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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

What might be fully expected in the case of Bohemia


Europe had reason to be alarmed at the advantage which accrued to the Spanish monarchy from this affair. The Tyrol and Alsace were already promised them to form links between Lombardy and the Netherlands: the possession of the Lower Palatinate completed their chain of communication.

The action of Spain and England presented a marked contrast. Spain, while it forsook Lerma's policy, held together all its friends--Germany, Austria, the League, the Pope, the Archducal Netherlands--and combined their forces for joint action on a large scale; while King James, in clinging to the policy of peace, let his allies fall asunder and crippled their activity.

But if James so acted in the case of the Palatinate which he wished to save, what might be fully expected in the case of Bohemia, with regard to which he openly declared, after some hesitation, that he could take no further part in its affairs? The new King found no hearty obedience among the Bohemians, partly because they found themselves deceived in their expectation of being assisted with troops by the Union, and with money by England. But worse than all, the ill-disciplined soldiery being without pay, broke out in mutiny: they were almost more ready to help themselves to their arrears by an attack upon the capital than to defend their sovereign or their country. On the other hand the soldiers of Austria and of the League, well paid and well disciplined, were spurred on by zealous priests. On their first attack they scattered the troops of Frederick to the four winds (November 1620). It would not have been impossible for Frederick to wage a defensive war in Bohemia; but regard to the danger into which the Queen would have been thrown in consequence prevented the attempt. That one day cost them both crown and country.

It is impossible to describe the impression which the news of this defeat produced in London. The King was held blameable because not a single soldier commissioned by him had been found beside his daughter to draw the sword in her defence. This was attributed either to culpable negligence of his own affairs, or to the influence of the Spanish ambassador. Not Gondomar himself, who was too shrewd to act thus, but certainly his friends and Catholics generally, let their joy at this event be known. The citizens responded with manifestations that were directed against the King himself. A placard was put up in which he was told that he would be made to feel the anger of the people, if in this affair he any longer followed a policy opposed to its views.

James I could no longer put off the question what steps he was to take. The tidings reached him at Newmarket, where he was spending the cold and gloomy days in hunting. He broke off this amusement and hastened to Westminster, in order to attend council with his ministers.

Towards the end of December a meeting was held, in which the secretary Naunton depicted the whole position of the foreign policy of England, and drew from it the conclusion that the King must above all arm, as in that case he could carry on war, or at least negotiate with firmness and some prospect of success. King James himself brought the affair of Bohemia under discussion. He complained, and seemed to feel it as an injury to his paternal authority, that the Elector Frederick even now continued to make the acknowledgment of his right to the crown of Bohemia a condition of his accepting the mediation offered by the King. Viscount Doncaster, who had just returned from a mission to Germany, fell on his knees before him, in order to remark to him that Frederick deserved no blame for clinging to a right which he supposed to be valid: that his refusal was not addressed to James as a father, but as King of England.[406] James I distinctly stated afresh that he could not and would not espouse the cause of his son-in-law in Bohemia. But by this time not only was Frederick's new crown as good as lost, but his whole existence was endangered; the greater part of his hereditary territory was in the enemy's hands. James declared with unusual decision that he would not allow the Palatinate, which would one day descend to his grandchildren, to be wrested from them; that he was resolved to send to the Continent in the next year an army sufficient to reconquer it. It might be asked if this measure also would not inevitably lead to a breach with Spain. King James did not think so. He thought that he could carry on a merely local quarrel, and yet at the same time avoid a war on the part of the one power against the other. He did not intend to attack the King of Spain's own dominion, so long as that sovereign did not meddle with his.


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