Poor Kaiser Karl: he had a high thought in him really though a most misguided one. Titular King of Men; but much bewildered into mere indolent fatuity, inane solemnity, high sniffing pride grounded on nothing at all; a Kaiser much sunk in the sediments of his muddy Epoch. Sure enough, he was a proud lofty solemn Kaiser, infinitely the gentleman in air and humor; Spanish gravities, ceremonials, reticences;--and could, in a better scene, have distinguished himself by better than mere statuesque immovability of posture, dignified endurance of ennui, and Hapsburg tenacity in holding the grip. It was not till 1735, after tusslings and wrenchings beyond calculation, that he would consent to quit the Shadow of the Crown of Spain; and let Europe BE at peace on that score.
The essence of what is called the European History of this Period, such History as a Period sunk dead in spirit, and alive only in stomach, can have, turns all on Kaiser Karl, and these his clutchings at shadows. Which makes a very sad, surprising History indeed; more worthy to be called Phenomena of Putrid Fermentation, than Struggles of Human Heroism to vindicate itself in this Planet, which latter alone are worthy of recording as "History" by mankind.
On the throne of Spain, beside Philip V. the melancholic new Bourbon, Louis XIV.'s Grandson, sat Elizabeth Farnese, a termagant tenacious woman, whose ambitious cupidities were not inferior in obstinacy to Kaiser Karl's, and proved not quite so shadowy as his. Elizabeth also wanted several things: renunciation of your (Kaiser Karl's) shadowy claims; nay of sundry real usurpations you and your Treaties have made on the actual possessions of Spain,-- Kingdom of Sicily, for instance; Netherlands, for instance; Gibraltar, for instance. But there is one thing which, we observe, is indispensable throughout to Elizabeth Farnese: the future settlement of her dear Boy Carlos. Carlos, whom as Spanish Philip's second Wife she had given to Spain and the world, as Second or supplementary INFANT there,--a troublesome gift to Spain and others.
"This dear Boy, surely he must have his Italian Apanages, which, you have provided for him: Duchies of Parma and Piacenza, which will fall heirless soon. Security for these Italian Apanages, such as will satisfy a Mother: Let us introduce Spanish garrisons into Parma and Piacenza at once! How else can we be certain of getting those indispensable Apanages, when they fall vacant?" On this point Elizabeth Farnese was positive, maternally vehement; would take no subterfuge, denial or delay: "Let me perceive that I shall have these Duchies: that, first of all; or else not that only, but numerous other things will be demanded of you!"
Upon which point the Kaiser too, who loved his Duchies, and hoped yet to keep them by some turn of the game, never could decide to comply. Whereupon Elizabeth grew more and more termagant; listened to wild counsels; took up an Alberoni, a Ripperda, any wandering diplomatic bull-dog that offered; and let them loose upon the Kaiser and her other gainsayers. To the terror of mankind, lest universal war should supervene. She held the Kaiser well at bay, mankind well in panic; and continually there came on all Europe, for about twenty years, a terror that war was just about to break out, and the whole world to take fire. The History so called of Europe went canting from side to side; heeling at a huge rate, according to the passes and lunges these two giant figures, Imperial Majesty and the Termagant of Spain, made at one another, --for a twenty years or more, till once the duel was decided between them.
There came next to no war, after all; sputterings of war twice over,--1718, Byng at Messina, as we saw; and then, in 1727, a second sputter, as we are to see:--but the neighbors always ran with buckets, and got it quenched. No war to speak of; but such negotiating, diplomatizing, universal hope, universal fear, and infinite ado about nothing, as were seldom heard of before. For except Friedrich Wilhelm drilling his 50,000 soldiers (80,000 gradually, and gradually even twice that number), I see no Crowned Head in Europe that is not, with immeasurable apparatus, simply doing ZERO. Alas, in an age of universal infidelity to Heaven, where the Heavenly Sun has SUNK, there occur strange Spectre-huntings. Which is a fact worth laying to heart.--Duel of Twenty Years with Elizabeth Farnese, about the eventualities of Parma and Piacensa, and the Shadow of the lost Crown of Spain; this was the first grand Spectrality of Kaiser Karl's existence; but this was not the whole of them.
IMPERIAL MAJESTY'S PRAGMATIC SANCTION.
Kaiser Karl meanwhile was rather short of heirs; which formed another of his real troubles, and involved him in much shadow-hunting. His Wife, the Serene Brunswick Empress whom we spoke of above, did at length bring him children, brought him a boy even; but the boy died within the year; and, on the whole, there remained nothing but two Daughters; Maria Theresa the elder of them, born 1717,--the prettiest little maiden in the world;-- no son to inherit Kaiser Karl. Under which circumstances Kaiser Karl produced now, in the Year 1724, a Document which he had executed privately as long ago as 1713, only his Privy Councillors and other Official witnesses knowing of it then; [19th April, 1713 (Stenzel, iii. 5222).] and solemnly publishes it to the world, as a thing all men are to take notice of. All men had notice enough of this Imperial bit of Sheepskin, before they got done with it, five-and-twenty years hence. [Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748.] A very famous Pragmatic Sanction; now published for the world's comfort!