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RICH in event and in emotion as was that struggle between Prerogative and Popular Liberty, between Prelacy and Puritanism, which had been the main fact in England since Milton was born, and of great and world-wide effect as was to be the shock to which it was leading, it was still, from the point of view of general history, but a strong and rather peculiar eddy, in one angle of Europe, of an agitation which extended contemporaneously, in the manner of a polarizing force, over the whole face of the European map. Since the year 1618, when Milton was in his early boyhood, there had been moving on in slow progression, in various parts of the continent, that complex and yet continuous course of events to which subsequent historians, viewing it in its totality (1618-1648), have affixed the name of "The Thirty Years' War." To us Britons now, shut up so long in our own affairs, and looking so reluctantly backward, this "Thirty Years' War" is little more, in our popular representations of it, than a dim period of continental battles and sieges, of absurd marchings and countermarchings, of famines and mutual massacres, out of which may be derived convenient calculations of the millions that may be spent on gunpowder, and other statistics illustrating the horrors of war and the folly of religious differences. All this may have been in the "Thirty Years' War;" but this is not what it really was, nor what it seemed to our forefathers. That war of the Thirty Years, say our more instructed historians, was the last war of religion in Europe. The statement may be too positivę. Is not our phrase, "the folly of religious differences," but a beggarly one after all; are not the speculative forces even now mustering afresh in an organized duality, which only a crash can solve; and is there not yet to come the prophetic Armageddon? But if the Thirty Years' War was not the last war of religion in Europe, it was the last for a long time · at once the consummation politically and the attenuation spiritually of the movement begun in Europe by the Lutheran Reformation.
In its origin, the war was an insurrection of the Protestants of Bohemia and other Slavonian possessions of Austria, (1618-19) against the persecuting Catholic policy of their Austrian sovereigns. These Austrian sovereigns being likewise Emperors of Germany, the war had instantly extended itself into the German confederacy; and the Treaty of Passau, which had defined since 1552 the mutual rights and relations of German Catholicism and German Protestantism, had become a dead letter. The representative of the Protestant side of the struggle, whether as regarded Bohemia or as regarded Germany, being that Frederick, Elector Palatine, whom the Bohemians had made their king, and who lost both electorate and kingdom in the sequel, it is usual to distinguish this first stage of the war (1618-1625) by the special name of the "Palatine War," or "the war of the Palatinate." Already, however, before this stage was over, the powers surrounding and adjacent had associated themselves with the Germano-Bohemian conflict, and woven it wider into its continental complications.
To the support of Austrian imperialism there had come forward the fraternal power of Spain. Severed from Germany since the closing years of Charles V., when the western or Spanish portion of his vast empire passed to his son Philip II., and the eastern or Germanic portion to his brother Ferdinand I., Spain had, with all the less impediment, in the interval, exercised her adopted function as the preeminently Catholic power of Europe and the champion of the European reäction. As the power that had most effectually crushed the Protestant heresy within itself, and that had given birth to Jesuitism as a specific system for the renovation of Catholicism everywhere, she had claimed the function by every right of fitness. In exercising it, indeed, she had gradually and necessarily sunk from her former greatness, losing portions of her dominions, and retaining what remained only by a tyranny as mean as it was sombre. Still, as mistress of Naples, Sicily, and Milan, she drew in her train the whole Italian peninsula; nor was it in the power of the Pope himself, whose servant she professed to be, to set up successfully, in opposition to dictation from Madrid, any definition of Catholicism, or any rule of papal policy that might have seemed truly pontificial or truly Italian. When, therefore, Spain associated herself with Austrian Imperialism in the Thirty Years' War, it was virtually a movement of the two Latin peninsulas together to aid in the suppression of German and Slavonian Protestantism. Moreover, as Spain took the opportunity to renew at the same time. (1621) her private contest with the United Dutch Provinces, to which there had been a truce since 1609, Holland was added to the
area of the struggle; and the entire Protestantism of the continent was in peril from an Austro-Spanish alliance.
Whence could the opposite muster come? Whence, if at all, but from those States, lying out of the area of the struggle, where Protestantism was already assured internally, and therefore, so far as it was honest, ready to assert itself internationally — to wit, Great Britain and the Scandinavian kingdoms? Great Britian had done a little, but not very much. Since the accession of the Scottish James, said all the more ardent Protestants of that time, the "right Elizabeth way" had been forgotten no less in the foreign politics of England than in her domestic administration. One of his first acts had been to make peace with Spain; the Spanish alliance had always been dear to him; and at the very time when it was thought he should be drawing the sword for his son-in-law, he was negotiating the Spanish match. The little that Parliament compelled him to do he had done reluctantly. Far different had been the behavior of the two Scandinavian kingdoms. First, the Danish king, Christian IV., had undertaken the difficult enterprise, throwing himself and his kingdom into the conflict in behalf of continental Protestantism, and conducting what is known as the "Danish stage" of the general war (1625-1629). He had been defeated and driven back, leaving the German Protestants at the mercy of the Emperor. Then had come the turn of the Swede. Accepting the cause when it seemed most desperate, the great Gustavus had retrieved it by his victories, had consecrated it by his heroic death, and had bequeathed it as a legacy to Sweden, to be carried on by the wisdom of Oxenstiern, and the valor of Swedish generals. This formed the "Swedish stage" of the war (1629— 1634).
The defeat of the Swedes at Nordligen (Sept. 1634), had proved the insufficiency of Swedish generalship for the cause, and perhaps also, of all the resources of Scandinavia, aided by volunteers from England and Scotland; when, to the confusion of ordinary calculations, a Catholic power appeared to the rescue. Although France, as if by the law of her constitution as a nation mainly Latin, had ranged herself among the Catholic states-although her Huguenots had never been more than a considerable minority of her population, and, despite their energy, the political centre of gravity had been established irremovably within the body of the Catholic majority—yet the result of so much Protestant effort, expended in the recent course of her history had been a Catholicism of a very different grain from the Spanish, and capable, when the case required it, of splendid inconsistencies. Henry IV. had left the
Edict of Nantes as the charter of French Protestant liberties; even under the government of Mary de' Medici, as regent for her son Louis XIII., Henry's policy of toleration had remained in partial effect; and, when Richelieu attained the office of supreme minister (1624), France had found a master, inheriting Henry's spirit, with competent intellectual variations. In name a cardinal of the Roman Church, he was, in fact, a great secular statesman. Even while meeting the insurgent French Protestants with inflexible war, besieging them in their last stronghold, and breaking up on a systematic plan, their influence as a separate political union in the State, he had foreseen for France, as her only suitable course in the affairs of Europe, a policy of opposition to the retrograde Catholicism of Austria and of Spain. He had meditated, as it were, a French definition of Catholicism, to be flung forth into Europe in competition with the Spanish, and to which the Pope himself might be brought over by circumstances, and by French arms and diplomacy. From the beginning of the Thirty Years' War, accordingly, he had been watching its progress and working France into connection with it. It was his boast that he had brought the SnowKing from his Scandinavian home to oppose, by his Protestant enthusiasm and his military genius the alliance of the Spaniard and the Austrian; and, during the whole of the Swedish stage of the war, but more especially after the death of Gustavus, France had been concerned in it, through subsidies and diplomatic services in Germany, to the extent of actual partnership. A time having come, therefore, when France must either accept the place of principal in lieu of that of partner, or see the war abandoned, and the Austrian and the Spaniard linking Europe in a common dominion over the body of that French monarchy which had hitherto kept them apart, Richelieu had not hesitated. Persuading Louis XIII. that the greatness, if not the existence of France, depended on her now undertaking openly, on her own account, and in her own way, though with Protestants as her allies, the enterprise which had passed through so many hands, he had signalized the year 1635 by a burst of simultaneous strategy which crackled over Europe. War had been declared against Spain as well as against the Emperor; new relations had been established with Oxenstiern and Sweden; the wreck of the Swedish forces in Germany had been taken into French pay; an alliance had been concluded with the States-General of Holland; and French armies had invaved Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. Thus had been begun the final or "French period" of the war, to which there was to be no end till the Peace of Westphalia (1648).
In 1638, when Milton began his continental journey, three years of the French period of the war had already accomplished themselves. The marchings and countermarchings of the opposed armies were the subjects of talk everywhere; Bernard of Weimar, D'Enghien, Guebriant, Turenne, Banier, and Torstenston were blazing as military names; and all along the tracks of these generals there were creeping negotiators as famous in their diplomatic craft, breaking Richelieu's threads, or knitting them together. At this point, a bird's-eye view of the continental states collectively may make their relations to each other and to England more intelligible henceforward.
FRANCE. Louis XIII. was in the thirty-eighth year of his age and the twenty-eighth of his reign (1610-1643). He had been twenty-two years married to his queen, Anne of Austria, the daughter of Philip III. of Spain; but the marriage was as yet childless. When not in the camp, the court was usually at St. Germain's, near Paris. The king was a person of the least possible consequence-impassive, parsimonious, and fond chiefly of farming, and of exercising his skill as an amateur barber on all his household; but with this conspicuous merit, that he believed in Richelieu, and let him do as he chose. The queen-mother, Mary de Medici, was an exile in Brussels, plotting restlessly for the destruction of the Cardinal's influence and her own return to her son's side; but with no effect. The all-absorbing subject of Richelieu's care and of the national interest was the progress of the war in its different seats, and of the negotiations connected with it. There were, however, subordinate or tributary topics of interest. A special negotiation was on foot with Pope Urban, both through the Papal nuncio at Paris and through D'Estrées, the French ambassador at Rome, relative to certain differences between Richelieu and his Holiness in matters affecting the French Church. There were differences also between Richelieu and some of the Courts of Law, leading to arrests of judges, etc. Moreover, throughout the country there were complaints of impoverishment, of "surcharge de tailles et d'emprunts et des passages, et foule des gens de guerre." In the midst of all this the gay nation was the gay nation still, and Paris was flourishing more and more under Richelieu's liberal care of industry, art, and science. The Palace of the Luxembourg, the Church of the Sorbonne, and the Palais Royal had been recently built or reëdified; the Jardin des Plantes had been added to the attractions of the city; and the famous Académie Française had just been founded (1635). Corneille had produced at the Theatre Française his tragedy of the Cid (1637); and there were French names of note in other departments, marking the progress from the literary era of Malherbe towards the richer age of French art and letters under Louis XIV. There was the poet Racan; there was the mathematician Fermat; there was the philosopher Gassendi; there were the two Poussins, the painters. The greatest French thinker of the age, René Descartes, was not at this time in his native country, but was residing in Holland, where his Discours sur la Méthode had just been published (1637).