CH. IX. -- The revolution of Portugal, and disgrace of the prime minister.

 

A FEW days after the king's return, an alarming report prevailed at Madrid, that the Portuguese, considering the Catalan revolt as an opportunity offered them by fortune for throwing off the Spanish yoke, had taken arms, and chosen the Duke of Braganza for their king, with a full determination of supporting him on the throne. In this they conceived that they did not reckon without their host; because Spain was then embroiled in Germany, Italy, Flanders, and Catalonia. They could not in fact have hit upon a crisis more favourable for their deliverance from so galling a yoke.

It was a strange circumstance, that while both court and city were struck with consternation at the news, my lord duke attempted to joke with the king, and make the Duke of Braganza his butt; Philip, however, far from falling in with this ill-timed pleasantry, assumed a serious air, of ill omen to the minister, who felt his seat to totter under him. The queen was now his declared enemy, and openly accused him of having caused the revolt of Portugal by his misconduct. The nobility in general, and especially those who had been at Saragossa, when they saw a cloud gathering about the minister, joined the queen's party: but the decisive blow was the return of the duchess dowager of Mantua from her government of Portugal to Madrid; for she proved clearly to the king's conviction that the counsels of his own cabinet produced the revolution. *[see note at end of chapter]

His majesty, deeply impressed with what he had heard, was now completely recovered from every symptom of partiality towards his favourite. The minister, finding that his enemies were in possession of the royal ear, wrote for permission to resign his employments, and retire from court, since all the political mischances of the time were ascribed to his personal delinquency. He expected a letter like this to produce a wonderful effect, reckoning as be did upon the prince's private friendship, which could scarcely brook a separation: but his majesty's answer undeceived him, by laconically complying with his ostensible wish to withdraw.

Such a sentence of banishment in the king's own hand-writing came like a thunder-storm in harvest; but though destruction to his long-cherished hopes, he affected the serene look of constancy, and asked me what I would do in his circumstances. I would drive before the wind, said I; renounce the ungrateful court, and pass the remainder of my days in peace on my own estate. You counsel wisely, replied my master, and I shall set out for Loeches, there to finish my career, after one more interview with his majesty: for I could wish just to convince him that I have done what man can do to support the heavy load of state upon my shoulders, and that it was not within the compass of possibility to prevent the unfortunate events which are imputed to me as a crime. It were equally reasonable to charge the pilot with the wrecking fury of the storm, and make him answerable for the uncontrolled power of the elements. Thus did the minister inwardly flatter himself that he could set things to rights again, and once more fix firm the seat which was shaking under him; but he could not procure an audience, and was even commanded to resign his key of private admission into his majesty's closet.

This last requisition convinced him that there was no hope; and he now made up his mind in earnest for retirement. He looked over his papers, and had the prudence to burn a good number, he then selected a small household for his retreat, and publicly announced his departure for the next day. Apprehending insult from the mob, if the time and manner of his setting out were public, he escaped early in the morning through the kitchens out at the back door, got in to a shabby, hired carriage, with his confessor and me, and reached in safety the road leading to Loeches, a village on his own estate, where his countess had founded a magnificent convent of Dominican nuns.

*Note:

At length his sovereign frowns -- the train of state

Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate.

"Johnson's Imitation of Juvenal's Tenth Satire."

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