After the German ships had signalled that they were again ready for action, those which had the dead and wounded on board, together with the German ships put out of action and the captured English ships, were ordered to make for Antwerp. The combined Franco-German fleet, under the supreme command of the Prince-Admiral, resumed its voyage in the direction of the mouth of the Thames.
AT HAMPTON COURT
The long rows of windows in Hampton Court Palace were still a blaze of light, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour. The double post of the royal uhlans before the entrance was still busy, for the unceasing arrival and departure of officers of rank of the three allied nations demanded military honours. Immediately after the naval engagement at Flushing, so disastrous to the English, a large French army and some regiments of the Russian Imperial Guard had landed at Hastings and were now quartered at Aldershot, on the best of terms with the French and the German troops who had marched from Scotland. The Prince-Admiral’s headquarters had been removed to Hampton Court, whose silent, venerable, and famous palace became suddenly the centre of stirring military and diplomatic life.
Any further serious military operations were hardly considered, for the supposition that the landing of large hostile armies would practically mean the end of the campaign, had proved correct.
In the resistance which bodies of English troops had attempted to offer to the French advance on London, the volunteers had clearly shown their bravery and patriotic devotion; but had been unable to check the victorious course of their better-led opponents. Accordingly, an armistice had been concluded for the purpose of considering the terms of peace offered by England, even before the German troops advancing from Scotland had had the opportunity of taking part in the land operations.
The conclusion of peace, eagerly desired by all the civilised nations of the world, might be considered assured, although, no doubt, its final ratification would be preceded by long and difficult negotiations. The idea, mooted by the German Imperial Chancellor, of summoning a general congress at the Hague, at which not only the belligerents, but all other countries should be represented, had met with general approval, since all the states were interested in the reorganisation of the relations of the Powers. But the settlement of the preliminaries of peace was necessarily the business of the belligerents, and it was for this purpose that the German Imperial Chancellor, Freiherr von Grubenhagen, the French Foreign Minister, M. Delcasse, and the Russian Secretary of State, M. de Witte, accompanied by Count Lamsdorff, and a full staff of officials and diplomatic assistants, had met at Hampton Court Palace.
The preliminary negotiations between these statesmen and the English plenipotentiaries, Mr. Balfour, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, and the Marquis of Londonderry, Lord President of the Privy Council, were carried on with restless eagerness. But the strictest silence in regard to their results up to the present was observed by all who had taken part in them.