The Rise of the Dutch Republic/Part 1/Chapter 2
- Sketch of Philip the Second — Characteristics of Mary Tudor — Portrait of Philip — His council — Rivalry of Ruy Gomez and Alva — Character of Ruy Gomez Queen Mary of Hungary — Sketch of Philibert of Savoy — Truce of Vaucelles — Secret treaty between the Pope and Henry II. — Rejoicings in the Netherlands on account of the Peace — Purposes of Philip — Re-enactment of the edict of 1550 — The King's dissimulation — "Request" to the provinces — Infraction of the truce in Italy — Character of Pope Paul IV. — Intrigues of Cardinal Caraffa — War against Spain resolved upon by France — Campaign in Italy — Amicable siege of Rome — Pence with the pontiff — Hostilities on the Flemish border — Coligny foiled at Douay — Sacks Lens — Philip in England — Queen Mary engages in the war — Philip's army assembled at Givet — Portrait of Count Egmont — The French army under Coligny and Montmorency — Siege of St. Quentin — Attempts of the constable to relieve the city — Battle of St. Quentin — Hesitation and timidity of Philip — City of St. Quentin taken and sacked — Continued indecision of Philip — His army disbanded — Campaign of the Duke of Guise — Capture of Calais — Interview between Cardinal de Lorraine and the Bishop of Arran — Secret combinations for a league between France and Spain against heresy — Languid movements of Guise — Foray of De Thermes on the Flemish frontier — Battle of Gravelines — Popularity of Egmont — Enmity of Alva.
Philip the Second had received the investiture of Milan and the crown of Naples, previously to his marriage with Mary Tudor. The imperial crown he had been obliged, much against his will, to forego. The archduchy of Austria, with the hereditary German dependencies of his father's family, had been transferred by the Emperor to his brother Ferdinand, on the occasion of the marriage of that prince with Anna, only sister of King Louis of Hungary. Ten years afterwards, Ferdinand (King of Hungary and Bohemia since the death of Louis, slain in 1526 at the battle of Mohacz) was elected King of the Romans, and steadily refused all the entreaties afterwards made to him in behalf of Philip, to resign his crown and his succession to the Empire, in favor of his nephew. With these diminutions, Philip had now received all the dominions of his father. He was King of all the Spanish kingdoms and of both the Sicilies. He was titular King of England, France, and Jerusalem. He was "Absolute Dominator" in Asia, Africa, and America; he was Duke of Milan and of both Burgundies, and Hereditary Sovereign of the seventeen Netherlands.
Thus the provinces had received a new master. A man of foreign birth and breeding, not speaking a word of their language, nor of any language which the mass of the inhabitants understood, was now placed in supreme authority over them, because he represented, through the females, the "good" Philip of Burgundy, who a century before had possessed himself by inheritance, purchase, force, or fraud, of the sovereignty in most of those provinces. It is necessary to say an introductory word or two concerning the previous history of the man to whose hands the destiny of so many millions was now entrusted.
He was born in May, 1527, and was now therefore twenty-eight years of age. At the age of sixteen he had been united to his cousin, Maria of Portugal, daughter of John III. and of the Emperor's sister, Donna Catalina. In the following year (1544) he became father of the celebrated and ill-starred Don Carlos, and a widower. The princess owed her death, it was said, to her own imprudence and to the negligence or bigotry of her attendants. The Duchess of Alva, and other ladies who had charge of her during her confinement, deserted her chamber in order to obtain absolution by witnessing an auto-da-fe of heretics. During their absence, the princess partook voraciously of a melon, and forfeited her life in consequence.
In 1548, Don Philip had made his first appearance in the Netherlands. He came thither to receive homage in the various provinces as their future sovereign, and to exchange oaths of mutual fidelity with them all. Andrew Doria, with a fleet of fifty ships, had brought him to Genoa, whence he had passed to Milan, where he was received with great rejoicing. At Trent he was met by Duke Maurice of Saxony, who warmly begged his intercession with the Emperor in behalf of the imprisoned Landgrave of Hesse. This boon Philip was graciously pleased to promise,—and to keep the pledge as sacredly as most of the vows plighted by him during this memorable year. The Duke of Aerschot met him in Germany with a regiment of cavalry and escorted him to Brussels. A summer was spent in great festivities, the cities of the Nether lands vieing with each other in magnificent celebrations of the ceremonies, by which Philip successively swore allegiance to the various constitutions and charters of the provinces, and received their oaths of future fealty in return. His oath to support all the constitutions and privileges was without reservation, while his father and grandfather had only sworn to maintain the charters granted or confirmed by Philip and Charles of Burgundy. Suspicion was disarmed by these indiscriminate concessions, which had been resolved upon by the unscrupulous Charles to conciliate the good will of the people. In view of the pretensions which might be preferred by the Brederode family in Holland, and by other descendants of ancient sovereign races in other provinces, the Emperor, wishing to ensure the succession to his sisters in case of the deaths of himself, Philip, and Don Carlos without issue, was unsparing in those promises which he knew to be binding only upon the weak. Although the house of Burgundy had usurped many of the provinces on the express pretext that females could not inherit, the rule had been already violated, and he determined to spare no pains to conciliate the estates, in order that they might be content with a new violation, should the contingency occur. Philip's oaths were therefore without reserve, and the light-hearted Flemings, Brabantines, and Walloons received him with open arms. In Valenciennes the festivities which attended his entrance were on a most gorgeous scale, but the "joyous entrance" arranged for him at Antwerp was of unparalleled magnificence. A cavalcade of the magistrates and notable burghers, "all attired in cramoisy velvet," attended by lackies in splendid liveries and followed by four thousand citizen soldiers in full uniform, went forth from the gates to receive him. Twenty-eight triumphal arches, which alone, according to the thrifty chronicler, had cost 26,800 Carolus guldens, were erected in the different streets and squares, and every possible demonstration of affectionate welcome was lavished upon the Prince and the Emperor. The rich and prosperous city, unconscious of the doom which awaited it in the future, seemed to have covered itself with garlands to honor the approach of its master. Yet icy was the deportment with which Philip received these demonstrations of affection, and haughty the glance with which he looked down upon these exhibitions of civic hilarity, as from the height of a grim and inaccessible tower. The impression made upon the Netherlanders was any thing but favorable, and when he had fully experienced the futility of the projects on the Empire which it was so difficult both for his father and himself to resign, he returned to the more congenial soil of Spain. In 1554 he had again issued from the peninsula to marry the Queen of England, a privilege which his father had graciously resigned to him. He was united to Mary Tudor at Winchester, on the 25th July of that year, and if congeniality of tastes could have made a marriage happy, that union should have been thrice blessed. To maintain the supremacy of the Church seemed to both the main object of existence, to execute unbelievers the most sacred duty imposed by the Deity upon anointed princes, to convert their kingdoms into a hell the surest means of winning Heaven for themselves. It was not strange that the conjunction of two such wonders of superstition in one sphere should have seemed portentous in the eyes of the English nation. Philip's mock efforts in favor of certain condemned reformers, and his pretended intercessions in favor of the Princess Elizabeth, failed entirely of their object. The parliament refused to confer upon him more than a nominal authority in England. His children, should they be born, might be sovereigns; he was but husband of the Queen; of a woman who could not atone by her abject but peevish fondness for himself, and by her congenial blood-thirstiness towards her subjects, for her eleven years seniority, her deficiency in attractions, and her incapacity to make him the father of a line of English monarchs. It almost excites compassion even for Mary Tudor, when her passionate efforts to inspire him with affection are contrasted with his impassiveness. Tyrant, bigot, murderess though she was, she was still woman, and she lavished upon her husband all that was not ferocious in her nature. Forbidding prayers to be said for the soul of her father, hating her sister and her people, burning bishops, bathing herself in the blood of heretics, to Philip she was all submissiveness and feminine devotion. It was a most singular contrast, Mary, the Queen of England and Mary the wife of Philip. Small, lean and sickly, painfully near-sighted, yet with an eye of fierceness and fire; her face wrinkled by the hands of care and evil passions still more than by Time, with a big man's voice, whose harshness made those in the next room tremble; yet feminine in her tastes, skilful with her needle, fond of embroidery work, striking the lute with a touch remarkable for its science and feeling, speaking many languages, including Latin, with fluency and grace; most feminine, too, in her constitutional sufferings, hysterical of habit, shedding floods of tears daily at Philip's coldness, undisguised infidelity, and frequent absences from England—she almost awakens compassion and causes a momentary oblivion of her identity.
Her subjects, already half maddened by religious persecution, were exasperated still further by the pecuniary burthens which she imposed upon them to supply the King's exigencies, and she unhesitatingly confronted their frenzy, in the hope of winning a smile from him. When at last her chronic maladies had assumed the memorable form which caused Philip and Mary to unite in a letter to Cardinal Pole, announcing not the expected but the actual birth of a prince, but judiciously leaving the date in blank, the momentary satisfaction and delusion of the Queen was unbounded. The false intelligence was transmitted every where. Great were the joy and the festivities in the Netherlands, where people were so easily made to rejoice and keep holiday for any thing. "The Regent, being in Antwerp," wrote Sir Thomas Gresham to the lords of council, "did cause the great bell to rings to give all men to understand that the news was trewe. The Queene's highness here merchants caused all our Inglishe ships to shoote off with such joy and triumph, as by men's arts and pollicey coulde be devised—and the Regent sent our Inglishe maroners one hundred crownes to drynke." If bell-ringing and cannon-firing could have given England a Spanish sovereign, the devoutly-wished consummation would have been reached. When the futility of the royal hopes could no longer be concealed, Philip left the country, never to return till his war with France made him require troops, subsidies, and a declaration of hostilities from England.
The personal appearance of the new sovereign has already been described. His manner was far from conciliatory, and in this respect he was the absolute reverse of his father. Upon his first journey out of Spain, in 1548, into his various dominions, he had made a most painful impression every where. "He was disagreeable," says Envoy Suriano, "to the Italians, detestable to the Flemings, odious to the Germans."
The remonstrances of the Emperor, and of Queen Mary of Hungary, at the impropriety of his manners, had produced, however, some effect, so that on his wedding journey to England, he manifested much "gentleness and humanity, mingled with royal gravity." Upon this occasion, says another Venetian, accredited to him, "he had divested himself of that Spanish haughtiness, which, when he first came from Spain, had rendered him so odious." The famous ambassador, Badovaro confirms the impression. "Upon his first journey," he says, "he was esteemed proud, and too greedy for the imperial succession; but now 'tis the common opinion that his humanity and modesty are all which could be desired." These humane qualities, however, it must be observed, were exhibited only in the presence of ambassadors and grandees, the only representatives of "humanity" with whom he came publicly and avowedly in contact.
He was thought deficient in manly energy. He was an infirm valetudinarian, and was considered as sluggish in character, as deficient in martial enterprise, as timid of temperament as he was fragile and sickly of frame. It is true, that on account of the disappointment which he occasioned by his contrast to his warlike father, he mingled in some tournaments in Brussels, where he was matched against Count Mansfeld, one of the most distinguished chieftains of the age, and where, says his professed panegyrist, "he broke his lances very mach to the satisfaction of his father and aunts."
That learned and eloquent author, Estelle Calvete, even filled the greater part of a volume, in which he described the journey of the Prince, with a minute description of these feasts and jousts, but we may reasonably conclude that to the loyal imagination of his eulogist Philip is indebted for most of these knightly trophies. It was the universal opinion of unprejudiced cotemporaries, that he was without a spark of enterprise. He was even censured for a culpable want of ambition, and for being inferior to his father in this respect, as if the love of encroaching on his neighbor's dominions, and a disposition to foreign. commotions and war would have constituted additional virtues, had he happened to possess them. Those who were most disposed to think favorably of him, remembered that there was a time when even Charles the Fifth was thought weak and indolent, and were willing to ascribe Philip's pacific disposition to his habitual cholic and side-ache, and to his father's inordinate care for him in youth. They even looked forward to the time when he should blaze forth to the world as a conqueror and a hero. These, however, were views entertained by but few; the general and the correct opinion, as it proved, being, that Philip hated war, would never certainly acquire any personal distinction in the field, and when engaged in hostilities would be apt to gather his laurels at the hands of his generals, rather than with his own sword. He was believed to be the reverse of the Emperor. Charles sought great enterprises, Philip would avoid them. The Emperor never recoiled before threats; the son was reserved, cautious, suspicious of all men, and capable of sacrificing a realm from hesitation and timidity. The father had a genius for action, the son a predilection for repose. Charles took "all men's opinions, but reserved his judgment," and acted on it, when matured, with irresistible energy; Philip was led by others, was vacillating in forming decisions, and irresolute in executing them when formed.
Philip, then, was not considered, in that warlike age, as likely to shine as a warrior. His mental capacity, in general, was likewise not very highly esteemed. His talents were, in truth, very much below mediocrity. His mind was incredibly small. A petty passion for contemptible details characterized him from his youth, and, as long as he lived, he could neither learn to generalize, nor understand that one man, however diligent, could not be minutely acquainted with all the public and private affairs of fifty millions of other men. He was a glutton of work. He was born to write despatches, and to scrawl comments upon those which he received. He often remained at the council-board four or five hours at a time, and he lived in his cabinet. He gave audiences to ambassadors and deputies very willingly, listening attentively to all that was said to him, and answering in monosyllables. He spoke no tongue but Spanish; and was sufficiently sparing of that, but he was indefatigable with his pen. He hated to converse, but he could write a letter eighteen pages long, when his correspondent was in the next room, and when the subject was, perhaps, one which a man of talent could have settled with six words of his tongue. The world, in his opinion, was to move upon protocols and apostilles. Events had no right to be born throughout his dominions, without a preparatory course of his obstetrical pedantry. He could never learn that the earth would not rest on its axis, while he wrote a programme of the way it was to turn. He was slow in deciding, slower in communicating his decisions. He was prolix with his pen, not from affluence, but from paucity of ideas. He took refuge in a cloud of words, sometimes to conceal his meaning, oftener to conceal the absence of any meaning, thus mystifying not only others but himself. To one great purpose, formed early, he adhered inflexibly. This, however, was rather an instinct than an opinion; born with him, not created by him. The idea seemed to express itself through him, and to master him, rather than to form one of a stock of sentiments which a free agent might be expected to possess. Although at certain times, even this master-feeling could yield to the pressure of a predominant self-interest-thus showing that even in Philip bigotry was not absolute—yet he appeared on the whole the embodiment of Spanish chivalry and Spanish religious enthusiasm, in its late and corrupted form. He was entirely a Spaniard. The Burgundian and Austrian elements of his blood seemed to have evaporated, and his veins were filled alone with the ancient ardor, which in heroic centuries had animated the Gothic champions of Spain. The fierce enthusiasm for the Cross, which in the long internal warfare against the Crescent, had been the romantic and distinguishing feature of the national character, had degenerated into bigotry. That which had been a nation's glory now made the monarch's shame. The Christian heretic was to be regarded with a more intense hatred than even Moor or Jew had excited in the most Christian ages, and Philip was to be the latest and most perfect incarnation of all this traditional enthusiasm, this perpetual hate. Thus he was likely to be single-hearted in his life. It was believed that his ambition would be less to extend his dominions than to vindicate his title of the most Catholic king. There could be little doubt entertained that he would be, at least, dutiful to his father in this respect, and that the edicts would be enforced to the letter.
He was by birth, education, and character, a Spaniard, and that so exclusively, that the circumstance would alone have made him unfit to govern a country so totally different in habits and national sentiments from his native land. He was more a foreigner in Brussels, even, than in England. The gay, babbling, energetic, noisy life of Flanders and Brabant was detestable to him. The loquacity of the Netherlanders was a continual reproach upon his taciturnity. His education had imbued him, too, with the antiquated international hatred of Spaniard and Fleming, which had been strengthening in the metropolis, while the more rapid current of life had rather tended to obliterate the sentiment in the provinces.
The flippancy and profligacy of Philip the Handsome, the extortion and insolence of his Flemish courtiers, had not been forgotten in Spain, nor had Philip the Second forgiven his grandfather for having been a foreigner. And now his mad old grandmother, Joanna, who had for years been chasing cats in the lonely tower where she had been so long imprisoned, had just died; and her funeral, celebrated with great pomp by both her sons, by Charles at Brussels and Ferdinand at Augsburg, seemed to revive a history which had begun to fade, and to recall the image of Castilian sovereignty which had been so long obscured in the blaze of imperial grandeur.
His education had been but meagre. In an age when all kings and noblemen possessed many languages, he spoke not a word of any tongue but Spanish,—although he had a slender knowledge of French and Italian, which he afterwards learned to read with comparative facility. He had studied a little history and geography, and he had a taste for sculpture, painting, and architecture. Certainly if he had not possessed a feeling for art, he would have been a monster. To have been born in the earlier part of the sixteenth century, to have been a king, to have had Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands as a birthright, and not to have been inspired with a spark of that fire which glowed so intensely in those favored lands and in that golden age, had indeed been difficult.
The King's personal habits were regular. His delicate health made it necessary for him to attend to his diet, although he was apt to exceed in sweetmeats and pastry. He slept much, and took little exercise habitually, but he had recently been urged by the physicians to try the effect of the chase as a corrective to his sedentary habits. He was most strict in religious observances, as regular at mass, sermons, and vespers as a monk; much more, it was thought by many good Catholics, than was becoming to his rank and age. Besides several friars who preached regularly for his instruction, he had daily discussions with others on abstruse theological points. He consulted his confessor most minutely as to all the actions of life, inquiring anxiously whether this proceeding or that were likely to burthen his conscience. He was grossly licentious. It was his chief amusement to issue forth at night disguised, that he might indulge in vulgar and miscellaneous incontinence in the common haunts of vice. This was his solace at Brussels in the midst of the gravest affairs of state. He was not illiberal, but, on the contrary, it was thought that he would have been even generous, had he not been straitened for money at the outset of his career. During a cold winter, he distributed alms to the poor of Brussels with an open hand. He was fond of jests in private, and would laugh immoderately, when with a few intimate associates, at buffooneries, which he checked in public by the icy gravity of his deportment. He dressed usually in the Spanish fashion, with close doublet, trunk hose, and short cloak, although at times he indulged in the more airy fashions of France and Burgundy, wearing buttons on his coats and feathers in his hat. He was not thought at that time to be cruel by nature, but was usually spoken of, in the conventional language appropriated to monarchs, as a prince "clement, benign, and debonnaire." Time was to show the justice of his claims to such honorable epithets.
The court was organized during his residence at Brussels on the Burgundian, not the Spanish model, but of the one hundred and fifty persons who composed it, nine tenths of the whole were Spaniards; the other fifteen or sixteen being of various nations, Flemings, Burgundians, Italians, English, and Germans. Thus it is obvious how soon he disregarded his father's precept and practice in this respect, and began to lay the foundation of that renewed hatred to Spaniards which was soon to become so intense, exuberant, and fatal throughout every class of Netherlanders. He esteemed no nation but the Spanish, with Spaniards he consorted, with Spaniards he counselled, through Spaniards he governed.
His council consisted of five or six Spanish grandees, the famous Ruy Gomez, then Count of Melito, afterwards Prince of Eboli; the Duke of Alva, the Count de Feria, the Duke of Franca Villa, Don Antonio Toledo, and Don Juan Manrique de Lara. The "two columns," said Suriano, "which sustain this great machine, are Ruy Gomez and Alva, and from their councils depends the government of half the world." The two were ever bitterly opposed to each other. Incessant were their bickerings, intense their mutual hate, desperate and difficult the situation of any man, whether foreigner or native, who had to transact business with the government. If he had secured the favor of Gomez, he had already earned the enmity of Alva. Was he protected by the Duke, he was sure to be cast into outer darkness by the favorite.—Alva represented the war party, Ruy Gomez the pacific polity more congenial to the heart of Philip. The Bishop of Arras, who in the opinion of the envoys was worth them all for his capacity and his experience, was then entirely in the background, rarely entering the council except when summoned to give advice in affairs of extraordinary delicacy or gravity. He was, however, to reappear most signally in course of the events already preparing. The Duke of Alva, also to play so tremendous a part in the yet unborn history of the Netherlands, was not beloved by Philip. He was eclipsed at this period by the superior influence of the favorite, and his sword, moreover, became necessary in the Italian campaign which was impending. It is remarkable that it was a common opinion even at that day that the duke was naturally hesitating and timid. One would have thought that his previous victories might have earned for him the reputation for courage and skill which he most unquestionably deserved. The future was to develop those other characteristics which were to make his name the terror and wonder of the world.
The favorite, Ruy Gomez da Silva, Count de Melito, was the man upon whose shoulders the great burthen of the state reposed. He was of a family which was originally Portuguese. He had been brought up with the King, although some eight years his senior, and their friendship dated from earliest youth. It was said that Ruy Gomez, when a boy, had been condemned to death for having struck Philip, who had come between him and another page with whom he was quarrelling. The Prince threw himself passionately at his father's feet, and implored forgiveness in behalf of the culprit with such energy that the Emperor was graciously pleased to spare the life of the future prime minister. The incident was said to have laid the foundation of the remarkable affection which was supposed to exist between the two, to an extent never witnessed before between king and subject. Ruy Gomez was famous for his tact and complacency, and omitted no opportunity of cementing the friendship thus auspiciously commenced. He was said to have particularly charmed his master, upon one occasion, by hypocritically throwing up his cards at a game of hazard played for a large stake, and permitting him to win the game with a far inferior hand. The King learning afterwards the true state of the case, was charmed by the grace and self-denial manifested by the young nobleman. The complacency which the favorite subsequently exhibited in regard to the connexion which existed so long and so publicly between his wife, the celebrated Princess Eboli, and Philip, placed his power upon an impregnable basis, and secured it till his death.
At the present moment he occupied the three posts of valet, state councillor, and finance minister. He dressed and undressed his master, read or talked him to sleep, called him in the morning, admitted those who were to have private audiences, and superintended all the arrangements of the household. The rest of the day was devoted to the enormous correspondence and affairs of administration which devolved upon him as first minister of state and treasury. He was very ignorant. He had no experience or acquirement in the arts either of war or peace, and his early education had been limited. Like his master, he spoke no tongue but Spanish, and he had no literature. He had prepossessing manners, a fluent tongue, a winning and benevolent disposition. His natural capacity for affairs was considerable, and his tact was so perfect that he could converse face to face with statesmen; doctors, and generals upon campaigns, theology, or jurisprudence, without betraying any remarkable deficiency. He was very industrious, endeavoring to make up by hard study for his lack of general knowledge, and to sustain with credit the burthen of his daily functions. At the same time, by the King's desire, he appeared constantly at the frequent banquets, masquerades, tourneys and festivities, for which Brussels at that epoch was remarkable. It was no wonder that his cheek was pale, and that he seemed dying of overwork. He discharged his duties cheerfully, however, for in the service of Philip he knew no rest. "After God," said Badovaro, "he knows no object save the felicity of his master." He was already, as a matter of course, very rich, having been endowed by Philip with property to the amount of twenty-six thousand dollars yearly, [at values of 1855] and the tide of his fortunes was still at the flood.
Such were the two men, the master and the favorite, to whose hands the destinies of the Netherlands were now entrusted.
The Queen of Hungary had resigned the office of Regent of the Netherlands, as has been seen, on the occasion of the Emperor's abdication. She was a woman of masculine character, a great huntress before the Lord, a celebrated horsewoman, a worthy descendant of the Lady Mary of Burgundy. Notwithstanding all the fine phrases exchanged between herself and the eloquent Maas, at the great ceremony of the 25th of October, she was, in reality, much detested in the provinces, and she repaid their aversion with abhorrence. "I could not live among these people," she wrote to the Emperor, but a few weeks before the abdication, "even as a private person, for it would be impossible for me to do my duty towards God and my prince. As to governing them, I take God to witness that the task is so abhorrent to me, that I would rather earn my daily bread by labor than attempt it." She added, that a woman of fifty years of age, who had served during twenty-five of them, had a right to repose, and that she was moreover "too old to recommence and learn her A, B, C." The Emperor, who had always respected her for the fidelity with which she had carried out his designs, knew that it was hopeless to oppose her retreat. As for Philip, he hated his aunt, and she hated him—although, both at the epoch of the abdication and subsequently, he was desirous that she should administer the government.
The new Regent was to be the Duke of Savoy. This wandering and adventurous potentate had attached himself to Philip's fortunes, and had been received by the King with as much favor as he had ever enjoyed at the hands of the Emperor. Emanuel Philibert of Savoy, then about twenty-six or seven years of age, was the son of the late unfortunate duke, by Donna Beatrice of Portugal, sister of the Empress. He was the nephew of Charles, and first cousin to Philip. The partiality of the Emperor for his mother was well known, but the fidelity with which the family had followed the imperial cause had been productive of nothing but disaster to the duke. He had been ruined in fortune, stripped of all his dignities and possessions. His son's only inheritance was his sword. The young Prince of Piedmont, as he was commonly called in his youth; sought the camp of the Emperor, and was received with distinguished favor. He rose rapidly in the military service. Acting always upon his favorite motto, "Spoliatis arma supersunt," he had determined, if possible, to carve his way to glory, to wealth, and even to his hereditary estates, by his sword alone. War was not only his passion, but his trade. Every one of his campaigns was a speculation, and he had long derived a satisfactory income by purchasing distinguished prisoners of war at a low price from the soldiers who had captured them, and were ignorant of their rank, and by ransoming them afterwards at an immense advance. This sort of traffic in men was frequent in that age, and was considered perfectly honorable. Marshal Strozzi, Count Mansfeld, and other professional soldiers, derived their main income from the system. They were naturally inclined, therefore, to look impatiently upon a state of peace as an unnatural condition of affairs which cut off all the profits of their particular branch of industry, and condemned them both to idleness and poverty. The Duke of Savoy had become one of the most experienced and successful commanders of the age, and an especial favorite with the Emperor. He had served with Alva in the campaigns against the Protestants of Germany, and in other important fields. War being his element, he considered peace as undesirable, although he could recognize its existence. A truce he held, however, to be a senseless parodox, unworthy of the slightest regard. An armistice, such as was concluded on the February following the abdication, was, in his opinion, only to be turned to account by dealing insidious and unsuspected blows at the enemy, some portion of whose population might repose confidence in the plighted faith of monarchs and plenipotentiaries. He had a show of reason for his political and military morality, for he only chose to execute the evil which had been practised upon himself. His father had been beggared, his mother had died of spite and despair, he had himself been reduced from the rank of a sovereign to that of a mercenary soldier, by spoliations made in time of truce. He was reputed a man of very decided abilities, and was distinguished for headlong bravery. His rashness and personal daring were thought the only drawbacks to his high character as a commander. He had many accomplishments. He spoke Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian with equal fluency, was celebrated for his attachment to the fine arts, and wrote much and with great elegance. Such had been Philibert of Savoy, the pauper nephew of the powerful Emperor, the adventurous and vagrant cousin of the lofty Philip, a prince without a people, a duke without a dukedom; with no hope but in warfare, with no revenue but rapine; the image, in person, of a bold and manly soldier, small, but graceful and athletic, martial in bearing, "wearing his sword under his arm like a corporal," because an internal malady made a belt inconvenient, and ready to turn to swift account every chance which a new series of campaigns might open to him. With his new salary as governor, his pensions, and the remains of his possessions in Nice and Piedmont, he had now the splendid annual income of one hundred thousand crowns, and was sure to spend it all.
It had been the desire of Charles to smooth the commencement of Philip's path. He had for this purpose made a vigorous effort to undo, as it were, the whole work of his reign, to suspend the operation of his whole political system. The Emperor and conqueror, who had been warring all his lifetime, had attempted, as the last act of his reign, to improvise a peace. But it was not so easy to arrange a pacification of Europe as dramatically as he desired, in order that he might gather his robes about him, and allow the curtain to fall upon his eventful history in a grand hush of decorum and quiet. During the autumn and winter of 1555, hostilities had been virtually suspended, and languid negotiations ensued. For several months armies confronted each other without engaging, and diplomatists fenced among themselves without any palpable result. At last the peace commissioners, who had been assembled at Vaucelles since the beginning of the year 1556, signed a treaty of truce rather than of peace, upon the 5th of February. It was to be an armistice of five years, both by land and sea, for France, Spain, Flanders, and Italy, throughout all the dominions of the French and Spanish monarchs. The Pope was expressly included in the truce, which was signed on the part of France by Admiral Coligny and Sebastian l'Aubespine; on that of Spain, by Count de Lalain, Philibert de Bruxelles, Simon Renard, and Jean Baptiste Sciceio, a jurisconsult of Cremona. During the precious month of December, however, the Pope had concluded with the French monarch a treaty, by which this solemn armistice was rendered an egregious farce. While Henry's plenipotentiaries had been plighting their faith to those of Philip, it had been arranged that France should sustain, by subsidies and armies, the scheme upon which Paul was bent, to drive the Spaniards entirely out of the Italian peninsula. The king was to aid the pontiff, and, in return, was to carve thrones for his own younger children out of the confiscated realms of Philip. When was France ever slow to sweep upon Italy with such a hope? How could the ever-glowing rivalry of Valois and Habsburg fail to burst into a general conflagration, while the venerable vicegerent of Christ stood thus beside them with his fan in his hand?
For a brief breathing space, however, the news of the pacification occasioned much joy in the provinces. They rejoiced even in a temporary cessation of that long series of campaigns from which they could certainly derive no advantage, and in which their part was to furnish money, soldiers, and battlefields, without prospect of benefit from any victory, however brilliant, or any treaty, however elaborate. Manufacturing, agricultural and commercial provinces, filled to the full with industrial life, could not but be injured by being converted into perpetual camps. All was joy in the Netherlands, while at Antwerp, the great commercial metropolis of the provinces and of Europe, the rapture was unbounded. Oxen were roasted whole in the public squares; the streets, soon to be empurpled with the best blood of her citizens, ran red with wine; a hundred triumphal arches adorned the pathway of Philip as he came thither; and a profusion of flowers, although it was February, were strewn before his feet. Such was his greeting in the light-hearted city, but the countenance was more than usually sullen with which the sovereign received these demonstrations of pleasure. It was thought by many that Philip had been really disappointed in the conclusion of the armistice, that he was inspired with a spark of that martial ambition for which his panegyrists gave him credit, and that knowing full well the improbability of a long suspension of hostilities, he was even eager for the chance of conquest which their resumption would afford him. The secret treaty of the Pope was of course not so secret but that the hollow intention of the contracting parties to the truce of Vaucelles were thoroughly suspected; intentions which certainly went far to justify the maxims and the practice of the new governor-general of the Netherlands upon the subject of armistices.
Philip, understanding his position, was revolving renewed military projects while his subjects were ringing merry bells and lighting bonfires in the Netherlands. These schemes, which were to be carried out in the immediate future, caused, however, a temporary delay in the great purpose to which he was to devote his life.
The Emperor had always desired to regard the Netherlands as a whole, and he hated the antiquated charters and obstinate privileges which interfered with his ideas of symmetry. Two great machines, the court of Mechlin and the inquisition, would effectually simplify and assimilate all these irregular and heterogeneous rights. The civil tribunal was to annihilate all diversities in their laws by a general cassation of their constitutions, and the ecclesiastical court was to burn out all differences in their religious faith. Between two such millstones it was thought that the Netherlands might be crushed into uniformity. Philip succeeded to these traditions. The father had never sufficient leisure to carry out all his schemes, but it seemed probable that the son would be a worthy successor, at least in all which concerned the religious part of his system. One of the earliest measures of his reign was to re-enact the dread edict of 1550. This he did by the express advice of the Bishop of Arras who represented to him the expediency of making use of the popularity of his father's name, to sustain the horrible system resolved upon. As Charles was the author of the edict, it could be always argued that nothing new was introduced; that burning, hanging, and drowning for religious differences constituted a part of the national institutions; that they had received the sanction of the wise Emperor, and had been sustained by the sagacity of past generations. Nothing could have been more subtle, as the event proved, than this advice. Innumerable were the appeals made in subsequent years, upon this subject, to the patriotism and the conservative sentiments of the Netherlanders. Repeatedly they were summoned to maintain the inquisition, on the ground that it had been submitted to by their ancestors, and that no change had been made by Philip, who desired only to maintain church and crown in the authority which they had enjoyed in the days of his father of very laudable memory.
Nevertheless, the King's military plans seemed to interfere for the moment with this cherished object. He seemed to swerve, at starting, from pursuing the goal which he was only to abandon with life. The edict of 1550 was re-enacted and confirmed, and all office-holders were commanded faithfully to enforce it upon pain of immediate dismissal. Nevertheless, it was not vigorously carried into effect any where. It was openly resisted in Holland, its proclamation was flatly refused in Antwerp, and repudiated throughout Brabant. It was strange that such disobedience should be tolerated, but the King wanted money. He was willing to refrain for a season from exasperating the provinces by fresh religious persecution at the moment when he was endeavoring to extort every penny which it was possible to wring from their purses.
The joy, therefore, with which the pacification had been hailed by the people was far from an agreeable spectacle to the King. The provinces would expect that the forces which had been maintained at their expense during the war would be disbanded, whereas he had no intention of disbanding them. As the truce was sure to be temporary, he had no disposition to diminish his available resources for a war which might be renewed at any moment. To maintain the existing military establishment in the Netherlands, a large sum of money was required, for the pay was very much in arrear. The king had made a statement to the provincial estates upon this subject, but the matter was kept secret during the negotiations with France. The way had thus been paved for the "Request" or "Bede," which he now made to the estates assembled at Brussels, in the spring of 1556. It was to consist of a tax of one per cent. (the hundredth penny) upon all real estate, and of two per cent. upon all merchandise; to be collected in three payments. The request, in so far as the imposition of the proposed tax was concerned, was refused by Flanders, Brabant, Holland, and all the other important provinces, but as usual, a moderate, even a generous, commutation in money was offered by the estates. This was finally accepted by Philip, after he had become convinced that at this moment, when he was contemplating a war with France, it would be extremely impolitic to insist upon the tax. The publication of the truce in Italy had been long delayed, and the first infractions which it suffered were committed in that country. The arts of politicians; the schemes of individual ambition, united with the short-lived military ardor of Philip to place the monarch in an eminently false position, that of hostility to the Pope. As was unavoidable, the secret treaty of December acted as an immediate dissolvent to the truce of February.
Great was the indignation of Paul Caraffa, when that truce was first communicated to him by the Cardinal de Tournon, on the part of the French Government. Notwithstanding the protestations of France that the secret league was still binding, the pontiff complained that he was likely to be abandoned to his own resources, and to be left single-handed to contend with the vast power of Spain.
Pope Paul IV., of the house of Caraffa, was, in position, the well-known counterpart of the Emperor Charles. At the very moment when the conqueror and autocrat was exchanging crown for cowl, and the proudest throne of the universe for a cell, this aged monk, as weary of scientific and religious seclusion as Charles of pomp and power, had abdicated his scholastic pre-eminence, and exchanged his rosary for the keys and sword. A pontifical Faustus, he had become disgusted with the results of a life of study and abnegation, and immediately upon his election appeared to be glowing with mundane passions, and inspired by the fiercest ambition of a warrior. He had rushed from the cloister as eagerly as Charles had sought it. He panted for the tempests of the great external world as earnestly as the conqueror who had so long ridden upon the whirlwind of human affairs sighed for a haven of repose. None of his predecessors had been more despotic, more belligerent, more disposed to elevate and strengthen the temporal power of Rome. In the inquisition he saw the grand machine by which this purpose could be accomplished, and yet found himself for a period the antagonist of Philip. The single circumstance would have been sufficient, had other proofs been wanting, to make manifest that the part which he had chosen to play was above his genius. Had his capacity been at all commensurate with his ambition, he might have deeply influenced the fate of the world; but fortunately no wizard's charm came to the aid of Paul Caraffa, and the triple-crowned monk sat upon the pontifical throne, a fierce, peevish, querulous, and quarrelsome dotard; the prey and the tool of his vigorous enemies and his intriguing relations. His hatred of Spain and Spaniards was unbounded. He raved at them as "heretics, schismatics, accursed of God, the spawn of Jews and Moors, the very dregs of the earth." To play upon such insane passions was not difficult, and a skilful artist stood ever ready to strike the chords thus vibrating with age and fury. The master spirit and principal mischief-maker of the papal court was the well-known Cardinal Caraffa, once a wild and dissolute soldier, nephew to the Pope. He inflamed the anger of the pontiff by his representations, that the rival house of Colonna, sustained by the Duke of Alva, now viceroy of Naples, and by the whole Spanish power, thus relieved from the fear of French hostilities, would be free to wreak its vengeance upon their family. It was determined that the court of France should be held by the secret league. Moreover, the Pope had been expressly included in the treaty of Vaucelles, although the troops of Spain had already assumed a hostile attitude in the south of Italy. The Cardinal was for immediately proceeding to Paris, there to excite the sympathy of the French monarch for the situation of himself and his uncle. An immediate rupture between France and Spain, a re-kindling of the war flames from one end of Europe to the other, were necessary to save the credit and the interests of the Caraffas. Cardinal de Tournon, not desirous of so sudden a termination to the pacific relations between his, country and Spain, succeeded in detaining him a little longer in Rome.—He remained, but not in idleness. The restless intriguer had already formed close relations with the most important personage in France, Diana of Poitiers.—This venerable courtesan, to the enjoyment of whose charms Henry had succeeded, with the other regal possessions, on the death of his father, was won by the flatteries of the wily Caraffa, and by the assiduities of the Guise family. The best and most sagacious statesmen, the Constable, and the Admiral, were in favor of peace, for they knew the condition of the kingdom. The Duke of Guise and the Cardinal Lorraine were for a rupture, for they hoped to increase their family influence by war. Coligny had signed the treaty of Vaucelles, and wished to maintain it, but the influence of the Catholic party was in the ascendant. The result was to embroil the Catholic King against the Pope and against themselves. The queen was as favorably inclined as the mistress to listen to Caraffa, for Catherine de Medici was desirous that her cousin, Marshal Strozzi, should have honorable and profitable employment in some fresh Italian campaigns.
In the mean time an accident favored the designs of the papal court. An open quarrel with Spain resulted from an insignificant circumstance. The Spanish ambassador at Rome was in the habit of leaving the city very often, at an early hour in the morning, upon shooting excursions, and had long enjoyed the privilege of ordering the gates to be opened for him at his pleasure. By accident or design, he was refused permission upon one occasion to pass through the gate as usual. Unwilling to lose his day's sport, and enraged at what he considered an indignity, his excellency, by the aid of his attendants, attacked and beat the guard, mastered them, made his way out of the city, and pursued his morning's amusement. The Pope was furious, Caraffa artfully inflamed his anger. The envoy was refused an audience, which he desired, for the sake of offering explanations, and the train being thus laid, it was thought that the right moment had arrived for applying the firebrand. The Cardinal went to Paris post haste. In his audience of the King, he represented that his Holiness had placed implicit reliance upon his secret treaty with his majesty, that the recently concluded truce with Spain left the pontiff at the mercy of the Spaniard, that the Duke of Alva had already drawn the sword, that the Pope had long since done himself the pleasure and the honor of appointing the French monarch protector of the papal chair in general, and of the Caraffa family in particular, and that the moment had arrived for claiming the benefit of that protection. He assured him, moreover, as by full papal authority, that in respecting the recent truce with Spain, his majesty would violate both human and divine law. Reason and justice required him to defend the pontiff, now that the Spaniards were about to profit by the interval of truce to take measures for his detriment. Moreover, as the Pope was included in the truce of Vaucelles, he could not be abandoned without a violation of that treaty itself.—The arts and arguments of the Cardinal proved successful; the war was resolved upon in favor of the Pope. The Cardinal, by virtue of powers received and brought with him from his holiness, absolved the King from all obligation to keep his faith with Spain. He also gave him a dispensation from the duty of prefacing hostilities by a declaration of war. Strozzi was sent at once into Italy, with some hastily collected troops, while the Duke of Guise waited to organize a regular army.
The mischief being thus fairly afoot, and war let loose again upon Europe, the Cardinal made a public entry into Paris, as legate of the Pope. The populace crowded about his mule, as he rode at the head of a stately procession through the streets. All were anxious to receive a benediction from the holy man who had come so far to represent the successor of St. Peter, and to enlist the efforts of all true believers in his cause. He appeared to answer the entreaties of the superstitious rabble with fervent blessings, while the friends who were nearest him were aware that nothing but gibes and sarcasms were falling from his lips. "Let us fool these poor creatures to their heart's content, since they will be fools," he muttered; smiling the while upon them benignantly, as became his holy office. Such were the materials of this new combination; such was the fuel with which this new blaze was lighted and maintained. Thus were the great powers of the earth—Spain, France, England, and the Papacy embroiled, and the nations embattled against each other for several years. The preceding pages show how much national interests, or principles; were concerned in the struggle thus commenced, in which thousands were to shed their life-blood, and millions to be reduced from peace and comfort to suffer all the misery which famine and rapine can inflict. It would no doubt have increased the hilarity of Caraffa, as he made his triumphant entry into Paris, could the idea have been suggested to his mind that the sentiments, or the welfare of the people throughout the great states now involved in his meshes, could have any possible bearing upon the question of peace or wax. The world was governed by other influences. The wiles of a cardinal—the arts of a concubine—the snipe-shooting of an ambassador—the speculations of a soldier of fortune—the ill temper of a monk—the mutual venom of Italian houses—above all, the perpetual rivalry of the two great historical families who owned the greater part of Europe between them as their private property—such were the wheels on which rolled the destiny of Christendom. Compared to these, what were great moral and political ideas, the plans of statesmen, the hopes of nations? Time was soon to show. Meanwhile, government continued to be administered exclusively for the benefit of the governors. Meanwhile, a petty war for paltry motives was to precede the great spectacle which was to prove to Europe that principles and peoples still existed, and that a phlegmatic nation of merchants and manufacturers could defy the powers of the universe, and risk all their blood and treasure, generation after generation, in a sacred cause.
It does not belong to our purpose to narrate the details of the campaign in Italy; neither is this war of politics and chicane of any great interest at the present day. To the military minds of their age, the scientific duel which now took place upon a large scale, between two such celebrated captains as the Dukes of Guise and Alva, was no doubt esteemed the most important of spectacles; but the progress of mankind in the art of slaughter has stripped so antiquated an exhibition of most of its interest, even in a technical point of view. Not much satisfaction could be derived from watching an old-fashioned game of war, in which the parties sat down before each other so tranquilly, and picked up piece after piece, castle after castle, city after city, with such scientific deliberation as to make it evident that, in the opinion of the commanders, war was the only serious business to be done in the world; that it was not to be done in a hurry, nor contrary to rule, and that when a general had a good job upon his hands he ought to know his profession much too thoroughly, to hasten through it before he saw his way clear to another. From the point of time, at the close of the year 1556, when that well-trained but not very successful soldier, Strozzi, crossed the Alps, down to the autumn of the following year, when the Duke of Alva made his peace with the Pope, there was hardly a pitched battle, and scarcely an event of striking interest. Alva, as usual, brought his dilatory policy to bear upon his adversary with great effect. He had no intention, he observed to a friend, to stake the whole kingdom of Naples against a brocaded coat of the Duke of Guise. Moreover, he had been sent to the war, as Ruy Gomez informed the Venetian ambassador, "with a bridle in his mouth." Philip, sorely troubled in his mind at finding himself in so strange a position as this hostile attitude to the Church, had earnestly interrogated all the doctors and theologians with whom he habitually took counsel, whether this war with the Pope would not work a forfeiture of his title of the Most Catholic King. The Bishop of Arras and the favorite both disapproved of the war, and encouraged, with all their influence, the pacific inclinations of the monarch. The doctors were, to be sure, of opinion that Philip, having acted in Italy only in self-defence, and for the protection of his states, ought not to be anxious as to his continued right to the title on which he valued himself so highly. Nevertheless, such ponderings and misgivings could not but have the effect of hampering the actions of Alva. That general chafed inwardly at what he considered his own contemptible position. At the same time, he enraged the Duke of Guise still more deeply by the forced calmness of his proceedings. Fortresses were reduced, towns taken, one after another, with the most provoking deliberation, while his distracted adversary in vain strove to defy, or to delude him, into trying the chances of a stricken field. The battle of Saint Quentin, the narrative of which belongs to our subject, and will soon occupy our attention, at last decided the Italian operations. Egmont's brilliant triumph in Picardy rendered a victory in Italy superfluous, and placed in Alva's hand the power of commanding the issue of his own campaign. The Duke of Guise was recalled to defend the French frontier, which the bravery of the Flemish hero had imperilled, and the Pope was left to make the best peace which he could. All was now prosperous and smiling, and the campaign closed with a highly original and entertaining exhibition. The pontiff's puerile ambition, sustained by the intrigues of his nephew, had involved the French monarch in a war which was contrary to his interests and inclination. Paul now found his ally too sorely beset to afford him that protection upon which he had relied, when he commenced, in his dotage, his career as a warrior. He was, therefore, only desirous of deserting his friend, and of relieving himself from his uncomfortable predicament, by making a treaty with his catholic majesty upon the best terms which he could obtain. The King of France, who had gone to war only for the sake of his holiness, was to be left to fight his own battles, while the Pope was to make his peace with all the world. The result was a desirable one for Philip. Alva was accordingly instructed to afford the holy father a decorous and appropriate opportunity for carrying out his wishes. The victorious general was apprized that his master desired no fruit from his commanding attitude in Italy and the victory of Saint Quentin, save a full pardon from the Pope for maintaining even a defensive war against him. An amicable siege of Rome was accordingly commenced, in the course of which an assault or "camiciata" on the holy city, was arranged for the night of the 26th August, 1557. The pontiff agreed to be taken by surprise—while Alva, through what was to appear only a superabundance of his habitual discretion, was to draw off his troops at the very moment when the victorious assault was to be made. The imminent danger to the holy city and to his own sacred person thus furnishing the pontiff with an excuse for abandoning his own cause, as well as that of his ally the Duke of Alva was allowed, in the name of his master and himself; to make submission to the Church and his peace with Rome. The Spanish general, with secret indignation and disgust, was compelled to humor the vanity of a peevish but imperious old man. Negotiations were commenced, and so skilfully had the Duke played his game during the spring and summer, that when he was admitted to kiss the Pope's toe, he was able to bring a hundred Italian towns in his hand, as a peace-offering to his holiness. These he now restored, with apparent humility and inward curses, upon the condition that the fortifications should be razed, and the French alliance absolutely renounced. Thus did the fanaticism of Philip reverse the relative position of himself and his antagonist. Thus was the vanquished pontiff allowed almost to dictate terms to the victorious general. The king who could thus humble himself to a dotard, while he made himself the scourge of his subjects, deserved that the bull of excommunication which had been prepared should have been fulminated. He, at least, was capable of feeling the scathing effects of such anathemas.
The Duke of Guise, having been dismissed with the pontiff's assurance that he had done little for the interests of his sovereign, less for the protection of the Church, and least of all for his own reputation, set forth with all speed for Civita Vecchia, to do what he could upon the Flemish frontier to atone for his inglorious campaign in Italy. The treaty between the Pope and the Duke of Alva was signed on the 14th September (1557), and the Spanish general retired for the winter to Milan. Cardinal Caraffa was removed from the French court to that of Madrid, there to spin new schemes for the embroilment of nations and the advancement of his own family. Very little glory was gained by any of the combatants in this campaign. Spain, France, nor Paul IV., not one of them came out of the Italian contest in better condition than that in which they entered upon it. In fact all were losers. France had made an inglorious retreat, the Pope a ludicrous capitulation, and the only victorious party, the King of Spain, had, during the summer, conceded to Cosmo de Medici the sovereignty of Sienna. Had Venice shown more cordiality towards Philip, and more disposition to sustain his policy, it is probable that the Republic would have secured the prize which thus fell to the share of Cosmo. That astute and unprincipled potentate, who could throw his net so well in troubled water, had successfully duped all parties, Spain, France, and Rome. The man who had not only not participated in the contest, but who had kept all parties and all warfare away from his borders, was the only individual in Italy who gained territorial advantage from the war.
To avoid interrupting the continuity of the narrative, the Spanish campaign has been briefly sketched until the autumn of 1557, at which period the treaty between the Pope and Philip was concluded. It is now necessary to go back to the close of the preceding year.
Simultaneously with the descent of the French troops upon Italy, hostilities had broken out upon the Flemish border. The pains of the Emperor in covering the smouldering embers of national animosities so precipitately, and with a view rather to scenic effect than to a deliberate and well-considered result, were thus set at nought, and within a year from the day of his abdication, hostilities were reopened from the Tiber to the German Ocean. The blame of first violating the truce of Vaucelles was laid by each party upon the other with equal justice, for there can be but little doubt that the reproach justly belonged to both. Both had been equally faithless in their professions of amity. Both were equally responsible for the scenes of war, plunder, and misery, which again were desolating the fairest regions of Christendom.
At the time when the French court had resolved to concede to the wishes of the Caraffa family, Admiral Coligny, who had been appointed governor of Picardy, had received orders to make a foray upon the frontier of Flanders. Before the formal annunciation of hostilities, it was thought desirable to reap all the advantage possible from the perfidy which had been resolved upon.
It happened that a certain banker of Lucca, an ancient gambler and debauchee, whom evil courses had reduced from affluence to penury, had taken up his abode upon a hill overlooking the city of Douay. Here he had built himself a hermit's cell. Clad in sackcloth, with a rosary at his waist, he was accustomed to beg his bread from door to door. His garb was all, however, which he possessed of sanctity, and he had passed his time in contemplating the weak points in the defences of the city with much more minuteness than those in his own heart. Upon the breaking out of hostilities in Italy, the instincts of his old profession had suggested to him that a good speculation might be made in Flanders, by turning to account as a spy the observations which he had made in his character of a hermit. He sought an interview with Coligny, and laid his propositions before him. The noble Admiral hesitated, for his sentiments were more elevated than those of many of his contemporaries. He had, moreover, himself negotiated and signed the truce with Spain, and he shrank from violating it with his own hand, before a declaration of war. Still he was aware that a French army was on its way to attack the Spaniards in Italy; he was under instructions to take the earliest advantage which his position upon the frontier might offer him; he knew that both theory and practice authorized a general, in that age, to break his fast, even in time of truce, if a tempting morsel should present itself; and, above all, he thoroughly understood the character of his nearest antagonist, the new governor of the Netherlands, Philibert of Savoy, whom he knew to be the most unscrupulous chieftain in Europe. These considerations decided him to take advantage of the hermit-banker's communication.
A day was accordingly fixed, at which, under the guidance of this newly-acquired ally, a surprise should be attempted by the French forces, and the unsuspecting city of Douay given over to the pillage of a brutal soldiery. The time appointed was the night of Epiphany, upon occasion of which festival, it was thought that the inhabitants, overcome with sleep and wassail, might be easily overpowered. (6th January, 1557.) The plot was a good plot, but the Admiral of France was destined to be foiled by an old woman. This person, apparently the only creature awake in the town, perceived the danger, ran shrieking through the streets, alarmed the citizens while it was yet time, and thus prevented the attack. Coligny, disappointed in his plan, recompensed his soldiers by a sudden onslaught upon Lens in Arthois, which he sacked and then levelled with the ground. Such was the wretched condition of frontier cities, standing, even in time of peace, with the ground undermined beneath them, and existing every moment, as it were, upon the brink of explosion.
Hostilities having been thus fairly commenced, the French government was in some embarrassment. The Duke of Guise, with the most available forces of the kingdom, having crossed the Alps, it became necessary forthwith to collect another army. The place of rendezvous appointed was Pierrepoint, where an army of eighteen thousand infantry and five thousand horse were assembled early in the spring. In the mean time, Philip finding the war fairly afoot, had crossed to England for the purpose (exactly in contravention of all his marriage stipulations) of cajoling his wife and browbeating her ministers into a participation in his war with France. This was easily accomplished. The English nation found themselves accordingly engaged in a contest with which they had no concern, which, as the event proved, was very much against their interests, and in which the moving cause for their entanglement was the devotion of a weak, bad, ferocious woman, for a husband who hated her. A herald sent from England arrived in France, disguised, and was presented to King Henry at Rheims. Here, dropping on one knee, he recited a list of complaints against his majesty, on behalf of the English Queen, all of them fabricated or exaggerated for the occasion, and none of them furnishing even a decorous pretext for the war which was now formally declared in consequence. The French monarch expressed his regret and surprise that the firm and amicable relations secured by treaty between the two countries should thus, without sufficient cause, be violated. In accepting the wager of warfare thus forced upon him, he bade the herald, Norris, inform his mistress that her messenger was treated with courtesy only because he represented a lady, and that, had he come from a king, the language with which he would have been greeted would have befitted the perfidy manifested on the occasion. God would punish this shameless violation of faith, and this wanton interruption to the friendship of two great nations. With this the herald was dismissed from the royal presence, but treated with great distinction, conducted to the hotel of the English ambassador, and presented, on the part of the French sovereign with a chain of gold.
Philip had despatched Ruy Gomez to Spain for the purpose of providing ways and means, while he was himself occupied with the same task in England. He stayed there three months. During this time, he "did more," says a Spanish contemporary, "than any one could have believed possible with that proud and indomitable nation. He caused them to declare war against France with fire and sword, by sea and land." Hostilities having been thus chivalrously and formally established, the Queen sent an army of eight thousand men, cavalry, infantry, and pioneers, who, "all clad in blue uniform," commanded by Lords Pembroke and Clinton, with the three sons of the Earl of Northumberland, and officered by many other scions of England's aristocracy, disembarked at Calais, and shortly afterwards joined the camp before Saint Quentin.
Philip meantime had left England, and with more bustle and activity than was usual with him, had given directions for organizing at once a considerable army. It was composed mainly of troops belonging to the Netherlands, with the addition of some German auxiliaries. Thirty-five thousand foot and twelve thousand horse had, by the middle of July, advanced through the province of Namur, and were assembled at Givet under the Duke of Savoy, who, as Governor-General of the Netherlands, held the chief command. All the most eminent grandees of the provinces, Orange, Aerschot, Berlaymont, Meghen, Brederode, were present with the troops, but the life and soul of the army, upon this memorable occasion, was the Count of Egmont.
Lamoral, Count of Egmont, Prince of Gavere, was now in the thirty-sixth year of his age, in the very noon of that brilliant life which was destined to be so soon and so fatally overshadowed. Not one of the dark clouds, which were in the future to accumulate around him, had yet rolled above his horizon. Young, noble, wealthy, handsome, valiant, he saw no threatening phantom in the future, and caught eagerly at the golden opportunity, which the present placed within his grasp, of winning fresh laurels on a wider and more fruitful field than any in which he had hitherto been a reaper. The campaign about to take place was likely to be an imposing, if not an important one, and could not fail to be attractive to a noble of so ardent and showy a character as Egmont. If there were no lofty principles or extensive interests to be contended for, as there certainly were not, there was yet much that was stately and exciting to the imagination in the warfare which had been so deliberately and pompously arranged. The contending armies, although of moderate size, were composed of picked troops, and were commanded by the flower of Europe's chivalry. Kings, princes, and the most illustrious paladins of Christendom, were arming for the great tournament, to which they had been summoned by herald and trumpet; and the Batavian hero, without a crown or even a country, but with as lofty a lineage as many anointed sovereigns could boast, was ambitious to distinguish himself in the proud array.
Upon the north-western edge of the narrow peninsula of North Holland, washed by the stormy waters of the German Ocean, were the ancient castle, town, and lordship, whence Egmont derived his family name, and the title by which he was most familiarly known. He was supposed to trace his descent, through a line of chivalrous champions and crusaders, up to the pagan kings of the most ancient of existing Teutonic races. The eighth century names of the Frisian Radbold and Adgild among his ancestors were thought to denote the antiquity of a house whose lustre had been increased in later times by the splendor of its alliances. His father, united to Francoise de Luxemburg, Princess of Gavere, had acquired by this marriage, and transmitted to his posterity, many of the proudest titles and richest estates of Flanders. Of the three children who survived him, the only daughter was afterwards united to the Count of Vaudemont, and became mother of Louise de Vaudemont, queen of the French monarch, Henry the Third.
Of his two sons, Charles, the elder, had died young and unmarried, leaving all the estates and titles of the family to his brother. Lamoral, born in 1522, was in early youth a page of the Emperor. When old enough to bear arms he demanded and obtained permission to follow the career of his adventurous sovereign. He served his apprenticeship as a soldier in the stormy expedition to Barbary, where, in his nineteenth year, he commanded a troop of light horse, and distinguished himself under the Emperor's eye for his courage and devotion, doing the duty not only of a gallant commander but of a hardy soldier. Returning, unscathed by the war, flood, or tempest of that memorable enterprise, he reached his country by the way of Corsica, Genoa, and Lorraine, and was three years afterwards united (in the year 1545) to Sabina of Bavaria, sister of Frederick, Elector Palatine. The nuptials had taken place at Spiers, and few royal weddings could have been more brilliant. The Emperor, his brother Ferdinand King of the Romans, with the Archduke Maximilian, all the imperial electors, and a concourse of the principal nobles of the empire, were present on the occasion been at the Emperor's side during the unlucky siege of Metz; in 1554 he had been sent at the head of a splendid embassy to England, to solicit for Philip the hand of Mary Tudor, and had witnessed the marriage in Winchester Cathedral, the same year. Although one branch of his house had, in past times, arrived at the sovereignty of Gueldres, and another had acquired the great estates and titles of Buren, which had recently passed, by intermarriage with the heiress, into the possession of the Prince of Orange, yet the Prince of Gavere, Count of Egmont, was the chief of a race which yielded to none of the great Batavian or Flemish families in antiquity, wealth, or power. Personally, he was distinguished for his bravery, and although he was not yet the idol of the camp, which he was destined to become, nor had yet commanded in chief on any important occasion, he was accounted one of the five principal generals in the Spanish service. Eager for general admiration, he was at the same time haughty and presumptuous, attempting to combine the characters of an arrogant magnate and a popular chieftain. Terrible and sudden in his wrath, he was yet of inordinate vanity, and was easily led by those who understood his weakness. With a limited education, and a slender capacity for all affairs except those relating to the camp, he was destined to be as vacillating and incompetent as a statesman, as he was prompt and fortunately audacious in the field. A splendid soldier, his evil stars had destined him to tread, as a politician, a dark and dangerous path, in which not even genius, caution, and integrity could ensure success, but in which rashness alternating with hesitation, and credulity with violence, could not fail to bring ruin. Such was Count Egmont, as he took his place at the-head of the king's cavalry in the summer of 1557.
The early operations of the Duke of Savoy were at first intended to deceive the enemy. The army, after advancing as far into Picardy as the town of Vervins, which they burned and pillaged, made a demonstration with their whole force upon the city of Guise. This, however, was but a feint, by which attention was directed and forces drawn off from Saint Quentin, which was to be the real point of attack In the mean time, the Constable of France, Montmorency, arrived upon the 28th July (1557), to take command of the French troops. He was accompanied by the Marechal de Saint Andre and by Admiral Coligny. The most illustrious names of France, whether for station or valor, were in the officers' list of this select army. Nevers and Montpensier, Enghien and Conde, Vendome and Rochefoucauld, were already there, and now the Constable and the Admiral came to add the strength of their experience and lofty reputation to sustain the courage of the troops. The French were at Pierrepoint, a post between Champagne and Picardy, and in its neighborhood. The Spanish army was at Vervins, and threatening Guise. It had been the opinion in France that the enemy's intention was to invade Champagne, and the Duc de Nevers, governor of that province, had made a disposition of his forces suitable for such a contingency. It was the conviction of Montmorency, however, that Picardy was to be the quarter really attacked, and that Saint Quentin, which was the most important point at which the enemy's progress, by that route, towards Paris could be arrested, was in imminent danger. The Constable's opinion was soon confirmed by advices received by Coligny. The enemy's army, he was informed, after remaining three days before Guise, had withdrawn from that point, and had invested Saint Quentin with their whole force.
This wealthy and prosperous city stood upon an elevation rising from the river Somme. It was surrounded by very extensive suburbs, ornamented with orchards and gardens, and including within their limits large tracts of a highly cultivated soil. Three sides of the place were covered by a lake, thirty yards in width, very deep at some points, in others, rather resembling a morass, and extending on the Flemish side a half mile beyond the city. The inhabitants were thriving and industrious; many of the manufacturers and merchants were very rich, for it was a place of much traffic and commercial importance.
Teligny, son-in-law of the Admiral, was in the city with a detachment of the Dauphin's regiment; Captain Brueuil was commandant of the town. Both informed Coligny of the imminent peril in which they stood. They represented the urgent necessity of immediate reinforcements both of men and supplies. The city, as the Admiral well knew, was in no condition to stand a siege by such an army, and dire were the consequences which would follow the downfall of so important a place. It was still practicable, they wrote, to introduce succor, but every day diminished the possibility of affording effectual relief. Coligny was not the man to let the grass grow under his feet, after such an appeal in behalf of the principal place in his government. The safety of France was dependent upon that of St. Quentin. The bulwark overthrown, Paris was within the next stride of an adventurous enemy. The Admiral instantly set out, upon the 2d of August, with strong reinforcements. It was too late. The English auxiliaries, under Lords Pembroke, Clinton, and Grey, had, in the mean time, effected their junction with the Duke of Savoy, and appeared in the camp before St. Quentin. The route, by which it had been hoped that the much needed succor could be introduced, was thus occupied and rendered impracticable. The Admiral, however, in consequence of the urgent nature of the letters received from Brueuil and Teligny, had outstripped, in his anxiety, the movements of his troops. He reached the city, almost alone and unattended. Notwithstanding the remonstrances of his officers, he had listened to no voice save the desperate entreaties of the besieged garrison, and had flown before his army. He now shut himself up in the city, determined to effect its deliverance by means of his skill and experience, or, at least, to share its fate. As the gates closed upon Coligny, the road was blocked up for his advancing troops.
A few days were passed in making ineffectual sorties, ordered by Coligny for the sake of reconnoitring the country, and of discovering the most practicable means of introducing supplies. The Constable, meantime, who had advanced with his army to La Fore, was not idle. He kept up daily communications with the beleagured Admiral, and was determined, if possible, to relieve the city. There was, however, a constant succession of disappointments. Moreover, the brave but indiscreet Teligny, who commanded during a temporary illness of the Admiral, saw fit, against express orders, to make an imprudent sortie. He paid the penalty of his rashness with his life. He was rescued by the Admiral in person, who, at imminent hazard, brought back the unfortunate officer covered with wounds, into the city, there to die at his father's feet, imploring forgiveness for his disobedience. Meantime the garrison was daily growing weaker. Coligny sent out of the city all useless consumers, quartered all the women in the cathedral and other churches, where they were locked in, lest their terror and their tears should weaken the courage of the garrison; and did all in his power to strengthen the defences of the city, and sustain the resolution of the inhabitants. Affairs were growing desperate. It seemed plain that the important city must soon fall, and with it most probably Paris. One of the suburbs was already in the hands of the enemy. At last Coligny discovered a route by which he believed it to be still possible to introduce reinforcements. He communicated the results of his observations to the Constable. Upon one side of the city the lake, or morass, was traversed by a few difficult and narrow pathways, mostly under water, and by a running stream which could only be passed in boats. The Constable, in consequence of this information received from Coligny, set out from La Fere upon the 8th of August, with four thousand infantry and two thousand horse. Halting his troops at the village of Essigny, he advanced in person to the edge of the morass, in order to reconnoitre the ground and prepare his plans. The result was a determination to attempt the introduction of men and supplies into the town by the mode suggested. Leaving his troops drawn up in battle array, he returned to La Fere for the remainder of his army, and to complete his preparations. Coligny in the mean time was to provide boats for crossing the stream. Upon the 10th August, which was the festival of St. Laurence, the Constable advanced with four pieces of heavy artillery, four culverines, and four lighter pieces, and arrived at nine o'clock in the morning near the Faubourg d'Isle, which was already in possession of the Spanish troops. The whole army of the Constable consisted of twelve thousand German, with fifteen companies of French infantry; making in all some sixteen thousand foot, with five thousand cavalry in addition. The Duke of Savoy's army lay upon the same side of the town, widely extended, and stretching beyond the river and the morass. Montmorency's project was to be executed in full view of the enemy. Fourteen companies of Spaniards were stationed in the faubourg. Two companies had been pushed forward as far as a water-mill, which lay in the pathway of the advancing Constable. These soldiers stood their ground for a moment, but soon retreated, while a cannonade was suddenly opened by the French upon the quarters of the Duke of Savoy. The Duke's tent was torn to pieces, and he had barely time to hurry on his cuirass, and to take refuge with Count Egmont. The Constable, hastening to turn this temporary advantage to account at once, commenced the transportation of his troops across the morass. The enterprise was, however, not destined to be fortunate. The number of boats which had been provided was very inadequate; moreover they were very small, and each as it left the shore was consequently so crowded with soldiers that it was in danger of being swamped. Several were overturned, and the men perished. It was found also that the opposite bank was steep and dangerous. Many who had crossed the river were unable to effect a landing, while those who escaped drowning in the water lost their way in the devious and impracticable paths, or perished miserably in the treacherous quagmires. Very few effected their entrance into the town, but among them was Andelot, brother of Coligny, with five hundred followers. Meantime, a council of officers was held in Egmont's tent. Opinions were undecided as to the course to be pursued under the circumstances. Should an engagement be risked, or should the Constable, who had but indifferently accomplished his project and had introduced but an insignificant number of troops into the city, be allowed to withdraw with the rest of his army? The fiery vehemence of Egmont carried all before it. Here was an opportunity to measure arms at advantage with the great captain of the age. To relinquish the prize, which the fortune of war had now placed within reach of their valor, was a thought not to be entertained. Here was the great Constable Montmorency, attended by princes of the royal blood, the proudest of the nobility, the very crown and flower of the chivalry of France, and followed by an army of her bravest troops. On a desperate venture he had placed himself within their grasp. Should he go thence alive and unmolested? The moral effect of destroying such an army would be greater than if it were twice its actual strength. It would be dealing a blow at the very heart of France, from which she could not recover. Was the opportunity to be resigned without a struggle of laying at the feet of Philip, in this his first campaign since his accession to his father's realms, a prize worthy of the proudest hour of the Emperor's reign? The eloquence of the impetuous Batavian was irresistible, and it was determined to cut off the Constable's retreat.
Three miles from the Faubourg d'Isle, to which that general had now advanced, was a narrow pass or defile, between steep and closely hanging hills. While advancing through this ravine in the morning, the Constable had observed that the enemy might have it in their power to intercept his return at that point. He had therefore left the Rhinegrave, with his company of mounted carabineers, to guard the passage. Being ready to commence his retreat, he now sent forward the Due de Nevers, with four companies of cavalry to strengthen that important position, which he feared might be inadequately guarded. The act of caution came too late. This was the fatal point which the quick glance of Egmont had at once detected. As Nevers reached the spot, two thousand of the enemy's cavalry rode through and occupied the narrow passage. Inflamed by mortification and despair, Nevers would have at once charged those troops, although outnumbering his own by nearly, four to one. His officers restrained him with difficulty, recalling to his memory the peremptory orders which he had received from the Constable to guard the passage, but on no account to hazard an engagement, until sustained by the body of the army. It was a case in which rashness would have been the best discretion. The headlong charge which the Duke had been about to make, might possibly have cleared the path and have extricated the army, provided the Constable had followed up the movement by a rapid advance upon his part. As it was, the passage was soon blocked up by freshly advancing bodies of Spanish and Flemish cavalry, while Nevers slowly and reluctantly fell back upon the Prince of Conde, who was stationed with the light horse at the mill where the first skirmish had taken place. They were soon joined by the Constable, with the main body of the army. The whole French force now commenced its retrograde movement. It was, however, but too evident that they were enveloped. As they approached the fatal pass through which lay their only road to La Fire, and which was now in complete possession of the enemy, the signal of assault was given by Count Egmont. That general himself, at the head of two thousand light horse, led the charge upon the left flank. The other side was assaulted by the Dukes Eric and Henry of Brunswick, each with a thousand heavy dragoons, sustained by Count Horn, at the head of a regiment of mounted gendarmerie. Mansfeld, Lalain, Hoogstraaten; and Vilain, at the same time made a furious attack upon the front. The French cavalry wavered with the shock so vigorously given. The camp followers, sutlers, and pedlers, panic-struck, at once fled helter-skelter, and in their precipitate retreat, carried confusion and dismay throughout all the ranks of the army. The rout was sudden and total. The onset and the victory were simultaneous, Nevers riding through a hollow with some companies of cavalry, in the hope of making a detour and presenting a new front to the enemy, was overwhelmed at once by the retreating French and their furious pursuers. The day was lost, retreat hardly possible, yet, by a daring and desperate effort, the Duke, accompanied by a handful of followers, cut his way through the enemy and effected his escape. The cavalry had been broken at the first onset and nearly destroyed. A portion of the infantry still held firm, and attempted to continue their retreat. Some pieces of artillery, however, now opened upon them, and before they reached Essigny, the whole army was completely annihilated. The defeat was absolute. Half the French troops actually engaged in the enterprise, lost their lives upon the field. The remainder of the army was captured or utterly disorganized. When Nevers reviewed, at Laon, the wreck of the Constable's whole force, he found some thirteen hundred French and three hundred German cavalry, with four companies of French infantry remaining out of fifteen, and four thousand German foot remaining of twelve thousand. Of twenty-one or two thousand remarkably fine and well-appointed troops, all but six thousand had been killed or made prisoners within an hour. The Constable himself, with a wound in the groin, was a captive. The Duke of Enghien, after behaving with brilliant valor, and many times rallying the troops, was shot through the body, and brought into the enemy's camp only to expire. The Due de Montpensier, the Marshal de Saint Andre, the Due de Loggieville, Prince Ludovic of Mantua, the Baron Corton, la Roche du Mayne, the Rhinegrave, the Counts de Rochefoucauld, d'Aubigni, de Rochefort, all were taken. The Due de Nevers, the Prince of Conde, with a few others, escaped; although so absolute was the conviction that such an escape was impossible, that it was not believed by the victorious army. When Nevers sent a trumpet, after the battle, to the Duke of Savoy, for the purpose of negotiating concerning the prisoners, the trumpeter was pronounced an impostor, and the Duke's letter a forgery; nor was it till after the whole field had been diligently searched for his dead body without success, that Nevers could persuade the conquerors that he was still in existence.
Of Philip's army but fifty lost their lives. Lewis of Brederode was smothered in his armor; and the two counts Spiegelberg and Count Waldeck were also killed; besides these, no officer of distinction fell. All the French standards and all their artillery but two pieces were taken, and placed before the King, who the next day came into the camp before Saint Quentin. The prisoners of distinction were likewise presented to him in long procession. Rarely had a monarch of Spain enjoyed a more signal triumph than this which Philip now owed to the gallantry and promptness of Count Egmont.
While the King stood reviewing the spoils of victory, a light horseman of Don Henrico Manrique's regiment approached, and presented him with a sword. "I am the man, may it please your Majesty," said the trooper, "who took the Constable; here is his sword; may your Majesty be pleased to give me something to eat in my house." "I promise it," replied Philip; upon which the soldier kissed his Majesty's hand and retired. It was the custom universally recognized in that day, that the king was the king's captive, and the general the general's, but that the man, whether soldier or officer, who took the commander-in-chief, was entitled to ten thousand ducats. Upon this occasion the Constable was the prisoner of Philip, supposed to command his own army in person. A certain Spanish Captain Valenzuela, however, disputed the soldier's claim to the Constable's sword. The trooper advanced at once to the Constable, who stood there with the rest of the illustrious prisoners. "Your excellency is a Christian," said he; "please to declare upon your conscience and the faith of a cavalier, whether 't was I that took you prisoner. It need not surprise your excellency that I am but a soldier, since with soldiers his Majesty must wage his wars." "Certainly," replied the Constable, "you took me and took my horse, and I gave you my sword. My word, however, I pledged to Captain Valenzuela." It appearing, however, that the custom of Spain did not recognize a pledge given to any one but the actual captor, it was arranged that the soldier should give two thousand of his ten thousand ducats to the captain. Thus the dispute ended.
Such was the brilliant victory of Saint Quentin, worthy to be placed in the same list with the world-renowned combats of Creqy and Agincourt. Like those battles, also, it derives its main interest from the personal character of the leader, while it seems to have been hallowed by the tender emotions which sprang from his subsequent fate. The victory was but a happy move in a winning game. The players were kings, and the people were stakes—not parties. It was a chivalrous display in a war which was waged without honorable purpose, and in which no single lofty sentiment was involved. The Flemish frontier was, however, saved for the time from the misery which was now to be inflicted upon the French border. This was sufficient to cause the victory to be hailed as rapturously by the people as by the troops. From that day forth the name of the brave Hollander was like the sound of a trumpet to the army. "Egmont and Saint Quentin" rang through every mouth to the furthest extremity of Philip's realms. A deadly blow was struck to the very heart of France. The fruits of all the victories of Francis and Henry withered. The battle, with others which were to follow it, won by the same hand, were soon to compel the signature of the most disastrous treaty which had ever disgraced the history of France.
The fame and power of the Constable faded—his misfortunes and captivity fell like a blight upon the ancient glory of the house of Montmorency—his enemies destroyed his influence and his popularity—while the degradation of the kingdom was simultaneous with the downfall of his illustrious name. On the other hand, the exultation of Philip was as keen as his cold and stony nature would permit. The magnificent palace-convent of the Escurial, dedicated to the saint on whose festival the battle had been fought, and built in the shape of the gridiron, on which that martyr had suffered, was soon afterwards erected in pious commemoration of the event. Such was the celebration of the victory. The reward reserved for the victor was to be recorded on a later page of history.
The coldness and caution, not to say the pusillanimity of Philip, prevented him from seizing the golden fruits of his triumph. Ferdinand Gonzaga wished the blow to be followed up by an immediate march upon Paris.—Such was also the feeling of all the distinguished soldiers of the age. It was unquestionably the opinion, and would have been the deed, of Charles, had he been on the field of Saint Quentin, crippled as he was, in the place of his son. He could not conceal his rage and mortification when he found that Paris had not fallen, and is said to have refused to read the despatches which recorded that the event had not been consummated. There was certainly little of the conqueror in Philip's nature; nothing which would have led him to violate the safest principles of strategy. He was not the man to follow up enthusiastically the blow which had been struck; Saint Quentin, still untaken, although defended by but eight hundred soldiers, could not be left behind him; Nevers was still in his front, and although it was notorious that he commanded only the wreck of an army, yet a new one might be collected, perhaps, in time to embarrass the triumphant march to Paris. Out of his superabundant discretion, accordingly, Philip refused to advance till Saint Quentin should be reduced.
Although nearly driven to despair by the total overthrow of the French in the recent action, Coligny still held bravely out, being well aware that every day by which the siege could be protracted was of advantage to his country. Again he made fresh attempts to introduce men into the city. A fisherman showed him a submerged path, covered several feet deep with water, through which he succeeded in bringing one hundred and fifty unarmed and half-drowned soldiers into the place. His garrison consisted barely of eight hundred men, but the siege was still sustained, mainly by his courage and sagacity, and by the spirit of his brother Andelot. The company of cavalry, belonging to the Dauphin's regiment, had behaved badly, and even with cowardice, since the death of their commander Teligny. The citizens were naturally weary and impatient of the siege. Mining and countermining continued till the 21st August. A steady cannonade was then maintained until the 27th. Upon that day, eleven breaches having been made in the walls, a simultaneous assault was ordered at four of them. The citizens were stationed upon the walls, the soldiers in the breaches. There was a short but sanguinary contest, the garrison resisting with uncommon bravery. Suddenly an entrance was effected through a tower which had been thought sufficiently strong, and which had been left unguarded. Coligny, rushing to the spot, engaged the enemy almost single-handed. He was soon overpowered, being attended only by four men and a page, was made a prisoner by a soldier named Francisco Diaz, and conducted through one of the subterranean mines into the presence of the Duke of Savoy, from whom the captor received ten thousand ducats in exchange for the Admiral's sword. The fighting still continued with great determination in the streets, the brave Andelot resisting to the last. He was, however, at last overpowered, and taken prisoner. Philip, who had, as usual, arrived in the trenches by noon, armed in complete harness, with a page carrying his helmet, was met by the intelligence that the city of Saint Quentin was his own.
To a horrible carnage succeeded a sack and a conflagration still more horrible. In every house entered during the first day, every human being was butchered. The sack lasted all that day and the whole of the following, till the night of the 28th. There was not a soldier who did not obtain an ample share of plunder, and some individuals succeeded in getting possession of two, three, and even twelve thousand ducats each. The women were not generally outraged, but they were stripped almost entirely naked, lest they should conceal treasure which belonged to their conquerors, and they were slashed in the face with knives, partly in sport, partly as a punishment for not giving up property which was not in their possession. The soldiers even cut off the arms of many among these wretched women, and then turned them loose, maimed and naked, into the blazing streets; for the town, on the 28th, was fired in a hundred places, and was now one general conflagration. The streets were already strewn with the corpses of the butchered garrison and citizens; while the survivors were now burned in their houses. Human heads, limbs, and trunks, were mingled among the bricks and rafters of the houses, which were falling on every side. The fire lasted day and night, without an attempt being made to extinguish it; while the soldiers dashed like devils through flame and smoke in search of booty. Bearing lighted torches, they descended into every subterrranean vault and receptacle, of which there were many in the town, and in every one of which they hoped to discover hidden treasure. The work of killing, plundering, and burning lasted nearly three days and nights. The streets, meanwhile, were encumbered with heaps of corpses, not a single one of which had been buried since the capture of the town. The remains of nearly all the able bodied male population, dismembered, gnawed by dogs or blackened by fire, polluted the midsummer air meantime, the women had been again driven into the cathedral, where they had housed during the siege, and where they now crouched together in trembling expectation of their fate.' On the 29th August, at two o'clock in the afternoon, Philip issued an order that every woman, without an exception, should be driven out of the city into the French territory. Saint Quentin, which seventy years before had been a Flemish town, was to be re-annexed, and not a single man, woman, or child who could speak the French language was to remain another hour in the place. The tongues of the men had been effectually silenced. The women, to the number of three thousand five hundred, were now compelled to leave the cathedral and the city. Some were in a starving condition; others had been desperately wounded; all, as they passed through the ruinous streets of what had been their home, were compelled to tread upon the unburied remains of their fathers, husbands, or brethren. To none of these miserable creatures remained a living protector—hardly even a dead body which could be recognized; and thus the ghastly procession of more than three thousand women, many with gaping wounds in the face, many with their arms cut off and festering, of all ranks and ages, some numbering more than ninety years, bareheaded, with grey hair streaming upon their shoulders; others with nursing infants in their arms, all escorted by a company of heavy-armed troopers, left forever their native city. All made the dismal journey upon foot, save that carts were allowed to transport the children between the ages of two and six years. The desolation and depopulation were now complete. "I wandered through the place, gazing at all this," says a Spanish soldier who was present, and kept a diary of all which occurred, "and it seemed to me that it was another destruction of Jerusalem. What most struck me was to find not a single denizen of the town left, who was or who dared to call himself French. How vain and transitory, thought I, are the things of this world! Six days ago what riches were in the city, and now remains not one stone upon another."
The expulsion of the women had been accomplished by the express command of Philip, who moreover had made no effort to stay the work of carnage, pillage, and conflagration. The pious King had not forgotten, however, his duty to the saints. As soon as the fire had broken out, he had sent to the cathedral, whence he had caused the body of Saint Quentin to be removed and placed in the royal tent. Here an altar, was arranged, upon one side of which was placed the coffin of that holy personage, and upon the other the head of the "glorious Saint Gregory" (whoever that glorious individual may have been in life), together with many other relics brought from the church. Within the sacred enclosure many masses were said daily, while all this devil's work was going on without. The saint who had been buried for centuries was comfortably housed and guarded by the monarch, while dogs were gnawing the carcases of the freshly-slain men of Saint Quentin, and troopers were driving into perpetual exile its desolate and mutilated women.
The most distinguished captives upon this occasion were, of course, Coligny and his brother. Andelot was, however, fortunate enough to make his escape that night under the edge of the tent in which he was confined. The Admiral was taken to Antwerp. Here he lay for many weeks sick with a fever. Upon his recovery, having no better pastime, he fell to reading the Scriptures. The result was his conversion to Calvinism; and the world shudders yet at the fate in which that conversion involved him.
Saint Quentin being thus reduced, Philip was not more disposed to push his fortune. The time was now wasted in the siege of several comparatively unimportant places, so that the fruits of Egmont's valor were not yet allowed to ripen. Early in September Le Catelet was taken. On the 12th of the same month the citadel of Ham yielded, after receiving two thousand shots from Philip's artillery, while Nojon, Chanly, and some other places of less importance, were burned to the ground. After all this smoke and fire upon the frontier, productive of but slender consequences, Philip disbanded his army, and retired to Brussels. He reached that city on the 12th October. The English returned to their own country. The campaign of 1557 was closed without a material result, and the victory of Saint Quentin remained for a season barren.
In the mean time the French were not idle. The army of the Constable had been destroyed but the Duke de Guise, who had come post-haste from Italy after hearing the news of Saint Quentin, was very willing to organize another. He was burning with impatience both to retrieve his own reputation, which had suffered some little damage by his recent Italian campaign, and to profit by the captivity of his fallen rival the Constable. During the time occupied by the languid and dilatory proceedings of Philip in the autumn, the Duke had accordingly recruited in France and Germany a considerable army. In January (1558) he was ready to take the field. It had been determined in the French cabinet, however, not to attempt to win back the places which they had lost in Picardy, but to carry the war into the territory of the ally. It was fated that England should bear all the losses, and Philip appropriate all the gain and glory, which resulted from their united exertions. It was the war of the Queen's husband, with which the Queen's people had no concern, but in which the last trophies of the Black Prince were to be forfeited. On the first January, 1558, the Duc de Guise appeared before Calais. The Marshal Strozzi had previously made an expedition, in disguise, to examine the place. The result of his examination was that the garrison was weak, and that it relied too much upon the citadel. After a tremendous cannonade, which lasted a week, and was heard in Antwerp, the city was taken by assault. Thus the key to the great Norman portal of France, the time-honored key which England had worn at her girdle since the eventful day of Crecy, was at last taken from her. Calais had been originally won after a siege which had lasted a twelvemonth, had been held two hundred and ten years, and was now lost in seven days. Seven days more, and ten thousand discharges from thirty-five great guns sufficed for the reduction of Guines. Thus the last vestige of English dominion, the last substantial pretext of the English sovereign to wear the title and the lilies of France, was lost forever. King Henry visited Calais, which after two centuries of estrangement had now become a French town again, appointed Paul de Thermes governor of the place, and then returned to Paris to celebrate soon afterwards the marriage of the Dauphin with the niece of the Guises, Mary, Queen of Scots.
These events, together with the brief winter campaign of the Duke, which had raised for an instant the drooping head of France, were destined before long to give a new face to affairs, while it secured the ascendancy of the Catholic party in the kingdom. Disastrous eclipse had come over the house of Montmorency and Coligny, while the star of Guise, brilliant with the conquest of Calais, now culminated to the zenith.
It was at this period that the memorable interview between the two ecclesiastics, the Bishop of Arras and the Cardinal de Lorraine, took place at Peronne. From this central point commenced the weaving of that wide-spread scheme, in which the fate of millions was to be involved. The Duchess Christina de Lorraine, cousin of Philip, had accompanied him to Saint Quentin. Permission had been obtained by the Duc de Guise and his brother, the Cardinal, to visit her at Peronne. The Duchess was accompanied by the Bishop of Arras, and the consequence was a full and secret negotiation between the two priests. It may be supposed that Philip's short-lived military ardor had already exhausted itself. He had mistaken his vocation, and already recognized the false position in which he was placed. He was contending against the monarch in whom he might find the surest ally against the arch enemy of both kingdoms, and of the world. The French monarch held heresy in horror, while, for himself, Philip had already decided upon his life's mission.
The crafty Bishop was more than a match for the vain and ambitious Cardinal. That prelate was assured that Philip considered the captivity of Coligny and Montmorency a special dispensation of Providence, while the tutelar genius of France, notwithstanding the reverses sustained by that kingdom, was still preserved. The Cardinal and his brother, it was suggested, now held in their hands the destiny of the kingdom, and of Europe. The interests of both nations, of religion, and of humanity, made it imperative upon them to put an end to this unnatural war, in order that the two monarchs might unite hand and heart for the extirpation of heresy. That hydra-headed monster had already extended its coils through France, while its pestilential breath was now wafted into Flanders from the German as well as the French border. Philip placed full reliance upon the wisdom and discretion of the Cardinal. It was necessary that these negotiations should for the present remain a profound secret; but in the mean time a peace ought to be concluded with as little delay as possible; a result which, it was affirmed, was as heartily desired by Philip as it could be by Henry. The Bishop was soon aware of the impression which his artful suggestions had produced. The Cardinal, inspired by the flattery thus freely administered, as well as by the promptings of his own ambition, lent a willing ear to the Bishop's plans. Thus was laid the foundation of a vast scheme, which time was to complete. A crusade with the whole strength of the French and Spanish crowns, was resolved upon against their own subjects. The Bishop's task was accomplished. The Cardinal returned to France, determined to effect a peace with Spain. He was convinced that the glory of his house was to be infinitely enhanced, and its power impregnably established, by a cordial co-operation with Philip in his dark schemes against religion and humanity. The negotiations were kept, however, profoundly secret. A new campaign and fresh humiliations were to precede the acceptance by France of the peace which was thus proffered.
Hostile operations were renewed soon after the interview at Peronne. The Duke of Guise, who had procured five thousand cavalry and fourteen thousand infantry in Germany, now, at the desire of the King, undertook an enterprise against Thionville, a city of importance and great strength in Luxemburg, upon the river Moselle. It was defended by Peter de Quarebbe, a gentleman of Louvain, with a garrison of eighteen hundred men. On the 5th June, thirty-five pieces of artillery commenced the work; the mining and countermining-continuing seventeen days; on the 22nd the assault was made, and the garrison capitulated immediately afterwards. It was a siege conducted in a regular and business-like way, but the details possess no interest. It was, however, signalized by the death of one of the eminent adventurers of the age, Marshal Strozzi. This brave, but always unlucky soldier was slain by a musket ball while assisting the Duke of Guise—whose arm was, at that instant, resting upon his shoulder—to point a gun at the fortress.
After the fall of Thionville, the Due de Guise, for a short time, contemplated the siege of the city of Luxemburg, but contented himself with the reduction of the unimportant places of Vireton and Arlon. Here he loitered seventeen days, making no exertions to follow up the success which had attended him at the opening of the campaign. The good fortune of the French was now neutralized by the same languor which had marked the movements of Philip after the victory of Saint Quentin. The time, which might have been usefully employed in following up his success, was now wasted by the Duke in trivial business, or in absolute torpor. This may have been the result of a treacherous understanding with Spain, and the first fruits of the interview at Peronne. Whatever the cause, however, the immediate consequences were disaster to the French nation, and humiliation to the crown.
It had been the plan of the French cabinet that Marshal de Thermes, who, upon the capture of Calais, had been appointed governor of the city, should take advantage of his position as soon as possible. Having assembled an army of some eight thousand foot and fifteen hundred horse, partly Gascons and partly Germans, he was accordingly directed to ravage the neighboring country, particularly the county of Saint Pol. In the mean time, the Due de Guise, having reduced the cities on the southern frontier, was to move in a northerly direction, make a junction with the Marshal, and thus extend a barrier along the whole frontier of the Netherlands.
De Therlries set forth from Calais, in the beginning of June, with his newly-organized army. Passing by Gravelines and Bourbourg, he arrived before Dunkerk on the 2d of July. The city, which was without a garrison, opened negotiations, during the pendency of which it was taken by assault and pillaged. The town of Saint Winochsberg shared the same fate. De Thermes, who was a martyr to the gout, was obliged at this point temporarily to resign the command to d'Estonteville, a ferocious soldier, who led the predatory army as far as Niewport, burning, killing, ravishing, plundering, as they went. Meantime Philip, who was at Brussels, had directed the Duke of Savoy to oppose the Due de Guise with an army which had been hastily collected and organized at Maubeuge, in the province of Namur. He now desired, if possible, to attack and cut off the forces of De Thermes before he should extend the hand to Guise, or make good his retreat to Calais.
Flushed with victory over defenceless peasants, laden with the spoils of sacked and burning towns, the army of De Thermes was already on its homeward march. It was the moment for a sudden and daring blow. Whose arm should deal it? What general in Philip's army possessed the requisite promptness, and felicitous audacity; who, but the most brilliant of cavalry officers, the bold and rapid hero of St. Quentin? Egmont, in obedience to the King's command, threw himself at once into the field. He hastily collected all the available forces in the neighborhood. These, with drafts from the Duke of Savoy's army, and with detachments under Marshal Bigonicourt from the garrisons of Saint Omer, Bethune, Aire, and Bourbourg, soon amounted to ten thousand foot and two thousand horse. His numbers were still further swollen by large bands of peasantry, both men and women, maddened by their recent injuries, and thirsting for vengeance. With these troops the energetic chieftain took up his position directly in the path of the French army. Determined to destroy De Thermes with all his force, or to sacrifice himself, he posted his army at Gravelines, a small town lying near the sea-shore, and about midway between Calais and Dunkerk. The French general was putting the finishing touch to his expedition by completing the conflagration at Dunkerk, and was moving homeward, when he became aware of the lion in his path. Although suffering from severe sickness, he mounted his horse and personally conducted his army to Gravelines. Here he found his progress completely arrested. On that night, which was the 12th July, he held a council of officers. It was determined to refuse the combat offered, and, if possible, to escape at low tide along the sands toward Calais. The next morning he crossed the river Aa, below Gravelines. Egmont, who was not the man, on that occasion at least, to build a golden bridge for a flying enemy, crossed the same stream just above the town, and drew up his whole force in battle array. De Thermes could no longer avoid the conflict thus resolutely forced upon him. Courage was now his only. counsellor. Being not materially outnumbered by his adversaries, he had, at least, an even chance of cutting his way through all obstacles, and of saving his army and his treasure. The sea was on his right hand, the Aa behind him, the enemy in front. He piled his baggage and wagons so as to form a barricade upon his left, and placed his artillery, consisting of four culverines and three falconeta, in front. Behind these he drew up his cavalry, supported at each side by the Gascons, and placed his French and German infantry in the rear.
Egmont, on the other hand, divided his cavalry into five squadrons. Three of light horse were placed in advance for the first assault—the centre commanded by himself, the two wings by Count Pontenals and Henrico Henriquez. The black hussars of Lazarus Schwendi and the Flemish gendarmes came next. Behind these was the infantry, divided into three nations, Spanish, German, and Flemish, and respectively commanded by Carvajal, Monchausen, and Bignicourt. Egmont, having characteristically selected the post of danger in the very front of battle for himself, could no longer restrain his impatience. "The foe is ours already," he shouted; "follow me, all who love their fatherland:" With that he set spurs to his horse, and having his own regiment well in hand, dashed upon the enemy. The Gascons received the charge with coolness, and under cover of a murderous fire from the artillery in front, which mowed down the foremost ranks of their assailants-sustained the whole weight of the first onset without flinching. Egmont's horse was shot under him at the commencement of the action. Mounting another, he again cheered his cavalry to the attack. The Gascons still maintained an unwavering front, and fought with characteristic ferocity. The courage of despair inflamed the French, the hope of a brilliant and conclusive victory excited the Spaniards and Flemings. It was a wild, hand to hand conflict—general and soldier, cavalier and pikeman, lancer and musketeer, mingled together in one dark, confused, and struggling mass, foot to foot, breast to breast, horse to horse-a fierce, tumultuous battle on the sands, worthy the fitful pencil of the national painter, Wouvermans. For a long time it was doubtful on which side victory was to incline, but at last ten English vessels unexpectedly appeared in the offing, and ranging up soon afterwards as close to the share as was possible, opened their fire upon the still unbroken lines of the French. The ships were too distant, the danger of injuring friend as well as foe too imminent, to allow of their exerting any important influence upon the result. The spirit of the enemy was broken, however, by this attack upon their seaward side, which they had thought impregnable. At the same time, too, a detachment of German cavalry which had been directed by Egmont to make their way under the downs to the southward, now succeeded in turning their left flank. Egmont, profiting by their confusion, charged them again with redoubled vigor. The fate of the day was decided. The French cavalry wavered, broke their ranks, and in their flight carried dismay throughout the whole army. The rout was total; horse and foot; French, Gascon, and German fled from the field together. Fifteen hundred fell in the action, as many more were driven into the sea, while great numbers were torn to pieces by the exasperated peasants, who now eagerly washed out their recent injuries in the blood of the dispersed, wandering, and wounded soldiers. The army of De Thermes was totally destroyed, and with it, the last hope of France for an honorable and equal negotiation. She was now at Philip's feet, so that this brilliant cavalry action, although it has been surpassed in importance by many others, in respect to the numbers of the combatants and the principles involved in the contest, was still, in regard to the extent both of its immediate and its permanent results, one of the most decisive and striking which have ever been fought. The French army engaged was annihilated. Marshal de Thermes, with a wound in the head, Senarpont, Annibault, Villefon, Morvilliers, Chanlis, and many others of high rank were prisoners. The French monarch had not much heart to set about the organization of another army; a task which he was now compelled to undertake. He was soon obliged to make the best terms which he could, and to consent to a treaty which was one of the most ruinous in the archives of France.
The Marshal de Thermes was severely censured for having remained so long at Dunkerk and in its neighborhood. He was condemned still more loudly for not having at least effected his escape beyond Gravelines, during the night which preceded the contest. With regard to the last charge, however, it may well be doubted whether any nocturnal attempt would have been likely to escape the vigilance of Egmont. With regard to his delay at Dunkerk, it was asserted that he had been instructed to await in that place the junction with the Due de Guise, which had been previously arranged. But for the criminal and, then, inexplicable languor which characterized that commander's movements, after the capture of Thionville, the honor of France might still have been saved.
Whatever might have been the faults of De Thermes or of Guise, there could be little doubt as to the merit of Egmont. Thus within eleven months of the battle of Saint Quentin, had the Dutch hero gained another victory so decisive as to settle the fate of the war, and to elevate his sovereign to a position from which he might dictate the terms of a triumphant peace. The opening scenes of Philip's reign were rendered as brilliant as the proudest days of the Emperor's career, while the provinces were enraptured with the prospect of early peace. To whom, then, was the sacred debt of national and royal gratitude due but to Lamoral of Egmont? His countrymen gladly recognized the claim. He became the idol of the army; the familiar hero of ballad and story; the mirror of chivalry, and the god of popular worship. Throughout the Netherlands he was hailed as the right hand of the fatherland, the saviour of Flanders from devastation and outrage, the protector of the nation, the pillar of the throne.
The victor gained many friends by his victory, and one enemy. The bitterness of that foe was likely, in the future, to outweigh all the plaudits of his friends. The Duke of Alva had strongly advised against giving battle to De Thermes. He depreciated the triumph after it had been gained, by reflections upon the consequences which would have flowed, had a defeat been suffered instead. He even held this language to Egmont himself after his return to Brussels. The conqueror, flushed with his glory, was not inclined to digest the criticism, nor what he considered the venomous detraction of the Duke. More vain and arrogant than ever, he treated his powerful Spanish rival with insolence, and answered his observations with angry sarcasms, even in the presence of the King. Alva was not likely to forget the altercation, nor to forgive the triumph.
There passed, naturally, much bitter censure and retort on both sides at court, between the friends and adherents of Egmont and those who sustained the party of his adversary. The battle of Gravelines was fought over daily, amid increasing violence and recrimination, between Spaniard and Fleming, and the old international hatred flamed more fiercely than ever. Alva continued to censure the foolhardiness which had risked so valuable an army on a single blow. Egmont's friends replied that it was easy for foreigners, who had nothing at risk in the country, to look on while the fields of the Netherlands were laid waste, and the homes and hearths of an industrious population made desolate, by a brutal and rapacious soldiery. They who dwelt in the Provinces would be ever grateful to their preserver for the result. They had no eyes for the picture which the Spanish party painted of an imaginary triumph of De Thermos and its effects. However the envious might cavil, now that the blow had been struck, the popular heart remained warm as ever, and refused to throw down the idol which had so recently been set up.
- The character of these apostilles, always confused, wordy and awkward, was sometimes very ludicrous; nor did it improve after his thirty or forty years' daily practice in making them. Thus, when he received a letter from France in 1589, narrating the assassination of Henry III., and stating that "the manner in which he had been killed was that a Jacobin monk had given him a pistol-shot in the head" (la facon qua l'on dit qu'il a ette tue, sa ette par un Jacobin qui luy a donna d'un cou de pistolle dans la tayte), he scrawled the following luminous comment upon the margin. Underlining the word "pistolle," he observed, "this is perhaps some kind of knife; and as for 'tayte,' it can be nothing else but head, which is not tayte, but tete, or teyte, as you very well know" (quiza de alguna manera de cuchillo, etc., etc.)—Gachard. Rapport a M. le Minist. de l'Interieur, prefixed to corresp. Philippe II. Vol. I. xlix. note 1. It is obvious that a person who made such wonderful commentaries as this, and was hard at work eight or nine hours a day for forty years, would leave a prodigious quantity of unpublished matter at his death.