ELIZABETH FARNESE AND ALBERONI
 IN 1714 certain events took place in Spain of sufficient interest to be worth the telling. Philip V., a feeble monarch, like all
those for the century preceding him, was on the throne. In his youth he had been the Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis
XIV. of France, and upon the death of that great monarch would be close in the succession to the throne of that kingdom.
But, chosen as king of Spain by the will of Charles II., he preferred a sure seat to a doubtful one, and renounced his
claim to the French crown, thus bringing to an end the fierce "War of the Succession," which had involved most of the
powers of Europe for many years.
Philip, by nature weak and yielding, became in time a confirmed hypochondriac, and on the death of his wife, Maria
Louise, in 1714, abandoned himself to grief, refusing to attend to business of any kind, shutting himself up in the
strictest seclusion, and leaving the affairs of the kingdom practically in the hands of the Princess Orsini, the
governess of his children, and his chief adviser.
Sorrow-stricken as was the bereaved king, affairs were already in train to provide him with a new wife, a plan being
laid for that purpose at the very
 funeral of his queen, as some writers say, between the ambitious Princess Orsini and a cunning Italian named Alberoni,
while they, with a show of grave decorum, followed Maria Louise to the grave.
The story of Alberoni is an interesting one. This man, destined to become prime minister of Spain, began life as the son
of a gardener in the duchy of Parma. While a youth he showed such powers of intellect that the Jesuits took him into
their seminary and gave him an education of a superior character. He assumed holy orders and, by a combination of
knowledge and ability with adulation and buffoonery, made his way until he received the appointment of interpreter to
the Bishop of St. Domino, who was about to set out on a mission from the Duke of Parma to the Duke of Vend˘me, then
commander of the French forces in Italy.
The worthy bishop soon grew thoroughly disgusted with Vend˘me, who, high as he was in station, displayed a shameless
grossness of manner which was more than the pious churchman could endure. The conduct of the affair was therefore left
to the interpreter, whose delicacy was not disturbed by the duke's behavior, and who managed to ingratiate himself fully
in the good graces of the French general, becoming so great a favorite that in the end he left the service of the Duke
of Parma for that of Vend˘me.
Subsequently the duke was appointed to a command in Spain, where he employed Alberoni in all his negotiations with the
court of Madrid. Here the wily and ambitious Italian won the favor of the
 Princess Orsini so fully that when, on Vend˘me's death, he returned home, the Duke of Parma sent him as his envoy to
The princess little dreamed the character of the man whom she had taken into confidential relations, and who was
plotting to overthrow her influence at court. Bent on retaining her influence by the choice of a tractable queen, she
spoke to Alberoni of the urgent necessity of finding another bride for the disconsolate king. The shrewd diplomat named
several eligible princesses, each of whom he dismissed as objectionable for one reason or another. At the end he
adroitly introduced the name of Elizabeth Farneses, step-daughter of the Duke of Parma, of whom he spoke carelessly as a
good girl, fattened on Parmesan cheese and butter, and so narrowly educated that she had not an idea beyond her
embroidery. She might succeed, he hinted, to the throne of Parma, as the duke had no child of his own, in which case
there would be a chance for Spain to regain her lost provinces in Italy.
The deluded Princess Orsini was delighted with the suggestion. With such a girl as this for queen she could continue to
hold the reins of state. She easily induced Philip to approve the choice; the Duke of Parma was charmed with the offer;
and the preliminary steps to the marriage were hurried through with all possible rapidity.
Before the final conclusion of the affair, however, the Princess Orsini discovered in some way that Alberoni had lied,
and that the proposed bride was by no means the ignorant and incapable country
 girl she had been told. Furious at the deception, she at once sent off a courier with orders to stop all further
proceedings relating to the marriage. The messenger reached Parma in the morning of the day on which the marriage
ceremony was to be performed by proxy. But Alberoni was wide awake to the danger, and managed to have the messenger
detained until it was too late. Before be could deliver his despatches Elizabeth Farnese was the legal wife of Philip of
The new queen had been fully advised of the state of affairs by Alberoni. The Princess Orsini, to whom she owed her
elevation, was to be got rid of, at once and permanently. On crossing the frontiers she was met by all her household
except the princess, who was with the king, then on his way to meet and espouse his bride. At Alcala the princess left
him and hastened to meet the queen, reaching the village of Xadraca in time to receive her as she alighted from her
carriage, kiss her hand, and in virtue of her office at court to conduct her to her apartment.
Elizabeth met the princess with a show of graciousness, but on entering her chamber suddenly turned and accused her
visitor of insulting her by lack of respect, and by appearing before her in improper attire. The amazed princess,
overwhelmed by this accusation, apologized and remonstrated, but the queen refused to listen to her, ordered her from
the room, and bade the officer of the guard to arrest and convey her beyond the frontier.
Here was a change in the situation! The officer
 hesitated to arrest one who for years had been supreme in Spain.
"Were you not instructed to obey me implicitly?" demanded Elizabeth.
"Yes, your majesty."
"Then do as I have ordered. I assume all responsibility."
"Will your majesty give me a written sanction?"
"Yes," said Elizabeth, in a tone very different from that of the bread-and-butter miss whom Alberoni had represented
Calling for pen, ink, and paper, she wrote upon her knee an order for the princess's arrest, and bade the hesitating
officer to execute it at once.
He dared no longer object. The princess, in court dress, was hurried into a carriage, with a single female attendant and
two officers, being allowed neither a change of clothing, protection against the cold, nor money to procure needed
conveniences on the road. In this way a woman of over sixty years of age, whose will a few hours before had been
absolute in Spain, was forced to travel throughout an inclement winter night, and continue her journey until she was
thrust beyond the limits of Spain, within which she was never again permitted to set foot.
Such was the first act of the docile girl whom the ambitious princess had fully expected to use as a tool for her
designs. Schooled by her skilled adviser, and perhaps sanctioned by Philip, who may have wished to get rid of his old
favorite, Elizabeth at the start showed a grasp of the situation which she
 was destined to keep until the end. The feeble-minded monarch at once fell under her influence, and soon all the affairs
of the kingdom became subject to her control.
Elizabeth was a woman of restless ambition and impetuous temper, and she managed throughout Philip's reign to keep the
kingdom in constant hot water. The objects she kept in view were two: first, to secure to Philip the reversion of the
French crown in case of the death of the then Duke of Anjou, despite the fact that he had taken frequent oaths of
renunciation; second, to secure for her own children sovereign rule in Italy.
We cannot detail the long story of the intrigues by which the ambitious woman sought to bring about these purposes, but
in all of them she found an able ally in Alberoni. Elizabeth did not forget that she owed her high position to this man.
They were, besides, congenial in disposition, and she persuaded Philip to trust and consult him, and finally to appoint
him prime minister. Not satisfied with this reward to her favorite, she, after a few years, induced the Pope to grant
him a cardinal's hat and Philip to make him a grandee of Spain. The gardener's son had, by ability and shrewdness,
reached the highest summit to which his ambition could aspire.
From the greatest height one may make the most rapid fall. The power of Alberoni was destined quickly to reach its end.
Yet it was less his own fault than the ambition of the queen that led to the termination of his career. As a prime
minister he proved a marked success, giving Spain an
adminis-  tration far superior to any she had enjoyed for many years. Alberoni was a man of great ability, which he employed in
zealous efforts to improve the internal condition of the country, having the wisdom to avail himself of the talents and
knowledge of other able men in handling those departments of government with which he was unfamiliar. He seemed inclined
to keep Spain at peace, at least until she had regained some of her old power and energy; but the demands of the queen
overcame his reluctance, and in the end he entered upon the accomplishment of her purposes with a daring and
recklessness in full accordance with the demands of her restless spirit of intrigue.
Louis XIV. died in 1715. Louis XV., his heir, was a sickly child, not yet five years old. Philip would have been regent
during his youth, and his heir in case of his death, had he not renounced all claim to the French throne. He was too
weak and irresolute in himself to take any steps to gain this position, but his wife spurred him on to ambitious
designs, and Alberoni entered eagerly into her projects, beginning a series of intrigues in France with all who were
opposed to the Duke of Orleans, the existing regent.
These intrigues led to war. The duke concluded an alliance with England and Germany, the former enemies of France.
Philip, exasperated at seeing himself thus thwarted, declared war against the German emperor, despite all that Alberoni
could do to prevent, and sent an expedition against Sardinia, which captured that island. Sicily was also invaded.
 Alberoni now entered into intrigues for the restoration of the banished Stuarts to the English throne, and took part in
a conspiracy in France to seize the Duke of Orleans and appoint Philip to the regency.
Both these plots failed, the war became general, Philip found his armies beaten, and Alberoni was forced to treat for
peace. The Spanish minister had made bitter enemies of George I. of England and the Duke of Orleans, who, claiming that
he was responsible for disturbing the peace of Europe, demanded his dismissal as a preliminary to peace. His failure had
lost him influence with the king, but the queen, the real power behind the throne, supported him, and it was only by
promises of the enemies of Alberoni to aid her views for the establishment of her children that she was induced to yield
consent to his overthrow.
On the 4th of December, 1719, Alberoni spent the evening transacting affairs of state with the king and queen. Up to
that time he remained in full favor and authority, however he may have suspected the intrigues for his overthrow. Their
majesties that night left Madrid for their country palace at Pardo, and from there was sent a decree by the hands of a
secretary of state, to the all-powerful minister, depriving him of all his offices, and bidding him to quit Madrid
within eight days and Spain within three weeks.
Alberoni had long been hated by the people of Spain, and detested by the grandees, who could not be reconciled to the
supremacy of a foreigner and his appointment to equality with them in rank. But
 this sudden dismissal seemed to change their sentiments, and rouse them to realization of the fact that Spain was losing
its ablest man. Nobles and clergy flocked to his house in such numbers that the king became alarmed at this sudden
popularity, and ordered him to shorten the time of his departure.
Alberoni sought refuge in Rome, but here the enmity of France and England pursued him, and Philip accused him of
misdemeanors in office, for which he demanded a trial by the Pope and cardinals. Before these judges the disgraced
minister defended himself so ably that the court brought the investigation to a sudden end by ordering him to retire to
a monastery for three years.
This period the favor of the Pope reduced to one year, and his chief enemy, the regent of France, soon after dying, he
was permitted to leave the monastery and pass the remainder of his life free from persecution. His career was a singular
one, considering the lowness of his origin, and showed what ability and shrewdness may accomplish even against the
greatest obstacles of fortune.
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