Curiosities of Literature, by Isaac Disraeli

Philip and Mary.

Houssaie, in his Mémoires, vol. i. p. 261, has given the following curious particulars of this singular union:—

“The second wife of Philip was Mary Queen of England; a virtuous princess (Houssaie was a good catholic), but who had neither youth nor beauty. This marriage was as little happy for the one as for the other. The husband did not like his wife, although she doted on him; and the English hated Philip still more than he hated them. Silhon says, that the rigour which he exercised in England against heretics partly hindered Prince Carlos from succeeding to that crown, and for which purpose Mary had invited him in case she died childless!"— But no historian speaks of this pretended inclination, and is it probable that Mary ever thought proper to call to the succession of the English throne the son of the Spanish Monarch? This marriage had made her nation detest her, and in the last years of her life she could be little satisfied with him, from his marked indifference for her. She well knew that the Parliament would never consent to exclude her sister Elizabeth, whom the nobility loved for being more friendly to the new religion, and more hostile to the house of Austria.

In the Cottonian Library, Vespasian F. III. is preserved a note of instructions in the handwriting of Queen Mary, of which the following is a copy. It was, probably, written when Philip was just seated on the English throne.

“Instructions for my lorde Previsel.

“Firste, to tell the Kinge the whole state of this realme, wt all things appartaynyng to the same, as myche as ye knowe to be trewe.

“Seconde, to obey his commandment in all thyngs.

“Thyrdly, in all things he shall aske your aduyse to declare your opinion as becometh a faythfull conceyllour to do.

Mary the Quene.”

Houssaie proceeds: “After the death of Mary, Philip sought Elizabeth in marriage; and she, who was yet unfixed at the beginning of her reign, amused him at first with hopes. But as soon as she unmasked herself to the pope, she laughed at Philip, telling the Duke of Feria, his ambassador, that her conscience would not permit her to marry the husband of her sister.”

This monarch, however, had no such scruples. Incest appears to have had in his eyes peculiar charms; for he offered himself three times to three different sisters-in-law. He seems also to have known the secret of getting quit of his wives when they became inconvenient. In state matters he spared no one whom he feared; to them he sacrificed his only son, his brother, and a great number of princes and ministers.

It is said of Philip, that before he died he advised his son to make peace with England, and war with the other powers. Pacem cum Anglo, bellum cum reliquis. Queen Elizabeth, and the ruin of his invincible fleet, physicked his frenzy into health, and taught him to fear and respect that country which he thought he could have made a province of Spain.

On his death-bed he did everything he could for salvation. The following protestation, a curious morsel of bigotry, he sent to his confessor a few days before he died:—

“Father confessor! as you occupy the place of God, I protest to you that I will do everything you shall say to be necessary for my being saved; so that what I omit doing will be placed to your account, as I am ready to acquit myself of all that shall be ordered to me.”

Is there, in the records of history, a more glaring instance of the idea which a good Catholic attaches to the power of a confessor, than the present authentic example? The most licentious philosophy seems not more dangerous than a religion whose votary believes that the accumulation of crimes can be dissipated by the breath of a few orisons, and which, considering a venal priest to “occupy the place of God,” can traffic with the divine power at a very moderate price.

After his death a Spanish grandee wrote with a coal on the chimney-piece of his chamber the following epitaph, which ingeniously paints his character in four verses:—

Siendo moço luxurioso;

Siendo hombre, fue cruel;

Siendo viejo, codicioso:

Que se puede esperar del?

In youth he was luxurious;

In manhood he was cruel;

In old age he was avaricious:

What could be hoped from him?

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37