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Spanish successes in France.
of Merionethshire (p. 486). Here the failure to do more than fall upon a boat's crew who had landed for refreshment, and to kill and wound a few on board the ship" by application of musket shot," left the Welshinen, from whom a fair wind—foul from their point of view—snatched the prize away, “most sorrowful that our care and diligence took not “ better successes.” So ended in failure this renewed hostile attempt of the once dreaded Spanish power.
In France, however, better success attended the Spanish cause. These papers contain full and lively histories of the progress of events from month to month in that country. The chief correspondents there, of English nationality, were Edward Wylton, William Lyllé (who addressed Essex as “master”), Sir Anthony Mildmay, the Ambassador, and Ottiwell Sunith. The leiters referred to are all long and interesting, Lylle's particularly so. The French section of this correspondence is not, however, confined to Englishmen; letters of the French King and others are also included in the number.
The very first page of this part announces the offers of peace made by Spain to France. Allusions to these negotiations are frequent, negotiations which Mildmay very early in the year affirmed (p. 64) were greatly “practised,” and the success of which was much desired, whatever assurance might be given to the contrary. But this is not a matter of history newly revealed. In the spring of the year occurred the incident which caused general amazement, the clever capture of Amiens, from which town the Count de St. Pol, the French commander, made a hair-breadth escape in hot haste, arriving in the early morning, unbooted, with a mere handful of horsemen only, to take refuge at Abbeville. In Amiens were stored the “whole magazines of “ the King's provisions for the war, with 40 pieces of battery," and its surprise was fitly characterised therefore as a great blow (p. 88). The manner of the surprise, which had even greater result than its author had expected, is related in lively style by Lyllé in one of his letters (p. 99). Porto Carrero, the Spanish Governor of Doullens, which town had been taken a couple of years previously, a man of trusty character, but of no reputation for either enterprise or valour, determined to prove himself possessed of both these qualities,
and with long premeditation carefully laid his plans; intending indeed, not to take the town as a whole, but only one gate, and a “convenient piece” of the place from which the rest might be “put in question.” The coveted gate stood on high ground, which already was, or might easily be converted into, an island surrounded by the river. The day fixed for the attack was that of a religious festival, “on which the people would “ solemnly follow the preacher that brought the Jubilé “ thither.” The attacking force consisted of five hundred horsemen, four hundred of whom carried each a foot soldier behind him on bis horse. Sixty others dressed as countrymen and armed with pistols were told off to seize the gate. The guard at the gate were, indeed, warned by an old countrywoman of this manœuvre, but paid no heed to the warning, treating it as an idle tale. The sixty pseudo-countrymen brought with them two carts laden with hay and straw; these were “squat” under the gates so that the portcullis would not come down. The manæuvre was entirely successful, a number of the guard were killed and the gate seized. That done, “ the “ rest came on in a sost pace and entered, little bruit made, nor “ any resistance.” But now Count St. Pol, the French military commander, roused from his bed, flew to the point of attack, and endeavoured to get together a sufficient number of men to make some resistance, but without success; he then retired to a churchyard boping to be able to make this a rallying ground, but in vain; then withdrew to the ramparts to see what could be done there, “but never could have five together.” Then, judging resistance to be hopeless, and himself seized with fear—a state of mind from which he did not emerge for some time even after he was safely ensconced in Abbeville—he resolved to flee, and did flee, leaving his wife behind him at Amiens at the mercy of fortune. Meanwhile, Porto Carrero, unchecked, pressed on, sent the foot straight to the market place and the horse in two divisions to the right and left round the ramparts to the Pont Celestine and the Porte St. Pierre, and so by way of the bridge leading to Abbeville and the quay, to the market place. Here they found the mayor and eschevins and some burgesses assembled, and here a truculent butcher of the town, a Spanish partisan, it would seem, of whom the town contained many more, laying violent hands on one of the respectable assembly
and stabbing him, a panic seized the rest and they fled in every
fall of Amien
Effects of the On the first receipt of the news (p. 103) the French King left niens. Paris in all haste, whether moved by diligence or fear there is
said to have been some doubt; for in Paris the people were “ wonderful discontented herein,” the crowds in the streets crying, “Drown the whore; hurl her over the bridge!” This object of the people's animosity was the King's mistress, Madame Gabrielle d'Estrées, “whom they esteemed the cause of God's “ wrath, and so the loss of the town.” The King was much disturbed by the capture of Amiens, and very angry—as well he might be, knowing what the town contained (p. 104)--and vowed that he would not stir till he had come by his own again, and that he would leave his crown there if he failed. But although Lyllé at first thought that Amiens might by the exercise of energy and resolution soon be retaken, second thoughts and additional information altered his opinion, and induced the belief that the great number of ladders and spades and other tools which were being provided were after all but “to satisfy a French fury.” And, in fact, notwithstanding that the town was put immediately more or less into a state of siege with the aid of
the English forces in the country, and notwithstanding the vows of the French King, more than six months elapsed before it was recovered.
The papers in this volume relating the course of events in France from the surprise of Amiens onwards, although not without breaks in their continuity, are numerous, lengthy, and full of picturesque deiail. They show the condition of the Condition of
, the French people of France at this time to have been as sad as it could well be ; the country impoverished by war, the Spanish foe established upon its soil, holding certain of its towns-Calais, Doullens, Amiens- and greedy for others; the nation divided in its counsels ; "the nobility fickle” (p. 144); the Huguenot party, “those of the Religion," infinitely discontented (p. 129), refusing aid to the King excepting on conditions laid down by themselves; the French people--at any rate those of the North -"pliable to the Spaniard” (p. 135), and easily persuaded “ to change their master” (p. 183); conspiracies hatching in all the principal towns (p. 144); the "removing” in Paris being of so serious a nature that the King's presence was necessary to give speedy order in a matter of so great consequence (p. 143). Lyllé writes (p. 130), “At the camp I see no old nien. They “ say here the mean officers aud counsellors are not honest, and “ the Constable is lame of the gout in bed; of whom they will " not speak because he at the Court plays the King, and the “ King abroad playeth the Constable ; both taxed for lechery, “ and Madame Gabrielle accounted cause of all all-fortune.” “ But,” he adds, “every man seeth many nearer causes which " cannot be remedied in this broken commonwealth.”
Interesting reflections occur now and again in the Englishmen's letters, embodying the results of their own observation. Lyllé remarks (p. 149), “I have often seen that this people,” the French people, that is, “ will not long endure any charge; they " will at the first so spend their means and courages." He agrees, moreover, with others in the opinion that in the event of certain contingencies they would " become easily Spanish.” Certainly instructive—to give another instance-is the outcome, as he notes it, of the exclusive dealing following as a matter of course upon the Spanish occupation of a French port. “There is nothing," he says, “that so cooleth the Spaniard's heat as his
Madame Gabrielle d'Estrées.
English forces in France,
“ great want of victuals through all his countries, and that " occasioned altogether through his taking of Calles; which “ heretofore was open to all the traffic of the world, and did “ dispense that through all these countries ; now being theirs " and so excluded from others, it starveth itself and so all the “ rest.”
The views of the common people as regards Madame d'Estrées, the King's mistress, have already been mentioned. The King's attachment to her is shown in various ways. Her position in the kingdom is illustrated by an incident which occurred at the time when the siege of Amiens was nearing a successful termination, and on the occasion of a skirmish before its walls when the Spaniards were “made to run.” “Of this victory," says the relater, “ we have made great triumph before “ the town and the K. mistress.” There is some evidence (pp. 496, 497) that this lady,“who governs the country” was not unwilling to secure her position, in case of accidents, by availing herself of such opportunities of serving the Queen of England as might arise from her ability to furnish valuable intelligence.
During the whole of this year there was a body of English troops in France, 2,000 in number, under the command of Sir Thomas Baskerville, sent to aid the King, and doing very good service. Here is a description of their circumstances in January 1597, part stationed at St. Valery-sur-Somme, part at La Fertel, an open village on the same side of the river (p. 40), part at Crotoy,“ a little fisher town”on the opposite side, six leagues from Hesdin, which was held by the enemy. It was not the attacks of “the enemy,” however, that the English troops either feared or complained of. Of disturbance from this quarter they considered themselves to be in little danger. But Captain Wylton writes (p. 30): “We fight daily against cold, hunger, and the “ infections of the country ; everything is exceeding dear with “ us; we have no wood but that we fetch three leagues off. “ The plague is grown so familiar to us that to get 6d. the “ soldier feareth not to ransack both the house and the party “ infected, and we have not yet to my knowledge passed any “ town or village uninfected. But that which is most strange “ of all, I have not heard of any soldier amongst us that hath “ died of the playue, although very few can say that they have