Page images
PDF
EPUB

Some difficulty, however, did occur in fixing the present which Ferdinand was to receive for admitting a French force into Casal; Matthioli insisted on a hundred thousand pistoles, but the abbé combated manfully, and brought down the pistoles to crowns.

The duke arrived at Venice, but some time elapsed before a private interview could be hazarded. In the meanwhile, D’Estrades was requested to see Ferdinand take his exercises at the riding-school; and he makes a particular report to his own government on the prince's qualifications as a cavalier. The conference was at length obtained; the parties met at midnight, in a public place, and Ferdinand announced his intention to hasten the depending treaty by dispatching Matthioli to Paris. He had the more reason for this impatience, as, relying on immediate support from France, he had precipitately taken possession of Guastalla, thus crossing the designs and arousing the jealousy of his Austrian and Spanish neighbours. The ingenuity of D'Estrades was forthwith at work to contrive delays, though he dared not openly oppose the journey. But his labour was spared. The Spaniards became so formidably urgent with the duke to declare against France, withdraw the garrison of Guastalla, and receive German troops into Casal, that Matthioli, not trusting to the unsupported resolution of his master, deemed it prudent to continue near him. Sickness and other causes protracted the delay; but, at length, in October, 1678, the count departed for Paris accompanied by Giuliani, a very useful personage, but not qualified to add much lustre to the mission in the eyes

of Louis the Fourteenth, as he was merely' un petit gazetier,' keeping a shop at Venice, where he published the news of the day in written sheets, (for printed journals were not in use,) and eked out his revenue by labouring as a common scribe.

D’Estrades met them at the house of M. de Pomponne; a treaty was drawn up and a letter dispatched from the king to the Duke of Mantua. Matthioli was dismissed with a liberal reward, and promises of advancement for his sons and brother. The peace of Nimeguen had been concluded this year, and Louis, being now on friendly terms with the house of Austria, had leisure to undermine the interests of that power in Italy. Catinat, already renowned by more honourable exploits, was sent into Piedmont about the end of December, with an order to St. Mars, the French commandant of Pignerol, to conduct him by night and unperceived into the donjon. D’Asfeld (a name celebrated in the Spanish war of the Succession) repaired to Venice as an ordinary traveller. His commission was to obtain a meeting with the Duke of Mantua, and procure his ratification of the treatý; this accomplished, Catinat was to issue from his hiding-place, and take,

possession possession of Casal with a French force which now drew towards the Italian frontier for that service. Ferdinand still appeared impatient for the proposed alliance, and the agents of France looked anxiously for Matthioli, believing that on his return the affair would at once be concluded.

But January passed away and Matthioli did not arrive. He had shaken off the gazetier' at Turin, and his own journey through the Italian states was surprizingly retarded. The duke, who was to meet D’Asfeld at Casal, began to find reasons for deferring the interview; he was unprepared with money; he waited for the heir presumptive of Mantua, who was to attend him on his journey; he had engaged with some Venetian gentlemen to give a carrousel,' and suspicions would arise if he disappointed them. In the meanwhile, Italy was resounding with rumours; the march of the French troops, which could not be concealed, excited alarms for Casal, for Genoa, for Savoy, for Geneva, and a report arose that Vauban was in Pignerol. Intelligence of a more authentic character soon followed. Ferdinand was pressed with expostulation by the agents of Spain and Austria, but Matthioli still assured the French of his master's fidelity, and it was finally arranged that the long deferred ratification should take place at a village named Incréa, near Casal, on the 9th of March. D'Asfeld accordingly left Venice, but was arrested in the Milanese; and Matthioli, who had set out a day or two later, returned, after a short absence, and informed Pinchesne, (the chargé-d'affaires acting in the place of D’Éstrades,) that the duke had been compelled to execute a treaty which disabled him from keeping his engagement with France.

During these transactions, Catinat (under the name of De Richemont) had been patiently waiting the season of activity in his narrow winter-quarters. On the arrest of D’Asfeld, he was ordered to Incréa in that officer's stead; the expedition was of course fruitless, and he returned to Pignerol, where he was allowed to solace the hours of his confinement with the conversation of two distinguished state-prisoners, Fouquet, and the Count (afterterwards Duke) de Lauzun. D’Estrades, still clinging to the hope of accomplishing his long-cherished project, had written a letter to Matthioli from Turin, containing an awkward mixture of reproof, praise, menace, allurement, implied suspicion and affected confidence—the epistle, in short, of a slighted gouvernante; but it was too late for remonstrance; the treachery became every day more palpable, and a communication from the Duchess-dowager of Savoy at length brought the mortifying certainty that Louis the Fourteenth had been duped by the obscure agent of a small Italian prince,

So

Só audacious a crime could only be expiated by the ruin of the offender, D’Estrades was commissioned to ensnare him, and Louvois wrote thus to the governor of Pignerol :

A M. de St. Mars.

St. Germain en Laye ce 27 Avril, 1679. "Le Roy envoye présentement ordre à M. l'Abbé d'Estrades, d'essayer de faire arrester un bomme de la conduite duquel Sa Majesté n'a pas sujet d'estre satisfaite ; de quoi elle m'a commandé de vous donner advis, afin que vous ne fassiez point de difficulté de le recevoir lorsqu'il vous sera envoyé, et que vous le gardiez de manière que non seulement il n'ayt commerce avec personne, mais encore qu'il ayt lieu de se repentir de la mauvaise conduite qu'il a tenue, et que l'on ne puisse point pénétrer que vous ayez un nouveau prisonnier.

De Louvois.' The indifference with which these arrangements were made for seizing and imprisoning, on political grounds, the subject of a foreign power, was consistent both with the character of Louvois and with the spirit of the government. The violence exercised on Matthioli is not without parallel in the history of these times, * and the minister who threatened Heinsius with the Bastille, for an expostulation on behalf of the Prince of Orange, was not likely to be withheld by fear or respect from executing such an outrage on the minion of a Duke of Mantua.

Soon after the abandonment of the treaty, we find Matthioli once more at Turin, where he met the Abbé d'Estrades, and had the effrontery to press him for the repayment of expenses incurred during the late negotiation. The Abbé craftily observed, that Catinat had been furnished with money for the exigencies of the service, and proposed that they should wait upon that officer. Matthioli, strangely unconscious of the dangers which environ those that trifle with • demigods, consented; and on the 2d of May, D'Estrades and he departed from Turin early in the morning. Such was the Italian's eagerness, that, when their progress was stopped by a broken bridge, he himself assisted in repairing it. On approaching the end of their journey, D'Estrades left his carriage and servants, and proceeded on foot with Matthioli to a place within the French territory, where Catinat expected them

The story of François de la Bretonnière, the Leyden printer, who, for publishing a satire on Louis XIV., was clandestinely seized in Holland, and confined many years in a cage of wood at St. Michel, in Normandy, where lię died, is a more melancholy though less famous anecdote than that of the fron Mask.-See History of the Bastille. London. 1790. The Armenian patriarch, named in the Register of the Bastille, Avedik, was forcibly carried away from Constantiyople during the reign of Loyis, by the con. trivance of the Jesuits, and died a prisoner in Paris, It is he whom some persons identified with Marchiali. While on the subject of these arrests, we may add the remarkable fact, that a lettre de cachet (obtained for private purposes) was secretly executed in London on a M. Bertip de Fratteaux, so lately as in 1752, and the prisoner conveyed to the Bastille, where he passed the remainder of his life.

act

with a small party of St. Mars's garrison. The interview was at first amicable, but after a short conversation the Abbé withdrew, and Matthioli was arrested. Although armed, he offered po resistance, and he was carried that night to Pignerol. Except Ca. tinat himself, none of the captors knew what prisoner they had taken. The count's valet was also entrapped by D'Estrades's contrivance, and transmitted to his master's place of confinement.

It now became important to recover some documents which Matthioli had received from the French government for the purpose of concluding the treaty, and these being concealed at Padua, the prisoner was compelled to write for them to his father. Three letters were accordingly prepared and entrusted to Giuliani, with orders to deliver one or more in succession, as circumstances might require. The last two disclosed the writer's real condition. Matthioli himself was in the mean time rigorously examined by Catinat, on the circumstances and motives of his treason. The culprit prevaricated; the inquisitor threatened, and on one occasion, Catinat terrified his prisoner by calling in soldiers to administer the torture. It is needless to follow the unhappy delinquent (to whom the titles of fourbe' and fripon' are now liberally applied in the French correspondence) through all his evasions. He knowledged that, in passing through Turin, on his return from Paris, he had," par indiscrétion et volubilité de langue,' betrayed the secret to his friend the president Turki, with whom he afterwards corresponded on the subject; that he had received two thousand livres at Turin, but only as a recompense for some former services; that he had held communication respecting the treaty both with the Spanish governor of Milan, and with individuals in the German service, but that these were already apprized of the transaction by the duke of Mantua's mother, who had drawn an avowal from her son. He declared that he himself always intended to fulfil his engagements with France, and had, with that view, obtained credentials under the hand of Ferdinand, which would have enabled him to secure Casal even after the duke's defection ; but the papers themselves, when delivered to Giuliani, proved inadequate to such a purpose. Having now na further task to accomplish, Catinat returned into France, leaving Matthioli, whom, for the better concealment, he had named L'ES tang, a close prisoner in the hands of St. Mars.*

We will here shortly conclude the history of the Duke of Mantua and his fortress, which M. Delort leaves imperfect. Louis renewed his negotiation, and Ferdinand, who, as Voltaire observes, would have sold all his territory to maintain his pleasures, again 'We

copy most of the statements in this paragraph from M. Delort, who has unaccountably withheld the Abbé d'Estrades' narrative of Matthioli's arrest.

concluded pour

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

concluded a treaty, or rather bargain, laying the blame of the former miscarriage on his faithless servant. In the autumn of 1681, Casal was delivered up to Boufflers and Catinat. Ferdinand vainly endeavoured to avert the indignation of the neighbouring powers at this unworthy transaction, and even swore upon the host that he had received no bribe. His oath obtained small credit, and at Venice, his favourite resort, he was excluded from society. In 1701, when the war of the Succession was breaking out, the duke, now wholly corrupted by France, admitted a garrison of that nation into Mantua. He afterwards visited Paris, and the king gratified his vanity by naming him Generalissimo of the French armies in Italy. With a constitution shattered by debauch, and a military reputation almost as frail, (for he had served with little credit in Hungary,) he espoused a daughter of the Duke of Elbeuf, and joined the army of Vendôme, as its nominal commander. The decisive campaign of 1706 placed his whole possessions at the Emperor's mercy; his wife returned to France; and he himself, an unpitied refugee, was sinking into the grave at Padua, in 1708, when the imperial sentence issued declaring him a felon, and his estates an escheat to his feudal superior. The French lost Casal three or four years after they had bought it.

We return to the Sieur L'Estang. At the time of his capture, D’Estrades had requested that his treatment might be gentle, at least until the king's pleasure should be known. Louvois soon determined this point. Vous aurez connu par mes précédentes,' says he, in one of his peremptory dispatches to St. Mars,' que l'intention du roy n'est pas que le sieur de L'Estang soit bien traité, et que sa Majesté ne veut pas que, hors les choses nécessaires à la vie, vous luy donniez quoy que ce soit de ce qui la luy peut faire passer agréablement, Dureté' is again and again enjoined, and even medical attendance is prohibited, unless the governor shall know it to be absolutely necessary. Permission, however, is given to allow the prisoner pen and ink, for the purpose of writing to Louvois. What effect was produced by any such communication, we do not learn, but the prisoner's remonstrance to St. Mars, that he was not treated like a man of quality and the minister of a great prince, appears to have been very lightly regarded.

After a confinement of nearly ten months, the unfortunate Italian began to affect (perhaps actually to experience) those wanderings of mind with which the secret victims of state-policy or vengeance are not unfrequently afflicted. He talked of supernatural visitations, and, says St. Mars, (evidently perplexed with the task of repeating such blasphemy,).

« PreviousContinue »