Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 2/A Spanish ministerial crisis

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In most European countries, a ministerial crisis is a most exciting announcement!

How it quickens the pulse of thousands! Grasping ambition, pride of place and of power, envy, hatred, jealousy, party spirit, and vanity in some; and the noble virtues of love of country and the country’s weal in others, all tend to quicken the life-blood, sending it rushing to the heart and brain, impelling each individual to acts and deeds according to his political principles, or lacking these, at the dictate of his passions for the attainment of his personal objects. Now, after such a semi-tragical commencement to the political heading of “Ministerial Crisis,” my readers will be astonished that my anecdote is anything but grave or politic—it is simply ridiculous, but, nevertheless, a fact.

A few years back, when that arch intriguer Christina virtually governed Spain, and her royal daughter, though nominally she had ceased to interfere in politics or with the palace, one ministry had been dismissed and another substituted according to her direction and selection.

Now it so happened that personally some, and especially one, of this new ministry were distasteful to the queen, who had objected to their nomination, but eventually acceded to the wishes of her mother. She knew the uselessness of combating her mother’s will, alas! to the cost of her own connubial happiness! so gave herself up to her life of love, of ease, and of pleasure, till an opportunity should arrive of ridding herself of this incubus on her happiness.

The new ministry were installed, and the newspapers after a few days announced, “they enjoyed the entire confidence of H. M.” On the present occasion most of them had just had a private audience of the queen on affairs of state, and were now seated in friendly chat, for the queen is full of repartee and fun, and is fond of gossip.

A short time previously a coolness had existed between the queen and the Duque de Rianzares, and after the quarrel was made up, the portrait of the duke was presented to her by Rianzares and Queen Christina; and was, at their suggestion, hung up in the private audience chamber where they were now assembled. This picture had been an eyesore to all the Spanish nobles, whose pride could ill brook that the portrait of one of ignoble birth should be hung up in a semi-official apartment where foreign ambassadors and people of note were received by H. M. At last one of them ventured to remark that it would be more in honour of H. M.’s ancestry of “kings of long descent” that the portrait of the Duque de Rianzares should not be in that room, but transferred to one of the private apartments.

“Quite right, quite right,” answered the queen, “it shall be taken down. Do you think you could get it down at once?” addressing one of the ministers.

“Certainly, if your Majesty wishes it;” and he mounted a chair, and he and his colleagues lowered Rianzares.[1]

“And now,” said the queen, “put it into the fire and burn it.”

“Pray don’t let your Majesty do so; all we interceded for was change of place.”

“Never mind, never mind; do what I say. I did not order it to be placed here: I don’t care to have it in my private apartments. Burn it.” And she watched with a malicious smile the flames as they consumed the handsome, though heavy features of her mother’s husband.

The ministers took leave: and soon after, V. de la V., who had not been with his colleagues, begged and obtained an audience.

“What do you suppose is smouldering there?” the queen asked. “It is the portrait of the Duque de Rianzares. The ministers advised me to have it taken from this room, and when they got it down they burned it.” She laughed a hearty laugh at the game she was playing.

V. also took his leave: and soon after the duke himself came to learn all the political news, to transmit it to Queen Christina. His eye, directed by personal vanity, sought, as usual, his own handsome face in its lofty position, and with inquiring astonishment looked at the queen for an explanation.

“Ah, you miss your portrait! Well, you must know that V. de la V. has just left, and he said all the nobles were indignant at your portrait being in this room, and begged it might be taken down. I was obliged to accede, as he said it was contrary to etiquette to have any here but my own ancestry; but when he took it down, he threw it into the fire, and it is burnt.”

The rage of the duke knew no bounds: politics were forgotten in his offended dignity, and he rushed from the palace, and sought the minister whom the queen had accused. In vain poor V. de la V., with all the eloquence for which he is famed, protested his innocence, and endeavoured to persuade him that he was not present when the deed was done. At last he persuaded him to accompany him to the other ministers, and learn from them the truth of the story. It was told as it occurred. They could not deny having advised her Majesty to transfer the picture from the semi-official to her private apartments; but this in itself was gall to his pride, and he left them in high dudgeon.

He then proceeded to his own palace, and detailed his grievances to Queen Christina. The deed was done, and would be known all over Madrid on the morrow.

Christina’s love for the duke had been true and intense: a slight to herself she might forgive, one to him, never. So the ministry were summarily dismissed.

The queen exulted in having gained her wishes, in getting rid of the distasteful ministers, and was all the better pleased that it should be with the additional gusto of humiliating the duke, and annoying the Queen Mother.

This story may be relied on.

Soy Yo.

  1. How different from the court etiquette in Philip’s time, whose death was caused by imbibing the fumes of a charcoal brazier; the man whose duty it was to remove it could not be found, and the nobles who were present considered it too far beneath their dignity to do a servant’s duty. So the already ailing king was suffocated.