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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Charles I intended to use Rhe as a station for his fleet


A great effect was produced by a very definite misunderstanding which now arose between England and France, and affected naval interests as well as the question of religion.

Of all the French Huguenots, who had been compelled by their last defeat to seek peace with the King, the citizens of Rochelle felt the blow most deeply. They had at that time been hemmed in on all sides, and were especially harassed by a fort erected in their neighbourhood. They had been assured that at the proper time they would be relieved of this annoyance. They had not an express and unequivocal promise; but the English ambassador, who had been invited to mediate, had guaranteed to them, after conference with the French ministry, such an interpretation of the expressions used as would secure the wished-for result.[467] But just the contrary took place: they were constantly being more closely shut in, and more seriously threatened with the loss of that measure of independence which they had hitherto enjoyed. They turned to Charles I. They would rather have acknowledged him as their sovereign than have submitted to such a loss, and he felt the full weight of his obligation to them. But, if he desired to grant them assistance, it could only be rendered by open war.

[Sidenote: A.D. 1627.]

When the English resolved to undertake an expedition against the Island of Rhe, the prevention of the fall of Rochelle was not the only object in view. It was rather considered that nothing could be more desirable and advantageous than the command of this island in the event of a struggle with the two powers. For Biscay could be reached in a voyage of one night from thence, and the communication between the Netherlands and the harbours on the north-east coast of Spain could at any time be interrupted by the possessors of the island, which might be used at the same time for keeping up constant communication with the Huguenots, and for giving the French power employment at home.[468] The Huguenots had already taken up arms again, and Rochelle displayed the English banner on its walls. Charles I intended to use Rhe as a station for his fleet, but to cede the general sovereignty over it to Rochelle. A successful result here might serve to infuse new life into the Protestant cause.

In order to achieve so great an end the King thought it admissible to levy a forced loan, and thus to collect those sums which Parliament had promised him by word of mouth, but had not yet formally granted. We shall have hereafter to consider the resistance which he encountered in this attempt, and the various arbitrary acts to which he resorted for its suppression; for they formed one of the turning points of his history. At first he actually succeeded so far, that a fleet of more than a hundred sail was able to put to sea for the attack of Rhe and the support of Rochelle. It was considered in raising this loan that a war with France had greater claims upon popular support than any other. In the present doubtful state of affairs a decided advantage gained in such a war might even now have exercised great influence upon the internal state of the kingdom.

At this juncture Buckingham assumed a position of extraordinary importance. After the repeated failures of the Protestants, his undertaking aroused all their hopes. Directed against both the Catholic powers, it must, if successful, have directly benefited the French Protestants, and indirectly the German Protestants also by the effect which it would inevitably have produced. But it was besides one enterprise


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