Reported 280 Years Ago (August 25 1739): Concern that the Protestant Swedes are emboldening France

The front page of the Belfast News Letter of August 14 1739 (which is August 25 in the modern calendar)
The front page of the Belfast News Letter of August 14 1739 (which is August 25 in the modern calendar)
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From August 14 1739 News Letter (Aug 25 modern date):

This is the last in a nine-month surviving batch of papers that began in late 1738. Most papers from 1737 to early 1750s are lost. In coming days we are reproducing the paper, printed as Britain was close to war with Spain, with explanatory footnotes where appropriate:

LONDON, August 4.

They write from Stockholm, of the 17th of July, that the king of Sweden was aboard the Bourbon on Saturday, accompanied by the counts de la Gardie and Gillenberg, &c.

A company of the guards was drawn up on the ship’s bridge, and as soon as his majesty’s barge put off, on a signal from the French admiral, immediately followed a volley of small arms from all the ships, then a general discharge of all the canon except the Bourbon, not to incommode the king, who was received by M.d’Antin at his barge.

A collation was prepared, but the king took only a glass of Burgundy to drink the admiral’s health, and after going thro’ the ship about an hour, return’d, and was again saluted by a discharge of the cannon of all the ships, the Bourbon included.

The marquis d’Antin with his officers and the French ambassador were treated last night at Ulriesdahl by the king of Spain’s orders, the count and countess de la Gardie doing the honours, several senators were there also. [The background to the meeting above is complicated. There had been continual reports in the preceding News Letters about the concern in the Baltic about the arrival of French ships there under the command of the Marquess d’Antin, an admiral who commanded the fleet du Ponant to Brest. Meanwhile there were tensions between Russia and Sweden over territory lost in a conflict that ended in 1721, and that threatened to spill over into another war. Russia was already at war alongside part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian part, against the Ottomans.

As if that wasn’t complex enough, France, which had recently warned the Dutch not to side with Britain in a looming war against Spain, was the main Christian friend of the Muslim Turks. Hence there was a lot at stake in diplomacy such as that described above. The typically unnamed commentary below, that might have been written in Belfast but more likely in London, outlines British concerns]

From Sweden at length we have certain advice, that the French squadron, about which so much noise has been made in the publick papers, both abroad and at home, is too insignificant to give any real umbrage to the maritime powers; but at the same time all our accounts agree, that there are orders given for building in several Swedish ports 18 men of war for the French service.

That the Swedes, a brave protestant people, should be aggrandizing the power of the house of Bourbon at this time of day, when she is already too potent for her neighbours and without a strong alliance, in opposition to her measures, in a fair way to obtain what she has every aspired at, Universal Monarchy, is surprizing to all political persons; nor is any other reason assigned for this odd counsel, than the power of gold over some base minds: however we wish, for the common cause, that Sweden may not too late repent of this false step of politicks, and by-and-by find these very ships made of use against themselves; or if not, against their hearty and sincere friends.

Should it prove otherwise, they have better fortune than any other court in Europe has had, that has followed the councils, or pursued the interest of the Bourbon family.

We have advice from Schaffhausen, that the count de Lautrec, who mediated so successively for France between the burghers and the magistrates of Geneva, will be appointed ambassador extraordinary to the Swiss cantons, in order to negociate, in conjunction with M. de Courtelles, the French ambassador there, the renewal of the alliance between France and the Helverick body. It is thought, however, that this affair can’t be concluded before next winter. [This is yet another report on a French alliance, albeit an unsurprising one, given the proximity of the Swiss. The Helverick body appears to be a name for the Swiss cantons or parliament. Switzerland would later become the Helvetic Republic]

LONDON. Aug 4.

We hear that the highwayman lately shot dead by the marquess of Graham, was a deserter from the foot guards, as was also his comrade who escap’d: they had robb’d the earl of Londonderry that morning.

The night before the deceas’d made a visit to his mother, who is in an alms-house at Farnham, and gave her a guinea.

There was found in his pockets about 7l [£7 is about £1,700 in today’s money], a silver watch, several bullets, and mould for casting others. The marquess has order’d the money and effects to be given to the poor of the parish where the affair happen’d.

[The Earl of Londondery was a title revived for Thomas Pitt, who was an uncle of William Pitt the Elder, who would become prime minister. This seems to be a reference to Thomas Pitt’s son Ridgeway. The Marquess of Graham, a Scottish aristocrat, had been made a duke in 1707 for his role in the Act of Union of that year]

Yesterday the Prince of Wales, capt. Pellys from China, came to her moorings at BlackWall; the same tide the London, capt. Bootle, was expected at Deptford; but on examination she was found to draw so much water that the pilot would not take charge of her till she was considerably lighter.

On Saturday next his majesty will review his own royal regiment of dragoons, commanded by lieutenant-general Gore upon Kew green, where the necessary dispositions are making for that purpose.

The convocations of Canterbury and York are prorogued to the 19th of October next.