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Women of the Romance Countries By John R. Effinger Characters: 37200

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

The Slow Decay of Spanish Power

When the long and unfortunate reign of Philip the Catholic came to an end on the eve of the seventeenth century, Spain, sadly buffeted by the rough waves of an adverse fortune, was in a most pitiful condition. With the downfall of the great Armada which was so confidently destined to humble the pride of England, national confidence had begun to slip away, the wars at home and in the Netherlands had sadly depleted the treasury, the credit of the country was far from good, and gradually, as a natural reaction after the religious exaltation which had marked the whole of the sixteenth century, a spirit of irreligion and licentiousness became prevalent in all classes of society. As Philip had grown older and more ascetic in his tastes, he had gradually withdrawn from society and had left his court to its own devices. With his death, in 1598, the last restraint was gone, and there was no limit to the excesses of the insensate nation. Having failed in their great and zealous effort to fasten Spanish Catholicism upon the whole of Europe, they had finally accepted a milder philosophy, and had decided to enjoy the present rather than continue to labor for a somewhat doubtful reward in the life which was to come. The young king, Philip III., who began to reign under these circumstances, was wedded in 1599 to the Archduchess Margaret of Austria, and the feasts and celebrations which were organized in honor of this event outrivalled in their magnificence anything of the kind that had taken place in Spain for many years, and there was a free and libertine spirit about all of this merrymaking which did not augur well for the future. The Duke of Lerma, the king's favorite and prime minister, was in full charge of the affair, and he spared no pains in his desire to make a brave show, in spite of the critical financial condition of the country. The young Austrian princess, upon her arrival at Madrid, was fairly dazzled by the reception she was given; and well she may have been, for the money expended for this purpose reaches proportions which almost surpass belief. The Cortes appropriated one million ducats for the occasion, and the nobles spent three million more, three hundred thousand of this sum having been contributed by Lerma from his own private revenues.

The Spanish court now changed its character completely, and the sombre simplicity of the elder Philip's day gave place to a gayety and brilliant ceremonial which were more in accord with the new spirit of the times. Lerma filled the palace at Madrid with brilliant ladies in waiting, for he believed, with the gallant Francis I. of France, that a royal court without women is like a year without spring, a spring without flowers; and a marvellous round of pleasures began, all governed by a stately etiquette. But this gay life was rotten at the core; the immodest and shameless conduct of the women in particular shocked and surprised all visiting foreigners; and as time went on, the social evil increased and became more widespread. Virtue in women was a subject for jest, the cities were perfect sinks of iniquity, to quote Hume, and, in Madrid in particular, immorality was so common among the women that the fact passed into a proverbial saying. Homer has said: "Than woman there is no fouler and viler fiend when her mind is bent on ill;" and even were the superlatives to be lopped from this expression, it might still help to express the fact that the moral degeneracy of Spain in her new career of wantonness was at least shared by the women. At the court, the king, who was in many ways what might be termed a mystic voluptuary, spent his time in alternate fits of dissipation and devotion, wasted his time in gallantry, and neglected his royal duties; and the all-powerful Lerma was the centre of a world of graft, where the highest offices in the land were bartered for gold, and every noble had an itching palm. In this scene of disorder women played no little part, and through intrigue and cajolery they often won the day for their favored lovers. Religion gave place to recklessness, valor disappeared in vanity, and a splendid idleness replaced a splendid industry. One Cortes after another protested, measures were adopted which sought to bring the nation to its senses, new sumptuary laws were enacted, but all to no avail; for the nobility continued to set an example of glittering prodigality, and the common people were not slow to follow.

When another Philip, the fourth of this name, came to the throne in 1621, the situation was almost hopeless. The country was involved in the Thirty Years' War, one failure after another befell the Spanish arms, the taxes had become unbearable, and in many quarters revolt was threatened. The king was not equal to his task, government was an irksome duty for him, and he found his greatest pleasure in two things, hunting and the theatre. Madrid at this time was theatre-mad, playhouses were numerous, and the people thronged them every night. The ladies of the nobility had their special boxes, which were their own private property, furnished in a lavish way, and there every evening they held their little court and dispensed favors to their many admirers. It was the first time in the history of the theatre that women's r?les were being played quite generally by women, and, as was most natural, certain actresses soon sprang into popular favor and vied with each other for the plaudits of the multitude. In theory the stage was frowned at by the Church, the plays were very often coarse and licentious in character, and the moral influence of this source of popular amusement was decidedly bad; but the tinsel queens of that age, as in the present time, were invested with a glamour which had an all-compelling charm, and noble protectors were never wanting. Among the actresses of notoriety in this Spanish carnival of life, the most celebrated were Maria Riquelme, Francisca Beson, Josefa Vaca, and Maria Calderon, familiarly known to the theatre-goers as la bella Calderona. Philip IV., as much infatuated as the meanest of his subjects by the glitter of the footlights, never lost an opportunity when at his capital to spend his evenings in the royal box, where he showed his appreciation by most generous applause; and he was soon on familiar terms with many of the reigning favorites. Among them all, La Calderona seemed to please him most, and she was soon the recipient of so many royal favors that no one could doubt her conquest. Other lovers were discarded, she became Philip's mistress, and she it was who bore to him a son, the celebrated Don Juan, who became in later years a leader in revolt against his father's widowed queen.

In the midst of this troubled life, divided between the pleasures of the chase, the excitements of the theatre, and the many vexations of state, Philip was reserved in his dealings with his fellow men, and few fathomed the depth of his despair in the face of the approaching national ruin. One person seemed to have read the sadness of his heart, however, and that person, with whom he had a most extended correspondence, was, strange to relate, a woman, and a nun of the most devout type, Sister Maria de Agreda! The history of this woman is most interesting, and she seems to have been the one serious and restraining element in all that scene of gay riot. The Agreda family, belonging to the lesser nobility, lived on the frontiers of Aragon, and there, in their city of Agreda, they had founded in 1619 a convent, following a pretended revelation which had directed them to this holy undertaking. The year after the convent was completed, Maria de Agreda, who was then eighteen, and her mother, took the veil at the same time and retired from the vanity of the world. In seven years the young girl was made the mother superior of the institution, and, beginning from that date, she was subject to frequent visions of a most surprising character. God and the Virgin appeared to her repeatedly, commanding her each time to write the life of Mary; but in spite of these supernatural admonitions, she resisted for ten long years, fearing that she might be possessed of demons who came in celestial shape to urge her to a work which she felt to be beyond her powers. Finally, impressed by the persistence of these holy visitants, she referred the matter to a priest who had long been her father confessor, and at his suggestion she decided to write as she had been commanded. For some months she busied herself with this task, and then one day, in an unlucky moment, she ventured to confide her plans to another monk, in the absence of her regular spiritual adviser. This time her plans of literary work were discouraged, and she was advised to burn her manuscripts as worthless paper and to content herself with the usual routine of conventual life. Following this advice, she destroyed the fruits of her labor, and prepared to resume her interrupted duties, when, to her consternation, God and the Virgin again appeared in her cell at night and again commanded her to write as before. Again she resisted, and again the vision came, and finally, encouraged by her old confessor, who had returned upon the scene, she began anew the once abandoned work. This time there was no interruption; the book was finished, and printed first in Madrid, and then at Lisbon, Perpignan, and Antwerp. Naturally, the claim was made that the book was written under divine inspiration, and the curious and oftentimes revolting details with which its pages were filled were soon the talk and scandal of the religious world. Maria, in spite of her mysticism, had proved to be a realist of the most pronounced type, and in many quarters her book was openly denounced. In Paris, the great court preacher Bossuet proclaimed it immoral; and the Sorbonne, which was then a faculty of theologians, condemned the book to be burned. Although the facts are not clearly known, it must have been during this time of publicity that the nun was brought to the attention of the world-weary king. He was attracted by her professed visions, he sought for consolation of a spiritual character in the midst of his unhappy career, and there resulted this correspondence between the two, which has since been published. To quote Hume, it was "the nun Maria de Agreda who, alone of all his fellow-creatures, could sound the misery of Philip's soul as we can do who are privileged to read the secret correspondence between them." Pleasures of all sorts were beginning to pall now upon the jaded monarch. Court festivities became a hollow mockery, the glitter of the stage had vanished, only to leave its queens all daubed with paint and powder in the garish light of reality, and the broken-hearted Philip, bereft of wife and heir, was induced to marry for a second time, in the hope that another son might come to inherit his throne.

Philip's second wife was his niece Mariana, another Austrian archduchess, but this marriage was a vain hope so far as his earthly happiness was concerned. The wished-for son was born, and duly christened Charles, but he was ever a weakling; and when the father died in 1665, preceding Maria de Agreda to the tomb by a few months only, the government was left in charge of Mariana as regent, and all Spain was soon in a turmoil as the result of the countless intrigues which were now being begun by foreign powers who hoped to dominate the peninsula. Mariana, who was a most ardent partisan, began to scheme for her Austrian house as soon as she arrived in Spain, and did everything in her power to counteract the French alliance which had been favored by Philip. Upon her husband's death, she promptly installed her German confessor, Nithard, as inquisitor-general, gave him a place in the Council of State, and in all things made him her personal representative. Her whole course of action was so hostile to the real interests of Spain, that murmurs of discontent were soon heard among the people; and Don Juan, the illegitimate son, won power and popularity for himself by espousing the cause of the nation. The weakling boy-king Charles was a degenerate of the worst type, the result of a long series of intermarriages; and so long as Mariana could keep him within her own control, it was difficult to question her authority to do as she pleased. For greater protection to herself and to her own interests, Mariana had installed about her in her palace a strong guard of foreigners, who attended her when she went abroad and held her gates against all unfriendly visitors when she was at home. But the opposition grew, and finally, after some ill-timed measures of Nithard, there was open revolt, and Don Juan appeared at the head of a body of troops to demand in the name of outraged Spain the immediate dismissal of the queen's favorite. Mariana's confusion at this juncture of affairs has been quaintly pictured by Archdeacon Coxe, who wrote an interesting history of the Bourbon kings of Spain in the early part of the last century: "In the agony of indignation and despair, the queen threw herself upon the ground and bewailed her situation. 'Alas, alas!' she cried; 'what does it avail me to be a Queen and Regent, if I am deprived of this good man who is my only consolation? The meanest individual is permitted to chuse (sic) a confessor: yet I am the only persecuted person in the kingdom!'" Tears were unavailing, however, and Nithard had to leave in disgrace, although Mariana was successful in opposing Don Juan's claim to a share in the government. But the queen could not rule alone, and the new favorite, as was quite usual in such cases, owed his position to feminine wiles. Valenzuela, a gentleman of Granada, had been one of Nithard's trusted agents, and courted assiduously Do?a Eugenia, one of the ladies in waiting to the queen; and by marrying her he had brought himself to Mariana's notice, and had so completely gained her confidence, that she naturally looked to him for support. Either the queen's virtue was a very fragile thing, or Valenzuela was considered a gallant most irresistible; for in his first two interviews with Her Majesty, his wife, Do?a Eugenia, was present, "to avoid scandal." It is probably safe to say that as Valenzuela rose in power this precaution was thrown to the winds, and on more than one occasion "he made an ostentatious display of his high favor, affected the airs of a successful lover, as well as of a prime minister; and it did not escape notice that his usual device in tournaments was an eagle gazing at the sun, with the motto Tengo solo licencia, 'I alone have permission.'"

This pride had its fall, however, as in 1677 the boy-king Charles, at the age of fifteen, which had been fixed as his majority, was made to see that his mother was working against the best interests of his subjects; and he escaped from the honorable captivity in which he had been held at the palace, and gave himself up to his half-brother, Don Juan, who was only too ready to seize this advantage against the hostile queen. Manana was imprisoned in a convent in Toledo, Valenzuela was exiled to the Philippines, and Don Juan, as prime minister, prepared to restore public confidence. In line with his former policy, he made a clean sweep of all the members of the Austrian party, and then began to prepare the way for a French marriage, to strengthen the friendly feeling of the powerful Louis XIV., who had been married to a Spanish wife. Scarcely had the promise for this marriage between Louis's niece Marie Louise and the half-witted Charles been made, when, suddenly, Don Juan sickened and died, and the queen-mother Mariana was again in power. There were dark hints of poison; it was insinuated that Mariana knew more of the affair than she would be willing to reveal; but, whatever the facts, there was no proof, and there was no opportunity for accusations. Meanwhile, the preparations for the royal wedding were continued, in spite of the fact that it was feared that Mariana might try to break the agreement. But this wily woman, confident in her own powers, felt sure that she would prove more than a match for this young French queen who was coming as a sacrifice to enslave Spain to France. Marie Louise had left her home under protest, strange tales of this idiot prince who was to be her husband had come to her ears, and she could only look forward to her marriage with feelings of loathing and disgust. As all her appeals had been to no avail, she discarded prudence from her category of virtues, and entered the Spanish capital a thoughtless, reckless woman, fully determined to follow her own inclinations, without regard to the consequences. Her beauty made an immediate impression upon the feeble mind of her consort; but she spurned his advances, made a jest of his pathetic passion for her, and was soon deep in a life of dissipation. Mariana, as the older woman, might have checked this impulsive nature; but she aided rather than hindered the downfall of the little queen, looked with but feigned disapproval upon the men who sought her facile favors, and, after a swift decade, saw her die, without a murmur of regret. Again there were whispers of poison, but Mariana was still in power, and she lost no time in planning again for Austrian ascendency and an Austrian succession. Once more the puppet king was accepted as a husband, and this time by the Princess Anne of Neuburg, a daughter of the elector-palatine, and sister of the empress, though, in justice to Anne, it should be said that she was an unwilling bride and merely came as Marie Louise had done-a sacrifice to political ambition. Victor Hugo, in his remarkable drama Ruy Blas, gives a striking picture of this epoch in Spanish history, and shows the terrible ennui felt by Anne in the midst of the rigid etiquette of Madrid. In one of the scenes in this play, a letter is brought to the queen from King Charles, who is now spending almost all his time on his country estates, hunting; and after the epistle has been duly opened and read aloud by the first lady in waiting, it is found to contain the following inspiring words: "Madame, the wind is high, and I have killed six wolves"!

The new queen, however, was soon interested by the indefatigable Mariana in the absorbing game of politics which she had been playing for so long a time and in which she was such an adept; and before many months had passed, the two women were working well together for the interests of their dear Austria, for their sympathies were iden

tical and there was nothing to prevent harmonious action between them. Anne brought in her train an energetic woman, Madame Berlips, who was her favorite adviser, and for a time these three feminine minds were the controlling forces in the government. France was not sleeping, however; skilful diplomatic agents were at work under the general supervision of the crafty Louis Quatorze, and the matter of the succession was for a long time in doubt. Without an heir, Charles was forced to nominate his successor; and the wording of his will, the all-important document in the case, was never certain until death came and the papers were given an official reading. Then it was discovered, to the chagrin of the zealous Austrian trio, that they had been outwitted, and that the grandson of Louis, young Philip of Anjou, had won the much-sought prize. With the coming of the new king, the women of the Austrian party and all their followers were banished from the court, and a new era began for Spain. The French policy which had worked such wonders in the seventeenth century was now applied to this foreign country, numerous abuses were corrected, and foremost in the new régime was a woman, the Princess Orsini, who was soon the real Queen of Spain to all intents and purposes. Feminine tact and diplomacy had long been held in high esteem in France; Louis had been for many years under the influence of the grave Madame de Maintenon; and this influence had been so salutary in every way, that the aged monarch could think of no better adviser for his youthful grandson, in his new and responsible position, than some other woman, equally gifted, who might guide him safely through the political shoals which were threatening him at every turn. Madame de Maintenon was called upon for her advice in this crisis, and she it was who suggested the Princess Orsini as the one woman in all Europe who could be trusted to guide the young Philip V. It is interesting to note that there was never question for a moment of placing a man in this post of confidence; its dangers and responsibilities were acknowledged as too heavy for a man to shoulder, and it was merely a question of finding the proper woman for the emergency. One other woman was needed, however, in Spain at this time, and that was a wife for the newly crowned king. She was to provide for the future, while the Princess Orsini was to take care of the present.

A political marriage was planned, as might have been expected, and after some delay the fickle Duke of Savoy, who had long been a doubtful friend to the French, was brought to terms, and his daughter Marie Louise was promised as Philip's bride. The ceremony was performed at Turin, where the king was represented by a proxy, the Marquis of Castel Rodrigo, and the royal party left Genoa in a few days, in gayly adorned galleys, bound for the Spanish coast. Philip hastened to meet his bride, and first saw her at Figueras, to the north of Barcelona. There, on October 3, 1701, their union was ratified, in the presence of the "patriarch of the Indies," who happened to be in Spain at that time. All was not clear weather in these first days of the honeymoon, for, at the command of the French king, all of the Piedmontese attendants of the little queen had been dismissed, as it was feared that she might bring evil counsellors who would make trouble for the new government. The Princess Orsini, who had joined the party when they embarked at Genoa, took charge of Marie Louise on the departure of her friends, and did all in her power to make the separation easy for her, but Marie was so indignant at this unexpected turn of affairs that she was in high dudgeon for several days, and during this time, until she had become thoroughly reconciled to her fate, the impatience of the boy-king was restrained and he was forced to consent to a temporary separation. To quote from Coxe's description: "Marie Louise had scarcely entered her fourteenth year, and appeared still more youthful from the smallness of her stature; but her spirit and understanding partook of the early maturity of her native climate, and to exquisite beauty of person and countenance she united the most captivating manners and graceful deportment." Even after her attendants had been dismissed and the Princess Orsini had been definitely installed as her camerara-mayor, or head lady in waiting, with almost unlimited powers, Louis Quatorze still thought it advisable to write to his young protégé and give him some advice relative to his treatment of his wife. Among his sententious remarks, the following are of special interest: "The queen is the first of your subjects, in which quality, as well as in that of your wife, she is bound to obey you. You are bound to love her, but you will never love her as you ought if her tears have any power to extort from you indulgences derogatory to your glory. Be firm, then, at first. I well know that the first refusals will grieve you, and are repugnant to your natural mildness; but fear not to give a slight uneasiness, to spare real chagrin in the future. By such conduct alone you will prevent disputes which would become insupportable. Shall your domestic dissensions be the subject of conversation for your people and for all Europe? Render the queen happy, if necessary, in spite of herself. Restrain her at first; she will be obliged to you in the end; and this violence over yourself will furnish the most solid proof of your affection for her.... Believe that my love for you dictates this advice, which, were I in your place, I should receive from a father as the most convincing proof of his regard."

The Princess Orsini, or Des Ursins, as she is generally known, was a most remarkable woman. A member of the old French family of La Tremouille, she had first married Adrian Blaise de Talleyrand, Prince de Chalais; and on her husband's banishment as the result of an unfortunate duel, she went with him in exile to Spain, where she spent several years and had an opportunity to become familiar with the language and customs of the country. Going later to Italy, where her husband died, she was soon married a second time, to Flavio de' Orsini, Duke of Bracciano and Grandee of Spain, and for several years was a most conspicuous figure in the court circles of Rome and Versailles, becoming the intimate friend of Madame de Maintenon. Thus it was that Madame de Maintenon spoke of her in connection with the Spanish position as soon as the matter presented itself. The Princess Orsini was nothing loath to accept this position when it was spoken of, and she wrote to the Duchesse de Noailles as follows in soliciting her influence with the French court: "My intention is only to go to Madrid and remain there as long as the king chooses, and afterward to return to Versailles and give an account of my journey.... I am the widow of a grandee, and acquainted with the Spanish language; I am beloved and esteemed in the country; I have numerous friends, and particularly the Cardinal Pontocarrero; with these advantages, judge whether I shall not cause both rain and sunshine at Madrid, and whether I shall incur the imputation of vanity in offering my services." Saint-Simon, who knew the princess well, has written in his Memoirs the following description of her appearance and character, and it is so lucid in its statement and such an admirable specimen of pen portraiture that it is given in its entirety:

"She was above the middle size, a brunette with expressive blue eyes; and her face, though without pretension to beauty, was uncommonly interesting. She had a fine figure, a majestic and dignified air, rather attractive than intimidating, and united with such numberless graces, even in trifles, that I have never seen her equal either in person or mind. Flattering, engaging, and discreet, anxious to please for the sake of pleasing, and irresistible when she wished to persuade or conciliate, she had an agreeable tone of voice and manner, and an inexhaustible fund of conversation, which was rendered highly entertaining by accounts of the different countries she had visited, and anecdotes of the distinguished persons whom she had known and frequented. She had been habituated to the best company, was extremely polite and affable to all, yet peculiarly engaging with those whom she wished to distinguish, and equally skilful in displaying her own graces and qualifications. She was adapted by nature for the meridian of courts, and versed in all the intrigues of cabinets from her long residence in Rome, where she maintained a princely establishment. She was vain of her person and fond of admiration, foibles which never left her, and hence her dress in every season of life was too youthful for her age and sometimes even ridiculous. She possessed a simple and natural eloquence, saying always what she chose, and as she chose, and nothing more. Secret with regard to herself; faithful to the confidence of others; gifted with an exterior, nay, an interior, of gayety, good humor, and evenness of temper, which rendered her perfectly mistress of herself at all times and in all circumstances. Never did any woman possess more art without the appearance of art; never was a more fertile head, or superior knowledge of the human heart, and the means of ruling it. She was, however, proud and haughty; hurrying forward directly to her ends, without regard to the means; but still, if possible, clothing them with a mild and plausible exterior. She was nothing by halves; jealous and imperious in her attachments; a zealous friend, unchangeable by time or absence, and a most implacable and inveterate enemy. Finally, her love of existence was not greater than her love of power; but her ambition was of that towering kind which women seldom feel, and superior even to the ordinary spirit of man."

Such was the woman who was to give tone to the new administration and to aid the young king and queen in the difficult tasks which were before them. Philip was not a decided success, except as a soldier; he yielded much to his wilful wife, and the Princess Orsini was soon accepted by them both as a trustworthy guide. The following extract from a letter written by the French ambassador to his court soon after her installation is significant in her praise: "I see the queen will infallibly govern her husband, and therefore we must be careful that she governs him well. For this object the intervention of the princess is absolutely necessary; her progress is considerable; and we have no other means to influence her royal mistress, who begins to show that she will not be treated as a child." During the fourteen warlike years which followed, and which resulted in the complete submission of all the Spanish provinces to the will of Philip V., Marie Louise was devoted to her husband's cause, and developed a strong character as she grew older; but in 1714, just as quiet had come and the country under the new administrative scheme had begun to win back some of its former thrift and prosperity, death came to her suddenly, and Philip was left alone with the resourceful Orsini, who rarely failed in her undertakings. So complete was her influence over him, that Hume says she "ruled Spain unchecked in his name." With this opportunity before her, and a victim to her strong personal ambition, which exulted in this exercise of power, she now grew jealous of her position and feared lest a new marriage might depose her. Accordingly, she arranged matters to her liking, and succeeded in having Philip marry Elizabeth Farnese, a princess of Parma, who had been described to her as a meek and humble little body with no mind or will of her own. With a queen of this stamp safely stowed away in the palace, the Princess Orsini saw no limit to her autocratic sway. This time, however, the clever woman of state had been cruelly deceived; for the mild Elizabeth turned out to be a general in her own right, who promptly dismissed her would-be patron from the court and speedily acquired such domination over Philip that he became the mere creature of her will.

This Elizabeth Farnese, in spite of her quiet life at Parma, soon showed herself to possess a capacity for government which no one could have suspected, for she had studied and was far better acquainted with history and politics than the majority of women, spoke several languages, and had an intelligent appreciation of the fine arts. Hume calls her a virago, and, although this is a harsh word, her first encounter with the Princess Orsini would seem to warrant its use. The princess, by virtue of her office of camerara-mayor, had gone ahead of the king, to meet the new queen, and the two women met at the little village of Xadraca, four leagues beyond Guadalaxara. The princess knelt and kissed the hand of her new mistress, and then conducted her to the apartments which had been prepared for her. Coxe describes the scene as follows: "The Princess Orsini began to express the usual compliments and to hint at the impatience of the royal bridegroom. But she was thunderstruck when the queen interrupted her with bitter reproaches and affected to consider her dress and deportment as equally disrespectful. A mild apology served only to rouse new fury; the queen haughtily silenced her remonstrances, and exclaimed to the guard: 'Turn out that mad woman who has dared to insult me.' She even assisted in pushing her out of the apartment. Then she called the officer in waiting, and commanded him to arrest the princess and convey her to the frontier. The officer, hesitating and astonished, represented that the king alone had the power to give such an order. 'Have you not,' she indignantly exclaimed, 'his majesty's order to obey me without reserve?' On his reply in the affirmative, she impatiently rejoined: 'Then obey me.' As he still persisted in requiring a written authority, she called for a pen and ink and wrote the order on her knee."

Whether this incident as related be true or not, it serves well to illustrate the imperious nature which she undoubtedly possessed, and which was seen so many times in the course of the next quarter of a century. Her will had to be obeyed, and nothing could turn her aside from her purpose when once it was fixed. But she was as artful as she was stubborn, and ruled most of the time without seeming to rule, carefully watching all of her husband's states of mind, and leading him gradually, and all unconsciously, to her point of view when it differed from her own. Her interests were largely centred in her attempts to win some of the smaller Italian principalities for her sons, she was continually involved in the European wars of her time, and she again brought Spain into a critical financial condition by her costly and fruitless warfare. Not until the accession of her stepson, Charles III., who came to the throne in 1759, was Spain free from the machinations of this designing woman, and, in all that time of her authority, no one can say that she ruled her country wisely or well. She was short-sighted in her ambition, entirely out of sympathy with the Spanish people, and did little or nothing to deserve their hearty praise. So when at last her power was gone, and the new king came to his own, there was but one feeling among all the people, and that was a feeling of great relief.

For the rest of this eighteenth century in Spain there is no predominating woman's influence such as there had been for so many years before, as Amelia, the wife of Charles III., died a few months after his accession, and for the rest of his life he remained unmarried and with no feminine influence near him. The morals of Spain did not improve in this time, however, even if the king gave an example of continence which no other monarch for many years had shown. Charles was very strict in such matters, and it is on record that he banished the Dukes of Arcos and Osuna because of their open and shameless amours with certain actresses who were popular in Madrid at that time. The women in question were also sternly punished, and the whole influence of Charles was thus openly thrown in favor of the decencies of life, which had so long been neglected. The sum total of his efforts was nevertheless powerless to avail much against the inbred corruption of the people, for their none too stable natures were being strongly influenced at that time by the echo of French liberalism which was now sounding across the Pyrenees, and restraint of any kind was becoming more and more irksome every day. Charles IV., who ascended the throne in 1788, was weak and timid and completely in the power of his wife, Marie Louise of Parma, a wilful woman of little character, who was responsible for much of the humiliation which came to Spain during the days of Napoleon's supremacy. Charles IV., realizing his own lack of ability in affairs of state, had decided to take a prime minister from the ranks of the people, that he might be wholly dependent upon his sovereign's will; and his choice fell upon a certain handsome Manuel Godoy, a member of the bodyguard of the king, with whom the vapid Marie was madly in love, and whom she had recommended for the position. The king, all unsuspecting, followed this advice, and Godoy, who was wholly incompetent, went from one mistake to another, to the utter detriment of Spanish interests. The queen's relations with her husband's chief of state were well known to all save Charles himself, and, on one occasion at least, Napoleon, by threatening to reveal the whole shameful story to the king, bent Godoy to his will and forced him to humiliating concessions. The queen supported him blindly, however, in every measure, and put her evil pleasure above the national welfare.

It must not be assumed that in this period of national wreckage that all was bad, that all the women were corrupt and all the men were without principle, for there was never perhaps such a condition of affairs in any country; but the prevailing and long-continued licentiousness at the court, which was in many respects a counterpart in miniature of the wanton ways of eighteenth-century France, could not fail in the end to react in a most disastrous way upon the moral nature of the people. There were still pious mothers and daughters, but the moral standards of the time were so deplorably low in a country where they had never been of the highest, from a strictly puritan standpoint, that society in general shows little of that high seriousness so essential to effective morality.

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