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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Illustration Moriamur pro rege nostro


A few weeks had sufficed to crown the success; less time sufficed to undo it. On flying from Vienna, Maria Theresa had sought refuge in Hungary; the assembly of the Estates held a meeting at Presburg; there she appeared, dressed in mourning, holding in her arms her son, scarce six months old. Already she had known how to attach the magnates to her by the confidence she had shown them; she held out to them her child; "I am abandoned of my friends," said she in Latin, a language still in use in Hungary amongst the upper classes; "I am pursued by my enemies, attacked by my relatives; I have no hope but in your fidelity and courage; we--my son and I--look to you for our safety."

The palatines scarcely gave the queen time to finish; already the sabres were out of the sheaths and flashing above their heads. Count Bathyany was the first to shout, "_Moriamur pro rege nostro Maria Theresa!" The same shout was repeated everywhere; Maria Theresa, restraining her tears, thanked her defenders with gesture and voice; she was expecting a second child before long. "I know not," she wrote to her mother-in-law, the Duchess of Lorraine, "if I shall have a town left to be confined in."

[Illustration: "Moriamur pro rege nostro."----142]

Hungary rose, like one man, to protect her sovereign against the excess of her misfortunes; the same spirit spread before long through the Austrian provinces; bodies of irregulars, savage and cruel, formed at all points, attacking and massacring the French detachments they encountered,--and giving to the war a character of ferocity which displayed itself with special excess against Bavaria. Count Segur, besieged in Lintz, was obliged to capitulate on the 26th of January, and the day after the Elector of Bavaria had received the imperial crown at Frankfurt, February 12, 1742--the Austrians, under the orders of General Khevenhuller, obtained possession of Munich, which was given up to pillage. Jokes then began to fly about in Paris at the expense of the emperor who had just been made after an interregnum of more than a year. "The thing in the world which it is perceived that one can most easily do without," said Voltaire, "is an emperor." "As Paris is always crammed with a number of Austrians in heart who are charmed at the sad events," writes the advocate Barbier, "they have put in the Bastille some indiscreet individuals who said in open cafe that the emperor was John Lackland, and that a room would have to be fitted up for him at Vincennes. In point of fact, he remains at Frankfurt, and it would be very hard for him to go elsewhere in safety."

Meanwhile England had renounced her neutrality; the general feeling of the nation prevailed over the prudent and farsighted ability of Robert Walpole; he succumbed, after his long ministry, full of honors and riches; the government had passed into warlike hands. The women of society, headed by the Duchess of Marlborough, raised a subscription of one hundred thousand pounds, which they offered unsuccessfully to the haughty Maria Theresa. Parliament voted more effectual aid, and English diplomacy adroitly detached the King of Sardinia from the allies whom success appeared to be abandoning. The King of Prussia had just gained at Czezlaw an important victory; next day, he was negotiating with the Queen of Hungary. On the 11th of June the treaty which abandoned Silesia to Frederick II. was secretly concluded; when the signatures were exchanged at Berlin in the following month, the withdrawal of Prussia was everywhere known in Europe. "This is the method introduced and accepted amongst the allies: to separate and do a better stroke of business by being the first to make terms," writes M. d'Argenson on 30th June; "it used not to be so. The English were the first to separate from the great alliance in 1711, and they derive great advantages from it; we followed this terrible example in 1735, and got Lorraine by it; lastly, here is the King of Prussia, but under much more odious circumstances, since he leaves us in a terrible scrape, our armies, in the middle of Germany, beaten and famine-stricken; the emperor, despoiled of his hereditary dominions and his estates likewise in danger. All is at the mercy of the maritime powers, who have pushed things to the extremity we see; and we, France, who were alone capable of resisting such a torrent at this date-- here be we exhausted, and not in a condition to check these rogueries and this power, even by uniting ourselves the most closely with Spain. Let be, let us meddle no more; it is the greatest service we can render at this date to our allies of Germany."


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