THE STORY OF HOLLAND.
MARY OF BURGUNDY.
tyrants come to violent deaths, there is constantly a belief, engendered
of terror, that they are not dead after all, but that they will reappear,
to take vengeance on those who have rejoiced at their fate. For a long
time there was a persistent belief in ancient Rome that Nero was not dead.
For six or seven years many in the Netherlands dreaded the reppearance
of Charles the Headstrong.
But most men were
convinced of his death. The Netherlanders took advantage of it at once,
and claimed even more than their own liberties. They knew that the old
fox, who had already occupied Burgundy, was gaping wide for their country.
They were willing, to assist Mary in retaining her inheritance in the
Low Countries. So the Estates were summoned to Ghent in this hour of supreme
danger. Of course money was demanded, now with some reason. There was
remonstrance indeed, for the States declare that they are impoverished
by enormous taxation and ruinous warstaxation levied levied in defiance
of their charterswars undertaken without their consent.
In answer to these
demands, Mary granted the Great Privilege, the Magna Charta
of the Netherlands. It was this constitution which Mary's grandson violated,
which the Netherlanders took up arms to recover and maintain, which Holland
fought for during more than fifty years, and finally secured. It provided
that offices should be filled by natives only; that the Great Council
and Supreme Court of Holland should be re-established, and should be a
court of appeal, having no jurisdiction over the other tribunals; that
the cities and estates should hold diets when they chose; that no new
taxes should be imposed without the consent of the estates; that no war
should be undertaken without the consent of the estates; that the language
of the people should be used in all public and legal documents; that the
seat of government should be at the Hague; that the Estates should alone
regulate the currency, and that the sovereign should come in person before
the Estates when supply was required. The Estates also took care that
the citizens should be protected against arbitrary imprisonment.
of the Netherlands, repeated in all the States, is the freest and fullest
which any country had attained to or preserved. Perhaps when Mary granted
it, and promised to keep it, she meant what she did and said. But whether
it was that she bethought herself of that common doctrine of princes in
those days, that subjects have no rights against their rulers, that rulers
are not bound to speak the truth, or keep their word, a doctrine by no
means dead even in our days; or whether she was persuaded that she had
derogated from her dignity in granting what her father had tyrannously
withheld, it is certain that she or her counsellors intrigued with the
old French fox.
Louis thought it
would pay better to betray her counsellors, and to furnish the fact that
they were traitors to their country, to their colleagues, and to the Great
Privilege. So it came out. They were seized in Ghent, instantly tried
and instantly beheaded. The duchess clad in mourning, weeping with her
hair dishevelled, and on foot, besought the burghers to spare their lives.
It was in vain. The citizens were not content to accept her apologies,
for they had gained their privileges, and were near losing them. The distress
of Mary has claimed the sympathy of the sentimental. But it is one of
the most inevitable and disheartening results of hereditary rank, that
it breeds hereditary lackeys. One result, however, came out of the old
foxs perfidy. Mary would have none of his, or those who were allied
She married Maximilian
of Hapsburg, son and successor of Frederic the Sleepy, and with the consent
of the Netherlanders. Maximilian was a king, soon to be an emperor, with
vast necessities and narrow means. He became from time to time the pensioner
and the tool of most of the Western kings. He was ever on the look out
for money, whatever the source might be signifying little to him, and
whatever the conditions might be of procuring it. But his father lived
fourteen years after he married Mary, and she had died nine years before
her husband was emperor.
Five years after
her marriage Mary of Burgundy died from a fall off her horse, and her
son Philip succeeded her, being then four years old. Maximilian claimed
to be the guardian of his son, and the governor of the country. But the
Flemings refused this arrangement, probably because they had a tolerably
clear idea as to how the King of the Romans could fulfil the functions
of ruler. In 1488 Maximilian tried to surprise Bruges, where the young
Duke was residing. Unlucky for him he was made prisoner himself, had to
submit to terms, and give hostages. Unfortunately the Hollanders, and
some of the other cities, were more concerned for the young Duke than
they were for their liberties, and left Bruges to struggle alone with
the King of the Romans. Maximilian borrowed an army from his father, conquered
the cities in detail, revoked the Great Privilege, slew the burghers of
the towns, and fined the inhabitants for asserting their unquestioned
rights. During the time of his regency, Maximilian the Pauper made every
use he could of his opportunities, and the Netherlands had to bear the
In 1494, Philip,
now seventeen years of age, became sovereign of the Netherlands. But he
would only swear to maintain the privileges granted by his grandfather
and great-grand father, Charles and Philip, and refused to acquiesce in
the Great Privilege of his mother. The Estates acquiesced. For a time,
Friesland, the outlying province of Holland, was severed from it. It was
free, and it chose as its elective sovereign the Duke of Saxony. After
a time he sold his sovereignty to the house of Hapsburg. The dissensions
of the Estates had put them at the mercy of an autocratic family.
Philip of Burgundy,
in 1496, married Joanna, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. In 1500 his
son Charles was born, who was afterwards Charles the Fifth, Duke of the
Netherlands, but also King of Spain, Emperor of Germany, King of Jerusalem,
and, by the grant of Alexander the Sixth, alias Roderic Borgia and Pope,
lord of the whole new world. Joanna, his mother, through whom he had this
vast inheritance, went mad, and remained mad during her life and his.
Charles not only inherited his mothers and fathers sovereignties,
but his grandfathers also. No wonder that he aspired to universal
dominion, and that his son Philip of Spain laboured during his whole life
to secure it.
The peril which the
liberties of the Netherlands were now running, was greater than ever.
They had been drawn into the hands of that dynasty which, beginning with
two little Spanish kingdoms, had in a generation developed into the mightiest
of monarchies. Ferdinand married Isabella. He was king of the little kingdom
of Arragon, she heiress of Castile. They had two daughters, Joan who married
Philip of the Netherlands, Catherine who married first Arthur, and afterwards
Henry of England. Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the whole of Spain
and in a way united it. The queen aided Columbus in his discovery of America.
The Pope Alexander the Sixth, himself a Spaniard by descent, bestowed
by his Bull, the whole of America, i.e., the West of the Atlantic
on Spain, and the whole of the East of the Atlantic on Portugal. There
was just this excuse for Alexander's Bull, that Portugal and Spain were
the pioneers at the time of maritime discovery in the East and West respectively;
for Spanish enterprise discovered the new world, Portuguese enterprise
doubled the Cape of Good Hope. As yet, however, no one anticipated what
these discoveries and grants would lead to. Moreover, though with growing
hesitation, Europe still respected the authority of the Pope, and did
not feel inclined to question his grants of sovereignty over distant countries.