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The Prince Of Orange
Peter The Great
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The Prince Of Orange
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BEGINNING OF THE DUTCH REPUBLIC
A part of the patrimony of Philip II of Spain, on which he entered upon the abdication of his father, Charles V, in 1555, was the sovereignty of the Netherlands. The country embraced under this designation was divided into seventeen provinces, of which Holland and Flanders, a part of the modern Belgium, were the most important. At that time it contained, probably, about 3,000,000 inhabitants.
This small corner of Europe, where originally had been wild morasses, vast belts of woodland, and tracts of sand, and much of which was below the level of the sea at high tide, had become in the course of Centuries of cultivation and improvement, under the hands of an industrious people, a veritable garden spot. But agriculture was no longer the chief industry of the Netherlanders. Commerce and the industrial arts had both enriched them and extended their name to all parts of the civilized world. Flemish skill in the fine arts and in mechanics was unrivaled. The Netherland tapestries and linens were prized over all Europe, and the Flemish shawls and silks rivaled those of India. Trade and the industrial arts combined had built up numerous large cities. Ghent had been able to accommodate on one occasion 6o,000 strangers with their 15,000 horses; Antwerp was the great commercial capital of the world, outranking Venice and second in population only to Paris, and Brussels, at the time of the abdication, numbered 100,000 inhabitants.
Each of these cities had its charter, given it by the lord in whose dominion it had sprung up, which protected it in the exercise of certain rights and privileges. As the cities had grown populous and prosperous they had sought and obtained a voice in the general government. Their representatives, together with the nobles, constituted the Parliamentary Congress of the Nation, known as the States-General. To diminish the power of this body and to curtail the privileges of the chartered towns had been one of the constant aims of Charles V, and in a number of instances he had been only too successful. Ghent, for example, had been punished for its meditated revolt by the annulment of all its charters and privileges, the confiscation of all its public property, while its officers were all henceforward appointed by the Sovereign.
The Protestant religion had early obtained a firm footing in the Netherlands; by far the greater number of the people were followers of Luther and Calvin, and yet nowhere else was heresy so persecuted. In 1521 Charles V issued at Worms a decree against Luther, branding him as a "devil," and declaring that all his disciples should be punished with death and forfeiture of all their goods. This decree was at once carried into effect in the Netherlands. A terrible persecution followed, the Papal inquisition being introduced into the country to assist it. Thousands of men and women were burned at the stake for no other offense than reading the Scriptures, or discussing concerning faith, the sacrament or the Papal authority. In 1553 Mary of Hungary, who was the Emperor's sister and Regent of the Provinces, wrote to her brother that in her opinion all heretics, whether repentant or not, should be persecuted with severity that error should be at once extinguished, care only being taken that the provinces were not entirely depopulated. Two years later an imperial edict, issued at Brussels, condemned all heretics to death, repentant men to be executed, repentant women to be buried alive; non-repentant heretics to be burned. Such was the law which, at the time of Philip's accession to the sovereignty, had been in operation in the Nether-lands for twenty years. It is believed that not fewer than 50,000 victims had been executed under it. And now a fresh tyrant, more bigoted, more devilish than his father, took up and continued this hopeless conflict with heresy. The result was a revolt, which after more than eighty years of warfare, the most inhuman in history, ended finally in the independence of the United Netherlands. The great leader of this revolt was the Prince of Orange.
William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, was of a very high and ancient lineage. The Nassau family first appears in history in the middle of the Eleventh Century. It early divided into two great branches. The elder branch ascended the imperial throne in Germany in the person of Adolph of Nassau, while the younger and more illustrious branch retained the modest little sovereignty of Nassau-Dillenburg, but transplanted itself to the Netherlands, where it obtained large power and possessions.
Henry of Nassau, who inherited the family possessions and title in Luxembourg, Brabant, Flanders, and Holland, had been the confidential friend of the Emperor Charles V, and it was, indeed, mainly through the success of his negotiations that Charles received the imperial crown. This Henry of Nassau espoused the sister of Philibert of Orange, and his son René succeeded Philibert in the little principality of Orange, and thus it passed to the Nassau family. René of Orange was slain in battle, and having no legitimate children, he left his title and estates to his cousin, William of Nassau, who thus at the age of eleven became William IX of Orange. William had four younger brothers, Louis, Adolphus, Henry, and John of Nassau.
Having completed his education at Brussels, William became a page in the household of Charles V, and the Emperor, recognizing his ability, frequently made him a confidant, and selected him for the highest duties. Be-fore he reached the age of twenty-one, in the absence of the Duke of Savoy, he was appointed General-in-Chief of the army on the French frontier. In the ceremony of the abdication of Charles he took a prominent part. The Emperor entered the hall on that occasion leaning upon the shoulder of the Prince.
Upon the conclusion of the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis between Philip II and Henry II of France (1559), the Prince of Orange was sent as one of four hostages to the French court. It was while he was residing here that he earned the nick-name of William the Silent. One day while hunting with Henry in the forest of Vincennes, the Prince and the King found themselves separated from the rest of the party. Henry's mind was full of a great scheme he had just concerted with Philip for extirpating heresy by a general massacre of the Protestants both of France and the Netherlands. Not doubting that the Prince of Orange was in the scheme, he introduced it as a subject of conversation and gave details of the plan. The Prince was horror-struck; yet he controlled his countenance and had the prudence to keep silent. But he formed a resolute purpose to defeat the massacre, and from that hour used all his effort in that direction.
All the signs indicated that an Inquisition had been resolved upon for the Netherlands, more terrible even than that of Spain, and it was therefore much against his will that Orange accepted Philip's appointment of him as General of the mercenaries left in the Nether-lands. Although at the time he was a Catholic, having no sympathy with the reformed faith, he was noble-hearted and detested assassination. One of his first acts as General was to give timely warning to a number of persons whom Philip had expressly ordered him to have put to death.
William was now in his twenty-seventh year, and a widower, his first wife, Anne of Egmont, by whom he had a son and a daughter, being dead. At this time he was disposed for an easy, princely, and joyous life, filled up with banquets, the chase, tournaments, and military duties. He kept an immense establishment and exercised a magnificent hospitality, and so luxurious was his table that Philip himself wrote to beg for the present of his chief cook. This style of living and the outlays occasioned by holding a high office, ran him into debt, though not desperately so, and he took prudent measures to relieve himself from this embarrassment, by reducing his expenses. His demeanor was engaging toward all, and he was "beloved and honored by the whole community." Though called "the Silent," he was in private life the most genial and delightful of companions. As cares pressed more and more heavily upon him in his later life, he lost much of his cheerfulness, but he never became either stern or arrogant.
Philip, having become soon after his accession to power engaged in a war with France, remained in the Netherlands four years until 1559. On taking his departure he left as Regent the Duchess Margaret of Parma, the natural daughter of Charles V. To aid her in her administration of affairs, he appointed three councils, of which the most important was the State Council. It was composed of eight members, among whom were Count Egmont, the Prince of Orange, and Count Horn. Another member of this Council was the Bishop of Arras, subsequently the Cardinal Granvelle, and it soon became apparent that to him belonged the chief power.
We shall hear more of Egmont and Horn. The former, now about thirty-six years old, was "noble, wealthy, handsome, and valiant." He possessed a castle, town, and lordship on the coast of the German ocean in North Holland. He had seen service with Charles V, had been at head of the splendid Embassy which went to England to ask for Philip the hand of Mary Tudor, and he had won for Philip the battle of St. Quentin. Horn also was a distinguished member of the Netherland nobility.
One of the first acts of Philip as Sovereign of the Netherlands had been to reenact the edict of 1550, already referred to, to order its publication every six months in every town and village of the Netherlands, and, moreover, to order that its provisions should be vigorously enforced. Furthermore, a Bull now issued by the Pope empowered the creation of some new bishoprics in the Netherlands, the nominations to which important office were subject to confirmation by the King.
The excitement occasioned throughout the provinces by these measures was intense. Particularly obnoxious were the new bishoprics. Foremost in resisting their creation was the Prince of Orange, who looked upon them as part of "one grand scheme for establishing the cruel Inquisition of Spain." In vain were remonstrances made to the Regent and to Philip. The King was inexorable, and the Bishop of Arras, now Cardinal Granvelle, gave him every support needed. On one point only was any concession obtained from Philip. The mercenaries were withdrawn from the provinces in compliance with a promise which the King had been slow to keep but not until Orange had refused to continue to command them. But the edicts and bishops remained. An Inquisition was thus established in the Netherlands, not subject to the civil authorities, and prepared to do the King's arbitary bidding. Among the Inquisitors, Peter Titelmann was preeminent for his savage cruelty. But we will pass hastily over his horrible torturings and executions with the bald statement that they were many and blood curdling.
Meanwhile the fight in the Council went on, the Cardinal becoming more and more outrageous in his behavior toward his colleagues, while letters passed to and fro between both parties and the . King. Finally Orange, Egmont, and Horn, in a letter to the King, united in saying that they could not act with the Cardinal, and imploring his removal. The Cardinal wrote, too, warning the King that the letter was coming, and advising him how to act. The King consulted the Duke of Alva as to the course to be pursued. "Take off their heads," said Alva, "but first dissemble with them." And that is what Philip resolved to do. The end of this trouble was that Orange, Egmont, and Horn no longer attended the Council, and that Philip began to think it best that the Cardinal should leave the Netherlands, and finally removed him. This brings us to the year 1562.
While these troubles were still in progress in the Council occurred the marriage of William (in 1561) to Princess Anne of Saxony, daughter of the famous elector, Maurice. The bride was a Lutheran, and doubtless she was, partly at least, instrumental in bringing the Prince to accept that faith.
There was joy in the Netherlands after the Cardinal's departure. The hypocritical Philip wrote friendly letters to Orange, Horn, and Egmont. Still the country was in a deplorable state; the laws were trampled under foot; the highest dignitaries received bribes, and no poor man could gain his cause however just. Pardons for the blackest crimes were sold to the highest bidder, while the Inquisition continued its devilish work. Three things William of Orange desired to obtain the abolition of the edicts, liberty to convoke the States-General, and the suppression of the Council of Finance and the Privy Council. To obtain these objects he worked with might and main, but to no purpose.
Strong representations were at this time sent to Philip by the officials of Bruges all Roman Catholics with regard to the lawless and fiendish acts of Titelmann, and the Four Estates of Flanders also represented these acts to Philip in a solemn address. But the King, more than ever determined to expel heresy, refused to interpose, and moreover gave a new order that the decrees of the Council of Trent should be published and enforced throughout the Netherlands decrees which, as far as possible, shut out heretics from the pale of humanity and from heaven.
The Duchess in great embarrassment resolved to send Egmont to Spain as Envoy, and the Prince of Orange declared in Council that Egmont must now tell the King the whole truth viz., that the free Netherlands were determined to vindicate their ancient rights; that the decrees of Trent and the whole machinery of the Inquisition must be abolished, and that his Majesty must be informed of the frightful corruption which existed everywhere.
Egmont went to Spain; but, alas, for the Nether-lands, the King treated him so nicely, seating him at his table, driving him in his carriage, that poor Egmont lost his head and forgot the important part of his mission, and nothing came of it. The King's answer brought by Egmont to the Duchess, was that he was overcome with grief at hearing of the increase of heresy, and that he would die a thousand deaths rather than permit any change of religion.
Soon after fresh letters arrived from Philip confirming his steadfast determination not to relax one tithe from the rigor of the persecutions. Orange was more than ever indignant, and his feelings were shared by the nobles generally. Men began to whisper that it was better to die at once than to live in perpetual dread. Titelmann complained that it was difficult to get officers to act against heretics. The King sent orders that the heretics should therefore be executed at midnight in their dungeons. The poor Duchess was in despair, and herself wrote to Philip that all men were so indignant, it was absolutely necessary that his instructions concerning the persecutions should be altered. But fresh letters came from Philip confirming all his former decrees, and one to Titelmann praising him greatly. Egmont also received a letter from the King saying that weakness in matters of religion was out of place. Such pig-headedness in a monarch is scarcely credible, yet it stands recorded in history.
The terrible tension which Philip's course had produced in the country began now to display itself unmistakably on all sides. A league was formed (in 1566), whose members were both Catholics and Protestants, and who pledged themselves to resist the Inquisition, and to defend each other against the consequences. At the same time they avowed an honest purpose to maintain the King in his sovereignty and to attempt no diminution of his dominion. This league became known, in consequence of a sneering reference to it by one of the Regent's Council, as the "Beggars." William had not been consulted in its formation, yet he exercised great influence over it and succeeded in toning down the bitterness of some of its remonstrances.
Equally significant with this league was the action of the lower classes. Goaded to desperation by persecution, they rose in a mass and set their enemy at defiance. From one end of the country to the other the Reformers began to hold religious meetings in the light of day. In June a crowd of nearly 8,000 persons assembled near Ghent to hear the preaching; and as many as 6,000 near Tournay, while two days afterward 10,000 congregated for the same purpose at the same place. A month later their number had risen to 20,000. The Governor thundered a proclamation against them to no purpose. The Duchess, too, sent hundreds of proclamations in all directions and ordered the instant arrest of the preachers. But all classes had caught the infection, and the crowds of the Reformers outnumbered the Romanists five to one. The magistrates were powerless.
At Antwerp the condition of things had become so serious, that at the urgent request of the Duchess, the Prince of Orange proceeded thither to attempt by his presence to allay the excitement. He was received with every demonstration of joy by all parties, and during his stay in the city he succeeded in preventing the threatened revolt. The Reformers, out of deference to him, abstained from holding their meetings within the city, but they still held them outside the walls.
From Antwerp the Prince was recalled by the Duchess, against his better judgment, to Brussels, and during his absence occurred the famous destruction of the churches. The occasion of the uprising, which began at Antwerp, was a religious festival known as the Ommegang, in which a colossal image of the Virgin was carried in procession through the streets. A rabble followed the image, insulting it with jeering words, and the ceremony ended hurriedly. The next morning an - excited crowd, still jeering at the image, collected before the cathedral. It required but a spark to kindle a riot. The image was dragged forth from the cathedral and demolished. Then began a general work of destruction; statues, pictures, ornaments, were battered to pieces. All night long the sack of the churches went on; thirty were wrecked before morning broke. The contagion of destruction spread, and in a few days 400 churches were sacked in Flanders alone.
In this alarming state of affairs the Duchess, helpless from the lack of military support, was compelled to compromise with the people, through the medium of the "Beggars." They were granted liberty of worship in places where it had already been exercised. Thus quiet was restored.
When Philip heard of these outrageous acts of the heretics of the Netherlands his rage was beyond all bounds. Two Envoys from the Regent, Baron Montigny and Marquis Berghen, were at his court. They had been received with apparent cordiality, but unlike Egmont, they had used plain language, and now the angry Philip cast them both into prison on charges of treason. They never emerged from their prison.
Quiet had temporarily been restored in the Nether-lands, but letters received from Philip proved clearly that he had not profited by the warning of the late uprising.
The Prince of Orange began to think of arming his country for resistance. A conference took place between himself, Horn, Egmont, Hoogstraaten, and Count Louis of Nassau, to discuss the advisability of such a course, but the conference came to nothing. Both Horn and Egmont expressed their resolve to be stanch to Philip, and without them Orange could do nothing. He resigned, however, all his offices, and henceforward employed a spy on Philip's actions.
Valenciennes, a town in the province of Hainault, held out against the King and was invested by a force sent by the Regent. A long siege followed. During the progress of this siege occurred an outbreak at Antwerp, which the Prince of Orange, who had again gone thither, at the entreaty of the Duchess, quieted by the mere force of his presence, though at the imminent risk of his life. Soon after this Valenciennes surrendered and was given over for pillage and murder to the Re-gent's brutal soldiery. All of the important towns now accepted the garrisons that were imposed upon them, even Antwerp, as soon as Orange had left it.
Gloomy indeed was the outlook for the Netherlands. The Prince of Orange decided to. leave the country, where he had ceased to be useful, and to withdraw to Germany. Before doing so he held a last interview with Egmont, at which he sought in vain to open the Count's eyes to the danger which encompassed him. Philip had resolved on sending to the Netherlands the Duke of Alva, to replace the Duchess of Parma as Regent, and Alva would bring with him an army of 10,000 men; it was easy to see through the King's design.
The Prince of Orange left Antwerp on the 11th of April (1567) and went to his family seat at Dillenburg; nor did he leave a moment too soon. Philip had already given orders to arrest him as soon as possible, and not let his trial last more than twenty-four hours.
The Duke of Alva arrived at Brussels toward the close of the summer of 1567. This experienced and successful Spanish General, who won for himself by the severity of his administration of the Netherlands eternal infamy, was now in his sixtieth year. The historian Motley, from whose pages this short story of the Prince of Orange has been compiled, has painted his character in a few forcible words: "He did not combine a great variety of vices, but those he had were colossal, and he possessed no virtues. . . . His professed eulogists admitted his enormous avarice, while the world has agreed that such an amount of stealth and ferocity, of patient vindictiveness, and universal blood-thirstiness, were never found in a savage beast of the forest, and but rarely in a human breast."
One of the first acts of Alva was to arrest Horn and Egmont. The arrest was made in a manner peculiarly infamous, both of these nobles having been invited to a dinner given by the Duke's son, and at which the father was likewise a guest, and being seized directly after the entertainment. Both were, of course, foredoomed to death, and the trials which followed, on trumped-up charges of treason, before judges who were all tools of Alva, only made more conspicuous the villainy of the murders.
Alva's next move was to establish a special tribunal, which soon acquired the historical name of the "Blood Council," for the trial of crimes committed during the recent troubles. It was on the 20th of September that the Blood Council held its first sitting, after which Alva worked seven hours daily at its deadly board. We will pass hurriedly by its horrible proceedings. They do not make pleasant reading. Suffice it to say that "the whole country became a charnel-house, the death bell tolled every hour in every village, and that there was not a family out of mourning, the spirit of the Nation seemed broken."
We come now to the outbreak to the beginning of a war of which no man then living was to see the end. Early in the summer of 1568 the Prince of Orange published a declaration of the causes which had led him to make war upon Philip, and set at work to raise an army in Germany. In the following spring he entered the Netherlands with the plan of attacking his enemy at three points. His first campaign was a sad failure. The first two attempts were signally unsuccessful. A third, directed by Louis of Nassau, fared somewhat better. Louis won a signal victory over the lieutenant of Alva near Dam. But lacking the means to keep his troops paid, he was unable to follow up his success and went into a fortified camp near Groningen.
Alva now took the field in person. But before he set out from Brussels he took the precaution of executing both Horn and Egmont. With an army of 15,000 men he marched to Groningen, where he gained a decisive victory over the ill-paid, undisciplined army of Louis. In fact, the fight was virtually a massacre, only seven of the Spaniards being killed, it is said, while of Louis' men 5,000, or nearly half, were slaughtered.
And now recommenced the work of persecution and blood-shed, more hotly than ever; but let us pass this over.
The Prince now issued a formal declaration of war against Alva, in which he declared his purpose to restore to the Netherlands the freedom they had enjoyed before the Burgundian. rule. He promised them to drive the Spaniards forever from the country a noble purpose, but to accomplish it he needed money. A lack of means was one of the great difficulties with which the Prince of Orange struggled from first to last. Already to raise his first army he had sold all his jewels, plate, and furniture of royal magnificence. Late in September he crossed the Meuse and entered Brabant. But he was unable to bring Alva to an engagement, and as no city opened its gates to receive the deliverers, that which Alva had hoped came to pass; the Prince's army began to melt away. He disbanded his men, having first given pledges for the payment of arrears due, and with ',zoo followers, and attended by his two brothers, Louis and Henry, set out to join the army of Condé in France.
Alva again had a free hand, and he used it to impose new and unheard-of taxes upon the people in the grossest defiance of their constitutional rights. Remonstrances and resistance followed, naturally, and thus were afforded abundant opportunities for confiscation of property. Finally the matter was settled by the consent of the provinces to pay 2,000,000 florins for a release from these taxes for two years.
Meanwhile Alva, aware that he had made a host of enemies, and fearing, too, that his credit with Philip was on the wane, wrote to his Sovereign begging to be recalled. "I should esteem it a great favor," he wrote, and he added, "At present and for the future your Majesty will be more strictly obeyed than any of your predecessors, and all this has been accomplished without violence." Philip began to consider whether it would not be well to recall him. Even the Cardinal Granvelle had urged upon the King the necessity of sending a general pardon to the Netherlanders. Therefore in the year 1570 an amnesty was announced, but one which contained so many exceptions that no individual could escape if it pleased the Government to take his life.
In this same year (1570) a terrible inundation added to the calamities of the unhappy Netherlanders. From Flanders to Friesland the whole coast was swept by the sea. The great dyke between Amsterdam and Meyden was broken in twelve places. In Friesland the land far and wide was changed into an angry sea. The destruction of human life, and of animals and property was incalculable.
Before setting out for France Orange had issued commissions to various sea-faring men, authorizing them to cruise against the Spanish trading ships. These men became the terrible "Beggars of the Sea." The chief of these Beggars was De la Marck, a friend of Egmont, who had sworn not to cut his hair nor shave his beard until the Count's murder had been avenged. De la Marck made a descent upon the coast of Holland with a fleet of twenty-four vessels, and captured without opposition the town of Brill, near the mouth of the Meuse, though his whole force amounted to only 250 men. By this easy conquest, made in the name of the Prince of Orange, was laid the foundation of the Dutch Republic. Alva sent a force to recapture Brill; but the defenders cut the dykes and flooded the country, rendering approach to the walls impossible. Thus the town remained in the hands of the friends of Orange.
Flushing, at the mouth of the Scheldt, now declared for Orange, drove out the Spanish garrison, repulsed Alva's attempt to retake the town, and opened communication with Brill. Soon afterward the Prince appointed a trusty officer as Lieutenant-Governor over the Island of Walcheren, on which Flushing is situated. A small band of French infantry accompanied this officer, who was soon reënforced by numbers of volunteers from England. There was subsequently frightful warfare upon this island, but it was held for the Republic.
Nearly all the important towns of Holland and Zealand now raised the Prince's standard. Then followed city after city in Gelderland, Overyssel, and Utrecht; all the important towns of Friesland some without a struggle, some after a short siege. None of these places were, however, permitted to keep their freedom without a struggle. Indeed all did not succeed in retaining it, though many did, and Harlem, Leyden, and Alkmaar, are names to be perpetually honored. The freed cities chose new magistrates, who took an oath of fidelity to Orange as the King's stadtholder, and engaged to resist Alva, the Inquisition and the illegal taxes to the last. While the Protestant was the prevailing religion in these towns, it was expressly stipulated by Orange that the Catholics should be allowed full liberty of worship.
The Prince was now engaged in raising money and troops in Germany, but he directed even the minutest affairs in the Netherlands. His brother Louis suddenly surprised and captured the important town of Mons, the Capital of Hainault, being aided by a conspiracy formed within the town. Alva at once ordered the investment of the town, and sent 4,000 troops to accomplish it. This was in the spring of 1572.
Alva had already been superseded, at his own repeated request, and on the loth of June his successor, the Duke of Medina Coeli, with forty vessels and 2,000 Spanish troops, knowing nothing of the altered state of affairs, arrived off Blankenberg. His fleet was dispersed and he himself came near being captured, but finally succeeded in reaching Brussels. Less fortunate was a fleet from Portugal which soon after arrived. The vessels were ladened with money, spices, and other rich merchandise, and all save three or four were made prizes; the largest booty yet seized. One thousand Spanish soldiers were taken and 500,000 crowns in money, and it was believed that this money would maintain the war for two years.
Orange had assembled in Germany an army of 15,000 foot, to which was added 3,000 Netherlanders, and with this force he entered the Provinces. Having first taken, after a month siege, the city of Roermond, he advanced to raise the siege of Mons. He had but just crossed the River Meuse, in August, when there occurred a terrible event, which at the same time appalled all Europe and crushed his hopes the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Hitherto he had looked to France for aid. Coligny had promised it in the name of the King. But now Coligny was slain, the boy King of France, Charles IX, was governed by his mother, Catherine de' Medici, and all her sympathy and aid would be for the Catholic cause of Spain. Still Orange attempted to relieve his brother in Mons. While before this place he came near being taken prisoner in a night assault made upon his camp by the Spaniards. After this disaster he drew off his forces and soon after, being in sore straits for money, he disbanded his army and retired to Holland, the only province which still remained faithful to him.
Louis was now obliged to negotiate for the surrender of Mons. He was permitted to retire from the place with his soldiers and all of the townsmen who chose to accompany him. The protection of the lives and the property of the townspeople was stipulated, but no sooner had the possession of the city been gained, than it was turned over to massacre, pillage, and outrage. With the fall of Mons the revolution throughout the Southern Provinces was at an end.
The war in the Northern Provinces was still prosecuted with vigor, and frightful atrocity by the Spaniards, led by the son of the Duke of Alva. The Island of Walcheren was recovered by them, after the brilliant and hazardous feat of a march of ten miles across the "drowned land," over which at low tide the waters stood from four to six feet deep. A delay in the passage until the return of the tide would have involved the destruction of the entire army.
As a sample of the method of the warfare now raging in the Netherlands, take this instance of the fate of the little city of Naarden, on the coast of the Zuyder Zee. The town had capitulated with the assurance that the lives and property of the inhabitants would be safe. "After a sumptuous feast, prepared by the citizens, had been partaken of by the Spaniards, the population was assembled by the ringing of a bell in the Gast Huis Church, and immediately fired upon, while at the same time the building was set on fire. The horrors, the chopping with axes, which went on in the streets, are indescribable. A hundred who escaped and fled were overtaken, hung up by the feet over the snow-covered ground, and left to perish. The principal burgomaster was tortured by exposing the soles of his feet to a slow fire. He agreed to pay a large ransom, but hardly had he furnished it than he was hanged in his own doorway." By this method of warfare the whole country was cowed, except Holland and Zealand.
Amsterdam was the only town in Holland which still held out against Alva. Between Amsterdam and the German ocean lies Harlem. Alva resolved upon the capture of this town, and sent Don Frederic de Toledo, his son, to invest it with 30,000 men. The garrison of Harlem consisted of but 4,000 men, and the fortifications were not strong; but the women and children joined in the defense, and for seven months Harlem sustained a siege, the most memorable in history. In vain did Orange exert himself to throw reinforcements into the town; it was compelled to surrender (July 12, 1573), and then followed the usual massacre. Two thousand three hundred citizens were murdered in cold blood. It had cost the Spaniards to take the town the lives of 12,000 of their best fighting men, not to speak of the cost in money. They were less fortunate in their attempts to take Alkmar, farther north on the same peninsula which separated the Zuyder Zee from the German ocean. The authorities of the town had deter-mined with the consent of Orange, to open the dykes and flood the country, and Don Frederic, having discovered their intentions to drown him out, raised the siege and drew off his army.
All this time the Prince of Orange was putting forth every effort in behalf of his country. By the spirit he infused into the people he prevented them from being quite overwhelmd by successive disasters. It was not only battles and sieges that he had to direct, but all the cares of the Government devolved upon him. Particularly difficult was the work of raising money and troops. All his own means had been exhausted. He was in daily correspondence with the principal courts of Europe, that of Spain among the number. He negotiated with Charles of France, and had still hopes of forming an alliance with that monarch. It was in the month of October of this year that the Prince publicly joined the Reformed Church at Dort.
In the following month Alva took his departure from the Netherlands. He boasted that he had caused 1S,600 persons to be executed. The number of those whom he had caused to perish by battle, starvation, and massacre could not be reckoned. He had gained the hatred of all men, and he even feared to travel through France, lest he should be shot in his carriage. He had become deeply involved in debt while in the Netherlands, and he left without paying one of his creditors. This wholesale murderer and thief afterward fell into disgrace with Philip, who employed him as a General in the war with Portugal. He died of a lingering disease in 1582.
In October, 1573, the army of Requesens, the new Governor of the Provinces, laid siege to the town of Leyden. This was one of the most beautiful cities of the Netherlands, situated on the Rhine on one of the forks through which it enters the German ocean in the midst of broad and smiling pastures, gardens, and orchards, at a distance of some fifteen miles from the sea. A force of 8,000 men invested the city, while within the walls there were only five companies of the burgher guard, and a small body of free-booters. The town was, however, well defended by its commandant, John Van der Does, and the siege continued all through the winter.
In order to relieve Leyden Louis of Nassau raised in Germany a small army with which he crossed the Rhine in March, in a heavy snow storm, and advanced toward Nimeguen, between the River Rhine and the Meuse. Here he was met by Avila, the Spanish commander, and a fierce battle ensued, which ended in a defeat of Louis' army. Louis and his brother Henry were both slain. The army was entirely annihilated, those who were not slain in battle being drowned in the marshes or burned in the farm houses to which they fled.
This defeat and the death of his two brothers was a terrible blow to the Prince of Orange. Still, he hastened to encourage the citizens of Leyden, while he continued to make efforts for their relief. His own forces, encamped at Delft and Rotterdam, were insufficient for offensive operations, and seeing no hope of adding to their number, he determined to execute a plan which he had long meditated as a last resort, namely, to break the dykes and let the ocean in upon the enemy. The damage would be enormous, for the whole country would be devastated; but since the destruction of Louis' army there was no land force to beat back the foe. The sea once admitted, his fleet, which had already proved its superiority over that of the Spaniards, could sail up to the very walls of Leyden.
On the 21st of August the citizens of Leyden addressed a letter to Orange, saying that they had fulfilled their promise to hold out three months; that their malt cake would only last four days more, and after that they must starve. The Prince was then lying ill at Rotterdam, of a fever induced by overwork and anxiety.
Still he dictated a reply from his sick bed, telling them that the dykes were all pierced and the water was rising.
To get the ocean from the outer dyke to the walls of Leyden was the work of more than a week. There were several dykes to be pierced. As the water flowed through the breaches and flooded the land beyond, the fleet followed, the new-made sea being deep enough to float it. As the fleet neared the town the difficulties increased, for the waters were shallower and it was necessary to follow the canals. But a tempest came opportunely to pile up the waters and the fleet rode forward. Then a fierce midnight battle took place among the flooded orchards and farm houses, where the enemy's vessels were soon sunk and their crews drowned. Next, there were two forts to be taken, both well supplied with soldiers and cannon. But from one of them the Spaniards, seized with a panic, fled, and many were drowned as they fled. In the other there were signs of a determination to resist, and Boisot, the Admiral of the fleet, wrote a despondent letter to Orange, for it seemed impossible either to pass the guns of the fort or to carry it by storm. Night descended, pitch dark, a night of terrible anxiety for the Admiral and of despair for the starving people of Leyden. In the darkness lights were seen flitting across the waste of waters. What did they portend? Day broke, and Boisot prepared to assault the fort, but a deathlike stillness prevailed. For a time he believed that Leyden had been taken in the night. But presently a boy was seen waving his cap from the top of the fort. The Spaniards had fled in the darkness, and Leyden was saved.
Spain had spent enormous sums of money in the war; her finances were crippled, and she was willing to treat with her rebellious subjects. Peace negotiations were opened at Breda in March, 1575; but Philip would make no concessions satisfactory to Orange and the States-General, and nothing came of the negotiations.
In the summer of 1575 a union was established between Holland and Zealand. In the articles of union drawn up, it was declared that the Prince of Orange, as sovereign, should have absolute power in all matters concerning the defense of the country, which he was to govern in the name of the King. He was to protect the exercise of the Reformed religion, and to suppress the exercise of the Romish religion, without, however, permitting that search should be made into any person's belief. The Prince insisted that the words "religion at variance with the Gospel," should be used instead of the words "Romish religion." This being granted, he formally accepted the government on this basis.
Still the war went on; and on the whole the Spaniards were the more successful. The nobles and deputies of Holland seeing no prospect of satisfactory terms of peace with Philip, voted "that it was their duty to abandon the King, as a tyrant who sought to oppress and destroy his subjects, and that it behooved them to seek another protector." The sovereignty of Holland was offered successively to Elizabeth of England, and to Charles IX of France, only to be declined by each. It was now that a sublime, but desperate idea filled the Prince's head, viz., to call out the vessels of every kind, and to take on board the whole population of Holland together with all their movable property, to burn the windmills, pierce the dykes, open the sluices in every direction, and restore the country forever to the ocean and seek new homes in some distant land. The unexpected death of Requesens, the King's Governor, prevented the execution of this project.
After the death of the Governor the affairs of the Netherlands were for a time left by Philip in the hands of the Council of State. Orange thought the opportunity favorable for opening a correspondence with the leading men throughout the Provinces, for thus far only two of the seventeen, namely, Holland and Zealand, had ventured upon resistance to the King's arbitrary measures. What the Prince desired was the convocation of the States-General, which, by a strong and united protest, might yet, he conceived, move the King from his obstinate position. An event a frightful event which now occurred, aided Orange in this effort to arouse the Southern States from their apathy. The Spanish soldiers, whose pay was in long arrears, mutinied, imprisoned their officers and started on a lawless round of pillage and murder through the Lower Provinces. Many towns and cities were sacked by these marauders, Catholics and Protestants being alike the sufferers, and horrible atrocities were committed. Among these unfortunate towns was Antwerp. Three thousand Spanish soldiers succeeded in effecting an entrance into the town (Nov. 4, 1576), set fire to the houses and began a fiendish work of murder and pillage. During a whole day this "Spanish Fury," as it has been called, went on despite the utmost efforts of the authorities, backed by the burghers, to check it. The next day Antwerp presented a ghastly sight indeed. The magnificent marble Townhouse was a ruin of blackened walls; the most splendid part of the city had been consumed; and dead bodies lay everywhere. Six millions of property had been destroyed, besides the immense amount of movable treasure which had been carried off by the marauders.
Already a convention had assembled at Ghent, in which were representatives from fourteen of the Provinces. A plan of union was now drawn up, which became the basis of the celebrated "Union of Brussels," formed in the following January (1577). The object of this important agreement which was signed by all the leading men in all the provinces was to compass the immediate expulsion of the Spaniards, the maintenance of the Catholic religion and at the same time the suspension of all edicts against heresy, the support of the King's authority and the defense of the constitution of the Fatherland.
In the formation of this "Union" as well as in the treaty previously signed at Ghent, the Prince of Orange had taken a leading part. He knew well that no one appointed by the King as Regent would observe either treaty. Don John of Austria, the natural son of Charles V, had just been appointed to that office. It was morally certain that the new Regent would attempt to cajole the States-General with fair promises which he had no intention of keeping, and Orange advised, therefore, that an attempt should be made to seize Don John and hold him as a hostage to be used for exhorting from Philip the con-cessions which the States-General demanded. He was therefore greatly irritated when in February, the States-General, after a long negotiation with Don John before he was permitted to enter the Provinces, signed, without consulting Orange, the "Perpetual Edict," a document drawn up in Philip's name, and which, with a show of promising much, really guaranteed nothing.
The affairs of the Netherlands during the ensuing seven years are so multifarious and confused, so many new actors appearing upon the scene, that it would be impracticable to attempt to follow them in detail here. Throughout this time the States-General continued to sit and were nominally in authority, but often in conflict with the Regent, first with Don John and later with the Duke of Parma. Orange was really the controlling spirit. "This is the pilot who guides the bark," wrote Don John to Philip. "He (Orange) can alone save or destroy it."
Don John was, therefore, exceedingly desirous of conciliating the Prince. As soon as he had fairly entered upon his office as Governor he made many overtures to him. "I am negotiating with him," Don John wrote to Philip. "Things have reached such a pass that 'tis necessary to make a virtue of necessity."
But the most splendid offers which Don John could make, in the name of Philip, failed to move the Prince in the slightest from his devotion to the welfare of his country. He had now the opportunity to gain all the world has to offer riches, power, pomp, luxury, rewards for himself and his family, in exchange for poverty, unnumbered anxieties, outlawry, continual risk of assassination, if only he would consent to betray the hearts who had trusted him; but never for an instant did he hesitate as to the choice to make. In replying to the overtures of Don John, Orange thanked his Highness with grave irony for inviting him to a tranquil life, but he added that the promises he had made to the poor Netherlanders were of more importance to him.
Don John entered Brussels on the first of May, and was not long in becoming involved in trouble with the States-General, who charged him justly with not fulfilling all the terms of the "Perpetual Edict." He soon after retired to Namur, the citadel of which town he treacherously got possession of. The Prince of Orange was now invited to Brussels, and he became virtually the Governor of the Netherlands. The States-General sought his advice in all matters and deferred to his judgment. And even when, toward the close of the year, the young Arch-duke Matthias, of Austria, who had been invited to the Netherlands by some of the Catholic nobles who were jealous of Orange, had received from the States-General an appointment as Governor-General of the Provinces, the Prince, who was made his Lieutenant, still held the real power, the Archduke being simply a figure head.
But where was Don John all this time? He was at Namur, half frenzied with rage, but not idle. Determined to reestablish by force the King's authority in the provinces, he had been gathering an army together which, by the end of the year, amounted to 20,000 men. The States on their side had mustered an army of nearly the same number of troops, but not so well officered or disciplined. The two armies met at Gemblours, nine miles from Namur, on the last day of January (1578), and the Netherlanders were utterly routed. In an hour and a half the affair was over; they were exterminated, while hardly a Spaniard was wounded.
The result of this victory was that a dozen or more towns of the Lower Provinces fell into the hands of Don John. But it also roused the States-General to a more strenuous effort. All parties united in conferring upon Orange full power to act in the emergency; a new army was collected, and in August another engagement took place, in the plain between Herenthals and Lier. After eight hours of hard fighting Philip's troops were obliged to retire from the field. Don John fell back upon Namur. Here, not long after, he died of fever, having been watched over in his last illness by his nephew, Alexander of Parma, whom he appointed his successor.
To give the complete story of the Netherlands in the six years which intervened between these events and the death of the Prince of Orange, it would be necessary to speak of the aid furnished by Queen Elizabeth, of England; of the Duke of Alençon, who succeeded Matthias as Governor-General; of negotiations with France, as well as of continued negotiations with Philip; of tumults in Ghent, where the populace rose on the Catholics and smote their images and pictures; of the siege and capture of Maestricht by Parma's soldiers, followed, as usual, by terrible barbarities; and, sadder still, of treason among some of the Prince's trusted followers. But already we have studied details sufficient to give us an idea of the Prince's method and of his untiring energy and of the terrible character of the warfare. One important result of the struggle must, however, not be passed over. Toward the close of the year 1578 the Walloon Provinces, in which the Catholic religion was in the ascendency, namely, Artois, Hainault, Lille, Douay, and Orchies, made their peace with Philip, and in the following January formed a separate league together. This move induced the Prince to seek to consolidate more firmly the Provinces which were still in rebellion. In December 1578 he laid before the States of Holland and Zealand the project of a new union with Gelderland, Ghent, Friesland, Utrecht, Overyssel, and Groningen. This treaty was published the 29th of January, 1579, from the Town House of Utrecht, and it is forever memorable as the foundation of the Netherland Republic. In the following May the articles of the union were duly signed. The Prince of Orange was chosen the first Stadtholder, which office he continued to hold during the short remainder of his life.
Don John of Austria had attempted in vain to bribe the Prince of Orange; the Duke of Parma determined, unhappily not in vain, that he should be assassinated. Such was the advice he gave to Philip, and such had always been the counsel of Cardinal Granvelle. Accordingly, the famous Ban was drawn up by Philip and Granvelle, and published in the Netherlands, June, 1580, a document which will ever remain a lasting monument to the infamy of both. It accused the Prince of many crimes, of rebellion, of introducing liberty of conscience, of a new conspiracy called the Utrecht Union, of violating the treaty of Ghent, etc. For these good reasons he was declared a traitor, and a reward of 25,000 crowns in gold was offered to whosoever would deliver the said Prince to his Majesty "dead of alive;" and, as a further inducement, the clause was added: "If he (the assassin) have committed any crime, however heinous, we promise to pardon. him, and if he be not already noble, we will ennoble him for his valor."
Orange answered this Ban by the defiance of his "Apology," one of the most impressive documents in history, which was sent to most of the crowned heads of Europe. In this paper he went minutely over all of the unwarrantable and infamous acts which Philip had committed against the Netherlands and against humanity, while, as to the allegiance which he owed to the King of Spain, he adverted to the fact that the Nassaus had occupied illustrious positions and had ruled as sovereigns in the Netherlands when Philip's family, the Hapsburgs, were only obscure squires in Switzerland.
A most important step was now taken by the Provinces after their long hesitation. On the 26th of July, 1581, the United Netherlands assembled at The Hague, solemnly declared their independence and renounced their allegiance to Philip forever.
The first attempt on the Prince's life the first, at least, to be nearly successful, for he had several times narrowly escaped this danger was made on Sunday, March 18, 1582. He was shot with a pistol in his house, in the midst of guests, by a vulgar-looking youth, who had approached him on the pretense of offering a petition. The Prince was struck under the right ear, the ball coming out under the left jaw and carrying away two teeth. The assassin was instantly cut down by the rapiers of the bystanders. The young man proved to be a servant of one Gasper Anastro, a Spanish merchant of Antwerp, who succeeded in making good his escape, though his secretary, who was proved to have been an accomplice, was seized, tried, and executed. The Prince's wound was a dangerous one, and his life was for several days despaired of.
On Tuesday, the loth of July, 1584, occurred the ever memorable assassination of the Prince of Orange by Balthazar Gerard. The scene was at Delft, in the Prince's own house. He had risen from the table where he had dined with the members of his family and a single guest, and was mounting the stairs leading to his private apartment, when a man emerged from the shadow of an archway and discharged a pistol full at his heart. Three balls entered his body, one passing quite through and hitting the opposite wall. The Prince exclaimed : "O my God, have mercy on my soul; have mercy on this poor people." These were the last words he uttered.
The murderer escaped through a side door; but was pursued and captured. He proved to be a man whom the Prince had often befriended, and who had gone under the assumed name of François Guion. He had professed to be the son of a man who had suffered death as a Reformer, and he had made himself notable by his pretense of great piety. It came out upon investigation, that he was the son of a Catholic father who was still living; that he had harbored his design upon the Prince's life for seven years, and, furthermore, that the Duke of Parma was aware of the attempt he was about to make. The poor wretch was put to the most excruciating torture, and was finally executed with great barbarity, four days after the performance of his villainous act.
William of Orange was four times married. By his first wife, Anne of Egmont, he had one son, Philip, and one daughter, Mary; by his second wife, Anne of Saxony, he had one son, the celebrated Maurice of Nassau, and two daughters; by his third wife, Charlotte of Bourbon, he had six daughters; and by his fourth wife, Louisa de Coligny, he had one son, Frederic Henry, afterward Stadtholder of the Republic which his noble father had founded.
The Prince had just entered upon his fifty-second year at the time of his assassination. His health was excellent, his constitution unimpaired, and he had every prospect of a long and useful life. Had he lived, there was every reason to hope for a union of the whole country with the exception of the Walloon Provinces. But in the year following his death Ghent and Antwerp fell before the scientific efforts of Parma, and their fall helped to complete the separation of the Netherlands. The great principle for which Orange had fought was toleration in religion. He had always insisted that the Catholics as well as the Protestants should be suffered to exercise their worship unmolested, and he lived long enough to see this principle fully established in the freed Provinces.
William the Silent, like all other great men, has had his detractors. He has been charged with being of a timid temperament, with being ambitious. As to the first charge, no man who can face and expostulate with a howling mob as the Prince of Orange did at Antwerp, or who can traverse crowded thoroughfares without an escort, knowing that a price has been set upon his head, merits to be called timid; and as to the second charge, the sort of ambition which renders a man willing to sacrifice a princely fortune, almost to beggar himself, to free his country from tyranny, which impels him to spurn with contempt offers of power, and pomp, to refuse to accept the sovereignty of a country and to rest content with the plain title of "Father William" this is the sort of ambition which the world delights to honor.