Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/474

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


High Admiral of France (the Bastard of Bourbon), accompanied by Commines, to demand the surrender of all fiefs of the French Crown, and in the first instance of the towns on the Somme. His plans were vast, but according to Commines the reverse of vague. Namur, Hainault, and other parts near his borders were to be made over to some of his French vassals, and Brabant and Holland to German princes whom he would thus bind to his alliance. The French fief of Flanders he must have intended to secure for his Crown, of which it would still have been one of the brightest jewels. The towns on the Somme were one after the other-some by golden keys-opened to him; and the defection of Philip de Crevecceur placed him in possession of the Boulonnais. Mary's letter of January 23 to the ducal council at Dijon, protesting against French encroachments in the duchy of Burgundy and the Franche Comte, held out no prospect of armed resistance on her own part; and indeed any attempt of the kind was out of the question. At Ghent, where she was detained whether she would or not, and in the other towns of Flanders and Brabant, the confirmation of the tidings of her father's death had been received with general feelings of relief and joy, and throughout the Netherlands it was resolved to make the most of the opportunity.

By the beginning of February, the Four Members of Flanders, the three Estates of Brabant and Hainault, and the deputies of the States of Holland were assembled at Ghent. In the hands of these representatives of the vier landen, who explicitly took it upon themselves to act on behalf of the country at large, the executive remained till the Austrian marriage, and their united action imposed upon the lady of Burgundy the grant of the great charter of Netherlands liberties, and of the special charters which supplemented it. The importance of the promises comprised in the Groote Privilegie of February 10, 1477, lies not so much in its sweeping invalidation of all previous ducal ordinances antagonistic to communal privileges, or even in the assertion of principles more or less indigenous to all the Low Countries under Burgundian rule, as in the announcement of a definite machinery for their future government. It was, no doubt, of moment to provide that no war could be declared and no marriage concluded by the ducal sovereign without the consent of the States; to establish the necessity of their approval for fresh taxes, to confine the tenure of office to natives, to insist on the use of the national tongue in all public documents, to secure to the several provinces the control of the government's commercial policy and a check upon the use of its military force. But the chief political significance of the new constitution was directly constructive. While abolishing the central judicial Court or Parliament of Malines, it reorganised the Grand Council, attached to the person of the sovereign, on a broad representative basis. It was to consist, in addition to the princes of the dynasty,