THE STORY OF HOLLAND.
MARGARET OF PARMA.
regent who administered the Netherlands for eight years was the eldest
natural child of Charles. She had been married, first to Alexander de
Medici, when she was twelve years old. He was assassinated after a year.
At twenty she was married to the nephew of another Pope, Paul the Third.
Ottavio Farnese was only thirteen years old. By him she became the mother
of the celebrated Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma. She was a woman
of masculine and imperious temper, a mighty huntress, and celebrated in
her time for two unfeminine characteristicsa well-defined moustache
and the gout.
Margaret of Parmas
mother was a Flemish woman. She could, however, be entirely trusted in
carrying out her brothers designs in establishing the Inquisition,
in retaining the foreign garrisons, and in crushing the liberties of the
Netherlands. Her counsellors were Berlaymont, who, though a Fleming, was
the persistent enemy of his country; Viglius, who composed the famous
persecuting edict of 1550; the Bishop of Arras afterwards the celebrated
Cardinal Granvelle, the able and unscrupulous enemy of every Flemish liberty;
Egmont, who had won the battles of St. Quentin and Gravelines, and thereby
humiliated France; and William the Silent, Prince of Orange.
The family of Nassau
had done the most important services to the house of Burgundy. It had
supplied warriors and counsellors to Philip the Good, Charles the Bold,
and Philip the Handsome. The influence of Henry of Nassau put the imperial
crown on the head of Charles the Fifth. He died in war at the emperors
side, and his titles and estates passed to his nephew William. There was
every reason why the descendants of Charles V. should make much of, and
trust the house of Nassau. William, who was only eleven years old at the
time when he succeeded to his cousins inheritance, was the eldest
of five sons, all of whom did noble work in the great war of independence.
William was educated at Brussels under the eye of an old emperor, and
from fifteen years of age was his constant attendant. At twenty-one he
was appointed to command the army. He was now one of Margarets council
and Stadtholder, i.e., the kings representative in Holland,
Zeland, and Utrecht.
the treaty of Cateau Cambresis, and, with the Duke of Alva, was one of
the hostages appointed to guarantee the due execution of the treaty. It
was in France, and while he was hunting with Henry II. in the Forest of
Vincennes, that the French king incautiously communicated to William the
plan which he and Philip had concocted for massacring all the Protestants
in France and the Netherlands. His motive was not religion, but a determination
to extirpate all whose tenets, as he justly thought, would lead them to
resist arbitrary power. To effect this the maintenance of the Spanish
troops in the Netherlands was necessary. William received these communications
without any appearance of surprise, and thereafter gained the name of
William the Silent. But his mind was made up. He determined to do all
that he could to get rid of the Spanish garrisons, to obstruct the establishment
of the Inquisition, and to preserve the liberties of the Netherlands.
It appears to me that Philip had divined his purposes at the epoch of
that celebrated leave-taking. Had he given evidence of them, short work
would have been made of him.
William was still
a Catholic. Indeed at that time it may be doubted whether there was a
single Flemish noble who had embraced the reformed faith. The prospect
of such a conversion was not as yet attractive in the Netherlands, as
it was in Northern Germany where the Reformation had given the princes
independence and plunder. The dissidents from the old faith were artisans
and priests whom the freedom of the new opinions had attracted. William
was young, rich, and profuse. His wealth was great, his expenses greater.
He kept open house at Brussels. But he did not, like one of his colleagues,
speak of his poorer fellow countrymen as that vile and mischievous
animal called the people. He was an enemy to the edict of 1550,
and to the Spanish policy.
There had been but
four bishops in the Netherlands. Philip had induced the Pope to enlarge
the number to eighteen, and to make three of them archbishops. The motive
of this change was to strengthen the machinery for extirpating heresy.
In order to assist them the four thousand Spanish troops were to be kept
indefinitely in the Netherlands, of course at the expense of the Estates.
Here then was plenty of material for discontent, for agitation, and finally
for revolt. The cities again resolved to appeal to their charters. The
charter of Brabant expressly disabled the ruler from increasing the power
of the clergy.
of these measures fell on Granvelle, as he was subsequently called. The
old habit of loyalty was not yet worn out, and it was therefore expedient
to transfer the odium from Philip to his minister. William led the opposition,
and most of the nobles sided with him. At last Philip yielded, and withdrew
the Spanish soldiers for a time in 1560. But the Inquisition kept to its
work. On the other hand, the States were very reluctant to grant subsidies,
and the king was at his wits end for money. At this time (1561)
William married the Princess Anna of Saxony, daughter of the celebrated
Maurice. She was a Lutheran and the negotiations as to the exercise of
her religion were protracted. Meanwhile the Inquisition with Titelmann
at its head continued its office, and in 1564 Granvelle was superseded.
were under the impression, and for a long time remained under it, that
the severity of the government was not due to Philip, but to his ministers
in the Netherlands. For this reason they hated Granvelle, with this view
they sent deputations to MadridEgmont first, Montigny and Berghen
afterwards. At last, in the beginning of 1566, some of the Flemish nobles
drew up the Compromise, by which they pledged themselves to resist the
Inquisition. Orange took no part in it, but he did more. Remembering his
conversation with Henry of France, he resolved to know Philips mind.
He therefore established such a system of espionage over Philip, that
he got copies of all Philips most secret despatches. It is the lot
of despots to be ill served. Worse than that, it is their lot to be betrayed.
Placing no trust in any man, they gain the genuine confidence of none.
Meanwhile thousands of Flemish weavers emigrated to England, especially
to the Eastern Counties, transferred their skill and industry thither,
and soon became the successful rivals of the land of their birth.
The new league determined
to present a Request to Margaret, and Orange so far acted
with the leaders as to counsel them as to the language of the document.
On April 5, 1566, the request was read to the Duchess and her council
by Brederode. The purport of this document was that it was necessary to
the peace of the country that the edicts and the Inquisition should be
withdrawn, and that the management of affairs should be remitted to the
States-General. The petitioners left, and the council debated it. Then
it is that Berlaymont, always consistently hostile to his countrymen,
exclaimed, Is it possible that your Highness can be afraid of these
beggars! As the confederates passed his house afterwards, he is
said to have repeated the insult. The confederates reiterated their requests
on April 8th.
In the evening of
that day Brederode prepared great banquet for three hundred guests at
his mansion. The Flemings did much in the way of eating and drinking,
and when they were warm with wine, the guests debated what name they should
give their association. The host rose and told them, to their indignation,
what was the name which the councillor had given them. He then suggested
that they should adopt the name, instantly seized a beggars wallet
and bowl, filled the latter with wine, put the former on, and passed both
to his next neighbour. The name was adopted with shouts of applause, and
thenceforward the Netherland patriots went by the name.
Orange, Egmont, and
Horn entered the apartment when the revelry was at its height. They were
constrained to drink the new toast and instantly left. Their momentary
presence at this orgie caused soon after the deaths of the last two, a
fate which Orange would have shared had he come into his enemies'
hands. In the morning a new costume, imitating in quality and appearance
the beggars clothing and appendages, was adopted by them. The common
folk the Netherlands now believed that they had leaders, and crowded to
listen to the preachers.
Shortly after these
events, in August, occurred the image breaking in the Netherlands churches.
But no injury was done to anything else, not to any person. The only objects
on which the mobs wreaked their wrath were the symbols of the ancient
religion. The confederate nobles took no part in the outrage. For a time
the violence seemed to be an advantage. On August 25th, the Duchess signed
the Accord, under which the Inquisition was abolished, and a general toleration
accorded. The nobles did their best to quiet the disturbances. But while
Philip temporised he had made up his mind. He collected an army in Spain,
put it under the command of Alva, gave his commander instructions, and
the war began.