Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

gloating on Noblet as she “ twirls the light limb that spurns the needJess veil." Not far off, near a group of fashionable girls in a perpetual flutter, is some aspiring denizen of the Temple or Lincoln's Inn, with mincing gait, janty accent, and clothed in pedantry of dress, asking his companion “ What's the opera ?”—“ Shan't stay the ballet-seen it fifty times—thought it better the first night." There is a minister refreshing himself from the toil of official dinners and the jargon of politics. But best of all in this varied and "eventful history” is a true old English nobleman, alone in appearance, and almost without a second in the house, plainly dressed, unassuming, courteous yet dignified in his demeanour, with taste and science enough to understand and enjoy the music, and so finely tempered in feeling as to regard with a benevolent and forgiving smile the affectation and heartlessness that surround him ;-he is the salt that preserves the whole mass from condemnation.

Such is the Opera twice in every week, the most self-important of our entertainments, and totally different from the Stage, as we commonly understand the term. Every thing about it aims at greatness ; but its greatness is inflation-it is fond of

“Swelling epithets thick laid,

As varnish on a harlot's cheek.” It scorns all but the most expensive singers, and the music of first-rate composers, and the dancers must be the first in Europe. This would not be much amiss, perhaps, if the stage furnished the pleasure; but that it does not is the fact. Its management is considered an awful and intricate thing among its immediate supporters. It has its chargéd'affoires on the Continent, which are not sinecures like some of our political ones, for its negotiations are endless and its protocols equal to the communications between mighty empires. The negotiations between London and Paris respecting Paul and Albert, and others, lasted for years; question arose out of question, envoys were sent with im perfect powers, and then plenipotentiaries were appointed, exchanges were effected—two singers for a dancer; weighty discussions and references took place on the relative value of entre chats and roulades, of cudenés and pirouettes, of a bravura and pas de seul :--they were all finally arranged, and we obtained Paul the aërien! with “a station like the herald Mercury new lighted."

Still in spite of persons, like my learned friend before-mentioned, who can find no pleasure in the warblings of Camporese, or the pirouettes of Noblet, the Opera will prevail as long as Fashion decrees its supremacy. For my own part I have no objection to see the autocracy of this exotic permanent, while I can find so much of life assembled there—while beauty and ugliness, rank, splendour, folly and wisdom, form such an excellent melange for study.

PRINCE CARLOS OF SPAIN AND HIS FATHER PHILIP II. As long as the Spanish Inquisition existed, and its archives were kept from the public eye with the anxious jealousy which marked all the proceedings of that odious tribunal, History was obliged to suspend her yerdict on the death of Prince Don Carlos, the eldest son of Philip II. and heir to his vast dominions. The evidence which was to be gathered from contemporary writers could not, in fairness, be finally weighed and appreciated, while there was a strong reason to believe that the most authentic documents relating to that mysterious event were still preserved, and might one day come to light.

It appears, however, that among the records of religious tyranny which the first abolition of the Inquisition, under the government of Joseph Bonaparte, allowed to see the light, nothing was found connected with the fate of the unfortunate Carlos of Austria. Such is the positive declaration of Don Juan Antonio Llorente, late Secretary to the Madrid Inquisition, who, disaffected to the establishment of which he was a confidential member, had, for some years, been collecting notes for a history of the Spanish Holy Office, which he completed under the French usurpation from a full examination of the contents of the inquisitorial archives.

Llorente, though not bound to enter into a critical examination of an obscure historical fact, which he has shewn to be unconnected with the subject of his work, thought proper to introduce, as an episode, a more complete and authentic account of the unfortunate life and untimely end of Prince Don Carlos than was ever published before. The narrative, however, partakes of the character of the whole work, which is a mere assemblage of facts hastily and carelessly put together-a depository of authentic and highly curious information, from which a writer of more talent might compile a history of the Inquisition, of half the size, and double the interest of the original.

Curiosity, and a degree of unwillingness to acquiesce in some of the inferences of the Spanish writer, led us to some of the main sources from whence he derives his information. This search having confirmed our former opinions, and afforded us a clearer view of a dark and melancholy transaction which history has not been able hitherto to unravel, we conceived that a short statement of the whole might not be unacceptable to the public.

The odious character of Philip II. has, more than any thing contained in the historical records of the time, contributed to the posthumous fame of his unhappy son Don Carlos. Novelists and dramatic poets having claimed him for their own, represent his character and person as adorned with every virtue and every grace which could set him in a striking contrast with his father.

Ma chi'l vede e non l'ama?
Ardito umano cor, nobil fierezza,
Sublime ingegno, e in avvenenti spoglie

Bellissim' alma Truth, however, obliges us to dispel this pleasing delusion, and to withdraw from Carlos, though unfortunate and oppressed, much of the sympathy which we formerly lavished upon him. To have a hero of romance thus stript of his honours, and plucked down even below the common level of mankind, must, as all acts of public degradation, be alike unpleasant to the spectator and the performer. For our parts, we confess that we undertook the task with reluctance. Indeed, if we feared that, by diminishing the interest hitherto claimed by the memory of Don Carlos, we relieved that of his father from a single atom of odium, and made his name more tolerable to the ear of freedom, we should not volunteer to bring a useless and dangerous truth into light. History has, and should ever possess, her gibbets, where criminals too powerful for human justice may be exposed in chains to the eyes of the remotest posterity: and, surely, we would not bring Philip of Spain an inch nearer our common earth, were he hanging upon Haman's cross of fifty cubits. But nothing we have been able to discover in the history of Carlos does in the least degree extenuate his father's villainy. The novelists and poets have flattered Philip's portrait, indeed, by making him capable of the boldness of passion. He was a coward by nature-a coward placed upon the most powerful throne of Europe, bending an active, shrewd, and unfeeling mind on the sole object of gratifying his stern passions without the least exposure to real or imaginary danger. Fiction, in fact, has here, as in most cases, overshot her mark; for an ideal Philip who, in a fit of jealousy, could plunge a dagger into his son's bosom, would be almost lovely, compared with the cautious, calculating monster that could engage disease to do his work, in order to keep his hands from blood, lest the stain might disturb his conscience-for Philip, too, had a conscience.

* Alfieri, Filippo. Att. I. Sc. I.

Carlos's misfortunes seem to have begun at his birth. His mother, Mary of Portugal, lost her life four days after he was born.* His grandfather, Charles V., from whose comprehensive genius, and truly princely feelings, he might have received the benefit of early care and example, was in Germany and the Netherlands during the prince's childhood. The absence of his father might be deemed a happy circumstance for the child's moral and mental growth; but it only threw him into the hands of his two paternal aunts, Mary the wife of Maximilian, afterwards Emperor, and at that time Regent of Spain, and Johanna, Dowager of Portugal.

Born, probably, with a violent temper, spoiled by his guardians, and surrounded by courtiers, tamed and trained by the most absolute of European monarchs, Carlos grew up in the full indulgence of a wayward disposition.

We seldom find historians tracing the characters of heirs-apparent from the nursery ; much less collecting and recording the tricks and pranks of royal striplings. But as there was a powerful tyrant to flatter, the Spanish contemporary writers have left us a list of every misdemeanour or Carlos, commencing with the murder of some rabbits, which, when very young, were given him for his amusement. It is still more curious to observe, that Philip is said to have conceived an early dislike of his son, from a knowledge of this act of cruelty. So

# In 1545.

The dispensa

exquisite was the sensibility of the patron of the Duke of Alva, the husband of our English Mary, the avowed encourager of assassination.

Cruelty to animals in children, is the natural result of thoughtlessness and inexperience. That nature had not denied to Carlos the kinder feelings of the human heart, is known from his strong and lasting attachment to his tutor, Don Honorato Juan, Bishop of Osma. Some fragments of the Prince's letters to that excellent man have been preserved, and are found translated in Llorente's work. They are the hasty and careless performances of a boy, who, in his hurry, leaves out parts of the sentences, and has not the patience to examine what he has written. Our author, who is determined to make out the unfortunate Carlos "

a monster whose death was a blessing to Spain," quotes these letters as proofs of a natural want of talents, or rather of common sense. Yet, he should have observed that the faults in the construction of the sentences which the letters exhibit, are such as no Spaniard, however dull and stupid, could fall into ; whilst few among

the crowd of royal pupils have left such a warm and sincere testimony of friendship for their instructors. That this was not a transient fit of childish fondness is evident from Carlos's subsequent conduct. At the very time when he is accused of leading a wild and outrageous life, he still cherished the recollection of his tutor, and so earnestly longed for his society, that he applied to the Pope for a dispensation of Bishop Juan's residence at Osma, that the good old man, who, probably, was his only true friend in the world, might live near him at court. tion was obtained, but Juan did not avail himself of it. Such, however, as have studied the character of Philip, will be inclined to think with us, that though he would not prevent the application to the Pope, he secretly contrived to defeat its object. The Prince was surrounded by his father's spies, and it was inconsistent with the tyrant's fear of Carlos's early love of power to allow any real friend to be near him.

That Carlos was kept by the effects of his father's suspicion in a state of constant irritation, whịch finally produced a morbid feeling bordering upon insanity, is the firm conviction with which we have risen from the attentive perusal of the most authentic contemporary narratives. Philip never withdrew from the person of his son any of the pomp of state which became the heir of his crown. Even when he had confined Carlos with a firm determination of bringing him to an untimely end, he would not allow the grandees, to whom he had committed the custody of his person, to wear their swords in the presence of the unarmed prince. Carlos seems to have possessed at all times the liberty to injure both his person and reputation. The contemporary writers accuse him of personal violence against some of his attendants of the first rank; of indecent rioting about the streets at night; of wreaking his displeasure on one of his tradesmen in a brutal and most deliberate manner. Yet the King, who was regularly informed of every word and action of his son, never interfered in these matters. He only seems to have made it a rule to reward with confidential places near his person such as had exposed themselves to an insult from the prince.

It must be allowed, however, that Carlos's fits of ungovernable anger might well create a suspicion that he was labouring under a certain degree of insanity. That his own father encouraged at one time the propagation of such a report appears from Cabrera's interpretation of an obscure sentence in Philip's Letter to his sister the Empress, wife of Maximilian II., on the occasion of the Prince's arrest. The supposed mental derangement was attributed to a fall which Carlos, when a boy, had down the stairs of the palace of Alcalá de Henares. A severe contusion on the head and the spine occasioned such an alarm for his life, that the king ordered the body of a Franciscan friar, who had long before died in “ odour of sanctity,” † to be laid upon

the prince. This strange application was believed to have saved the royal sufferer ; and the departed owner of the miraculous mummy was soon after sainted through the exertions of Philip at the court of Rome. No symptoms of real derangement appear, however, in the conduct of Carlos after recovery from the effects of his accident. • The true clue to the cause of his unfortunate violence is, we repeat, to be found in the odious system pursued by his unfeeling father during the whole course of his life. Philip's dislike of his son was only disguised by his interest in supporting the external show of respect which he believed to be due to a prince of Asturias, the heir of his throne. But the sternness and distance of the King's behaviour; the distrust of his own son, contrasted with the confidence he reposed in his favourites; the use he made of two sets of spies, some checking and thwarting the spirited young man, others yielding to his wishes in order to sift and draw out his inmost thoughts, dried up the sources of kindness in his heart, leaving it a prey to that vehemence of volition, the natural result of a princely education, which so easily degenerates into a state of mind nearly allied to real insanity.

Of the well-authenticated instances of Carlos's insolence, we do not recollect one which may not be traced with considerable probability to those sources. Among Philip's favourites, none enjoyed so high a degree of confidence and power as the Duke of Alva, the execrable instrument of Philip's tyranny, and Ruy Gomez de Silva, the vile pander of his unlawful pleasures, and himself the degraded husband of one of the King's mistresses.

The proud character of the first made him a marked object of Carlos's overbearing spirit. On the day when he was solemnly recognized as Prince of Asturias and successor to the Spanish throne, the Duke of Alva, who had superintended the arrangements for the ceremony, absented himself just at the time when he should have been among his peers to take the oath of recognition. Carlos, though not more than fourteen years old, observed the absence of his father's favourite, and stopping the solemn act, ordered messengers to summon Alva to his place. He appeared, after a long search, excusing "himself with the numerous objects which on that day had claimed his care and attention. But the Prince, taking the excuse as an aggravation of what he conceived to be a premeditated insult, addressed the Duke in such language that the offended grandee found it extremely difficult to avoid the guilt of treason which the Spanish law attaches to the act of laying violent hands on the heir of the crown.

Es de notar que le tenia por defetuoso en el juicio.—Cabrera, Vida de Phelipe II. lib. vii. c. xxii.

+ He is known in the Spanish Catalogue of Saints by the name of San Diego de Alcalá,

« AnteriorContinuar »