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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Alberoni remained isolated in Europe


Hollanders hesitated; the Spanish ambassador at the Hague had a medal struck representing the quadruple alliance as a coach on the point of falling, because it rested on only three wheels. Certain advantages secured to their commerce at last decided the States-general. Victor Amadeo regretfully acceded to the treaty which robbed him of Sicily; he was promised one of the Regent's daughters for his son.

Alberoni refused persistently to accede to the great coalition brought about by Dubois. Lord Stanhope proposed to go over to Spain in order to bring him round. "If my lord comes as a lawgiver," said the cardinal, "he may spare himself the journey. If he comes as a mediator I will receive him; but in any case I warn him that, at the first attack upon our vessels by an English squadron, Spain has not an inch of ground on which I would answer for his person." Lord Stanhope, nevertheless, set out for Spain, and had the good fortune to leave it in time, though without any diplomatic success. Admiral Byng, at the head of the English fleet, had destroyed the Spanish squadron before Messina; the troops which occupied Palermo found themselves blockaded without hope of relief, and the nascent navy of Spain was strangled at the birth. Alberoni, in his fury, had the persons and goods seized of English residents settled in Spain, drove out the consuls, and orders were given at Madrid that no tongue should wag about the affairs of Sicily. The hope of

a sudden surprise in England, on behalf of the Jacobites, had been destroyed by the death of the King of Sweden, Charles XII., killed on the 12th of December, 1718, at Freiderishalt, in Norway; the flotilla equipped by Alberoni for Chevalier St. George, had been dispersed and beaten by the elements; the Pretender henceforth was considered to cost Spain too dear; he had just been sent away from her territory at the moment when the conspiracy of Cellamare failed in France; in spite of the feverish activity of his mind, and the frequently chimerical extent of his machinations, Alberoni remained isolated in Europe, without ally and without support.

The treaty of the quadruple alliance had at last come to be definitively signed; Marshal d'Huxelles, head of the council of foreign affairs, an enemy to Dubois, and displeased at not having been invited to take part in the negotiations, at first refused his signature. [_Memoires de St. Simon,_ t. xix. p. 365.] "At the first word the Regent spoke to him, he received nothing but bows, and the marshal went home to sulk; caresses, excuses, reasons, it was all of no use; Huxelles declared to the Marquis of Effiat, who had been despatched to him, that he would have his hand cut off rather than sign. The Duke of Orleans grew impatient, and took a resolution very foreign to his usual weakness; he sent D'Antin to Marshal d'Huxelles, bidding him to make choice of this: either to sign or lose his place, of which the Regent would immediately dispose in favor of somebody who would not be so intractable (_farouclae_) as he. O, mighty power of orvietan (_a counterpoison_)! This man so independent, this great citizen, this courageous minister, had no sooner heard the threat, and felt that it would be carried into effect, than he bowed his head beneath his huge hat, which he always had on, and signed right off, without a word. He even read the treaty to the council of regency in a low and trembling voice, and when the Regent asked his opinion, 'the opinion of the treaty,' he answered, between his teeth, with a bow." Some days later appeared, almost at the same time--the 17th of December, 1718, and the 9th of January, 1719--the manifestoes of England and France, proclaiming the resolution of making war upon Spain, whilst Philip V., by a declaration of December 25th, 1718, pronounced all renunciations illusory, and proclaimed his right to the throne of France in case of the death of Louis XV. At the same time he made an appeal to an assembly of the States-general against the tyranny of the Regent, "who was making alliances," he said, "with the enemies of the two crowns."

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