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under a Papal dispensation was a proposal which reopened
in a most ominous manner the debate which had em-
bittered the life of Catharine of Aragon ; no wonder she
told the Ambassador that she had a serious scruple about
the Papal dispensation (tenia mucho escrupulo en lo de la
dispensa del Papa). We also hear even at this early date
of her determination to remain unmarried, a purpose
which she might indeed well have formed by reflecting


on the disastrous result of her sister's marriage, but which
she always describes as having arisen in her mind very
early, even in her childhood. On the whole, however, she
would feel that the question lay between a power based
upon the wishes of the nation and a power supported by
foreign help, between an independent national throne and
a kind of viceroyalty, such as Margaret of Parma held
in the Netherlands, over a province of the Habsburg

Elizabeth made the great choice. We cannot at this
distance of time appreciate the weight which each conside-
ration had for her judgement. It scarcely perhaps struck
her that she was asked by Philip to change her religion,
nor perhaps did the horrors of Smithfield produce much
impression on her mind. Her father's mode of governing
(la manera de proceder del Rey su Padre) was her model ;
apparently she desired to restore the peculiarly English
system which had been on the whole successful before
the violent oscillation of the reigns of Edward and Mary ;
but the system of Henry had not been decidedly Pro-
testant, and still less had it been humanitarian. We
must beware too of crediting her with modern ideas of
popular government, and when she said to De Feria that
the people had put her where she was (el pueblo la ha
puesto en el estado que esta) we are not to attribute
to the proud Tudor any acknowledgment of the sove-
reignty of the people.

But she took a course visibly full of danger, a course
in which success was only possible by courage and heroic
endurance, but in which success, if it came, might be
splendid and might raise the nation itself to greatness.
The course she declined had also its dangers, though at
the moment it might have relieved her of much trouble ;


but it was a course in which success could only be success
for herself alone, success gained at the expense of her

In Mary's reign Philip's influence had been favourable
to Elizabeth ; he had reasons for wishing well to her. Nor
did these reasons cease to have weight when she declined
his hand, nor even when she led the nation back into the
path of the Reformation. We have now to consider what
the position of England among the European Powers
became when the brief Habsburg episode, as it were,
came to an end, and when Elizabeth tried to revive the
age of Henry.

Hitherto we have considered only the relation of
England to the Habsburg Power. It is now time to
turn our attention to other states, especially that state
which both in earlier times and in later has been the
most important state for England, namely, France.

The relations of England and France had lately
become closer and more anxious than they had been
in the first half of the sixteenth century. The Valois
had begun to enter into English politics by the same
approach as the Habsburg. While the latter had been
applying the system of royal marriage to England, the
former had applied it to Scotland. The Dauphin had
married Mary Stuart as the Prince of Spain had married
Mary Tudor. There was a probability therefore that
Scotland would in due time enter into a personal, and
ultimately perhaps into an incorporating, union with
France. And this contingency did not concern Scotland
alone but England, and that not merely because they
were contiguous countries, parts of the same island, but
in a far more serious way. In the miserable uncer-
tainty of the English succession, one claim stood out as


superior to all others, the claim of the Scots House
derived from the marriage of Margaret Tudor to King
James IV. This claim was now, as it were, acquired by
the House of Valois. Already the Dauphin was consort
to the Queen of Scotland; the time was at hand when
France and Scotland would be united by Francis and
Mary, as Castille and Aragon had been united by Ferdi-
nand and Isabella, and beyond this a time might be
foreseen when they would be united yet more closely
in the person of a son of Francis and Mary. This son of
Francis and Mary would have a claim on the English
throne more clear of painful objections than that of the
daughter of Anne Boleyn. Here was a danger to England
not less formidable than that from which she had newly
escaped by the death of Mary Tudor. England was
between Scylla and Charybdis, in danger of absorption
on the one side by the Habsburg, on the other side by
the Valois.

Fortunately however the two dangers in some degree
neutralised each other. The Habsburg did not desire to
see England absorbed by the Valois, and accordingly the
Habsburg, even after he had been rebuffed by Elizabeth,
could not afford to become hostile to her. It was easy
to attack her title, and there was a Pretender at hand
who, so far as she was a Catholic, would suit Philip
perfectly, but this Pretender was Dauphiness of France,
the Power which all along and at that moment es-
pecially was the great antagonist of the House of

But France, which we thus introduce into our narra-
tive, will become the most prominent figure in it, will be
seen eclipsing the House of Habsburg, almost absorbing
that Spanish Monarchy which at our actual stage is the


greatest Power in the world, and becoming the most
formidable among the enemies of England. It is therefore
of great importance that we should form at the outset a
clear conception of this Power.

It was already a state of ancient renown, which had
more than once played a leading part in Europe. It took
the lead in the first Crusade, it was glorious under St
Louis, and masterful under Philippe le Bel. Its two
languages, the langue d'oc and the langue d'oil, had taken
the lead in literature up to the time of Dante. But those
ages of French history are divided from the age which
concerns us here by a great cataclysm created by the
Hundred Years' War with England. France in 1558 may
be said to be in the penultimate phase of its Valois period.
It had been led into the disasters of the English war by
the first two Valois kings, Philip and John, and it had
been brought lower still by Charles VI. But a much
brighter period was introduced by Charles VII, who in
many respects may be regarded as the original founder of
the France of Richelieu and Louis XIV. He also intro-
duced the happier period of his own dynasty, which from
this time produces capable rulers, Louis XI, Louis XII,
Francis I, and Henry II. In 1558 France stood at a high
point, though it was about to close in disappointment a
war which, seven years earlier, it had opened with much
success. But it was unconsciously approaching another
cataclysm, when the Valois dynasty was to perish amidst
the horrors of a religious war, which for a moment
threatened the state with absolute destruction. In this
extremity France was to find a deliverer in the Bourbon
prince, Henry of Navarre, and the Bourbon dynasty,
more splendid than the Valois at its best, was to begin.

In an international point of view, the most important


point about the House of Valois at this time is its relation
to the House of Habsburg. These great Houses do not
correspond to nationalities, and the House of Habsburg
especially belongs to all nations at once. Philip II
himself was in some degree a Valois, in some degree a
Frenchman. It is a peculiarity of the Valois dynasty
that it created, as it were, two Frances. King John (the
prisoner of Poitiers) conferred the Duchy of Burgundy
upon a younger son, and in the general "disintegration
which followed the younger branch of the House became
an independent rival of the elder. The main cause of
the second downfall of France before the English arms is
that France at the time of the invasion of Henry V had
become double. England wins by the help of Burgundy,
and loses ground again when Burgundy changes sides.
But when the English are at last repelled and France
is reestablished on a new and secure basis, Burgundy
remains as great and as independent as ever. She has
by this time gained possession by marriage of almost all
the Low Countries, for not only the wealth of Ghent and
Bruges and the harbour of Antwerp, but also that remote
amphibious region protected by dykes from the sea, which
was to have its day in the seventeenth century, was now
included under the name Burgundy, so that Cordelia in
King Lear can speak of ' waterish Burgundy '.

The story of Charles the Bold, of his greatness and his
sudden fall, need not detain us here. What we have to
remark is that though after his fall the name Burgundy
drops out of historical narrative and though Louis XI
was able to seize and hold the duchy proper of Burgundy,
yet the rest of Charles' possessions, an extremely con-
siderable residiie, passed to his heiress. Neither the House
of Burgundy, nor the rivalry of it with the elder branch


which was called from France, came to an end with the
death of Charles the Bold. The successors of Charles the
Bold are Mary, then Philip the Handsome, then Charles
(Emperor and King of Spain), then Philip II (also King
of Spain). The very names of these princes are the
traditional names of the House of Valois.

Charles V himself, as we have remarked, grew up as a
Burgundian prince. His rivalry with Francis I is dis-
tinctly in its earlier phase a continuation of the old
rivalry of France and Burgundy. In his first war he has
England for an ally, as in the days of Agincourt, and his
object is to recover the duchy of Burgundy seized by Louis
XL But the battle of Pavia, the sack of Rome, and the
coronation at Bologna raised Charles to a European ele-
vation, in which England no longer cares to be his ally.
The Burgundian prince is lost henceforth in the Emperor
and universal Monarch. But towards the close of his
reign, when his grand imperial scheme had failed, and
still more when he arranges a dominion for his son from
which Germany is excluded, the rivalry of France and
Burgundy becomes prominent again. Philip II is not
Emperor and not Duke of Austria; he is successor of
Charles the Bold and at the same time King of Spain.
In the former character he is especially bound to England,
for Burgundy had always rested on the English alliance.
And thus when Philip was married to Mary Tudor and
their combined force defeated France at St Quentin, the
old combination of the days of Agincourt reappeared,
though this time certainly not England but Burgundy
took the lead.

The rivalry of Habsburg and Valois has already lasted
a long time ; it is to be succeeded by the rivalry of
Habsburg and Bourbon, which after lasting more than


a century is to end by the blending through inter-
marriage of the Bourbon with the Spanish Habsburg.
We now see that it began, as it ended, in a single family,
for the rivalry of Valois and Habsburg is but a later form
of the rivalry between the elder and younger branches of
the House of Valois, or between the House of France and
the House of Burgundy. And in the main throughout
the whole long period before us, we shall be aware of a
struggle which is always proceeding between France and
Burgundy. From Henry IV to Louis XIV, France fights
for territory which was in a great degree French by
language and nationality, Artois, Brabant, Franche Comte',
and some of which had formerly owned the suzerainty of
the French king. And in the earlier stage of the struggle,
when the House of Habsburg had the offensive, it has
something of the character of a civil war. In the War of
the League, half France looks up to Philip as its leader,
and Philip himself, as a member of the House of Valois,
lays claim to the throne of France.

But so long as Burgundy consciously existed, it would
instinctively seek the English alliance. Accordingly when
Elizabeth resolutely .threw off the Habsburg yoke there
could not immediately follow hostility between her and
Philip, for there remained the Anglo-Burgundian alliance,
just then particularly close on account of the war which
was not yet ended. There were indeed signs of an inter-
national revolution, for at Cateau-Cambresis Philip treated
England with little ceremony and entered into a new
relation by marriage with France. Nevertheless a seri-
ous combination between France and Burgundy against
England was an international innovation not to be made
in a day.

The House of Valois, as we said, is in its penultimate,


which is its highest phase. Very speedily it was to receive
a sudden and mortal blow. Henry II was to be cut off in
the vigour of his life, and then the House, which seemed
to rest securely upon four sons, of whom the eldest was
married to the brilliant Queen of Scotland, decayed and
perished. The princes died early and left no children.
The shadow of the coming catastrophe fell upon the whole
period. But so long as Henry II lived, the House stood
at the height to which it had been raised by Francis I.
For about a hundred and twenty years, since France had
emancipated herself from the English yoke, her royal
House had been great and prosperous. But Francis I
had given the monarchy a peculiar character, more brilliant,
but perhaps less solid, than it had worn under Charles
VII, Louis XI, Charles VIII and Louis XII, and Henry
II had maintained what Francis I had founded. From
1515 to 1559 the House of Valois enjoys what may be
called in some respects its age of Louis XIV. The happy
popular time of Louis XII, best beloved of French kings,
is over. It already begins to appear that France can find
no lasting refuge from feudal anarchy but in a brilliant
despotism. And the arts by which Louis XIV afterwards
united France so firmly were first discovered and practised
by Francis I. Francis is the inventor of the splendid
French court in which the turbulent noble is tamed into
the courtier ; he too founds by the Concordat of 1516 that
ascendency of the Monarchy over the Church which was to
be reasserted after the wars of religion by Henry IV,
Richelieu and Louis XIV. He too gives the monarchy
its military character, but here he has not the good
fortune of Louis XIV. While the latter, destitute per-
sonally of military talents, is able to figure as a conqueror,
Francis, devoted to war, is condemned throughout his life


to fight a losing battle against Charles V. One of those
brilliant persons who seem especially to need the sunshine
of good fortune, he was decidedly an unfortunate man.
After his splendid opening, his victory at Marignano and
his Concordat, when he stood forth as a new Caesar,
conqueror of the Helvetii and master of Gaul, when he
had a prospect of leading Europe against the Turk with
the title of Roman Emperor, he suddenly saw the huge
Habsburg aggregate form itself, blocking his path and
thwarting all his efforts. His son, Henry II, comparatively
an ordinary character, had some of those smiles of fortune
which had been denied to Francis. He had defeated
the grand scheme of Charles, taken the three Bishoprics
from Germany and Calais from England. He had married
the Dauphin to the queen regnant of Scotland. And
thus at the moment of Elizabeth's accession, the Valois,
though the fortune of war had latterly deserted him
again, was a more equal rival of the Habsburg than he
had ever been since the great days of the Habsburg
family began.

We have seen the House of Habsburg involving
England in its net. It was a curious fatality that the
House of Valois should try at the same time to do the
same thing by Scotland. The early career of Mary
Stuart runs strangely parallel to the career of Mary Tudor.

Mary Tudor was a Spaniard by her mother Catharine
of Aragon.

Mary Stuart was a Frenchwoman by her mother Mary
of Guise.

Accordingly it seemed to each agreeable and natural
to be married to the chief prince of the maternal house.

Mary Tudor was married to the Prince of Spain.
3. 4


Mary Stuart was married to the Prince of France, the

Mary Tudor was the first queen regnant that had ever
been seen in England.

Mary Stuart was the first queen regnant that had ever
been seen in Scotland.

Soon after the marriage of Mary Tudor to Philip, he
became, by the retirement of his father, King of Spain and
the Indies and ruler of the Low Countries.

Soon after the marriage of Mary Stuart to the Dauphin,
he became, by the accident which carried off his father,
King of France.

Thus England became united in personal union with
Spain and the Low Countries.

And Scotland was united in personal union with France.

A son born to Philip and Mary would have made the
union of England and Spain permanent by establishing a
Habsburg dynasty in England.

A son born to Francis and Mary would have made the
union of Scotland and France permanent by establishing a
Valois dynasty in Scotland.

To make up the parallel, fortune intervened in the
same manner in both countries. Mary Tudor died child-
less ; Francis died childless.

Thus England and Scotland were exposed to precisely
the same danger at almost the same time, but the danger
to Scotland was a danger to England too, on account of
the claim to the English succession possessed at this time
by the royal house of Scotland.

Scarcely any English sovereign has been exposed at
the moment of accession to such dangers as was Elizabeth,
and they were heightened by her weak title and by her sex.

We have as yet remarked but one countervailing


advantage, namely, the mutual rivalry of the two threat-
ening Powers, the Habsburg and the Valois. But Elizabeth
had another advantage which soon came to light. As the
English nation had since the first year of Mary been
uneasily conscious that they were passing under the
Habsburg yoke, so the Scots nation could not but perceive
that they were becoming a province of France. The
national feeling was in Scotland as in England closely
connected with the religious movement of the time.
What is commonly called the Reformation is in both
countries only half a religious movement ; the other half
of it is a movement of national independence.

But that a grand movement partly national, partly
religious, should arise in England and Scotland simul-
taneously, that the two countries should be animated by
a common impulse, and especially that they, so long rivals,
upon whose secular discord France had so long traded,
should now unite in resistance to this very France, this
was a most pregnant novelty. The union of England and
Scotland was brought about directly, as we know, by the
mere operation of a law of succession, but the thoroughness
and durableness of the union has been the effect of the
common devotion of both countries to the Reformation,
and it was in the First Phase of Elizabeth that this solid
ground of union was first laid.

Substantially the first achievement of Elizabethan
policy lay in this, that she called out a great Reformation
Party in England and Scotland at once and thus laid the
foundation, first of the union of England and Scotland,
secondly of the resistance which in the seventeenth century
was offered to the Stuarts. But we must pay some atten-
tion to the special circumstances under which this was
done, as they arose in 1559.



Though Spain had recently been, and was before long
to become again, the most threatening enemy of England,
yet just at this moment she falls quite into the back-
ground, and France suddenly takes her place. For a
short time the situation is like that of the later years
of Louis XIV or of the Napoleonic age. England is
threatened by France as she has never been before, but as
she is to be threatened several times in the future.

And it is in this year 1559 that the name Stuart
begins to be prominent in English politics.

We are familiar with the fact that when the line of
Stuart kings had come to an end we had to deal for
something like half a century wit Stuart Pretenders.
Let us now remark that a Stuart Pretender also preceded
the Stuart Kings. The Pretender Mary sets up her claim
in 1559, but a few months after the death of Mary Tudor.
For the best part of thirty years she maintains, though
intermittently, this position, and resembles those later
Pretenders not merely in her claim but also to a great
extent in the means she takes to support it. Those later
Pretenders, and even the later Stuart Kings, Charles II
and James II, were clients of France and closely con-
nected with the House of France. In like manner Mary
Stuart first assumes the character of Pretender in the
position of Dauphiness of France, and immediately after-
wards becomes Queen of France.

For now occurs the last of the many great events
which were crowded into those few months. Charles V
and Mary Tudor had quitted the stage. Elizabeth had
mounted the throne. The great European Peace of
Cateau-Cambresis had been concluded. Elizabeth Tudor
had repelled Philip and he had been accepted by Elizabeth
Valois. And now on July 26th, 1559, King Henry II died


suddenly from the effect of a wound received in a tourna-

The result was another of those startling changes of
which the sixteenth century had seen so many. France
and Scotland were united together in personal union, as
Castille and Aragon had been. Mary Stuart, whose
pretensions to the Crown of England had already been
freely put forward, now stood forth before the world,
Queen Consort of France and Queen Regnant of Scotland.
Both she and her husband were young, and it might be
expected that they would have a long reign and many
children. Opposed to them was only the daughter of
Anne Boleyn, of doubtful title and legitimacy, without
prospect of an heir and having newly refused the hand of
the greatest monarch in the world.

Never has a Stuart Pretender stood in so commanding
a position as Mary Stuart in 1559. Other Pretenders
have had a strong party in Scotland to back their claim
on England, or even for a moment military possession of
Scotland. Other Pretenders have obtained aid from
France. But Mary was Queen of Scotland by undisputed
right, and also she was in a position to command the
whole force of France. And England was scarcely yet
free from a war with France, in which Scotland, governed
now for many years by a French Queen Regent, had co-
operated with France.

If under Mary Tudor the danger of England from
Spain seemed extreme, and if it seemed perhaps only
adjourned, not really lightened, by her death, so that
Elizabeth's rejection of Philip might seem an audacious
step, the danger from France now seems equally extreme
and equally pressing. For to all that has just been said
we are to add that Elizabeth had to commence her reign


by signing a humiliating peace with France. In the
settlement of Europe, while Philip appeared on the whole
victorious, England, which had submitted to be his humble
ally, had to acknowledge herself defeated. When Eliza-
beth broke with Philip she parted with a chance of re-
covering Calais. And so she began by descending to a
lower position with respect to the Continent than any of
her predecessors for centuries past had occupied. And
immediately after this confession of inferiority to France,
the Queen of France, also Queen of Scotland, stood forth
as Pretender to her throne.

But now the new forces make themselves felt, those
forces which have created the modern England, or rather
Great Britain. For even before Mary Stuart could call
herself Queen of France the Scottish Reformation had
broken forth with violence, in the form of a rebellion
against her mother's regency in Scotland. Between May
and July, 1559, there had sprung up the mighty national
party, which has ever since remained the national party,
of Scotland. Utterly unlike the Protestant party of
England, it began in rebellion against the Government.
This fact by itself created a new difficulty for Elizabeth ;
but the government in Scotland was a French government.

Online LibraryJohn Robert SeeleyThe growth of British policy → online text (page 5 of 62)