The Cambridge Modern History - Vol. 2

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV.
PHILIP AND MARY.

THE contention of religious parties amid which the reign of Mary commenced--the legacy of the preceding reign--still further weakened the royal authority at home, while it materially lowered England in the estimation of the great Powers abroad. The Protector Somerset had failed to accomplish the design to which he had devoted his best energies, that of Union with Scotland, whereby the United Kingdom should assert its position as the leading Protestant State in Europe. The innate cruelty of Northumberland's nature, as seen in the merciless malignity with which he brought his rival to the scaffold, and carried out the reversal of his policy, had caused him to be regarded with aversion by the great majority of his countrymen; while the humiliating circumstances under which peace had been concluded both with France and with Scotland had revealed alike the financial and the moral weakness of the nation. Not only had the rulers of the country themselves ceased to be actuated by a statesmanlike and definite foreign policy, but the leading Powers on the Continent had gradually come to regard England from a different point of view. The revenue of the English Crown was but a fraction of that which Henry II of France or Charles V could raise. And by degrees the country whose King, a generation before, had hurled defiance at Rome and treated on equal terms with Spain and France, had come to be looked upon by these latter Powers as one whose government and people were alike fickle and untrustworthy, and whose policy vacillated and rulers changed so often as to render its alliance a matter scarcely deserving serious diplomatic effort, its annexation far from impracticable. But whether that annexation would have to be effected by diplomacy or by force, by a matrimonial alliance or by actual conquest, was still uncertain. Such, however, was the alternative that chiefly engaged the thoughts of the representatives of the great continental Powers during the reign of Mary.

When we turn to consider the instruments who served their diplomacy in England, it must be admitted that the envoys of both French and Spain were well fitted to represent their respective

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