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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Buckingham made secret overtures to her

Nevertheless the effect which would have been most welcome to the majority, that of banishing all thoughts of an alliance with Catholic powers, and of causing a wife to be sought for the Prince among Protestants, was certainly not produced, for the King had long been revolving another plan. The combination with Spain, although it had best corresponded to his wishes and ideas, had nevertheless been only an experiment: when it miscarried, he was predisposed to return to the thought of an alliance with France. The Prince, on his way through France, had already seized the opportunity of seeing the Princess, his possible bride, while she was dancing, without being remarked by her; and the impression which she made upon him had been by no means unfavourable.

Instantly on his return from Spain Buckingham opened communications with Mary de' Medici, Queen of France, and that through means of a Franciscan monk, who could not be suspected, and who presented himself to her while she was at dinner. Buckingham made secret overtures to her, intimating that he wished to resume the old negotiations for an alliance between the royal families of England and France, for that he was a Frenchman at heart.[433] As the Queen expressed herself favourably inclined, Henry Rich, who then bore the title of Lord Kensington, and afterwards that of Lord Holland, was sent before the end of the year 1623 on a secret mission to France in order to set the affair in motion. Rich was one of the most intimate friends of Buckingham, and to a certain extent resembled him in character.

[Sidenote: A.D. 1624.]

In this affair Buckingham had two circumstances in his favour. It was the main ambition of the Queen-mother to see her daughter on the throne of the neighbouring kingdom. The preference accorded by the English court to an Infanta of Spain over a daughter of France had had a painful effect upon her: she was the more gratified when that court now resumed the negotiations which had been broken off. Nevertheless she did not embark on so delicate an affair, the failure of which was still possible, without the necessary reserve. The French court could not but ask for religious concessions in favour of the Princess, as Spain had for the Infanta: but on the very first approach to the subject it hinted that it would not urge the King to such strict pledges as had been demanded on the side of the Spaniards.[434] The second influence in Buckingham's favour was the political. The advance of the alliance, and of the power of the Spaniards, especially their establishment in the Palatinate, aroused the jealousy of the French. The opinion, which Cardinal Richelieu so often emphatically expressed, that France, everywhere enclosed by the power of the Spaniards, might some day be prostrated by it, was generally held. The interests of his country seemed to be deeply interested when England, from whose close connexion with Spain the greatest danger was to be apprehended, separated herself from that power, and showed a disposition to adopt a policy in harmony with that of France. Henry Rich assures us that so universal an agreement had never been known among Frenchmen as was shown at that time in the wish to ally themselves with England. Already agents of Mansfeld and Brunswick were seen at Court: an intended mission to Maximilian of Bavaria was given up on the representation of the English ambassador. Envoys from the expelled King of Bohemia also soon arrived, in order to gain the co-operation of the French in his restoration. The negotiations with England actually began: they were directed to an alliance and a marriage at the same time: in each case it was made a preliminary condition that England should openly and completely break with Spain.

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