The Early Stuarts, 1603-1660

By Godfrey Davies | Go to book overview
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IX
FOREIGN RELATIONS, 1630-60

DURING the personal government of Charles I the people of England relaxed somewhat the interest with which they had previously followed events on the Continent. One explanation is their absorption in their own affairs. Another is that, after the meteoric career of Gustavus Adolphus, protestantism was safe, and the Thirty Years War continued in order that the victors might gain territorial compensation. Except as volunteers in the Swedish or Dutch service, Englishmen had no part or lot in the later stages of the war, and the recovery of the Lower Palatinate by the heir of Frederick V, in 1648, cannot by any stretch of imagination be attributed to the diplomatic efforts of Charles I, which excited the contempt of Europe. Apart from this unavailing interest in his nephew's fortunes, Charles can hardly be said to have had any guiding principle in his conduct of foreign relations. Whatever he tried to do on land mattered little, for foreigners recognized clearly enough that he was powerless without a parliament. Perhaps the one chance to strike an effective blow for the recovery of the Palatinate occurred after the battle of Breitenfeld, for then, in return for substantial supplies of men and money, Gustavus was willing to undertake the restitution of both Palatinates. There was one possible source whence a subsidy for Gustavus might be forthcoming, and that was stopped, for the king said the very mention of a parliament was derogatory to his authority.1 A little previously Charles had moved in a precisely opposite direction in order to help Frederick. In return for the promise of assistance in regaining the Palatinate, a secret treaty was signed at Madrid, in which the kings of England and Spain agreed to make joint war upon the Dutch, by land and sea, and to partition their territory.2 The treaty was not ratified then, nor in 1634 (when it was again discussed), apparently because at Madrid there was not the slightest confidence that Charles could perform his promises. Nevertheless this friendliness to Spain and enmity to the United Provinces, already envied for their prosperity and

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1
Gardiner, vii. 189-93.

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