The Chiefe Events of the Monarchie of Spaine, in the Yeare 1639
About this text
The Italian historian and diplomat Virgilio Malvezzi (1595-1654) was court historian to Philip IV of Spain. He became official chronicler in 1636, and in 1640 was one of the ambassadors sent by Philip to England in an effort to prevent the marriage of Mary to William II of Orange. His historical writing imitated the tradition of Tacitus and Lipsius, and was criticised for its compression and opacity. John Milton, in Of Reformation, complained that Malvezzi “cut Tacitus into slivers and steaks”. Malvezzi, following Machiavellian ideas, argued for dissimulation in politics, and his work (written in Italian and Spanish) was widely translated into Latin, German, English, and Dutch. Succesi principali della Monarchia di Spagna nell’anno 1639 was translated into English by Robert Gentilis (1590-c.1665), fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. The translation was printed in 1647, with a dedication from the translator to Edward Buckhurst, Earl of Dorset. In the selected extract, Malvezzi links political upheaval with famine, a standard trope of providential discourse in the period.
The monarchie of
In the yeare 1639.
By the Marquesse Virgilio
Maluezzi, one of his Ma-
jesties Councell of
Translated out of th'Italian copy
by Robert Gentilis Gent.
Printed by T. W. for Humphrey Moseley, at the signe of the Princes Arms in St. Pauls Church-yard 1647
PUBLISHED BY T. W.
PUBLISHED FOR Humphrey Moseley
Afflicted Europe weepes (for many ages) from time to time at her ruines, either because God doth most chastise the carelesnesse of those whom he loveth best, and so it is good will; or because he most punisheth the faults of them who are most bound unto him, and so it seemes revenge: he either trieth as mercifull or scourgeth as wrathfull. Sometimes she seeth her Inhabitants bloudy themselves in civill warres, and oftentimes she seeth her land overflowne with barbarous Nations. Our bitternesse calls simplicitie Barbarisme and him barbarous, who is not tedious of other mens affaires; who is content with his owne, as long as it is able to maintaine him; who to offer violence, will first have it offered to himselfe; who goeth against a man through a desire of preserving himselfe, [Page 2] and not through greedinesse of growing great; who slayeth another to preserve his own life, who invadeth Countries to get a dwelling place; valorous without cunning; hardy without deceit as if Nature were worse then Art, and he best who much knoweth, when much knowledge serveth him to doe the greater hurt.
Warre was once more terrible to Nations when it was moved against them to dwell in the Country, then when the aime was domination; The one; was against all, the other against one in losing, the one obliged to change a master, the other to leave being one. Now adayes also the worst would be our leader, if our lamentable times with a most evill comparison did not justifie it. The Countries were more fortunate, the men lesse evill. The necessity of living pricked men forward and not the greedinesse of commanding, nor the hatred of him that commanded. The land changed its Inhabitants, it did not lose them, men did not destroy the houses where they meant to dwell they did not make the land barren which was to nourish them, they [Page 3] peopled it, and did not lay it waste, and it did renew it, more then ruine it; Then was Europe a prey, but to men, now it is a prey to the Sword, Fire, Famine, and Pestilence; warre taking the dominion away from one, and not gaining it to the other, if so be command is meant over men, and not over buried carkasses which are turned to dust; over fruitfull and abounding plaines, and not a desert, burnd, unmanured, and barren Countrie.
The enemy was closely besieged, without any more hopes of sallying out; the Count Dukes Regiment being gotten within the Dike, close to the wall to undermine it. The great fall of raine hindered the worke for a time: then the report of the enemies comming on to relieve it, caused it to be intermitted, and at last was quite given over through a deceitfull report, or relation of deceived men; For some being runne out of the Fort or at least dissembling as though they had forsaken it, said there was not provision within to maintaine it for a weeke, and that the Souldiers died for hunger.
They shewed some of the Bisket mouldy and stinking, and added so many circumstances, that the Captaines tooke the newes for certaine, And to avoid the shedding of blood about a place of no great importance, and because of the incommodities of rainie and cold weather, the intemperatnesse of the aire [Page 145] which cause diseases in men, and the necessity of fortifying our selves against the approching reliefe; they determined to lie still, till famine caused it to yeeld, seeing by force it was not to bee wonne in lesse time. The terme of many dayes being spent, and no yeelding spoken of it was attributed to the Governours obstinacie, never perceiving the deceit. And one weeke passing away after another, the enemy within, and without, still maintaining the report of the famine, it was alwaies judged ill done that they had not set upon it by force; and it was now thought it could never be taken. Every day some precedent error was blamed, and some new one committed; losing time through th'opinion of having lost it.
I doe not affirme there was any error committed, but if there were, it may bee called a most fortunate one: it stayd not the Conquest so long, as it increased the glory of it taking away from the enemy all manner of excuse, for covering his defects, even of time.