François de Schoenenberg and the Intrigues of Louis XIV

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Pablo Edronkin

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Despite his success as a diplomat and his appointment as representative in Madrid, François de Schoenenberg soon ran into trouble and the events surrounding the issue became the matter of a major international diplomatic conflict that lasted five years.

"A friend will prove himself in time of trouble." - Moses Ibn Ezra[250].

François' secretary was in debt, and while the Marquis tried to persuade him to pay, nevertheless he was arrested in Madrid without consideration to the fact that he was in the service of a friendly country and under diplomatic protection. François se Schoenenberg saw the act as an attack on him thorough his employee, demanding satisfaction and threatening to inform the King of England about the incident. However, his protests were disregarded. Then he resumed protesting and aparently did so in quite a vehemently manner, so that the King of Spain ordered him to leave Madrid within a few days. Schoenenberg refused, and was forcibly removed from the city.

When the King of Engand and the States-General heard about the crisis and after Baron Belmonte lobbied them a little, formal complains were sent to Madrid but the Spanish crown refused to accept them. So, the King of England sent his master of ceremonies to the Spanish ambassador in London suggesting that the Spanish ambassador should not visit the English court until some sort of solution to the issue from Madrid became apparent. The States-General acted in the same way in Amsterdam. Apparently, that irritated the whole of Spain, and the King in Madrid had to restrain a mob that went to de Schoenenberg's home in Madrid, attempting to lynch him or had him delivered to the Inquisition on the grounds that he was "a secret Jew."[24.7]

Indeed, the family Schoenenberg was Sephardic, originated in Portugal and despite that it was related to the Portuguese royalty, the advent of the Inquisition forced them to become Christians. Many members of the Belmonte / Schoenenberg / Schoenberg family were and still are either jewish or Christian, and religion was never an issue for the family. Most Sephardic families dedicated to politics and finances at the time had no trouble dealing with Muslims, Christians or ews as lon as they were at what they perceived to be their own level. The French, sensing an opportunity to divide their enemies as the affair with Schoenenberg's secretary escalated, began using secret agents to cause more irritation among the people against François de Schoenenberg.

Then, the Count of Lobkowitz, ambassador of the German Emperor in Madrid intervened in his name, persuading the Spanish king about the necessity to remain in good terms with his allies, but the problem took long to be solved. Alexander Stanhope also commented on the violence of the Spanish measures. Writing to Admiral Rusell on Sep 27, 1695 he says:

"Sunday last was sevennight, the conductor of Ambassadors was sent with a message from the King to M. Schonenberg (envoy from the States of Holland and of King Wilham as Stadholder) to leave Madrid in six days, and that they will receive no more papers from or treat with him; the motive as the Marques de Los Balbazes tells me, being some disrespectful offices of his in a late memorial, and having done ill offices relating to the Dutch ships in the fleet."[24.8] (sic)

In another letter from Oct 4, also to the Admiral, he comments again:

"M. Schonenberg was yesterday forcibly carried out of town by two alcaldes de Corte, with a numerous attendance of Alguazils. It looks very oddly, a minister of our King should be forced out of this court in such a manner, at the same time the memory of Namur is so fresh. Mons. Schonenberg is at Rovas, three leagues off where he continues till he recieves our King's orders."[24.9] (sic)

On Nov 3, 1695, writing to the Earl of Galway, Stanhope added:

"This court continues in its usual tranquility, or rather I may call it insensibility, the greatest expectation that amuses them being to know how our King resents their so scandalous behaviour to his minister M. Schonenberg."[24.10] (sic)

Apparently, the Dutch firm conducted by Jacques and Charles Mols in Bilbao suspendend payments on August 1695. For some reason. François Schoenenberg was made responsible or he assumed responsibility for the problem because his private secretary was involved in the company as the second in charge.

The Dutch and British wouldn't have taken action to defend the Marquis de Schoenenberg if he had been really involved in a scandal as one of those responsible. Schoenenberg probably did business with the Bilbao company, but there is indeed a difference between having commercial transactions and being an owner or associate of the company in question.

King Louis XIV also referred to the affair in a letter to N. de Blecourt, his representative in Madrid:

"Je ne serais pas surpris que, s'etant toujours mele de negoce, il voulut encore avoir part a L'achat de vaissaux que le roi d'Espagne veut faire en Hollande."[24.11] (sic)

Schoenenberg protested the arrest of someone who was a secretary of an accredited representative of a legitimate state – something that even today is forbidden by diplomatic code – and by protesting, he brough upon himsleft the expulsion of Madrid, something that indeed, is considered out of order for a government.

According to Stanhope, there was also some disagreement with the ships sent to the Mediterranean by the Dutch and the money spent by the Spanish government that supported them, according to a letter sent by Schonenbreg himself on Dec 23 1694, but Gottheil says that there is no reason to believe that this was part of the trouble that eneded with M. De Schonenberg's expulsion from Madrid.

However, it does seem that the Marquis d'Harcourt had something to do in the whole affair. According to Gottheil, the Comte d'Harrach was suspicious at the time that d'Harcourt was busy at seeding siacord among allies. The French took advantage of the problem with the Marquis de Schoenenberg to do some politics and weaken the stance of other rival states. The Jewish origin of d'Hartcourt's target only made the job easier for him, especially when it came to enreage the mobs.

The problem escalated into serious conflict, with demands for reprisals. The King of England told the Spanish government that he would treat the Spanish representatives in London in the same way as Schoenenberg had been treated in Madrid if no solution was agreed. In Holland, authorities proceeded in a similar way and froze any communications with the Spanish court.

In Madrid, counter-reprisals were also exercised, according to a letter sent by Stanhope to Lord Lexington, dated Jan 2 1696:

"Your Lordship must have been informed from England how, in consequence of the refusal of this Court to readmit M. Schonenberg, Sir Charles Cotterell was sent to forbid the Spanish Ambassador the Court and the King's presence, and told that no memorials should be received from him till his Majesty had had satisfaction from this Court: upon notice of which, on Saturday last, being the last day of the old year, the Conductor of Ambassadors here was sent to me with the very same message, only changing of names, viz., that till his Catholic Majesty had satisfaction from the Court of England for what was done to the Marques of Canales, his Ambassador at London, he would receive no offices from me; and further ordered me to forbear going to Court, or appearing in his Majesty's presence; to which I answered, I should readily obey, and give an account thereof to the King, my Master, as I did the same night by Express.

What will be the issue, I am not able to judge, till I have his Majesty's further orders, which, if they be as I expect for my return, I shall most willingly obey, after a full six years' absence from dear England, and in a country not the most pleasant to a stranger, only I should be glad, lest the common cause suffer by the difference, that some expedient of accomodation may be found out."[24.12] (sic)

The Spanish minister De la Torre, describes in his memories that the problem was very serious. He wrote that after the failure in London, the Spanish king was more interested in the treatment given to the Marquis de Canales – his ambassador in Britain – than on the actual results of the negotiations.

The king's counselors seemingly attempted to escalate the crisis by suggesting not only to continue with the harsh treatment for the Dutch and British, but by lobbying the Vienna court to do the same.

The Archbishop of Toledo, by the name Portocarrero was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the hard line – a curious thing, since the Sampayo y Belmonte family from which François de Schoenenberg descended was related by blood to the Portocarreiro family of Portugal and Spain.

However, De la Torre wrote that Stanhope, on receiving notice from what happened to the Marquis de Canales in London, presumably on order from his own government, left Madrid. He asked for his passports, but before they were written – at the time a passport wasn't exactly what is today but was indeed used as a travel document -, the King of Spain ordered him to leave the city. De la Torre added:

"Il laissa auparavant ses instructions a Don François Schonemberg, envoye des Etats-Generaux, et qui etoit fort estime de la Reine et le chargea de veiller aux interets de I'Angleterre, suivant I'ordre qu'il en avoit regu de S. M. B."[24.13] (sic)

According to Gottheil, ther might have been other reasons as well for the ay in which the King of England treated the Spanish ambassador in London as a retaliation for what happened to Schoenenberg, but that he seized the moment and used the affair as a pretext. There might have been two separate events, albeit concurrent in time.

The Marquis d'Hartcourt wrote to Louis XIV on Nov 5, 1699:

"Les dernieres nouvelles d'Angleterre ont fort deplu. Ayant appris que le marquis de Canales avait recu ordre du roi d'Angleterre de sortir du royaume, on ne sait pas encore ce que Ton resoudra la-dessus, mais on y est fort embarrasse."[24.14] (sic)

Schonenberg continued to preresent both the Dutch and the British in Spain, despite that for a while, someone known as van Citters was sent by The Hague to Madrid. On July 3, 1697 the States-General fixed Schoenenberg's salary at five guliders per day and resolved on other bills and payments pendig as a result of Schoenenberg's work. This serves as proof that he continued in his post.

The Admilarty in Amsterdam continued having Schoenenberg as their representative, and according to Dutch documents cited by Gottheil, he was permitted back in to Madrid on condition that he might be recalled home soon. This last part of an evident agreement was not carried out and the tensions began receding after Van Citters visited the Spanish capital.

Apparently, Count d'Harrach, the Austrian minister in Madrid, managed to settle down things on the basis that continuing the crisis would only weaken Spanish and Austrian interests and weaken the power of the Spanish empire. He was also worried about the influence that Louis XIV was showing in the matter, with evident intentions of having the quarrel continuing in order to weaken his adversaries.

About Apr. 25, 1698, the Comte d'Harrach proposed "I'accomodement avec Mr. de Schonenberg." Apparently, it wasn't an easy task but the Austrians, with some help from within the Spanish court – the Queen, probably -, succeeded around the year 1700, according to a letter sent by Louis XIV to de Blecourt, his agent, on July 15:

"J'ai fait communiquer le traite dans les principales Cours de I'Europe. Mes ambassadeurs et mes envoyes agissent de concert avec ceux du roi d'Angleterre et des Etats-Generaux dans les Ileux ou ils se trouvent ensemble. II n'y a point de ministre d'Angleterre a Madrid, et le comte de Schoennenberg, envoye des Etats-Generaux, ne fait aucune des fonctions de son caractere depuis le differend survenu a son sujet. Mon intention est cependant que vous lui disiez que je vous ai ordonne de concerter avec lui toutes les demarches qui seront a faire pour I'execution du traite. Je sais qu'il a recu ordre de ses ministres d'en user de meme a votre egard, et cette conduite fera mieux voir encore la parfaite intelligence que je veux entretenir avec ces deux puissances."[24.15] (sic)

There were reasons of a high order behind the settlement; apparently, the Second Treaty of Partition was at stake and so, De Quiros, the Spanish representative on Holland was sent in haste to have an interview with King Willieam, and the report he gave afterwards to the Spanish authorities finally decided them to abid to a solution.

De Blecourt wrote to Louis XIV on Aug 5, 1700:

"II y a huit jours qu'il arriva ici un courrier de don Quiros; sur les lettres qu'il a apportees, on a retabli le sieur de Schonnenberg, qui a eu audience particuliere du Roi Catholique dimanche dernier, et qui I'aura bientot en public. Je le fus voir samedi 31 du mois passe. II me dit qu'il etait bien aise d'etre en etat de pouvoir agir plus librement pour I'execution du traite."[24.16] (sic)

The whole matter lasted for five years adn became significant in the debate of laws, privileges and protocols applicable to accredited representatives of states, especially ambassadords.

In a treatise by a Dutch jurist, Cornehus van Bynkershoeck, a Dutch legal expert contemporary of François Schoenenberg, wrote in "De Foro Legatorum Competenti" (1721), a mention to the whole crisis:

"On peut rapporter ici la dispute qu'il y eut entre le Roi d'Espagne, d'une part, le Roi d'Angleterre & les fitats Generaux, de I'autre, en I'annee 1695 et 1696. Un Agent, qui, vu I'absence de I'Ambassadeur commun du Roi d'Angleterre et des Etats Generaux, faisoit leurs affaires aupres de la Cour d'Espagne, homme de neant, s'il en faut croire les bruits publics; avoit presente au Roi d'Espagne des Memoires injurieux.

Le Roi lui fit ordonner de sortir de Madrit, & comme il refusoit opiniatrement de se retirer, le gouverneur de la Ville le mit dehors avec main forte. L'Agent en porta ses plaintes au Roi d'Angleterre, & aux litats Generaux. Le Roi d'Angleterre vouloit aussi-tot faire sortir de Londres I'Ambassadeur d'Espagne; mais les Ministres, par leurs representations, le detournerent de suivre ce premier mouvement. Ensuite ce Monarque, & les Etats Generaux, ecriverent au Roi d'Espagne, pour lui demander satisfaction de Tinjure faite a leur Agent; sinon qu'ils chasseroient aussi ses Ambassadeurs.

En quoi, a mon avis, on temoignoit mal entendre les regies du Droit des gens. Mais on dit que, par un accord fait depuis, le Roi d'Espagne permit a I'Agent de revenir a Madrit; apres quoi le Roi d'Angleterre, & les fitats Generaux le rappellerent."[24.17] (sic)

On a letter dated Aug 1, 1700, François de Schoenenberg wrote to the Griffier Pagel in Holland:

"sijne volkomen readmissie, ende van de Audientie die hy daer op bij hooght-gedachte sijne Koninglycke Majesteyt hadde gehadt,"[24.18] (sic)

And proposed that from then on, De Quiros should be readmitted in his former post.

The letter was analized by the States-General on 24 Aug that year and it was decided to communicate to the Spanish King that they were most happy with the resolution of the problem, and that De Quiros or anyone sent to repace hom would be accepted as am accredited representative.

Gottheil said that at the moment he researched the story of the Belmonte family, the letter of van Schoenenberg was still preserved ih the Dutch Royal Archives as well as an additional one, sent on Aug 26 1700.

The Marquis de Leganez visited Schoenenberg to tell him that the King of Spain not only wanted a public but a private audience with him, and made it evident that they were willing to accommodate for the mistake made five years earlier. Schoenenberg was received with full honors at the Spanish court. Soon enough, nevertheless, the war of the Spanish succession began.


Louis XIV, king of France.
Louis XIV, king of France.
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, public domain[67].



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