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The Rise of the Dutch Republic/Part 1/Chapter 3

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Secret negotiations for peace — Two fresh armies assembled, but inactive — Negotiations at Cercamp — Death of Mary Tudor — Treaty of Cateau Cambresis — Death of Henry II. — Policy of Catharine de Medici — Revelations by Henry II. to the Prince of Orange — Funeral of Charles V. in Brussels — Universal joy in the Netherlands at the restoration of peace — Organization of the government by Philip, and preparations for his departure — Appointment of Margaret of Parma as Regent of the Netherlands — Three councils — The consulta — The stadholders of the different provinces — Dissatisfaction caused by the foreign troops — Assembly of the Estates at Ghent to receive the parting instructions and farewell of the King — Speech of the Bishop of Arras — Request for three millions — Fierce denunciation of heresy on the part of Philip — Strenuous enforcement of the edicts commanded — Reply by the States of Arthois — Unexpected conditions — Rage of the King — Similar conduct on the part of the other provinces — Remonstrance in the name of States — General against the foreign soldiery — Formal reply on the part of the crown — Departure of the King from the Netherlands — Autos-da-fe in Spain.

The battle of Gravelines had decided the question. The intrigues of the two Cardinals at Peronne having been sustained by Egmont's victory, all parties were ready for a peace. King Henry was weary of the losing game which he had so long been playing, Philip was anxious to relieve himself from his false position, and to concentrate his whole mind and the strength of his kingdom upon his great enemy the Netherland heresy, while the Duke of Savoy felt that the time had at last arrived when an adroit diplomacy might stand him in stead, and place him in the enjoyment of those rights which the sword had taken from him, and which his own sword had done so much towards winning back. The sovereigns were inclined to peace, and as there had never been a national principle or instinct or interest involved in the dispute, it was very certain that peace would be popular every where, upon whatever terms it might be concluded.

Montmorency and the Prince of Orange were respectively empowered to open secret negotiations. The Constable entered upon the task with alacrity, because he felt that every day of his captivity was alike prejudicial to his own welfare and the interests of his country.—The Guises, who had quarrelled with the Duchess de Valentinois (Diane de Poitiers), were not yet powerful enough to resist the influence of the mistress; while, rather to baffle them than from any loftier reasons, that interest was exerted in behalf of immediate peace. The Cardinal de Lorraine had by no means forgotten the eloquent arguments used by the Bishop of Arras; but his brother, the Due de Guise, may be supposed to have desired some little opportunity of redeeming the credit of the kingdom, and to have delayed the negotiations until his valor could secure a less inglorious termination to the war.

A fresh army had, in fact, been collected under his command, and was already organized at Pierrepoint. At the same time, Philip had assembled a large force, consisting of thirty thousand foot and fifteen thousand cavalry, with which he had himself taken the field, encamping towards the middle of August upon the banks of the river Anthies, near the border of Picardy. King Henry, on the other hand, had already arrived in the camp at Pierrepoint, and had reviewed as imposing an army as had ever been at the disposal of a French monarch. When drawn up in battle array it covered a league and a half of ground, while three hours were required to make its circuit on horseback. All this martial display was only for effect. The two kings, at the head of their great armies, stood looking at each other while the negotiations for, peace were proceeding. An unimportant skirmish or two at the out-posts, unattended with loss of life, were the only military results of these great preparations. Early in the autumn, all the troops were disbanded, while the commissioners of both crowns met in open congress at the abbey of Cercamp, near Cambray, by the middle of October. The envoys on the part of Philip were the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Alva, the Bishop of Arras, Ruy Gomez de Silva, the president Viglius; on that of the French monarch, the Constable, the Marshal de Saint Andre, the Cardinal de Lorraine, the Bishop of Orleans, and Claude l'Aubespine.

There were also envoys sent by the Queen of England, but as the dispute concerning Calais was found to hamper the negotiations at Cercamp, the English question was left to be settled by another congress, and was kept entirely separate from the arrangements concluded between France and Spain.

The death of Queen Mary, on the 17th November, caused a temporary suspension of the proceedings. After the widower, however, had made a fruitless effort to obtain the hand of her successor, and had been unequivocally repulsed, the commissioners again met in February, 1559, at Cateau Cambresis. The English difficulty was now arranged by separate commissioners, and on the third of April a treaty between France and Spain was concluded.

By this important convention, both kings bound themselves to maintain the Catholic worship inviolate by all means in their power, and agreed that an oecumenical council should at once assemble, to compose the religious differences, and to extinguish the increasing heresy in both kingdoms. Furthermore, it was arranged that the conquests made by each country during the preceding eight years should be restored. Thus all the gains of Francis and Henry were annulled by a single word, and the Duke of Savoy converted, by a dash of the pen, from a landless soldier of fortune into a sovereign again. He was to receive back all his estates, and was moreover to marry Henry's sister Margaret, with a dowry of three hundred thousand crowns. Philip, on the other hand, now a second time a widower, was to espouse Henry's daughter Isabella, already betrothed to the Infant Don Carlos, and to receive with her a dowry of four hundred thousand crowns. The restitutions were to be commenced by Henry, and to be completed within three months. Philip was to restore his conquests in the course of a month afterwards.

Most of the powers of Europe were included by both parties in this treaty: the Pope, the Emperor, all the Electors, the republics of Venice, Genoa and Switzerland, the kingdoms of England, Scotland, Poland, Denmark, Sweden; the duchies of Ferrara, Savoy and Parma, besides other inferior principalities. Nearly all Christendom, in short, was embraced in this most amicable compact, as if Philip were determined that, henceforth and forever, Calvinists and Mahometans, Turks and Flemings, should be his only enemies.

The King of France was to select four hostages from among Philip's subjects, to accompany him to Paris as pledges for the execution of all the terms of the treaty. The royal choice fell upon the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Alva, the Duke of Aerschot, and the Count of Egmont.

Such was the treaty of Cateau Cambresis. Thus was a termination put to a war between France and Spain, which had been so wantonly undertaken.

Marshal Monluc wrote that a treaty so disgraceful and disastrous had never before been ratified by a French monarch. It would have been difficult to point to any one more unfortunate upon her previous annals; if any treaty can be called unfortunate, by which justice is done and wrongs repaired, even under coercion. The accumulated plunder of years, which was now disgorged by France, was equal in value to one third of that kingdom. One hundred and ninety-eight fortified towns were surrendered, making, with other places of greater or less importance, a total estimated by some writers as high as four hundred. The principal gainer was the Duke of Savoy, who, after so many years of knight-errantry, had regained his duchy, and found himself the brother-in-law of his ancient enemy.

The well-known tragedy by which the solemnities of this pacification were abruptly concluded in Paris, bore with it an impressive moral. The monarch who, in violation of his plighted word and against the interests of his nation and the world, had entered precipitately into a causeless war, now lost his life in fictitious combat at the celebration of peace. On the tenth of July, Henry the Second died of the wound inflicted by Montgomery in the tournament held eleven days before. Of this weak and worthless prince, all that even his flatterers could favorably urge was his great fondness for war, as if a sanguinary propensity, even when unaccompanied by a spark of military talent, were of itself a virtue. Yet, with his death the kingdom fell even into more pernicious hands, and the fate of Christendom grew darker than ever. The dynasty of Diane de Poitiers was succeeded by that of Catharine de Medici; the courtesan gave place to the dowager; and France during the long and miserable period in which she lay bleeding in the grasp of the Italian she-wolf and her litter of cowardly and sanguinary princes—might even lament the days of Henry and his Diana. Charles the Ninth, Henry the Third, Francis of Alencon, last of the Valois race—how large a portion of the fearful debt which has not yet been discharged by half a century of revolution and massacre was of their accumulation.

The Duchess of Valentinois had quarrelled latterly with the house of Guise, and was disposed to favor Montmorency. The King, who was but a tool in her hands, might possibly have been induced, had he lived, to regard Coligny and his friends with less aversion. This is, however, extremely problematical, for it was Henry the Second who had concluded that memorable arrangement with his royal brother of Spain, to arrange for the Huguenot chiefs throughout both realms, a "Sicilian Vespers," upon the first favorable occasion. His death and the subsequent policy of the Queen-Regent deferred the execution of the great scheme till fourteen years later. Henry had lived long enough, however, after the conclusion of the secret agreement to reveal it to one whose life was to be employed in thwarting this foul conspiracy of monarchs against their subjects. William of Orange, then a hostage for the execution of the treaty of Cateau Cambresis, was the man with whom the King had the unfortunate conception to confer on the subject of the plot. The Prince, who had already gained the esteem of Charles the Fifth by his habitual discretion, knew how to profit by the intelligence and to bide his time; but his hostility to the policy of the French and Spanish courts was perhaps dated from that hour.

Pending the peace negotiations, Philip had been called upon to mourn for his wife and father. He did not affect grief for the death of Mary Tudor, but he honored the Emperor's departure with stately obsequies at Brussels. The ceremonies lasted two days (the 29th and 30th December, 1558). In the grand and elaborate procession which swept through the streets upon the first day, the most conspicuous object was a ship floating apparently upon the waves, and drawn by a band of Tritons who disported at the bows. The masts, shrouds, and sails of the vessel were black, it was covered with heraldic achievements, banners and emblematic mementos of the Emperor's various expeditions, while the flags of Turks and Moors trailed from her sides in the waves below. Three allegorical personages composed the crew. Hope, "all clothyd in brown, with anker in hand," stood at the prow; Faith, with sacramental chalice and red cross, clad in white garment, with her face nailed "with white tiffany," sat on a "stool of estate" before the mizen-mast; while Charity "in red, holding in her hand a burning heart," was at the helm to navigate the vessel. Hope, Faith, and Love were thought the most appropriate symbols for the man who had invented the edicts, introduced the inquisition, and whose last words, inscribed by a hand already trembling with death, had adjured his son, by his love, allegiance, and hope of salvation, to deal to all heretics the extreme rigor of the law, "without respect of persons and without regard to any plea in their favor."

The rest of the procession, in which marched the Duke of Alva, the Prince of Orange, and other great personages, carrying the sword, the globe, the sceptre, and the "crown imperial," contained no emblems or imagery worthy of being recorded. The next day the King, dressed in mourning and attended by a solemn train of high officers and nobles, went again to the church. A contemporary letter mentions a somewhat singular incident as forming the concluding part of the ceremony. "And the service being done," wrote Sir Richard Clough to Sir Thomas Gresham, "there went a nobleman into the herse (so far as I codde understande, it was the Prince of Orange), who, standing before the herse, struck with his hand upon the chest and sayd, 'He is ded.' Then standing styli awhile, he sayd, 'He shall remayn ded.' And 'then resting awhile, he struck again and sayd, 'He is ded, and there is another rysen up in his place greater than ever he was.' Whereupon the Kynge's hoode was taken off and the Kynge went home without his hoode."

If the mourning for the dead Emperor was but a mummery and a masquerade, there was, however, heartiness and sincerity in the rejoicing which now burst forth like a sudden illumination throughout the Netherlands, upon the advent of peace. All was joy in the provinces, but at Antwerp, the metropolis of the land, the enthusiasm was unbounded. Nine days were devoted to festivities. Bells rang their merriest peals, artillery thundered, beacons blazed, the splendid cathedral spire flamed nightly with three hundred burning cresaets, the city was strewn with flowers and decorated with triumphal arches, the Guilds of Rhetoric amazed the world with their gorgeous processions, glittering dresses and bombastic versification, the burghers all, from highest to humblest, were feasted and made merry, wine flowed in the streets and oxen were roasted whole, prizes on poles were climbed for, pigs were hunted blindfold, men and women raced in sacks, and in short, for nine days long there was one universal and spontaneous demonstration of hilarity in Antwerp and throughout the provinces.

But with this merry humor of his subjects, the sovereign had but little sympathy. There was nothing in his character or purposes which owed affinity with any mood of this jocund and energetic people. Philip had not made peace with all the world that the Netherlanders might climb on poles or ring bells, or strew flowers in his path for a little holiday time, and then return to their industrious avocations again. He had made peace with all the world that he might be free to combat heresy; and this arch enemy had taken up its strong hold in the provinces. The treaty of Cateau Cambresis left him at liberty to devote himself to that great enterprise. He had never loved the Netherlands, a residence in these constitutional provinces was extremely irksome to him, and he was therefore anxious to return to Spain. From the depths of his cabinet he felt that he should be able to direct the enterprise he was resolved upon, and that his presence in the Netherlands would be superfluous and disagreeable.

The early part of the year 1559 was spent by Philip in organizing the government of the provinces and in making the necessary preparations for his departure. The Duke of Savoy, being restored to his duchy, had, of course, no more leisure to act as Regent of the Netherlands, and it was necessary, therefore, to fix upon his successor in this important post, at once. There were several candidates. The Duchess Christina of Lorraine had received many half promises of the appointment, which she was most anxious to secure; the Emperor was even said to desire the nomination of the Archduke Maximilian, a step which would have certainly argued more magnanimity upon Philip's part than the world could give him credit for; and besides these regal personages, the high nobles of the land, especially Orange and Egmont, had hopes of obtaining the dignity. The Prince of Orange, however, was too sagacious to deceive himself long, and became satisfied very soon that no Netherlander was likely to be selected for Regent. He therefore threw his influence in favor of the Duchess Christina, whose daughter, at the suggestion of the Bishop of Arras, he was desirous of obtaining in marriage. The King favored for a time, or pretended to favor, both the appointment of Madame de Lorraine and the marriage project of the Prince. Afterwards, however, and in a manner which was accounted both sudden and mysterious, it appeared that the Duchess and Orange had both been deceived, and that the King and Bishop had decided in favor of another candidate, whose claims had not been considered, before, very prominent. This was the Duchess Margaret of Parma, natural daughter of Charles the Fifth. A brief sketch of this important personage, so far as regards her previous career, is reserved for the following chapter. For the present it is sufficient to state the fact of the nomination. In order to afford a full view of Philip's political arrangements before his final departure from the Netherlands, we defer until the same chapter, an account of the persons who composed the boards of council organized to assist the new Regent in the government. These bodies themselves were three in number: a state and privy council and one of finance. They were not new institutions, having been originally established by the Emperor, and were now arranged by his successor upon the same nominal basis upon which they had before existed. The finance council, which had superintendence of all matters relating to the royal domains and to the annual budgets of the government, was presided over by Baron Berlaymont. The privy council, of which Viglius was president, was composed of ten or twelve learned doctors, and was especially entrusted with the control of matters relating to law, pardons, and the general administration of justice. The state council, which was far the most important of the three boards, was to superintend all high affairs of government, war, treaties, foreign intercourse, internal and interprovincial affairs. The members of this council were the Bishop of Arras, Viglius, Berlaymont, the Prince of Orange, Count Egmont, to which number were afterwards added the Seigneur de Glayon, the Duke of Aerschot, and Count Horn. The last-named nobleman, who was admiral of the provinces, had, for the present, been appointed to accompany the King to Spain, there to be specially entrusted with the administration of affairs relating to the Netherlands. He was destined, however, to return at the expiration of two years.

With the object, as it was thought, of curbing the power of the great nobles, it had been arranged that the three councils should be entirely distinct from each other, that the members of the state council should have no participation in the affairs of the two other bodies; but, on the other hand, that the finance and privy councillors, as well as the Knights of the Fleece, should have access to the deliberations of the state council. In the course of events, however, it soon became evident that the real power of the government was exclusively in the hands of the consulta, a committee of three members of the state council, by whose deliberations the Regent was secretly instructed to be guided on all important occasions. The three, Viglius, Berlaymont, and Arras, who composed the secret conclave or cabinet, were in reality but one. The Bishop of Arras was in all three, and the three together constituted only the Bishop of Arras.

There was no especial governor or stadholder appointed for the province of Brabant, where the Regent was to reside and to exercise executive functions in person. The stadholders for the other provinces were, for Flanders and Artois, the Count of Egmont; for Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht, the Prince of Orange; for Gueldres and Zutfen, the Count of Meghen; for Friesland, Groningen and Overyssel, Count Aremberg; for Hainault, Valenciennes and Cambray, the Marquis of Berghen; for Tournay and Tournaisis, Baron Montigny; for Namur, Baron Berlaymont; for Luxemburg, Count Mansfeld; for Ryssel, Douay and Orchies, the Baron Coureires. All these stadholders were commanders-in-chief of the military forces in their respective provinces. With the single exception of Count Egmont, in whose province of Flanders the stadholders were excluded from the administration of justice,—all were likewise supreme judges in the civil and criminal tribunal. The military force of the Netherlands in time of peace was small, for the provinces were jealous of the presence of soldiery. The only standing army which then legally existed in the Netherlands were the Bandes d'Ordonnance, a body of mounted gendarmerie—amounting in all to three thousand men—which ranked among the most accomplished and best disciplined cavalry of Europe. They were divided into fourteen squadrons, each under the command of a stadholder, or of a distinguished noble. Besides these troops, however, there still remained in the provinces a foreign force amounting in the aggregate to four thousand men. These soldiers were the remainder of those large bodies which year after year had been quartered upon the Netherlands during the constant warfare to which they had been exposed. Living upon the substance of the country, paid out of its treasury, and as offensive by their licentious and ribald habits of life as were the enemies against whom they were enrolled, these troops had become an intolerable burthen to the people. They were now disposed in different garrisons, nominally to protect the frontier. As a firm peace, however, had now been concluded between Spain and France, and as there was no pretext for compelling the provinces to accept this protection, the presence of a foreign soldiery strengthened a suspicion that they were to be used in the onslaught which was preparing against the religious freedom and the political privileges of the country. They were to be the nucleus of a larger army, it was believed, by which the land was to be reduced to a state of servile subjection to Spain. A low, constant, but generally unheeded murmur of dissatisfaction and distrust upon this subject was already perceptible throughout the Netherlands; a warning presage of the coming storm.

All the provinces were now convoked for the 7th of August (1559), at Ghent, there to receive the parting communication and farewell of the King. Previously to this day, however, Philip appeared in person upon several solemn occasions, to impress upon the country the necessity of attending to the great subject with which his mind was exclusively occupied. He came before the great council of Mechlin, in order to address that body with his own lips upon the necessity of supporting the edicts to the letter, and of trampling out every vestige of heresy, wherever it should appear, by the immediate immolation of all heretics, whoever they might be. He likewise caused the estates of Flanders to be privately assembled, that he might harangue them upon the same great topic. In the latter part of July he proceeded to Ghent, where a great concourse of nobles, citizens, and strangers had already assembled. Here, in the last week of the month, the twenty-third chapter of the Golden Fleece was held with much pomp, and with festivities which lasted three days. The fourteen vacancies which existed were filled with the names of various distinguished personages. With this last celebration the public history of Philip the Good's ostentatious and ambitious order of knighthood was closed. The subsequent nominations were made 'ex indultu apostolico', and without the assembling of a chapter.

The estates having duly assembled upon the day prescribed, Philip, attended by Margaret of Parma, the Duke of Savoy, and a stately retinue of ambassadors and grandees, made his appearance before them. After the customary ceremonies had been performed, the Bishop of Arras arose and delivered, in the name of his sovereign, an elaborate address of instructions and farewells. In this important harangue, the states were informed that the King had convened them in order that they might be informed of his intention of leaving the Netherlands immediately. He would gladly have remained longer in his beloved provinces, had not circumstances compelled his departure. His father had come hither for the good of the country in the year 1543, and had never returned to Spain, except to die.

Upon the King's accession to the sovereignty he had arranged a truce of five years, which had been broken through by the faithlessness of France. He had, therefore, been obliged, notwithstanding his anxiety to return to a country where his presence was so much needed, to remain in the provinces till he had conducted the new war to a triumphant close. In doing this he had been solely governed by his intense love for the Netherlands, and by his regard for their interests. All the money which he had raised from their coffers had been spent for their protection. Upon this account his Majesty expressed his confidence that the estates would pay an earnest attention to the "Request" which had been laid before them, the more so, as its amount, three millions of gold florins, would all be expended for the good of the provinces. After his return to Spain he hoped to be able to make a remittance. The Duke of Savoy, he continued, being obliged, in consequence of the fortunate change in his affairs, to resign the government of the Netherlands, and his own son, Don Carlos, not yet being sufficiently advanced in years to succeed to that important post, his Majesty had selected his sister, the Duchess Margaret of Parma, daughter of the Emperor, as the most proper person for Regent. As she had been born in the Netherlands, and had always entertained a profound affection for the provinces, he felt a firm confidence that she would prove faithful both to their interests and his own. As at this moment many countries, and particularly the lands in the immediate neighborhood, were greatly infested by various "new, reprobate, and damnable sects;" as these sects, proceeding from the foul fiend, father of discord, had not failed to keep those kingdoms in perpetual dissension and misery, to the manifest displeasure of God Almighty; as his Majesty was desirous to avert such terrible evils from his own realms, according to his duty to the Lord God, who would demand reckoning from him hereafter for the well-being of the provinces; as all experience proved that change of religion ever brought desolation and confusion to the commonweal; as low persons, beggars and vagabonds, under color of religion, were accustomed to traverse the land for the purpose of plunder and disturbance; as his Majesty was most desirous of following in the footsteps of his lord and father; as it would be well remembered what the Emperor had said to him upon the memorable occasion of his abdication; therefore his Majesty had commanded the Regent Margaret of Parma, for the sake of religion and the glory of God, accurately and exactly to cause to be enforced the edicts and decrees made by his imperial Majesty, and renewed by his present Majesty, for the extirpation of all sects and heresies. All governors, councillors, and others having authority, were also instructed to do their utmost to accomplish this great end.

The great object of the discourse was thus announced in the most impressive manner, and with all that conventional rhetoric of which the Bishop of Arras was considered a consummate master. Not a word was said on the subject which was nearest the hearts of the Netherlanders—the withdrawal of the Spanish troops.[1] Not a hint was held out that a reduction of the taxation, under which the provinces had so long been groaning, was likely to take place; but, on the contrary, the King had demanded a new levy of considerable amount. A few well-turned paragraphs were added on the subject of the administration of justice—"without which the republic was a dead body without a soul"—in the Bishop's most approved style, and the discourse concluded with a fervent exhortation to the provinces to trample heresy and heretics out of existence, and with the hope that the Lord God, in such case, would bestow upon the Netherlands health and happiness.

After the address had been concluded, the deputies, according to ancient form, requested permission to adjourn, that the representatives of each province might deliberate among themselves on the point of granting or withholding the Request for the three millions. On the following day they again assembled in the presence of the King, for the purpose of returning their separate answers to the propositions.

The address first read was that of the Estates of Artois. The chairman of the deputies from that province read a series of resolutions, drawn up, says a contemporary, "with that elegance which characterized all the public acts of the Artesians; bearing witness to the vivacity of their wits." The deputies spoke of the extreme affection which their province had always borne to his Majesty and to the Emperor. They had proved it by the constancy with which they had endured the calamities of war so long, and they now cheerfully consented to the Request, so far as their contingent went. They were willing to place at his Majesty's disposal, not only the remains of their property, but even the last drop of their blood. As the eloquent chairman reached this point in his discourse, Philip, who was standing with his arm resting upon Egmont's shoulder, listening eagerly to the Artesian address, looked upon the deputies of the province with a smiling face, expressing by the unwonted benignity of his countenance the satisfaction which he received from these loyal expressions of affection, and this dutiful compliance with his Request.

The deputy, however, proceeded to an unexpected conclusion, by earnestly entreating his Majesty, as a compensation for the readiness thus evinced in the royal service, forthwith to order the departure of all foreign troops then in the Netherlands. Their presence, it was added, was now rendered completely superfluous by the ratification of the treaty of peace so fortunately arranged with all the world.

At this sudden change in the deputy's language, the King, no longer smiling, threw himself violently upon his chair of state, where he remained, brooding with a gloomy countenance upon the language which had been addressed to him. It was evident, said an eye-witness, that he was deeply offended. He changed color frequently, so that all present "could remark, from the working of his face, how much his mind was agitated."

The rest of the provinces were even more explicit than the deputies of Artois. All had voted their contingents to the Request, but all had made the withdrawal of the troops an express antecedent condition to the payment of their respective quotas.

The King did not affect to conceal his rage at these conditions, exclaiming bitterly to Count Egmont and other seignors near the throne that it was very easy to estimate, by these proceedings, the value of the protestations made by the provinces of their loyalty and affection.

Besides, however, the answers thus addressed by the separate states to the royal address, a formal remonstrance had also been drawn up in the name of the States General, and signed by the Prince of Orange, Count Egmont, and many of the leading patricians of the Netherlands. This document, which was formally presented to the King before the adjournment of the assembly, represented the infamous "pillaging, insults, and disorders" daily exercised by the foreign soldiery; stating that the burthen had become intolerable, and that the inhabitants of Marienburg, and of many other large towns and villages had absolutely abandoned their homes rather than remain any longer exposed to such insolence and oppression.

The king, already enraged, was furious at the presentation of this petition. He arose from his seat, and rushed impetuously from the assembly, demanding of the members as he went, whether he too, as a Spaniard, was expected immediately to leave the land, and to resign all authority over it. The Duke of Savoy made use of this last occasion in which he appeared in public as Regent, violently to rebuke the estates for the indignity thus offered to their sovereign.

It could not be forgotten, however, by nobles and burghers, who had not yet been crushed by the long course of oppression which was in store for them, that there had been a day when Philip's ancestors had been more humble in their deportment in the face of the provincial authorities. His great-grandfather, Maximilian, kept in durance by the citizens of Bruges; his great-grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, with streaming eyes and dishevelled hair, supplicating in the market-place for the lives of her treacherous ambassadors, were wont to hold a less imperious language to the delegates of the states.

This burst of ill temper on the part of the monarch was, however, succeeded by a different humor. It was still thought advisable to dissemble, and to return rather an expostulatory than a peremptory answer to the remonstrance of the States General. Accordingly a paper of a singular tone was, after the delay of a few days, sent into the assembly. In this message it was stated that the King was not desirous of placing strangers in the government—a fact which was proved by the appointment of the Duchess Margaret; that the Spanish infantry was necessary to protect the land from invasion; that the remnant of foreign troops only amounted to three or four thousand men, who claimed considerable arrears of pay, but that the amount due would be forwarded to them immediately after his Majesty's return to Spain. It was suggested that the troops would serve as an escort for Don Carlos when he should arrive in the Netherlands, although the King would have been glad to carry them to Spain in his fleet, had he known the wishes of the estates in time. He would, however, pay for their support himself, although they were to act solely for the good of the provinces. He observed, moreover, that he had selected two seignors of the provinces, the Prince of Orange and Count Egmont, to take command of these foreign troops, and he promised faithfully that, in the course of three or four months at furthest, they should all be withdrawn.

On the same day in which the estates had assembled at Ghent, Philip had addressed an elaborate letter to the grand council of Mechlin, the supreme court of the provinces, and to the various provincial councils and tribunals of the whole country. The object of the communication was to give his final orders on the subject of the edicts, and for the execution of all heretics in the most universal and summary manner. He gave stringent and unequivocal instructions that these decrees for burning, strangling, and burying alive, should be fulfilled to the letter. He ordered all judicial officers and magistrates "to be curious to enquire on all sides as to the execution of the placards," stating his intention that "the utmost rigor should be employed without any respect of persons," and that not only the transgressors should be proceeded against, but also the judges who should prove remiss in their prosecution of heretics. He alluded to a false opinion which had gained currency that the edicts were only intended against anabaptists. Correcting this error, he stated that they were to be "enforced against all sectaries, without any distinction or mercy, who might be spotted merely with the errors introduced by Luther."

The King, notwithstanding the violent scenes in the assembly, took leave of the estates at another meeting with apparent cordiality. His dissatisfaction was sufficiently manifest, but it expressed itself principally against individuals. His displeasure at the course pursued by the leading nobles, particularly by the Prince of Orange, was already no secret.

Philip, soon after the adjournment of the assembly, had completed the preparations for his departure. At Middelburg he was met by the agreeable intelligence that the Pope had consented to issue a bull for the creation of the new bishoprics which he desired for the Netherlands.—This important subject will be resumed in another chapter; for the present we accompany the King to Flushing, whence the fleet was to set sail for Spain. He was escorted thither by the Duchess Regent, the Duke of Savoy, and by many of the most eminent personages of the provinces. Among others William of Orange was in attendance to witness the final departure of the King, and to pay him his farewell respects. As Philip was proceeding on board the ship which was to bear him forever from the Netherlands, his eyes lighted upon the Prince. His displeasure could no longer be restrained. With angry face he turned upon him, and bitterly reproached him for having thwarted all his plans by means of his secret intrigues. William replied with humility that every thing which had taken place had been done through the regular and natural movements of the states. Upon this the King, boiling with rage, seized the Prince by the wrist, and shaking it violently, exclaimed in Spanish, "No los estados, ma vos, vos, vos!—Not the estates, but you, you, you!" repeating thrice the word vos, which is as disrespectful and uncourteous in Spanish as "toi" in French.

After this severe and public insult, the Prince of Orange did not go on board his Majesty's vessel, but contented himself with wishing Philip, from the shore, a fortunate journey. It may be doubted, moreover, whether he would not have made a sudden and compulsory voyage to Spain had he ventured his person in the ship, and whether, under the circumstances, he would have been likely to effect as speedy a return. His caution served him then as it was destined to do on many future occasions, and Philip left the Netherlands with this parting explosion of hatred against the man who, as he perhaps instinctively felt, was destined to circumvent his measures and resist his tyranny to the last.

The fleet, which consisted of ninety vessels, so well provisioned that, among other matters, fifteen thousand capons were put on board, according to the Antwerp chronicler, set sail upon the 26th August (1559), from Flushing. The voyage proved tempestuous, so that much of the rich tapestry and other merchandise which had been accumulated by Charles and Philip was lost. Some of the vessels foundered; to save others it was necessary to lighten the cargo, and "to enrobe the roaring waters with the silks," for which the Netherlands were so famous; so that it was said that Philip and his father had impoverished the earth only to enrich the ocean. The fleet had been laden with much valuable property, because the King had determined to fix for the future the wandering capital of his dominions in Spain. Philip landed in safety, however, at Laredo, on the 8th September. His escape from imminent peril confirmed him in the great purpose to which he had consecrated his existence. He believed himself to have been reserved from shipwreck only because a mighty mission had been confided to him, and lest his enthusiasm against heresy should languish, his eyes were soon feasted, upon his arrival in his native country, with the spectacle of an auto-da fe.

Early in January of this year the King being persuaded that it was necessary every where to use additional means to check the alarming spread of Lutheran opinions, had written to the Pope for authority to increase, if that were possible, the stringency of the Spanish inquisition. The pontiff, nothing loath, had accordingly issued a bull directed to the inquisitor general, Valdez, by which he was instructed to consign to the flames all prisoners whatever, even those who were not accused of having "relapsed." Great preparations had been made to strike terror into the hearts of heretics by a series of horrible exhibitions, in the course of which the numerous victims, many of them persons of high rank, distinguished learning, and exemplary lives, who had long been languishing in the dungeons of the holy office, were to be consigned to the flames. The first auto-da fe had been consummated at Valladolid on the 21st May (1559), in the absence of the King, of course, but in the presence of the royal family and the principal notabilities, civil, ecclesiastical, and military. The Princess Regent, seated on her throne, close to the scaffold, had held on high the holy sword. The Archbishop of Seville, followed by the ministers of the inquisition and by the victims, had arrived in solemn procession at the "cadahalso," where, after the usual sermon in praise of the holy office and in denunciation of heresy, he had administered the oath to the Intante, who had duly sworn upon the crucifix to maintain forever the sacred inquisition and the apostolic decrees. The Archbishop had then cried aloud, "So may God prosper your Highnesses and your estates;" after which the men and women who formed the object of the show had been cast into the flames.—[Cabrera]. It being afterwards ascertained that the King himself would soon be enabled to return to Spain, the next festival was reserved as a fitting celebration for his arrival. Upon the 8th October, accordingly, another auto-da fe took place at Valladolid. The King, with his sister and his son, the high officers of state, the foreign ministers, and all the nobility of the kingdom, were present, together with an immense concourse of soldiery, clergy, and populace. The sermon was preached by the Bishop of Cuenga. When it was finished, Inquisitor General Valdez cried with a loud voice, "Oh God, make speed to help us!" The King then drew his sword. Valdez, advancing to the platform upon which Philip was seated, proceeded to read the protestation: "Your Majesty swears by the cross of the sword, whereon your royal hand reposes, that you will give all necessary favor to the holy office of the inquisition against heretics, apostates, and those who favor them, and will denounce and inform against all those who, to your royal knowledge, shall act or speak against the faith." The King answered aloud, "I swear it," and signed the paper. The oath was read to the whole assembly by an officer of the inquisition. Thirteen distinguished victims were then burned before the monarch's eyes, besides one body which a friendly death had snatched from the hands of the holy office, and the effigy of another person who had been condemned, although not yet tried or even apprehended. Among the sufferers was Carlos de Sessa, a young noble of distinguished character and abilities, who said to the King as he passed by the throne to the stake, "How can you thus look on and permit me to be burned?" Philip then made the memorable reply, carefully recorded by his historiographer and panegyrist; "I would carry the wood to burn my own son withal, were he as wicked as you."

In Seville, immediately afterwards, another auto-da fe was held, in which fifty living heretics were burned, besides the bones of Doctor Constantine Ponce de la Fuente, once the friend, chaplain, and almoner of Philip's father. This learned and distinguished ecclesiastic had been released from a dreadful dungeon by a fortunate fever. The holy office, however, not content with punishing his corpse, wreaked also an impotent and ludicrous malice upon his effigy. A stuffed figure, attired in his robes and with its arms extended in the attitude which was habitual with him in prayer, was placed upon the scaffold among the living victims, and then cast into the flames, that bigotry might enjoy a fantastic triumph over the grave.

Such were the religious ceremonies with which Philip celebrated his escape from shipwreck, and his marriage with Isabella of France, immediately afterwards solemnized. These human victims, chained and burning at the stake, were the blazing torches which lighted the monarch to his nuptial couch.

Notes[edit]

  1. Bentivoglio. Guerra di Fiandra, i. 9 (Opere, Parigi, 1648), gives a different report, which ends with a distinct promise on the part of the King to dismiss the troops as soon as possible: "—in segno di the spetialmente havrebbe quanto prima, a fatti uscire i presidij stranieri dalle fortezze a levata ogn' insolita contributione al paese." It is almost superfluous to state that the Cardinal is no authority for speeches, except, indeed, for those which were never made. Long orations by generals upon the battle-field, by royal personages in their cabinets, by conspirators in secret conclave, are reported by him with muck minuteness, and none can gainsay the accuracy with which these harangues, which never had any existence, except in the author's imagination, are placed before the reader. Bentivoglio's stately and graceful style, elegant descriptions, and general acquaintance with his subject will always make his works attractive, but the classic and conventional system of inventing long speeches for historical characters has fortunately gone out of fashion. It is very interesting to know what an important personage really did say or write upon remarkable occasions; but it is less instructive to be told what the historian thinks might have been a good speech or epistle for him to utter or indite.