legate, Gaetano, who was thought
to be inclined to Spain, and (what he had never
done before) gave him a sum of money, to be spent
in the manner most conducive to the advantage of

* Disp. Ven. 1 Sett. II papa nel consistorio discorre, che'l
successo della morte del re di Francia si ha da conoscer dal voler
espresso del S"" Dio, e che perciü si doveva confidar che continu-
arebbe al haver quel regno nella sua protettione.

t Capefigue, v. 290.

X Wolf, Maximilian I. parti, p. 107.


the League. Above all things he was to take care
that none but a catholic should be king of France.
Undoubtedly the crown ought always to descend to
a prince of the blood, but that was not the only
thing to be considered ; in other cases the strict
order of succession had been deviated from, but
never had a heretic been permitted to reign. The
main point in short was, that the king should be a
good catholic*.

In this state of mind, it will readily be imagined
that the pope thought it a commendable act of the
duke of Savoy to take advantage of the confusion
which reigned in France, in order to make himself
master of Saluzzo, wliich then belonged to the
French ; it was better, said Sixtus, that the duke
should have it, than that it should fall into the hands
oLthe huguenotsf.

The main object now was, to endeavour to render
the League victorious in the struggle with Henry IV".

To this end a new treaty between Spain and the
pope was drawn up. That most zealous inquisitor,
cardinal Sanseverina, was commissioned, under the
seal of confession, to arrange the terms. The
pope promised faithfully to send into France an

* Dispaccio Veneto, 30 Sett. The pope declares, " che non
importava che'l fosse eletto piu del sangue che di altra fainiglia,
essendo ciö altre volte occorso, ma mai eretico dopo la nostra re-
ligione : che Savoia, Lorena e forse anche Umena pretendeva la
corona; che S. S*. non vuol favoru- I'uno piu che I'altro." Ex-
tract from the Instruction in Tempesti, ii. 233.

j- He met Avith reproaches on this account ; "II papa .si gius-
tifica con molte ragioni della irapresa che '1 sopradetto duca ha
fatto del marchesato di Saluzzo con sua participatione." (Disp.



army of fifteen thousand foot and eight hundred
horse ; he also declared himself ready to advance
subsidies, as soon as the king should have pene-
trated with a large army into France. The papal
troops were to be commanded by the duke of Ur-
bino, a subject of his holiness and a partisan of the
king of Spain*.

Such were the preparations made by the combined
powers of Italy and Spain, in conjunction with their
adherents in France, with a view to secure the throne
of that country for ever to their party.

More extensive prospects could not be opened to
the ambition of the king of Spain or the pope.
Spain would for ever be freed from that ancient
rivalrv by which she had so long been held in check ;
and the result proved how intensely Philip II. had
this at heart. The exercise of an efficient influence
in placing a king on the throne of France, would also
have added immensely to the dignity and author-
ity of the see of Rome. Gaetano had directions to
insist upon the introduction of the inquisition, and
the aboUtion of the Galilean privileges ; but the
exclusion of a legitimate prince from the succession,
solely on account of his religion, would have been a
far more important triumph. The ecclesiastical
spirit which at that moment per^-aded the world
would thus have attained to absolute and undis-
puted supremacy.

* Authentic account in the autobiography of the Cardinal,
adopted by Tempesti, ii. 236.




J. HE current of public opinion had taken a direc-
tion the most opposite from that which might rea-
sonably have been expected at the beginning of the

At that time there was a general relaxation of the
authority and discipline of the church ; the nations
sought to sever themselves from their common
spiritual head ; the papacy itself nearly forgot its
hierarchical character ; while in literature and art
profane tastes and studies prevailed, and the prin-
ciples of a pagan morality were avowed without

At the moment we are contemplating, how to-
tally was all this changed ! In the name of reli-
gion wars were declared, conquests achieved, states
revolutionized. The history of the world does not
present a time in which the clergy were more pow-
erful than at the end of the sixteenth century.
They sat in kings' councils, and discussed political
matters before all the people from the pulpit ; they
governed schools, learning, and the whole domain


of letters ; the confessional afforded them oppor-
tunity of prying into the secret conflicts of the soul,
and of deciding in all the difficult and doubtful cir-
cumstances of private life. It may, perhaps, be
maintained that the very causes which rendered
their influence so extensive and searching, were
their violent dissensions among themselves, and the
contradictions which existed in their own body.

This was indeed true of both parties, but in a
more especial manner of the catholics. With them,
the ideas and the institutions which subject the
mind more immediately to discipline and to gui-
dance, had attained to the greatest perfection, and
the most complete adaptation to their end ; it was
impossible to live without a father confessor. With
them, too, the clergy, either as brethren of an
order, or at any rate as members of the hierarchy,
composed a corporation held together in strict sub-
ordination, and working in one spirit and with one
intention. The head of this hierarchical body, the
pope of Rome, was once more invested wdth a
power scarcely inferior to that which he had pos-
sessed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries ; he
kept the interest and the zeal of the world con-
stantly alive by the frequent enterprises which he
undertook under the influence, or the pretext, of

Under these circumstances the most arrogant
pretensions of the times of Hildebrand were resus-
citated ; weapons which had been preserved in the
arsenal of canon law rather for curiosity than use,
were now brought into full activity.


But the European commonwealth has in no age
submitted to the dominion of mere force ; under
all its phases, its condition has been influenced by
speculations and opinions ; no important enterprise
has ever been carried through, no power has ever
arisen to universal importance, without instantly
awakening in the minds of men the idea of a pos-
sible new order of society. This idea next gives
birth to theories, which are the expression of the
moral signification and purport of facts ; and which
represent those facts as universal truths, deduced
from reason or from religion, and arrived at by
reflection. They thus anticipate the fulfilment of
the event, to which at the same time they most
powerfully contribute.

The events we are about to consider afford an il-
lustration of these remarks.


It has been common to ascribe to the principle
of the catholic religion a peculiar connexion, a
natural sympathy, with the monarchical or aristo-
cratical forms of government. A century like the
16th, in which this principle manifested itself in the
fullest energy and conscious intentionality, affords
us the most instructive data upon which to form a
judgment on this question.


Looking at the facts, we find that in Italy and
Spain it attached itself to the existing order of
things ; in Germany it even enabled the sovereign
power to acquire new and increased predominancy
over the popular assemblies ; in the Netherlands it
aided the conqueror ; and in Northern Germany
and the Walloon provinces it was maintained with
peculiar and strenuous attachment by the nobi-

But if we carry our inquiries further, we shall
find that these were not the only sympathies which
it awakened. If in Cologne the patrician party
were its zealous upholders, in the neighbouring city
of Treves the common people were not less so. In
the large cities of France it was universally alUed
with the claims and the efforts of the popular party.
The results of an extensive and unprejudiced in-
quiry will show, that Catholicism always attached
itself to the side on which it found its firmest prop
and most powerful ally. When the established
authorities were opposed to it, it was very far from
sparing or even from recognising them. It con-
firmed the Irish nation in its ancient and hereditary
resistance to the English government. In England
itself it undermined to the utmost of its power the
allegiance demanded by the queen, and often broke
out in active rebellion ; in France it confirmed its
adherents in their resistance to their legitimate

This religious system has no inherent or neces-
sary affinity to one form of government more than
to another. Even during the short period of its re-


vival, Catholicism displayed the most opposite pre-
dilections ; first, for monarchy in Italy and Spain,
and for the strengthening of the hereditary sove-
reign power in Germany; next for the mainte -
nance of lawfully constituted aristocratical bodies '
in the Netherlands ; and, at the conclusion of the
century, it formed a decided alliance with the de-
mocratical spirit. This was the more important,
as it now stood in the plenitude of its activity, and
the movements in which it took part are in fact
the most important events which agitated the poli-
tical world. Had the popes succeeded at this mo-

Online LibraryLeopold von RankeThe ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 39)