Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/293

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Bentinck
Bentinck
289

sion in the lurch; but which at all events visibly arrested the progress of France, and obliged her to recognise the regal rights of her most resolute opponent. The real difficulty in the negotiations lay in bringing Louis XIV, notwithstanding his unwillingness to withdraw his protection from James II, to an engagement concerning him which would satisfy William III; and this difficulty was solved by means of the general clause as to the King of England's enemies upon which Portland and Boufflers agreed. Their first interview, held on 8 July 1697, at Brukom near Hal (in the vicinity of Brussels), with a lack of ceremoniousness forming a marked contrast to the proceedings at Ryswyk, was succeeded by five others; and when, in October, Portland returned to England, the ratifications of the treaties of peace had been exchanged. Before his return negotiations had been begun through him with the court of Vienna for a re-establishment of the grand alliance, but these overtures had been naturally received with coolness. (A more detailed account of the meetings of Portland with Boufflers, summarised by Ranke and Macaulay and repeatedly mentioned by Luttrell, is given by Klopp, vii. 389 seqq. See also the references in the summary of Stepney's correspondence in Lord Macclesfield's MSS., First Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, 35-6.)

In January 1698, only a few months after the accomplishment of his arduous task, Portland was sent as ambassador to France, the embassy thither of the Duke of St. Albans having been of a merely complimentary nature. Indisputably Portland was the most suitable person for the post, if only because no English statesman was fully cognisant like himself of the understanding upon which the recently concluded peace had been founded. When asked by Count Auersperg why he was sent, he explained that the king had in truth no one else to send (Klopp, viii. 2-3); but there can at the same time be little doubt that though affection was still strong on the one side and fidelity on the other, the relations between William and Portland had become uneasy, so that a temporary separation seemed expedient. Portland had of late grown uncontrollably jealous of the favours and preferments granted to Arnold van Keppel, now Earl of Albemarle, who since the year 1691 had been gradually acquiring the king's goodwill by qualities which were entirely foreign to Portland's harder and drier nature. ‘They were,’ says Burnet, ‘in all respects men not only of different, but of opposite characters; secrecy and fidelity were the only qualities in which it could be said they did in any sort agree.’ In the quarrels which ensued the fault seems to have always lain with Portland, who now showed sullenness in addition to his usual bluntness in his demeanour towards the king, and even hinted at his desire to retire from court. Thus the French embassy offered a suitable temporary solution of the difficulty; but Portland had hardly set out on his journey when he received a most affectionate letter from the king, expressing deep sorrow for his friend's departure, and assuring him that his feeling towards him was one which nothing but death could alter (Macaulay). Portland's departure was delayed by a fire at Whitehall, but he arrived incognito at Paris on 30 Jan. 1698, and soon afterwards held his formal entry. Much attention was attracted by the unprecedented magnificence of his embassy, to which Prior was attached as secretary, while Rapin the historian accompanied it as preceptor to the ambassador's son, Lord Woodstock, a lively and promising child. (For details as to the embassy see Luttrell, vol. iv., and Macaulay; of young Lord Woodstock there is an amusing anecdote in a newsletter in the Denbigh MSS., given in the Seventh Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, 199 b.). The personal impression which he made in France was excellent, and contrasted strangely with his unpopularity in England; but there were not wanting observers who, like St. Simon, bitterly commented on the king's welcoming, ‘comme une espèce de divinité,’ the ambassador of a prince whom he had so long treated with every kind of personal hatred and contempt. Portland himself, after his first audience with Louis early in March, wrote that if the French king's bearing towards him was insincere, it was a comedy played with wonderful skill, and that he rather inclined to this view of it. His impression was further confirmed by the fact that, notwithstanding all the courtesies and distinctions lavished upon him by the king, he was never able to obtain the honour of an interview with Madame de Maintenon. On the other hand, he enjoyed the advantage of much friendly intercourse with that extremely independent personage, the Duchess Elizabeth Charlotte of Orleans. In the serious business of his embassy Portland at first made but slow progress. William III was not very well pleased to find that his ambassador had, as was perhaps inevitable, begun his diplomatic operations by discussing the continued presence of James II and his court at St. Germain. He had first protested with generous warmth against being exposed at Versailles to the presence of the Duke of