Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, describes here the reaction of the other European princes to the execution of Charles I in 1649. Whereas something like a confederacy of kings did emerge as a response to the French Revolution and was fortified by the Holy Alliance in the aftermath of the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), the mid-seventeenth century seems utterly bereft of such solidarity. Clarendon, the great historian of the English Civil War, describes an ethic among princes amounting to nothing better than mutual predation, but also articulates many of the ideas that would form part of the confederacy of kings in the nineteenth century. (1047 words)
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THERE is not a sadder consideration (and I pray God the almighty justice be not angry with, and weary of the government of kings and princes, for it is a strange declension monarchy is fallen to, in the opinion of the common people within these late years) than this passion and injustice, in Christian princes, that they are not so solicitous that the laws be executed, justice administered, and order preserved within their own kingdoms, as they are that all three may be disturbed and confounded amongst their neighbours. And therefore there is no sooner a spark of dissension, a discomposure in affections, a jealousy in understandings, discerned to be in or to be easy to be infused into a neighbour province, or kingdom, to the hazarding of the peace thereof, but they, though in league and amity, with their utmost art and industry, make it their business to kindle that spark into a flame, and to contract and ripen all unsettled humours, and jealous apprehensions, into a peremptory discontent, and all discontent to sedition, and all sedition to open and professed rebellion. And they have never so ample satisfaction in their own greatness, or so great a sense and value of God's blessing upon them, as when they have been instruments of drawing some notorious calamity upon their neighbours. As if the religion of princes were nothing but policy, enough to make all other kingdoms but their own miserable: and that, because God hath reserved them to be tried only within his own jurisdiction, and before his own tribunal, that he means to try them too by other laws and rules, than he hath published to the world for his servants to walk by. Whereas they ought to consider, that God hath placed them over his people as examples, and to give countenance to his laws by their own strict observation of them; and that as their subjects are to be defended and protected by them, so themselves are to be assisted and supported by one another; the function of kings being a classis by itself: and as a contempt and breach of every law is, in the policy of states, an offence against the person of the king, because there is a kind of violence offered to his person in the transgression of that rule without which he cannot govern; so the rebellion of subjects against their prince ought to be looked upon, by all other kings, as an assault of their own sovereignty, and a design against monarchy itself; and consequently to be suppressed, and extirpated, in what other kingdom soever it is, with the same concernment as it were in their own bowels.
It will require, at least it may not be unfit, to rest and make a pause in this place, to take a view, and behold with what countenance the kings and princes of Christendom had their eyes fixed upon this woeful bloody spectacle [the execution of King Charles I]; how they looked upon that issue of blood, at which their own seemed to be so prodigally poured out; with what consternation their hearts laboured to see the impious hands of the lowest and basest subjects bathing in the bowels and reeking blood of their sovereign; a brother king, the anointed of the Lord, dismembered as a malefactor; what combination and union was entered into, to take vengeance upon those monsters, and to vindicate the royal blood thus wickedly spilt. Alas! there was not a murmur amongst any of them at it; but, as if they had been all called upon in the language of the prophet Isaiah, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from the beginning hitherto, to a nation meted out, and trodden down, whose lands the rivers have spoiled, they made haste and sent over, that they might get shares in the spoils of a murdered monarch.
Cardinal Mazarin, who, in the infancy of the French king, managed that sceptre, had long adored the conduct of Cromwell, and sought his friendship by a lower and viler application than was suitable to the purple of a cardinal, sent now to be admitted as a merchant to traffic in the purchase of the rich goods and jewels of the rifled crown, of which he purchased the rich beds, hangings, and carpets, which furnished his palace at Paris. The king of Spain had, from the beginning of the rebellion, kept don Alonzo de Cardinas, who had been his ambassador to the king, residing still at London; and he had, upon several occasions, many audiences from the parliament, and several treaties on foot; and as soon as this dismal murder was over, that ambassador, who had always a great malignity towards the king, bought as many pictures, and other precious goods appertaining to the crown, as, being sent in ships to the Corunna in Spain, were carried from thence to Madrid, upon eighteen mules. Christina, queen of Sweden, purchased the choice of all the medals, and jewels, and some pictures of a great price, and received Cromwell's ambassador with great joy and pomp, and made an alliance with them. The archduke Leopold, who was governor of Flanders, disbursed a great sum of money for many of the best pictures, which adorned the several palaces of the king; which were all brought to him to Brussels, and from thence carried by him into Germany. In this manner did the neighbour princes join to assist Cromwell with very great sums of money, whereby he was enabled to prosecute and finish his wicked victory over what yet remained unconquered, and to extinguish monarchy in this renowned kingdom; whilst they enriched and adorned themselves with the ruins and spoils of the surviving heir, without applying any part thereof to his relief, in the greatest necessities which ever king was subject to. And that which is stranger than all this, and more wonderful, (since most men, by recovering their fortunes, use to recover most of what they were before robbed of, many who joined in the robbery pretending that they took care to preserve it for the true owner,) not one of all these princes, ever restored any of their unlawful purchases to the king, after his blessed restoration.
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