Phillip II in the Netherlands
Chapter 1 The Abdication of Emperor Charles V
Chapter 2 Philip II and the Conflict with France
Chapter 3 State of the Netherlands and the Beginning of Persecution in Spain
The Abdication of Emperor Charles V
On the 25th day of October, 1555, the estates of the Netherlands were assembled in the great hall of the palace at Brussels. They had been summoned to be the witnesses and the guarantees of the abdication which Charles V had long before resolved upon, and which he was that day to execute. The emperor, like many potentates before and since, was fond of great political spectacles. He knew their influence upon the masses of mankind. Although plain, even to shabbiness, in his own costume, and usually attired in black, no one ever understood better than he how to arrange such exhibitions in striking and artistic style. We have seen the theatrical and imposing manner in which he quelled the insurrection at Ghent, and nearly crushed the life forever out of that vigorous and turbulent little commonwealth. The closing scene of his long and energetic reign he had now arranged with profound study, and with an accurate knowledge of the manner in which the requisite effects were to be produced. The termination of his own career, the opening of his beloved Philip’s, were to be dramatized in a manner worthy the august character of the actors, and the importance of the great stage where they played their parts. The eyes of the whole world were directed upon that day towards Brussels; for an imperial abdication was an event which had not, in the 16th century, been staled by custom.
The gay capital of Brabant—of that province which rejoiced in the liberal constitution known by the cheerful title of the “joyful entrance,” was worthy to be the scene of the imposing show. Brussels had been a city for more than five centuries, and, at that day, numbered about 100,000 inhabitants. Its walls, six miles in circumference, were already two hundred years old. Unlike most Netherland cities, lying usually upon extensive plains, it was built along the sides of an abrupt promontory. A wide expanse of living verdure, cultivated gardens, shady groves, fertile cornfields, flowed round it like a sea. The foot of the town was washed by the little river Senne, while the irregular but picturesque streets rose up the steep sides of the hill like the semicircles and stairways of an amphitheatre. Nearly in the heart of the place rose the audacious and exquisitely embroidered tower of the townhouse, three hundred and sixty-six feet in height, a miracle of needlework in stone, rivaling in its intricate carving the cobweb tracery of that lace which has for centuries been synonymous with the city, and rearing itself above a façade of profusely decorated and brocaded architecture. The crest of the elevation was crowned by the towers of the old ducal palace of Brabant, with its extensive and thickly-wooded park on the left, and by the stately mansions of Orange, Egmont, Aremberg, Culemburg, and other Flemish grandees, on the right. The great forest of Soignies, dotted with monasteries and convents, swarming with every variety of game, whither the citizens made their summer pilgrimages, and where the nobles chased the wild boar and the stag, extended to within a quarter of a mile of the city walls. The population, as thrifty, as intelligent, as prosperous as that of any city in Europe, was divided into fifty-two guilds of artisans, among which the most important were the armorers, whose suits of mail would turn a musket ball; the gardeners, upon whose gentler creations incredible sums were annually lavished; and the tapestry workers, whose gorgeous fabrics were the wonder of the world. Seven principal churches, of which the most striking was that of St. Gudule, with its twin towers, its charming façade, and its magnificently painted windows, adorned the upper part of the city. The number seven was a magic number in Brussels, and was supposed at that epoch, during which astronomy was in its infancy and astrology in its prime, to denote the seven planets which governed all things terrestrial by their aspects and influences. Seven noble families, springing from seven ancient castles, supplied the stock from which the seven senators were selected who composed the upper council of the city. There were seven great squares, seven city gates, and upon the occasion of the present ceremony, it was observed by the lovers of wonderful coincidences, that seven crowned heads would be congregated under a single roof in the liberty-loving city.
The palace where the states-general were upon this occasion convened, had been the residence of the Dukes of Brabant since the days of John II, who had built it about the year 1300. It was a spacious and convenient building, but not distinguished for the beauty of its architecture. In front was a large open square, enclosed by an iron railing; in the rear an extensive and beautiful park, filled with forest trees, and containing gardens and labyrinths, fish ponds and game preserves, fountains and promenades, race courses and archery grounds. The main entrance to this edifice opened upon a spacious hall, connected with a beautiful and symmetrical chapel. The hall was celebrated for its size, harmonious proportions, and the richness of its decorations. It was the place where the chapters of the famous order of the Golden Fleece were held. Its walls were hung with a magnificent tapestry of Arras, representing the life and achievements of Gideon, the Midianite, and giving particular prominence to the miracle of the “fleece of wool,” vouchsafed to that renowned champion, the great patron of the Knights of the Fleece.
On the present occasion there were various additional embellishments of flowers and votive garlands. At the western end a spacious platform or stage, with six or seven steps, had been constructed, below which was a range of benches for the deputies of the seventeen provinces. Upon the stage itself there were rows of seats, covered with tapestry, upon the right hand and upon the left. These were respectively to accommodate the knights of the order and the guests of high distinction. In the rear of these were other benches, for the members of the three great councils. In the center of the stage was a splendid canopy, decorated with the arms of Burgundy, beneath which were placed three gilded armchairs. All the seats upon the platform were vacant, but the benches below, assigned to the deputies of the provinces, were already filled. Numerous representatives from all the states but two—Gelderland and Overyssel—had already taken their places. Grave magistrates, in chain and gown, and executive officers in the splendid civic uniforms for which the Netherlands were celebrated, already filled every seat within the space allotted. The remainder of the hall was crowded with the more favored portion of the multitude which had been fortunate enough to procure admission to the exhibition. The archers and hallebardiers of the bodyguard kept watch at all the doors. The theatre was filled; the audience was eager with expectation; the actors were yet to arrive. As the clock struck three, the hero of the scene appeared. Caesar, as he was always designated in the classic language of the day, entered, leaning on a shoulder of William of Orange. They came from the chapel, and were immediately followed by Philip II and Queen Mary of Hungary. The Archduke Maximilian, the Duke of Savoy, and other great personages came afterwards, accompanied by a glittering throng of warriors, councillors, governors, and Knights of the Fleece.
Many individuals of existing or future historic celebrity in the Netherlands, whose names are so familiar to the student of the epoch, seemed to have been grouped, as if by premeditated design, upon this imposing platform, where the curtain was to fall forever upon the mightiest emperor since Charlemagne, and where the opening scene of the long and tremendous tragedy of Philip’s reign was to be simultaneously enacted. There was the Bishop of Arras, soon to be known throughout Christendom by the more celebrated title of Cardinal Granvelle, the serene and smiling priest whose subtle influence over the destinies of so many individuals then present, and over the fortunes of the whole land, was to be so extensive and so deadly. There was that flower of Flemish chivalry, the lineal descendant of ancient Frisian kings, already distinguished for his bravery in many fields, but not having yet won those two remarkable victories which were soon to make the name of Egmont like the sound of a trumpet throughout the whole country. Tall, magnificent in costume, with dark flowing hair, soft brown eye, smooth cheek, a slight moustache, and features of almost feminine delicacy; such was the gallant and ill-fated Lamoral Egmont. The Count of Horn, too, with bold, sullen face, and fan-shaped beard—a brave, honest, discontented, quarrelsome, unpopular man; those other twins in doom—the Marquis Berghen and the Lord of Montigny; the Baron Berlaymont, brave, intensely loyal, insatiably greedy for office and wages, but who, at least, never served but one party; the Duke of Arschot, who was to serve all, essay to rule all, and to betray all—a splendid seignor, magnificent in cramoisy velvet, but a poor creature, who traced his pedigree from Adam, according to the family monumental inscriptions at Louvain, but who was better known as grand-nephew of the emperor’s famous tutor, Chièvres; the bold, debauched Brederode, with handsome, reckless face and turbulent demeanor; the infamous Noircarmes, whose name was to be covered with eternal execration, for aping towards his own compatriots and kindred as much of Alva’s atrocities and avarice, as he was permitted to exercise; the distinguished soldiers Meghen and Aremberg—these, with many others whose deeds of arms were to become celebrated throughout Europe, were all conspicuous in the brilliant crowd. There, too, was that learned Frisian, President Viglius, crafty, plausible, adroit, eloquent—a small, brisk man, with long yellow hair, glittering green eyes, round, tumid, rosy cheeks, and flowing beard. Foremost among the Spanish grandees, and close to Philip, stood the famous favorite, Ruy Gomez, or as he vas familiarly called “Re y Gomez” (King and Gomez), a man of meridional aspect, with coal-black hair and beard, gleaming eyes, a face pallid with intense application, and slender but handsome figure; while in immediate attendance upon the emperor, was the immortal Prince of Orange.
Such were a few only of the most prominent in that gay throng, whose fortunes, in part, it will be our humble duty to narrate; how many of them passing through all this glitter to dark and mysterious doom!—some to perish on public scaffolds, some by midnight assassination; others, more fortunate, to fall on the battlefield—nearly all, sooner or later, to be laid in bloody graves!
All the company present had risen to their feet as the emperor entered. By his command, all immediately afterwards assumed their places. The benches at either end of the platform were accordingly filled with the royal and princely personages invited, with the Fleece Knights, wearing the insignia of their order, with the members of the three great councils, and with the governors. The Emperor, the King, and the Queen of Hungary, were left conspicuous in the center of the scene. As the whole object of the ceremony was to present an impressive exhibition, it is worth our while to examine minutely the appearance of the two principal characters.
Charles V was then fifty-five years and eight months old, but he was already decrepit with premature old age. He was of about the middle height, and had been athletic and well-proportioned. Broad in the shoulders, deep in the chest, thin in the flank, very muscular in the arms and legs, he had been able to match himself with all competitors in the tourney and the ring, and to vanquish the bull with his own hand in the favorite national amusement of Spain. He had been able in the field to do the duty of captain and soldier, to endure fatigue and exposure, and every privation except fasting. These personal advantages were now departed. Crippled in hands, knees and legs, he supported himself with difficulty upon a crutch, with the aid of an attendant’s shoulder. In face he had always been extremely ugly, and time had certainly not improved his physiognomy. His hair, once of a light color, was now white with age, close-clipped and bristling; his beard was gray, coarse, and shaggy. His forehead was spacious and commanding; the eye was dark blue, with an expression both majestic and benignant. His nose was aquiline but crooked. The lower part of his face was famous for its deformity. The under lip, a Burgundian inheritance, as faithfully transmitted as the duchy and county, was heavy and hanging; the lower jaw protruding so far beyond the upper, that it was impossible for him to bring together the few fragments of teeth which still remained, or to speak a whole sentence in an intelligible voice. Eating and talking, occupations to which he was always much addicted, were becoming daily more arduous, in consequence of this original defect, which now seemed hardly human, but rather an original deformity.
So much for the father. The son, Philip II, was a small, meager man, much below the middle height, with thin legs, a narrow chest, and the shrinking, timid air of a habitual invalid. He seemed so little, upon his first visit to his aunts, the Queens Eleanor and Mary, accustomed to look upon proper men in Flanders and Germany, that he was fain to win their favor by making certain attempts in the tournament, in which his success was sufficiently problematical. “His body,” says his professed panegyrist, “was but a human cage, in which, however brief and narrow, dwelt a soul to whose flight the immeasurable expanse of heaven was too contracted.” The same wholesale admirer adds, that “his aspect was so reverend, that rustics who met him alone in a wood, without knowing him, bowed down with instinctive veneration.” In face, he was the living image of his father, having the same broad forehead, and blue eye, with the same aquiline, but better proportioned, nose. In the lower part of the countenance, the remarkable Burgundian deformity was likewise reproduced. He had the same heavy, hanging lip, with a vast mouth, and monstrously protruding lower jaw. His complexion was fair, his hair light and thin, his beard yellow, short, and pointed. He had the aspect of a Fleming, but the loftiness of a Spaniard. His demeanor in public was still, silent, almost sepulchral. He looked habitually on the ground when he conversed, was chary of speech, embarrassed, and even suffering in manner. This was ascribed partly to a natural haughtiness which he had occasionally endeavored to overcome, and partly to habitual pains in the stomach, occasioned by his inordinate fondness for pastry.
Such was the personal appearance of the man who was about to receive into his single hand the destinies of half the world; whose single will was, for the future, to shape the fortunes of every individual then present, of many millions more in Europe, America, and at the ends of the earth, and of countless millions yet unborn.
The three royal personages being seated upon chairs placed triangularly under the canopy, such of the audience as had seats provided for them, now took their places, and the proceedings commenced. Philibert de Bruxelles, a member of the privy-council of the Netherlands, arose at the emperor’s command, and made a long oration. He spoke of the emperor’s warm affection for the provinces, as the land of his birth; of his deep regret that his broken health and failing powers, both of body and mind, compelled him to resign his sovereignty, and to seek relief for his shattered frame in a more genial climate. Caesar’s gout was then depicted in energetic language, which must have cost him a twinge as he sat there and listened to the councilor’s eloquence. “’Tis a most truculent executioner,” said Philibert, “it invades the whole body, from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet, leaving nothing untouched. It contracts the nerves with intolerable anguish, it enters the bones, it freezes the marrow, it converts the lubricating fluids of the joints into chalk, it pauses not until, having exhausted and debilitated the whole body, it has rendered all its necessary instruments useless, and conquered the mind by immense torture.” Engaged in mortal struggle with such an enemy, Caesar felt himself obliged, as the councilor proceeded to inform his audience, to change the scene of the contest from the humid air of Flanders to the warmer atmosphere of Spain. He rejoiced, however, that his son was both vigorous and experienced, and that his recent marriage with the Queen of England had furnished the provinces with a most valuable alliance. He then again referred to the emperor’s boundless love for his subjects, and concluded with a tremendous, but superfluous, exhortation to Philip on the necessity of maintaining the Catholic religion in its purity. After this long harangue, which has been fully reported by several historians who were present at the ceremony, the councilor proceeded to read the deed of cession, by which Philip, already sovereign of Sicily, Naples, Milan, and titular King of England, France, and Jerusalem, now received all the duchies, marquisates, earldoms, baronies, cities, towns, and castles of the Burgundian property, including, of course, the seventeen Netherlands.
As De Bruxelles finished, there was a buzz of admiration throughout the assembly, mingled with murmurs of regret, that in the present great danger upon the frontiers from the belligerent King of France and his warlike and restless nation, the provinces should be left without their ancient and puissant defender. The emperor then rose to his feet. Leaning on his crutch, he beckoned from his seat the personage upon whose arm he had leaned as he entered the hall. A tall, handsome youth of twenty-two came forward—a man whose name from that time forward, and as long as history shall endure, has been, and will be, more familiar than any other in the mouths of Netherlanders. At that day he had rather a southern than a German or Flemish appearance. He had a Spanish cast of features, dark, well chiseled, and symmetrical. His head was small and well placed upon his shoulders. His hair was dark brown, as were also his moustache and peaked beard. His forehead was lofty, spacious, and already prematurely engraved with the anxious lines of thought. His eyes were full, brown, well opened, and expressive of profound reflection. He was dressed in the magnificent apparel for which the Netherlanders were celebrated above all other nations, and which the ceremony rendered necessary. His presence being considered indispensable at this great ceremony, he had been summoned but recently from the camp on the frontier, where, notwithstanding his youth, the emperor had appointed him to command his army in chief against such antagonists as Admiral Coligny and the Duc de Nevers.
Thus supported upon his crutch and upon the shoulder of William of Orange, the Emperor proceeded to address the states, by the aid of a closely-written brief which he held in his hand. He reviewed rapidly the progress of events from his seventeenth year up to that day. He spoke of his nine expeditions into Germany, six to Spain, seven to Italy, four to France, ten to the Netherlands, two to England, as many to Africa, and of his eleven voyages by sea. He sketched his various wars, victories, and treaties of peace, assuring his hearers that the welfare of his subjects and the security of the Roman Catholic religion had ever been the leading objects of his life. As long as God had granted him health, he continued, only enemies could have regretted that Charles was living and reigning; but now that his strength was but vanity, and life fast ebbing away, his love for dominion, his affection for his subjects, and his regard for their interests, required his departure. Instead of a decrepit man with one foot in the grave, he presented them with a sovereign in the prime of life and the vigor of health. Turning toward Philip, he observed that for a dying father to bequeath so magnificent an empire to his son was a deed worthy of gratitude, but that when the father thus descended to the grave before his time, and by an anticipated and living burial sought to provide for the welfare of his realms and the grandeur of his son, the benefit thus conferred was surely far greater. He added that the debt would be paid to him and with usury, should Philip conduct himself in his administration of the province with a wise and affectionate regard to their true interests. Posterity would applaud his abdication, should his son prove worthy of his bounty; and that could only be by living in the fear of God, and by maintaining law, justice, and the Catholic religion in all their purity, as the true foundation of the realm. In conclusion, he entreated the estates, and through them the nation, to render obedience to their new prince, to maintain concord and to preserve inviolate the Catholic faith; begging them, at the same time, to pardon him all errors or offenses which he might have committed towards them during his reign, and assuring them that he should unceasingly remember their obedience and affection in his every prayer to that Being to whom the remainder of his life was to be dedicated.
Such brave words as these, so many vigorous asseverations of attempted performance of duty, such fervent hopes expressed of a benign administration in behalf of the son, could not but affect the sensibilities of the audience, already excited and softened by the impressive character of the whole display. Sobs were heard throughout every portion of the hall, and tears poured profusely from every eye. The Fleece Knights on the platform and the burghers in the background were all melted with the same emotion. As for the Emperor himself, he sank almost fainting upon his chair as he concluded his address. An ashy paleness overspread his countenance, and he wept like a child. Even the icy Philip was almost softened, as he rose to perform his part in the ceremony. Dropping upon his knees before his father’s feet, he reverently kissed his hand. Charles placed his hands solemnly upon his son’s head; made the sign of the cross, and blessed him in the name of the Holy Trinity. Then raising him in his arms he tenderly embraced him. saying, as he did so, to the great potentates around him, that he felt a sincere compassion for the son on whose shoulders so great a weight had just devolved, and which only a life-long labor would enable him to support. Philip now uttered a few words expressive of his duty to his father and his affection for his people. Turning to the orders, he signified his regret that he was unable to address them either in the French or Flemish language, and was therefore obliged to ask their attention to the Bishop of Arras, who would act as his interpreter. Antony Perrenot accordingly, arose, and in smooth, fluent, and well-turned commonplaces, expressed at great length the gratitude of Philip towards his father, with his firm determination to walk in the path of duty, and to obey his father’s counsels and example in the future administration of the provinces. This long address of the prelate was responded to at equal length by Jacob Maas, member of the Council of Brabant, a man of great learning, eloquence, and prolixity, who had been selected to reply on behalf of the states-general, and who now, in the name of these bodies, accepted the abdication in an elegant and complimentary harangue. Queen Mary of Hungary, the “Christian widow” of Erasmus, and Regent of the Netherlands during the past twenty-five years, then rose to resign her office, making a brief address expressive of her affection for the people, her regrets at leaving them, and her hopes that all errors which she might have committed during her long administration would be forgiven her. Again the redundant Maas responded, asserting in terms of fresh compliment and elegance the uniform satisfaction of the provinces with her conduct during her whole career.
The orations and replies having now been brought to a close, the ceremony was terminated. The Emperor, leaning on the shoulders of the Prince of Orange and of the Count de Buren, slowly left the hall, followed by Philip, the Queen of Hungary, and the whole court; all in the same order in which they had entered, and by the same passage into the chapel.
It is obvious that the drama had been completely successful. It had been a scene where heroic self-sacrifice, touching confidence, ingenuous love of duty, patriotism, and paternal affection upon one side; filial reverence, with a solemn regard for public duty and the highest interests of the people on the other, were supposed to be the predominant sentiments. The happiness of the Netherlands was apparently the only object contemplated in the great transaction. All had played well their parts in the past; all hoped the best in the times which were to follow. The abdicating Emperor was looked upon as a hero and a prophet. The stage was drowned in tears. There is not the least doubt as to the genuine and universal emotion which was excited throughout the assembly. “Caesar’s oration,” says Secretary Godelaevus, who was present at the ceremony, “deeply moved the nobility and gentry, many of whom burst into tears; even the illustrious Knights of the Fleece were melted.” The historian, Pontus Heuterus, who, then twenty years of age, was likewise among the audience, attests that “most of the assembly were dissolved in tears; uttering the while such sonorous sobs that they compelled his Caesarean Majesty and the Queen to cry with them.” “My own face,” he adds, “was certainly quite wet.” The English envoy, Sir John Mason, describing in a dispatch to his government the scene which he had just witnessed, paints the same picture. “The Emperor,” he said, “begged the forgiveness of his subjects if he had ever unwittingly omitted the performance of any of his duties towards them.” “And here,” continues the envoy, “he broke into a weeping, whereunto, besides the dolefulness of the matter, I think, he was moche provoked by seeing the whole company to do the lyke before; there beyng in myne opinion not one man in the whole assemblie, stranger or another, that dewring the time of a good piece of his oration poured not out as abundantly teares, some more, some lesse. And yet he prayed them to beare with his imperfections, proceeding of his sickly age, and of the mentioning of so tender a matter as the departing from such a sort of dere and loving subjects.”
And yet what was the Emperor Charles to the inhabitants of the Netherlands that they should weep for him? His conduct towards them during his whole career had been one of unmitigated oppression. What to them were all these forty voyages by sea and land, these journeyings back and forth from Friesland to Tunis, from Madrid to Vienna? What was it to them that the imperial shuttle was thus industriously flying to and fro? The fabric wrought was but the daily growing grandeur and splendor of his imperial house; the looms were kept moving at the expense of their hardly-earned treasure, and the wool was often dyed red in the blood of his bravest subjects. The interests of the Netherlands had never been even a secondary consideration with their master. He had fulfilled no duty towards them, he had committed the gravest crimes against them. He had regarded them merely as a treasury upon which to draw; while the sums which he extorted were spent upon ceaseless and senseless wars, which were of no more interest to them than if they had been waged in another planet. Of five millions of gold annually, which he derived from all his realms, two millions came from these industrious and opulent provinces, while but a half million came from Spain and another half from the Indies. The mines of wealth which had been opened by the hand of industry in that slender territory of ancient morass and thicket, contributed four times as much income to the imperial exchequer as all the boasted wealth of Mexico and Peru. Yet the artisans, the farmers, and the merchants, by whom these riches were produced, were consulted about as much in the expenditure of the imposts upon their industry as were the savages of America as to the distribution of the mineral treasures of their soil.
The rivalry of the houses of Habsburg and Valois, this was the absorbing theme, during the greater part of the reign which had just been so dramatically terminated. To gain the empire over Francis, to leave to Don Philip a richer heritage than the Dauphin could expect, were the great motives of the unparalleled energy displayed by Charles during the longer and the more successful portion of his career. To crush the Reformation throughout his dominions, was his occupation afterward, till he abandoned the field in despair. It was certainly not desirable for the Netherlanders that they should be thus controlled by a man who forced them to contribute so largely to the success of schemes, some of which were at best indifferent, and others entirely odious to them. They paid 1,200,000 crowns a year regularly; they paid in five years an extraordinary subsidy of eight millions of ducats, and the States were roundly rebuked by the courtly representatives of their despot, if they presumed to inquire into the objects of the appropriations, or to express an interest in their judicious administration. Yet it may be supposed to have been a matter of indifference to them whether Francis or Charles had won the day at Pavia, and it certainly was not a cause of triumph to the daily increasing thousands of religious reformers in Holland and Flanders that their brethren had been crushed by the Emperor at Mühlberg. But it was not alone that he drained their treasure, and hampered their industry. He was in constant conflict with their ancient and dearly-bought political liberties. Like his ancestor Charles the Bold, he was desirous of constructing a kingdom out of the provinces. He was disposed to place all their separate and individual charters on a pro-crustean bed, and shape them all into uniformity simply by reducing the whole to a nullity.
The difficulties in the way, the stout opposition offered by burghers, whose fathers had gained these charters with their blood, and his want of leisure during the vast labors which devolved upon him as the autocrat of so large a portion of the world, caused him to defer indefinitely the execution of his plan. He found time only to crush some of the foremost of the liberal institutions of the provinces, in detail. He found the city of Tournay a happy, thriving, self-governed little republic in all its local affairs; he destroyed its liberties, without a tolerable pretext, and reduced it to the condition of a Spanish or Italian provincial town. His memorable chastisement of Ghent for having dared to assert its ancient rights of self-taxation, is sufficiently known to the world, and has been already narrated at length. Many other instances might be adduced, if it were not a superfluous task, to prove that Charles was not only a political despot, but most arbitrary and cruel in the exercise of his despotism.
But if his sins against the Netherlands had been only those of financial and political oppression, it would be at least conceivable, although certainly not commendable, that the inhabitants should have regretted his departure. But there are far darker crimes for which he stands arraigned at the bar of history, and it is indeed strange that the man who had committed them should have been permitted to speak his farewell amid blended plaudits and tears. His hand planted the inquisition in the Netherlands. Before his day it is idle to say that the diabolical institution ever had a place there. The isolated cases in which inquisitors had exercised functions proved the absence and not the presence of the system, and will be discussed in a later chapter. Charles introduced and organized a papal inquisition, side by side with those terrible “placards” of his invention, which constituted a masked inquisition even more cruel than that of Spain. The execution of the system was never permitted to languish. The number of Netherlanders who were burned, strangled, beheaded, or buried alive, in obedience to his edicts, and for the offenses of reading the Scriptures, of looking askance at a graven image, or of ridiculing the actual presence of the body and blood of Christ in a wafer, have been placed as high as 100,000 by distinguished authorities, and have never been put at a lower mark than 50,000. The Venetian envoy Navigerc placed the number of victims in the provinces of Holland and Friesland alone at 30,000, and this in 1546, ten years before the abdication, and five before the promulgation of the hideous edict of 1550.
The edicts and the inquisition were the gift of Charles to the Netherlands, in return for their wasted treasure and their constant obedience. For this, his name deserves to be handed down to eternal infamy, not only throughout the Netherlands, but in every land where a single heart beats for political or religious freedom. To eradicate these institutions after they had been watered and watched by the care of his successor, was the work of an eighty years’ war, in the course of which millions of lives were sacrificed. Yet the abdicating Emperor had summoned his faithful estates around him, and stood up before them in his imperial robes for the last time, to tell them of the affectionate regard which he had always borne them, and to mingle his tears with theirs.
Could a single phantom have risen from one of the many thousand graves where human beings had been thrust alive by his decree, perhaps there might have been an answer to the question propounded by the Emperor amid all that piteous weeping. Perhaps it might have told the man who asked his hearers to be forgiven if he had ever unwittingly offended them, that there was a world where it was deemed an offense to torture, strangle, burn, and drown one’s innocent fellow creatures. The usual but trifling excuse for such enormities can not be pleaded for the Emperor. Charles was no fanatic. The man whose armies sacked Rome, who laid his sacrilegious hands on Christ’s vicegerent, and kept the infallible head of the Church a prisoner to serve his own political ends, was then no bigot. He believed in nothing, save that when the course of his imperial will was impeded, and the interests of his imperial house in jeopardy, pontiffs were to succumb as well as anabaptists. It was the political heresy which lurked in the restiveness of the religious reformers under dogma, tradition, and supernatural sanction to temporal power, which he was disposed to combat to the death. He was too shrewd a politician not to recognize the connection between aspirations for religious and for political freedom. His hand was ever ready to crush both heresies in one. Had he been a true son of the Church, a faithful champion of her infallibility, he would not have submitted to the peace of Passau, so long as he could bring a soldier to the field. Yet he acquiesced in the Reformation for Germany, while the fires for burning the reformers were ever blazing in the Netherlands, where it was death even to allude to the existence of the peace of Passau. Nor did he acquiesce only from compulsion, for long before his memorable defeat by Maurice, he had permitted the German troops, with whose services he could not dispense, regularly to attend Protestant worship performed by their own Protestant chaplains. Lutheran preachers marched from city to city of the Netherlands under the imperial banner, while the subjects of those patrimonial provinces were daily suffering on the scaffold for their nonconformity. The influence of this garrison-preaching upon the progress of the Reformation in the Netherlands is well known. Charles hated Lutherans, but he required soldiers, and he thus helped by his own policy to disseminate what, had he been the fanatic which he perhaps became in retirement, he would have sacrificed his life to crush. It is quite true that the growing Calvinism of the provinces was more dangerous both religiously and politically, than the Protestantism of the German princes, which had not yet been formally pronounced heresy, but it is thus the more evident that it was political rather than religious heterodoxy which the despot wished to suppress.
No man, however, could have been more observant of religious rites. He heard mass daily. He listened to a sermon every Sunday and holiday. He confessed and received the sacrament four times a year. He was sometimes to be seen in his tent at midnight, on his knees before a crucifix with eyes and hands uplifted. He ate no meat in Lent, and used extraordinary diligence to discover and to punish any man, whether courtier or plebeian, who failed to fast during the whole forty days. He was too good a politician not to know the value of broad phylacteries and long prayers. He was too nice an observer of human nature not to know how easily mint and cummin could still outweigh the “weightier matters of law, judgment, mercy and faith”; as if the founder of the religion which he professed, and to maintain which he had established the inquisition and the edicts, had never cried woe upon the Pharisees. Yet there is no doubt that the Emperor was at times almost popular in the Netherlands, and that he was never as odious as his successor. There were some deep reasons for this, and some superficial ones; among others, a singularly fortunate manner. He spoke German, Spanish, Italian, French, and Flemish, and could assume the characteristics of each country as easily as he could use its language. He could be stately with Spaniards, familiar with Flemings, witty with Italians. He could strike down a bull in the ring like a matador at Madrid, or win the prize in the tourney like a knight of old; he could ride at the ring with the Flemish nobles, hit the popinjay with his crossbow among Antwerp artisans, or drink beer and exchange rude jests with the boors of Brabant. For virtues such as these, his grave crimes against God and man, against religion and chartered and solemnly-sworn rights have been palliated, as if oppression became more tolerable because the oppressor was an accomplished linguist and a good marksman.
But the great reason for his popularity no doubt lay in his military genius. Charles was inferior to no general of his age. “When he was born into the world,” said Alva, “he was born a soldier,” and the Emperor confirmed the statement and reciprocated the compliment, when he declared that “the three first captains of the age were himself first, and then the Duke of Alva and Constable Montmorency.” It is quite true that all his officers were not of the same opinion, and many were too apt to complain that his constant presence in the field did more harm than good, and “that his Majesty would do much better to stay at home.” There is, however, no doubt that he was both a good soldier and a good general, He was constitutionally fearless, and he possessed great energy and endurance. He was ever the first to arm when a battle was to be fought, and the last to take off his harness. He commanded in person and in chief, even when surrounded by veterans and crippled by the gout. He was calm in great reverses. It was said that he was never known to change color except upon two occasions—after the fatal destruction of his fleet at Algiers, and in the memorable flight from Innspruck. He was of a phlegmatic, stoical temperament, until shattered by age and disease; a man without a sentiment and without a tear. It was said by Spaniards that he was never seen to weep, even at the death of his nearest relatives and friends, except on the solitary occasion of the departure of Don Ferrante Gonzaga from court. Such a temperament was invaluable in the stormy career to which he had devoted his life. He was essentially a man of action, a military chieftain. “Pray only for my health and my life,” he was accustomed to say to the young officers who came to him from every part of his dominions to serve under his banners, “for so long as I have these I will never leave you idle, at least in France. I love peace no better than the rest of you. I was born and bred to arms, and must of necessity keep on my harness till I can bear it no longer.” The restless energy and the magnificent tranquility of his character made him a hero among princes, an idol with his officers, a popular favorite everywhere. The promptness with which, at much personal hazard, he descended like a thunderbolt in the midst of the Ghent insurrection; the juvenile ardor with which the almost bedridden man arose from his sickbed to smite the Protestants at Mühlberg; the grim stoicism with which he saw 60,000 of his own soldiers perish in the wintry siege of Metz; all ensured him a large measure of that applause which ever follows military distinction, especially when the man who achieves it happens to wear a crown. He combined the personal prowess of a knight of old with the more modern accomplishments of a scientific tactician. He could charge the enemy in person like the most brilliant cavalry officer, and he thoroughly understood the arrangements of a campaign, the marshalling and victualling of troops, and the whole art of setting and maintaining an army in the field.
Yet, though brave and warlike as the most chivalrous of his ancestors, Gothic, Burgundian, or Suabian, he was entirely without chivalry. Fanaticism for the faith, protection for the oppressed, fidelity to friend and foe, knightly loyalty to a cause deemed sacred, the sacrifice of personal interests to great ideas, generosity of hand and heart; all those qualities which unite with courage and constancy to make up the ideal chevalier, Charles not only lacked but despised. He trampled on the weak antagonist, whether burgher or petty potentate. He was false as water. He inveigled his foes who trusted to imperial promises by arts unworthy an emperor or a gentleman. He led about the unfortunate John Frederic of Saxony, in his own language, “like a bear in a chain,” ready to be slipped upon Maurice should “the boy” prove ungrateful. He connived at the famous forgery of the prelate of Arras, to which the Landgrave Philip owed his long imprisonment, a villany worse than many for which humbler rogues have suffered by thousands upon the gallows. The contemporary world knew well the history of his frauds, on scale both colossal and minute, and called him familiarly “Charles qui triche.”
The absolute master of realms on which the sun perpetually shone, he was not only greedy for additional dominion, but he was avaricious in small matters, and hated to part with a hundred dollars. To the soldier who brought him the sword and gauntlets of Francis I, he gave a hundred crowns, when ten thousand would have been less than the customary present; so that the man left his presence full of desperation. The three soldiers who swam the Elbe, with their swords in their mouths, to bring him the boats with which he passed to the victory of Mühlberg, received from his imperial bounty a doublet, a pair of stockings, and four crowns apiece. His courtiers and ministers complained bitterly of his habitual niggardliness, and were fain to eke out their slender salaries by accepting bribes from every hand rich enough to bestow them. In truth Charles was more than anything else a politician, notwithstanding his signal abilities as a soldier. If to have founded institutions which could last, be the test of statesmanship, he was even a statesman; for many of his institutions have resisted the pressure of three centuries. But those of Charlemagne fell as soon as his hand was cold, while the works of many ordinary legislators have attained to a perpetuity denied to the statutes of Solon or Lycurgus. Durability is not the test of merit in human institutions. Tried by the only touchstone applicable to governments, their capacity to insure the highest welfare of the governed, we shall not find his polity deserving of much admiration. It is not merely that he was a despot by birth and inclination, nor that he naturally substituted as far as was practicable, the despotic for the republican element, wherever his hand can be traced. There may be possible good in despotisms as there is often much tyranny in democracy. Tried however according to the standard by which all governments may be measured, those laws of truth and divine justice which all Christian nations recognize, and which are perpetual, whether recognized or not, we shall find little to venerate in the life work of the Emperor. The interests of his family, the security of his dynasty, these were his end and aim. The happiness or the progress of his people never furnished even the indirect motives of his conduct, and the result was a baffled policy and a crippled and bankrupt empire at last.
He knew men, especially he knew their weaknesses, and he knew how to turn them to account. He knew how much they would bear, and that little grievances would sometimes inflame more than vast and deliberate injustice. Therefore he employed natives mainly in the subordinate offices of his various states, and he repeatedly warned his successor that the haughtiness of Spaniards and the incompatibility of their character with the Flemish, would be productive of great difficulties and dangers. It was his opinion that men might be tyrannized more intelligently by their own kindred, and in this perhaps he was right. He was indefatigable in the discharge of business, and if it were possible that half a world could be administered as if it were the private property of an individual, the task would have been perhaps as well accomplished by Charles as by any man. He had not the absurdity of supposing it possible for him to attend to the details of every individual affair in every one of his realms; and he therefore entrusted the stewardship of all specialties to his various ministers and agents. It was his business to know men and to deal with affairs on a large scale, and in this he certainly was superior to his successor. His correspondence was mainly in the hands of Granvelle the elder, who analyzed letters received, and frequently wrote all but the signatures of the answers.
The same minister usually possessed the imperial ear, and farmed it out for his own benefit. In all this there was of course room for vast deception, but the Emperor was quite aware of what was going on, and took a philosophic view of the matter as an inevitable part of his system. Granvelle grew enormously rich under his eye by trading on the imperial favor and sparing his majesty much trouble. Charles saw it all, ridiculed his peculations, but called him his “bed of down.” His knowledge of human nature was however derived from a contemplation mainly of its weaknesses, and was therefore one-sided. He was often deceived, and made many a fatal blunder, shrewd politician though he was. He involved himself often in enterprises which could not be honorable or profitable, and which inflicted damage on his greatest interests. He often offended men who might have been useful friends, and converted allies into enemies. “His Majesty,” said a keen observer who knew him well, “has not in his career shown the prudence which was necessary to him. He has often offended those whose love he might have conciliated, converted friends into enemies, and let those perish who were his most faithful partisans.” Thus it must be acknowledged that even his boasted knowledge of human nature and his power of dealing with men was rather superficial and empirical than the real gift of genius.
His personal habits during the greater part of his life were those of an indefatigable soldier. He could remain in the saddle day and night, and endure every hardship but hunger. He was addicted to vulgar and miscellaneous incontinence. He was an enormous eater. He breakfasted at five, on a fowl seethed in milk and dressed with sugar and spices. After this he went to sleep again. He dined at twelve, partaking always of twenty dishes. He supped twice; at first, soon after vespers, and the second time at midnight or one o’clock, which meal was, perhaps, the most solid of the four. After meat he ate a great quantity of pastry and sweetmeats, and he irrigated every repast by vast draughts of beer and wine. His stomach, originally a wonderful one, succumbed after forty years of such labors. His taste, but not his appetite began to fail, and he complained to his major domo, that all his food was insipid. The reply is, perhaps, among the most celebrated of facetiæ. The cook could do nothing more unless he served his Majesty a pasty of watches. The allusion to the Emperor’s passion for horology was received with great applause. Charles “laughed longer than he was ever known to laugh before, and all the courtiers (of course) laughed as long as his Majesty.” The success of so sorry a jest would lead one to suppose that the fooling was less admirable at the imperial court than some of the recorded quips of Tribaulet would lead us to suppose.
The transfer of the other crowns and dignitaries to Philip, was accomplished a month afterwards, in a quiet manner. Spain, Sicily, the Balearic Islands, America, and other portions of the globe, were made over without more display than an ordinary donatio inter vivos. The Empire occasioned some difficulty. It had been already signified to Ferdinand that his brother was to resign the imperial crown in his favor, and the symbols of sovereignty were accordingly transmitted to him by the hands of William of Orange. A deputation, moreover, of which that nobleman, Vice-Chancellor Seld, and Dr. Wolfgang Haller were the chiefs, was dispatched to signify to the electors of the Empire the step which had been thus resolved upon. A delay of more than two years, however, intervened, occasioned partly by the deaths of three electors, partly by the war which so soon broke out in Europe, before the matter was formally acted upon. In February 1553, however, the electors, having been assembled in Frankfort, received the abdication of Charles, and proceeded to the election of Ferdinand. That Emperor was crowned in March, and immediately dispatched a legation to the pope to apprize him of the fact. Nothing was less expected than any opposition on the part of the pontiff. The querulous dotard, however, who then sat in St. Peter’s chair, hated Charles and all his race. He accordingly denied the validity of the whole transaction, without sanction previously obtained from the pope, to whom all crowns belonged. Ferdinand, after listening, through his envoys, to much ridiculous dogmatism on the part of the pope, at last withdrew from the discussion, with a formal protest, and was first recognized by Caraffa’s successor, Pius IV.
Charles had not deferred his retirement till the end of these disputes. He occupied a private house in Brussels, near the gate of Louvain, until August of the year 1556. On the 27th of that month, he addressed a letter from Ghent to John of Osnabruck, president of the Chamber of Spiers, stating his abdication in favor of Ferdinand, and requesting that in the interim the same obedience might be rendered to Ferdinand, as could have been yielded to himself. Ten days later, he addressed a letter to the estates of the Empire, stating the same fact; and on the 17th September, 1556, he set sail from Zealand for Spain. These delays and difficulties occasioned some misconceptions. Many persons who did not admire an abdication, which others, on the contrary, esteemed as an act of unexampled magnanimity, stoutly denied that it was the intention of Charles to renounce the Empire. The Venetian envoy informed his government that Ferdinand was only to lieutenant for Charles, under strict limitations, and that the emperor was to resume the government so soon as his health would allow. The Bishop of Arras and Don Juan de Manrique had both assured him, he said, that Charles would not, on any account, definitely abdicate. Manrique even asserted that it was a mere farce to believe in any such intention. The Emperor ought to remain to protect his son, by the resources of the Empire, against France, the Turks, and the heretics. His very shadow was terrible to the Lutherans, and his form might be expected to rise again in stern reality from its temporary grave.
Time has shown the falsity of all these imaginings, but views thus maintained by those in the best condition to know the truth, prove how difficult it was for men to believe in a transaction which was then so extraordinary, and how little consonant it was in their eyes with true propriety. It was necessary to ascend to the times of Diocletian, to find an example of a similar abdication of empire, on so deliberate and extensive a scale, and the great English historian of the Roman Empire has compared the two acts with each other. But there seems a vast difference between the cases. Both emperors were distinguished soldiers; both were merciless persecutors of defenseless Christians; both exchanged unbounded empire for absolute seclusion. But Diocletian was born in the lowest abyss of human degradation—the slave and the son of a slave. For such a man, after having reached the highest pinnacle of human greatness, voluntarily to descend from power, seems an act of far greater magnanimity than the retreat of Charles. Born in the purple, having exercised unlimited authority from his boyhood, and having worn from his cradle so many crowns and coronets, the German Emperor might well be supposed to have learned to estimate them at their proper value.
Contemporary minds were busy, however, to discover the hidden motives which could have influenced him; and the world, even yet, has hardly ceased to wonder. Yet it would have been more wonderful, considering the Emperor’s character, had he remained. The end had not crowned the work; it not unreasonably discrowned the workman. The earlier, and indeed the greater part of his career had been one unbroken procession of triumphs. The cherished dream of his grandfather, and of his own youth, to add the pope’s triple crown to the rest of the hereditary possessions of his family, he had indeed been obliged to resign.
He had too much practical Flemish sense to indulge long in chimeras, but he had achieved the Empire over formidable rivals, and he had successively not only conquered, but captured almost every potentate who had arrayed himself in arms against him. Clement and Francis, the Dukes and Landgraves of Cleves, Hesse, Saxony, and Brunswick, he had bound to his chariot wheels, forcing many to eat the bread of humiliation and captivity during long and weary years. But the concluding portion of his reign had reversed all its previous glories. His whole career had been a failure. He had been defeated, after all, in most of his projects. He had humbled Francis, but Henry had most signally avenged his father. He had trampled upon Philip of Hesse and Frederic of Saxony, but it had been reserved for one of that German race, which he characterized as “dreamy, drunken, and incapable of intrigue,” to outwit the man who had outwitted all the world, and to drive before him, in ignominious flight, the conqueror of the nations. The German lad who had learned both war and dissimulation in the court and camp of him who was so profound a master of both arts, was destined to eclipse his teacher on the most august theatre of Christendom. Absorbed at Innspruck with the deliberations of the Trent Council, Charles had not heeded the distant mutterings of the tempest which was gathering around him. While he was preparing to crush, forever, the Protestant Church, with the arms which a bench of bishops were forging, lo! the rapid and desperate Maurice, with long red beard streaming like a meteor in the wind, dashing through the mountain passes, at the head of his lancers—arguments more convincing than all the dogmas of Granvelle! Disguised as an old woman, the Emperor had attempted on the 6th of April, to escape in a peasant’s wagon, from Innspruck into Flanders. Saved for the time by the mediation of Ferdinand, he had, a few weeks later, after his troops had been defeated by Maurice, at Füssen, again fled at midnight of the 22nd of May, almost unattended, sick in body and soul, in the midst of thunder, lightning, and rain, along the difficult Alpine passes from Innspruck into Carinthia. His pupil had permitted his escape, only because in his own language, “for such a bird he had no convenient cage.”
The imprisoned princes now owed their liberation, not to the Emperor’s clemency, but to his panic. The peace of Passau, in the following August, crushed the whole fabric of the Emperor’s toil, and laid the foundation of the Protestant Church. He had smitten the Protestants at Mühlberg for the last time. On the other hand, the man who had dealt with Rome, as if the pope, not he, had been the vassal, was compelled to witness, before he departed, the insolence of a pontiff who took a special pride in insulting and humbling his house, and trampling upon the pride of Charles, Philip, and Ferdinand. In France too, the disastrous siege of Metz had taught him that in the imperial zodiac the fatal sign of Cancer had been reached. The figure of a crab, with the words “plus citra,” instead of his proud motto of “plus ultra,” scrawled on the walls where he had resided during that dismal epoch, avenged more deeply, perhaps, than the jester thought, the previous misfortunes of France. The Grand Turk, too, Solyman the Magnificent, possessed most of Hungary, and held at that moment a fleet ready to sail against Naples, in cooperation with the pope and France. Thus the Infidel, the Protestant, and the Holy Church were all combined together to crush him. Towards all the great powers of the earth, he stood not in the attitude of a conqueror, but of a disappointed, baffled, defeated potentate.
Moreover, he had been foiled long before in his earnest attempt to secure the imperial throne for Philip. Ferdinand and Maximilian had both stoutly resisted his arguments and his blandishments. The father had represented the slender patrimony of their branch of the family, compared with the enormous heritage of Philip; who, being after all, but a man, and endowed with finite powers, might sink under so great a pressure of empire as his father wished to provide for him. Maximilian, also, assured his uncle that he had as good an appetite for the crown as Philip, and could digest the dignity quite as easily. The son, too, for whom the Emperor was thus solicitous, had already, before the abdication, repaid his affection with ingratitude. He had turned out all his father’s old officials in Milan, and had refused to visit him at Brussels, till assured as to the amount of ceremonial respect which the new-made king was to receive at the hands of his father.
Had the Emperor continued to live and reign, he would have found himself likewise engaged in mortal combat with that great religious movement in the Netherlands, which he would not have been able many years longer to suppress, and which he left as a legacy of blood and fire to his successor. Born in the same year with his century, Charles was a decrepit, exhausted man at fifty-five, while that glorious age, in which humanity was to burst forever the cerements in a which it had so long been buried, was but awakening to a consciousness of its strength.
Disappointed in his schemes, broken in his fortunes, with income anticipated, estates mortgaged, all his affairs in confusion, failing in mental powers, and with a constitution hopelessly shattered, it was time for him to retire. He showed his keenness in recognizing the fact that neither his power nor his glory would be increased, should he lag superfluous on the stage where mortification instead of applause was likely to be his portion. His frame was indeed but a wreck. Forty years of unexampled gluttony had done their work. He was a victim to gout, asthma, dyspepsia, gravel. He was crippled in the neck, arms, knees, and hands. He was troubled with chronic cutaneous eruptions. His appetite remained, while his stomach, unable longer to perform the task still imposed upon it, occasioned him constant suffering. Physiologists, who know how important a part this organ plays in the affairs of life, will perhaps see in this physical condition of the Emperor a sufficient explanation, if explanation were required, of his descent from the throne. Moreover, it is well known that the resolution to abdicate before his death had been long a settled scheme with him. It had been formally agreed between himself and the Empress that they should separate at the approach of old age, and pass the remainder of their lives in a convent and a monastery. He had, when comparatively a young man, been struck by the reply made to him by an aged officer, whose reasons he had asked for, earnestly soliciting permission to retire from the imperial service. It was, said the veteran, that he might put a little space of religious contemplation between the active portion of his life and the grave.
A similar determination, deferred from time to time, Charles had now carried into execution. While he still lingered in Brussels, after his abdication, a comet appeared, to warn him to the fulfillment of his purpose. From first to last, comets and other heavenly bodies were much connected with his evolutions and arrangements. There was no mistaking the motives with which this luminary had presented itself. The Emperor knew very well, says a contemporary German chronicler, that it portended pestilence and war, together with the approaching death of mighty princes. “My fates call out,” he cried, and forthwith applied himself to hasten the preparations for his departure.
The romantic picture of his philosophical retirement at Juste, painted originally by Sandoval and Siguenza, reproduced by the fascinating pencil of Strada, and imitated in frequent succession by authors of every age and country, is unfortunately but a sketch of fancy. The investigations of modern writers have entirely thrown down the scaffolding on which the airy fabric, so delightful to poets and moralists, reposed. The departing Emperor stands no longer in a transparency robed in shining garments. His transfiguration is at an end. Every action, almost every moment of his retirement, accurately chronicled by those who shared his solitude, have been placed before our eyes, in the most felicitous manner, by able and brilliant writers. The Emperor, shorn of the philosophical robe in which he had been conventionally arrayed for three centuries, shivers now in the cold air of reality.
So far from his having immersed himself in profound and pious contemplation, below the current of the world’s events, his thoughts, on the contrary, never were for a moment diverted from the political surface of the times. He read nothing but dispatches; he wrote or dictated interminable ones in reply, as dull and prolix as any which ever came from his pen. He manifested a succession of emotions at the course of contemporary affairs, as intense and as varied, as if the world still rested in his palm. He was, in truth, essentially a man of action. He had neither the taste nor talents which make a man great in retirement. Not a lofty thought, not a generous sentiment, not a profound or acute suggestion in his retreat has been recorded from his lips. The epigrams which had been invented for him by fabulists have been all taken away, and nothing has been substituted, save a few dull jests exchanged with stupid friars. So far from having entertained and even expressed that sentiment of religious toleration for which he was said to have been condemned as a heretic by the inquisition, and for which Philip was ridiculously reported to have ordered his father’s body to be burned, and his ashes scattered to the winds, he became in retreat the bigot effectually, which during his reign he had only been conventionally.
Bitter regrets that he should have kept his word to Luther, as if he had not broken faith enough to reflect upon in his retirement; stern self-reproach for omitting to put to death, while he had him in his power, the man who had caused all the mischief of the age; fierce instructions thundered from his retreat to the inquisitors to hasten the execution of all heretics, including particularly his ancient friends, preachers, and almoners, Cazalla and Constantine de Fuente; furious exhortations to Philip—as if Philip needed a prompter in such a work—that he should set himself to “cutting out the root of heresy with rigor and rude chastisement”; such explosions of savage bigotry as these, alternating with exhibitions of revolting gluttony, with surfeits of sardine omelettes, Estramadura sausages, eel pies, pickled partridges, fat capons, quince syrups, iced beer, and flagons of Rhenish, relieved by copious draughts of senna and rhubarb, to which his horror-stricken doctor doomed him as he ate, compose a spectacle less attractive to the imagination than the ancient portrait of the cloistered Charles. Unfortunately it is the one which was painted from life.
Philip II and the Conflict with France
Philip II had received the investiture of Milan and the Crown of Naples, previously to his marriage with Mary Tudor. The imperial crown he had been obliged, much against his will, to forego. The archduchy of Austria, with the hereditary German dependencies of his father’s family, had been transferred by the Emperor to his brother Ferdinand, on the occasion of the marriage of that prince with Anna, only sister of King Louis of Hungary. Ten years afterwards, Ferdinand (King of Hungary and Bohemia since the death of Louis, slain in 1526 at the battle of Mohacz) was elected King of the Romans, and steadily refused all the entreaties afterwards made to him in behalf of Philip, to resign his crown and his succession to the Empire, in favor of his nephew. With these diminutions, Philip had now received all the dominions of his father. He was King of all the Spanish kingdoms and of both the Sicilies. He was titular King of England, France, and Jerusalem. He was “Absolute Dominator” in Asia, Africa, and America; he was Duke of Milan and of both Burgundies, and Hereditary Sovereign of the seventeen Netherlands.
Thus the provinces had received a new master. A man of foreign birth and breeding, not speaking a word of their language, nor of any language which the mass of the inhabitants understood, was now placed in supreme authority over them, because he represented, through the females, the “good” Philip of Burgundy, who a century before had possessed himself by inheritance, purchase, force, or fraud, of the sovereignty in most of those provinces. It is necessary to say an introductory word or two concerning the previous history of the man to whose hands the destiny of so many millions was now entrusted.
He was born in May 1527, and was now therefore twenty-eight years of age. At the age of sixteen he had been united to his cousin, Maria of Portugal, daughter of John III and of the Emperor’s sister, Donna Catalina. In the following year (1544) he became father of the celebrated and ill-starred Don Carlos, and a widower. The princess owed her death, it was said, to her own imprudence and to the negligence or bigotry of her attendants. The Duchess of Alva, and other ladies who had charge of her during her confinement, deserted her chamber in order to obtain absolution by witnessing an auto-da-fé of heretics. During their absence, the princess partook voraciously of a melon, and forfeited her life in consequence.
In 1548, Don Philip had made his first appearance in the Netherlands. He came thither to receive homage in the various provinces as their future sovereign, and to exchange oaths of mutual fidelity with them all. Andrew Doria, with a fleet of fifty ships, had brought him to Genoa, whence he had passed to Milan, where he was received with great rejoicing. At Trent he was met by Duke Maurice of Saxony, who warmly begged his intercession with the Emperor in behalf of the imprisoned Landgrave of Hesse. This boon Philip was graciously pleased to promise, and to keep the pledge as sacredly as most of the vows plighted by him during this memorable year. The Duke of Aerschot met him in Germany with a regiment of cavalry and escorted him to Brussels. A summer was spent in great festivities, the cities of the Netherlands vying with each other in magnificent celebrations of the ceremonies, by which Philip successively swore allegiance to the various constitutions and charters of the provinces, and received their oaths of future fealty in return. His oath to support all the constitutions and privileges was without reservation, while his father and grandfather had only sworn to maintain the charters granted or confirmed by Philip and Charles of Burgundy. Suspicion was disarmed by these indiscriminate concessions, which had been resolved upon by the unscrupulous Charles to conciliate the good will of the people. In view of the pretensions which might be preferred by the Brederode family in Holland, and by other descendants of ancient sovereign races in other provinces, the Emperor, wishing to ensure the succession to his sisters in case of the deaths of himself, Philip, and Don Carlos without issue, was unsparing in those promises which he knew to be binding only upon the weak. Although the house of Burgundy had usurped many of the provinces on the express pretest that females could not inherit, the rule had been already violated, and he determined to spare no pains to conciliate the estates, in order that they might be content with a new violation, should the contingency occur.
Philip’s oaths were therefore without reserve, and the light-hearted Flemings, Brabantines, and Walloons received him with open arms. In Valenciennes the festivities which attended his entrance were on a most gorgeous scale, but the “joyous entrance” arranged for him at Antwerp was of unparalleled magnificence. A cavalcade of the magistrates and notable burghers, “all attired in cramoisy velvet,” attended by lackies in splendid liveries and followed by four thousand citizen soldiers in full uniform, went forth from the gates to receive him. Twenty-eight triumphal arches, which alone, according to the thrifty chronicler, had cost 26,800 Carolus guldens, were erected in the different streets and squares, and every possible demonstration of affectionate welcome was lavished upon the Prince and the Emperor. The rich and prosperous city, unconscious of the doom which awaited it in the future, seemed to have covered itself with garlands to honor the approach of its master. Yet icy was the deportment with which Philip received these demonstrations of affection, and haughty the glance with which he looked down upon these exhibitions of civic hilarity, as from the height of a grim and inaccessible tower. The impression made upon the Netherlanders was anything but favorable, and when he had fully experienced the futility of the projects on the Empire which it was so difficult both for his father and himself to resign, he returned to the more congenial soil of Spain.
In 1554 he had again issued from the peninsula to marry the Queen of England, a privilege which his father had graciously resigned to him. He was united to Mary Tudor at Winchester, on the 25th of July of that year, and if congeniality of tastes could have made a marriage happy, that union should have been thrice blessed. To maintain the supremacy of the Church seemed to both the main object of existence, to execute unbelievers the most sacred duty imposed by the Deity upon anointed princes, to convert their kingdoms into a hell the surest means of winning Heaven for themselves. It was not strange that the conjunction of two such wonders of superstition in one sphere should have seemed portentous in the eyes of the English nation. Philip’s mock efforts in favor of certain condemned reformers, and his pretended intercessions in favor of the Princess Elizabeth, failed entirely of their object. The parliament refused to confer upon him more than a nominal authority in England. His children, should they be born, might be sovereigns; he was but husband of the Queen, of a woman who could not atone by her abject but peevish fondness for himself, and by her congenial blood-thirstiness towards her subjects, for her eleven years’ seniority, her deficiency in attractions, and her incapacity to make him the father of a line of English monarchs.
It Almost excites compassion even for Mary Tudor, when her passionate efforts to inspire him with affection are contrasted with impassiveness. Tyrant, bigot, murderess though she was, was still woman, and she lavished upon her husband all that was not ferocious in her nature. Forbidding prayers to be said for the soul of her father, hating her sister and her people, burning bishops, bathing herself in the blood of heretics, to Philip she was all submissiveness and feminine emotion. It was a most singular contrast, Mary the Queen England and Mary the wife of Philip. Small, lean and sickly; painfully near-sighted, yet with an eye of fierceness and fire; her face wrinkled by the hands of care and evil passions still more than by Time; with a big man’s voice, whose harshness made those in the next room tremble; yet feminine in her tastes, skillful with her needle, fond of embroidery work, striking the lute with a touch remarkable for its science and feeling, speaking many languages, including Latin, with fluency and grace; most feminine, too, in her constitutional sufferings; hysterical of habit; shedding floods of tears daily at Philip’s coldness, undisguised infidelity, and frequent absences from England; she almost awakens compassion and causes a momentary oblivion of her identity.
Her subjects, already half maddened by religious persecution, were exasperated still further by the pecuniary burdens which she imposed upon them to supply the King’s exigencies, and she unhesitatingly confronted their frenzy, in the hope of winning a smile from him. When at last her chronic maladies had assumed the memorable form which caused Philip and Mary to unite in a letter to Cardinal Pole, announcing not the expected but the actual birth of a prince, but judiciously leaving the date in blank, the momentary satisfaction and delusion of the Queen was unbounded. The false intelligence was transmitted everywhere. Great were the joy and the festivities in the Netherlands, where people were so easily made to rejoice and keep holiday for anything. “The Regent, being in Antwerp,” wrote Sir Thomas Gresham to the lords of council, “did cause the great bell to ringe to give all men to understand that the news was trewe. The Queene’s highness’ mere merchants caused all our Inglishe ships to shoote off with such joy and triumph, as by men’s arts and pollicey coulde be devised—and the Regent sent our Inglishe maroners one hundred crownes to drynke.” If bell ringing and cannon firing could have given England a Spanish sovereign, the devoutly-wished consummation would have been reached. When the futility of the royal hopes could no longer be concealed, Philip left the country, never to return till his war with France made him require troops, subsidies, and a declaration of hostilities from England.
The personal appearance of the new sovereign has already been described. His manner was far from conciliatory, and in this respect he was the absolute reverse of his father. Upon his first journey out of Spain, in 1548, into his various dominions, he had made a most painful impression everywhere. “He was disagreeable,” says Envoy Suriano, “to the Italians, detestable to the Flemings, odious to the Germans.”
The remonstrances of the Emperor, and of Queen Mary of Hungary, at the impropriety of his manners, had produced, however, some effect, so that on his wedding journey to England, he manifested much “gentleness and humanity, mingled with royal gravity.” Upon this occasion, says another Venetian, accredited to him, “he had divested himself of that Spanish haughtiness, which, when he first came from Spain, had rendered him so odious.” The famous ambassador, Badovaro confirms the impression. “Upon his first journey,” he says, “he was esteemed proud, and too greedy for the imperial succession; but now ’tis the common opinion that his humanity and modesty are all which could be desired.” These humane qualities, however, it must be observed, were exhibited only in the presence of ambassadors and grandees, the only representatives of “humanity” with whom he came publicly and avowedly in contact.
He was thought deficient in manly energy. He was an infirm valetudinarian, and was considered as sluggish in character, as deficient in martial enterprise, as timid of temperament as he was fragile and sickly of frame. It is true, that on account of the disappointment which he occasioned by his contrast to his warlike father, he mingled in some tournaments in Brussels, where he was matched against Count Mansfeld, one of the most distinguished chieftains of the age, and where, says his professed panegyrist, “he broke his lances very much to the satisfaction of his father and aunts.”
That learned and eloquent author, Estelle Calvete, even filled the greater part of a volume, in which he described the journey of the Prince, with a minute description of these feasts and jousts, but we may reasonably conclude that to the loyal imagination of his eulogist Philip is indebted for most of these knightly trophies.
It was the universal opinion of unprejudiced cotemporaries, that he was without a spark of enterprise. He was ever censured for a culpable want of ambition, and for being inferior to his father in this respect, as if the love of encroaching on his neighbor’s dominions, and a disposition to foreign commotions and war would have constituted additional virtues, had he happened to possess them. Those who were most disposed to think favorably of him, remembered that there was a time when even Charles V was thought weak and indolent, and were willing to ascribe Philip’s pacific disposition to his habitual cholic and side-ache, and to his father’s inordinate care for him in youth. They even looked forward to the time when he should blaze forth to the world as a conqueror and a hero. These, however, were views entertained by but few; the general, and the correct opinion, as it proved, being, that Philip hated war, would never certainly acquire any personal distinction in the field, and when engaged in hostilities would be apt to father his laurels at the hands of his generals, rather than with his own sword. He was believed to be the reverse of the Emperor. Charles sought great enterprises; Philip would avoid them. The Emperor never recoiled before threats; the son was reserved, cautious, suspicious of all men, and capable of sacrificing a realm from hesitation and timidity. The father had a genius for action, the son a predilection for repose. Charles took “all men’s opinions, but reserved his judgment,” and acted on it, when matured, with irresistible energy; Philip was led by others, was vacillating in forming decisions, and irresolute in executing them when formed.
Philip, then, was not considered, in that warlike age, as likely to shine as a warrior. His mental capacity, in general, was likewise not very highly esteemed. His talents were, in truth, very much below mediocrity. His mind was incredibly small. A petty passion for contemptible details characterized him from his youth, and, as long as he lived, he could neither learn to generalize, nor understand that one man, however diligent, could not be minutely acquainted with all the public and private affairs of fifty millions of other men. He was a glutton of work. He was born to write dispatches, and to scrawl comments upon those which he received. He often remained at the council-board four or five hours at a time, and he lived in his cabinet. He gave audiences to ambassadors and deputies very willingly, listening attentively to all that was said to him, and answering in monosyllables. He spoke no tongue but Spanish, and was sufficiently sparing of that, but he was indefatigable with his pen. He hated to converse, but he could write a letter eighteen pages long, when his correspondent was in the next room, and when the subject was, perhaps, one which a man of talent could have settled with six words of his tongue.
The world, in his opinion, was to move upon protocols and apostilles. Events had no right to be born throughout his dominions, without a preparatory course of his obstetrical pedantry. He could never learn that the earth would not rest on its axis, while he wrote a programme of the way it was to turn. He was slow in deciding, slower in communicating his decisions. He was prolix with his pen, not from affluence, but from paucity of ideas. He took refuge in a cloud of words, sometimes to conceal his meaning, oftener to conceal the absence of any meaning, thus mystifying not only others but himself.
To one great purpose, formed early, he adhered inflexibly. This, however, was rather an instinct than an opinion; born with him, not created by him. The idea seemed to express itself through him, and to master him, rather than to form one of a stock of sentiments which a free agent might be expected to possess. Although at certain times, even this master-feeling could yield to the pressure of a predominant self-interest—thus showing that even in Philip bigotry was not absolute—yet he appeared on the whole the embodiment of Spanish chivalry and Spanish religious enthusiasm, in its late and corrupted form. He was entirely a Spaniard. The Burgundian and Austrian elements of his blood seemed to have evaporated, and his veins were filled alone with the ancient ardor, which in heroic centuries had animated the Gothic champions of Spain. The fierce enthusiasm for the Cross, which in the long internal warfare against the Crescent, had been the romantic and distinguishing feature of the national character, had degenerated into bigotry. That which had been a nation’s glory now made the monarch’s shame. The Christian heretic was to be regarded with a more intense hatred than even Moor or Jew had excited in the most Christian ages, and Philip was to be the latest and most perfect reincarnation of all this traditional enthusiasm, this perpetual hate. Thus he was likely to be single-hearted in his life. It was believed that his ambition would be less to extend his dominions than to vindicate his title of the most Catholic king. There could be little doubt entertained that he would be, at least, dutiful to his father in this respect, and that the edicts would be enforced to the letter.
He was by birth, education, and character, a Spaniard, and that so exclusively, that the circumstance would alone have made him unfit to govern a country so totally different in habits and national sentiments from his native land. He was more a foreigner in Brussels, even, than in England. The gay, babbling, energetic, noisy life of Flanders and Brabant was detestable to him. The loquacity of the Netherlanders was a continual reproach upon his taciturnity. His education had imbued him, too, with the antiquated international hatred of Spaniard and Fleming, which had been strengthening in the metropolis, while the more rapid current of life had rather tended to obliterate the sentiment in the provinces.
The flippancy and profligacy of Philip the Handsome, the extortion and insolence of his Flemish courtiers, had not been forgotten in Spain, nor had Philip II forgiven his grandfather for having been a foreigner. And now his mad old grandmother, Joanna, who had for years been chasing cats in the lonely tower where she had been so long imprisoned, had just died; and her funeral, celebrated with great pomp by both her sons, by Charles at Brussels and Ferdinand at Augsburg, seemed to revive a history which had begun to fade, and to recall the image of Castilian sovereignty which had been so long obscured in the blaze of imperial grandeur.
His education had been but meager. In an age when all kings and noblemen possessed many languages, he spoke not a word of any tongue but Spanish, although he had a slender knowledge of French and Italian, which he afterwards learned to read with comparative facility. He had studied a little history and geography, and he had a taste for sculpture, painting, and architecture. Certainly if he had not possessed a feeling for art, he would have been a monster. To have been born in the earlier part of the 16th century, to have been a king, to have had Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands as a birthright, and not to have been inspired with a spark of that fire which glowed so intensely in those favored lands and in that golden age, had indeed been difficult.
The King’s personal habits were regular. His delicate health made it necessary for him to attend to his diet, although he was apt to exceed in sweetmeats and pastry. He slept much, and took little exercise habitually, but he had recently been urged by the physicians to try the effect of the chase as a corrective to his sedentary habits. He was most strict in religious observances, as regular at mass, sermons, and vespers as a monk; much more, it was thought by many good Catholics, than was becoming to his rank and age. Besides several friars who preached regularly for his instruction, he had daily discussions with others on abstruse theological points. He consulted his confessor most minutely as to all the actions of life, inquiring anxiously whether this proceeding or that were likely to burthen his conscience.
He was grossly licentious. It was his chief amusement to issue forth at night disguised, that he might indulge in vulgar and miscellaneous incontinence in the common haunts of vice. This was his solace at Brussels in the midst of the gravest affairs of state. He was not illiberal, but, on the contrary, it was thought that he would have been even generous, had he not been straitened for money at the outset of his career. During a cold winter, he distributed alms to the poor of Brussels with an open hand. He was fond of jests in private, and would laugh immoderately, when with a few intimate associates, at buffooneries, which he checked in public by the icy gravity of his deportment. He dressed usually in the Spanish fashion, with close doublet, trunk hose, and short cloak, although at times he indulged in the more airy fashions of France and Burgundy, wearing buttons on his coats and feathers in his hat. He was not thought at that time to be cruel by nature, but was usually spoken of, in the conventional language appropriated to monarchs, as a prince “clement, benign, and debonnaire.” Time was to show the justice of his claims to such honorable epithets.
The court was organized during his residence at Brussels on the Burgundian, not the Spanish model, but of the one hundred and fifty persons who composed it, nine tenths of the whole were Spaniards; the other fifteen or sixteen being of various nations—Flemings, Burgundians, Italians, English, and Germans. Thus it is obvious how soon he disregarded his father’s precept and practices in this respect, and began to lay the foundation of that renewed hatred to Spaniards which was soon to become so intense, exuberant, and fatal throughout every class of Netherlanders. He esteemed no nation but the Spanish, with Spaniards he consorted, with Spaniards he counseled, through Spaniards he governed.
His council consisted of five or six Spanish grandees, the famous Ruy Gomez—then Count of Melito, afterwards Prince of Eboli—the Duke of Alva, the Count de Feria, the Duke of Franca Villa, Don Antonio Toledo, and Don Juan Manrique de Lara. The “two columns,” said Suriano, “which sustain this great machine, are Ruy Gomez and Alva, and from their councils depends the government of half the world.” The two were ever bitterly opposed to each other. Incessant were their bickerings, intense their mutual hate, desperate and difficult the situation of any man, whether foreigner or native, who had to transact business with the government. If he had secured the favor of Gomez, he had already earned the enmity of Alva. Was he protected by the Duke, he was sure to be cast into outer darkness by the favorite. Alva represented the war party, Ruy Gomez the pacific polity more congenial to the heart of Philip. The Bishop of Arras, who in the opinion of the envoys was worth them all for his capacity and this experience, was then entirely in the background, rarely entering the council except when summoned to give advice in affairs of extraordinary delicacy or gravity. He was, however, to reappear most signally in course of the events already preparing. The Duke of Alva, also to play so tremendous a part in the yet unborn history of the Netherlands, was not beloved by Philip. He was eclipsed at this period by the superior influence of the favorite, and his sword, moreover, became necessary in the Italian campaign which was impending.
It is remarkable that it was a common opinion even at that day that the duke was naturally hesitating and timid. One would have thought that his previous victories might have earned for him the reputation for courage and skill which he most unquestionably deserved. The future was to develop those other characteristics which were to make his name the terror and wonder of the world.
The favorite, Ruy Gomez da Silva, Count de Melito, was the man upon whose shoulders the great burden of the state reposed. He was of a family which was originally Portuguese. He had been brought up with the King, although some eight years his senior, and their friendship dated from earliest youth. It was said that Ruy Gomez, when a boy, had been condemned to death for having struck Philip, who had come between him and another page with whom he was quarrelling. The Prince threw himself passionately at his father’s feet, and implored forgiveness in behalf of the culprit with such energy that the Emperor was graciously pleased to spare the life of the future prime minister. The incident was said to have laid the foundation of the remarkable affection which was supposed to exist between the two, to an extent never witnessed before between king and subject. Ruy Gomez was famous for his tact and complacency, and omitted no opportunity of cementing the friendship thus auspiciously commenced. He was said to have particularly charmed his master, upon one occasion, by hypocritically throwing up his cards at a game of hazard played for a large stake, and permitting him to win the game with a far inferior hand. The King learning afterwards the true state of the case, was charmed by the grace and self-denial manifested by the young nobleman. The complacency which the favorite subsequently exhibited in regard to the connection which existed so long and so publicly between his wife, the celebrated Princess Eboli, and Philip, placed his power upon an impregnable basis, and secured it till his death.
At the present moment he occupied the three posts of valet, state councilor, and finance minister. He dressed and undressed his master, read or talked him to sleep, called him in the morning, admitted those who were to have private audiences, and superintended all the arrangements of the household. The rest of the day was devoted to the enormous correspondence and affairs of administration which devolved upon him as first minister of state and treasury. He was very ignorant. He had no experience or acquirement in the arts either of war or peace, and his early education had been limited. Like his master, he spoke no tongue but Spanish, and he had no literature. He had prepossessing manners, a fluent tongue, a winning and benevolent disposition. His natural capacity for affairs was considerable, and his tact was so perfect that he could converse face to face with statesmen, doctors, and generals upon campaigns, theology, or jurisprudence, without betraying any remarkable deficiency. He vas very industrious, endeavoring to make up by hard study for lack of general knowledge, and to sustain with credit the burden of his daily functions. At the same time, by the King’s desire, he appeared constantly at the frequent banquets, masquerades, tourneys, and festivities, for which Brussels at that epoch was remarkable. It was no wonder that his cheek was pale, and that he seemed dying of overwork. He discharged his duties cheerfully, however, for in the service of Philip he knew no rest. “After God,” said Badovaro, “he knows no object save the felicity of his master.” He was already, as a matter of course, very rich, having been endowed by Philip with property to the amount of 26,000 dollars yearly, and the tide of his fortunes was still at the flood.
Such were the two men, the master and the favorite, to whose hands the destinies of the Netherlands were now entrusted.
The Queen of Hungary had resigned the office of Regent of the Netherlands, as has been seen, on the occasion of the Emperor’s abdication. She was a woman of masculine character, a great huntress before the Lord, a celebrated horsewoman, a worthy descendant of the Lady Mary of Burgundy. Notwithstanding all the fine phrases exchanged between herself and the eloquent Maas, at the great ceremony of the 25th of October, she was, in reality, much detested in the provinces, and she repaid their aversion with abhorrence. “I could not live among these people,” she wrote to the Emperor, but a few weeks before the abdication, “even as a private person, for it would be impossible for me to do my duty towards God and my prince. As to governing them, I take God to witness that the task is so abhorrent to me, that I would rather earn my daily bread by labor than attempt it.” She added that a woman of fifty years of age, who had served during twenty-five of them, had a right to repose, and that she was moreover “too old to recommence and learn her A, B, C.” The Emperor, who had always respected her for the fidelity with which she had carried out his designs, knew that it was hopeless to oppose her retreat. As for Philip, he hated his aunt, and she hated him—although, both at the epoch of the abdication and subsequently, he was desirous that she should administer the government.
The new Regent was to be the Duke of Savoy. This wandering and adventurous potentate had attached himself to Philip’s fortunes, and had been received by the King with as much favor as he had ever enjoyed at the hands of the Emperor. Emanuel Philibert of Savoy, then about twenty-six or seven years of age, was the son of the late unfortunate duke, by Donna Beatrice of Portugal, sister of the Empress. He was the nephew of Charles, and first cousin to Philip. The partiality of the Emperor for his mother was well known, but the fidelity with which the family had followed the imperial cause had been productive of nothing but disaster to the duke. He had been ruined in fortune, stripped of all his dignities and possessions. His son’s only inheritance was his sword.
The young Prince of Piedmont, as he was commonly called in his youth, sought the camp of the Emperor, and was received with distinguished favor. He rose rapidly in the military service. Acting always upon his favorite motto, “Spoliatis arma supersunt,” he had determined, if possible, to carve his way to glory, to wealth, and even to his hereditary estates, by his sword alone. War was not only his passion, but his trade. Every one of his campaigns was a speculation, and he had long derived a satisfactory income by purchasing distinguished prisoners of war at a low price from the soldiers who had captured them, and were ignorant of their rank, and by ransoming them afterwards at an immense advance. This sort of traffic in men was frequent in that age, and was considered perfectly honorable. Marshal Strozzi, Count Mansfeld, and other professional soldiers, derived their main income from the system. They were naturally inclined, therefore, to look impatiently upon a state of peace as an unnatural condition of affairs which cut off all the profits of their particular branch of industry, and condemned them both to idleness and poverty. The Duke of Savoy had become one of the most experienced and successful commanders of the age, and an especial favorite with the Emperor. He had served with Alva in the campaigns against the Protestants of Germany, and in other important fields. War being his element, he considered peace as undesirable, although he could recognize its existence. A truce he held, however, to be a senseless parodox, unworthy of the slightest regard. An armistice, such as was concluded on the February following the abdication, was, in his opinion, only to be turned to account by dealing insidious and unsuspected blows at the enemy, some portion of whose population might repose confidence in the plighted faith of monarchs and plenipotentiaries.
He had a show of reason for his political and military morality, for he only chose to execute the evil which had been practiced upon himself. His father had been beggared, his mother had died of spite and despair, he had himself been reduced from the rank of a sovereign to that of a mercenary soldier, by spoliations made in time of truce. He was reputed a man of very decided abilities, and was distinguished for headlong bravery. His rashness and personal daring were thought the only drawbacks to his high character as a commander. He had many accomplishments. He spoke Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian with equal fluency, was celebrated for his attachment to the fine arts, and wrote much and with great elegance. Such had been Philibert of Savoy, the pauper nephew of the powerful Emperor, the adventurous and vagrant cousin of the lofty Philip, a prince without a people, a duke without a dukedom; with no hope but in warfare, with no revenue but rapine; the image, in person, of a bold and manly soldier; small, but graceful and athletic; martial in bearing, “wearing his sword under his arm like a corporal,” because an internal malady made a belt inconvenient; and ready to turn to swift account every chance which a new series of campaigns might open to him. With his new salary as governor, his pensions, and the remains of his possessions in Nice and Piedmont, he had now the splendid annual income of 100,000 crowns, and was sure to spend it all.
It had been the desire of Charles to smooth the commencement of Philip’s path. He had for this purpose made a vigorous effort to undo, as it were, the whole work of his reign, to suspend the operation of his whole political system. The Emperor and conqueror, who had been warring all his lifetime, had attempted, as the last act of his reign, to improvise a peace. But it was not so easy to arrange a pacification of Europe as dramatically as he desired, in order that he might gather his robes about him, and allow the curtain to fall upon his eventful history in a grand hush of decorum and quiet.
During the autumn and winter of 1555, hostilities had been virtually suspended, and languid negotiations ensued. For several months armies confronted each other without engaging, and diplomatists fenced among themselves without any palpable result. At last the peace commissioners, who had been assembled at Vaucelles since the beginning of the year 1556, signed a treaty of truce rather than of peace, upon the 5th February. It was to be an armistice of five years, both by land and sea, for France, Spain, Flanders, and Italy, through all the dominions of the French and Spanish monarchs.
The pope was expressly included in the truce, which was signed on the part of France by Admiral Coligny and Sebastian l’Aubespine; on that of Spain, by Count de Lalain, Philibert de Bruxelles, Simon Renard, and Jean Baptiste Sciceio, a jurisconsult of Cremona. During the previous month of December, however, the pope had concluded with the French monarch a treaty, by which this solemn armistice was rendered an egregious farce. While Henry’s plenipotentiaries had been plighting their faith to those of Philip, it had been arranged that France should sustain, by subsidies and armies, the scheme upon which Paul was bent, to drive the Spaniards entirely out of the Italian peninsula. The king was to aid the pontiff, and, in return, was to carve thrones for his own younger children out of the confiscated realms of Philip. When was France ever slow to sweep upon Italy with such a hope? How could the ever-glowing rivalry of Valois and Habsburg fail to burst into a general conflagration, while the venerable vicegerent of Christ stood thus beside them with his fan in his hand?
For a brief breathing space, however, the news of the pacification occasioned much joy in the provinces. They rejoiced even in a temporary cessation of that long series of campaigns from which they could certainly derive no advantage, and in which their part was to furnish money, soldiers, and battlefields, without prospect of benefit from any victory, however brilliant, or any treaty, however elaborate. Manufacturing, agricultural and commercial provinces, filled to the full with industrial life, could not but be injured by being converted into perpetual camps. All was joy in the Netherlands, while at Antwerp, the great commercial metropolis of the provinces and of Europe, the rapture was unbounded. Oxen were roasted whole in the public squares; the streets, soon to be empurpled with the best blood of her citizens, ran red with wine; a hundred triumphal arches adorned the pathway of Philip as he came thither; and a profusion of flowers, although it was February, were strewn before his feet. Such was his greeting in the light-hearted city, but the countenance was more than usually sullen with which the sovereign received these demonstrations of pleasure. It was thought by many that Philip had been really disappointed in the conclusion of the armistice, that he was inspired with a spark of that martial ambition for which his panegyrists gave him credit, and that knowing full well the improbability of a long suspension of hostilities, he was even eager for the chance of conquest which their resumption would afford him. The secret treaty of the pope was of course not so secret but that the hollow intention of the contracting parties to the truce of Vaucelles were thoroughly suspected—intentions which certainly went far to justify the maxims and the practice of the new governor-general of the Netherlands upon the subject of armistices. Philip, understanding his position, was revolving renewed military projects while his subjects were ringing merry bells and lighting bonfires in the Netherlands. These schemes, which were to be carried out in the immediate future, caused, however, a temporary delay in the great purpose to which he was to devote his life.
The Emperor had always desired to regard the Netherlands as a whole, and he hated the antiquated charters and obstinate privileges which interfered with his ideas of symmetry. Two great machines, the court of Mechlin and the inquisition, would effectually simplify and assimilate all these irregular and heterogeneous rights. The civil tribunal was to annihilate all diversities in their laws by a general cassation of their constitutions, and the ecclesiastical court was to burn out all differences in their religious faith. Between two such millstones it was thought that the Netherlands might be crushed into uniformity.
Philip succeeded to these traditions. The father had never sufficient leisure to carry out all his schemes, but it seemed probable that the son would be a worthy successor, at least in all which concerned the religious part of his system. One of the earliest measures of his reign was to re-enact the dread edict of 1550. This he did by the express advice of the Bishop of Arras who represented to him the expediency of making use of the popularity of his father’s name, to sustain the horrible system resolved upon. As Charles was the author of the edict, it could be always argued that nothing new was introduced; that burning, hanging, and drowning for religious differences constituted a part of the national institutions; that they had received the sanction of the wise Emperor, and had been sustained by the sagacity of past generations. Nothing could have been more subtle, as the event proved, than this advice. Innumerable were the appeals made in subsequent years, upon this subject, to the patriotism and the conservative sentiments of the Netherlanders. Repeatedly they were summoned to maintain the inquisition, on the ground that it had been submitted to by their ancestors, and that no change had been made by Philip, who desired only to maintain church and crown in the authority which they had enjoyed in the days of his father “of very laudable memory.”
Nevertheless, the King’s military plans seemed to interfere for the moment with this cherished object. He seemed to swerve, at starting, from pursuing the goal which he was only to abandon with life. The edict of 1550 was re-enacted and confirmed, and all office-holders were commanded faithfully to enforce it upon pain of immediate dismissal. Nevertheless, it was not vigorously carried into effect anywhere. It was openly resisted in Holland, its proclamation was flatly refused in Antwerp, and repudiated throughout Brabant. It was strange that such disobedience should be tolerated, but the King wanted money. He was willing to refrain for a season from exasperating the provinces by fresh religious persecution at the moment when he was endeavoring to extort every penny which it was possible to wring from their purses.
The joy, therefore, with which the pacification had been hailed by the people was far from an agreeable spectacle to the King. The provinces would expect that the forces which had been maintained at their expense during the war would be disbanded, whereas he had no intention of disbanding them. As the truce was sure to be temporary, he had no disposition to diminish his available resources for a war which might be renewed at any moment. To maintain the existing military establishment in the Netherlands, a large sum of money was required, for the pay was very much in arrear. The king had made a statement to the provincial estates upon this subject, but the matter was kept secret during the negotiations with France. The way had thus been paved for the “Request” or “Bede,” which he now made to the estates assembled at Brussels, in the spring of 1556. It was to consist of a tax of one per cent (the hundredth penny) upon all real estate, and of two per cent upon all merchandise, to be collected in three payments. The request, insofar as the imposition of the proposed tax was concerned, was refused by Flanders, Brabant, Holland, and all the other important provinces, but as usual, a moderate, even a generous, commutation in money was offered by the estates. This was finally accepted by Philip, after he had become convinced that at this moment, when he was contemplating a war with France, it would be extremely impolitic to insist upon the tax. The publication of the truce in Italy had been long delayed, and the first infractions which it suffered were committed in that country. The arts of politicians, the schemes of individual ambition, united with the short-lived military ardor of Philip to place the monarch in an eminently false position, that of hostility to the pope. As was unavoidable, the secret treaty of December acted as an immediate dissolvent to the truce of February.
Great was the indignation of Paul Caraffa, when that truce was first communicated to him by the Cardinal de Tournon, on the part of the French Government. Notwithstanding the protestations of France that the secret league was still binding, the pontiff complained that he was likely to be abandoned to his own resources, and to be left single-handed to contend with the vast power of Spain.
pope Paul IV, of the house of Caraffa, was, in position, the well-known counterpart of the Emperor Charles. At the very moment when the conqueror and autocrat was exchanging crown for cowl, and the proudest throne of the universe for a cell, this aged monk, as weary of scientific and religious seclusion as Charles of pomp and power, had abdicated his scholastic preeminence, and exchanged his rosary for the keys and sword. A pontifical Faustus, he had become disgusted with the results of a life of study and abnegation, and immediately upon his election appeared to be glowing with mundane passions, and inspired by the fiercest ambition of a warrior. He had rushed from the cloister as eagerly as Charles had sought it. He panted for the tempests of the great external world as earnestly as the conqueror who had so long ridden upon the whirlwind of human affairs sighed for a haven of repose.
None of his predecessors had been more despotic, more belligerent, more disposed to elevate and strengthen the temporal power of Rome. In the inquisition he saw the grand machine by which this purpose could be accomplished, and yet found himself for a period the antagonist of Philip! The single circumstance would have been sufficient, had other proofs been wanting, to make manifest that the part which he had chosen to play was above his genius. Had his capacity been at all commensurate with his ambition, he might have deeply influenced the fate of the world; but fortunately no wizard’s charm came to the aid of Paul Caraffa, and the triple-crowned monk sat upon the pontifical throne, a fierce, peevish, querulous, and quarrelsome dotard—the prey and the tool of his vigorous enemies and his intriguing relations. His hatred of Spain and Spaniards was unbounded. He raved at them as “heretics, schismatics, accursed of God, the spawn of Jews and Moors, the very dregs of the earth.”
To play upon such insane passions was not difficult, and a skillful artist stood ever ready to strike the chords thus vibrating with age and fury. The master spirit and principal mischief-maker of the papal court was the well-known Cardinal Caraffa, once a wild and dissolute soldier, nephew to the pope. He inflamed the anger of the pontiff by his representations that the rival house of Colonna, sustained by the Duke of Alva, now viceroy of Naples, and by the whole Spanish power, thus relieved from the fear of French hostilities, would be free to wreak its vengeance upon their family.
It was determined that the court of France should be held by the secret league. Moreover, the pope had been expressly included in the treaty of Vaucelles, although the troops of Spain had already assumed a hostile attitude in the South of Italy. The Cardinal was for immediately proceeding to Paris, there to excite the sympathy of the French monarch for the situation of himself and his uncle. An immediate rupture between France and Spain, a rekindling of the war flames from one end of Europe to the other, were necessary to save the credit and the interests of the Caraffa’s. Cardinal de Tournon, not desirous of so sudden a termination to the pacific relations between his country and Spain, succeeded in detaining him a little longer in Rome. He remained, but not in idleness. The restless intriguer had already formed close relations with the most important personage in France, Diana of Poitiers. This venerable courtesan, to the enjoyment of whose charms Henry had succeeded, with the other regal possessions, on the death of his father, was won by the flatteries of the wily Caraffa, and by the assiduities of the Guise family. The best and most sagacious statesmen, the Constable, and the Admiral, were in favor of peace, for they knew the condition of the kingdom. The Duke of Guise and the Cardinal Lorraine were for a rupture, for they hoped to increase their family influence by war. Coligny had signed the treaty of Vaucelles, and wished to maintain it, but the influence of the Catholic party was in the ascendant. The result was to embroil the Catholic king against the pope and against themselves. The queen was as favorably inclined as the mistress to listen to Caraffa, for Catherine de Medici was desirous that her cousin, Marshal Strozzi, should have honorable and profitable employment in some fresh Italian campaigns.
In the meantime an accident favored the designs of the papal court. An open quarrel with Spain resulted from an insignificant circumstance. The Spanish ambassador at Rome was in the habit of leaving the city very often, at an early hour in the morning, upon shooting excursions, and had long enjoyed the privilege of ordering the gates to be opened for him at his pleasure. By accident or design, he was refused permission upon one occasion to pass through the gate as usual. Unwilling to lose his day’s sport, and enraged at what he considered an indignity, his excellency, by the aid of his attendants, attacked and beat the guard, mastered them, made his way out of the city, and pursued his morning’s amusement. The pope was furious; Caraffa artfully inflamed his anger.
The envoy was refused an audience, which he desired, for the sake of offering explanations, and the train being thus laid, it was thought that the right moment had arrived for applying the firebrand. The Cardinal went to Paris post haste. In his audience of the king, he represented that his holiness had placed implicit reliance upon his secret treaty with his majesty, that the recently concluded truce with Spain left the pontiff at the mercy of the Spaniard, that the Duke of Alva had already drawn the sword, that the pope had long since done himself the pleasure and the honor of appointing the French monarch protector of the papal chair in general, and of the Caraffa family in particular, and that the moment had arrived for claiming the benefit of that protection. He assured him, moreover, as by full papal authority, that in respecting the recent truce with Spain, his majesty would violate both human and divine law. Reason and justice required him to defend the pontiff, now that the Spaniards were about to profit by the interval of truce to take measure for his detriment. Moreover, as the pope was included in the truce of Vaucelles, he could not be abandoned without a violation of that treaty itself. The arts and arguments of the Cardinal proved successful; the war was resolved upon in favor of the pope. The Cardinal, by virtue of powers received and brought with him from his holiness, absolved the king from all obligation to keep his faith with Spain. He also gave him a dispensation from the duty of prefacing hostilities by a declaration of war. Strozzi was sent at once into Italy, with some hastily collected troops, while the Duke of Guise waited to organize a regular army.
The mischief being thus fairly afoot, and war let loose again upon Europe, the Cardinal made a public entry into Paris, as legate of the pope. The populace crowded about his mule, as he rode at the head of a stately procession through the streets. All were anxious to receive a benediction from the holy man who had come so far to represent the successor of St. Peter, and to enlist the efforts of all true believers in his cause. He appeared to answer the entreaties of the superstitious rabble with fervent blessings, while the friends who were nearest him were aware that nothing but gibes and sarcasms were falling from his lips. “Let us fool these poor creatures to their heart’s content, since they will be fools,” he muttered, smiling the while upon them benignantly, as became his holy office. Such were the materials of this new combination; such was the fuel with which this new blaze was lighted and maintained. Thus were the great powers of the earth—Spain, France, England, and the papacy—embroiled, and the nations embattled against each other for several years.
The preceding pages show how much national interests, or principles, were concerned in the struggle thus commenced, in which thousands were to shed their lifeblood, and millions to be reduced from peace and comfort to suffer all the misery which famine and rapine can inflict. It would no doubt have increased the hilarity of Caraffa, as he made his triumphant entry into Paris, could the idea have been suggested to his mind that the sentiments, or the welfare of the people throughout the great states now involved in his meshes, could have any possible bearing upon the question of peace or war. The world was governed by other influences. The wiles of a cardinal; the arts of a concubine; the snipe-shooting of an ambassador; the speculations of a soldier of fortune; the ill temper of a monk; the mutual venom of Italian houses; above all, the perpetual rivalry of the two great historical families who owned the greater part of Europe between them as their private property—such were the wheels on which rolled the destiny of Christendom. Compared to these, what were great moral and political ideas, the plans of statesmen, the hopes of nations? Time was soon to show. Meanwhile, government continued to be administered exclusively for the benefit of the governors. Meanwhile, a petty war for paltry motives was to precede the great spectacle which was to prove to Europe that principles and peoples still existed, and that a phlegmatic nation of merchants and manufacturers could defy the powers of the universe, and risk all their blood and treasure, generation after generation, in a sacred cause.
It does not belong to our purpose to narrate the details of the campaign in Italy; neither is this war of politics and chicane of any great interest at the present day. To the military minds of their age, the scientific duel which now took place upon a large scale, between two such celebrated captains as the Dukes of Guise and Alva, was no doubt esteemed the most important of spectacles; but the progress of mankind in the art of slaughter has stripped so antiquated an exhibition of most of its interest, even in a technical point of view. Not much satisfaction could be derived from watching an old-fashioned game of war, in which the parties sat down before each other so tranquilly, and picked up piece after piece, castle after castle, city after city, with such scientific deliberation as to make it evident that, in the opinion of the commanders, war was the only serious business to be done in the world; that it was not to be done in a hurry, nor contrary to rule, and that when a general had a good job upon his hands, he ought to know his profession much too thoroughly to hasten through it before he saw his way clear to another.
From the point of time, at the close of the year 1556, when that well-trained but not very successful soldier, Strozzi, crossed the Alps, down to the autumn of the following year, when the Duke of Alva made his peace with the pope, there was hardly a pitched battle, and scarcely an event of striking interest. Alva, as usual, brought his dilatory policy to bear upon his adversary with great effect. He had no intention, he observed to a friend, to stake the whole kingdom of Naples against a brocaded coat of the Duke of Guise. Moreover, he had been sent to the war, as Ruy Gomez informed the Venetian ambassador, “with a bridle in his mouth.” Philip, sorely troubled in his mind at finding himself in so strange a position as this hostile attitude to the Church, had earnestly interrogated all the doctors and theologians with whom he habitually took counsel, whether this war with the pope would not work a forfeiture of his title of the Most Catholic King. The Bishop of Arras and the favorite both disapproved of the war, and encouraged, with all their influence, the pacific inclinations of the monarch. The doctors were, to be sure, of opinion that Philip, having acted in Italy only in self-defense, and for the protection of his states, ought not to be anxious as to his continued right to the title on which he valued himself so highly. Nevertheless, such ponderings and misgivings could not but have the effect of hampering the actions of Alva. That general chafed inwardly at what he considered his own contemptible position. At the same time, he enraged the Duke of Guise still more deeply by the forced calmness of his proceedings. Fortresses were reduced, towns taken, one after another, with the most provoking deliberation, while his distracted adversary in vain strove to defy or to delude him, into trying the chances of a stricken field.
The battle of Saint Quentin, the narrative of which belongs to our subject, and will soon occupy our attention, at last decided the Italian operations. Egmont’s brilliant triumph in Picardy rendered a victory in Italy superfluous, and placed in Alva’s hand the power of commanding the issue of his own campaign. The Duke of Guise was recalled to defend the French frontier, which the bravery of the Flemish hero had imperiled, and the pope was left to make the best peace which he could. All was now prosperous and smiling, and the campaign closed with a highly original and entertaining exhibition. The pontiff’s puerile ambition, sustained by the intrigues of his nephew, had involved the French monarch in a war which was contrary to his interests and inclination. Paul now found his ally too sorely beset to afford him that protection upon which he had relied, when he commenced, in his dotage, his career as a warrior. He was, therefore, only desirous of deserting his friend, and of relieving himself from his uncomfortable predicament, by making a treaty with his Catholic majesty upon the best terms which he could obtain.
The King of France, who had gone to war only for the sake of his holiness, was to be left to fight his own battles, while the pope was to make his peace with all the world. The result was a desirable one for Philip. Alva was accordingly instructed to afford the holy father a decorous and appropriate opportunity for carrying out his wishes. The victorious general was apprized that his master desired no fruit from his commanding attitude in Italy and the victory of Saint Quentin, save a full pardon from the pope for maintaining even a defensive war against him. An amicable siege of Rome was accordingly commenced, in the course of which an assault or “camiciata” on the holy city, was arranged for the night of the 26th of August, 1557. The pontiff agreed to be taken by surprise, while Alva, through what was to appear only a superabundance of his habitual discretion, was to draw off his troops at the very moment when the victorious assault was to be made. The imminent danger to the holy city and to his own sacred person thus furnishing the pontiff with an excuse for abandoning his own cause, as well as that of his ally, the Duke of Alva was allowed, in the name of his master and himself, to make submission to the Church and his peace with Rome.
The Spanish general, with secret indignation and disgust, was compelled to humor the vanity of a peevish but imperious old man. Negotiations were commenced, and so skillfully had the Duke played his game during the spring and summer, that when he was admitted to kiss the pope’s toe, he was able to bring a hundred Italian towns in his hand, as a peace-offering to his holiness. These he now restored, with apparent humility and inward curses, upon the condition that the fortifications should be razed, and the French alliance absolutely renounced. Thus did the fanaticism of Philip reverse the relative position of himself and his antagonist. Thus was the vanquished pontiff allowed almost to dictate terms to the victorious general. The king who could thus humble himself to a dotard, while he made himself the scourge of his subjects, deserved that the bull of excommunication which had been prepared should have been fulminated. He, at least, was capable of feeling the scathing effects of such anathemas.
The Duke of Guise, having been dismissed with the pontiff’s assurance that he had done little for the interests of his sovereign, less for the protection of the Church, and least of all for his own reputation, set forth with all speed for Civita Vecchia, to do what he could upon the Flemish frontier to atone for his inglorious campaign in Italy. The treaty between the pope and the Duke of Alva was signed on the 14th of September (1557), and the Spanish general retired for the winter to Milan. Cardinal Caraffa was removed from the French court to that of Madrid, there to spin new schemes for the embroilment of nations and the advancement of his own family. Very little glory was gained by any of the combatants in this campaign. Spain, France, nor Paul IV, not one of them came out of the Italian contest in better condition than that in which they entered upon it. In fact all were losers. France had made an inglorious retreat, the pope a ludicrous capitulation, and the only victorious party, the King of Spain, had, during the summer, conceded to Cosmo de Medici the sovereignty of Sienna. Had Venice shown more cordiality towards Philip, and more disposition to sustain his policy, it is probable that the Republic would have secured the prize which thus fell to the share of Cosmo. That astute and unprincipled potentate, who could throw his net so well in troubled water, had successfully duped all parties, Spain, France, and Rome. The man who had not only not participated in the contest, but who had kept all parties and all warfare away from his borders, was the only individual in Italy who gained territorial advantage from the war.
To avoid interrupting the continuity of the narrative, the Spanish campaign has been briefly sketched until the autumn of 1557, at which period the treaty between the pope and Philip was concluded. It is now necessary to go back to the close of the preceding year.
Simultaneously with the descent of the French troops upon Italy, hostilities had broken out upon the Flemish border. The pains of the Emperor in covering the smoldering embers of national animosities so precipitately, and with a view rather to scenic effect than to a deliberate and well-considered result, were thus set at nought, and within a year from the day of his abdication, hostilities were reopened from the Tiber to the German Ocean. The blame of first violating the truce of Vaucelles was laid by each party upon the other with equal justice, for there can be but little doubt that the reproach justly belonged to both. Both had been equally faithless in their professions of amity. Both were equally responsible for the scenes of war, plunder, and misery, which again were desolating the fairest regions of Christendom.
At the time when the French court had resolved to concede to the wishes of the Caraffa family, Admiral Coligny, who had been appointed governor of Picardy, had received orders to make a foray upon the frontier of Flanders. Before the formal annunciation of hostilities, it was thought desirable to reap all the advantage possible from the perfidy which had been resolved upon.
It happened that a certain banker of Lucca, an ancient gambler and debauchee, whom evil courses had reduced from affluence to penury, had taken up his abode upon a hill overlooking the city of Douay. Here he had built himself a hermit’s cell. Clad in sackcloth, with a rosary at his waist, he was accustomed to beg his bread from door to door. His garb was all, however, which he possessed of sanctity, and he had passed his time in contemplating the weak points in the defenses of the city with much more minuteness than those in his own heart. Upon the breaking out of hostilities in Italy, the instincts of his old profession had suggested to him that a good speculation might be made in Flanders, by turning to account as a spy the observations which he had made in his character of a hermit. He sought an interview with Coligny, and laid his propositions before him. The noble Admiral hesitated, for his sentiments were more elevated than those of many of his contemporaries. He had, moreover, himself negotiated and signed the truce with Spain, and he shrank from violating it with his own hand, before a declaration of war. Still he was aware that a French army was on its way to attack the Spaniards in Italy; he was under instructions to take the earliest advantage which his position upon the frontier might offer him; he knew that both theory and practice authorized a general, in that age, to break his fast, even in time of truce, if a tempting morsel should present itself, and, above all, he thoroughly understood the character of his nearest antagonist, the new governor of the Netherlands, Philibert of Savoy, whom he knew to be the most unscrupulous chieftain in Europe. These considerations decided him to take advantage of the hermit-banker’s communication.
A day was accordingly fixed, at which, under the guidance of this newly-acquired ally, a surprise should be attempted by the French forces, and the unsuspecting city of Douay given over to the pillage of a brutal soldiery. The time appointed was the night of Epiphany, upon occasion of which festival, it was thought that the inhabitants, overcome with sleep and wassail, might be easily overpowered (January 6, 1557). The plot was a good plot, but the Admiral of France was destined to be foiled by an old woman. This person, apparently the only creature awake in the town, perceived the danger, ran shrieking through the streets, alarmed the citizens while it was yet time, and thus prevented the attack. Coligny, disappointed in his plan, recompensed his soldiers by a sudden onslaught upon Lens in Arthois, which he sacked and then leveled with the ground. Such was the wretched condition of frontier cities, standing, even in time of peace, with the ground undermined beneath them, and existing every moment, as it were, upon the brink of explosion.
Hostilities having been thus fairly commenced, the French government was in some embarrassment. The Duke of Guise, with the most available forces of the kingdom, having crossed the Alps, it became necessary forthwith to collect another army. The place of rendezvous appointed was Pierrepoint where an army of 18,000 infantry and 5,000 horse were assembled early in the spring. In the meantime, Philip finding the war fairly afoot, had crossed to England for the purpose (exactly in contravention of all his marriage stipulations) of cajoling his wife and browbeating her ministers into a participation in his war with France. This was easily accomplished. The English nation found themselves accordingly engaged in a contest with which they had no concern, which, as the event proved, was very much against their interests, and in which the moving cause for their entanglement was the devotion of a weak, bad, ferocious woman, for a husband who hated her.
A herald sent from England arrived in France, disguised, and was presented to King Henry at Rheims. Here, dropping on one knee, he recited a list of complaints against his majesty, on behalf of the English Queen, all of them fabricated or exaggerated for the occasion, and none of them furnishing even a decorous pretest for the war which was now formally declared in consequence. The French monarch expressed his regret and surprise that the firm and amicable relations secured by treaty between the two countries should thus, not without sufficient cause, be violated. In accepting the wager of warfare thus forced upon him, he bade the herald, Norris, inform his mistress that her messenger was treated with courtesy only because he represented a lady, and that, had he come from a king, the language with which he would have been greeted would have befitted the perfidy manifested on the occasion. God would punish this shameless violation of faith, and this wanton interruption to the friendship of two great nations. With this, the herald was dismissed from the royal presence, but treated with great distinction, conducted to the hotel of the English ambassador, and presented, on the part of the French Sovereign, with a chain of gold.
Philip had dispatched Ruy Gomez to Spain for the purpose of providing ways and means, while he was himself occupied with the same task in England. He stayed there three months. During this time, he “did more,” says a Spanish contemporary, “than any one could have believed possible with that proud and indomitable nation. He caused them to declare war against France with fire and sword, by sea and land.” Hostilities having been thus chivalrously and formally established, the Queen sent an army of 8,000 men, cavalry, infantry, and pioneers, who, “all clad in blue uniform,” commanded by Lords Pembroke and Clinton, with the three sons of the Earl of Northumberland, and officered by many other scions of England’s aristocracy, disembarked at Calais, and shortly afterwards joined the camp before Saint Quentin.
Philip meantime had left England, and with more bustle and activity than was usual with him, had given directions for organizing at once a considerable army. It was composed mainly of troops belonging to the Netherlands, with the addition of some German auxiliaries. Thirty-five thousand foot and twelve thousand horse had, by the middle of July, advanced through the province of Namur, and were assembled at Givet under the Duke of Savoy, who, as Governor-General of the Netherlands, held the chief command. All the most eminent grandees of the provinces—Orange, Aerschot, Berlaymont, Meghen, Brederode—were present with the troops, but the life and soul of the army, upon this memorable occasion, was the Count of Egmont.
Lamoral, Count of Egmont, Prince of Gavere, was now in the thirty-sixth year of his age, in the very noon of that brilliant life which was destined to be so soon and so fatally overshadowed. Not one of the dark clouds, which were in the future to accumulate around him, had yet rolled above his horizon. Young, noble, wealthy, handsome, valiant, he saw no threatening phantom in the future, and caught eagerly at the golden opportunity, which the present placed within his grasp, of winning fresh laurels on a wider and more fruitful field than any in which he had hitherto been a reaper. The campaign about to take place was likely to be an imposing, if not an important one, and could not fail to be attractive to a noble of so ardent and showy a character as Egmont. If there were no lofty principles or extensive interests to be contended for, as there certainly were not, there was yet much that was stately and exciting to the imagination in the warfare which had been so deliberately and pompously arranged. The contending armies, although of moderate size, were composed of picked troops, and were commanded by the flower of Europe’s chivalry. Kings, princes, and the most illustrious paladins of Christendom were arming for the great tournament to which they had been summoned by herald and trumpet, and the Batavian hero, without a crown or even a country, but with as lofty a lineage as many anointed sovereigns could boast, was ambitious to distinguish himself in the proud array.
Upon the northwestern edge of the narrow peninsula of North Holland, washed by the stormy waters of the German Ocean, were the ancient castle, town, and lordship whence Egmont derived his family name and the title by which he was most familiarly known. He was supposed to trace his descent, through a line of chivalrous champions and crusaders, up to the pagan kings of the most ancient of existing Teutonic races. The eighth century names of the Frisian Radbold and Adgild among his ancestors were thought to denote the antiquity of a house whose luster had been increased in later times by the splendor of its alliances. His father, united to Françoise de Luxemburg, Princess of Gavere, had acquired by this marriage, and transmitted to his posterity, many of the proudest titles and richest estates of Flanders. Of the three children who survived him, the only daughter was afterwards united to the Count of Vaudemont, and became mother of Louise de Vaudemont, queen of the French monarch, Henry III. Of his two sons, Charles, the elder, had died young and unmarried, leaving all the estates and titles of the family to his brother. Lamoral, born in 1522, was in early youth a page of the Emperor. When old enough to bear arms he demanded and obtained permission to follow the career of his adventurous sovereign. He served his apprenticeship as a soldier in the stormy expedition to Barbary, where, in his nineteenth year, he commanded a troop of light horse, and distinguished himself under the Emperor’s eye for his courage and devotion, doing the duty not only of a gallant commander but of a hardy soldier. Returning, unscathed by the war, flood, or tempest of that memorable enterprise, he reached his country by the way of Corsica, Genoa, and Lorraine, and was three years afterwards united (in the year 1545) to Sabina of Bavaria, sister of Frederick, Elector Palatine. The nuptials had taken place at Spiers, and few royal weddings could have been more brilliant. The Emperor, his brother Ferdinand King of the Romans, with the Archduke Maximilian, all the imperial electors, and a concourse of the principal nobles of the empire, were present on the occasion.
In the following year, Charles invested him with the order of the Fleece at a chapter held at Utrecht. In 1553, he had been at the Emperor’s side during the unlucky siege of Metz; in 1554 he had been sent at the head of a splendid embassy to England, to solicit for Philip the hand of Mary Tudor, and had witnessed the marriage in Winchester Cathedral, the same year. Although one branch of his house had, in past times, arrived at the sovereignty of Gueldres, and another had acquired the great estates and titles of Buren, which had recently passed, by intermarriage with the heiress, into the possession of the Prince of Orange, yet the Prince of Gavere, Count of Egmont, was the chief of a race which yielded to none of the great Batavian or Flemish families in antiquity, wealth, or power. Personally, he was distinguished for his bravery, and although he was not yet the idol of the camp, which he was destined to become, nor had yet commanded in chief on any important occasion, he was accounted one of the five principal generals in the Spanish service. Eager for general admiration, he was at the same time haughty and presumptuous, attempting to combine the characters of an arrogant magnate and a popular chieftain. Terrible and sudden in his wrath, he was yet of inordinate vanity, and was easily led by those who understood his weakness. With a limited education, and a slender capacity for all affairs except those relating to the camp, he was destined to be as vacillating and incompetent as a statesman, as he was prompt and fortunately audacious in the field. A splendid soldier, his evil stars had destined him to tread, as a politician, a dark and dangerous path, in which not even genius, caution, and integrity could ensure success, but in which rashness alternating with hesitation, and credulity with violence, could not fail to bring ruin. Such was Count Egmont, as he took his place at the head of the king’s cavalry in the summer of 1557.
The early operations of the Duke of Savoy were at first intended to deceive the enemy. The army, after advancing as far into Picardy as the town of Vervins, which they burned and pillaged, made a demonstration with their whole force upon the city of Guise. This, however, was but a feint, by which attention was directed and forces drawn off from Saint Quentin, which was to be the real point of attack In the meantime, the Constable of France, Montmorency, arrived upon the 28th of July (1557), to take command of the French troops. He was accompanied by the Maréchal de Saint André and by Admiral Coligny. The most illustrious names of France, whether for station or valor, were in the officers’ list of this select army. Nevers and Montpensier, Enghien and Condé, Vendôme and Rochefoucauld, were already there, and now the Constable and the Admiral came to add the strength of their experience and lofty reputation to sustain the courage of the troops. The French were at Pierrepoint, a post between Champagne and Picardy, and in its neighborhood. The Spanish army was at Vervins, and threatening Guise. It had been the opinion in France that the enemy’s intention was to invade Champagne, and the Duc de Nevers, governor of that province, had made a disposition of his forces suitable for such a contingency. It was the conviction of Montmorency, however, that Picardy was to be the quarter really attacked, and that Saint Quentin, which was the most important point at which the enemy’s progress, by that route, towards Paris could be arrested, was in imminent danger. The Constable’s opinion was soon confirmed by advices received by Coligny. The enemy’s army, he was informed, after remaining three days before Guise, had withdrawn from that point, and had invested Saint Quentin with their whole force.
This wealthy and prosperous city stood upon an elevation rising from the river Somme. It was surrounded by very extensive suburbs, ornamented with orchards and gardens, and including within their limits large tracts of a highly cultivated soil. Three sides of the place were covered by a lake, thirty yards in width, very deep at some points, in others, rather resembling a morass, and extending on the Flemish side a half mile beyond the city. The inhabitants were thriving and industrious; many of the manufacturers and merchants were very rich, for it was a place of much traffic and commercial importance.
Teligny, son-in-law of the Admiral, was in the city with a detachment of the Dauphin’s regiment; Captain Brueuil was commandant of the town. Both informed Coligny of the imminent peril in which they stood. They represented the urgent necessity of immediate reinforcements both of men and supplies. The city, as the Admiral well knew, was in no condition to stand a siege by such an army, and dire were the consequences which would follow the downfall of so important a place. It was still practicable, they wrote, to introduce succor, but every day diminished the possibility of affording effectual relief. Coligny was not the man to let the grass grow under his feet, after such an appeal in behalf of the principal place in his government. The safety of France was dependent upon that of St. Quentin. The bulwark overthrown, Paris was within the next stride of an adventurous enemy. The Admiral instantly set out, upon the 2nd of August, with strong reinforcements. It was too late. The English auxiliaries, under Lords Pembroke, Clinton, and Grey, had, in the meantime, effected their junction with the Duke of Savoy, and appeared in the camp before St. Quentin. The route, by which it had been hoped that the much needed succor could be introduced, was thus occupied and rendered impracticable. The Admiral, however, in consequence of the urgent nature of the letters received from Brueuil and Teligny, had outstripped, in his anxiety, the movements of his troops. He reached the city, almost alone and unattended. Notwithstanding the remonstrances of his officers, he had listened to no voice save the desperate entreaties of the besieged garrison, and had flown before his army. He now shut himself up in the city, determined to effect its deliverance by means of his skill and experience, or, at least, to share its fate. As the gates closed upon Coligny, the road was blocked up for his advancing troops.
A few days were passed in making ineffectual sorties, ordered by Coligny for the sake of reconnoitering the country, and of discovering the most practicable means of introducing supplies. The Constable, meantime, who had advanced with his army to La Fère, was not idle. He kept up daily communications with the beleaguered Admiral, and was determined, if possible, to relieve the city. There was, however, a constant succession of disappointments. Moreover, the brave but indiscreet Teligny, who commanded during a temporary illness of the Admiral, saw fit, against express orders, to make an imprudent sortie. He paid the penalty of his rashness with his life. He was rescued by the Admiral in person, who, at imminent hazard, brought back the unfortunate officer covered with wounds, into the city, there to die at his father’s feet, imploring forgiveness for his disobedience.
Meantime the garrison was daily growing weaker. Coligny sent out of the city all useless consumers, quartered all the women in the cathedral and other churches, where they were locked in, lest their terror and their tears should weaken the courage of the garrison; and did all in his power to strengthen the defenses of the city, and sustain the resolution of the inhabitants. Affairs were growing desperate. It seemed plain that the important city must soon fall, and with it most probably Paris. One of the suburbs was already in the hands of the enemy.
At last Coligny discovered a route by which he believed it to be still possible to introduce reinforcements. He communicated the results of his observations to the Constable. Upon one side of the city the lake, or morass, was traversed by a few difficult and narrow pathways, mostly under water, and by a running stream which could only be passed in boats. The Constable, in consequence of this information received from Coligny, set out from La Fère upon the 8th of August, with 4,000 infantry and 2,000 horse. Halting his troops at the village of Essigny, he advanced in person to the edge of the morass, in order to reconnoiter the ground and prepare his plans. The result was a determination to attempt the introduction of men and supplies into the town by the mode suggested. Leaving his troops drawn up in battle array, he returned to La Fère for the remainder of his army, and to complete his preparations. Coligny in the meantime was to provide boats for crossing the stream.
Upon the 10th of August, which was the festival of St. Laurence, the Constable advanced with four pieces of heavy artillery, four culverines, and four lighter pieces, and arrived at nine o’clock in the morning near the Faubourg d’Isle, which was already in possession of the Spanish troops. The whole army of the Constable consisted of 12,000 German, with fifteen companies of French infantry, making in all some 16,000 foot, with 5,000 cavalry in addition. The Duke of Savoy’s army lay upon the same side of the town, widely extended, and stretching beyond the river and the morass. Montmorency’s project was to be executed in full view of the enemy. Fourteen companies of Spaniards were stationed in the Faubourg. Two companies had been pushed forward as far as a water-mill, which lay in the pathway of the advancing Constable. These soldiers stood their ground for a moment, but soon retreated, while a cannonade was suddenly opened by the French upon the quarters of the Duke of Savoy. The Duke’s tent was torn to pieces, and he had barely time to hurry on his cuirass, and to take refuge with Count Egmont.
The Constable, hastening to turn this temporary advantage to account at once, commenced the transportation of his troops across the morass. The enterprise was, however, not destined to be fortunate. The number of boats which had been provided was very inadequate; moreover they were very small, and each as it left the shore was consequently so crowded with soldiers that it was in danger of being swamped. Several were overturned, and the men perished. It was found also that the opposite bank was steep and dangerous. Many who had crossed the river were unable to effect a landing, while those who escaped drowning in the water lost their way in the devious and impracticable paths, or perished miserably in the treacherous quagmires. Very few effected their entrance into the town, but among them was Andelot, brother of Coligny, with five hundred followers.
Meantime, a council of officers was held in Egmont’s tent. Opinions were undecided as to the course to be pursued under the circumstances. Should an engagement be risked, or should the Constable, who had but indifferently accomplished his project and had introduced but an insignificant number of troops into the city, be allowed to withdraw with the rest of his army? The fiery vehemence of Egmont carried all before it. Here was an opportunity to measure arms at advantage with the great captain of the age. To relinquish the prize, which the fortune of war had now placed within reach of their valor, was a thought not to be entertained. Here was the great Constable Montmorency, attended by princes of the royal blood, the proudest of the nobility, the very crown and flower of the chivalry of France, and followed by an army of her bravest troops. On a desperate venture he had placed himself within their grasp. Should he go thence alive and unmolested? The moral effect of destroying such an army would be greater than if it were twice its actual strength. It would be dealing a blow at the very heart of France, from which she could not recover. Was the opportunity to be resigned, without a struggle, of laying at the feet of Philip, in this his first campaign since his accession to his father’s realms, a prize worthy of the proudest hour of the Emperor’s reign? The eloquence of the impetuous Batavian was irresistible, and it was determined to cut off the Constable’s retreat.
Three miles from the Faubourg d’Isle, to which that general had now advanced, was a narrow pass or defile, between steep and closely hanging hills. While advancing through this ravine in the morning, the Constable had observed that the enemy might have it in their power to intercept his return at that point. He had therefore left the Rhinegrave, with his company of mounted carabineers, to guard the passage. Being ready to commence his retreat, he now sent forward the Duc de Nevers, with four companies of cavalry to strengthen that important position, which he feared might be inadequately guarded. The act of caution came too late. This was the fatal point which the quick glance of Egmont had at once detected. As Nevers reached the spot, two thousand of the enemy’s cavalry rode through and occupied the narrow passage. Inflamed by mortification and despair, Nevers would have at once charged those troops, although outnumbering his own by nearly four to one. His officers restrained him with difficulty, recalling to his memory the peremptory orders which he had received from the Constable to guard the passage, but on no account to hazard an engagement, until sustained by the body of the army. It was a case in which rashness would have been the best discretion. The headlong charge which the Duke had been about to make, might possibly have cleared the path and have extricated the army, provided the Constable had followed up the movement by a rapid advance upon his part. As it was, the passage was soon blocked up by freshly advancing bodies of Spanish and Flemish cavalry, while Nevers slowly and reluctantly fell back upon the Prince of Condé, who was stationed with the light horse at the mill where the first skirmish had taken place. They were soon joined by the Constable, with the main body of the army.
The whole French force now commenced its retrograde movement. It was, however, but too evident that they were enveloped. As they approached the fatal pass through which lay their only road to La Fère, and which was now in complete possession of the enemy, the signal of assault was given by Count Egmont. That general himself, at the head of two thousand light horse, led the charge upon the left flank. The other side was assaulted by the Dukes Eric and Henry of Brunswick, each with a thousand heavy dragoons, sustained by Count Horn, at the head of a regiment of mounted gendarmerie. Mansfeld, Lalain, Hoogstraaten, and Vilain, at the same time made a furious attack upon the front. The French cavalry wavered with the shock so vigorously given. The camp followers, sutlers, and peddlers, panic-struck, at once fled helter-skelter, and in their precipitate retreat, carried confusion and dismay throughout all the ranks of the army. The rout was sudden and total. The onset and the victory were simultaneous. Nevers, riding through a hollow with some companies of cavalry in the hope of making a detour and presenting a new front to the enemy, was overwhelmed at once by the retreating French and their furious pursuers. The day was lost, retreat hardly possible, yet, by a daring and desperate effort, the Duke, accompanied by a handful of followers, cut his way through the enemy and effected his escape. The cavalry had been broken at the first onset and nearly destroyed. A portion of the infantry still held firm, and attempted to continue their retreat. Some pieces of artillery, however, now opened upon them, and before they reached Essigny, the whole army was completely annihilated.
The defeat was absolute. Half the French troops actually engaged in the enterprise, lost their lives upon the field. The remainder of the army was captured or utterly disorganized. When Nevers reviewed, at Laon, the wreck of the Constable’s whole force, he found some thirteen hundred French and three hundred German cavalry, with four companies of French infantry remaining out of fifteen, and 4,000 German foot remaining of 12,000. Of twenty-one or two thousand remarkably fine and well-appointed troops, all but 6,000 had been killed or made prisoners within an hour. The Constable himself, with a wound in the groin, was a captive. The Duke of Enghien, after behaving with brilliant valor, and many times rallying the troops, was shot through the body, and brought into the enemy’s camp only to expire. The Duc de Montpensier, the Marshal de Saint André, the Duc de Longueville, Prince Ludovic of Mantua, the Baron Corton, la Roche du Mayne, the Rhinegrave, the Counts de Rochefoucauld, d’Aubigni, de Rochefort, all were taken. The Duc de Nevers, the Prince of Condé, with a few others, escaped; although so absolute was the conviction that such an escape was impossible, that it was not believed by the victorious army. When Nevers sent a trumpet, after the battle, to the Duke of Savoy, for the purpose of negotiating concerning the prisoners, the trumpeter was pronounced an impostor, and the duke’s letter a forgery; nor was it till after the whole field had been diligently searched for his dead body without success, that Nevers could persuade the conquerors that he was still in existence.
Of Philip’s army but fifty lost their lives. Lewis of Brederode was smothered in his armor, and the two counts Spiegelberg and Count Waldeck were also killed; besides these, no officer of distinction fell. All the French standards and all their artillery but two pieces were taken, and placed before the king, who the next day came into the camp before Saint Quentin. The prisoners of distinction were likewise presented to him in long procession. Rarely had a monarch of Spain enjoyed a more signal triumph than this which Philip now owed to the gallantry and promptness of Count Egmont.
While the king stood reviewing the spoils of victory, a light horseman of Don Henrico Manrique’s regiment approached, and presented him with a sword. “I am the man, may it please your Majesty,” said the trooper, “who took the Constable; here is his sword; may your Majesty be pleased to give me something to eat in my house.” “I promise it,” replied Philip, upon which the soldier kissed his Majesty’s hand and retired. It was the custom universally recognized in that day, that the king was the king’s captive, and the general the general’s, but that the man, whether soldier or officer, who took the commander-in-chief, was entitled to 10,000 ducats. Upon this occasion the Constable was the prisoner of Philip, supposed to command his own army in person. A certain Spanish Captain Valenzuela, however, disputed the soldier’s claim to the Constable’s sword. The trooper advanced at once to the Constable, who stood there with the rest of the illustrious prisoners. “Your excellency is a Christian,” said he, “please to declare upon your conscience and the faith of a cavalier, whether ’twas I that took you prisoner. It need not surprise your excellency that I am but a soldier, since with soldiers his Majesty must wage his wars.” “Certainly,” replied the Constable, “you took me and took my horse, and I gave you my sword. My word, however, I pledged to Captain Valenzuela.” It appearing, however, that the custom of Spain did not recognize a pledge given to anyone but the actual captor, it was arranged that the soldier should give two thousand of his ten thousand ducats to the captain. Thus the dispute ended.
Such was the brilliant victory of Saint Quentin, worthy to be placed in the same list with the world-renowned combats of Crecy and Agincourt. Like those battles, also, it derives its main interest from the personal character of the leader, while it seems to have been hallowed by the tender emotions which sprang from his subsequent fate. The victory was but a happy move in a winning game. The players were kings, and the people were stakes—not parties. It was a chivalrous display in a war which was waged without honorable purpose, and in which no single lofty sentiment was involved. The Flemish frontier was, however, saved for the time from the misery which was now to be inflicted upon the French border. This was sufficient to cause the victory to be hailed as rapturously by the people as by the troops. From that day forth the name of the brave Hollander was like the sound of a trumpet to the army. “Egmont and Saint Quentin” rang through every mouth to the furthest extremity of Philip’s realms. A deadly blow was struck to the very heart of France. The fruits of all the victories of Francis and Henry withered. The battle, with others which were to follow it, won by the same hand, were soon to compel the signature of the most disastrous treaty which had ever disgraced the history of France.
The fame and power of the Constable faded. His misfortunes and captivity fell like a blight upon the ancient glory of the house of Montmorency; his enemies destroyed his influence and his popularity, while the degradation of the kingdom was simultaneous with the downfall of his illustrious name. On the other hand, the exultation of Philip was as keen as his cold and stony nature would permit. The magnificent palace-convent of the Escurial, dedicated to the saint on whose festival the battle had been fought, and built in the shape of the gridiron on which that martyr had suffered, was soon afterwards erected in pious commemoration of the event. Such was the celebration of the victory. The reward reserved for the victor was to be recorded on a later page of history.
The coldness and caution, not to say the pusillanimity of Philip, prevented him from seizing the golden fruits of his triumph. Ferdinand Gonzaga wished the blow to be followed up by an immediate march upon Paris. Such was also the feeling of all the distinguished soldiers of the age. It was unquestionably the opinion, and would have been the deed, of Charles, had he been on the field of Saint Quentin, crippled as he was, in the place of his son. He could not conceal his rage and mortification when he found that Paris had not fallen, and is said to have refused to read the dispatches which recorded that the event had not been consummated. There was certainly little of the conqueror in Philip’s nature, nothing which would have led him to violate the safest principles of strategy. He was not the man to follow up enthusiastically the blow which had been struck; Saint Quentin, still untaken, although defended by but eight hundred soldiers, could not be left behind him; Nevers was still in his front, and although it was notorious that he commanded only the wreck of an army, yet a new one might be collected, perhaps, in time to embarrass the triumphant march to Paris. Out of his superabundant discretion, accordingly, Philip refused to advance till Saint Quentin should be reduced.
Although nearly driven to despair by the total overthrow of the French in the recent action, Coligny still held bravely out, being well aware that every day by which the siege could be protracted was of advantage to his country. Again he made fresh attempts to introduce men into the city. A fisherman showed him a submerged path, covered several feet deep with water, through which he succeeded in bringing one hundred and fifty unarmed and half-drowned soldiers into the place. His garrison consisted barely of eight hundred men, but the siege was still sustained, mainly by his courage and sagacity, and by the spirit of his brother Andelot. The company of cavalry, belonging to the Dauphin’s regiment, had behaved badly, and even with cowardice, since the death of their commander Teligny. The citizens were naturally weary and impatient of the siege. Mining and countermining continued till the 21st of August. A steady cannonade was then maintained until the 27th. Upon that day, eleven breaches having been made in the walls, a simultaneous assault was ordered at four of them. The citizens were stationed upon the walls, the soldiers in the breaches. There was a short but sanguinary contest, the garrison resisting with uncommon bravery. Suddenly an entrance was effected through a tower which had been thought sufficiently strong, and which had been left unguarded. Coligny, rushing to the spot, engaged the enemy almost single-handed. He was soon overpowered, being attended only by four men and a page, was made a prisoner by a soldier named Francisco Diaz, and conducted through one of the subterranean mines into the presence of the Duke of Savoy, from whom the captor received 10,000 ducats in exchange for the Admiral’s sword. The fighting still continued with great determination in the streets, the brave Andelot resisting to the last. He was, however, at last overpowered and taken prisoner. Philip, who had, as usual, arrived in the trenches by noon, armed in complete harness, with a page carrying his helmet, was met by the intelligence that the city of Saint Quentin was his own.
To a horrible carnage succeeded a sack and a conflagration still more horrible. in every house entered during the first day, every human being was butchered. The sack lasted all that day and the whole of the following, till the night of the 28th. There was not a soldier who did not obtain an ample share of plunder, and some individuals succeeded in getting possession of two, three, and even twelve thousand ducats each. The women were not generally outraged, but they were stripped almost entirely naked, lest they should conceal treasure which belonged to their conquerors, and they were slashed in the face with knives, partly in sport, partly as a punishment for not giving up property which was not in their possession. The soldiers even cut off the arms of many among these wretched women, and then turned them loose, maimed and naked, into the blazing streets; for the town, on the 28th, was fired in a hundred places, and was now one general conflagration. The streets were already strewn with the corpses of the butchered garrison and citizens, while the survivors were now burned in their houses. Human heads, limbs, and trunks, were mingled among the bricks and rafters of the houses, which were falling on every side.
The fire lasted day and night, without an attempt being made to extinguish it, while the soldiers dashed like devils through flame and smoke in search of booty. Bearing lighted torches, they descended into every subterranean vault and receptacle, of which there were many in the town, and in every one of which they hoped to discover hidden treasure. The work of killing, plundering, and burning lasted nearly three days and nights. The streets, meanwhile, were encumbered with heaps of corpses, not a single one of which had been buried since the capture of the town. The remains of nearly all the able-bodied male population, dismembered, gnawed by dogs, or blackened by fire, polluted the midsummer air.
The women, meantime, had been again driven into the cathedral, where they had housed during the siege, and where they now crouched together in trembling expectation of their fate. On the 29th of August, at two o’clock in the afternoon, Philip issued an order that every woman, without an exception, should be driven out of the city into the French territory. Saint Quentin, which seventy years before had been a Flemish town, was to be re-annexed, and not a single man, woman, or child who could speak the French language was to remain another hour in the place. The tongues of the men had been effectually silenced. The women, to the number of 3,500, were now compelled to leave the cathedral and the city. Some were in a starving condition; others had been desperately wounded; all, as they passed through the ruinous streets of what had been their home, were compelled to tread upon the unburied remains of their fathers, husbands, or brethren. To none of these miserable creatures remained a living protector—hardly even a dead body which could be recognized—and thus the ghastly procession of more than 3,000 women, many with gaping wounds in the face, many with their arms cut off and festering, of all ranks and ages, some numbering more than ninety years, bareheaded, with gray hair streaming upon their shoulders; others with nursing infants in their arms, all escorted by a company of heavy-armed troopers, left forever their native city. All made the dismal journey upon foot, save that carts were allowed to transport the children between the ages of two and six years. The desolation and depopulation were now complete.
“I wandered through the place, gazing at all this,” says a Spanish soldier who was present, and kept a diary of all which occurred, “and it seemed to me that it was another destruction of Jerusalem. What most struck me was to find not a single denizen of the town left, who was or who dared to call himself French. How vain and transitory, thought I, are the things of this world! Six days ago what riches were in the city, and now remains not one stone upon another.”
The expulsion of the women had been accomplished by the express command of Philip, who moreover had made no effort to stay the work of carnage, pillage, and conflagration. The pious King had not forgotten, however, his duty to the saints. As soon as the fire had broken out, he had sent to the cathedral, whence he had caused the body of Saint Quentin to be removed and placed in the royal tent. Here an altar was arranged, upon one side of which was placed the coffin of that holy personage, and upon the other the head of the “glorious Saint Gregory” (whoever that glorious individual may have been in life), together with many other relics brought from the church. Within the sacred enclosure many masses were said daily, while all this devil’s work was going on without. The saint who had been buried for centuries was comfortably housed and guarded by the monarch, while dogs were gnawing the caresses of the freshly-slain men of Saint Quentin, and troopers were driving into perpetual exile its desolate and mutilated women.
The most distinguished captives upon this occasion were, of course, Coligny and his brother. Andelot was, however, fortunate enough to make his escape that night under the edge of the tent in which he was confined. The Admiral was taken to Antwerp. Here he lay for many weeks sick with a fever. Upon his recovery, having no better pastime, he fell to reading the Scriptures. The result was his conversion to Calvinism, and the world shudders yet at the fate in which that conversion involved him.
Saint Quentin being thus reduced, Philip was not more disposed to push his fortune. The time was now wasted in the siege of several comparatively unimportant places, so that the fruits of Egmont’s valor were not yet allowed to ripen. Early in September Le Catelet was taken. On the 12th of the same month the citadel of Ham yielded, after receiving 2,000 shots from Philip’s artillery, while Nojon, Chanly, and some other places of less importance, were burned to the ground. After all this smoke and fire upon the frontier, productive of but slender consequences, Philip disbanded his army, and retired to Brussels. He reached that city on the 12th of October. The English returned to their own country. The campaign of 1557 was closed without a material result, and the victory of Saint Quentin remained for a season barren.
In the meantime the French were not idle. The army of the Constable had been destroyed, but the Duke de Guise, who had come post-haste from Italy after hearing the news of Saint Quentin, was very willing to organize another. He was burning with impatience both to retrieve his own reputation, which had suffered some little damage by his recent Italian campaign, and to profit by the captivity of his fallen rival the Constable. During the time occupied by the languid and dilatory proceedings of Philip in the autumn, the Duke had accordingly recruited in France and Germany a considerable army. In January (1558) he was ready to take the field. It had been determined in the French cabinet, however, not to attempt to win back the places which they had lost in Picardy, but to carry the war into the territory of the ally.
It was fated that England should bear all the losses, and Philip appropriate all the gain and glory, which resulted from their united exertions. It was the war of the queen’s husband, with which the queen’s people had no concern, but in which the last trophies of the Black Prince were to be forfeited.
On the first January, 1558, the Duc de Guise appeared before Calais. The Marshal Strozzi had previously made an expedition, in disguise, to examine the place. The result of his examination was that the garrison was weak, and that it relied too much upon the citadel. After a tremendous cannonade, which lasted a week, and was heard in Antwerp, the city was taken by assault. Thus the key to the great Norman portal of France, the time-honored key which England had worn at her girdle since the eventful day of Crecy, was at last taken from her. Calais had been originally won after a siege which had lasted a twelvemonth, had been held two hundred and ten years, and was now lost in seven days. Seven days more, and 10,000 discharges from thirty-five great guns sufficed for the reduction of Guines. Thus the last vestige of English dominion, the last substantial pretext of the English sovereign to wear the title and the lilies of France, was lost forever. King Henry visited Calais, which after two centuries of estrangement had now become a French town again, appointed Paul de Thermes governor of the place, and then returned to Paris to celebrate soon afterwards the marriage of the Dauphin with the niece of the Guises, Mary, Queen of Scots.
These events, together with the brief winter campaign of the Duke, which had raised for an instant the drooping head of France, were destined before long to give a new face to affairs, while it secured the ascendancy of the Catholic party in the kingdom. Disastrous eclipse had come over the house of Montmorency and Coligny, while the star of Guise, brilliant with the conquest of Calais, now culminated to the zenith.
It was at this period that the memorable interview between the two ecclesiastics, the Bishop of Arras and the Cardinal de Lorraine, took place at Peronne. From this central point commenced the weaving of that widespread scheme, in which the fate of millions was to be involved. The Duchess Christina de Lorraine, cousin of Philip, had accompanied him to Saint Quentin. Permission had been obtained by the Duc de Guise and his brother, the Cardinal, to visit her at Peronne. The Duchess was accompanied by the Bishop of Arras, and the consequence was a full and secret negotiation between the two priests. It may be supposed that Philip’s short-lived military ardor had already exhausted itself. He had mistaken his vocation, and already recognized the false position in which he was placed. He was contending against the monarch in whom he might find the surest ally against the archenemy of both kingdoms, and of the world. The French monarch held heresy in horror, while, for himself, Philip had already decided upon his life’s mission.
The crafty bishop was more than a match for the vain and ambitious cardinal. That prelate was assured that Philip considered the captivity of Coligny and Montmorency a special dispensation of Providence, while the tutelar genius of France, notwithstanding the reverses sustained by that kingdom, was still preserved. The cardinal and his brother, it was suggested, now held in their hands the destiny of the kingdom, and of Europe. The interests of both nations, of religion, of humanity, made it imperative upon them to put an end to this unnatural war, in order that the two monarchs might unite hand and heart for the extirpation of heresy. That hydra-headed monster had already extended its coils through France, while its pestilential breath was now wafted into Flanders from the German as well as the French border. Philip placed full reliance upon the wisdom and discretion of the cardinal. It was necessary that these negotiations should for the present remain a profound secret; but in the meantime a peace ought to be concluded with as little delay as possible, a result which, it was affirmed, was as heartily desired by Philip as it could be by Henry.
The bishop was soon aware of the impression which his artful suggestions had produced. The cardinal, inspired by the flattery thus freely administered, as well as by the promptings of his own ambition, lent a willing ear to the bishop’s plans. Thus was laid the foundation of a vast scheme, which time was to complete. A crusade with the whole strength of the French and Spanish crowns, was resolved upon against their own subjects. The bishop’s task was accomplished. The cardinal returned to France, determined to effect a peace with Spain. He was convinced that the glory of his house was to be infinitely enhanced, and its power impregnably established, by a cordial cooperation with Philip in his dark schemes against religion and humanity. The negotiations were kept, however, profoundly secret. A new campaign and fresh humiliations were to precede the acceptance by France of the peace which was thus proffered.
Hostile operations were renewed soon after the interview at Peronne. The Duke of Guise, who had procured 5,000 cavalry and 14,000 infantry in Germany, now, at the desire of the King, undertook an enterprise against Thionville, a city of importance and great strength in Luxemburg, upon the river Moselle. It was defended by Peter de Quarebbe, a gentleman of Louvain, with a garrison of 1,800 men. On the 5th of June, thirty-five pieces of artillery commenced the work; the mining and countermining continuing seventeen days; on the 22nd the assault was made, and the garrison capitulated immediately afterwards. It was a siege conducted in a regular and business-like way, but the details possess no interest. It was, however, signalized by the death of one of the eminent adventurers of the age, Marshal Strozzi. This brave, but always unlucky soldier was slain by a musket ball while assisting the Duke of Guise—whose arm was, at that instant, resting upon his shoulder—to point a gun at the fortress.
After the fall of Thionville, the Duc de Guise, for a short time, contemplated the siege of the city of Luxemburg, but contented himself with the reduction of the unimportant places of Vireton and Arlon. Here he loitered seventeen days, making no exertions to follow up the success which had attended him at the opening of the campaign. The good fortune of the French was now neutralized by the same languor which had marked the movements of Philip after the victory of Saint Quentin. The time, which might have been usefully employed in following up his success, was now wasted by the Duke in trivial business, or in absolute torpor. This may have been the result of a treacherous understanding with Spain, and the first fruits of the interview at Peronne. Whatever the cause, however, the immediate consequences were disaster to the French nation, and humiliation to the crown.
It had been the plan of the French cabinet that Marshal de Thermes, who, upon the capture of Calais, had been appointed governor of the city, should take advantage of his position as soon as possible. Having assembled an army of some 8,000 foot and 1,500 horse, partly Gascons and partly Germans, he was accordingly directed to ravage the neighboring country, particularly the county of Saint Pol. In the mean time, the Duc de Guise, having reduced the cities on the southern frontier, was to move in a northerly direction, make a junction with the Marshal, and thus extend a barrier along the whole frontier of the Netherlands.
De Thermes set forth from Calais, in the beginning of June, with his newly-organized army. Passing by Gravelines and Bourbourg, he arrived before Dunkirk on the 2nd of July. The city, which was without a garrison, opened negotiations, during the pendency of which it was taken by assault and pillaged. The town of Saint Winochsberg shared the same fate. De Thermes, who was a martyr to the gout, was obliged at this point temporarily to resign the command to d’Estonteville, a ferocious soldier, who led the predatory army as far as Niewport, burning, killing, ravishing, plundering, as they went. Meantime, Philip, who was at Brussels, had directed the Duke of Savoy to oppose the Duc de Guise with an army which had been hastily collected and organized at Maubeuge, in the province of Namur. He now desired, if possible, to attack and cut off the forces of De Thermes before he should extend the hand to Guise, or make good his retreat to Calais.
Flushed with victory over defenseless peasants, laden with the spoils of sacked and burning towns, the army of De Thermes was already on its homeward march. It was the moment for a sudden and daring blow. Whose arm should deal it? What general in Philip’s army possessed the requisite promptness, and felicitous audacity—who, but the most brilliant of cavalry officers, the bold and rapid hero of St. Quentin? Egmont, in obedience to the King’s command, threw himself at once into the field. He hastily collected all the available forces in the neighborhood. These, with drafts from the Duke of Savoy’s army, and with detachments under Marshal Bignicourt from the garrisons of Saint Omer, Bethune, Aire, and Bourbourg, soon amounted to 10,000 foot and 2,000 horse. His numbers were still further swollen by large bands of peasantry, both men and women, maddened by their recent injuries, and thirsting for vengeance. With these troops the energetic chieftain took up his position directly in the path of the French army. Determined to destroy De Thermes with all his force, or to sacrifice himself, he posted his army at Gravelines, a small town lying near the seashore, and about midway between Calais and Dunkirk.
The French general was putting the finishing touch to his expedition by completing the conflagration at Dunkirk, and was moving homeward, when he became aware of the lion in his path. Although suffering from severe sickness, he mounted his horse and personally conducted his army to Gravelines. Here he found his progress completely arrested. On that night, which was the 12th of July, he held a council of officers. It was determined to refuse the combat offered, and, if possible, to escape at low tide along the sands toward Calais. The next morning he crossed the river Aa, below Gravelines. Egmont, who was not the man, on that occasion at least, to build a golden bridge for a flying enemy, crossed the same stream just above the town, and drew up his whole force in battle array. De Thermes could no longer avoid the conflict thus resolutely forced upon him. Courage was now his only counsellor. Being not materially outnumbered by his adversaries, he had, at least, an even chance of cutting his way through all obstacles, and of saving his army and his treasure. The sea was on his right hand, the Aa behind him, the enemy in front. He piled his baggage and wagons so as to form a barricade upon his left, and placed his artillery, consisting of four culverines and three falconets, in front. Behind these he drew up his cavalry, supported at each side by the Gascons, and placed his French and German infantry in the rear.
Egmont, on the other hand, divided his cavalry into five squadrons. Three of light horse were placed in advance for the first assault—the center commanded by himself, the two wings by Count Pontenals and Henrico Henriquez. The black hussars of Lazarus Schwendi and the Flemish gendarmes came next. Behind these was the infantry, divided into three nations, Spanish, German, and Flemish, and respectively commanded by Carvajal, Mönchausen, and Bignicourt. Egmont, having characteristically selected the post of danger in the very front of battle for himself, could no longer restrain his impatience. “The foe is ours already,” he shouted, “follow me, all who love their fatherland.” With that he set spurs to his horse, and having his own regiment well in hand, dashed upon the enemy.
The Gascons received the charge with coolness, and, under cover of a murderous fire from the artillery in front, which mowed down the foremost ranks of their assailants, sustained the whole weight of the first onset without flinching. Egmont’s horse was shot under him at the commencement of the action. Mounting another, he again cheered his cavalry to the attack. The Gascons still maintained an unwavering front, and fought with characteristic ferocity. The courage of despair inflamed the French, the hope of a brilliant and conclusive victory excited the Spaniards and Flemings. It was a wild, hand to hand conflict—general and soldier, cavalier and pikeman, lancer and musketeer, mingled together in one dark, confused, and struggling mass; foot to foot, breast to breast, horse to horse—a fierce, tumultuous battle on the sands, worthy the fitful pencil of the national painter, Wouvermans.
For a long time it was doubtful on which side victory was to incline, but at last ten English vessels unexpectedly appeared in the offing, and ranging up soon afterwards as close to the shore as was possible, opened their fire upon the still unbroken lines of the French. The ships were too distant, the danger of injuring friend as well as foe too imminent, to allow of their exerting any important influence upon the result. The spirit of the enemy was broken, however, by this attack upon their seaward side, which they had thought impregnable. At the same time, too, a detachment of German cavalry which had been directed by Egmont to make their way under the downs to the southward, now succeeded in turning their left flank. Egmont, profiting by their confusion, charged them again with redoubled vigor. The fate of the day was decided. The French cavalry wavered, broke their ranks, and in their flight carried dismay throughout the whole army. The rout was total; horse and foot, French, Gascon, and German fled from the field together. Fifteen hundred fell in the action, as many more were driven into the sea, while great numbers were torn to pieces by the exasperated peasants, who now eagerly washed out their recent injuries in the blood of the dispersed, wandering, and wounded soldiers.
The army of De Thermes was totally destroyed, and with it, the last hope of France for an honorable and equal negotiation. She was now at Philip’s feet, so that this brilliant cavalry action, although it has been surpassed in importance by many others, in respect to the numbers of the combatants and the principles involved in the contest, was still, in regard to the extent both of its immediate and its permanent results, one of the most decisive and striking which have ever been fought. The French army engaged was annihilated. Marshal de Thermes, with a wound in the head, Senarpont, Annibault, Villefon, Morvilliers, Chanlis, and many others of high rank were prisoners. The French monarch had not much heart to set about the organization of another army, a task which he was now compelled to undertake. He was soon obliged to make the best terms which he could, and to consent to a treaty which was one of the most ruinous in the archives of France.
The Marshal de Thermes was severely censured for having remained so long at Dunkirk and in its neighborhood. He was condemned still more loudly for not having at least effected his escape beyond Gravelines, during the night which preceded the contest. With regard to the last charge, however, it may well be doubted whether any nocturnal attempt would have been likely to escape the vigilance of Egmont. With regard to his delay at Dunkirk, it was asserted that he had been instructed to await in that place the junction with the Duc de Guise, which had been previously arranged. But for the criminal and, then, inexplicable languor which characterized that commander’s movements, after the capture of Thionville, the honor of France might still have been saved.
Whatever might have been the faults of De Thermes or of Guise, there could be little doubt as to the merit of Egmont. Thus within eleven months of the battle of Saint Quentin, had the Dutch hero gained another victory so decisive as to settle the fate of the war, and to elevate his sovereign to a position from which he might dictate the terms of a triumphant peace. The opening scenes of Philip’s reign were rendered as brilliant as the proudest days of the Emperor’s career, while the provinces were enraptured with the prospect of early peace. To whom, then, was the sacred debt of national and royal gratitude due but to Lamoral of Egmont? His countrymen gladly recognized the claim. He became the idol of the army, the familiar hero of ballad and story, the mirror of chivalry, and the god of popular worship. Throughout the Netherlands he was hailed as the right hand of the fatherland, the savior of Flanders from devastation and outrage, the protector of the nation, the pillar of the throne.
The victor gained many friends by his victory, and one enemy. The bitterness of that foe was likely, in the future, to outweigh all the plaudits of his friends. The Duke of Alva had strongly advised against giving battle to De Thermes. He depreciated the triumph after it had been gained, by reflections upon the consequences which would have flowed, had a defeat been suffered instead. He even held this language to Egmont himself after his return to Brussels. The conqueror, flushed with his glory, was not inclined to digest the criticism, nor what he considered the venomous detraction of the Duke. More vain and arrogant than ever, he treated his powerful Spanish rival with insolence, and answered his observations with angry sarcasms, even in the presence of the King. Alva was not likely to forget the altercation, nor to forgive the triumph.
There passed, naturally, much bitter censure and retort on both sides at court, between the friends and adherents of Egmont and those who sustained the party of his adversary. The battle of Gravelines was fought over daily, amid increasing violence and recrimination, between Spaniard and Fleming, and the old international hatred flamed more fiercely than ever. Alva continued to censure the foolhardiness which had risked so valuable an army on a single blow. Egmont’s friends replied that it was easy for foreigners, who had nothing at risk in the country, to look on while the fields of the Netherlands were laid waste, and the homes and hearths of an industrious population made desolate, by a brutal and rapacious soldiery. They who dwelt in the Provinces would be ever grateful to their preserver for the result. They had no eyes for the picture which the Spanish party painted of an imaginary triumph of De Thermes and its effects. However the envious might cavil, now that the blow had been struck, the popular heart remained warm as ever, and refused to throw down the idol which had so recently been set up.
State of the Netherlands and the Beginning of Persecution in Spain
The battle of Gravelines had decided the question. The intrigues of the two cardinals at Peronne having been sustained by Egmont’s victory, all parties were ready for a peace. King Henry was weary of the losing game which he had so long been playing, Philip was anxious to relieve himself from his false position, and to concentrate his whole mind and the strength of his kingdom upon his great enemy, the Netherland heresy, while the Duke of Savoy felt that the time had at last arrived when an adroit diplomacy might stand him in stead, and place him in the enjoyment of those rights which the sword had taken from him, and which his own sword had done so much towards winning back. The sovereigns were inclined to peace, and as there had never been a national principle or instinct or interest involved in the dispute, it was very certain that peace would be popular every where, upon whatever terms it might be concluded.
Montmorency and the Prince of Orange were respectively empowered to open secret negotiations. The Constable entered upon the task with alacrity, because he felt that every day of his captivity was alike prejudicial to his own welfare and the interests of his country. The Guises, who had quarreled with the Duchess de Valentinois (Diane de Poitiers), were not yet powerful enough to resist the influence of the mistress; while, rather to baffle them than from any loftier reasons, that interest was exerted in behalf of immediate peace. The Cardinal de Lorraine had by no means forgotten the eloquent arguments used by the Bishop of Arras; but his brother, the Duc de Guise, may be supposed to have desired some little opportunity of redeeming the credit of the kingdom, and to have delayed the negotiations until his valor could secure a less inglorious termination to the war.
A fresh army had, in fact, been collected under his command, and was already organized at Pierrepoint. At the same time, Philip had assembled a large force, consisting of 30,000 foot and 15,000 cavalry, with which he had himself taken the field, encamping towards the middle of August upon the banks of the river Anthies, near the border of Picardy. King Henry, on the other hand, had already arrived in the camp at Pierrepoint, and had reviewed as imposing an army as had ever been at the disposal of a French monarch. When drawn up in battle array it covered a league and a half of ground, while three hours were required to make its circuit on horseback. All this martial display was only for effect. The two kings, at the head of their great armies, stood looking at each other while the negotiations for peace were proceeding. An unimportant skirmish or two at the outposts, unattended with loss of life, were the only military results of these great preparations.
Early in the autumn, all the troops were disbanded, while the commissioners of both crowns met in open congress at the abbey of Cercamp, near Cambray, by the middle of October. The envoys on the part of Philip were the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Alva, the Bishop of Arras, Ruy Gomez de Silva, the president Viglius; on that of the French monarch, the Constable, the Marshal de Saint André, the Cardinal de Lorraine, the Bishop of Orleans, and Claude l’Aubespine. There were also envoys sent by the Queen of England, but as the dispute concerning Calais was found to hamper the negotiations at Cercamp, the English question was left to be settled by another congress, and was kept entirely separate from the arrangements concluded between France and Spain.
The death of Queen Mary, on the 17th of November, caused a temporary suspension of the proceedings. After the widower, however, had made a fruitless effort to obtain the hand of her successor, and had been unequivocally repulsed, the commissioners again met in February, 1559, at Cateau Cambresis. The English difficulty was now arranged by separate commissioners, and on the third of April a treaty between France and Spain was concluded.
By this important convention, both kings bound themselves to maintain the Catholic worship inviolate by all means in their power, and agreed that an ecumenical council should at once assemble, to compose the religious differences, and to extinguish the increasing heresy in both kingdoms. Furthermore, it was arranged that the conquests made by each country during the preceding eight years should be restored. Thus all the gains of Francis and Henry were annulled by a single word, and the Duke of Savoy converted, by a dash of the pen, from a landless soldier of fortune into a sovereign again. He was to receive back all his estates, and was moreover to marry Henry’s sister Margaret, with a dowry of 300,000 crowns. Philip, on the other hand, now a second time a widower, was to espouse Henry’s daughter Isabella, already betrothed to the Infant Don Carlos, and to receive with her a dowry of 400,000 crowns. The restitutions were to be commenced by Henry, and to be completed within three months. Philip was to restore his conquests in the course of a month afterwards.
Most of the powers of Europe were included by both parties in this treaty—the pope, the Emperor, all the Electors, the republics of Venice, Genoa, and Switzerland; the kingdoms of England, Scotland, Poland, Denmark, Sweden; the duchies of Ferrara, Savoy, and Parma, besides other inferior principalities. Nearly all Christendom, in short, was embraced in this most amicable compact, as if Philip were determined that, henceforth and forever, Calvinists and Mahometans, Turks and Flemings, should be his only enemies.
The King of France was to select four hostages from among Philip’s subjects, to accompany him to Paris as pledges for the execution of all the terms of the treaty. The royal choice fell upon the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Alva, the Duke of Aerschot, and the Count of Egmont.
Such was the treaty of Cateau Cambresis. Thus was a termination put to a war between France and Spain, which had been so wantonly undertaken.
Marshal Monluc wrote that a treaty so disgraceful and disastrous had never before been ratified by a French monarch. It would have been difficult to point to any one more unfortunate upon her previous annals, if any treaty can be called unfortunate, by which justice is done and wrongs repaired, even under coercion. The accumulated plunder of years, which was now disgorged by France, was equal in value to one third of that kingdom. One hundred and ninety-eight fortified towns were surrendered, making, with other places of greater or less importance, a total estimated by some writers as high as four hundred. The principal gainer was the Duke of Savoy, who, after so many years of knight-errantry, had regained his duchy, and found himself the brother-in-law of his ancient enemy.
The well-known tragedy by which the solemnities of this pacification were abruptly concluded in Paris, bore with it an impressive moral. The monarch who, in violation of his plighted word and against the interests of his nation and the world, had entered precipitately into a causeless war, now lost his life in fictitious combat at the celebration of peace. On the tenth of July, Henry II died of the wound inflicted by Montgomery in the tournament held eleven days before. Of this weak and worthless prince, all that even his flatterers could favorably urge was his great fondness for war, as if a sanguinary propensity, even when unaccompanied by a spark of military talent, were of itself a virtue. Yet, with his death the kingdom fell even into more pernicious hands, and the fate of Christendom grew darker than ever. The dynasty of Diane de Poitiers was succeeded by that of Catherine de Medici; the courtesan gave place to the dowager; and France—during the long and miserable period in which she lay bleeding in the grasp of the Italian she-wolf and her litter of cowardly and sanguinary princes—might even lament the days of Henry and his Diana. Charles IX, Henry III, Francis of Alençon, last of the Valois race—how large a portion of the fearful debt which has not yet been discharged by half a century of revolution and massacre was of their accumulation!
The Duchess of Valentinois had quarreled latterly with the house of Guise, and was disposed to favor Montmorency. The king, who was but a tool in her hands, might possibly have been induced, had he lived, to regard Coligny and his friends with less aversion. This is, however, extremely problematical, for it was Henry II who had concluded that memorable arrangement with his royal brother of Spain, to arrange for the Huguenot chiefs throughout both realms, a “Sicilian Vespers,” upon the first favorable occasion. His death and the subsequent policy of the Queen-Regent deferred the execution of the great scheme till fourteen years later. Henry had lived long enough, however, after the conclusion of the secret agreement to reveal it to one whose life was to be employed in thwarting this foul conspiracy of monarchs against their subjects. William of Orange, then a hostage for the execution of the treaty of Cateau Cambresis, was the man with whom the king had the unfortunate conception to confer on the subject of the plot. The Prince, who had already gained the esteem of Charles V by his habitual discretion, knew how to profit by the intelligence and to bide his time; but his hostility to the policy of the French and Spanish courts was perhaps dated from that hour.
Pending the peace negotiations, Philip had been called upon to mourn for his wife and father. He did not affect grief for the death of Mary Tudor, but he honored the Emperor’s departure with stately obsequies at Brussels. The ceremonies lasted two days (the 29th and 30th of December, 1558). In the grand and elaborate procession which swept through the streets upon the first day, the most conspicuous object was a ship floating apparently upon the waves, and drawn by a band of Tritons who disported at the bows. The masts, shrouds, and sails of the vessel were black, it was covered with heraldic achievements, banners and emblematic mementos of the Emperor’s various expeditions, while the flags of Turks and Moors trailed from her sides in the waves below. Three allegorical personages composed the crew. Hope, “all clothyd in brown, with anker in hand,” stood at the prow; Faith, with sacramental chalice and red cross, clad in white garment, with her face veiled “with white tiffany,” sat on a “stool of estate” before the mizzenmast; while Charity “in red, holding in her hand a burning heart,” was at the helm to navigate the vessel. Hope, Faith, and Love were thought the most appropriate symbols for the man who had invented the edicts, introduced the inquisition, and whose last words, inscribed by a hand already trembling with death, had adjured his son, by his love, allegiance, and hope of salvation, to deal to all heretics the extreme rigor of the law, “without respect of persons and without regard to any plea in their favor.”
The rest of the procession, in which marched the Duke of Alva, the Prince of Orange, and other great personages, carrying the sword, the globe, the scepter, and the “crown imperial,” contained no emblems or imagery worthy of being recorded. The next day the king, dressed in mourning and attended by a solemn train of high officers and nobles, went again to the church. A contemporary letter mentions a somewhat singular incident as forming the concluding part of the ceremony. “And the service being done,” wrote Sir Richard Clough to Sir Thomas Gresham, “there went a nobleman into the herse (so far as I colde understande, it was the Prince of Orange), who, standing before the herse, struck with his hand upon the chest and sayd, ‘He is ded.’ Then standing styll awhile, he sayd, ‘He shall remayn ded.’ And then resting awhile, he struck again and sayd, ‘He is ded, and there is another rysen up in his place greater than ever he was.’ Whereupon the Kynge’s hoode was taken off and the Kynge went home without his hoode.”
If the mourning for the dead Emperor was but a mummery and a masquerade, there was, however, heartiness and sincerity in the rejoicing which now burst forth like a sudden illumination throughout the Netherlands, upon the advent of peace. All was joy in the provinces, but at Antwerp, the metropolis of the land, the enthusiasm was unbounded. Nine days were devoted to festivities. Bells rang their merriest peals; artillery thundered; beacons blazed; the splendid cathedral spire flamed nightly with three hundred burning cressets; the city was strewn with flowers and decorated with triumphal arches; the Guilds of Rhetoric amazed the world with their gorgeous processions, glittering dresses, and bombastic versification; the burghers all, from highest to humblest, were feasted and made merry; wine flowed in the streets and oxen were roasted whole; prizes on poles were climbed for; pigs were hunted blindfold; men and women raced in sacks, and in short, for nine days long there was one universal and spontaneous demonstration of hilarity in Antwerp and throughout the provinces.
But with this merry humor of his subjects, the sovereign had but little sympathy. There was nothing in his character or purposes which owed affinity with any mood of this jocund and energetic people. Philip had not made peace with all the world that the Netherlanders might climb on poles or ring bells, or strew flowers in his path for a little holiday time, and then return to their industrious avocations again. He had made peace with all the world that he might be free to combat heresy; and this archenemy had taken up its stronghold in the provinces. The treaty of Cateau Cambresis left him at liberty to devote himself to that great enterprise. He had never loved the Netherlands; a residence in these constitutional provinces was extremely irksome to him, and he was therefore anxious to return to Spain. From the depths of his cabinet he felt that he should be able to direct the enterprise he was resolved upon, and that his presence in the Netherlands would be superfluous and disagreeable.
The early part of the year 1559 was spent by Philip in organizing the government of the provinces and in making the necessary preparations for his departure. The Duke of Savoy, being restored to his duchy, had, of course, no more leisure to act as Regent of the Netherlands, and it was necessary, therefore, to fix upon his successor in this important post, at once. There were several candidates. The Duchess Christina of Lorraine had received many half promises of the appointment, which she was most anxious to secure; the Emperor was even said to desire the nomination of the Archduke Maximilian, a step which would have certainly argued more magnanimity upon Philip’s part than the world could give him credit for; and besides these regal personages, the high nobles of the land, especially Orange and Egmont, had hopes of obtaining the dignity. The Prince of Orange, however, was too sagacious to deceive himself long, and became satisfied very soon that no Netherlander was likely to be selected for Regent. He therefore threw his influence in favor of the Duchess Christina, whose daughter, at the suggestion of the Bishop of Arras, he was desirous of obtaining in marriage.
The king favored for a time, or pretended to favor, both the appointment of Madame de Lorraine and the marriage project of the prince. Afterwards, however, and in a manner which was accounted both sudden and mysterious, it appeared that the duchess and Orange had both been deceived, and that the king and bishop had decided in favor of another candidate, whose claims had not been considered, before, very prominent. This was the Duchess Margaret of Parma, natural daughter of Charles V. A brief sketch of this important personage, so far as regards her previous career, is reserved for the following chapter. For the present it is sufficient to state the fact of the nomination. In order to afford a full view of Philip’s political arrangements before his final departure from the Netherlands, we defer until the same chapter, an account of the persons who composed the boards of council organized to assist the new regent in the government.
These bodies themselves were three in number—a state and privy council and one of finance. They were not new institutions, having been originally established by the Emperor, and were now arranged by his successor upon the same nominal basis upon which they had before existed. The finance council, which had superintendence of all matters relating to the royal domains and to the annual budgets of the government, was presided over by Baron Berlaymont. The privy council, of which Viglius was president, was composed of ten or twelve learned doctors, and was especially entrusted with the control of matters relating to law, pardons, and the general administration of justice. The state council, which was far the most important of the three boards, was to superintend all high affairs of government—war, treaties, foreign intercourse, internal and interprovincial affairs. The members of this council were the Bishop of Arras, Viglius, Berlaymont, the Prince of Orange, Count Egmont, to which number were afterwards added the Seigneur de Glayon, the Duke of Aerschot, and Count Horn. The last-named nobleman, who was admiral of the provinces, had, for the present, been appointed to accompany the king to Spain, there to be specially entrusted with the administration of affairs relating to the Netherlands. He was destined, however, to return at the expiration of two years.
With the object, as it was thought, of curbing the power of the great nobles, it had been arranged that the three councils should be entirely distinct from each other, that the members of the state council should have no participation in the affairs of the two other bodies; but, on the other hand, that the finance and privy councillors, as well as the Knights of the Fleece, should have access to the deliberations of the state council. In the course of events, however, it soon became evident that the real power of the government was exclusively in the hands of the consulta, a committee of three members of the state council, by whose deliberations the Regent was secretly instructed to be guided on all important occasions. The three, Viglius, Berlaymont, and Arras, who composed the secret conclave or cabinet, were in reality but one. The Bishop of Arras was in all three, and the three together constituted only the Bishop of Arras.
There was no especial governor or stadholder appointed for the province of Brabant, where the regent was to reside and to exercise executive functions in person. The stadholders for the other provinces were, for Flanders and Artois, the Count of Egmont; for Holland, Zealand, and Utrecht, the Prince of Orange; for Gueldres and Zutfen, the Count of Meghen; for Friesland, Groningen, and Overyssel, Count Aremberg; for Hainault, Valenciennes, and Cambray, the Marquis of Berghen; for Tournay and Tournaisis, Baron Montigny; for Namur, Baron Berlaymont; for Luxemburg, Count Mansfeld; for Ryssel, Douay, and Orchies, the Baron Courèires. All these stadholders were commanders-in-chief of the military forces in their respective provinces. With the single exception of Count Egmont, in whose province of Flanders the stadholders were excluded from the administration of justice, all were likewise supreme judges in the civil and criminal tribunal.
The military force of the Netherlands in time of peace was small, for the provinces were jealous of the presence of soldiery. The only standing army which then legally existed in the Netherlands were the Bandes d’Ordonnance, a body of mounted gendarmerie—amounting in all to 3,000 men—which ranked among the most accomplished and best disciplined cavalry of Europe. They were divided into fourteen squadrons, each under the command of a stadholder, or of a distinguished noble. Besides these troops, however, there still remained in the provinces a foreign force amounting in the aggregate to 4,000 men. These soldiers were the remainder of those large bodies which year after year had been quartered upon the Netherlands during the constant warfare to which they had been exposed. Living upon the substance of the country, paid out of its treasury, and as offensive by their licentious and ribald habits of life as were the enemies against whom they were enrolled, these troops had become an intolerable burden to the people. They were now disposed in different garrisons, nominally to protect the frontier. As a firm peace, however, had now been concluded between Spain and France, and as there was no pretext for compelling the provinces to accept this protection, the presence of a foreign soldiery strengthened a suspicion that they were to be used in the onslaught which was preparing against the religious freedom and the political privileges of the country. They were to be the nucleus of a larger army, it was believed, by which the land was to be reduced to a state of servile subjection to Spain. A low, constant, but generally unheeded murmur of dissatisfaction and distrust upon this subject was already perceptible throughout the Netherlands, a warning presage of the coming storm.
All the provinces were now convoked for the 7th of August (1559), at Ghent, there to receive the parting communication and farewell of the king. Previously to this day, however, Philip appeared in person upon several solemn occasions, to impress upon the country the necessity of attending to the great subject with which his mind was exclusively occupied. He came before the great council of Mechlin, in order to address that body with his own lips upon the necessity of supporting the edicts to the letter, and of trampling out every vestige of heresy, wherever it should appear, by the immediate immolation of all heretics, whoever they might be.
He likewise caused the estates of Flanders to be privately assembled, that he might harangue them upon the same great topic. In the latter part of July he proceeded to Ghent, where a great concourse of nobles, citizens, and strangers had already assembled. Here, in the last week of the month, the twenty-third chapter of the Golden Fleece was held with much pomp, and with festivities which lasted three days. The fourteen vacancies which existed were filled with the names of various distinguished personages. With this last celebration, the public history of Philip the Good’s ostentatious and ambitious order of knighthood was closed. The subsequent nominations were made ex indultu apostolico, and without the assembling of a chapter.
The estates having duly assembled upon the day prescribed, Philip, attended by Margaret of Parma, the Duke of Savoy, and a stately retinue of ambassadors and grandees, made his appearance before them. After the customary ceremonies had been performed, the Bishop of Arras arose and delivered, in the name of his sovereign, an elaborate address of instructions and farewells. In this important harangue, the states were informed that the king had convened them in order that they might be informed of his intention of leaving the Netherlands immediately. He would gladly have remained longer in his beloved provinces, had not circumstances compelled his departure. His father had come hither for the good of the country in the year 1543, and had never returned to Spain, except to die.
Upon the King’s accession to the sovereignty, he had arranged a truce of five years, which had been broken through by the faithlessness of France. He had, therefore, been obliged, notwithstanding his anxiety to return to a country where his presence was so much needed, to remain in the provinces till he had conducted the new war to a triumphant close. In doing this he had been solely governed by his intense love for the Netherlands, and by his regard for their interests. All the money which he had raised from their coffers had been spent for their protection. Upon this account his Majesty expressed his confidence that the estates would pay an earnest attention to the “Request” which had been laid before them, the more so, as its amount, three millions of gold florins, would all be expended for the good of the provinces. After his return to Spain he hoped to be able to make a remittance. The Duke of Savoy, he continued, being obliged, in consequence of the fortunate change in his affairs, to resign the government of the Netherlands, and his own son, Don Carlos, not yet being sufficiently advanced in years to succeed to that important post, his Majesty had selected his sister, the Duchess Margaret of Parma, daughter of the Emperor, as the most proper person for regent. As she had been born in the Netherlands, and had always entertained a profound affection for the provinces, he felt a firm confidence that she would prove faithful both to their interests and his own.
As at this moment many countries, and particularly the lands in the immediate neighborhood, were greatly infested by various “new, reprobate, and damnable sects”; as these sects, proceeding from the foul fiend, father of discord, had not failed to keep those kingdoms in perpetual dissension and misery, to the manifest displeasure of God Almighty; as his Majesty was desirous to avert such terrible evils from his own realms, according to his duty to the Lord God, who would demand reckoning from him hereafter for the well-being of the provinces; as all experience proved that change of religion ever brought desolation and confusion to the commonweal; as low persons, beggars and vagabonds, under color of religion, were accustomed to traverse the land for the purpose of plunder and disturbance; as his Majesty was most desirous of following in the footsteps of his lord and father; as it would be well remembered what the Emperor had said to him upon the memorable occasion of his abdication; therefore his Majesty had commanded the Regent Margaret of Parma, for the sake of religion and the glory of God, accurately and exactly to cause to be enforced the edicts and decrees made by his imperial Majesty, and renewed by his present Majesty, for the extirpation of all sects and heresies. All governors, councillors, and others having authority were also instructed to do their utmost to accomplish this great end.
The great object of the discourse was thus announced in the most impressive manner, and with all that conventional rhetoric of which the Bishop of Arras was considered a consummate master. Not a word was said on the subject which was nearest the hearts of the Netherlanders—the withdrawal of the Spanish troops. Not a hint was held out that a reduction of the taxation, under which the provinces had so long been groaning, was likely to take place; but, on the contrary, the king had demanded a new levy of considerable amount. A few well-turned paragraphs were added on the subject of the administration of justice—”without which the republic was a dead body without a soul”—in the bishop’s most approved style, and the discourse concluded with a fervent exhortation to the provinces to trample heresy and heretics out of existence, and with the hope that the Lord God, in such case, would bestow upon the Netherlands health and happiness.
After the address had been concluded, the deputies, according to ancient form, requested permission to adjourn, that the representatives of each province might deliberate among themselves on the point of granting or withholding the Request for the three millions. On the following day they again assembled in the presence of the king, for the purpose of returning their separate answers to the propositions.
The address first read was that of the Estates of Artois. The chairman of the deputies from that province read a series of resolutions, drawn up, says a contemporary, “with that elegance which characterized all the public acts of the Artesians, bearing witness to the vivacity of their wits.” The deputies spoke of the extreme affection which their province had always borne to his Majesty and to the Emperor. They had proved it by the constancy with which they had endured the calamities of war so long, and they now cheerfully consented to the Request, so far as their contingent went. They were willing to place at his Majesty’s disposal, not only the remains of their property, but even the last drop of their blood.
As the eloquent chairman reached this point in his discourse, Philip, who was standing with his arm resting upon Egmont’s shoulder, listening eagerly to the Artesian address, looked upon the deputies of the province with a smiling face, expressing by the unwonted benignity of his countenance the satisfaction which he received from these loyal expressions of affection, and this dutiful compliance with his Request.
The deputy, however, proceeded to an unexpected conclusion, by earnestly entreating his Majesty, as a compensation for the readiness thus evinced in the royal service, forthwith to order the departure of all foreign troops then in the Netherlands. Their presence, it was added, was now rendered completely superfluous by the ratification of the treaty of peace so fortunately arranged with all the world.
At this sudden change in the deputy’s language, the king, no longer smiling, threw himself violently upon his chair of state, where he remained, brooding with a gloomy countenance upon the language which had been addressed to him. It was evident, said an eyewitness, that he was deeply offended. He changed color frequently, so that all present “could remark, from the working of his face, how much his mind was agitated.”
The rest of the provinces were even more explicit than the deputies of Artois. All had voted their contingents to the Request, but all had made the withdrawal of the troops an express antecedent condition to the payment of their respective quotas.
The king did not affect to conceal his rage at these conditions, exclaiming bitterly to Count Egmont and other seigniors near the throne that it was very easy to estimate, by these proceedings, the value of the protestations made by the provinces of their loyalty and affection.
Besides, however, the answers thus addressed by the separate states to the royal address, a formal remonstrance had also been drawn up in the name of the States General, and signed by the Prince of Orange, Count Egmont, and many of the leading patricians of the Netherlands. This document, which was formally presented to the king before the adjournment of the assembly, represented the infamous “pillaging, insults, and disorders” daily exercised by the foreign soldiery, stating that the burden had become intolerable, and that the inhabitants of Marienburg, and of many other large towns and villages, had absolutely abandoned their homes rather than remain any longer exposed to such insolence and oppression.
The king, already enraged, was furious at the presentation of this petition. He arose from his seat, and rushed impetuously from the assembly, demanding of the members as he went, whether he too, as a Spaniard, was expected immediately to leave the land, and to resign all authority over it. The Duke of Savoy made use of this last occasion in which he appeared in public as regent, violently to rebuke the estates for the indignity thus offered to their sovereign.
It could not be forgotten, however, by nobles and burghers, who had not yet been crushed by the long course of oppression which was in store for them, that there had been a day when Philip’s ancestors had been more humble in their deportment in the face of the provincial authorities. His great-grandfather, Maximilian, kept in durance by the citizens of Bruges; his great-grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, with streaming eyes and disheveled hair, supplicating in the marketplace for the lives of her treacherous ambassadors, were wont to hold a less imperious language to the delegates of the states.
This burst of ill temper on the part of the monarch was, however, succeeded by a different humor. It was still thought advisable to dissemble, and to return rather an expostulatory than a peremptory answer to the remonstrance of the States General. Accordingly a paper of a singular tone was, after the delay of a few days, sent into the assembly. In this message it was stated that the king was not desirous of placing strangers in the government—a fact which was proved by the appointment of the Duchess Margaret; that the Spanish infantry was necessary to protect the land from invasion; that the remnant of foreign troops only amounted to three or four thousand men, who claimed considerable arrears of pay, but that the amount due would be forwarded to them immediately after his Majesty’s return to Spain. It was suggested that the troops would serve as an escort for Don Carlos when he should arrive in the Netherlands, although the king would have been glad to carry them to Spain in his fleet, had he known the wishes of the estates in time. He would, however, pay for their support himself, although they were to act solely for the good of the provinces. He observed, moreover, that he had selected two seigniors of the provinces, the Prince of Orange and Count Egmont, to take command of these foreign troops, and he promised faithfully that, in the course of three or four months at furthest, they should all be withdrawn.
On the same day in which the estates had assembled at Ghent, Philip had addressed an elaborate letter to the grand council of Mechlin, the supreme court of the provinces, and to the various provincial councils and tribunals of the whole country. The object of the communication was to give his final orders on the subject of the edicts, and for the execution of all heretics in the most universal and summary manner. He gave stringent and unequivocal instructions that these decrees for burning, strangling, and burying alive, should be fulfilled to the letter. He ordered all judicial officers and magistrates “to be curious to enquire on all sides as to the execution of the placards,” stating his intention that “the utmost rigor should be employed without any respect of persons,” and that not only “the transgressors should be proceeded against, but also the judges who should prove remiss in their prosecution of heretics.” He alluded to a false opinion which had gained currency that the edicts were only intended against anabaptists. Correcting this error, he stated that they were to be “enforced against all sectaries, without any distinction or mercy, who might be spotted merely with the errors introduced by Luther.”
The king, notwithstanding the violent scenes in the assembly, took leave of the estates at another meeting with apparent cordiality. His dissatisfaction was sufficiently manifest, but it expressed itself principally against individuals. His displeasure at the course pursued by the leading nobles, particularly by the Prince of Orange, was already no secret.
Philip, soon after the adjournment of the assembly, had completed the preparations for his departure. At Middleburg he was met by the agreeable intelligence that the pope had consented to issue a bull for the creation of the new bishoprics which he desired for the Netherlands. This important subject will be resumed in another chapter; for the present we accompany the king to Flushing, whence the fleet was to set sail for Spain. He was escorted thither by the Duchess Regent, the Duke of Savoy, and by many of the most eminent personages of the provinces. Among others William of Orange was in attendance to witness the final departure of the king, and to pay him his farewell respects. As Philip was proceeding on board the ship which was to bear him forever from the Netherlands, his eyes lighted upon the prince. His displeasure could no longer be restrained. With angry face he turned upon him, and bitterly reproached him for having thwarted all his plans by means of his secret intrigues. William replied with humility that everything which had taken place had been done through the regular and natural movements of the states. Upon this the king, boiling with rage, seized the prince by the wrist, and shaking it violently, exclaimed in Spanish, “No los estados, ma vos, vos, vos!”—Not the estates, but you, you, you!—repeating thrice the word vos, which is as disrespectful and uncourteous in Spanish as “toi” in French.
After this severe and public insult, the Prince of Orange did not go on board his Majesty’s vessel, but contented himself with wishing Philip, from the shore, a fortunate journey. It may be doubted, moreover, whether he would not have made a sudden and compulsory voyage to Spain had he ventured his person in the ship, and whether, under the circumstances, he would have been likely to effect as speedy a return. His caution served him then as it was destined to do on many future occasions, and Philip left the Netherlands with this parting explosion of hatred against the man who, as he perhaps instinctively felt, was destined to circumvent his measures and resist his tyranny to the last.
The fleet, which consisted of ninety vessels, so well provisioned that, among other matters, 15,000 capons were put on board, according to the Antwerp chronicler, set sail upon the 26th of August (1559), from Flushing. The voyage proved tempestuous, so that much of the rich tapestry and other merchandise which had been accumulated by Charles and Philip was lost. Some of the vessels foundered; to save others it was necessary to lighten the cargo, and “to enrobe the roaring waters with the silks,” for which the Netherlands were so famous; so that it was said that Philip and his father had impoverished the earth only to enrich the ocean. The fleet had been laden with much valuable property, because the king had determined to fix for the future the wandering capital of his dominions in Spain. Philip landed in safety, however, at Laredo, on the 8th of September. His escape from imminent peril confirmed him in the great purpose to which he had consecrated his existence. He believed himself to have been reserved from shipwreck only because a mighty mission had been confided to him, and lest his enthusiasm against heresy should languish, his eyes were soon feasted, upon his arrival in his native country, with the spectacle of an auto-da-fé.
Early in January of this year, the king being persuaded that it was necessary everywhere to use additional means to check the alarming spread of Lutheran opinions, had written to the pope for authority to increase, if that were possible, the stringency of the Spanish inquisition. The pontiff, nothing loath, had accordingly issued a bull directed to the inquisitor general, Valdez, by which he was instructed to consign to the flames all prisoners whatever, even those who were not accused of having “relapsed.” Great preparations had been made to strike terror into the hearts of heretics by a series of horrible exhibitions, in the course of which the numerous victims, many of them persons of high rank, distinguished learning, and exemplary lives, who had long been languishing in the dungeons of the holy office, were to be consigned to the flames.
The first auto-da-fé had been consummated at Valladolid on the 21st of May (1559), in the absence of the king, of course, but in the presence of the royal family and the principal notabilities—civil, ecclesiastical, and military. The princess regent, seated on her throne, close to the scaffold, had held on high the holy sword. The Archbishop of Seville, followed by the ministers of the inquisition and by the victims, had arrived in solemn procession at the “cadahalso,” where, after the usual sermon in praise of the holy office and in denunciation of heresy, he had administered the oath to the Infante, who had duly sworn upon the crucifix to maintain forever the sacred inquisition and the apostolic decrees. The archbishop had then cried aloud, “So may God prosper your Highnesses and your estates,” after which the men and women who formed the object of the show had been cast into the flames.
It being afterwards ascertained that the king himself would soon be enabled to return to Spain, the next festival was reserved as a fitting celebration for his arrival. Upon the 8th of October, accordingly, another auto-da-fé took place at Valladolid. The King, with his sister and his son, the high officers of state, the foreign ministers, and all the nobility of the kingdom, were present, together with an immense concourse of soldiery, clergy, and populace. The sermon was preached by the Bishop of Cuença. When it was finished, Inquisitor General Valdez cried with a loud voice, “Oh God, make speed to help us!” The king then drew his sword. Valdez, advancing to the platform upon which Philip was seated, proceeded to read the protestation: “Your Majesty swears by the cross of the sword, whereon your royal hand reposes, that you will give all necessary favor to the holy office of the inquisition against heretics, apostates, and those who favor them, and will denounce and inform against all those who, to your royal knowledge, shall act or speak against the faith.” The King answered aloud, “I swear it,” and signed the paper. The oath was read to the whole assembly by an officer of the inquisition. Thirteen distinguished victims were then burned before the monarch’s eyes, besides one body which a friendly death had snatched from the hands of the holy office, and the effigy of another person who had been condemned, although not yet tried or even apprehended. Among the sufferers was Carlos de Sessa, a young noble of distinguished character and abilities, who said to the king as he passed by the throne to the stake, “How can you thus look on and permit me to be burned?” Philip then made the memorable reply, carefully recorded by his historiographer and panegyrist, “I would carry the wood to burn my own son withal, were he as wicked as you.”
In Seville, immediately afterwards, another auto-da-fé was held, in which fifty living heretics were burned, besides the bones of Doctor Constantine Ponce de la Fuente, once the friend, chaplain, and almoner of Philip’s father. This learned and distinguished ecclesiastic had been released from a dreadful dungeon by a fortunate fever. The holy office, however, not content with punishing his corpse, wreaked also an impotent and ludicrous malice upon his effigy. A stuffed figure, attired in his robes and with its arms extended in the attitude which was habitual with him in prayer, was placed upon the scaffold among the living victims, and then cast into the flames, that bigotry might enjoy a fantastic triumph over the grave.
Such were the religious ceremonies with which Philip celebrated his escape from shipwreck, and his marriage with Isabella of France, immediately afterwards solemnized. These human victims, chained and burning at the stake, were the blazing torches which lighted the monarch to his nuptial couch.
End of Part One