Calderon the Courtier Page 01
CALDERON, THE COURTIER
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
CHAPTER I. The Antechamber,
CHAPTER II. The Lover and the Confidant
CHAPTER III. A Rival
CHAPTER IV. Civil Ambition, and Ecclesiastical
CHAPTER V. The true Fate of Morgana
CHAPTER VI. Web upon Web
CHAPTER VII. The open Countenance, the concealed Thoughts
CHAPTER VIII. The Escape
CHAPTER IX. The Counterplot
CHAPTER X. We reap what we sow
CHAPTER XI. Howsoever the Rivers wind, the Ocean receives them All
CALDERON, THE COURTIER.
The Tragi-Comedy of Court Intrigue, which had ever found its principal theatre in Spain since the accession of the House of Austria to the throne, was represented with singular complication of incident and brilliancy of performance during the reign of Philip the Third. That monarch, weak, indolent, and superstitious, left the reins of government in the hands of the Duke of Lerma. The Duke of Lerma, in his turn, mild, easy, ostentatious, and shamefully corrupt, resigned the authority he had thus received to Roderigo Calderon, an able and resolute upstart, whom nature and fortune seemed equally to favour and endow. But, not more to his talents, which were great, than to the policy of religious persecution which he had supported and enforced, Roderigo Calderon owed his promotion. The King and the Inquisition had, some years before our story opens, resolved upon the general expulsion of the Moriscos the wealthiest, the most active, the most industrious portion of the population.
"I would sooner," said the bigoted king--and his words were hallowed by the enthusiasm of the Church--"depopulate my kingdom than suffer it to harbour a single infidel." The Duke de Lerma entered into the scheme that lost to Spain many of her most valuable subjects, with the zeal of a pious Catholic expectant of the Cardinal's hat, which he afterwards obtained. But to this scheme Calderon brought an energy, a decision, a vehemence, and sagacity of hatred, that savoured more of personal vengeance than religious persecution. His perseverance in this good work established him firmly in the king's favour; and in this he was supported by the friendship not only of Lerma, but of Fray Louis de Aliaga, a renowned Jesuit, and confessor to the king. The disasters and distresses occasioned by this barbarous crusade, which crippled the royal revenues, and seriously injured the estates of the principal barons, from whose lands the industrious and intelligent Moriscos were expelled, ultimately concentred a deep and general hatred upon Calderon. But his extraordinary address and vigorous energies, his perfect mastery of the science of intrigue, not only sustained, but continued to augment, his power. Though the king was yet in the prime of middle age, his health was infirm and his life precarious. Calderon had contrived, while preserving the favour of the reigning monarch, to establish himself as the friend and companion of the heir apparent. In this, indeed, he had affected to yield to the policy of the king himself; for Philip the Third had a wholesome terror of the possible ambition of his son, who early evinced talents which might have been formidable, but for passions which urged him into the most vicious pleasures and the most extravagant excesses. The craft of the king was satisfied by the device of placing about the person of the Infant one devoted to himself; nor did his conscience, pious as he was, revolt at the profligacy which his favourite was said to participate, and, perhaps, to encourage; since the less popular the prince, the more powerful the king.
But all this while there was formed a powerful cabal against both the Duke of Lerma and Don Roderigo Calderon in a quarter where it might least have been anticipated. The cardinal-duke, naturally anxious to cement and perpetuate his authority, had placed his son, the Duke d'Uzeda, in a post that gave him constant access to the monarch. The prospect of power made Uzeda eager to seize at once upon all its advantages; and it became the object of his life to supplant his father. This would have been easy enough but for the genius and vigilance of Calderon, whom he hated as a rival, disdained as an upstart, and dreaded as a foe. Philip was soon aware of the contest between the two factions, but, in the true spirit of Spanish kingcraft he took care to play one against the other. Nor could Calderon, powerful as he was, dare openly to seek the ruin of Uzeda; while Uzeda, more rash, and, perhaps, more ingenuous, entered into a thousand plots for the downfall of the prime favourite.
The frequent missions, principally into Portugal, in which of late Calderon had been employed, had allowed Uzeda to encroach more and more upon the royal confidence; while the very means which Don Roderigo had adopted to perpetuate his influence, by attaching himself to the prince, necessarily distracted his attention from the intrigues of his rival. Perhaps, indeed, the greatness of Calderon's abilities made him too arrogantly despise the machinations of the duke, who, though not without some capacities as a courtier, was wholly incompetent to those duties of a minister on which he had set his ambition and his grasp.