The Prince of Orange Contends with the Duke of Alva
The duke having thus crushed the project of Count Louis, and quelled the insurrection in Friesland, returned in triumph to Brussels. Far from softened by the success of his army, he renewed with fresh energy the butchery which, for a brief season, had been suspended during his brilliant campaign in the north. The altars again smoked with victims; the hanging, burning, drowning, beheading, seemed destined to be the perpetual course of his administration, so long as human bodies remained on which his fanatical vengeance could be wreaked. Four men of eminence were executed soon after his return to the capital. They had previously suffered such intense punishment on the rack, that it was necessary to carry them to the scaffold and bind them upon chairs, that they might be beheaded. These four sufferers were a Frisian nobleman, named Galena, the secretaries of Egmont and Horn, Bakkerzeel and La Loo, and the distinguished burgomaster of Antwerp, Antony Van Straalen. The arrest of the three last-mentioned individuals, simultaneously with that of the two counts, has been related in a previous chapter. In the case of Van Straalen, the services rendered by him to the provinces during his long and honorable career, had been so remarkable, that even the Blood-Council, in sending his case to Alva for his sentence, were inspired by a humane feeling. They felt so much compunction at the impending fate of a man who, among other meritorious acts, had furnished nearly all the funds for the brilliant campaign in Picardy, by which the opening years of Philip’s reign had been illustrated, as to hint at the propriety of a pardon. But the recommendation to mercy, though it came from the lips of tigers, dripping with human blood, fell unheeded on the tyrant’s ear. It seemed meet that the man who had supplied the nerves of war in that unforgiven series of triumphs, should share the fate of the hero who had won the laurels.
Hundreds of obscure martyrs now followed in the same path to another world, where surely they deserved to find their recompense, if steadfast adherence to their faith, and a tranquil trust in God amid tortures and death too horrible to be related, had ever found favor above. The “Red-Rod,” as the provost of Brabant was popularly designated, was never idle. He flew from village to village throughout the province, executing the bloody behests of his masters with congenial alacrity. Nevertheless his career was soon destined to close upon the same scaffold where he had so long officiated. Partly from caprice, partly from an uncompromising and fantastic sense of justice, his master now hanged the executioner whose industry had been so untiring. The sentence which was affixed to his breast, as he suffered, stated that he had been guilty of much malpractice; that he had executed many persons without a warrant, and had suffered many guilty persons for a bribe, to escape their doom. The reader can judge which of the two clauses constituted the most sufficient reason.
During all these triumphs of Alva, the Prince of Orange had not lost his self-possession. One after another, each of his bold, skillfully conceived, and carefully prepared plans had failed. Villars had been entirely discomfited at Dalhem, Cocqueville had been cut to pieces in Picardy, and now the valiant and experienced Louis had met with an entire overthrow in Friesland. The brief success of the patriots at Heiliger-Lee had been washed out in the blood-torrents of Jemmingen. Tyranny was more triumphant, the provinces more timidly crouching, than ever. The friends on whom William of Orange relied in Germany, never enthusiastic in his cause, although many of them true-hearted and liberal, now grew cold and anxious. For months long, his most faithful and affectionate allies, such men as the Elector of Hesse and the Duke of Wirtemberg, as well as the less trustworthy Augustus of Saxony, had earnestly expressed their opinion that, under the circumstances, his best course was to sit still and watch the course of events.
It was known that the Emperor had written an urgent letter to Philip on the subject of his policy in the Netherlands in general, and concerning the position of Orange in particular. All persons, from the Emperor down to the pettiest potentate, seemed now of opinion that the prince had better pause; that he was, indeed, bound to wait the issue of that remonstrance. “Your highness must sit still,” said Landgrave William, “Your highness must sit still,” said Augustus of Saxony. “You must move neither hand nor foot in the cause of the perishing provinces,” said the Emperor. “Not a soldier—horse, foot, or dragoon—shall be levied within the Empire. If you violate the peace of the realm, and embroil us with our excellent brother and cousin Philip, it is at your own peril. You have nothing to do but to keep quiet and await his answer to our letter.” But the prince knew how much effect his sitting still would produce upon the cause of liberty and religion. He knew how much effect the Emperor’s letter was like to have upon the heart of Philip. He knew that the more impenetrable the darkness now gathering over that land of doom which he had devoted his life to defend, the more urgently was he forbidden to turn his face away from it in its affliction. He knew that thousands of human souls, nigh to perishing, were daily turning towards him as their only hope on earth, and he was resolved, so long as he could dispense a single ray of light, that his countenance should never be averted.
It is difficult to contemplate his character, at this period, without being infected with a perhaps dangerous enthusiasm. It is not an easy task coldly to analyze a nature which contained so much of the self-sacrificing and the heroic, as well as of the adroit and the subtle; and it is almost impossible to give utterance to the emotions which naturally swell the heart at the contemplation of so much active virtue, without rendering oneself liable to the charge of excessive admiration. Through the mists of adversity, a human form may dilate into proportions which are colossal and deceptive. Our judgment may thus, perhaps, be led captive, but at any rate the sentiment excited is more healthful than that inspired by the mere shedder of blood, by the merely selfish conqueror. When the cause of the champion is that of human right against tyranny, of political end religious freedom against an all-engrossing and absolute bigotry, it is still more difficult to restrain veneration within legitimate bounds. To liberate the souls and bodies of millions, to maintain for a generous people, who had well-nigh lost their all, those free institutions which their ancestors had bequeathed, was a noble task for any man. But here stood a prince of ancient race, vast possessions, imperial blood, one of the great ones of the earth, whose pathway along the beaten track would have been smooth and successful, but who was ready to pour out his wealth like water, and to coin his heart’s blood, drop by drop, in this virtuous but almost desperate cause. He felt that of a man to whom so much had been entrusted, much was to be asked. God had endowed him with an incisive and comprehensive genius, unfaltering fortitude, and with the rank and fortune which enable a man to employ his faculties, to the injury or the happiness of his fellows, on the widest scale. The prince felt the responsibility, and the world was to learn the result.
It was about this time that a deep change came over his mind. Hitherto, although nominally attached to the communion of the ancient Church, his course of life and habits of mind had not led him to deal very earnestly with things beyond the world. The severe duties, the grave character of the cause to which his days were henceforth to be devoted, had already led him to a closer inspection of the essential attributes of Christianity. He was now enrolled for life as a soldier of the Reformation. The Reformation was henceforth his fatherland, the sphere of his duty and his affection. The religious Reformers became his brethren, whether in France, Germany, the Netherlands, or England. Yet his mind had taken a higher flight than that of the most eminent Reformers. His goal was not a new doctrine, but religious liberty. In an age when to think was a crime, and when bigotry and a persecuting spirit characterized Romanists and Lutherans, Calvinists and Zwinglians, he had dared to announce freedom of conscience as the great object for which noble natures should strive. In an age when toleration was a vice, he had the manhood to cultivate it as a virtue. His parting advice to the Reformers of the Netherlands, when he left them for a season in the spring of 1567, was to sink all lesser differences in religious union. Those of the Augsburg Confession and those of the Calvinistic Church, in their own opinion as incapable of commingling as oil and water, were, in his judgment, capable of friendly amalgamation. He appealed eloquently to the good and influential of all parties to unite in one common cause against oppression. Even while favoring daily more and more the cause of the purified Church, and becoming daily more alive to the corruption of Rome, he was yet willing to tolerate all forms of worship, and to leave reason to combat error.
Without a particle of cant or fanaticism, he had become a deeply religious man. Hitherto he had been only a man of the world and a statesman, but from this time forth he began calmly to rely upon God’s providence in all the emergencies of his eventful life. His letters written to his most confidential friends, to be read only by themselves, and which have been gazed upon by no other eyes until after the lapse of nearly three centuries, abundantly prove his sincere and simple trust. This sentiment was not assumed for effect to delude others, but cherished as a secret support for himself. His religion was not a cloak to his designs, but a consolation in his disaster. In his letter of instruction to his most confidential agent, John Bazius, while he declared himself frankly in favor of the Protestant principles, he expressed his extreme repugnance to the persecution of Catholics. “Should we obtain power over any city or cities,” he wrote, “let the communities of papists be as much respected and protected as possible. Let them be overcome, not by violence, but with gentle-mindedness and virtuous treatment.” After the terrible disaster at Jemmingen, he had written to Louis, consoling him, in the most affectionate language, for the unfortunate result of his campaign. Not a word of reproach escaped from him, although his brother had conducted the operations in Friesland, after the battle of Heiliger-Lee, in a manner quite contrary to his own advice. He had counseled against a battle, and had foretold a defeat; but after the battle had been fought and a crushing defeat sustained, his language breathed only unwavering submission to the will of God, and continued confidence in his own courage. “You may be well assured, my brother,” he wrote, “that I have never felt anything more keenly than the pitiable misfortune which has happened to you, for many reasons which you can easily imagine. Moreover, it hinders us much in the levy which we are making, and has greatly chilled the hearts of those who otherwise would have been ready to give us assistance. Nevertheless, since it has thus pleased God, it is necessary to have patience and to lose not courage; conforming ourselves to His divine will, as for my part I have determined to do in everything which may happen, still proceeding onward in our work with his Almighty aid.” Soevis tranquillus in undis, he was never more placid than when the storm was wildest and the night darkest. He drew his consolations and refreshed his courage at the never-failing fountains of Divine mercy.
“I go to-morrow,” he wrote to the unworthy Anne of Saxony, “but when I shall return, or when I shall see you, I cannot, on my honor, tell you with certainty. I have resolved to place myself in the hands of the Almighty, that he may guide me whither it is His good pleasure that I should go. I see well enough that I am destined to pass this life in misery and labor, with which I am well content, since it thus pleases the Omnipotent, for I know that I have merited still greater chastisement. I only implore Him graciously to send me strength to endure with patience.
Such language, in letters the most private, never meant to be seen by other eyes than those to which they were addressed, gives touching testimony to the sincere piety of his character. No man was ever more devoted to a high purpose, no man had ever more right to imagine himself, or less inclination to pronounce himself, entrusted with a divine mission. There was nothing of the charlatan in his character. His nature was true and steadfast. No narrow-minded usurper was ever more loyal to his own aggrandizement than this large-hearted man to the cause of oppressed humanity. Yet it was inevitable that baser minds should fail to recognize his purity. While he exhausted his life for the emancipation of a people, it was easy to ascribe all his struggles to the hope of founding a dynasty. It was natural for groveling natures to search in the gross soil of self-interest for the sustaining roots of the tree beneath whose branches a nation found its shelter. What could they comprehend of living fountains and of heavenly dews?
In May 1568, the Emperor Maximilian had formally issued a requisition to the Prince of Orange to lay down his arms, and to desist from all levies and machinations against the King of Spain and the peace of the realm. This summons he was commanded to obey on pain of forfeiting all rights, fiefs, privileges and endowments bestowed by imperial hands on himself or his predecessors, and of incurring the heaviest disgrace, punishment, and penalties of the Empire.
To this document the prince replied in August, having paid in the meantime but little heed to its precepts. Now that the Emperor, who at first was benignant, had begun to frown on his undertaking, he did not slacken in his own endeavors to set his army on foot. One by one, those among the princes of the empire who had been most stanch in his cause, and were still most friendly to his person, grew colder as tyranny became stronger; but the ardor of the prince was not more chilled by their despair than by the overthrow at Jemmingen, which had been its cause. In August, he answered the letter of the Emperor, respectfully but warmly. He still denounced the tyranny of Alva and the arts of Granvelle with that vigorous eloquence which was always at his command, while, as usual, he maintained a show of almost exaggerated respect for their monarch. It was not to be presumed, he said, that his Majesty, “a king debonair and bountiful,” had ever intended such cruelties as those which had been rapidly retraced in the letter, but it was certain that the Duke of Alva had committed them all of his own authority. He trusted, moreover, that the Emperor, after he had read the “Justification” which the prince had recently published, would appreciate the reason for his taking up arms. He hoped that his Majesty would now consider the resistance just, Christian, and conformable to the public peace. He expressed the belief that rather than interpose any hindrance, his Majesty would thenceforth rather render assistance “to the poor and desolate Christians,” even as it was his Majesty’s office and authority to be the last refuge of the injured.
The “Justification against the false blame of his calumniators by the Prince of Orange,” to which the prince thus referred, has been mentioned in a previous chapter. This remarkable paper had been drawn up at the advice of his friends, Landgrave William and Elector Augustus, but it was not the only document which the prince caused to be published at this important epoch. He issued a formal declaration of war against the Duke of Alva; he addressed a solemn and eloquent warning or proclamation to all the inhabitants of the Netherlands. These documents are all extremely important and interesting. Their phraseology shows the intentions and the spirit by which the prince was actuated on first engaging in the struggle. Without the prince and his efforts at this juncture, there would probably have never been a free Netherland commonwealth. It is certain, likewise, that without an enthusiastic passion for civil and religious liberty throughout the masses of the Netherland people, there would have been no successful effort on the part of the prince. He knew his countrymen; while they, from highest to humblest, recognized in him their savior. There was, however, no pretense of a revolutionary movement. The prince came to maintain, not to overthrow. The freedom which had been enjoyed in the provinces until the accession of the Burgundian dynasty, it was his purpose to restore. The attitude which he now assumed was a peculiar one in history. This defender of a people’s cause set up no revolutionary standard. In all his documents he paid apparent reverence to the authority of the king. By a fiction, which was not unphilosophical, he assumed that the monarch was incapable of the crimes which he charged upon the viceroy. Thus he did not assume the character of a rebel in arms against his prince, but in his own capacity of sovereign he levied troops and waged war against a satrap whom he chose to consider false to his master’s orders. In the interest of Philip, assumed to be identical with the welfare of his people, he took up arms against the tyrant who was sacrificing both. This mask of loyalty would never save his head from the block, as he well knew, but some spirits lofty as his own, might perhaps be influenced by a noble sophistry, which sought to strengthen the cause of the people by attributing virtue to the king.
And thus did the sovereign of an insignificant little principality stand boldly forth to do battle with the most powerful monarch in the world. At his own expense, and by almost superhuman exertions, he had assembled nearly 30,000 men. He now boldly proclaimed to the world, and especially to the inhabitants of the provinces, his motives, his purposes, and his hopes.
“We, by God’s grace Prince of Orange,” said his declaration of August 31, 1568, “salute all faithful subjects of his Majesty. To few people is it unknown that the Spaniards have for a long time sought to govern the land according to their pleasure. Abusing his Majesty’s goodness, they have persuaded him to decree the introduction of the inquisition into the Netherlands. They well understood, that in case the Netherlanders could be made to tolerate its exercise, they would lose all protection to their liberty; that if they opposed its introduction, they would open those rich provinces as a vast field of plunder. We had hoped that his Majesty, taking the matter to heart, would have spared his hereditary provinces from such utter ruin. We have found our hopes futile. We are unable, by reason of our loyal service due to his Majesty, and of our true compassion for the faithful lieges, to look with tranquility any longer at such murders, robberies, outrages, and agony. We are, moreover, certain that his Majesty has been badly informed upon Netherland matters. We take up arms, therefore, to oppose the violent tyranny of the Spaniards, by the help of the merciful God, who is the enemy of all blood-thirstiness. Cheerfully inclined to wager our life and all our worldly wealth on the cause, we have now, God be thanked, an excellent army of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, raised all at our own expense. We summon all loyal subjects of the Netherlands to come and help us. Let them take to heart the uttermost need of the country, the danger of perpetual slavery for themselves and their children, and of the entire overthrow of the Evangelical religion. Only when Alva’s blood-thirstiness shall have been at last overpowered, can the provinces hope to recover their pure administration of justice, and a prosperous condition for their commonwealth.”
In the “warning” or proclamation to all the inhabitants of the Netherlands, the prince expressed similar sentiments. He announced his intention of expelling the Spaniards forever from the country. To accomplish the mighty undertaking, money was necessary. He accordingly called on his countrymen to contribute, the rich out of their abundance, the poor even out of their poverty, to the furtherance of the cause. To do this, while it was yet time, he solemnly warned them “before God, the fatherland, and the world.” After the title of this paper were cited the 28th, 29th, and 30th verses of the 10th chapter of Proverbs. The favorite motto of the prince, “pro lege, rege, grege,” was also affixed to the document.
These appeals had, however, but little effect. Of 300,000 crowns, promised on behalf of leading nobles and merchants of the Netherlands by Marcus Perez, but ten or twelve thousand came to hand. The appeals to the gentlemen who had signed the Compromise, and to many others who had, in times past, been favorable to the liberal party were powerless. A poor Anabaptist preacher collected a small sum from a refugee congregation on the outskirts of Holland, and brought it, at the peril of his life, into the prince’s camp. It came from people, he said, whose will was better than the gift. They never wished to be repaid, he said, except by kindness, when the cause of reform should be triumphant in the Netherlands. The prince signed a receipt for the money, expressing himself touched by this sympathy from these poor outcasts. In the course of time, other contributions from similar sources, principally collected by dissenting preachers, starving and persecuted church communities, were received. The poverty-stricken exiles contributed far more, in proportion, for the establishment of civil and religious liberty, than the wealthy merchants or the haughty nobles.
Late in September, the prince mustered his army in the province of Treves, near the monastery of Romersdorf. His force amounted to nearly 30,000 men, of whom 9,000 were cavalry. Lumey, Count de la Marck, now joined him at the head of a picked band of troopers; a bold, ferocious partisan, descended from the celebrated Wild Boar of Ardennes. Like Civilis, the ancient Batavian hero, he had sworn to leave hair and beard unshorn till the liberation of the country was achieved, or at least till the death of Egmont, whose blood relation he was, had been avenged. It is probable that the fierce conduct of this chieftain, and particularly the cruelties exercised upon monks and papists by his troops, dishonored the cause more than their valor could advance it. But in those stormy times such rude but incisive instruments were scarcely to be neglected, and the name of Lumey was to be forever associated with the earliest and most important triumphs of the liberal cause.
It was fated, however, that but few laurels should be won by the patriots in this campaign. The prince crossed the Rhine at Saint Feit, a village belonging to himself. He descended along the banks as far as the neighborhood of Cologne. Then, after hovering in apparent uncertainty about the territories of Juliers and Limburg, he suddenly, on a bright moonlight night, crossed the Meuse with his whole army, in the neighborhood of Stochem. The operation was brilliantly effected. A compact body of cavalry, according to the plan which had been more than once adopted by Julius Caesar, was placed in the midst of the current, under which shelter the whole army successfully forded the river. The Meuse was more shallow than usual, but the water was as high as the soldiers’ necks. This feat was accomplished on the night and morning of the fourth and fifth of October. It was considered so bold an achievement that its fame spread far and wide. The Spaniards began to tremble at the prowess of a prince whom they had affected to despise. The very fact of the passage was flatly contradicted. An unfortunate burgher at Amsterdam was scourged at the whipping-post, because he mentioned it as matter of common report. The Duke of Alva refused to credit the tale when it was announced to him. “Is the army of the Prince of Orange a flock of wild geese,” he asked, “that it can fly over rivers like the Meuse?” Nevertheless it was true. The outlawed, exiled prince stood once more on the borders of Brabant, with an army of disciplined troops at his back. His banners bore patriotic inscriptions. “Pro Lege, Rege, Grege,” was emblazoned upon some. A pelican tearing her breast to nourish her young with her life-blood was the pathetic emblem of others. It was his determination to force or entice the Duke of Alva into a general engagement. He was desirous to wipe out the disgrace of Jemmingen. Could he plant his victorious standard thus in the very heart of the country, he felt that thousands would rally around it. The country would rise almost to a man, could he achieve a victory over the tyrant, flushed as he was with victory, and sated with blood.
With banners flying, drums beating, trumpets sounding, with all the pomp and defiance which an already victorious general could assume, Orange marched into Brabant, and took up a position within six thousand paces of Alva’s encampment. His plan was at every hazard to dare or to decoy his adversary into the chances of a stricken field. The governor was entrenched at a place called Keiserslager, which Julius Caesar had once occupied. The city of Maestricht was in his immediate neighborhood, which was thus completely under his protection, while it furnished him with supplies. The prince sent to the duke a herald, who was to propose that all prisoners who might be taken in the coming campaign should be exchanged instead of being executed. The herald, booted and spurred, even as he had dismounted from his horse, was instantly hanged. This was the significant answer to the mission of mercy. Alva held no parley with rebels before a battle, nor gave quarter afterwards.
In the meantime, the duke had carefully studied the whole position of affairs, and had arrived at his conclusion. He was determined not to fight. It was obvious that the prince would offer battle eagerly, ostentatiously, frequently, but the governor was resolved never to accept the combat. Once taken, his resolution was unalterable. He recognized the important difference between his own attitude at present, and that in which be had found himself during the past summer in Friesland. There a battle had been necessary, now it was more expedient to overcome his enemy by delay. In Friesland, the rebels had just achieved a victory over the choice troops of Spain. Here they were suffering from the stigma of a crushing defeat. Then, the army of Louis Nassau was swelling daily by recruits, who poured in from all the country round. Now, neither peasant nor noble dared lift a finger for the prince. The army of Louis had been sustained by the one which his brother was known to be preparing. If their movements had not been checked, a junction would have been effected. The armed revolt would then have assumed so formidable an aspect, that rebellion would seem, even for the timid, a safer choice than loyalty. The army of the prince, on the contrary, was now the last hope of the patriots. The three by which it had been preceded had been successively and signally vanquished.
Friesland, again, was on the outskirts of the country. A defeat sustained by the government there did not necessarily imperil the possession of the provinces. Brabant, on the contrary, was the heart of the Netherlands. Should the prince achieve a decisive triumph then and there, he would be master of the nation’s fate. The viceroy knew himself to be odious, and he reigned by terror. The prince was the object of the people’s idolatry, and they would rally round him if they dared. A victory gained by the liberator over the tyrant would destroy the terrible talisman of invincibility by which Alva governed. The duke had sufficiently demonstrated his audacity in the tremendous chastisement which he had inflicted upon the rebels under Louis. He could now afford to play that scientific game of which he was so profound a master, without risking any loss of respect or authority. He was no enthusiast. Although he doubtless felt sufficiently confident of overcoming the prince in a pitched battle, he had not sufficient relish for the joys of contest to be willing to risk even a remote possibility of defeat. His force, although composed of veterans and of the best musketeers and pikemen in Europe, was still somewhat inferior in numbers to that of his adversary. Against the 20,000 foot and 8,000 horse of Orange, he could oppose only fifteen or sixteen thousand foot and 5,500 riders. Moreover, the advantage which he had possessed in Friesland, a country only favorable to infantry, in which he had been stronger than his opponent, was now transferred to his new enemy. On the plains of Brabant, the prince’s superiority in cavalry was sure to tell. The season of the year, too, was an important element in the calculation. The winter alone would soon disperse the bands of German mercenaries, whose expenses Orange was not able to support, even while in active service. With unpaid wages and disappointed hopes of plunder, the rebel army would disappear in a few weeks as totally as if defeated in the open field. In brief, Orange by a victory would gain new life and strength, while his defeat could no more than anticipate, by a few weeks, the destruction of his army, already inevitable. Alva, on the contrary, might lose the mastery of the Netherlands if unfortunate, and would gain no solid advantage if triumphant. The prince had everything to hope, the duke everything to fear, from the result of a general action.
The plan, thus deliberately resolved upon, was accomplished with faultless accuracy. As a work of art, the present campaign of Alva against Orange was a more consummate masterpiece than the more brilliant and dashing expedition into Friesland. The duke had resolved to hang upon his adversary’s skirts, to follow him move by move, to check him at every turn, to harass him in a hundred ways, to foil all his enterprises, to parry all his strokes, and finally to drive him out of the country, after a totally barren campaign, when, as he felt certain, his ill-paid hirelings would vanish in all directions, and leave their patriot prince a helpless and penniless adventurer. The scheme thus sagaciously conceived, his adversary, with all his efforts, was unable to circumvent.
The campaign lasted little more than a month. Twenty-nine times the prince changed his encampment, and at every remove the duke was still behind him, as close and seemingly as impalpable as his shadow. Thrice they were within cannon-shot of each other, twice without a single trench or rampart between them. The country people refused the prince supplies, for they trembled at the vengeance of the governor. Alva had caused the irons to be removed from all the mills, so that not a bushel of corn could be ground in the whole province. The country thus afforded but little forage for the 30,000 soldiers of the prince. The troops, already discontented, were clamorous for pay and plunder. During one mutinous demonstration, the prince’s sword was shot from his side, and it was with difficulty that a general outbreak was suppressed. The soldiery were maddened and tantalized by the tactics of Alva. They found themselves constantly in the presence of an enemy, who seemed to court a battle at one moment and to vanish like a phantom at the next. They felt the winter approaching, and became daily more dissatisfied with the irritating hardships to which they were exposed. Upon the night of the fifth and sixth of October, the prince had crossed the Meuse at Stochem. Thence he had proceeded to Tongres, followed closely by the enemy’s force, who encamped in the immediate neighborhood. From Tongres he had moved to Saint Trend, still pursued and still baffled in the name captious manner. The skirmishing at the outposts was incessant, but the main body was withdrawn as soon as there seemed a chance of its becoming involved.
From Saint Trend, in the neighborhood of which he had remained several days, be advanced in a southerly direction towards Jodoigne. Count de Genlis, with a reinforcement of French Huguenots, for which the prince had been waiting, had penetrated through the Ardennes, crossed the Meuse at Charlemont, and was now intending a junction with him at Waveron. The river Geta flowed between them. The prince stationed a considerable force upon a hill near the stream to protect the passage, and then proceeded leisurely to send his army across the river. Count Hoogstraaten, with the rear-guard, consisting of about 3,000 men, were alone left upon the hither bank, in order to provoke or to tempt the enemy, who, as usual, was encamped very near. Alva refused to attack the main army, but rapidly detached his son, Don Frederic, with a force of 4,000 foot and 3,000 horse, to cut off the rear-guard. The movement was effected in a masterly manner, the hill was taken, the 3,000 troops which had not passed the river were cut to pieces, and Vitelli hastily dispatched a gentleman named Barberini to implore the duke to advance with the main body, cross the river, and, once for all, exterminate the rebels in a general combat. Alva, inflamed, not with ardor for an impending triumph, but with rage, that his sagely-conceived plane could not be comprehended even by his son and by his favorite officers, answered the eager messenger with peremptory violence. “Go back to Vitelli,” he cried. “Is he, or am I, to command in this campaign? Tell him not to suffer a single man to cross the river. Warn him against sending any more envoys to advise a battle; for should you or any other man dare to bring me another such message, I swear to you, by the head of the king, that you go not hence alive.”
With this decisive answer the messenger had nothing for it but to gallop back with all haste, in order to participate in what might be left of the butchery of Count Hoogstraaten’s force, and to prevent Vitelli and Don Frederic in their ill-timed ardor, from crossing the river. This was properly effected, while in the meantime the whole rear-guard of the patriots had been slaughtered. A hundred or two, the last who remained, had made their escape from the field, and had taken refuge in a house in the neighborhood. The Spaniards set the buildings on fire, and standing around with lifted lances, offered the fugitives the choice of being consumed in the flames or of springing out upon their spears. Thus entrapped, some chose the one course, some the other. A few, to escape the fury of the fire and the brutality of the Spaniards, stabbed themselves with their own swords. Others embraced, and then killed each other, the enemies from below looking on, as at a theatrical exhibition; now hissing and now applauding, as the death struggles were more or less to their taste. In a few minutes all the fugitives were dead. Nearly 3,000 of the patriots were slain in this combat, including those burned or butchered after the battle was over.
The Sieur de Louverwal was taken prisoner, and soon afterwards beheaded in Brussels, but the greatest misfortune sustained by the liberal party upon this occasion was the death of Antony de Lalaing, Count of Hoogstraaten. This brave and generous nobleman, the tried friend of the Prince of Orange, and his colleague during the memorable scenes at Antwerp, was wounded in the foot during the action, by an accidental discharge of his own pistol. The injury, although apparently slight, caused his death in a few days. There seemed a strange coincidence in his good and evil fortunes. A casual wound in the hand from his own pistol while he was on his way to Brussels, to greet Alva upon his first arrival, had saved him from the scaffold. And now in his first pitched battle with the duke, this seemingly trifling injury in the foot was destined to terminate his existence. Another peculiar circumstance had marked the event. At a gay supper in the course of this campaign, Hoogstraaten had teased Count Louis, in a rough, soldierly way, with his disaster at Jemmingen. He had affected to believe that the retreat upon that occasion had been unnecessary. “We have been now many days in the Netherlands,” said he, “and we have seen nothing of the Spaniards but their backs.” “And when the duke does break loose,” replied Louis, somewhat nettled, “I warrant you will see their faces soon enough, and remember them for the rest of your life.” The half-jesting remark was thus destined to become a gloomy prophecy.
This was the only important action during the campaign. Its perfect success did not warp Alva’s purpose, and, notwithstanding the murmurs of many of his officers, he remained firm in his resolution. After the termination of the battle on the Geta, and the duke’s obstinate refusal to pursue his advantage, the Baron de Chevreau dashed his pistol to the ground, in his presence, exclaiming that the duke would never fight. The governor smiled at the young man’s chagrin, seemed even to approve his enthusiasm, but reminded him that it was the business of an officer to fight, of a general to conquer. If the victory were bloodless, so much the better for all.
This action was fought on the 20th of October. A few days afterwards, the prince made his junction with Genlis at Waveren, a place about three leagues from Louvain and from Brussels. This auxiliary force was, however, insignificant. There were only 500 cavalry and 3,000 foot, but so many women and children, that it seemed rather an emigrating colony than an invading army. They arrived late. If they had come earlier, it would have been of little consequence, for it had been written that no laurels were to be gathered in that campaign. The fraternal spirit which existed between the Reformers in all countries was all which could be manifested upon the occasion. The prince was frustrated in his hopes of a general battle, still more bitterly disappointed by the supineness of the country. Not a voice was raised to welcome the deliverer. Not a single city opened its gates. All was crouching, silent, abject. The rising, which perhaps would have been universal had a brilliant victory been obtained, was, by the masterly tactics of Alva, rendered an almost inconceivable idea. The mutinous demonstrations in the prince’s camp became incessant; the soldiers were discontented and weary. What the duke had foretold was coming to pass, for the prince’s army was already dissolving.
Genlis and the other French officers were desirous that the prince should abandon the Netherlands for the present, and come to the rescue of the Huguenots, who had again renewed the religious war under Condé and Coligny. The German soldiers, however, would listen to no such proposal. They had enlisted to fight the Duke of Alva in the Netherlands, and would not hear of making war against Charles IX in France. The prince was obliged to countermarch towards the Rhine. He recrossed the Geta, somewhat to Alva’s astonishment, and proceeded in the direction of the Meuse. The autumn rains, however, had much swollen that river since his passage at the beginning of the month, so that it could no longer be forded. He approached the city of Liege, and summoned their bishop, as he had done on his entrance into the country, to grant a free passage to his troops. The bishop who stood in awe of Alva, and who had accepted his protection, again refused. The prince had no time to parley. He was again obliged to countermarch, and took his way along the high road to France, still watched and closely pursued by Alva, between whose troops and his own daily skirmishes took place. At Le Quesnoy, the prince gained a trifling advantage over the Spaniards; at Cateau Cambresis he also obtained a slight and easy victory; but by the 17th of November, the Duke of Alva had entered Cateau Cambresis, and the prince had crossed the frontier of France.
The Maréchal de Cossé, who was stationed on the boundary of France and Flanders, now harassed the prince by very similar tactics to those of Alva. He was, however, too weak to inflict any serious damage, although strong enough to create perpetual annoyance. He also sent a secretary to the prince, with a formal prohibition, in the name of Charles IX, against his entering the French territory with his troops.
Besides these negotiations, conducted by Secretary Favelles on the part of Maréchal de Cossé, the king, who was excessively alarmed, also dispatched the Maréchal Gaspar de Schomberg on the same service. That envoy accordingly addressed to the prince a formal remonstrance in the name of his sovereign. Charles IX, it was represented, found it very strange that the prince should thus enter the French territory. The king was not aware that he had ever given him the least cause for hostile proceedings, could not therefore take it in good part that the prince should thus enter France with a “large and puissant army,” because no potentate, however humble, could tolerate such a proceeding, much less a great and powerful monarch. Orange was therefore summoned to declare his intentions, but was at the same time informed that, if he merely desired “to pass amiably through the country,” and would give assurance, and request permission to that effect, under his hand and seal, his Majesty would take all necessary measures to secure that amiable passage.
The Prince replied by a reference to the statements which he had already made to Maréchal de Cossé. He averred that he had not entered France with evil intent, but rather with a desire to render very humble service to his Majesty, so far as he could do so with a clear conscience.
Touching the king’s inability to remember having given any occasion to hostile proceedings on the part of the prince, he replied that he would pass that matter by. Although he could adduce many, various, and strong reasons for violent measures, he was not so devoid of understanding as not to recognize the futility of attempting anything, by his own personal means, against so great and powerful a king, in comparison with whom he was “but a petty companion.”
“Since the true religion,” continued Orange, “is a public and general affair, which ought to be preferred to all private matters; since the prince, as a true Christian, is held by his honor and conscience to procure, with all his strength, its advancement and establishment in every place whatever; since, on the other hand, according to the edict published in September last by his Majesty, attempts have been made to force in their consciences all those who are of the Christian religion; and since it has been determined to exterminate the pure word of God, and the entire exercise thereof, and to permit no other religion than the Roman Catholic, a thing very prejudicial to the neighboring nations where there is a free exercise of the Christian religion, therefore the prince would put no faith in the assertions of his Majesty, that it was not his Majesty’s intentions to force the consciences of any one.”
Having given this very deliberate and succinct contradiction to the statements of the French king, the prince proceeded to express his sympathy for the oppressed Christians everywhere. He protested that he would give them all the aid, comfort, counsel, and assistance that he was able to give them. He asserted his conviction that the men who professed “the religion” demanded nothing else than the glory of God and the advancement of His word, while in all matters of civil polity they were ready to render obedience to his Majesty. He added that all his doings were governed by a Christian and affectionate regard for the king and his subjects, whom his Majesty must be desirous of preserving from extreme ruin. He averred, moreover, that if he should perceive any indication that those of the religion were pursuing any other object than liberty of conscience and security for life and property, he would not only withdraw his assistance from them, but would use the whole strength of his army to exterminate them. In conclusion, he begged the king to believe that the work which the prince had undertaken was a Christian work, and that his intentions were good and friendly towards his Majesty.
It was, however, in vain that the prince endeavored to induce his army to try the fortunes of the civil war in France. They had enlisted for the Netherlands, the campaign was over, and they insisted upon being led back to Germany. Schomberg, secretly instructed by the King of France, was active in fomenting the discontent, and the prince was forced to yield. He led his army through Champagne and Lorraine to Strasburg, where they were disbanded. All the money which the prince had been able to collect was paid them. He pawned all his camp equipage, his plate, his furniture. What he could not pay in money he made up in promises, sacredly to be fulfilled, when he should be restored to his possessions. He even solemnly engaged, should he return from France alive, and be still unable to pay their arrears of wages, to surrender his person to them as a hostage for his debt.
Thus triumphantly for Alva, thus miserably for Orange, ended the campaign. Thus hopelessly vanished the army to which so many proud hopes had attached themselves. Eight thousand men had been slain in paltry encounters, 30,000 were dispersed, not easily to be again collected. All the funds which the prince could command had been wasted without producing a result. For the present, nothing seemed to afford a ground of hope for the Netherlands, but the war of freedom had been renewed in France. A band of 1,200 mounted men-at-arms were willing to follow the fortunes of the prince. The three brothers accordingly, William, Louis, and Henry—a lad of eighteen, who had abandoned his studies at the university to obey the chivalrous instincts of his race—set forth early in the following spring to join the banner of Condé.
Cardinal Granvelle, who had never taken his eyes or thoughts from the provinces during his residence at Rome, now expressed himself with exultation. He had predicted, with cold malice, the immediate results of the campaign, and was sanguine enough to believe the contest over, and the prince forever crushed. In his letters to Philip he had taken due notice of the compliments paid to him by Orange in his Justification, in his Declaration, and in his letter to the Emperor. He had declined to make any answer to the charges, in order to enrage the prince the more. He had expressed the opinion, however, that this publication of writings was not the business of brave soldiers, but of cowards. He made the same reflection upon the alleged intrigues by Orange to procure an embassy on his own behalf from the Emperor to Philip—a mission which was sure to end in smoke, while it would cost the prince all credit, not only in Germany but the Netherlands. He felt sure, he said, of the results of the impending campaign. The Duke of Alva was a man upon whose administrative prudence and military skill his sovereign could implicitly rely, nor was there a person in the ranks of the rebels capable of conducting an enterprise of such moment. Least of all had the Prince of Orange sufficient brains for carrying on such weighty affairs, according to the opinion which he had formed of him during their long intercourse in former days.
When the campaign had been decided, and the prince had again become an exile, Granvelle observed that it was now proved how incompetent he and all his companions were to contend in military skill with the Duke of Alva. With a cold sneer at motives which he assumed, as a matter of course, to be purely selfish, he said that the prince had not taken the proper road to recover his property, and that he would now be much embarrassed to satisfy his creditors. Thus must those ever fall, he moralized, who would fly higher than they ought, adding that henceforth the prince would have enough to do in taking care of madam his wife, if she did not change soon in humor and character.
Meantime, the Duke of Alva, having dispatched from Cateau Cambresis a brief account of the victorious termination of the campaign, returned in triumph to Brussels. He had certainly amply indicated his claim to be considered the first warrior of the age. By his lieutenants he had summarily and rapidly destroyed two of the armies sent against him; he had annihilated in person the third, by a brilliantly successful battle, in which he had lost seven men, and his enemies seven thousand; and he had now, by consummate strategy, foiled the fourth and last under the idolized champion of the Netherlands, and this so decisively that, without losing a man, he had destroyed 8,000 rebels, and scattered to the four winds the remaining 20,000. Such signal results might well make even a meeker nature proud. Such vast and fortunate efforts to fix forever an impregnable military tyranny upon a constitutional country, might cause a more modest despot to exult. It was not wonderful that the haughty, and now apparently omnipotent Alva, should almost assume the god. On his return to Brussels he instituted a succession of triumphant festivals. The people were called upon to rejoice and to be exceeding glad, to strew flowers in his path, to sing Hosannas in his praise who came to them covered with the blood of those who had striven in their defense. The holiday was duly culled forth; houses, where funeral hatchments for murdered inmates had been perpetually suspended, were decked with garlands; the bells, which had hardly once omitted their daily knell for the victims of an incredible cruelty, now rang their merriest peals; and in the very square where so lately Egmont and Horn, besides many other less distinguished martyrs, had suffered an ignominious death, a gay tournament was held, day after day, with all the insolent pomp which could make the exhibition most galling.
But even these demonstrations of hilarity were not sufficient. The conqueror and tamer of the Netherlands felt that a more personal and palpable deification was necessary for his pride. When Germanicus had achieved his last triumph over the ancient freedom of those generous races whose descendants, but lately in possession of a better organized liberty, Alva had been sent by the second and the worse Tiberius to insult and to crush, the valiant but modest Roman erected his trophy upon the plains of Idistavisus. “The army of Tiberius Caesar having subdued the nations between the Rhine and the Elbe, dedicate this monument to Mars, to Jupiter, and to Augustus.” So ran the inscription of Germanicus, without a word of allusion to his own name. The Duke of Alva, on his return from the battlefields of Brabant and Friesland, reared a colossal statue of himself, and upon its pedestal caused these lines to be engraved: “To Ferdinand Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alva, Governor of the Netherlands under Philip the Second, for having extinguished sedition, chastised rebellion, restored religion, secured justice, established peace; to the king’s most faithful minister this monument is erected.”
So pompous a eulogy, even if truthful and merited, would be sufficiently inflated upon a tombstone raised to a dead chieftain by his bereaved admirers. What shall we say of such false and fulsome tribute, not to a god, not to the memory of departed greatness, but to a living, mortal man, and offered not by his adorers but by himself? Certainly, self-worship never went farther than in this remarkable monument, erected in Alva’s honor, by Alva’s hands. The statue was colossal, and was placed in the citadel of Antwerp. Its bronze was furnished by the cannon captured at Jemmingen. It represented the duke trampling upon a prostrate figure with two heads, four arms, and one body. The two heads were interpreted by some to represent Egmont and Horn, by others, the two Nassau’s, William and Louis. Others saw in them an allegorical presentment of the nobles and commons of the Netherlands, or perhaps an impersonation of the Compromise and the Request. Besides the chief inscription on the pedestal, were sculptured various bas-reliefs; and the spectator, whose admiration for the governor-general was not satiated with the colossal statue itself, was at liberty to find a fresh personification of the hero, either in a torch-bearing angel or a gentle shepherd. The work, which had considerable aesthetic merit, was executed by an artist named Jacob Jongeling. It remained to astonish and disgust the Netherlanders until it was thrown down and demolished by Alva’s successor, Requesens.
It has already been observed that many princes of the Empire had, at first warmly and afterwards, as the storm darkened around him, with less earnestness, encouraged the efforts of Orange. They had, both privately and officially, urged the subject upon the attention of the Emperor, and had solicited his intercession with Philip. It was not an interposition to save the prince from chastisement, however the artful pen of Granvelle alight distort the facts. It was an address in behalf of religious liberty for the Netherlands, made by those who had achieved it in their own persons, and who were at last enjoying immunity from persecution. It was an appeal which they who made it were bound to make, for the Netherland commissioners had assisted at the consultations by which the Peace of Passau had been wrung from the reluctant hand of Charles.
These applications, however, to the Emperor, and through him to the King of Spain, had been, as we have seen, accompanied by perpetual advice to the Prince of Orange, that he should “sit still.” The Emperor had espoused his cause with apparent frankness, so far as friendly mediation went, but in the meantime had peremptorily commanded him to refrain from levying war upon Alva, an injunction which the prince had as peremptorily declined to obey. The Emperor had even sent especial envoys to the duke and to the prince, to induce them to lay down their arms, but without effect. Orange knew which course was the more generous to his oppressed country; to take up arms, now that hope had been converted into despair by the furious tyranny of Alva, or to “sit still” and await the result of the protocols about to be exchanged between king and kaiser. His arms had been unsuccessful indeed, but had he attended the issue of this sluggish diplomacy, it would have been even worse for the cause of freedom. The sympathy of his best friends, at first fervent then lukewarm, had, as disasters thickened around him, grown at last stone-cold. From the grave, too, of Queen Isabella arose the most importunate phantom in his path. The King of Spain was a widower again, and the Emperor among his sixteen children had more than one marriageable daughter. To the titles of “beloved cousin and brother-in-law,” with which Philip had always been greeted in the Imperial proclamations, the nearer and dearer one of son-in-law was prospectively added.
The ties of wedlock were sacred in the traditions of the Habsburg house, but still the intervention was nominally made. As early as August 1568, the Emperor’s minister at Madrid had addressed a memorial to the king. He had spoken in warm and strong language of the fate of Egmont and Horn, and had reminded Philip that the executions which were constantly taking place in the provinces were steadily advancing the Prince of Orange’s cause. On September 22, 1568, the six electors had addressed a formal memorial to the Emperor. They thanked him for his previous interposition in favor of the Netherlands, painted in lively colors the cruelty of Alva, and denounced the unheard-of rigor with which he had massacred, not only many illustrious seigniors, but people of every degree. Notwithstanding the repeated assurances given by the king to the contrary, they reminded the Emperor, that the inquisition, as well as the Council of Trent, had now been established in the Netherlands in full vigor. They maintained that the provinces had been excluded from the Augsburg religious peace, to which their claim was perfect. Nether Germany was entitled to the same privileges as Upper Germany. They begged the Emperor to make manifest his sentiments and their own. It was fitting that his Catholic Majesty should be aware that the princes of the Empire were united for the conservation of fatherland and of tranquility. To this end they placed in the Emperor’s hands their estates, their fortunes, and their lives.
Such was the language of that important appeal to the Emperor in behalf of oppressed millions in the Netherlands, an appeal which Granvelle had coldly characterized as an intrigue contrived by Orange to bring about his own restoration to favor!
The Emperor, in answer, assured the electoral envoys that he had taken the affair to heart, and had resolved to dispatch his own brother, the Archduke Charles, on a special mission to Spain.
Accordingly, on October 21, 1568, the Emperor presented his brother with an ample letter of instructions. He was to recall to Philip’s memory the frequent exhortations made by the Emperor concerning the policy pursued in the Netherlands. He was to mention the urgent interpellations made to him by the electors and princes of the Empire in their recent embassy. He was to state that the Emperor had recently deputed commissioners to the Prince of Orange and the Duke of Alva, in order to bring about, if possible, a suspension of arms. He was to represent that the great number of men raised by the Prince of Orange in Germany, showed the powerful support which he had found in the country. Under such circumstances he was to show that it had been impossible for the Emperor to decree the ban against him, as the Duke of Alva had demanded. The Archduke was to request the king’s consent to the reconciliation of Orange, on honorable conditions. He was to demand the substitution of clemency in the government of the Netherlands for severity, and to insist on the recall of the foreign soldiery from the Netherlands.
Furnished with this very warm and stringent letter, the archduke arrived in Madrid on December 10, 1568. A few days later he presented the king with a copy of the instructions; those brave words upon which the Prince of Orange was expected to rely instead of his own brave heart and the stout arms of his followers. Philip, having examined the letter, expressed his astonishment that such propositions should be made to him, and by the agency, too, of such a personage as the Archduke. He had already addressed a letter to the Emperor, expressing his dissatisfaction at the step now taken. He had been disturbed at the honor thus done to the Prince of Orange, and at this interference with his own rights. It was, in his opinion, an unheard-of proceeding thus to address a monarch of his quality upon matters in which he could accept the law from no man. He promised, however, that a written answer should be given to the letter of instructions.
On January 20, 1569, that answer was placed in the hands of the archduke. It was intimated that the paper was a public one, fit to be laid by the Emperor before the electors; but that the king had also caused a confidential one to be prepared, in which his motives and private griefs were indicated to Maximilian.
In the more public document, Philip observed that he had never considered himself obliged to justify his conduct, in his own affairs, to others. He thought, however, that his example of severity would have been received with approbation by princes whose subjects he had thus taught obedience. He could not admit that, on account of the treaties which constituted the Netherlands a circle of the Empire, he was obliged to observe within their limits the ordinances of the imperial diet. As to the matter of religion, his principal solicitude, since his accession to the crown, had been to maintain the Catholic faith throughout all his states. In things sacred he could admit no compromise. The Church alone had the right to prescribe rules to the faithful. As to the chastisement inflicted by him upon the Netherland rebels, it would be found that he had not used rigor, as had been charged against him, but, on the contrary, great clemency and gentleness. He had made no change in the government of the provinces, certainly none in the edicts, the only statutes binding upon princes. He had appointed the Duke of Alva to the regency, because it was his royal will and pleasure so to appoint him. The Spanish soldiery were necessary for the thorough chastisement of the rebels, and could not be at present removed. As to the Prince of Orange, whose case seemed the principal motive for this embassy, and in whose interest so much had been urged, his crimes were so notorious that it was impossible even to attempt to justify them. He had been, in effect, the author of all the conspiracies, tumults, and seditious which had taken place in the Netherlands. All the thefts, sacrileges, and violations of temples, and other misdeeds of which these provinces had been the theatre, were, with justice, to be imputed to him. He had, moreover, levied an army and invaded his Majesty’s territories. Crimes so enormous had closed the gate to all clemency. Notwithstanding his respect for the intercession made by the Emperor and the princes of the Empire, the king could not condescend to grant what was now asked of him in regard to the Prince of Orange. As to a truce between him and the Duke of Alva, his Imperial Majesty ought to reflect upon the difference between a sovereign and his rebellious vassal, and consider how indecent and how prejudicial to the king’s honor such a treaty must be esteemed.
So far the public letter, of which the Archduke was furnished with a copy, both in Spanish and in Latin. The private memorandum was intended for the Emperor’s eyes alone and those of his envoy. In this paper the king expressed himself with more warmth and in more decided language. He was astonished, he said, that the Prince of Orange, in levying an army for the purpose of invading the states of his natural sovereign, should have received so much aid and comfort in Germany. It seemed incredible that this could not have been prevented by imperial authority. He had been pained that commissioners had been sent to the prince. He regretted such a demonstration in his favor as had now been made by the mission of the Archduke to Madrid. That which, however, had caused the king the deepest sorrow, was that his Imperial Majesty should wish to persuade him in religious matters to proceed with mildness. The Emperor ought to be aware that no human consideration, no regard for his realms, nothing in the world which could be represented or risked, would cause him to swerve by a single hair’s breadth from his path in the matter of religion. This path was the same throughout all his kingdoms. He had ever trod in it faithfully, and he meant to keep in it perpetually. He would admit neither counsel nor persuasion to the contrary, and should take it ill if counsel or persuasion should be offered. He could not but consider the terms of the instructions given to the Archduke as exceeding the limits of amicable suggestion. They in effect amounted to a menace, and he was astonished that a menace should be employed, because, with princes constituted like himself, such means could have but little success.
On the January 23, 1569, the archduke presented the king with a spirited reply to the public letter. It was couched in the spirit of the instructions, and therefore need not be analyzed at length. He did not believe that his Imperial Majesty would admit any justification of the course pursued in the Netherlands. The estates of the Empire would never allow Philip’s reasoning concerning the connection of those countries with the Empire, nor that they were independent, except in the particular articles expressed in the treaty of Augsburg. In 1555, when Charles V and King Ferdinand had settled the religious peace, they had been assisted by envoys from the Netherlands. The princes of the Empire held the ground, therefore, that the religious peace, which alone had saved a vestige of Romanism in Germany, should, of right, extend to the provinces. As to the Prince of Orange, the archduke would have preferred to say nothing more, but the orders of the Emperor did not allow him to be silent. It was now necessary to put an end to this state of things in Lower Germany. The princes of the Empire were becoming exasperated. He recalled the dangers of the Smalcaldian war—the imminent peril in which the Emperor had been placed by the act of a single elector. They who believed that Flanders could be governed in the same manner as Italy and Spain were greatly mistaken, and Charles V had always recognized that error.
This was the sum and substance of the archduke’s mission to Madrid, so far as its immediate objects were concerned. In the course, however, of the interview between this personage and Philip, the king took occasion to administer a rebuke to his Imperial Majesty for his general negligence in religious matters. It was a matter which lay at his heart, he said, that the Emperor, although, as he doubted not, a Christian and Catholic prince, was from policy unaccustomed to make those exterior demonstrations which matters of faith required. He therefore begged the archduke to urge this matter upon the attention of his Imperial Majesty.
The Emperor, despite this solemn mission, had become more than indifferent before his envoy had reached Madrid. For this indifference there were more reasons than one. When the instructions had been drawn up, the death of the Queen of Spain had not been known in Vienna. The archduke had even been charged to inform Philip of the approaching marriages of the two archduchesses, that of Anne with the King of France, and that of Isabella with the King of Portugal. A few days later, however, the envoy received letters from the Emperor, authorizing him to offer to the bereaved Philip the hand of the Archduchess Anne. The king replied to the archduke, when this proposition was made, that if he had regard only to his personal satisfaction, he should remain as he was. As however he had now no son, he was glad that the proposition had been made, and would see how the affair could be arranged with France.
Thus the ill success of Orange in Brabant, so disheartening to the German princes most inclined to his cause, and still more the widowhood of Philip, had brought a change over the views of Maximilian. On January 17, 1569, three days before his ambassador had entered upon his negotiations, he had accordingly addressed an autograph letter to his Catholic Majesty. In this epistle, by a few cold lines, he entirely annihilated any possible effect which might have been produced by the apparent earnestness of his interposition in favor of the Netherlands. He informed the king that the archduke had been sent, not to vex him, but to convince him of his friendship. He assured Philip that he should be satisfied with his response, whatever it might be. He entreated only that it might be drawn up in such terms that the princes and electors to whom it must be shown, might not be inspired with suspicion.
The archduke left Madrid on March 4, 1569. He retired, well pleased with the results of his mission, not because its ostensible objects had been accomplished, for those had signally failed, but because the king had made him a present of 100,000 ducats, and had promised to espouse the Archduchess Anne. On May 26, 1569, the Emperor addressed a final reply to Philip, in which he expressly approved the king’s justification of his conduct. It was founded, he thought, in reason and equity. Nevertheless, it could hardly be shown, as it was, to the princes and electors, and he had therefore modified many points which he thought might prove offensive.
Thus ended “in smoke,” as Granvelle had foretold, the famous mission of Archduke Charles. The Holy Roman Emperor withdrew from his pompous intervention, abashed by a rebuke, but consoled by a promise. If it were good to be guardian of religious freedom in Upper and Nether Germany, it was better to be father-in-law to the King of Spain and both the Indies. Hence the lame and abrupt conclusion.
Cardinal Granvelle had been very serviceable in this juncture. He had written to Philip to assure him that, in his opinion, the Netherlands had no claim, under the transaction of Augsburg, to require the observance within their territory of the decrees of the Empire. He added that Charles V had only agreed to the treaty of Passau to save his brother Ferdinand from ruin, that he had only consented to it as Emperor and had neither directly nor indirectly included the Netherlands within its provisions. He stated, moreover, that the Emperor had revoked the treaty by an act which was never published, in consequence of the earnest solicitations of Ferdinand.
It has been seen that the king had used this opinion of Granvelle in the response presented to the archduke. Although he did not condescend to an argument, he had laid down the fact as if it were indisputable. He was still more delighted to find that Charles had revoked the treaty of Passau, and eagerly wrote to Granvelle to inquire where the secret instrument was to be found. The cardinal replied that it was probably among his papers at Brussels, but that he doubted whether it would be possible to find it in his absence. Whether such a document ever existed, it is difficult to say. To perpetrate such a fraud would have been worthy of Charles, to fable its perpetration not unworthy of the cardinal. In either case, the transaction was sufficiently high-handed and exceedingly disgraceful.
The Tyranny of Alva and Philip, the Murder of Montigny, and the Flood of 1570
It was very soon after the duke’s return to Brussels that a quarrel between himself and the Queen of England took place. It happened thus. Certain vessels, bearing roving commissions from the Prince of Condé, had chased into the ports of England some merchantmen coming from Spain with supplies in specie for the Spanish army in the Netherlands. The trading ships remained in harbor, not daring to leave for their destination, while the privateers remained in a neighboring port ready to pounce upon them should they put to sea. The commanders of the merchant fleet complained to the Spanish ambassador in London. The envoy laid the case before the queen. The queen promised redress, and, almost as soon as the promise had been made, seized upon all the specie in the vessels, amounting to about 800,000 dollars, and appropriated the whole to her own benefit. The pretext for this proceeding was twofold. In the first place, she assured the ambassador that she had taken the money into her possession in order that it might be kept safe for her royal brother of Spain. In the second place, she affirmed that the money did not belong to the Spanish government at all, but that it was the property of certain Genoese merchants, from whom, as she had a right to do, she had borrowed it for a short period. Both these positions could hardly be correct, but either furnished an excellent reason for appropriating the funds to her own use.
The Duke of Alva being very much in want of money, was furious when informed of the circumstance. He immediately dispatched Councillor d’Assonleville with other commissioners on a special embassy to the Queen of England. His envoys were refused an audience, and the duke was taxed with presumption in venturing, as if he had been a sovereign, to send a legation to a crowned head. No satisfaction was given to Alva, but a secret commissioner was dispatched to Spain to discuss the subject there. The wrath of Alva was not appeased by this contemptuous treatment. Chagrined at the loss of his funds, and stung to the quick by a rebuke which his arrogance had merited, he resorted to a high-handed measure. He issued a proclamation commanding the personal arrest of every Englishman within the territory of the Netherlands, and the seizure of every article of property which could be found belonging to individuals of that nation. The queen retaliated by measures of the same severity against Netherlanders in England. The duke followed up his blow by a proclamation (of March 31, 1569), in which the grievance was detailed, and strict non-intercourse with England enjoined. While the Queen and the viceroy were thus exchanging blows, the real sufferers were, of course, the unfortunate Netherlanders. Between the upper and nether millstones of Elizabeth’s rapacity and Alva’s arrogance, the poor remains of Flemish prosperity were well nigh crushed out of existence. Proclamations and commissions followed hard upon each other, but it was not till April 1573, that the matter was definitely arranged. Before that day arrived, the commerce of the Netherlands had suffered, at the lowest computation, a dead loss of two million florins, not a stiver of which was ever reimbursed to the sufferers by the Spanish government.
Meantime, neither in the complacency of his triumph over William of Orange, nor in the torrent of his wrath against the English queen, did the duke for a moment lose sight of the chief end of his existence in the Netherlands. The gibbet and the stake were loaded with their daily victims. The records of the period are foul with the perpetually renewed barbarities exercised against the new religion. To the magistrates of the different cities were issued fresh instructions, by which all municipal officers were to be guided in the discharge of their great duty. They were especially enjoined by the duke to take heed that Catholic midwives, and none other, should be provided for every parish, duly sworn to give notice within twenty-four hours of every birth which occurred, in order that the curate might instantly proceed to baptism. They were also ordered to appoint certain spies who should keep watch at every administration of the sacraments, whether public or private, whether at the altar or at deathbeds, and who should report for exemplary punishment (that is to say, death by fire) all persons who made derisive or irreverential gestures, or who did not pay suitable honor to the said sacraments. Furthermore, in order that not even death itself should cheat the tyrant of his prey, the same spies were to keep watch at the couch of the dying, and to give immediate notice to government of all persons who should dare to depart this life without previously receiving extreme unction and the holy wafer. The estates of such culprits, it was ordained, should be confiscated, and their bodies dragged to the public place of execution.
An affecting case occurred in the North of Holland, early in this year, which, for its peculiarity, deserves brief mention. A poor Anabaptist, guilty of no crime but his fellowship with a persecuted sect, had been condemned to death. He had made his escape, closely pursued by an officer of justice, across a frozen lake. It was late in the winter, and the ice had become unsound. It trembled and cracked beneath his footsteps, but he reached the shore in safety. The officer was not so fortunate. The ice gave way beneath him, and he sank into the lake, uttering a cry for succor. There were none to hear him, except the fugitive whom he had been hunting. Dirk Willemzoon, for so was the Anabaptist called, instinctively obeying the dictates of a generous nature, returned, crossed the quaking and dangerous ice, at the peril of his life, extended his hand to his enemy, and saved him from certain death. Unfortunately for human nature, it cannot be added that the generosity of the action was met by a corresponding heroism. The officer was desirous, it is true, of avoiding the responsibility of sacrificing the preserver of his life, but the burgomaster of Asperen sternly reminded him to remember his oath. He accordingly arrested the fugitive, who, on the 16th of May following, was burned to death under the most lingering tortures.
Almost at the same time four clergymen, the eldest seventy years of age, were executed at the Hague, after an imprisonment of three years. All were of blameless lives, having committed no crime save that of having favored the Reformation. As they were men of some local eminence, it was determined that they should be executed with solemnity. They were condemned to the flames, and as they were of the ecclesiastical profession, it was necessary before execution that their personal sanctity should be removed. Accordingly, on the 27th of May, attired in the gorgeous robes of high mass, they were brought before the Bishop of Bois le Duc. The prelate, with a pair of scissors, cut a lock of hair from each of their heads. He then scraped their crowns and the tips of their fingers with a little silver knife very gently, and without inflicting the least injury. The mystic oil of consecration was thus supposed to be sufficiently removed. The prelate then proceeded to disrobe the victims, saying to each one as he did so, “Eximo tibi vestem justitiae, quern volens abjecisti,” to which the oldest pastor, Arent Dirkzoon, stoutly replied, “imo vestem injustitiae.” The bishop having thus completed the solemn farce of desecration, delivered the prisoners to the Blood-Council, begging that they might be handled very gently. Three days afterwards they were all executed at the stake, having, however, received the indulgence of being strangled before being thrown into the flames.
It was precisely at this moment, while the agents of the duke’s government were thus zealously enforcing his decrees, that a special messenger arrived from the pope, bringing as a present to Alva a jeweled hat and sword. It was a gift rarely conferred by the Church, and never save upon the highest dignitaries, or upon those who had merited her most signal rewards by the most shining exploits in her defense. The duke was requested, in the autograph letter from his Holiness which accompanied the presents, “to remember, when he put the hat upon his head, that he was guarded with it as with a helmet of righteousness, and with the shield of God’s help, indicating the heavenly crown which was ready for all princes who support the Holy Church and the Roman Catholic faith.” The motto on the sword ran as follows: “Accipe sanctum gladium, munus a Deo in quo dejicies adversarios populi mei Israel.”
The viceroy of Philip, thus stimulated to persevere in his master’s precepts by the vicegerent of Christ, was not likely to swerve from his path, nor to flinch from his work. It was beyond the power of man’s ingenuity to add any fresh features of horror to the religious persecution under which the provinces were groaning, but a new attack could be made upon the poor remains of their wealth.
The duke had been dissatisfied with the results of his financial arrangements. The confiscation of banished and murdered heretics had not proved the inexhaustible mine he had boasted. The stream of gold which was to flow perennially into the Spanish coffers, soon ceased to flow at all. This was inevitable. Confiscations must, of necessity, offer but a precarious supply to any treasury. It was only the frenzy of an Alva which could imagine possible to derive a permanent revenue from such a source. It was, however, not to be expected that this man, whose tyranny amounted to insanity, could comprehend the intimate connection between the interests of a people and those of its rulers, and he was determined to exhibit, by still more fierce and ludicrous experiments, how easily a great soldier may become a very paltry financier.
He had already informed his royal master that, after a very short time, remittances would no longer be necessary from Spain to support the expenses of the army and government in the Netherlands. He promised, on the contrary, that at least two millions yearly should be furnished by the provinces, over and above the cost of their administration, to enrich the treasury at home. Another Peru had already been discovered by his ingenuity, and one which was not dependent for its golden fertility on the continuance of that heresy which it was his mission to extirpate. His boast had been much ridiculed in Madrid, where he had more enemies than friends, and he was consequently the more eager to convert it into reality. Nettled by the laughter with which all his schemes of political economy had been received at home, he was determined to show that his creative statesmanship was no less worthy of homage than his indisputable genius for destruction.
His scheme was nothing more than the substitution of an arbitrary system of taxation by the Crown, for the legal and constitutional right of the provinces to tax themselves. It was not a very original thought, but it was certainly a bold one. For although a country so prostrate might suffer the imposition of any fresh amount of tyranny, yet it was doubtful whether she had sufficient strength remaining to bear the weight after it had been imposed. It was certain, moreover, that the new system would create a more general outcry than any which had been elicited even by the religious persecution. There were many inhabitants who were earnest and sincere Catholics, and who therefore considered themselves safe from the hangman’s hands, while there were none who could hope to escape the gripe of the new tax gatherers. Yet the governor was not the man to be daunted by the probable unpopularity of the measure. Courage he possessed in more than mortal proportion. He seemed to have set himself to the task of ascertaining the exact capacity of the country for wretchedness. He was resolved accurately to gauge its width and its depth, to know how much of physical and moral misery might be accumulated within its limits before it should be full to overflowing. Every man, woman, and child in the country had been solemnly condemned to death, and arbitrary executions, in pursuance of that sentence, had been daily taking place. Millions of property had been confiscated, while the most fortunate and industrious, as well as the bravest of the Netherlanders, were wandering penniless in distant lands. Still the blows, however recklessly distributed, had not struck every head. The inhabitants had been decimated, not annihilated, and the productive energy of the country, which for centuries had possessed so much vitality, was even yet not totally extinct. In the wreck of their social happiness, in the utter overthrow of their political freedom, they had still preserved the shadow, at least, of one great bulwark against despotism. The king could impose no tax.
The “Joyeuse Entrée” of Brabant, as well as the constitutions of Flanders, Holland, Utrecht, and all the other provinces, expressly prescribed the manner in which the requisite funds for government should be raised. The sovereign or his stadholder was to appear before the estates in person, and make his request for money. It was for the estates, after consultation with their constituents, to decide whether or not this petition (Bede) should be granted, and should a single branch decline compliance, the monarch was to wait with patience for a more favorable moment. Such had been the regular practice in the Netherlands, nor had the reigning houses often had occasion to accuse the estates of parsimony. It was, however, not wonderful that the Duke of Alva should be impatient at the continued existence of this provincial privilege. A country of condemned criminals, a nation whose universal neck might at any moment be laid upon the block without ceremony, seemed hardly fit to hold the purse-strings, and to dispense alms to its monarch. The viceroy was impatient at this arrogant vestige of constitutional liberty. Moreover, although he had taken from the Netherlanders nearly all the attributes of freemen, he was unwilling that they should enjoy the principal privilege of slaves, that of being fed and guarded at their master’s expense. He had therefore summoned a general assembly of the provincial estates in Brussels, and on March 20, 1569, had caused the following decrees to be laid before them.
A tax of the hundredth penny, or one percent, was laid upon all property, real and personal, to be collected instantly. This impost, however, was not perpetual, but only to be paid once, unless, of course, it should suit the same arbitrary power by which it was assessed to require it a second time.
A tax of the twentieth penny, or five percent, was laid upon every transfer of real estate. This imposition was perpetual.
Thirdly, a tax of the tenth penny, or ten percent, was assessed upon every article of merchandise or personal property, to be paid as often as it should be sold. This tax was likewise to be perpetual.
The consternation in the assembly when these enormous propositions were heard, can be easily imagined. People may differ about religious dogmas. In the most bigoted persecutions there will always be many who, from conscientious although misguided motives, heartily espouse the cause of the bigot. Moreover, although resistance to tyranny in matters of faith is always the most ardent of struggles, and is supported by the most sublime principle in our nature, yet all men are not of the sterner stuff of which martyrs are fashioned. In questions relating to the world above, many may be seduced from their convictions by interest, or forced into apostasy by violence. Human nature is often malleable or fusible, where religious interests are concerned, but in affairs material and financial, opposition to tyranny is apt to be unanimous.
The interests of commerce and manufacture, when brought into conflict with those of religion, had often proved victorious in the Netherlands. This new measure, however—this arbitrary and most prodigious system of taxation, struck home to every fireside. No individual, however adroit or time-serving, could parry the blow by which all were crushed.
It was most unanswerably maintained in the assembly, that this tenth and twentieth penny would utterly destroy the trade and the manufactures of the country. The hundredth penny, or the one percent assessment on all property throughout the land, although a severe subsidy, might be borne with for once. To pay, however, a twentieth part of the full value of a house to the government as often as the house was sold, was a most intolerable imposition. A house might be sold twenty times in a year, and in the course, therefore, of the year be confiscated in its whole value. It amounted either to a prohibition of all transfers of real estate, or to an eventual surrender of its price.
As to the tenth penny upon articles of merchandise, to be paid by the vendor at every sale, the scheme was monstrous. All trade and manufactures must, of necessity, expire, at the very first attempt to put it in execution. The same article might be sold ten times in a week, and might therefore pay one hundred percent weekly. An article, moreover, was frequently compounded of ten different articles, each of which might pay one hundred percent, and therefore the manufactured article, if ten times transferred, one thousand percent weekly. Quick transfers and unfettered movements being the nerves and muscles of commerce, it was impossible for it long to survive the paralysis of such a tax. The impost could never be collected, and would only produce an entire prostration of industry. It could by no possibility enrich the government.*
The king could not derive wealth from the ruin of his subjects; yet to establish such a system was the stern and absurd determination of the governor-general. The infantine simplicity of the effort seemed incredible. The ignorance was as sublime as the tyranny. The most lucid arguments and the most earnest remonstrances were all in vain. Too opaque to be illumined by a flood of light, too hard to be melted by a nation’s tears, the viceroy held calmly to his purpose. To the keen and vivid representations of Viglius, who repeatedly exhibited all that was oppressive and all that was impossible in the tax, he answered simply that it was nothing more nor less than the Spanish “alcabala,” and that he derived 50,000 ducats yearly from its imposition in his own city of Alva.
- While occupied with his attempts to enforce this tax, the duke established a commission to inquire into the value of the manufacturing industry of the provinces. In the year 1570, the aggregate annual value of manufactured articles was calculated at forty-five millions of florins (44,864,883 fl.) From this estimate, however, Luxemburg, Gueldres, Zealand, and the provinces beyond the Meuse, were excluded.
The returns for the others were thus stated: Brabant: 11,197,416 florins Flanders: 10,407,891 Valenciennes: 5, 223,980 Tournay: 2,369, 200 Holland: 2,029,148 Lille, Douay, and Orchies: 8,883,698 Hainault: 1,982,540 Malines: 262,880 Utrecht: 734,900 Overyssel: 1,610,260 Namur: 454,980 Friesland: 196,200 Artois: 1,718,790
Viglius was upon this occasion in opposition to the duke. It is but justice to state that the learned jurisconsult manfully and repeatedly confronted the wrath of his superior in many a furious discussion in council upon the subject. He had never essayed to snatch one brand from the burning out of the vast holocaust of religious persecution, but he was roused at last by the threatened destruction of all the material interests of the land. He confronted the tyrant with courage, sustained perhaps by the knowledge that the proposed plan was not the king’s, but the governor’s. He knew that it was openly ridiculed in Madrid, and that Philip, although he would probably never denounce it in terms, was certainly not eager for its execution.
The president enlarged upon the difference which existed between the condition of a sparsely-peopled country of herdsmen and laborers in Spain, and the densely-thronged and bustling cities of the Netherlands. If the duke collected 50,000 ducats yearly from the alcabala in Alva, he could only offer him his congratulations, but could not help assuring him that the tax would prove an impossibility in the provinces. To his argument, that the impost would fall with severity not upon the highest nor the lowest classes of society, neither upon the great nobility and clergy nor on the rustic population, but on the merchants and manufacturers, it was answered by the president that it was not desirable to rob Saint Peter’s altar in order to build one to Saint Paul. It might have been simpler to suggest that the consumer would pay the tax, supposing it were ever paid at all, but the axiom was not so familiar three centuries ago as now.
Meantime, the report of the deputies to the assembly on their return to their constituents had created the most intense excitement and alarm. Petition after petition, report after report, poured in upon the government. There was a cry of despair, and almost of defiance, which had not been elicited by former agonies. To induce, however, a more favorable disposition on the part of the duke, the hundredth penny, once for all, was conceded by the estates. The tenth and twentieth occasioned severe and protracted struggles, until the various assemblies of the patrimonial provinces, one after another, exhausted, frightened, and hoping that no serious effort would be made to collect the tax, consented, under certain restrictions, to its imposition. The principal conditions were a protest against the legality of the proceeding, and the provision that the consent of no province should be valid until that of all had been obtained.
Holland, too, was induced to give in its adhesion, although the city of Amsterdam long withheld its consent; but the city and province of Utrecht were inexorable. They offered a handsome sum in commutation, increasing the sum first proposed from 70,000 to 200,000 florins, but they resolutely refused to be saddled with this permanent tax. Their stout resistance was destined to cost them dear. In the course of a few months Alva, finding them still resolute in their refusal, quartered the regiment of Lombardy upon them, and employed other coercive measures to bring them to reason. The rude, insolent, unpaid and therefore insubordinate soldiery were billeted in every house in the city, so that the insults which the population were made to suffer by the intrusion of these ruffians at their firesides would soon, it was thought, compel the assent of the province to the tax. It was not so, however. The city and the province remained stanch in their opposition. Accordingly, at the close of the year (December 15, 1569) the estates were summoned to appear within fourteen days before the Blood-Council. At the appointed time the procureur-general was ready with an act of accusation, accompanied, as was usually the case, with a simultaneous sentence of condemnation. The indictment revived and recapitulated all previous offenses committed in the city and the province, particularly during the troubles of 1566, and at the epoch of the treaty with Duchess Margaret. The inhabitants and the magistrates, both in their individual and public capacities, were condemned for heresy, rebellion, and misprision. The city and province were accordingly pronounced guilty of high treason, were deprived of all their charters, laws, privileges, freedoms, and customs, and were declared to have forfeited all their property, real and personal, together with all tolls, rents, excises, and imposts, the whole being confiscated to the benefit of his Majesty.
The immediate execution of the sentence was, however, suspended, to allow the estates opportunity to reply. An enormous mass of pleadings, replies, replications, rejoinders, and apostilles was the result, which few eyes were destined to read, and least of all those to whom they were nominally addressed. They were of benefit to none save in the shape of fees which they engendered to the gentlemen of the robe. It was six months, however, before the case was closed. As there was no blood to be shed, a summary process was not considered necessary. At last, on the 14th of July, the voluminous pile of documents was placed before Vargas. It was the first time he had laid eyes upon them, and they were, moreover, written in a language of which he did not understand a word. Such, however, was his capacity for affairs, that a glance only at the outside of the case enabled him to form his decision. Within half an hour afterwards, booted and spurred, he was saying mass in the church of Saint Gudule, on his way to pronounce sentence at Antwerp. That judgment was rendered the same day, and confirmed the preceding act of condemnation. Vargas went to his task as cheerfully as if it had been murder. The act of outlawry and beggary was fulminated against the city and province, and a handsome amount of misery for others, and of plunder for himself, was the result of his promptness. Many thousand citizens were ruined, many millions of property confiscated.
Thus was Utrecht deprived of all its ancient liberties, as a punishment for having dared to maintain them. The clergy, too, of the province, having invoked the bull “in Cœna Domini,” by which clerical property was declared exempt from taxation, had excited the wrath of the duke. To wield so slight a bulrush against the man who had just been girded with the consecrated and jeweled sword of the pope, was indeed but a feeble attempt at defense. Alva treated the Cœna Domini with contempt, but he imprisoned the printer who had dared to republish it at this juncture. Finding, moreover, that it had been put in press by the orders of no less a person than Secretary La Torre, he threw that officer also into prison, besides suspending him from his functions for a year.
The estates of the province and the magistracy of the city appealed to his Majesty from the decision of the duke. The case did not directly concern the interests of religion, for although the heretical troubles of 1566 furnished the nominal motives of the condemnation, the resistance to the tenth and twentieth penny was the real crime for which they were suffering. The king, therefore, although far from clement, was not extremely rigorous. He refused the object of the appeal, but he did not put the envoys to death by whom it was brought to Madrid. This would have certainly been the case in matters strictly religious, or even had the commissioners arrived two years before, but even Philip believed, perhaps, that for the moment almost enough innocent blood had been shed. At any rate he suffered the legates from Utrecht to return, not with their petition granted, but at least with their heads upon their shoulders. Early in the following year, the provinces still remaining under martial law, all the Utrecht charters were taken into the possession of government, and deposited in the castle of Vredenberg. It was not till after the departure of Alva, that they were restored, according to royal command, by the new governor, Requesens.
By the middle of the year 1569, Alva wrote to the king, with great cheerfulness of tone, announcing that the estates of the provinces had all consented to the tax. He congratulated his Majesty upon the fact that this income might thenceforth be enjoyed in perpetuity, and that it would bring at least two millions yearly into his coffers, over and above the expenses of government. The hundredth penny, as he calculated, would amount to at least five millions.
He was, however, very premature in his triumph, for the estates were not long in withdrawing a concession which had either been wrung from them by violence or filched from them by misrepresentation. Taking the ground that the assent of all had been stipulated before that of any one should be esteemed valid, every province now refused to enforce or to permit the collection of the tenth or the twentieth penny within their limits. Dire were the threatenings and the wrath of the viceroy, painfully protracted the renewed negotiations with the estates. At last, a compromise was effected, and the final struggle postponed. Late in the summer it was agreed that the provinces should pay two millions yearly for the two following years, the term to expire in the month of August 1571. Till that period, therefore, there was comparative repose upon the subject.
The question of a general pardon had been agitated for more than a year, both in Brussels and Madrid. Viglius, who knew his countrymen better than the viceroy knew them, had written frequently to his friend Hopper, on the propriety of at once proclaiming an amnesty. There had also been many conferences between himself and the Duke of Alva, and he had furnished more than one draught for the proposed measure. The president knew full well that the point had been reached beyond which the force of tyranny could go no further. All additional pressure, he felt sure, could only produce reaction, the effect of which might be to drive the Spaniards from the Netherlands. There might then be another game to play. The heads of those who had so assiduously served the government throughout its terrible career might, in their turn, be brought to the block, and their estates be made to enrich the Treasury. Moreover, there were symptoms that Alva’s favor was on the wane. The king had not been remarkably struck with the merits of the new financial measures, and had expressed much anxiety lest the trade of the country should suffer. The duke was known to be desirous of his recall. His health was broken, he felt that he was bitterly detested throughout the country, and he was certain that his enemies at Madrid were fast undermining his credit. He seemed also to have a dim suspicion that his mission was accomplished in the Netherlands, that as much blood had been shed at present as the land could easily absorb. He wrote urgently and even piteously to Philip, on the subject of his return. “Were your Majesty only pleased to take me from this country,” he said, “I should esteem it as great a favor as if your Majesty had given me life.” He swore “by the soul of the Duchess,” that he “would rather be cut into little pieces” than retire from his post were his presence necessary, but he expressed the opinion that through his exertions affairs had been placed in such train that they were sure to roll on smoothly to the end of time. “At present, and for the future,” he wrote, “your Majesty is and will be more strictly obeyed than any of your predecessors,” adding, with insane self-complacency, “and all this has been accomplished without violence.” He also assured his Majesty as to the prosperous condition of financial affairs. His tax was to work wonders. He had conversed with capitalists who had offered him four millions yearly for the tenth penny, but he had refused, because he estimated the product at a much higher figure. The hundredth penny could not be rated lower than five millions. It was obvious, therefore, that instead of remitting funds to the provinces, his Majesty would, for the future, derive from them a steady and enormous income. Moreover, he assured the king that there was at present no one to inspire anxiety from within or without. The only great noble of note in the country was the Duke of Aerschot, who was devoted to his Majesty, and who, moreover, “amounted to very little,” as the king well knew. As for the Prince of Orange, he would have business enough in keeping out of the clutches of his creditors. They had nothing to fear from Germany. England would do nothing as long as Germany was quiet, and France was sunk too low to be feared at all.
Such being the sentiments of the duke, the king was already considering the propriety of appointing his successor. All this was known to the president. He felt instinctively that more clemency was to be expected from that successor, whoever he might be; and he was satisfied, therefore, that he would at least not be injuring his own position by inclining at this late hour to the side of mercy. His opposition to the tenth and twentieth penny had already established a breach between himself and the viceroy, but he felt secretly comforted by the reflection that the king was probably on the same side with himself. Alva still spoke of him, to be sure, both in public and private, with approbation, taking occasion to commend him frequently, in his private letters, as a servant upright and zealous, as a living register, without whose universal knowledge of things and persons he should hardly know which way to turn. The president, however, was growing weary of his own sycophancy. He begged his friend Joachim to take his part, if his Excellency should write unfavorably about his conduct to the king. He seemed to have changed his views of the man concerning whose “prudence and gentleness” he could once turn so many fine periods. He even expressed some anxiety lest doubts should begin to be entertained as to the perfect clemency of the king’s character. “Here is so much confiscation and bloodshed going on,” said he, “that some taint of cruelty or avarice may chance to bespatter the robe of his Majesty.” He also confessed that he had occasionally read in history of greater benignity than was now exercised against the poor Netherlanders. Had the learned Frisian arrived at these humane conclusions at a somewhat earlier day, it might perhaps have been better for himself and for his fatherland. Had he served his country as faithfully as he had served Time, and Philip, and Alva, his lands would not have been so broad, nor his dignities so numerous, but he would not have been obliged, in his old age, to exclaim, with whimsical petulance, that “the faithful servant is always a perpetual ass.”
It was now certain that an act of amnesty was in contemplation by the king. Viglius had furnished several plans, which, however, had been so much disfigured by the numerous exceptions suggested by Alva, that the president could scarce recognize his work. Granvelle, too, had frequently urged the pardon on the attention of Philip. The cardinal was too astute not to perceive that the time had arrived when a continued severity could only defeat its own work. He felt that the country could not be rendered more abject, the spirit of patriotism more apparently extinct. A show of clemency, which would now cost nothing, and would mean nothing, might be more effective than this profuse and wanton bloodshed.
He saw plainly that the brutality of Alva had already overshot the mark. Too politic, however, openly to reprove so powerful a functionary, he continued to speak of him and of his administration to Philip in terms of exalted eulogy. He was a “sage seignior,” a prudent governor, one on whom his Majesty could entirely repose. He was a man of long experience, trained all his life to affairs, and perfectly capable of giving a good account of everything to which he turned his hands. He admitted, however, to other correspondents, that the administration of the sage seignior, on whom his Majesty could so implicitly rely, had at last “brought the provinces into a deplorable condition.”
Four different forms of pardon had been sent from Madrid, toward the close of 1569. From these four the duke was to select one, and carefully to destroy the other three. It was not, however, till July of the following year that the choice was made, and the viceroy in readiness to announce the pardon. On the 14th of that month a great festival was held at Antwerp, for the purpose of solemnly proclaiming the long-expected amnesty. In the morning, the duke, accompanied by a brilliant staff, and by a long procession of clergy in their gorgeous robes, paraded through the streets of the commercial capital, to offer up prayers and hear mass in the cathedral. The Bishop of Arras then began a sermon upon the blessings of mercy, with a running commentary upon the royal clemency about to be exhibited. In the very outset, however, of his discourse, he was seized with convulsions, which required his removal from the pulpit, an incident which was not considered of felicitous augury. In the afternoon, the duke with his suite appeared upon the square in front of the Town House. Here a large scaffolding or theatre had been erected. The platform and the steps which led to it were covered with scarlet cloth. A throne, covered with cloth of gold, was arranged in the most elevated position for the duke. On the steps immediately below him were placed two of the most beautiful women in Antwerp, clad in allegorical garments to represent righteousness and peace. The staircase and platform were lined with officers, the square was beset with troops, and filled to its utmost verge with an expectant crowd of citizens. Toward the close of a summer’s afternoon, the duke wearing the famous hat and sword of the pope, took his seat on the throne with all the airs of royalty. After a few preliminary ceremonies, a civil functionary, standing between two heralds, then recited the long-expected act of grace. His reading, however, was so indistinct, that few save the soldiers in the immediate vicinity of the platform could hear a word of the document.
This effect was, perhaps, intentional. Certainly but little enthusiasm could be expected from the crowd, had the text of the amnesty been heard. It consisted of three parts—a recitation of the wrongs committed, a statement of the terms of pardon, and a long list of exceptions. All the sins of omission and commission, the heresy, the public preaching, the image-breaking, the Compromise, the confederacy, the rebellion, were painted in lively colors. Pardon, however, was offered to all those who had not rendered themselves liable to positive impeachment, in case they should make their peace with the Church before the expiration of two months, and by confession and repentance obtain their absolution. The exceptions, however, occupied the greater part of the document. When the general act of condemnation had been fulminated by which all Netherlanders were sentenced to death, the exceptions had been very few, and all the individuals mentioned by name. In the act of pardon, the exceptions comprehended so many classes of inhabitants, that it was impossible for any individual to escape a place in some one of the categories, whenever it should please the government to take his life. Expressly excluded from the benefit of the act were all ministers, teachers, dogmatizers, and all who had favored and harbored such dogmatizers and preachers; all those in the least degree implicated in the image-breaking; all who had ever been individually suspected of heresy or schism; all who had ever signed or favored the Compromise or the Petition to the regent; all those who had taken up arms, contributed money, distributed tracts; all those in any manner chargeable with misprision, or who had failed to denounce those guilty of heresy. All persons, however, who were included in any of these classes of exceptions might report themselves within six months, when, upon confession of their crime, they might hope for a favorable consideration of their case.
Such, in brief, and stripped of its verbiage, was this amnesty for which the Netherlands had so long been hoping. By its provisions, not a man or woman was pardoned who had ever committed a fault. The innocent alone were forgiven. Even they were not sure of mercy, unless they should obtain full absolution from the pope. More certainly than ever would the accustomed rigor be dealt to all who had committed any of those positive acts for which so many had already lost their heads. The clause by which a possibility of pardon was hinted to such criminals, provided they would confess and surrender, was justly regarded as a trap. No one was deceived by it. No man, after the experience of the last three years, would voluntarily thrust his head into the lion’s mouth, in order to fix it more firmly upon his shoulders. No man who had effected his escape was likely to play informer against himself, in hope of obtaining a pardon from which all but the most sincere and zealous Catholics were in reality excepted.
The murmur and discontent were universal, therefore, as soon as the terms of the act became known. Alva wrote to the king, to be sure, “that the people were entirely satisfied, save only the demagogues, who could tolerate no single exception from the amnesty,” but he could neither deceive his sovereign nor himself by such statements. Certainly, Philip was totally disappointed in the effect which he had anticipated from the measure. He had thought “it would stop the mouths of many people.” On the contrary, every mouth in the Netherlands became vociferous to denounce the hypocrisy by which a new act of condemnation had been promulgated under the name of a pardon. Viglius, who had drawn up an instrument of much ampler clemency, was far from satisfied with the measure which had been adopted. “Certainly,” he wrote to his confidant, “a more benignant measure was to be expected from so merciful a Prince. After four years have past, to reserve for punishment and for execution all those who during the tumult did not, through weakness of mind, render as much service to government as brave men might have offered, is altogether unexampled.”
Alva could not long affect to believe in the people’s satisfaction. He soon wrote to the king, acknowledging that the impression produced by the pardon was far from favorable. He attributed much evil effect to the severe censure which was openly pronounced upon the act by members of the government, both in Spain and the Netherlands. He complained that Hopper had written to Viglius that “the most severe of the four forms of pardon transmitted had been selected,” the fact being, that the most lenient one had been adopted. If this were so, whose imagination is powerful enough to portray the three which had been burned, and which, although more severe than the fierce document promulgated, were still entitled acts of pardon? The duke spoke bitterly of the manner in which influential persons in Madrid had openly abominated the cruel form of amnesty which had been decreed. His authority in the Netherlands was already sufficiently weakened, he said, and such censure upon his actions from headquarters did not tend to improve it. “In truth,” he added, almost pathetically, “it is not wonderful that the whole nation should be ill-disposed towards me, for I certainly have done nothing to make them love me. At the same time, such language transmitted from Madrid does not increase their tenderness.”
In short, viewed as a measure by which government, without disarming itself of its terrible powers, was to pacify the popular mind, the amnesty was a failure. Viewed as a net, by which fresh victims should be enticed to entangle themselves, who had already made their way into the distant atmosphere of liberty, it was equally unsuccessful. A few very obscure individuals made their appearance to claim the benefit of the act, before the six months had expired. With these it was thought expedient to deal gently, but no one was deceived by such clemency. As the common people expressed themselves, the net was not spread on that occasion for finches.
The wits of the Netherlands, seeking relief from their wretched condition in a still more wretched quibble, transposed two letters of the word Pardona, and re-baptized the new measure Pandora. The conceit was not without meaning. The amnesty, descending from supernal regions, had been ushered into the presence of mortals as a messenger laden with heavenly gifts. The casket, when opened, had diffused curses instead of blessings. There, however, the classical analogy ended, for it would have puzzled all the pedants of Louvain to discover Hope lurking, under any disguise, within the clauses of the pardon.
Very soon after the promulgation of this celebrated act, the new bride of Philip, Anne of Austria, passed through the Netherlands, on her way to Madrid. During her brief stay in Brussels, she granted an interview to the Dowager Countess of Horn. That unhappy lady, having seen her eldest son, the head of her illustrious house, so recently perish on the scaffold, wished to make a last effort in behalf of the remaining one, then closely confined in the prison of Segovia. The archduchess solemnly promised that his release should be the first boon which she would request of her royal bridegroom, and the bereaved countess retired almost with a hope.
A short digression must here be allowed, to narrate the remaining fortunes of that son, the ill-starred Seigneur de Montigny. His mission to Madrid in company of the Marquis Berghen has been related in a previous volume. The last and most melancholy scene in the life of his fellow envoy has been described in a recent chapter. After that ominous event, Montigny became most anxious to effect his retreat from Spain. He had been separated more than a year from his few months’ bride. He was not imprisoned, but he felt himself under the most rigid although secret inspection. It was utterly impossible for him to obtain leave to return, or to take his departure without permission. On one occasion, having left the city accidentally for a ride on horseback to an adjoining village, he found himself surrounded by an unexpected escort of forty troopers. Still, however, the king retained a smiling mien. To Montigny’s repeated and urgent requests for dismissal, Philip graciously urged his desire for a continuance of his visit. He was requested to remain in order to accompany his sovereign upon that journey to the Netherlands which would not be much longer delayed. In his impatience anything seemed preferable to the state of suspense in which he was made to linger. He eagerly offered, if he were accused or suspected of crime, to surrender himself to imprisonment if he only could be brought to trial. Soon after Alva’s arrival in the Netherlands, the first part of this offer was accepted. No sooner were the arrests of Egmont and Horn known in Madrid, than Montigny was deprived of his liberty, and closely confined in the alcazar of Segovia. Here he remained imprisoned for eight or nine months in a high tower, with no attendant save a young page, Arthur de Munter, who had accompanied him from the Netherlands. Eight men-at-arms were expressly employed to watch over him and to prevent his escape.
One day towards the middle of July, 1568, a band of pilgrims, some of them in Flemish attire, went through the streets of Segovia. They were chanting, as was customary on such occasions, a low, monotonous song, in which Montigny, who happened to be listening, suddenly recognized the language of his fatherland. His surprise was still greater when, upon paying closer attention, he distinguished the terrible meaning of the song. The pretended pilgrims, having no other means of communication with the prisoner, were singing for his information the tragic fates of his brother, Count Horn, and of his friend, Count Egmont. Mingled with the strain were warnings of his own approaching doom, if he were not able to effect his escape before it should be too late. Thus by this friendly masquerade did Montigny learn the fate of his brother, which otherwise, in that land of terrible secrecy, might have been concealed from him forever.
The hint as to his own preservation was not lost upon him, and he at once set about a plan of escape. He succeeded in gaining over to his interests one of the eight soldiers by whom he was guarded, and he was thus enabled to communicate with many of his own adherents without the prison walls. His major-domo had previously been permitted to furnish his master’s table with provisions dressed by his own cook. A correspondence was now carried on by means of letters concealed within the loaves of bread sent daily to the prisoner. In the same way files were provided for sawing through his window-bars. A very delicate ladder of ropes, by which he was to effect his escape into the court below, was also transmitted. The plan had been completely arranged. A certain Pole employed in the enterprise was to be at Hernani, with horses in readiness to convey them to San Sebastian. There a sloop had been engaged, and was waiting their arrival. Montigny accordingly, in a letter enclosed within a loaf of bread—the last, as he hoped, which he should break in prison—was instructed, after cutting off his beard and otherwise disguising his person, to execute his plan and join his confederates at Hernani. Unfortunately, the major-domo of Montigny was in love. Upon the eve of departure from Spain, his farewell interview with his mistress was so much protracted that the care of sending the bread was left to another. The substitute managed so unskillfully that the loaf was brought to the commandant of the castle, and not to the prisoner. The commandant broke the bread, discovered the letter, and became master of the whole plot. All persons engaged in the enterprise were immediately condemned to death, and the Spanish soldier executed without delay. The others being considered, on account of their loyalty to their master as deserving a commutation of punishment, were sent to the galleys. The major-domo, whose ill-timed gallantry had thus cost Montigny his liberty, received two hundred lashes in addition. All, however, were eventually released from imprisonment.
The unfortunate gentleman was now kept in still closer confinement in his lonely tower. As all his adherents had been disposed of, he could no longer entertain a hope of escape. In the autumn of this year (1568) it was thought expedient by Alva to bring his case formally before the Blood-Council. Montigny had committed no crime, but he was one of that band of popular nobles whose deaths had been long decreed. Letters were accordingly sent to Spain, empowering certain functionaries there to institute that preliminary examination, which, as usual, was to be the only trial vouchsafed. A long list of interrogatories was addressed to him on February 7, 1569, in his prison at Segovia. A week afterwards, he was again visited by the alcalde, who read over to him the answers which he had made on the first occasion, and required him to confirm them. He was then directed to send his procuration to certain persons in the Netherlands, whom he might wish to appear in his behalf. Montigny complied by sending several names, with a clause of substitution. All the persons thus appointed, however, declined to act, unless they could be furnished with a copy of the procuration, and with a statement of the articles of accusation. This was positively refused by the Blood-Council. Seeing no possibility of rendering service to their friend by performing any part in this mockery of justice, they refused to accept the procuration. They could not defend a case when not only the testimony, but even the charges against the accused were kept secret. An individual was accordingly appointed by government to appear in the prisoner’s behalf.
Thus the forms of justice were observed, and Montigny, a close prisoner in the tower of Segovia, was put upon trial for his life in Brussels. Certainly nothing could exceed the irony of such a process. The advocate had never seen his client, thousands of miles away, and was allowed to hold no communication with him by letter. The proceedings were instituted by a summons, addressed by the Duke of Alva to Madame de Montigny in Brussels. That unhappy lady could only appeal to the king. “Convinced,” she said, that her husband was innocent of the charges brought against him, she threw herself, overwhelmed and consumed by tears and misery, at his Majesty’s feet. She begged the king to remember the past services of Montigny, her own youth, and that she had enjoyed his company but four months. By all these considerations, and by the passion of Jesus Christ, she adjured the monarch to pardon any faults which her husband might have committed. The reader can easily judge how much effect such a tender appeal was like to have upon the heart of Philip. From that rock, thus feebly smitten, there flowed no fountain of mercy. It was not more certain that Montigny’s answers to the interrogatories addressed to him had created a triumphant vindication of his course, than that such vindication would be utterly powerless to save his life. The charges preferred against him were similar to those which had brought Egmont and Horn to the block, and it certainly created no ground of hope for him, that he could prove himself even more innocent of suspicious conduct than they had done. On March 4, 1570, accordingly, the Duke of Alva pronounced sentence against him. The sentence declared that his head should be cut off, and afterwards exposed to public view upon the head of a pike. Upon the 18th of March, 1570, the duke addressed a requisitory letter to the alcaldes, corregidors, and other judges of Castile, empowering them to carry the sentence into execution.
On the arrival of this requisition, there was a serious debate before the king in council. It seemed to be the general opinion that there had been almost severity enough in the Netherlands for the present. The spectacle of the public execution of another distinguished personage, it was thought, might now prove more irritating than salutary. The king was of this opinion himself. It certainly did not occur to him or to his advisers that this consideration should lead them to spare the life of an innocent man. The doubts entertained as to the expediency of a fresh murder were not allowed to benefit the prisoner, who, besides being a loyal subject and a communicant of the ancient Church, was also clothed in the white robes of an envoy, claiming not only justice but hospitality as the deputy of Philip’s sister, Margaret of Parma. These considerations probably never occurred to the mind of his Majesty. In view, however, of the peculiar circumstances of the case, it was unanimously agreed that there should be no more blood publicly shed. Most of the councillors were in favor of slow poison. Montigny’s meat and drink, they said, should be daily drugged, so that he might die by little and little. Philip, however, terminated these disquisitions by deciding that the ends of justice would not thus be sufficiently answered. The prisoner, he had resolved, should be regularly executed, but the deed should be secret, and it should be publicly announced that he had died of a fever.
This point having been settled, the king now set about the arrangement of his plan with all that close attention to detail which marked his character. The patient industry which, had God given him a human heart and a love of right, might have made him a useful monarch, he now devoted to a scheme of midnight murder with a tranquil sense of enjoyment which seems almost incredible. There is no exaggeration in calling the deed a murder, for it certainly was not sanctioned by any law, divine or human, nor justified or excused by any of the circumstances which are supposed to palliate homicide. Nor, when the elaborate and superfluous luxury of arrangements made by Philip for the accomplishment of his design is considered, can it be doubted that he found a positive pleasure in his task. It would almost seem that he had become jealous of Alva’s achievements in the work of slaughter. He appeared willing to prove to those immediately about him, that however capable might be the viceroy of conducting public executions on a grand and terrifying scale, there was yet a certain delicacy of finish never attained by Alva in such business, and which was all his Majesty’s own. The king was resolved to make the assassination of Montigny a masterpiece.
On August 17, 1570, he accordingly directed Don Eugenio de Peralta, concierge of the fortress of Simancas, to repair to Segovia, and thence to remove the Seigneur Montigny to Simancas. Here he was to be strictly immured, yet was to be allowed at times to walk in the corridor adjoining his chamber. On the seventh of October following, the licentiate Don Alonzo de Avellano, alcalde of Valladolid, was furnished with an order addressed by the king to Don Eugenio de Peralta, requiring him to place the prisoner in the hands of the said licentiate, who was charged with the execution of Alva’s sentence. This functionary had, moreover, been provided with a minute letter of instructions, which had been drawn up according to the king’s directions, on the first of October. In these royal instructions, it was stated that, although the sentence was for a public execution, yet the king had decided in favor of a private one within the walls of the fortress. It was to be managed so that no one should suspect that Montigny had been executed, but so that, on the contrary, it should be universally said and believed that he had died a natural death. Very few persons, all sworn and threatened into secrecy, were therefore to be employed.
Don Alonzo was to start immediately for Valladolid, which was within two short leagues of Simancas. At that place he would communicate with Don Eugenio, and arrange the mode, day, and hour of execution. He would leave Valladolid on the evening before a holiday, late in the afternoon, so as to arrive a little after dark at Simancas. He would take with him a confidential notary, an executioner, and as few servants as possible. Immediately upon his entrance to the fortress, he was to communicate the sentence of death to Montigny, in presence of Don Eugenio and of one or two other persons. He would then console him, in which task he would be assisted by Don Eugenio. He would afterwards leave him with the religious person who would be appointed for that purpose. That night and the whole of the following day, which would be a festival, till after midnight, would be allotted to Montigny, that he might have time to confess, to receive the sacraments, to convert himself to God, and to repent. Between one and two o’clock in the morning the execution was to take place, in presence of the ecclesiastic, of Don Eugenio de Peralta, of the notary, and of one or two other persons, who would be needed by the executioner. The ecclesiastic was to be a wise and prudent person, and to be informed how little confidence Montigny inspired in the article of faith.
If the prisoner should wish to make a will, it could not be permitted. As all his property had been confiscated, he could dispose of nothing. Should he, however, desire to make a memorial of the debts which he would wish paid, he was to be allowed that liberty. It was, however, to be stipulated that he was to make no allusion, in any memorial or letter which he might write, to the execution which was about to take place. He was to use the language of a man seriously ill, and who feels himself at the point of death. By this infernal ingenuity it was proposed to make the victim an accomplice in the plot, and to place a false exculpation of his assassins in his dying lips.
The execution having been fulfilled, and the death having been announced with the dissimulation prescribed, the burial was to take place in the church of Saint Saviour, in Simancas. A moderate degree of pomp, such as befitted a person of Montigny’s quality, was to be allowed, and a decent tomb erected. A grand mass was also to be celebrated, with a respectable number, “say seven hundred,” of lesser masses. As the servants of the defunct were few in number, continued the frugal king, they might be provided each with a suit of mourning. Having thus personally arranged all the details of this secret work, from the reading of the sentence to the burial of the prisoner, having settled not only the mode of his departure from life, but of his passage through purgatory, the king dispatched the agent on his mission.
The royal program was faithfully enacted. Don Alonzo arrived at Valladolid, and made his arrangements with Don Eugenio. It was agreed that a paper, prepared by royal authority, and brought by Don Alonzo from Madrid, should be thrown into the corridor of Montigny’s prison. This paper, written in Latin, ran as follows: “In the night, as I understand, there will be no chance for your escape. In the daytime there will be many; for you are then in charge of a single gouty guardian, no match in strength or speed for so vigorous a man as you. Make your escape from the 8th to the 12th of October, at any hour you can, and take the road contiguous to the castle gate through which you entered. You will find Robert and John, who will be ready with horses, and with everything necessary. May God favor your undertaking. —R. D. M.”
The letter, thus designedly thrown into the corridor by one confederate, was soon afterwards picked up by the other, who immediately taxed Montigny with an attempt to escape. Notwithstanding the vehement protestations of innocence naturally made by the prisoner, his pretended project was made the pretext for a still closer imprisonment in the “Bishop’s Tower.” A letter, written at Madrid, by Philip’s orders, had been brought by Don Alonzo to Simancas, narrating by anticipation these circumstances, precisely as they had now occurred. It moreover stated that Montigny, in consequence of his close confinement, had fallen grievously ill, and that he would receive all the attention compatible with his safe keeping. This letter, according to previous orders, was now signed by Don Eugenio de Peralta, dated October 10, 1570, and publicly dispatched to Philip. It was thus formally established that Montigny was seriously ill. A physician, thoroughly instructed and sworn to secrecy, was now ostentatiously admitted to the tower, bringing with him a vast quantity of drugs. He duly circulated among the townspeople, on his return, his opinion that the illustrious prisoner was afflicted with a disorder from which it was almost impossible that he should recover. Thus, thanks to Philip’s masterly precautions, not a person in Madrid or Simancas was ignorant that Montigny was dying of a fever, with the single exception of the patient himself.
On Saturday, the 14th of October, at nightfall, Don Alonzo de Avellano, accompanied by the prescribed individuals, including Fray Hernando del Castillo, an ecclesiastic of high reputation, made their appearance at the prison of Simancas. At ten in the evening the announcement of the sentence was made to Montigny. He was visibly agitated at the sudden intelligence, for it was entirely unexpected by him. He had, on the contrary, hoped much from the intercession of the queen, whose arrival he had already learned. He soon recovered himself, however, and requested to be left alone with the ecclesiastic. All the night and the following day were passed in holy offices. He conducted himself with great moderation, courage, and tranquility. He protested his entire innocence of any complicity with the Prince of Orange, or of any disloyal designs or sentiments at any period of his life. He drew up a memorial, expressing his strong attachment to every point of the Catholic faith, from which he had never for an instant swerved. His whole demeanor was noble, submissive, and Christian. “In every essential,” said Fray Hernando, “he conducted himself so well that we who remain may bear him envy.” He wrote a paper of instructions concerning his faithful and bereaved dependents. He placed his signet ring, attached to a small gold chain, in the hands of the ecclesiastic, to be by him transmitted to his wife. Another ring, set with turquoise, he sent to his mother-in-law, the Princess Espinoy, from whom he had received it. About an hour after midnight, on the morning, therefore, of the 16th of October, Fray Hernando gave notice that the prisoner was ready to die. The alcalde Don Alonzo then entered, accompanied by the executioner and the notary. The sentence of Alva was now again recited, the alcalde adding that the king, “out of his clemency and benignity,” had substituted a secret for a public execution. Montigny admitted that the judgment would be just and the punishment lenient, if it were conceded that the charges against him were true. His enemies, however, while he had been thus immured, had possessed the power to accuse him as they listed. He ceased to speak, and the executioner then came forward and strangled him. The alcalde, the notary, and the executioner then immediately started for Valladolid, so that no person next morning knew that they had been that night at Simancas, nor could guess the dark deed which they had then and there accomplished. The terrible secret they were forbidden, on pain of death, to reveal.
Montigny, immediately after his death, was clothed in the habit of Saint Francis, in order to conceal the marks of strangulation. In the course of the day the body was deposited, according to the king’s previous orders, in the church of Saint Saviour. Don Eugenio de Peralta, who superintended the interment, uncovered the face of the defunct to prove his identity, which was instantly recognized by many sorrowing servants. The next morning the second letter, prepared by Philip long before, and brought by Don Alonzo de Avellano to Simancas, received the date of October 17, 1570, together with the signature of Don Eugenio de Peralta, keeper of Simancas fortress, and was then publicly dispatched to the king. It stated that, notwithstanding the care given to the Seigneur de Montigny in his severe illness by the physicians who had attended him, he had continued to grow worse and worse until the previous morning between three and four o’clock, when he had expired. The Fray Hernando del Castillo, who had accidentally happened to be at Simancas, had performed the holy offices, at the request of the deceased, who had died in so catholic a frame of mind, that great hopes might be entertained of his salvation. Although he possessed no property, yet his burial had been conducted very respectably.
On November 3, 1570, these two letters, ostensibly written by Don Eugenio de Peralta, were transmitted by Philip to the Duke of Alva. They were to serve as evidence of the statement which the governor-general was now instructed to make, that the Seigneur de Montigny had died a natural death in the fortress of Simancas. By the same courier, the king likewise forwarded a secret memoir, containing the exact history of the dark transaction, from which memoir the foregoing account has been prepared. At the same time the duke was instructed publicly to exhibit the lying letters of Don Eugenio de Peralta, as containing an authentic statement of the affair. The king observed, moreover, in his letter, that there was not a person in Spain who doubted that Montigny had died of a fever. He added than if the sentiments of the deceased nobleman had been at all in conformity with his external manifestations, according to the accounts received of his last moments, it was to be hoped that God would have mercy upon his soul. The secretary who copied the letter, took the liberty of adding, however, to this paragraph the suggestion, that “if Montigny were really a heretic, the devil, who always assists his children in such moments, would hardly have failed him in his dying hour.” Philip, displeased with this flippancy, caused the passage to be erased. He even gave vent to his royal indignation in a marginal note, to the effect that we should always express favorable judgments concerning the dead—a pious sentiment always dearer to writing masters than to historians. It seemed never to have occurred however to this remarkable moralist, that it was quite as reprehensible to strangle an innocent man as to speak ill of him after his decease.
Thus perished Baron Montigny, four years after his arrival in Madrid as Duchess Margaret’s ambassador, and three years after the death of his fellow envoy Marquis Berghen. No apology is necessary for so detailed an account of this dark and secret tragedy. The great transactions of a reign are sometimes paltry things; great battles and great treaties, after vast consumption of life and of breath, often leave the world where they found it. The events which occupy many of the statelier pages of history, and which have most lived in the mouths of men, frequently contain but commonplace lessons of philosophy. It is perhaps otherwise when, by the resuscitation of secret documents, over which the dust of three centuries has gathered, we are enabled to study the internal working of a system of perfect tyranny. Liberal institutions, republican or constitutional governments, move in the daylight; we see their mode of operation, feel the jar of their wheels, and are often needlessly alarmed at their apparent tendencies. The reverse of the picture is not always so easily attainable. When, therefore, we find a careful portrait of a consummate tyrant, painted by his own hand, it is worth our while to pause for a moment, that we may carefully peruse the lineaments. Certainly, we shall afterwards not love liberty the less.
Towards the end of the year 1570, still another and a terrible misfortune descended upon the Netherlands. It was now the hand of God which smote the unhappy country, already so tortured by the cruelty of war. An inundation, more tremendous than any which had yet been recorded in those annals so prolific in such catastrophes, now swept the whole coast from Flanders to Friesland. Not the memorable deluge of the 13th century, out of which the Zuyder Zee was born; not that in which the waters of the Dollart had closed forever over the villages and churches of Gröningen; not one of those perpetually recurring floods by which the inhabitants of the Netherlands, year after year, were recalled to an anxious remembrance of the watery chaos out of which their fatherland had been created, and into which it was in daily danger of resolving itself again; had excited so much terror and caused so much destruction.
A continued and violent gale from the Northwest had long been sweeping the Atlantic waters into the North Sea, and had now piled them upon the fragile coasts of the provinces. The dykes, tasked beyond their strength, burst in every direction. The cities of Flanders, to a considerable distance inland, were suddenly invaded by the waters of the ocean. The whole narrow peninsula of North Holland was in imminent danger of being swept away for ever. Between Amsterdam and Meyden, the great Diemer dyke was broken through in twelve places. The Hand-bos, a bulwark formed of oaken piles, fastened with metal clamps, moored with iron anchors, and secured by gravel and granite, was snapped to pieces like packthread. The “Sleeper,” a dyke thus called, because it was usually left in repose by the elements, except in great emergencies, alone held firm, and prevented the consummation of the catastrophe. Still the ocean poured in upon the land with terrible fury. Dort, Rotterdam, and many other cities were, for a time, almost submerged. Along the coast, fishing vessels, and even ships of larger size, were floated up into the country, where they entangled themselves in groves and orchards, or beat to pieces the roofs and walls of houses. The destruction of life and of property was enormous throughout the maritime provinces, but in Friesland the desolation was complete. There nearly all the dykes and sluices were dashed to fragments; the country, far and wide, converted into an angry sea. The steeples and towers of inland cities became islands of the ocean. Thousands of human beings were swept out of existence in a few hours. Whole districts of territory, with all their villages, farms, and churches, were rent from their places, borne along by the force of the waves, sometimes to be lodged in another part of the country, sometimes to be entirely engulfed. Multitudes of men, women, children, of horses, oxen, sheep, and every domestic animal, were struggling in the waves in every direction. Every boat, and every article which could serve as a boat, were eagerly seized upon. Every house was inundated; even the graveyards gave up their dead. The living infant in his cradle, and the long-buried corpse in his coffin, floated side by side. The ancient flood seemed about to be renewed.
Everywhere, upon the top of trees, upon the steeples of churches, human beings were clustered, praying to God for mercy, and to their fellow men for assistance. As the storm at last was subsiding, boats began to ply in every direction, saving those who were still struggling in the water, picking fugitives from roofs and treetops, and collecting the bodies of those already drowned. Colonel Robles, Seigneur de Billy, formerly much hated for his Spanish or Portuguese blood, made himself very active in this humane work. By his exertions, and those of the troops belonging to Gröningen, many lives were rescued, and gratitude replaced the ancient animosity. It was estimated that at least 20,000 persons were destroyed in the province of Friesland alone. Throughout the Netherlands, 100,000 persons perished. The damage done to property, the number of animals engulfed in the sea, were almost incalculable.
These events took place on the first and second of November, 1570. The former happened to be the day of All Saints, and the Spaniards maintained loudly that the vengeance of Heaven had descended upon the abode of heretics. The Netherlanders looked upon the catastrophe as ominous of still more terrible misfortunes in store for them. They seemed doomed to destruction by God and man. An overwhelming tyranny had long been chafing against their constitutional bulwarks, only to sweep over them at last; and now the resistless ocean, impatient of man’s feeble barriers, had at last risen to reclaim his prey. Nature, as if disposed to put to the blush the feeble cruelty of man, had thus wrought more havoc in a few hours, than bigotry, however active, could effect in many years.
Nearly at the close of this year (1570) an incident occurred, illustrating the ferocious courage so often engendered in civil contests. On the western verge of the Isle of Bommel, stood the castle of Lowestein. The island is not in the sea. It is the narrow but important territory which is enclosed between the Meuse and the Waal. The castle, placed in a slender hook, at the junction of the two rivers, commanded the two cities of Gorcum and Dorcum, and the whole navigation of the waters. One evening, towards the end of December, four monks, wearing the cowls and robes of Mendicant Grey Friars, demanded hospitality at the castle gate. They were at once ushered into the presence of the commandant, a brother of President Tisnacq. He was standing by the fire, conversing with his wife. The foremost monk approaching him, asked whether the castle held for the Duke of Alva or the Prince of Orange. The castellian replied that he recognized no prince save Philip, King of Spain. Thereupon the monk, who was no other than Herman de Ruyter, a drover by trade, and a warm partisan of Orange, plucked a pistol from beneath his robe, and shot the commandant through the head. The others, taking advantage of the sudden panic, overcame all the resistance offered by the feeble garrison, and made themselves masters of the place. In the course of the next day they introduced into the castle four or five and twenty men, with which force they diligently set themselves to fortify the place, and secure themselves in its possession. A larger reinforcement which they had reckoned upon, was detained by the floods and frosts, which, for the moment, had made the roads and rivers alike impracticable.
Don Roderigo de Toledo, governor of Bois le Duc, immediately dispatched a certain Captain Perea, at the head of two hundred soldiers, who were joined on the way by a miscellaneous force of volunteers, to recover the fortress as soon as possible. The castle, bathed on its outward walls by the Waal and Meuse, and having two redoubts, defended by a double interior foss, would have been difficult to take by assault had the number of the besieged been at all adequate to its defense. As matters stood, however, the Spaniards, by battering a breach in the wall with their cannon on the first day, and then escalading the inner works with remarkable gallantry upon the second, found themselves masters of the place within eight and forty hours of their first appearance before its gates. Most of the defenders were either slain or captured alive. De Ruyter alone had betaken himself to an inner hall of the castle, where he stood at bay upon the threshold. Many Spaniards, one after another, as they attempted to kill or to secure him, fell before his sword, which he wielded with the strength of a giant. At last, overpowered by numbers, and weakened by the loss of blood, be retreated slowly into the hall, followed by many of his antagonists. Here, by an unexpected movement, he applied a match to a train of powder, which he had previously laid along the floor of the apartment. The explosion was instantaneous. The tower, where the contest was taking place, sprang into the air, and De Ruyter with his enemies shared a common doom. A part of the mangled remains of this heroic but ferocious patriot were afterwards dug from the ruins of the tower, and with impotent malice nailed upon the gallows at Bois le Duc. Of his surviving companions, some were beheaded, some were broken on the wheel, some were hung and quartered—all were executed.
The Fortitude of Orange, the Treachery of Philip, and Rebellion against Alva’s Taxation
While such had been the domestic events of the Netherlands during the years 1569 and 1570, the Prince of Orange, although again a wanderer, had never allowed himself to despair. During this whole period, the darkest hour for himself and for his country, he was ever watchful. After disbanding his troops at Strasburg, and after making the best arrangements possible under the circumstances for the eventual payment of their wages, he had joined the army which the Duke of Deux Ponts had been raising in Germany to assist the cause of the Huguenots in France. The prince having been forced to acknowledge that, for the moment, all open efforts in the Netherlands were likely to be fruitless, instinctively turned his eyes towards the more favorable aspect of the Reformation in France. It was inevitable that, while he was thus thrown for the time out of his legitimate employment, he should be led to the battles of freedom in a neighboring land. The Duke of Deux Ponts, who felt his own military skill hardly adequate to the task which he had assumed, was glad, as it were, to put himself and his army under the orders of Orange.
Meantime the Battle of Jarnac had been fought; the Prince of Condé, covered with wounds, and exclaiming that it was sweet to die for Christ and country, had fallen from his saddle; the whole Huguenot army had been routed by the royal forces under the nominal command of Anjou, and the body of Condé, tied to the back of a she ass, had been paraded through the streets of Jarnac in derision. Affairs had already grown almost as black for the cause of freedom in France as in the provinces. Shortly afterwards, William of Orange, with a band of 1,200 horsemen, joined the banners of Coligny. His two brothers accompanied him. Henry, the stripling, had left the university to follow the fortunes of the prince. The indomitable Louis, after 7,000 of his army had been slain, had swum naked across the Ems, exclaiming “that his courage, thank God, was as fresh and lively as ever,” and had lost not a moment in renewing his hostile schemes against the Spanish government. In the meantime he had joined the Huguenots in France. The battle of Moncontour had succeeded, Count Peter Mansfeld, with 5,000 troops sent by Alva, fighting on the side of the royalists, and Louis Nassau on that of the Huguenots, atoning by the steadiness and skill with which he covered the retreat, for his intemperate courage, which had precipitated the action, and perhaps been the main cause of Coligny’s overthrow. The Prince of Orange, who had been peremptorily called to the Netherlands in the beginning of the autumn, was not present at the battle. Disguised as a peasant, with but five attendants, and at great peril, he had crossed the enemy’s lines, traversed France, and arrived in Germany before the winter. Count Louis remained with the Huguenots. So necessary did he seem to their cause, and so dear had he become to their armies, that during the severe illness of Coligny in the course of the following summer all eyes were turned upon him as the inevitable successor of that great man, the only remaining pillar of freedom in France.
Coligny recovered. The deadly peace between the Huguenots and the Court succeeded. The admiral, despite his sagacity and his suspicions, embarked with his whole party upon that smooth and treacherous current which led to the horrible catastrophe of Saint Bartholomew. To occupy his attention, a formal engagement was made by the government to send succor to the Netherlands. The admiral was to lead the auxiliaries which were to be dispatched across the frontier to overthrow the tyrannical government of Alva. Long and anxious were the colloquies held between Coligny and the Royalists. The monarch requested a detailed opinion, in writing, from the admiral, on the most advisable plan for invading the Netherlands. The result was the preparation of the celebrated memoir, under Coligny’s directions, by young De Mornay, Seigneur de Plessis. The document was certainly not a paper of the highest order. It did not appeal to the loftier instincts which kings or common mortals might be supposed to possess. It summoned the monarch to the contest in the Netherlands that the ancient injuries committed by Spain might be avenged. It invoked the ghost of Isabella of France, foully murdered, as it was thought, by Philip. It held out the prospect of re-annexing the fair provinces, wrested from the king’s ancestors by former Spanish sovereigns. It painted the hazardous position of Philip, with the Moorish revolt gnawing at the entrails of his kingdom, with the Turkish war consuming its extremities, with the canker of rebellion corroding the very heart of the Netherlands. It recalled, with exultation, the melancholy fact that the only natural and healthy existence of the French was in a state of war—that France, if not occupied with foreign campaigns, could not be prevented from plunging its sword into its own vitals. It indulged in refreshing reminiscences of these halcyon days, not long gone by, when France, enjoying perfect tranquility within its own borders, was calmly and regularly carrying on its long wars beyond the frontier.
In spite of this savage spirit, which modern documents, if they did not scorn, would at least have shrouded, the paper was nevertheless a sagacious one; but the request for the memoir, and the many interviews on the subject of the invasion, were only intended to deceive. They were but the curtain which concealed the preparations for the dark tragedy which was about to be enacted. Equally deceived, and more sanguine than ever, Louis Nassau during this period was indefatigable in his attempts to gain friends for his cause. He had repeated audiences of the king, to whose court he had come in disguise. He made a strong and warm impression upon Elizabeth’s envoy at the French Court, Walsingham. It is probable that in the count’s impetuosity to carry his point, he allowed more plausibility to be given to certain projects for subdividing the Netherlands than his brother would ever have sanctioned. The prince was a total stranger to these inchoate schemes. His work was to set his country free, and to destroy the tyranny which had grown colossal. That employment was sufficient for a lifetime, and there is no proof to be found that a paltry and personal self-interest had even the lowest place among his motives.
Meantime, in the autumn of 1569, Orange had again reached Germany. Paul Buys, Pensionary of Leyden, had kept him constantly informed of the state of affairs in the provinces. Through his means an extensive correspondence was organized and maintained with leading persons in every part of the Netherlands. The conventional terms by which different matters and persons of importance were designated in these letters were familiarly known to all friends of the cause, not only in the provinces, but in France, England, Germany, and particularly in the great commercial cities. The prince, for example, was always designated as Martin Willemzoon, the Duke of Alva as Master Powels van Alblas, the Queen of England as Henry Philipzoon, the King of Denmark as Peter Peterson. The twelve signs of the zodiac were used instead of the twelve months, and a great variety of similar substitutions were adopted. Before his visit to France, Orange had, moreover, issued commissions, in his capacity of sovereign, to various seafaring persons, who were empowered to cruise against Spanish commerce.
The “beggars of the sea,” as these privateersmen designated themselves, soon acquired as terrible a name as the wild beggars, or the forest beggars; but the prince, having had many conversations with Admiral Coligny on the important benefits to be derived from the system, had faithfully set himself to effect a reformation of its abuses after his return from France. The Seigneur de Dolhain, who, like many other refugee nobles, had acquired much distinction in this roving corsair life, had for a season acted as admiral for the prince. He had, however, resolutely declined to render any accounts of his various expeditions, and was now deprived of his command in consequence. Gillain de Fiennes, Seigneur de Lumbres, was appointed to succeed him. At the same time strict orders were issued by Orange, forbidding all hostile measures against the Emperor or any of the princes of the empire, against Sweden, Denmark, England, or against any potentates who were protectors of the true Christian religion. The Duke of Alva and his adherents were designated as the only lawful antagonists.
The prince, moreover, gave minute instructions as to the discipline to be observed in his fleet. The articles of war were to be strictly enforced. Each commander was to maintain a minister on board his ship, who was to preach God’s word, and to preserve Christian piety among the crew. No one was to exercise any command in the fleet save native Netherlanders, unless thereto expressly commissioned by the Prince of Orange. All prizes were to be divided and distributed by a prescribed rule. No persons were to be received on board, either as sailors or soldiers, save “folk of good name and fame.” No man who had ever been punished of justice was to be admitted. Such were the principal features in the organization of that infant navy which, in course of this and the following centuries, was to achieve so many triumphs, and to which a powerful and adventurous mercantile marine had already led the way. “Of their ships,” said Cardinal Lentivoglio, “the Hollanders make houses, of their houses schools. Here they are born, here educated, here they learn their profession. Their sailors, flying from one pole to the other, practicing their art wherever the sun displays itself to mortals, become so skilful that they can scarcely be equaled, certainly not surpassed, by any nation in the civilized world.”
The prince, however, on his return from France, had never been in so forlorn a condition. “Orange is plainly perishing,” said one of the friends of the cause. Not only had he no funds to organize new levies, but he was daily exposed to the most clamorously-urged claims, growing out of the army which he had been recently obliged to disband. It had been originally reported in the Netherlands that he had fallen in the Battle of Moncontour. “If he have really been taken off,” wrote Viglius, hardly daring to credit the great news, “we shall all of us have less cause to tremble.” After his actual return, however, lean and beggared, with neither money nor credit, a mere threatening shadow without substance or power, he seemed to justify the sarcasm of Granvelle. “Vana sine viribus ira,” quoted the cardinal, and of a verity it seemed that not a man was likely to stir in Germany in his behalf, now that so deep a gloom had descended upon his cause. The obscure and the oppressed throughout the provinces and Germany still freely contributed out of their weakness and their poverty, and taxed themselves beyond their means to assist enterprises for the relief of the Netherlands. The great ones of the earth, however, those on whom the prince had relied; those to whom he had given his heart; dukes, princes, and electors, in this fatal change of his fortunes, “fell away like water.”
Still his spirit was unbroken. His letters showed a perfect appreciation of his situation, and of that to which his country was reduced; but they never exhibited a trace of weakness or despair. A modest but lofty courage, a pious but unaffected resignation, breathed through every document, public or private, which fell from his pen during this epoch. He wrote to his brother John that he was quite willing to go to Frankfort, in order to give himself up as a hostage to his troops for the payment of their arrears. At the same time he begged his brother to move heaven and earth to raise at least 100,000 thalers. If he could only furnish them with a month’s pay, the soldiers would perhaps be for a time contented. He gave directions also concerning the disposition of what remained of his plate and furniture, the greater part of it having been already sold and expended in the cause. He thought it would, on the whole, be better to have the remainder sold, piece by piece, at the fair. More money would be raised by that course than by a more wholesale arrangement.
He was now obliged to attend personally to the most minute matters of domestic economy. The man who had been the mate of emperors, who was himself a sovereign, who had lived his life long in pomp and luxury, surrounded by countless nobles, pages, men-at-arms, and menials, now calmly accepted the position of an outlaw and an exile. He cheerfully fulfilled tasks which had formerly devolved upon his grooms and valets. There was an almost pathetic simplicity in the homely details of an existence which, for the moment, had become so obscure and so desperate. “Send by the bearer,” he wrote, “the little hackney given me by the Admiral; send also my two pair of trunk hose; one pair is at the tailor’s to be mended, the other pair you will please order to be taken from the things which I wore lately at Dillenburg. They lie on the table with my accoutrements. If the little hackney be not in condition, please send the gray horse with the cropped ears and tail.”
He was always mindful, however, not only of the great cause to which he had devoted himself, but of the wants experienced by individuals who had done him service. He never forgot his friends. In the depth of his own misery he remembered favors received from humble persons. “Send a little cup, worth at least a hundred florins, to Hartmann Wolf,” he wrote to his brother, “you can take as much silver out of the coffer, in which there is still some of my chapel service remaining.” “You will observe that Affenstein is wanting a horse,” he wrote on another occasion, “please look him out one, and send it to me with the price. I will send you the money. Since he has shown himself so willing in the cause, one ought to do something for him.”
The contest between the duke and the estates, on the subject of the tenth and twentieth penny had been for a season adjusted. The two years’ term, however, during which it had been arranged that the tax should be commuted, was to expire in the autumn of 1571. Early therefore in this year the disputes were renewed with greater acrimony than ever. The estates felt satisfied that the king was less eager than the viceroy. Viglius was satisfied that the power of Alva was upon the wane. While the king was not likely openly to rebuke his recent measures, it seemed not improbable that the governor’s reiterated requests to be recalled might be granted. Fortified by these considerations, the president, who had so long been the supple tool of the tyrant, suddenly assumed the character of a popular tribune. The wranglings, the contradictions, the vituperations, the threatenings, now became incessant in the council. The duke found that he had exulted prematurely, when he announced to the king the triumphant establishment, in perpetuity, of the lucrative tax. So far from all the estates having given their consent, as he had maintained, and as he had written to Philip, it now appeared that not one of those bodies considered itself bound beyond its quota for the two years. This was formally stated in the council by Berlaymont and other members. The wrath of the duke blazed forth at this announcement. He berated Berlaymont for maintaining, or for allowing it to be maintained, that the consent of the orders had ever been doubtful. He protested that they had as unequivocally agreed to the perpetual imposition of the tax as he to its commutation during two years. He declared, however, that he was sick of quotas. The tax should now be collected forthwith, and Treasurer Schetz was ordered to take his measures accordingly.
At a conference on the 29th of May, the duke asked Viglius for his opinion. The president made a long reply, taking the ground that the consent of the orders had been only conditional, and appealing to such members of the finance council as were present, to confirm his assertion. It was confirmed by all. The duke, in a passion, swore that those who dared maintain such a statement should be chastised. Viglius replied that it had always been the custom for councillors to declare their opinion, and that they had never before been threatened with such consequences. If such, however, were his Excellency’s sentiments, councillors had better stay at home, hold their tongues, and so avoid chastisement. The duke, controlling himself a little, apologized for this allusion to chastisement, a menace which he disclaimed having intended with reference to councillors whom he had always commended to the king, and of whom his Majesty had so high an opinion. At a subsequent meeting the duke took Viglius aside, and assured him that he was quite of his own way of thinking. For certain reasons, however, he expressed himself as unwilling that the rest of the council should be aware of the change in his views. He wished, he said, to dissemble. The astute president, for a moment, could not imagine the governor’s drift. He afterwards perceived that the object of this little piece of deception had been to close his mouth. The duke obviously conjectured that the president, lulled into security by this secret assurance, would be silent; that the other councillors, believing the president to have adopted the governor’s views, would alter their opinions; and that the opposition of the estates, thus losing its support in the council, would likewise very soon be abandoned. The president, however, was not to be entrapped by this falsehood. He resolutely maintained his hostility to the tax, depending for his security on the royal opinion, the popular feeling, and the judgment of his colleagues.
The daily meetings of the board were almost entirely occupied by this single subject. Although since the arrival of Alva the Council of Blood had usurped nearly all the functions of the state and finance councils, yet there now seemed a disposition on the part of Alva to seek the countenance, even while he spurned the authority, of other functionaries. He found, however, neither sympathy nor obedience. The president stoutly told him that he was endeavoring to swim against the stream, that the tax was offensive to the people, and that the voice of the people was the voice of God. On the last day of July, however, the duke issued an edict, by which summary collection of the tenth and twentieth pence was ordered. The whole country was immediately in uproar. The estates of every province, the assemblies of every city, met and remonstrated. The merchants suspended all business, the petty dealers shut up their shops. The people congregated together in masses, vowing resistance to the illegal and cruel impost. Not a farthing was collected. The “seven stiver people,” spies of government, who for that paltry daily stipend were employed to listen for treason in every tavern, in every huckster’s booth, in every alley of every city, were now quite unable to report all the curses which were hourly heard uttered against the tyranny of the viceroy. Evidently, his power was declining. The councillors resisted him, the common people almost defied him. A mercer to whom he was indebted for 30,000 florins’ worth of goods, refused to open his shop, lest the tax should be collected on his merchandise. The duke confiscated his debt, as the mercer had foreseen, but this being a pecuniary sacrifice, seemed preferable to acquiescence in a measure so vague and so boundless that it might easily absorb the whole property of the country.
No man saluted the governor as he passed through the streets. Hardly an attempt was made by the people to disguise their abhorrence of his person. Alva, on his side, gave daily exhibitions of ungovernable fury. At a council held on September 25, 1571, he stated that the king had ordered the immediate enforcement of the edict. Viglius observed that there were many objections to its form. He also stoutly denied that the estates had ever given their consent. Alva fiercely asked the president if he had not himself once maintained that the consent had been granted! Viglius replied that he had never made such an assertion. He had mentioned the conditions and the implied promises on the part of government, by which a partial consent had been extorted. He never could have said that the consent had been accorded, for he had never believed that it could be obtained. He had not proceeded far in his argument when be was interrupted by the duke—”But you said so, you said so, you said so,” cried the exasperated governor, in a towering passion, repeating many times this flat contradiction to the president’s statements. Viglius firmly stood his ground. Alva loudly denounced him for the little respect he had manifested for his authority. He had hitherto done the president good offices, he said, with his Majesty, but certainly should not feel justified in concealing his recent and very unhandsome conduct.
Viglius replied that he had always reverently cherished the governor, and had endeavored to merit his favor by diligent obsequiousness. He was bound by his oath, however, to utter in council that which comported with his own sentiments and his Majesty’s interests. He had done this heretofore in presence of emperors, kings, queens, and regents, and they had not taken offense. He did not, at this hour, tremble for his gray head, and hoped his Majesty would grant him a hearing before condemnation. The firm attitude of the president increased the irritation of the viceroy. Observing that he knew the proper means of enforcing his authority, he dismissed the meeting.
Immediately afterwards, he received the visits of his son, Don Frederic of Vargas, and other familiars. To these he recounted the scene which had taken place, raving the while so ferociously against Viglius as to induce the supposition that something serious was intended against him. The report flew from mouth to mouth. The affair became the town talk, so that, in the words of the president, it was soon discussed by every barber and old woman in Brussels. His friends became alarmed for his safety, while, at the same time, the citizens rejoiced that their cause had found so powerful an advocate. Nothing, however, came of these threats and these explosions. On the contrary, shortly afterwards the duke gave orders that the tenth penny should be remitted upon four great articles—corn, meat, wine, and beer. It was also not to be levied upon raw materials used in manufactures. Certainly, these were very important concessions. Still the constitutional objections remained. Alva could not be made to understand why the alcabala, which was raised without difficulty in the little town of Alva, should encounter such fierce opposition in the Netherlands. The estates, he informed the king, made a great deal of trouble. They withheld their consent at command of their satrap. The motive which influenced the leading men was not the interest of factories or fisheries, but the fear that for the future they might not be able to dictate the law to their sovereign. The people of that country, he observed, had still the same character which had been described by Julius Caesar.
The duke, however, did not find much sympathy at Madrid. Courtiers and councillors had long derided his schemes. As for the king, his mind was occupied with more interesting matters. Philip lived but to enforce what he chose to consider the will of God. While the duke was fighting this battle with the Netherland constitutionalists, his master had engaged at home in a secret but most comprehensive scheme. This was a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth of England, and to liberate Mary Queen of Scots, who was to be placed on the throne in her stead. This project, in which was of course involved the reduction of England under the dominion of the ancient Church, could not but prove attractive to Philip. It included a conspiracy against a friendly sovereign, immense service to the Church, and a murder. His passion for intrigue, his love of God, and his hatred of man, would all be gratified at once. Thus, although the Moorish revolt within the heart of his kingdom had hardly been terminated, although his legions and his navies were at that instant engaged in a contest of no ordinary importance with the Turkish empire, although the Netherlands, still maintaining their hostility and their hatred, required the flower of the Spanish army to compel their submission, he did not hesitate to accept the dark adventure which was offered to him by ignoble hands.
One Ridolfi, a Florentine, long resident in England, had been sent to the Netherlands as secret agent of the Duke of Norfolk. Alva read his character immediately, and denounced him to Philip as a loose, prating creature, utterly unfit to be entrusted with affairs of importance. Philip, however, thinking more of the plot than of his fellow actors, welcomed the agent of the conspiracy to Madrid, listened to his disclosures attentively, and, without absolutely committing himself by direct promises, dismissed him with many expressions of encouragement.
On July 12, 1571, Philip wrote to the Duke of Alva, giving an account of his interview with Roberto Ridolfi. The envoy, after relating the sufferings of the Queen of Scotland, had laid before him a plan for her liberation. If the Spanish monarch were willing to assist the Duke of Norfolk and his friends, it would be easy to put upon Mary’s head the crown of England. She was then to intermarry with Norfolk. The kingdom of England was again to acknowledge the authority of Rome, and the Catholic religion to be everywhere restored. The most favorable moment for the execution of the plan would be in August or September. As Queen Elizabeth would at that season quit London for the country, an opportunity would be easily found for seizing and murdering her. Pius V, to whom Ridolfi had opened the whole matter, highly approved the scheme, and warmly urged Philip’s cooperation. Poor and ruined as he was himself, the pope protested that he was ready to sell his chalices, and even his own vestments, to provide funds for the cause. Philip had replied that few words were necessary to persuade him. His desire to see the enterprise succeed was extreme, notwithstanding the difficulties by which it was surrounded. He would reflect earnestly upon the subject, in the hope that God, whose cause it was, would enlighten and assist him. Thus much he had stated to Ridolfi, but he had informed his council afterwards that he was determined to carry out the scheme by certain means of which the duke would soon be informed. The end proposed was to kill or to capture Elizabeth, to set at liberty the Queen of Scotland, and to put upon her head the crown of England. In this enterprise he instructed the Duke of Alva secretly to assist, without however resorting to open hostilities in his own name or in that of his sovereign. He desired to be informed how many Spaniards the duke could put at the disposition of the conspirators. They had asked for 6,000 arquebusiers for England, 2,000 for Scotland, 2,000 for Ireland. Besides these troops, the viceroy was directed to provide immediately 4,000 arquebuses and 2,000 corslets. For the expenses of the enterprise Philip would immediately remit 200,000 crowns. Alva was instructed to keep the affair a profound secret from his councillors. Even Hopper at Madrid knew nothing of the matter, while the king had only expressed himself in general terms to the nuncio and to Ridolfi, then already on his way to the Netherlands. The king concluded his letter by saying that from what he had now written with his own hand, the duke could infer how much he had this affair at heart. It was unnecessary for him to say more, persuaded as he was that the duke would take as profound an interest in it as himself.
Alva perceived all the rashness of the scheme, and felt how impossible it would be for him to comply with Philip’s orders. To send an army from the Netherlands into England for the purpose of dethroning and killing a most popular sovereign, and at the same time to preserve the most amicable relations with the country, was rather a desperate undertaking. A force of 10,000 Spaniards, under Chiappin Vitelli, and other favorite officers of the duke, would hardly prove a trifle to be overlooked, nor would their operations be susceptible of very friendly explanations. The governor therefore assured Philip that he “highly applauded his master for his plot. He could not help rendering infinite thanks to God for having made him vassal to such a Prince.” He praised exceedingly the resolution which his Majesty had taken. After this preamble, however, he proceeded to pour cold water upon his sovereign’s ardor. He decidedly expressed the opinion that Philip should not proceed in such an undertaking until at any rate the party of the Duke of Norfolk had obtained possession of Elizabeth’s person. Should the king declare himself prematurely, he might be sure that the Venetians, breaking off their alliance with him, would make their peace with the Turk; and that Elizabeth would, perhaps, conclude that marriage with the Duke of Alençon, which now seemed but a pleasantry. Moreover, he expressed his want of confidence in the Duke of Norfolk, whom he considered as a poor creature with but little courage. He also expressed his doubts concerning the prudence and capacity of Don Gueran de Espes, his Majesty’s ambassador at London.
It was not long before these machinations became known in England. The Queen of Scots was guarded more closely than ever, the Duke of Norfolk was arrested; yet Philip, whose share in the conspiracy had remained a secret, was not discouraged by the absolute explosion of the whole affair. He still held to an impossible purpose with a tenacity which resembled fatuity. He avowed that his obligations in the sight of God were so strict that he was still determined to proceed in the sacred cause. He remitted, therefore, the promised funds to the Duke of Alva, and urged him to act with proper secrecy and promptness.
The viceroy was not a little perplexed by these remarkable instructions. None but lunatics could continue to conspire, after the conspiracy had been exposed and the conspirators arrested. Yet this was what his Catholic Majesty expected of his governor-general. Alva complained, not unreasonably, of the contradictory demands to which he was subjected. He was to cause no rupture with England, yet he was to send succor to an imprisoned traitor; he was to keep all his operations secret from his council, yet he was to send all his army out of the country, and to organize an expensive campaign. He sneered at the flippancy of Ridolfi, who imagined that it was the work of a moment to seize the Queen of England, to liberate the Queen of Scotland, to take possession of the Tower of London, and to burn the fleet in the Thames. “Were your Majesty and the Queen of England acting together,” he observed, “it would be impossible to execute the plan proposed by Ridolfi.” The chief danger to be apprehended was from France and Germany. Were those countries not to interfere, he would undertake to make Philip sovereign of England before the winter. Their opposition, however, was sufficient to make the enterprise not only difficult, but impossible. He begged his master not to be precipitate in the most important affair which had been negotiated by man since Christ came upon earth. Nothing less, he said, than the existence of the Christian faith was at stake, for, should his Majesty fail in this undertaking, not one stone of the ancient religion would be left upon another. He again warned the king of the contemptible character of Ridolfi, who had spoken of the affair so freely that it was a common subject of discussion on the Bourse at Antwerp, and he reiterated in all his letters his distrust of the parties prominently engaged in the transaction.
Such was the general tenor of the long dispatches exchanged between the king and the Duke of Alva upon this iniquitous scheme. The duke showed himself reluctant throughout the whole affair, although he certainly never opposed his master’s project by any arguments founded upon good faith, Christian charity, or the sense of honor. To kill the Queen of England, subvert the laws of her realm, burn her fleets, and butcher her subjects, while the mask of amity and entire consideration was sedulously preserved—all these projects were admitted to be strictly meritorious in themselves, although objections were taken as to the time and mode of execution.
Alva never positively refused to accept his share in the enterprise, but he took care not to lift his finger till the catastrophe in England had made all attempts futile. Philip, on the other hand, never positively withdrew from the conspiracy, but, after an infinite deal of writing and intriguing, concluded by leaving the whole affair in the hands of Alva. The only sufferer for Philip’s participation in the plot was the Spanish envoy at London, Don Gueran de Espes. This gentleman was formally dismissed by Queen Elizabeth, for having given treacherous and hostile advice to the Duke of Alva and to Philip, but her Majesty at the same time expressed the most profound consideration for her brother of Spain.
Towards the close of the same year, however (December 1571), Alva sent two other Italian assassins to England, bribed by the promise of vast rewards, to attempt the life of Elizabeth, quietly, by poison or otherwise. The envoy, Mondoucet, in apprizing the French monarch of this scheme, added that the duke was so ulcerated and annoyed by the discovery of the previous enterprise, that nothing could exceed his rage. These ruffians were not destined to success, but the attempts of the duke upon the queen’s life were renewed from time to time. Eighteen months later (August 1573), two Scotchmen, pensioners of Philip, came from Spain, with secret orders to consult with Alva. They had accordingly much negotiation with the duke and his secretary, Albornoz. They boasted that they could easily capture Elizabeth, but said that the king’s purpose was to kill her. The plan, wrote Mondoucet, was the same as it had been before, namely, to murder the Queen of England, and to give her crown to Mary of Scotland, who would thus be in their power, and whose son was to be seized, and bestowed in marriage in such a way as to make them perpetual masters of both kingdoms.
It does not belong to this history to discuss the merits, nor to narrate the fortunes, of that bickering and fruitless alliance which had been entered into at this period by Philip with Venice and the Holy See against the Turk. The revolt of Granada had at last, after a two years’ struggle, been subdued, and the remnants of the romantic race which had once swayed the Peninsula been swept into slavery. The Moors had sustained the unequal conflict with a constancy not to have been expected of so gentle a people. “If a nation meek as lambs could resist so bravely,” said the Prince of Orange, “what ought not to be expected of a hardy people like the Netherlanders?” Don John of Austria, having concluded a series of somewhat inglorious forays against women, children, and bed-ridden old men, in Andalusia and Granada, had arrived, in August of this year, at Naples, to take command of the combined fleet in the Levant. The Battle of Lepanto had been fought, but the quarrelsome and contradictory conduct of the allies had rendered the splendid victory as barren as the waves upon which it had been won. It was no less true, however, that the blunders of the infidels had previously enabled Philip to extricate himself with better success from the dangers of the Moorish revolt than might have been his fortune. Had the rebels succeeded in holding Granada and the mountains of Andalusia, and had they been supported, as they had a right to expect, by the forces of the Sultan, a different aspect might have been given to the conflict, and one far less triumphant for Spain. Had a prince of vigorous ambition and comprehensive policy governed at that moment the Turkish empire, it would have cost Philip a serious struggle to maintain himself in his hereditary dominions. While he was plotting against the life and throne of Elizabeth, he might have had cause to tremble for his own. Fortunately, however, for his Catholic Majesty, Selim was satisfied to secure himself in the possession of the Isle of Venus, with its fruitful vineyards. “To shed the blood” of Cyprian vines, in which he was so enthusiastic a connoisseur, was to him a more exhilarating occupation than to pursue, amid carnage and hardships, the splendid dream of a re-established Eastern caliphate.
On September 25, 1571, a commission of governor-general of the Netherlands was at last issued to John de la Cerda, Duke of Medina Cœli. Philip, in compliance with the duke’s repeated requests, and perhaps not entirely satisfied with the recent course of events in the provinces, had at last, after great hesitation, consented to Alva’s resignation. His successor, however, was not immediately to take his departure, and in the meantime the duke was instructed to persevere in his faithful services. These services had, for the present, reduced themselves to a perpetual and not very triumphant altercation with his council, with the estates, and with the people, on the subject of his abominable tax. He was entirely alone. They who had stood unflinchingly at his side when the only business of the administration was to burn heretics, turned their backs upon him now that he had engaged in this desperate conflict with the whole money power of the country. The king was far from cordial in his support, the councillors much too crafty to retain their hold upon the wheel, to which they had only attached themselves in its ascent. Viglius and Berlaymont, Noircarmes and Aerschot, opposed and almost defied the man they now thought sinking, and kept the king constantly informed of the vast distress which the financial measures of the duke were causing.
Quite at the close of the year, an elaborate petition from the estates of Brabant was read before the State Council. It contained a strong remonstrance against the tenth penny. Its repeal was strongly urged, upon the ground that its collection would involve the country in universal ruin. Upon this, Alva burst forth in one of the violent explosions of rage to which he was subject. The prosperity of the Netherlands, he protested, was not dearer to the inhabitants than to himself. He swore by the cross, and by the most holy of holies, preserved in the church of Saint Gudule, that had he been but a private individual, living in Spain, he would, out of the love he bore the provinces, have rushed to their defense had their safety been endangered. He felt therefore deeply wounded that malevolent persons should thus insinuate that he had even wished to injure the country, or to exercise tyranny over its citizens. The tenth penny, he continued, was necessary to the defense of the land, and was much preferable to quotas. It was highly improper that every man in the rabble should know how much was contributed, because each individual, learning the gross amount, would imagine that he had paid it all himself. In conclusion, he observed that, broken in health and stricken in years as he felt himself, he was now most anxious to return, and was daily looking with eagerness for the arrival of the Duke of Medina Cœli.
During the course of this same year, the Prince of Orange had been continuing his preparations. He had sent his agents to every place where a hope was held out to him of obtaining support. Money was what he was naturally most anxious to obtain from individuals, open and warlike assistance what he demanded from governments. His funds, little by little, were increasing, owing to the generosity of many obscure persons, and to the daring exploits of the beggars of the sea. His mission, however, to the northern courts had failed. His envoys had been received in Sweden and Denmark with barren courtesy. The Duke of Alva, on the other hand, never alluded to the prince but with contempt, knowing not that the ruined outlaw was slowly undermining the very ground beneath the monarch’s feet, dreaming not that the feeble strokes which he despised were the opening blows of a century’s conflict, foreseeing not that long before its close the chastised province was to expand into a great republic and that the name of the outlaw was to become almost divine.
Granvelle had already recommended that the young Count de Buren should be endowed with certain lands in Spain, in exchange for his hereditary estates, in order that the name and fame of the rebel William should be forever extinguished in the Netherlands. With the same view, a new sentence against the Prince of Orange was now proposed by the viceroy. This was to execute him solemnly in effigy, to drag his escutcheon through the streets at the tails of horses, and after having broken it in pieces, and thus cancelled his armorial bearings, to declare him and his descendants ignoble, infamous, and incapable of holding property or estates. Could a leaf or two of future history have been unrolled to king, cardinal, and governor, they might have found the destined fortune of the illustrious rebel’s house not exactly in accordance with the plan of summary extinction thus laid down.
Not discouraged, the prince continued to send his emissaries in every direction. Diedrich Sonoy, his most trustworthy agent, who had been chief of the legation to the northern courts, was now actively canvassing the governments and peoples of Germany with the same object. Several remarkable papers from the hand of Orange were used upon this service. A letter, drawn up and signed by his own hand, recited, in brief and striking language, the history of his campaign in 1568, and of his subsequent efforts in the sacred cause. It was now necessary, he said, that others besides himself should partake of his sacrifices. This he stated plainly and eloquently. The document was in truth a letter asking arms for liberty. “For although all things,” said the prince, “are in the hand of God, and although he has created all things out of nought, yet hath he granted to different men different means, whereby, as with various instruments, he accomplishes his almighty purposes. Thereto hath he endowed some with strength of body, others with worldly wealth, others with still different gifts, all of which are to be used by their possessors to His honor and glory, if they wish not to incur the curse of the unworthy steward, who buried his talent in the earth. … “Now ye may easily see,” he continued, “that the prince cannot carry out this great work alone, having lost land, people, and goods, and having already employed in the cause all which had remained to him, besides incurring heavy obligations in addition.”
Similar instructions were given to other agents, and a paper called the Harangue, drawn up according to his suggestions, was also extensively circulated. This document is important to all who are interested in his history and character. He had not before issued a missive so stamped with the warm, religious impress of the reforming party. Sadly, but without despondency, the Harangue recalled the misfortunes of the past, and depicted the gloom of the present. Earnestly, but not fanatically, it stimulated hope and solicited aid for the future. “Although the appeals made to the Prince,” so ran a part of the document, “be of diverse natures, and various in their recommendations, yet do they all tend to the advancement of God’s glory, and to the liberation of the fatherland. This it is which enables him and those who think with him to endure hunger, thirst, cold, heat, and all the misfortunes which Heaven may send. Our enemies spare neither their money nor their labor; will ye be colder and duller than your foes? Let, then, each church congregation set an example to the others. We read that King Saul, when he would liberate the men of Jabez from the hands of Nahad, the Ammonite, hewed a yoke of oxen in pieces, and sent them as tokens over all Israel, saying, ‘Ye who will not follow Saul and Samuel, with them shall be dealt even as with these oxen. And the fear of the Lord came upon the people, they came forth, and the men of Jabez were delivered.’ Ye have here the same warning, look to it, watch well ye that despise it, lest the wrath of God, which the men of Israel by their speedy obedience escaped, descend upon your heads. Ye may say that ye are banished men. ’Tis true: but thereby are ye not stripped of all faculty of rendering service; moreover, your assistance is asked for one who will restore ye to your homes. Ye may say that ye have been robbed of all your goods; yet many of you have still something remaining, and of that little ye should contribute, each his mite. Ye say that you have given much already. ’Tis true: but the enemy is again in the field, fierce for your subjugation, sustained by the largess of his supporters. Will ye be less courageous, less generous, than your foes?”
These urgent appeals did not remain fruitless. The strength of the prince was slowly but steadily increasing. Meantime the abhorrence with which Alva was universally regarded had nearly reached to frenzy. In the beginning of the year 1572, Don Francis de Alava, Philip’s ambassador in France, visited Brussels. He had already been enlightened as to the consequences of the duke’s course by the immense immigration of Netherland refugees to France, which he had witnessed with his own eyes. On his journey towards Brussels he had been met near Cambray by Noircarmes. Even that “cruel animal,” as Hoogstraaten had called him, the butcher of Tournay and Valenciennes, had at last been roused to alarm, if not to pity, by the sufferings of the country. “The Duke will never disabuse his mind of this filthy tenth penny,” said he to Alava. He sprang from his chair with great emotion as the ambassador alluded to the flight of merchants and artisans from the provinces. “Señor Don Francis,” cried he, “there are ten thousand more who are on the point of leaving the country, if the Governor does not pause in his career. God grant that no disaster arise beyond human power to remedy.”
The ambassador arrived in Brussels, and took up his lodgings in the palace. Here he found the duke just recovering from a fit of the gout, in a state of mind sufficiently savage. He became much excited as Don Francis began to speak of the emigration, and he assured him that there was gross deception on the subject. The envoy replied that he could not be mistaken, for it was a matter which, so to speak, he had touched with his own fingers, and seen with his own eyes.
The duke, persisting that Don Francis had been abused and misinformed, turned the conversation to other topics. Next day the ambassador received visits from Berlaymont and his son, the Seigneur de Hierges. He was taken aside by each of them, separately. “Thank God, you have come hither,” said they, in nearly the same words, “that you may fully comprehend the condition of the provinces, and without delay admonish his Majesty of the impending danger.” All his visitors expressed the same sentiments. Don Frederic of Toledo furnished the only exception, assuring the envoy that his father’s financial measures were opposed by Noircarmes and others, only because it deprived them of their occupation and their influence. This dutiful language, however, was to be expected in one of whom Secretary Albornoz had written, that he was the greatest comfort to his father, and the most divine genius ever known. It was unfortunately corroborated by no other inhabitant of the country.
On the third day, Don Francis went to take his leave. The duke begged him to inform his Majesty of the impatience with which he was expecting the arrival of his successor. He then informed his guest that they had already begun to collect the tenth penny in Brabant, the most obstinate of all the provinces. “What do you say to that, Don Francis?” he cried, with exultation. Alava replied that he thought, nonetheless, that the tax would encounter many obstacles, and begged him earnestly to reflect. He assured him, moreover, that he should, without reserve, express his opinions fully to the king. The duke used the same language which Don Frederic had held, concerning the motives of those who opposed the tax. “It may be so,” said Don Francis, “but at any rate, all have agreed to sing to the same tune.” A little startled, the duke rejoined, “Do you doubt that the cities will keep their promises? Depend upon it, I shall find the means to compel them.” “God grant it may be so,” said Alava, “but in my poor judgment you will have need of all your prudence and of all your authority.”
The ambassador did not wait till he could communicate with his sovereign by word of mouth. He forwarded to Spain an ample account of his observations and deductions. He painted to Philip in lively colors the hatred entertained by all men for the duke. The whole nation, he assured his Majesty, united in one cry, “Let him begone, let him begone, let him begone!” As for the imposition of the tenth penny, that, in the opinion of Don Francis, was utterly impossible. He moreover warned his Majesty that Alva was busy in forming secret alliances with the Catholic princes of Europe, which would necessarily lead to defensive leagues among the Protestants.
While thus, during the earlier part of the year 1572, the Prince of Orange, discouraged by no defeats, was indefatigable in his exertions to maintain the cause of liberty, and while at the same time the most stanch supporters of arbitrary power were unanimous in denouncing to Philip the insane conduct of his viceroy, the letters of Alva himself were naturally full of complaints and expostulations. It was in vain, he said, for him to look for a confidential councillor, now that matters which he had wished to be kept so profoundly secret that the very earth should not hear of them, had been proclaimed aloud above the tiles of every housetop. Nevertheless, he would be cut into little pieces but his Majesty should be obeyed, while he remained alive to enforce the royal commands.
There were none who had been ever faithful but Berlaymont, he said, and even he had been neutral in the affair of the tax. He had rendered therein neither good nor bad offices, but, as his Majesty was aware, Berlaymont was entirely ignorant of business, and “knew nothing more than to be a good fellow.” That being the case, he recommended Hierges, son of the “good fellow,” as a proper person to be governor of Friesland.
The deputations appointed by the different provinces to confer personally with the king received a reprimand upon their arrival, for having dared to come to Spain without permission. Farther punishment, however, than this rebuke was not inflicted. They were assured that the king was highly displeased with their venturing to bring remonstrances against the tax, but they were comforted with the assurance that his Majesty would take the subject of their petition into consideration. Thus, the expectations of Alva were disappointed, for the tenth penny was not formally confirmed; and the hopes of the provinces frustrated, because it was not distinctly disavowed.
Matters had reached another crisis in the provinces. “Had we money now,” wrote the Prince of Orange, “we should, with the help of God, hope to effect something. This is a time when, with even small sums, more can be effected than at other seasons with ampler funds.” The citizens were in open revolt against the tax. In order that the tenth penny should not be levied upon every sale of goods, the natural but desperate remedy was adopted—no goods were sold at all. Not only the wholesale commerce of the provinces was suspended, but the minute and indispensable traffic of daily life was entirely at a stand. The shops were all shut. “The brewers,” says a contemporary, “refused to brew, the bakers to bake, the tapsters to tap.” Multitudes, thrown entirely out of employment, and wholly dependent upon charity, swarmed in every city. The soldiery, furious for their pay, which Alva had for many months neglected to furnish, grew daily more insolent; the citizens, maddened by outrage and hardened by despair, became more and more obstinate in their resistance; while the duke, rendered inflexible by opposition and insane by wrath, regarded the ruin which he had caused with a malignant spirit which had long ceased to be human. “The disease is gnawing at our vitals,” wrote Viglius, “everybody is suffering for the want of the necessaries of life. Multitudes are in extreme and hopeless poverty. My interest in the welfare of the commonwealth,” he continued, “induces me to send these accounts to Spain. For myself, I fear nothing. Broken by sickness and acute physical suffering, I should leave life without regret.”
The aspect of the capital was that of a city stricken with the plague. Articles of the most absolute necessity could not be obtained. It was impossible to buy bread, or meat, or beer. The tyrant, beside himself with rage at being thus braved in his very lair, privately sent for Master Carl, the executioner. In order to exhibit an unexpected and salutary example, he had determined to hang eighteen of the leading tradesmen of the city in the doors of their own shops, with the least possible delay and without the slightest form of trial.
Master Carl was ordered, on the very night of his interview with the duke, to prepare eighteen strong cords, and eighteen ladders twelve feet in length. By this simple arrangement, Alva was disposed to make manifest on the morrow, to the burghers of Brussels, that justice was thenceforth to be carried to every man’s door. He supposed that the spectacle of a dozen and a half of butchers and bakers suspended in front of the shops which they had refused to open, would give a more effective stimulus to trade than any to be expected from argument or proclamation. The hangman was making ready his cords and ladders; Don Frederic of Toledo was closeted with President Viglius, who, somewhat against his will, was aroused at midnight to draw the warrants for these impromptu executions; Alva was waiting with grim impatience for the dawn upon which the show was to be exhibited, when an unforeseen event suddenly arrested the homely tragedy. In the night arrived the intelligence that the town of Brill had been captured. The duke, feeling the full gravity of the situation, postponed the chastisement which he had thus secretly planned to a more convenient season, in order without an instant’s hesitation to avert the consequences of this new movement on the part of the rebels. The seizure of Brill was the Deus ex machinâ which unexpectedly solved both the inextricable knot of the situation and the hangman’s noose.
Allusion has more than once been made to those formidable partisans of the patriot cause, the marine outlaws. Cheated of half their birthright by nature, and now driven forth from their narrow isthmus by tyranny, the exiled Hollanders took to the ocean. Its boundless fields, long arable to their industry, became fatally fruitful now that oppression was transforming a peaceful seafaring people into a nation of corsairs. Driven to outlawry and poverty, no doubt many Netherlanders plunged into crime. The patriot party had long since laid aside the respectful deportment which had provoked the sarcasms of the loyalists. The beggars of the sea asked their alms through the mouths of their cannon. Unfortunately, they but too often made their demands upon both friend and foe. Every ruined merchant, every banished lord, every reckless mariner, who was willing to lay the commercial world under contribution to repair his damaged fortunes, could, without much difficulty, be supplied with a vessel and crew at some northern port, under color of cruising against the viceroy’s government. Nor was the ostensible motive simply a pretext. To make war upon Alva was the leading object of all these freebooters, and they were usually furnished by the Prince of Orange, in his capacity of sovereign, with letters of marque for that purpose. The prince, indeed, did his utmost to control and direct an evil which had inevitably grown out of the horrors of the time. His admiral, William de la Marck, was, however, incapable of comprehending the lofty purposes of his superior. A wild, sanguinary, licentious noble, wearing his hair and beard unshorn, according to ancient Batavian custom, until the death of his relative, Egmont, should have been expiated, a worthy descendant of the Wild Boar of Ardennes, this hirsute and savage corsair seemed an embodiment of vengeance. He had sworn to wreak upon Alva and upon popery the deep revenge owed to them by the Netherland nobility, and in the cruelties afterwards practiced by him upon monks and priests, the Blood-Council learned that their example had made at least one ripe scholar among the rebels. He was lying, at this epoch, with his fleet on the southern coast of England, from which advantageous position he was now to be ejected in a summary manner.
The negotiations between the Duke of Alva and Queen Elizabeth had already assumed an amicable tone, and were fast ripening to an adjustment. It lay by no means in that sovereign’s disposition to involve herself at this juncture in a war with Philip, and it was urged upon her government by Alva’s commissioners, that the continued countenance afforded by the English people to the Netherland cruisers must inevitably lead to that result. In the latter days of March, therefore, a sentence of virtual excommunication was pronounced against De la Marck and his rovers. A peremptory order of Elizabeth forbade any of her subjects to supply them with meat, bread, or beer. The command being strictly complied with, their farther stay was rendered impossible. Twenty-four vessels accordingly, of various sizes, commanded by De la Marck, Treslong, Adam van Haren, Brand, and other distinguished seamen, set sail from Dover in the very last days of March. Being almost in a state of starvation, these adventurers were naturally anxious to supply themselves with food. They determined to make a sudden foray upon the coasts of North Holland, and accordingly steered for Enkbuizen, both because it was a rich seaport and because it contained many secret partisans of the prince. On Palm Sunday they captured two Spanish merchantmen. Soon afterwards, however, the wind becoming contrary, they were unable to double the Helder or the Texel, and on Tuesday, the first of April, having abandoned their original intention, they dropped down towards Zealand, and entered the broad mouth of the river Meuse. Between the town of Brill, upon the southern lip of this estuary, and Maaslandsluis, about half a league distant, upon the opposite side, the squadron suddenly appeared at about two o’clock of an April afternoon, to the great astonishment of the inhabitants of both places. It seemed too large a fleet to be a mere collection of trading vessels, nor did they appear to be Spanish ships. Peter Koppelstok, a sagacious ferryman, informed the passengers whom he happened to be conveying across the river, that the strangers were evidently the water beggars. The dreaded name filled his hearers with consternation, and they became eager to escape from so perilous a vicinity. Having duly landed his customers, however, who hastened to spread the news of the impending invasion, and to prepare for defense or flight, the stout ferryman, who was secretly favorable to the cause of liberty, rowed boldly out to inquire the destination and purposes of the fleet.
The vessel which he first hailed was that commanded by William de Blois, Seigneur of Treslong. This adventurous noble, whose brother had been executed by the Duke of Alva in 1568, had himself fought by the side of Count Louis at Jemmingen, and although covered with wounds, had been one of the few who escaped alive from that horrible carnage. During the intervening period he had become one of the most famous rebels on the ocean, and he had always been well known in Brill, where his father had been governor for the king. He at once recognized Koppelstok, and hastened with him on board the admiral’s ship, assuring De la Marck that the ferryman was exactly the man for their purpose. It was absolutely necessary that a landing should be effected, for the people were without the necessaries of life. Captain Martin Brand had visited the ship of Adam van Harem as soon as they had dropped anchor in the Meuse, begging for food. “I gave him a cheese,” said Adam, afterwards relating the occurrence, “and assured him that it was the last article of food to be found in the ship.”
The other vessels were equally destitute. Under the circumstances, it was necessary to attempt a landing. Treslong, therefore, who was really the hero of this memorable adventure, persuaded De la Marck to send a message to the city of Brill, demanding its surrender. This was a bold summons to be made by a handful of men, three or four hundred at most, who were both metaphorically and literally beggars. The city of Brill was not populous, but it was well walled and fortified. It was moreover a most commodious port. Treslong gave his signet ring to the fisherman, Koppelstok, and ordered him, thus accredited as an envoy, to carry their summons to the magistracy. Koppelstok, nothing loath, instantly rowed ashore, pushed through the crowd of inhabitants, who overwhelmed him with questions, and made his appearance in the town-house before the assembled magistrates. He informed them that he had been sent by the admiral of the fleet and by Treslong, who was well known to them, to demand that two commissioners should be sent out on the part of the city to confer with the patriots. He was bidden, he said, to give assurance that the deputies would be courteously treated. The only object of those who had sent him was to free the land from the tenth penny, and to overthrow the tyranny of Alva and his Spaniards. Hereupon he was asked by the magistrates how large a force De la Marck had under his command. To this question the ferryman carelessly replied, that there might be some five thousand in all. This enormous falsehood produced its effect upon the magistrates. There was now no longer any inclination to resist the invaders; the only question discussed being whether to treat with them or to fly. On the whole, it was decided to do both. With some difficulty, two deputies were found sufficiently valiant to go forth to negotiate with the beggars, while in their absence most of the leading burghers and functionaries made their preparations for flight. The envoys were assured by De la Marck and Treslong that no injury was intended to the citizens or to private property, but that the overthrow of Alva’s government was to be instantly accomplished. Two hours were given to the magistrates in which to decide whether or not they would surrender the town and accept the authority of De la Marck as Admiral of the Prince of Orange. They employed the two hours thus granted in making an ignominious escape. Their example was followed by most of the townspeople. When the invaders, at the expiration of the specified term, appeared under the walls of the city, they found a few inhabitants of the lower class gazing at them from above, but received no official communication from any source.
The whole rebel force was now divided into two parties, one of which under Treslong made an attack upon the southern gate, while the other commanded by the admiral advanced upon the northern. Treslong after a short struggle succeeded in forcing his entrance, and arrested, in doing so, the governor of the city, just taking his departure. De la Marck and his men made a bonfire at the northern gate, and then battered down the half-burned portal with the end of an old mast. Thus rudely and rapidly did the Netherland patriots conduct their first successful siege. The two parties, not more perhaps than two hundred and fifty men in all, met before sunset in the center of the city, and the foundation of the Dutch Republic was laid. The weary spirit of freedom, so long a fugitive over earth and sea, had at last found a resting place, which rude and even ribald hands had prepared.
The panic created by the first appearance of the fleet had been so extensive that hardly fifty citizens had remained in the town. The rest had all escaped, with as much property as they could carry away. The admiral, in the name of the Prince of Orange, as lawful stadholder of Philip, look formal possession of an almost deserted city. No indignity was offered to the inhabitants of either sex, but as soon as the conquerors were fairly established in the best houses of the place, the inclination to plunder the churches could no longer be restrained. The altars and images were all destroyed, the rich furniture and gorgeous vestments appropriated to private use. Adam van Haren appeared on his vessel’s deck attired in a magnificent high mass chasuble. Treslong thenceforth used no drinking cups in his cabin save the golden chalices of the sacrament. Unfortunately, their hatred to popery was not confined to such demonstrations. Thirteen unfortunate monks and priests, who had been unable to effect their escape, were arrested and thrown into prison, from whence they were taken a few days later, by order of the ferocious admiral, and executed under circumstances of great barbarity.
The news of this important exploit spread with great rapidity. Alva, surprised at the very moment of venting his rage on the butchers and grocers of Brussels, deferred this savage design in order to deal with the new difficulty. He had certainly not expected such a result from the ready compliance of Queen Elizabeth with his request. His rage was excessive; the triumph of the people, by whom he was cordially detested, proportionally great. The punsters of Brussels were sure not to let such an opportunity escape them, for the name of the captured town was susceptible of a quibble, and the event had taken place upon All Fools’ Day.
“On April’s Fool’s Day, Duke Alva’s spectacles were stolen away,”
became a popular couplet. The word spectacles, in Flemish, as well as the name of the suddenly surprised city, being Brill, this allusion to the duke’s loss and implied purblindness was not destitute of ingenuity. A caricature, too, was extensively circulated, representing De la Marck stealing the duke’s spectacles from his nose, while the governor was supposed to be uttering his habitual expression whenever any intelligence of importance was brought to him: No es nada, no es nada—’Tis nothing, ’tis nothing.
The duke, however, lost not an instant in attempting to repair the disaster. Count Bossu, who had acted as stadholder of Holland and Zealand, under Alva’s authority, since the Prince of Orange had resigned that office, was ordered at once to recover the conquered seaport, if possible.
Hastily gathering a force of some ten companies from the garrison of Utrecht, some of which very troops had recently and unluckily for government, been removed from Brill to that city, the count crossed the Sluis to the island of Voorn upon Easter day, and sent a summons to the rebel force to surrender Brill. The patriots being very few in number, were at first afraid to venture outside the gates to attack the much superior force of their invaders. A carpenter, however, who belonged to the city, but had long been a partisan of Orange, dashed into the water with his axe in his hand, and swimming to the Niewland sluice, hacked it open with a few vigorous strokes. The sea poured in at once, making the approach to the city upon the north side impossible. Bossu then led his Spaniards along the Niewland dyke to the southern gate, where they were received with a warm discharge of artillery, which completely staggered them. Meantime Treslong and Robol had, in the most daring manner, rowed out to the ships which had brought the enemy to the island, cut some adrift, and set others on fire. The Spaniards at the southern gate caught sight of their blazing vessels, saw the sea rapidly rising over the dyke, became panic-struck at being thus enclosed between fire and water, and dashed off in precipitate retreat along the slippery causeway and through the slimy and turbid waters, which were fast threatening to overwhelm them. Many were drowned or smothered in their flight, but the greater portion of the force effected their escape in the vessels which still remained within reach. This danger averted, Admiral de la Marck summoned all the inhabitants, a large number of whom had returned to the town after the capture had been fairly established, and required them, as well as all the population of the island, to take an oath of allegiance to the Prince of Orange as stadholder for his Majesty.
The prince had not been extremely satisfied with the enterprise of De la Marck. He thought it premature, and doubted whether it would be practicable to hold the place, as he had not yet completed his arrangements in Germany, nor assembled the force with which he intended again to take the field. More than all, perhaps, he had little confidence in the character of his admiral. Orange was right in his estimate of De la Marck. It had not been that rover’s design either to take or to hold the place; and after the descent had been made, the ships victualled, the churches plundered, the booty secured, and a few monks murdered, he had given orders for the burning of the town, and for the departure of the fleet. The urgent solicitations of Treslong, however, prevailed, with some difficulty, over De la Marck’s original intentions. It is to that bold and intelligent noble, therefore, more than to any other individual, that the merit of laying this cornerstone of the Batavian commonwealth belongs. The enterprise itself was an accident, but the quick eye of Treslong saw the possibility of a permanent conquest, where his superior dreamed of nothing beyond a piratical foray.
Meantime Bossu, baffled in his attempt upon Brill, took his way towards Rotterdam. It was important that he should at least secure such other cities as the recent success of the rebels might cause to waver in their allegiance. He found the gates of Rotterdam closed. The authorities refused to comply with his demand to admit a garrison for the king. Professing perfect loyalty, the inhabitants very naturally refused to admit a band of sanguinary Spaniards to enforce their obedience. Compelled to parley, Bossu resorted to a perfidious stratagem. He requested permission for his troops to pass through the city without halting. This was granted by the magistrates, on condition that only a corporal’s command should be admitted at a time. To these terms the count affixed his hand and seal. With the admission, however, of the first detachment, a violent onset was made upon the gate by the whole Spanish force. The townspeople, not suspecting treachery, were not prepared to make effective resistance. A stout smith, confronting the invaders at the gate, almost singly, with his sledgehammer, was stabbed to the heart by Bossu with his own hand. The soldiers having thus gained admittance, rushed through the streets, putting every man to death who offered the slightest resistance. Within a few minutes four hundred citizens were murdered. The fate of the women, abandoned now to the outrage of a brutal soldiery, was worse than death. The capture of Rotterdam is infamous for the same crimes which blacken the record of every Spanish triumph in the Netherlands.
The important town of Flushing, on the Isle of Walcheren, was first to vibrate with the patriotic impulse given by the success at Brill. The Seigneur de Herpt, a warm partisan of Orange, excited the burghers assembled in the marketplace to drive the small remnant of the Spanish garrison from the city. A little later upon the same day a considerable reinforcement arrived before the walls. The duke had determined, although too late, to complete the fortress which had been commenced long before to control the possession of this important position at the mouth of the western Scheld. The troops who were to resume this too long intermitted work arrived just in time to witness the expulsion of their comrades. De Herpt easily persuaded the burghers that the die was cast, and that their only hope lay in a resolute resistance. The people warmly acquiesced, while a half-drunken, half-wined fellow in the crowd valiantly proposed, in consideration of a pot of beer, to ascend the ramparts and to discharge a couple of pieces of artillery at the Spanish ships. The offer was accepted, and the vagabond merrily mounting the height, discharged the guns. Strange to relate, the shot thus fired by a lunatic’s hand put the invading ships to flight. A sudden panic seized the Spaniards, the whole fleet stood away at once in the direction of Middelburg, and were soon out of sight.
The next day, however, Antony of Bourgoyne, governor under Alva for the Island of Walcheren, made his appearance in Flushing. Having a high opinion of his own oratorical powers, he came with the intention of winning back with his rhetoric a city which the Spaniards had thus far been unable to recover with their cannon. The great bell was rung, the whole population assembled in the market-place, and Antony, from the steps of the town-house, delivered a long oration, assuring the burghers, among other asseverations, that the king, who was the best natured prince in all Christendom, would forget and forgive their offenses if they returned honestly to their duties.
The effect of the governor’s eloquence was much diminished, however, by the interlocutory remarks of De Herpt and a group of his adherents. They reminded the people of the king’s good nature, of his readiness to forget and to forgive, as exemplified by the fate of Horn and Egmont, of Berghen and Montigny, and by the daily and almost hourly decrees of the Blood-Council. Each well-rounded period of the governor was greeted with ironical cheers. The oration was unsuccessful. “Oh, citizens, citizens!” cried at last the discomfited Antony, “ye know not what ye do. Your blood be upon your own heads; the responsibility be upon your own hearts for the fires which are to consume your cities and the desolation which is to sweep your land!” The orator at this impressive point was interrupted, and most unceremoniously hustled out of the city. The government remained in the hands of the patriots.
The party, however, was not so strong in soldiers as in spirit. No sooner, therefore, had they established their rebellion to Alva as an incontrovertible fact, than they sent off emissaries to the Prince of Orange, and to Admiral De la Marck at Brill. Finding that the inhabitants of Flushing were willing to provide arms and ammunition, De la Marck readily consented to send a small number of men, bold and experienced in partisan warfare, of whom he had now collected a larger number than he could well arm or maintain in his present position.
The detachment, two hundred in number, in three small vessels, set sail accordingly from Brill for Flushing, and a wild crew they were, of reckless adventurers under command of the bold Treslong. The expedition seemed a fierce but whimsical masquerade. Every man in the little fleet was attired in the gorgeous vestments of the plundered churches, in gold-embroidered cassocks, glittering mass-garments, or the more somber cowls and robes of Capuchin friars. So sped the early standard bearers of that ferocious liberty which had sprung from the fires in which all else for which men cherish their fatherland had been consumed. So swept that resolute but fantastic band along the placid estuaries of Zealand, waking the stagnant waters with their wild beggar songs and cries of vengeance.
That vengeance found soon a distinguished object. Pacheco, the chief engineer of Alva, who had accompanied the duke in his march from Italy, who had since earned a worldwide reputation as the architect of the Antwerp citadel, had been just dispatched in haste to Flushing to complete the fortress whose construction had been so long delayed. Too late for his work, too soon for his safety, the ill-fated engineer had arrived almost at the same moment with Treslong and his crew. He had stepped on shore, entirely ignorant of all which had transpired, expecting to be treated with the respect due to the chief commandant of the place, and to an officer high in the confidence of the governor-general. He found himself surrounded by an indignant and threatening mob. The unfortunate Italian understood not a word of the opprobrious language addressed to him, but he easily comprehended that the authority of the duke was overthrown. Observing De Ryk, a distinguished partisan officer and privateersman of Amsterdam, whose reputation for bravery and generosity was known to him, he approached him, and drawing a seal ring from his finger, kissed it, and handed it to the rebel chieftain. By this dumb-show he gave him to understand that he relied upon his honor for the treatment due to a gentleman. De Ryk understood the appeal, and would willingly have assured him, at least, a soldier’s death, but he was powerless to do so. He arrested him, that he might be protected from the fury of the rabble; but Treslong, who now commanded in Flushing, was especially incensed against the founder of the Antwerp citadel, and felt a ferocious desire to avenge his brother’s murder upon the body of his destroyer’s favorite. Pacheco was condemned to be hanged upon the very day of his arrival. Having been brought forth from his prison, he begged hard but not abjectly for his life. He offered a heavy ransom, but his enemies were greedy for blood, not for money. It was, however, difficult to find an executioner. The city hangman was absent, and the prejudice of the country and the age against the vile profession had assuredly not been diminished during the five horrible years of Alva’s administration. Even a condemned murderer, who lay in the town-gaol, refused to accept his life in recompense for performing the office. It should never be said, he observed, that his mother had given birth to a hangman. When told, however, that the intended victim was a Spanish officer, the malefactor consented to the task with alacrity, on condition that he might afterwards kill any man who taunted him with the deed.
Arrived at the foot of the gallows, Pacheco complained bitterly of the disgraceful death designed for him. He protested loudly that he came of a house as noble as that of Egmont or Horn, and was entitled to as honorable an execution as theirs had been. “The sword! the sword!” he frantically exclaimed, as he struggled with those who guarded him. His language was not understood, but the names of Egmont and Horn inflamed still more highly the rage of the rabble, while his cry for the sword was falsely interpreted by a rude fellow who had happened to possess himself of Pacheco’s rapier, at his capture, and who now paraded himself with it at the gallows’ foot. “Never fear for your sword, Señor,” cried this ruffian, “your sword is safe enough, and in good hands. Up the ladder with you, Señor; you have no further use for your sword.”
Pacheco, thus outraged, submitted to his fate. He mounted the ladder with a steady step, and was hanged between two other Spanish officers. So perished miserably a brave soldier, and one of the most distinguished engineers of his time, a man whose character and accomplishments had certainly merited for him a better fate. But while we stigmatize as it deserves the atrocious conduct of a few Netherland partisans, we should remember who first unchained the demon of international hatred in this unhappy land, nor should it ever be forgotten that the great leader of the revolt, by word, proclamation, example, by entreaties, threats, and condign punishment, constantly rebuked, and to a certain extent, restrained the sanguinary spirit by which some of his followers disgraced the noble cause which they had espoused.
Treslong did not long remain in command at Flushing. An officer, high in the confidence of the prince, Jerome van ’t Zeraerts, now arrived at Flushing, with a commission to be lieutenant-governor over the whole isle of Walcheren. He was attended by a small band of French infantry, while at nearly the same time the garrison was further strengthened by the arrival of a large number of volunteers from England.