CHAPTER III. FRANCE AND ENGLAND.
It is necessary now to look at the relations of our Government with other nations, and in particular with France, whose fortunes just at this time had a clearly traceable effect on our own.
For several years the Court of England had been on terms of unprecedented cordiality with the French Court. The Queen had personally visited King Louis Philippe at the Chateau d'Eu - an event which we must go back as far as the days of Henry VIII to parallel - and had contracted a warm friendship for certain members of his family, in particular for the Queen, Marie Amelie, for the widowed Duchess of Orleans, a maternal cousin of Prince Albert, and for the perfect Louise, the truthful, unselfish second wife of Leopold, King of the Belgians, and daughter of the King of the French. It was a rude shock to all the warm feelings which our Queen, herself transparently honest, had learnt to cherish for her royal friends when the French King and his Minister, Guizot, entered into that fatal intrigue of theirs, "the Spanish marriages." Isabella, the young Queen of Spain, and her sister and heiress presumptive, Louisa, were yet unmarried at the time of the visit to the Chateau d'Eu; and about that time an undertaking was given by the French to the English Government that the Infanta Louisa should not marry a French prince until her sister, the actual Queen, "should be married and have children." The possible union of the crowns of France and Spain was known for a dream of French ambition, and was equally well known to be an object of dislike and dread to other European Powers. The engagement which the French King had now given seemed therefore well calculated to disarm suspicion and promote peace; but the one was reawakened and the other endangered when it became known that he had so used his power over the Spanish court as to procure that the royal sisters of Spain should be married on one day - Isabella, the Queen, to the most unfit and uncongenial of all the possible candidates for her hand; Louisa to King Louis Philippe's son, the Duke of Montpensier. The transaction on the face of it was far from respectable, since the credit and happiness of the young Spanish Queen seemed to have hardly entered into the consideration of those who arranged for her the mariage de convenance into which she was led blindfold; but when regarded as a violation of good faith it was additionally displeasing. Queen Victoria, to whom the scheme was imparted only when it was ripe for execution, through her personal friend Louise, Queen of the Belgians, replied to the communication in a tone of earnest, dignified remonstrance; but apparently the King was now too thoroughly committed to his scheme to be deterred by any reasoning or reproaches, and the tragical farce was played out. It had no good results for France; England was chilled and alienated, but the Spanish crown never devolved on the Duchess of Montpensier. Within two little years from her marriage that princess and all the French royal family fled from France, so hastily that they had scarcely money enough to provide for their journey, and appeared in England as fugitives, to be aided and protected by the Queen, who forgot all political resentment, and remembered only her personal regard for these fallen princes.
The overthrow of the Orleans dynasty in 1848 was a complete surprise, and men have never ceased to see something disgraceful in its amazing suddenness. Here was a great king, respected for wisdom and daring, and supposed to understand at every point the character of the land he ruled, his power appearing unshaken, while it was known to be backed with an army one hundred thousand strong. And almost without warning a whirlwind of insurrection against this solid power and this able ruler broke out, and in a few wild hours swept the whole fabric into chaos. Nothing caused more surprise at the moment than the extreme bitterness of animosity which the insurgents manifested towards the king's person, unless it were the tameness with which he submitted to his fate and the precipitancy of his flight. There was something rotten in the state of things, men said, which could thus dissolve, crushed like a swollen fungus by a casual foot. And indeed, whether with perfect justice or not, Louis Philippe's Administration had come to be deemed corrupt some time ere his fall. The free-spoken Parisians had openly flouted it as such: witness a mock advertisement placarded in the streets: "A nettoyer, deux Chambres et une Cour": "Two Chambers and a Court to clean." A French Government that had been crafty, but not crafty enough to conceal the fact, that was rather contemned for plotting than dreaded for unscrupulous energy, was already in peril. The still unsubdued revolutionary spirit, working under the smooth surface of French society, was the element which accomplished the destruction of this discredited Government.
The outbreak in France acted like a spark in a powder magazine; ere long great part of Europe was shaken by the second great revolutionary upheaval, when potentates seemed falling and ancient dynasties crumbling on all sides - a period of eager hope to many, followed by despair when the reaction set in, accompanied in too many places by repressive measures of pitiless severity. The contemptuous feeling with which many Englishmen were wont to view such Continental troubles is well embodied in the lines which Tennyson put into the mouth of one of his characters, speaking of France: