For some time longer the Tatars remained troublesome neighbours, capable of invading and devastating large tracts of Russian territory and of threatening even the city of Moscow, but the Horde was now broken up into independent and mutually hostile khanates, and the Moscow diplomatists could generally play off one khanate against the other, so that there was no danger of the old political domination being re-established.
The powers were generally less concerned for the captives than for the acquisition of trading privileges, and the Beys took advantage of the commercial rivalry of England and France to play off the one power against the other.
Nevertheless, at this the eleventh hour of ter opportunities, Sweden might still have saved something from the wreck of her empire if Charles had behaved like a reasonable being (see CHARLES Peter The Great; Gortz, Georg Heinricii Von; Osterman, Andrei); but he would only consent to play off Russia against England, and his sudden death before Fredrikshald (Dec. i 1, 1718) left Sweden practically at the end of her resources and at the mercy of her enemies.
In Sicily Spanish rule was less absolute, for the island had not been conquered, but had given itself over voluntarily to the Aragonese; and the parliament, formed by the three bracci or orders (the militare consisting of the nobility, the ecclesiastico, of the clergy, and the demaniale, of the communes), imposed certain limitations on the viceroy, who had to play off the three bracci against each other.
The irritation of the latter was greatly Mazarin's own fault; he had tried consistently to play off the king's brother Gaston of Orleans against Conde, and their respective followers against each other, and had also, as his carnets prove, jealously kept any courtier from getting into the good graces of the queen-regent except by his means, so that it was not unnatural that the nobility should hate him, while the queen found herself surrounded by his creatures alone.
From 1293 onward Philip and his sons had been striving to make an end of the power of the Plantagenets in Aquitaine, sometimes by the simple argument of war, more frequently by the insidious process of encroaching on ducal rights, summoning litigants to Paris, and encouraging local magnates and cities alike to play off their allegiance to their suzerain against that to their immediate lord.
At his death in 1519 Cardinal Giulio de' Medici (son of the Giuliano murdered in the Pazzi conspiracy) took charge of the government; he met with some opposition and had to play off the Ottimati against the Piagnoni, but he did not rule badly and maintained at all events the outward forms of freedom.
Even the Roman Catholic Church produced the Abbe Loisy (though he undertakes to play off church certainties against historical uncertainties).