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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Alexander of Parma brought forward a proposal


Once

more the Spanish monarchy and the Papacy were closely united in their spiritual and political claims. Sixtus V excommunicated the Queen afresh, declared her deposed, and not merely released her subjects from their oath of allegiance, but called on every man to aid the King of Spain and his general the Duke of Parma against her.

Negociations for peace however were still being carried on in 1587 between Spanish and English plenipotentiaries. It was mainly the merchants of London and Antwerp that urged it; and as the Spaniards at that time had manifestly the best of the struggle, were masters of the lower Rhine and the Meuse, had invaded Friesland, had besieged and at last taken Sluys in despite of all resistance, we can understand how the English plenipotentiaries were moved to unexpected concessions. They would have consented to the restoration of the Spanish supremacy over the northern Netherlands, if Philip would have granted the inhabitants freedom of conscience. Alexander of Parma brought forward a proposal, to make, it is true, their return to Catholicism obligatory, but with the assurance that no Inquisition should be set over them, nor any one punished for his deviation from the faith. Even if the negociation was not meant to be completely in earnest, it is worth remarking on what rock it was wrecked. Philip II would neither grant such an assurance, which in its essence involved freedom of conscience, nor grant this itself completely in

a better form. His strength lay precisely in his maintaining the Catholic system with unrelenting energy: by this he secured the attachment of the priests and the zealous laity. And how could he, at a moment when he was so closely united with the Pope, and could reckon on the millions heaped up in the castle of St. Angelo for his enterprise, so completely deviate from the strictness of exclusive belief. He thought he was within his right when he refused any religious concession, seeing that every other sovereign issued laws prescribing the religion of his own territories.[268]

If the war was to be continued, Alexander of Parma would have wished that all his efforts should be first directed against Vliessingen, where there was an English garrison; from the harbour there England itself could be attacked far more easily and safely. But it was replied in Spain that this enterprise was likewise very extensive and costly, while it would bring about no decisive result. And yet Alexander himself too held an invasion of England to be absolutely necessary; his reports largely contributed to strengthen the King in this idea; Philip decided to proceed without further delay to the enterprise that was needful at the moment and opened world-wide prospects for the future.

He took into consideration that the monarchy at this moment had nothing to fear from the Ottomans who were fully occupied with a Persian war, and above all that France was prevented from interfering by the civil strife that had broken out. This has been designated as the chief aim of Philip's alliance with the Guises, and it certainly may have formed one reason for it. Left alone, with only herself to rely on (so the Spaniards further judged), the Queen of England would no longer be an object of fear: she had no more than forty ships; once in an engagement off the Azores, in the Portuguese war, the English had been seen to give way for the first time: if it came to a sea-fight, the vastly superior Spanish Armada would without doubt prove victorious. But for a war on land also she was not prepared, she had no more than six thousand real soldiers in the country, with whom she could neither meet nor resist the veteran troops of Spain in the open field. They had only to march straight on London; seldom was a great city, which had remained long free from attack, able to hold out against a sudden assault: the Queen would either be forced to make a peace honourable to Spain, or would by a long resistance give the King an opportunity of forming out of the Spanish nobility, which would otherwise degenerate in indolence at home, a young troop of brave warriors. He would have the Catholics for him and with their help gain the upper hand, he would make himself master of the strong places, above all of the harbours; all the nations of the world could not take them from him again; he would become lord of the ocean, and thus lord and master of the continent.[269]


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