The Rise of the Dutch Republic/Part 2/Chapter 5
Return of the three seigniors to the state council — Policy of Orange — Corrupt character of the government — Efforts of the Prince in favor of reform — Influence of Armenteros — Painful situation of Viglius — His anxiety to retire — Secret charges against him transmitted by the Duchess to Philip — Ominous signs of the times — Attention of Philip to the details of persecution — Execution of Fabricius, and tumult at Antwerp — Horrible cruelty towards the Protestants — Remonstrance of the Magistracy of Bruges and of the four Flemish estates against Titelmann — Obduracy of Philip — Council of Trent — Quarrel for precedence between the French and Spanish envoys — Order for the publication of the Trent decrees in the Netherlands — Opposition to the measure — Reluctance of the Duchess — Egmont accepts a mission to Spain — Violent debate in the council concerning his instructions — Remarkable speech of Orange — Apoplexy of Viglius — Temporary appointment of Hopper — Departure of Egmont — Disgraceful scene at Cambray — Character of the Archbishop — Egmont in Spain — Flattery and bribery — Council of Doctors — Vehement declarations of Philip — His instructions to Egmont at his departure — Proceedings of Orange in regard to his principality — Egmont's report to the state council concerning his mission — His vainglory — Renewed orders from Philip to continue the persecution — Indignation of Egmont — Habitual dissimulation of the King — Reproof of Egmont by Orange — Assembly of doctors in Brussels — Result of their deliberations transmitted to Philip — Universal excitement in the Netherlands — New punishment for heretics — Interview at Bayonne between Catharine de Medici and her daughter, the Queen of Spain — Mistaken views upon this subject — Diplomacy of Alva — Artful conduct of Catharine — Stringent letters from Philip to the Duchess with regard to the inquisition — Consternation of Margaret and of Viglius — New proclamation of the Edicts, the Inquisition, and the Council of Trent — Fury of the people — Resistance of the leading seigniors and of the Brabant Council — Brabant declared free of the inquisition — Prince Alexander of Parma betrothed to Donna Maria of Portugal — Her portrait — Expensive preparations for the nuptials — Assembly of the Golden Fleece — Oration of Viglius — Wedding of Prince Alexander.
The remainder of the year, in the spring of which the Cardinal had left the Netherlands, was one of anarchy, confusion, and corruption. At first there had been a sensation of relief.
Philip had exchanged letters of exceeding amity with Orange, Egmont, and Horn. These three seigniors had written, immediately upon Granvelle's retreat, to assure the King of their willingness to obey the royal commands, and to resume their duties at the state council. They had, however, assured the Duchess that the reappearance of the Cardinal in the country would be the signal for their instantaneous withdrawal. They appeared at the council daily, working with the utmost assiduity often till late into the night. Orange had three great objects in view, by attaining which the country, in his opinion, might yet be saved, and the threatened convulsions averted. These were to convoke the states-general, to moderate or abolish the edicts, and to suppress the council of finance and the privy council, leaving only the council of state. The two first of these points, if gained, would, of course, subvert the whole absolute policy which Philip and Granvelle had enforced; it was, therefore, hardly probable that any impression would be made upon the secret determination of the government in these respects. As to the council of state, the limited powers of that body, under the administration of the Cardinal, had formed one of the principal complaints against that minister. The justice and finance councils were sinks of iniquity. The most barefaced depravity reigned supreme. A gangrene had spread through the whole government. The public functionaries were notoriously and outrageously venal. The administration of justice had been poisoned at the fountain, and the people were unable to slake their daily thirst at the polluted stream. There was no law but the law of the longest purse. The highest dignitaries of Philip's appointment had become the most mercenary hucksters who ever converted the divine temple of justice into a den of thieves. Law was an article of merchandise, sold by judges to the highest bidder. A poor customer could obtain nothing but stripes and imprisonment, or, if tainted with suspicion of heresy, the fagot or the sword, but for the rich every thing was attainable. Pardons for the most atrocious crimes, passports, safe conducts, offices of trust and honor, were disposed of at auction to the highest bidder. Against all this sea of corruption did the brave William of Orange set his breast, undaunted and unflinching. Of all the conspicuous men in the land, he was the only one whose worst enemy had never hinted through the whole course of his public career, that his hands had known contamination. His honor was ever untarnished by even a breath of suspicion. The Cardinal could accuse him of pecuniary embarrassment, by which a large proportion of his revenues were necessarily diverted to the liquidation of his debts, but he could not suggest that the Prince had ever freed himself from difficulties by plunging his hands into the public treasury, when it might easily have been opened to him.
It was soon, however, sufficiently obvious that as desperate a struggle was to be made with the many-headed monster of general corruption as with the Cardinal by whom it had been so long fed and governed. The Prince was accused of ambition and intrigue. It was said that he was determined to concentrate all the powers of government in the state council, which was thus to become an omnipotent and irresponsible senate, while the King would be reduced to the condition of a Venetian Doge. It was, of course, suggested that it was the aim of Orange to govern the new Tribunal of Ten. No doubt the Prince was ambitious. Birth, wealth, genius, and virtue could not have been bestowed in such eminent degree on any man without carrying with them the determination to assert their value. It was not his wish so much as it was the necessary law of his being to impress himself upon his age and to rule his fellow-men. But he practised no arts to arrive at the supremacy which he felt must always belong to him, what ever might be his nominal position in the political hierarchy. He was already, although but just turned of thirty years, vastly changed from the brilliant and careless grandee, as he stood at the hour of the imperial abdication. He was becoming careworn in face, thin of figure, sleepless of habit. The wrongs of which he was the daily witness, the absolutism, the cruelty, the rottenness of the government, had marked his face with premature furrows. "They say that the Prince is very sad," wrote Morillon to Granvelle; "and 'tis easy to read as much in his face. They say he can not sleep." Truly might the monarch have taken warning that here was a man who was dangerous, and who thought too much. "Sleekheaded men, and such as slept o' nights," would have been more eligible functionaries, no doubt, in the royal estimation, but, for a brief period, the King was content to use, to watch, and to suspect the man who was one day to be his great and invincible antagonist. He continued assiduous at the council, and he did his best, by entertaining nobles and citizens at his hospitable mansion, to cultivate good relations with large numbers of his countrymen. He soon, however, had become disgusted with the court. Egmont was more lenient to the foul practices which prevailed there, and took almost a childish pleasure in dining at the table of the Duchess, dressed, as were many of the younger nobles, in short camlet doublet with the wheat-sheaf buttons.
The Prince felt more unwilling to compromise his personal dignity by countenancing the flagitious proceedings and the contemptible supremacy of Armenteros, and it was soon very obvious, therefore, that Egmont was a greater favorite at court than Orange. At the same time the Count was also diligently cultivating the good graces of the middle and lower classes in Brussels, shooting with the burghers at the popinjay, calling every man by his name, and assisting at jovial banquets in town-house or guild-hall. The Prince, although at times a necessary partaker also in these popular amusements, could find small cause for rejoicing in the aspect of affairs. When his business led him to the palace, he was sometimes forced to wait in the ante-chamber for an hour, while Secretary Armenteros was engaged in private consultation with Margaret upon the most important matters of administration. It could not be otherwise than galling to the pride and offensive to the patriotism of the Prince, to find great public transactions entrusted to such hands. Thomas de Armenteros was a mere private secretary—a simple clerk. He had no right to have cognizance of important affairs, which could only come before his Majesty's sworn advisers. He was moreover an infamous peculator. He was rolling up a fortune with great rapidity by his shameless traffic in benefices, charges, offices, whether of church or state. His name of Armenteros was popularly converted into Argenteros, in order to symbolize the man who was made of public money. His confidential intimacy with the Duchess procured for him also the name of "Madam's barber," in allusion to the famous ornaments of Margaret's upper lip, and to the celebrated influence enjoyed by the barbers of the Duke of Savoy, and of Louis the Eleventh. This man sold dignities and places of high responsibility at public auction. The Regent not only connived at these proceedings, which would have been base enough, but she was full partner in the disgraceful commerce. Through the agency of the Secretary, she, too, was amassing a large private fortune. "The Duchess has gone into the business of vending places to the highest bidders," said Morillon, "with the bit between her teeth." The spectacle presented at the council-board was often sufficiently repulsive not only to the cardinalists, who were treated with elaborate insolence, but to all men who loved honor and justice, or who felt an interest in the prosperity of government. There was nothing majestic in the appearance of the Duchess, as she sat conversing apart with Armenteros, whispering, pinching, giggling, or disputing, while important affairs of state were debated, concerning which the Secretary had no right to be informed. It was inevitable that Orange should be offended to the utmost by such proceedings, although he was himself treated with comparative respect. As for the ancient adherents of Granvelle, the Bordeys, Baves, and Morillons, they were forbidden by the favorite even to salute him in the streets. Berlaymont was treated by the Duchess with studied insult. "What is the man talking about?" she would ask with languid superciliousness, if he attempted to express his opinion in the state-council. Viglius, whom Berlaymont accused of doing his best, without success, to make his peace with the seigniors, was in even still greater disgrace than his fellow-cardinalists. He longed, he said, to be in Burgundy, drinking Granvelle's good wine. His patience under the daily insults which he received from the government made him despicable in the eyes of his own party. He was described by his friends as pusillanimous to an incredible extent, timid from excess of riches, afraid of his own shadow. He was becoming exceedingly pathetic, expressing frequently a desire to depart and end his days in peace. His faithful Hopper sustained and consoled him, but even Joachim could not soothe his sorrows when he reflected that after all the work performed by himself and colleagues, "they had only been beating the bush for others," while their own share in the spoils had been withheld. Nothing could well be more contumelious than Margaret's treatment of the learned Frisian. When other councillors were summoned to a session at three o'clock, the President was invited at four. It was quite impossible for him to have an audience of the Duchess except in the presence of the inevitable Armenteras. He was not allowed to open his mouth, even when he occasionally plucked up heart enough to attempt the utterance of his opinions. His authority was completely dead. Even if he essayed to combat the convocation of the states-general by the arguments which the Duchess, at his suggestion, had often used for the purpose, he was treated with the same indifference. "The poor President," wrote Granvelle to the King's chief secretary, Gonzalo Perez, "is afraid, as I hear, to speak a word, and is made to write exactly what they tell him." At the same time the poor President, thus maltreated and mortified, had the vanity occasionally to imagine himself a bold and formidable personage. The man whom his most intimate friends described as afraid of his own shadow, described himself to Granvelle as one who went his own gait, speaking his mind frankly upon every opportunity, and compelling people to fear him a little, even if they did not love him. But the Cardinal knew better than to believe in this magnanimous picture of the doctor's fancy.
Viglius was anxious to retire, but unwilling to have the appearance of being disgraced. He felt instinctively, although deceived as to the actual facts, that his great patron had been defeated and banished. He did not wish to be placed in the same position. He was desirous, as he piously expressed himself, of withdrawing from the world, "that he might balance his accounts with the Lord, before leaving the lodgings of life." He was, however, disposed to please "the master" as well as the Lord. He wished to have the royal permission to depart in peace. In his own lofty language, he wished to be sprinkled on taking his leave "with the holy water of the court." Moreover, he was fond of his salary, although he disliked the sarcasms of the Duchess. Egmont and others had advised him to abandon the office of President to Hopper, in order, as he was getting feeble, to reserve his whole strength for the state-council. Viglius did not at all relish the proposition. He said that by giving up the seals, and with them the rank and salary which they conferred, he should become a deposed saint. He had no inclination, as long as he remained on the ground at all, to part with those emoluments and honors, and to be converted merely into the "ass of the state-council." He had, however, with the sagacity of an old navigator, already thrown out his anchor into the best holding-ground during the storms which he foresaw were soon to sweep the state. Before the close of the year which now occupies, the learned doctor of laws had become a doctor of divinity also; and had already secured, by so doing, the wealthy prebend of Saint Bavon of Ghent. This would be a consolation in the loss of secular dignities, and a recompence for the cold looks of the Duchess. He did not scruple to ascribe the pointed dislike which Margaret manifested towards him to the awe in which she stood of his stern integrity of character. The true reason why Armenteros and the Duchess disliked him was because, in his own words, "he was not of their mind with regard to lotteries, the sale of offices, advancement to abbeys, and many other things of the kind, by which they were in such a hurry to make their fortune." Upon another occasion he observed, in a letter to Granvelle, that "all offices were sold to the highest bidder, and that the cause of Margaret's resentment against both the Cardinal and himself was, that they had so long prevented her from making the profit which she was now doing from the sale of benefices, offices, and other favors."
The Duchess, on her part, characterized the proceedings and policy, both past and present, of the cardinalists as factious, corrupt, and selfish in the last degree. She assured her brother that the simony, rapine, and dishonesty of Granvelle, Viglius, and all their followers, had brought affairs into the ruinous condition which was then but too apparent. They were doing their best, she said, since the Cardinal's departure, to show, by their sloth and opposition, that they were determined to allow nothing to prosper in his absence. To quote her own vigorous expression to Philip—"Viglius made her suffer the pains of hell." She described him as perpetually resisting the course of the administration, and she threw out dark suspicions, not only as to his honesty but his orthodoxy. Philip lent a greedy ear to these scandalous hints concerning the late omnipotent minister and his friends. It is an instructive lesson in human history to look through the cloud of dissimulation in which the actors of this remarkable epoch were ever enveloped, and to watch them all stabbing fiercely at each other in the dark, with no regard to previous friendship, or even present professions. It is edifying to see the Cardinal, with all his genius and all his grimace, corresponding on familiar terms with Armenteros, who was holding him up to obloquy upon all occasions; to see Philip inclining his ear in pleased astonishment to Margaret's disclosures concerning the Cardinal, whom he was at the very instant assuring of his undiminished confidence; and to see Viglius, the author of the edict of 1550, and the uniform opponent of any mitigation in its horrors, silently becoming involved without the least suspicion of the fact in the meshes of inquisitor Titelmann.
Upon Philip's eager solicitations for further disclosures, Margaret accordingly informed her brother of additional facts communicated to her, after oaths of secrecy had been exchanged, by Titelmann and his colleague del Canto. They had assured her, she said, that there were grave doubts touching the orthodoxy of Viglius. He had consorted with heretics during a large portion of his life, and had put many suspicious persons into office. As to his nepotism, simony, and fraud, there was no doubt at all. He had richly provided all his friends and relations in Friesland with benefices. He had become in his old age a priest and churchman, in order to snatch the provostship of Saint Bavon, although his infirmities did not allow him to say mass, or even to stand erect at the altar. The inquisitors had further accused him of having stolen rings, jewels, plate, linen, beds, tapestry, and other furniture, from the establishment, all which property he had sent to Friesland, and of having seized one hundred thousand florins in ready money which had belonged to the last abbe—an act consequently of pure embezzlement. The Duchess afterwards transmitted to Philip an inventory of the plundered property, including the furniture of nine houses, and begged him to command Viglius to make instant restitution. If there be truth in the homely proverb, that in case of certain quarrels honest men recover their rights, it is perhaps equally certain that when distinguished public personages attack each other, historians may arrive at the truth. Here certainly are edifying pictures of the corruption of the Spanish regency in the Netherlands, painted by the President of the state-council, and of the dishonesty of the President painted by the Regent.
A remarkable tumult occurred in October of this year, at Antwerp. A Carmelite monk, Christopher Smith, commonly called Fabricius, had left a monastery in Bruges, adopted the principles of the Reformation, and taken to himself a wife. He had resided for a time in England; but, invited by his friends, he had afterwards undertaken the dangerous charge of gospel-teacher in the commercial metropolis of the Netherlands. He was, however, soon betrayed to the authorities by a certain bonnet dealer, popularly called Long Margaret, who had pretended, for the sake of securing the informer's fee, to be a convert to his doctrines. He was seized, and immediately put to the torture. He manfully refused to betray any members of his congregation, as manfully avowed and maintained his religious creed. He was condemned to the flames, and during the interval which preceded his execution, he comforted his friends by letters of advice, religious consolation and encouragement, which he wrote from his dungeon. He sent a message to the woman who had betrayed him, assuring her of his forgiveness, and exhorting her to repentance. His calmness, wisdom, and gentleness excited the admiration of all. When; therefore, this humble imitator of Christ was led through the streets of Antwerp to the stake, the popular emotion was at once visible. To the multitude who thronged about the executioners with threatening aspect, he addressed an urgent remonstrance that they would not compromise their own safety by a tumult in his cause. He invited all, however, to remain steadfast to the great truth for which he was about to lay down his life. The crowd, as they followed the procession of hangmen, halberdsmen, and magistrates, sang the hundred and thirtieth psalm in full chorus. As the victim arrived upon the market-place, he knelt upon the ground to pray, for the last time. He was, however, rudely forced to rise by the executioner, who immediately chained him to the stake, and fastened a leathern strap around his throat. At this moment the popular indignation became uncontrollable; stones were showered upon the magistrates and soldiers, who, after a slight resistance, fled for their lives. The foremost of the insurgents dashed into the enclosed arena, to rescue the prisoner. It was too late. The executioner, even as he fled, had crushed the victim's head with a sledge hammer, and pierced him through and through with a poniard. Some of the bystanders maintained afterwards that his fingers and lips were seen to move, as if in feeble prayer, for a little time longer, until, as the fire mounted, he fell into the flames. For the remainder of the day, after the fire had entirely smouldered to ashes, the charred and half-consumed body of the victim remained on the market-place, a ghastly spectacle to friend and foe. It was afterwards bound to a stone and cast into the Scheld. Such was the doom of Christopher Fabricius, for having preached Christianity in Antwerp. During the night an anonymous placard, written with blood, was posted upon the wall of the town-house, stating that there were men in the city who would signally avenge his murder. Nothing was done, however, towards the accomplishment of the threat. The King, when he received the intelligence of the transaction, was furious with indignation, and wrote savage letters to his sister, commanding instant vengeance to be taken upon all concerned in so foul a riot. As one of the persons engaged had, however, been arrested and immediately hanged, and as the rest had effected their escape, the affair was suffered to drop.
The scenes of outrage, the frantic persecutions, were fast becoming too horrible to be looked upon by Catholic or Calvinist. The prisons swarmed with victims, the streets were thronged with processions to the stake. The population of thriving cities, particularly in Flanders, were maddened by the spectacle of so much barbarity inflicted, not upon criminals, but usually upon men remarkable for propriety of conduct and blameless lives. It was precisely at this epoch that the burgomasters, senators, and council of the city of Bruges (all Catholics) humbly represented to the Duchess Regent, that Peter Titelmann, inquisitor of the Faith, against all forms of law, was daily exercising inquisition among the inhabitants, not only against those suspected or accused of heresy, but against all, however untainted their characters; that he was daily citing before him whatever persons he liked, men or women, compelling them by force to say whatever it pleased him; that he was dragging people from their houses, and even from the sacred precincts of the church; often in revenge for verbal injuries to himself, always under pretext of heresy, and without form or legal warrant of any kind. They therefore begged that he might be compelled to make use of preparatory examinations with the co-operation of the senators of the city, to suffer that witnesses should make their depositions without being intimidated by menace, and to conduct all his subsequent proceedings according to legal forms, which he had uniformly violated; publicly declaring that he would conduct himself according to his own pleasure.
The four estates of Flanders having, in a solemn address to the King, represented the same facts, concluded their brief but vigorous description of Titelmann's enormities by calling upon Philip to suppress these horrible practices, so manifestly in violation of the ancient charters which he had sworn to support. It may be supposed that the appeal to Philip would be more likely to call down a royal benediction than the reproof solicited upon the inquisitor's head. In the privy council, the petitions and remonstrances were read, and, in the words of the President, "found to be in extremely bad taste." In the debate which followed, Viglius and his friends recalled to the Duchess, in earnest language, the decided will of the King, which had been so often expressed. A faint representation was made, on the other hand, of the dangerous consequences, in case the people were driven to a still deeper despair. The result of the movement was but meagre. The Duchess announced that she could do nothing in the matter of the request until further information, but that meantime she had charged Titelmann to conduct himself in his office "with discretion and modesty." The discretion and modesty, however, never appeared in any modification of the inquisitor's proceedings, and he continued unchecked in his infamous career until death, which did not occur till several years afterwards. In truth, Margaret was herself in mortal fear of this horrible personage. He besieged her chamber door almost daily, before she had risen, insisting upon audiences which, notwithstanding her repugnance to the man, she did not dare to refuse. "May I perish," said Morillon, "if she does not stand in exceeding awe of Titelmann." Under such circumstances, sustained by the King in Spain, the Duchess in Brussels, the privy council, and by a leading member of what had been thought the liberal party, it was not difficult for the inquisition to maintain its ground, notwithstanding the solemn protestations of the estates and the suppressed curses of the people.
Philip, so far from having the least disposition to yield in the matter of the great religious persecution, was more determined as to his course than ever. He had already, as easy as August of this year, despatched orders to the Duchess that the decrees of the Council of Trent should be published and enforced throughout the Netherlands. The memorable quarrel as to precedency between the French and Spanish delegates had given some hopes of a different determination. Nevertheless, those persons who imagined that, in consequence of this quarrel of etiquette, Philip would slacken in his allegiance to the Church, were destined to be bitterly mistaken. He informed his sister that, in the common cause of Christianity, he should not be swayed by personal resentments.
How, indeed, could a different decision be expected? His envoy at Rome, as well as his representatives at the council, had universally repudiated all doubts as to the sanctity of its decrees. "To doubt the infallibility of the council, as some have dared to do," said Francis de Vargas, "and to think it capable of error, is the most devilish heresy of all." Nothing could so much disturb and scandalize the world as such a sentiment. Therefore the Archbishop of Granada told, very properly, the Bishop of Tortosa, that if he should express such an opinion in Spain, they would burn him. These strenuous notions were shared by the King. Therefore, although all Europe was on tip-toe with expectation to see how Philip would avenge himself for the slight put upon his ambassador, Philip disappointed all Europe.
In August, 1564, he wrote to the Duchess Regent, that the decrees were to be proclaimed and enforced without delay. They related to three subjects, the doctrines to be inculcated by the Church, the reformation of ecclesiastical moral, and the education of the people. General police regulations were issued at the same time, by which heretics were to be excluded from all share in the usual conveniences of society, and were in fact to be strictly excommunicated. Inns were to receive no guests, schools no children, alms-houses no paupers, grave-yards no dead bodies, unless guests, children, paupers, and dead bodies were furnished with the most satisfactory proofs of orthodoxy. Midwives of unsuspected Romanism were alone to exercise their functions, and were bound to give notice within twenty-four hours of every birth which occurred; the parish clerks were as regularly to record every such addition to the population, and the authorities to see that Catholic baptism was administered in each case with the least possible delay. Births, deaths, and marriages could only occur with validity under the shadow of the Church. No human being could consider himself born or defunct unless provided with a priest's certificate. The heretic was excluded, so far as ecclesiastical dogma could exclude him, from the pale of humanity, from consecrated earth, and from eternal salvation.
The decrees contained many provisions which not only conflicted with the privileges of the provinces, but with the prerogatives of the sovereign. For this reason many of the lords in council thought that at least the proper exceptions should be made upon their promulgation. This was also the opinion of the Duchess, but the King, by his letters of October, and November (1564), expressly prohibited any alteration in the ordinances, and transmitted a copy of the form according to which the canons had been published in Spain, together with the expression of his desire that a similar course should be followed in the Netherlands. Margaret of Parma was in great embarrassment. It was evident that the publication could no longer be deferred. Philip had issued his commands, but grave senators and learned doctors of the university had advised strongly in favor of the necessary exceptions. The extreme party, headed by Viglius, were in favor of carrying out the royal decisions. They were overruled, and the Duchess was induced to attempt a modification, if her brother's permission could be obtained. The President expressed the opinion that the decrees, even with the restrictions proposed, would "give no contentment to the people, who, moreover, had no right to meddle with theology." The excellent Viglius forgot, however, that theology had been meddling altogether too much with the people to make it possible that the public attention should be entirely averted from the subject. Men and women who might be daily summoned to rack, stake, and scaffold, in the course of these ecclesiastical arrangements, and whose births, deaths, marriages, and position in the next world, were now to be formally decided upon, could hardly be taxed with extreme indiscretion, if they did meddle with the subject.
In the dilemma to which the Duchess was reduced, she again bethought herself of a special mission to Spain. At the end of the year (1564), it was determined that Egmont should be the envoy. Montigny excused himself on account of private affairs; Marquis Berghen "because of his indisposition and corpulence." There was a stormy debate in council after Egmont had accepted the mission and immediately before his departure. Viglius had been ordered to prepare the Count's instructions. Having finished the rough draught, he laid it before the board. The paper was conceived in general terms and might mean any thing or nothing. No criticism upon its language was, however, offered until it came to the turn of Orange to vote upon the document. Then, however, William the Silent opened his lips, and poured forth a long and vehement discourse, such as he rarely pronounced, but such as few except himself could utter. There was no shuffling, no disguise, no timidity in his language. He took the ground boldly that the time had arrived for speaking out. The object of sending an envoy of high rank and European reputation like the Count of Egmont, was to tell the King the truth. Let Philip know it now. Let him be unequivocally informed that this whole machinery of placards and scaffolds, of new bishops and old hangmen, of decrees, inquisitors, and informers, must once and forever be abolished. Their day was over. The Netherlands were free provinces, they were surrounded by free countries, they were determined to vindicate their ancient privileges. Moreover, his Majesty was to be plainly informed of the frightful corruption which made the whole judicial and administrative system loathsome. The venality which notoriously existed every where, on the bench, in the council chamber, in all public offices, where purity was most essential, was denounced by the Prince in scathing terms. He tore the mask from individual faces, and openly charged the Chancellor of Brabant, Engelbert Maas, with knavery and corruption. He insisted that the King should be informed of the necessity of abolishing the two inferior councils, and of enlarging the council of state by the admission of ten or twelve new members selected for their patriotism, purity, and capacity. Above all, it was necessary plainly to inform his Majesty that the canons of Trent, spurned by the whole world, even by the Catholic princes of Germany, could never be enforced in the Netherlands, and that it would be ruinous to make the attempt. He proposed and insisted that the Count of Egmont should be instructed accordingly. He avowed in conclusion that he was a Catholic himself and intended to remain in the Faith, but that he could not look on with pleasure when princes strove to govern the souls of men, and to take away their liberty in matters of conscience and religion.
Here certainly was no daintiness of phraseology, and upon these leading points, thus slightly indicated, William of Orange poured out his eloquence, bearing conviction upon the tide of his rapid invective. His speech lasted till seven in the evening, when the Duchess adjourned the meeting. The council broke up, the Regent went to supper, but the effect of the discourse upon nearly all the members was not to be mistaken. Viglius was in a state of consternation, perplexity, and despair. He felt satisfied that, with perhaps the exception of Berlaymont, all who had listened or should afterwards listen to the powerful arguments of Orange, would be inevitably seduced or bewildered. The President lay awake, tossing and tumbling in his bed, recalling the Prince's oration, point by point, and endeavoring, to answer it in order. It was important, he felt, to obliterate the impression produced. Moreover, as we have often seen, the learned Doctor valued himself upon his logic.
It was absolutely necessary, therefore, that in his reply, next day, his eloquence should outshine that of his antagonist. The President thus passed a feverish and uncomfortable night, pronouncing and listening to imaginary harangues. With the dawn of day he arose and proceeded to dress himself. The excitement of the previous evening and the subsequent sleeplessness of his night had, however, been too much for his feeble and slightly superannuated frame. Before he had finished his toilet, a stroke of apoplexy stretched him senseless upon the floor. His servants, when they soon afterwards entered the apartment, found him rigid, and to all appearance dead. After a few days, however, he recovered his physical senses in part, but his reason remained for a longer time shattered, and was never perhaps fully restored to its original vigor.
This event made it necessary that his place in the council should be supplied. Viglius had frequently expressed intentions of retiring, a measure to which he could yet never fully make up his mind. His place was now temporarily supplied by his friend and countryman, Joachim Hopper, like himself a Frisian doctor of ancient blood and extensive acquirements, well versed in philosophy and jurisprudence; a professor of Louvain and a member of the Mechlin council. He was likewise the original founder and projector of Douay University, an institution which at Philip's desire he had successfully organized in 1556, in order that a French university might be furnished for Walloon youths, as a substitute for the seductive and poisonous Paris. For the rest, Hopper was a mere man of routine. He was often employed in private affairs by Philip, without being entrusted with the secret at the bottom of them. His mind was a confused one, and his style inexpressibly involved and tedious. "Poor master Hopper," said Granvelle, "did not write the best French in the world; may the Lord forgive him. He was learned in letters, but knew very little of great affairs." His manners were as cringing as his intellect was narrow. He never opposed the Duchess, so that his colleagues always called him Councillor "Yes, Madam," and he did his best to be friends with all the world.
In deference to the arguments of Orange, the instructions for Egmont were accordingly considerably modified from the original draughts of Viglius. As drawn up by the new President, they contained at least a few hints to his Majesty as to the propriety of mitigating the edicts and extending some mercy to his suffering people. The document was, however, not very satisfactory to the Prince, nor did he perhaps rely very implicitly upon the character of the envoy.
Egmont set forth upon his journey early in January (1565). He travelled in great state. He was escorted as far as Cambray by several nobles of his acquaintance, who improved the occasion by a series of tremendous banquets during the Count's sojourn, which was protracted till the end of January. The most noted of these gentlemen were Hoogstraaten, Brederode, the younger Mansfeld, Culemburg, and Noircarmes. Before they parted with the envoy, they drew up a paper which they signed with their blood, and afterwards placed in the hands of his Countess. In this document they promised, on account of their "inexpressible and very singular affection" for Egmont, that if, during his mission to Spain, any evil should befal him, they would, on their faith as gentlemen and cavaliers of honor, take vengeance, therefore, upon the Cardinal Granvelle, or upon all who should be the instigators thereof.
[Green v. P., Archives, etc., i. 345, from Arnoldi, Hist. Denkwurd, p. 282., It is remarkable that after the return of the Count from. Spain, Hoogstraaten received this singular bond from the Countess, and gave it to Mansfeld, to be burned in his presence. Mansfeld, however, advised keeping it, on account of Noircarmes, whose signature was attached to the document, and whom he knew to be so false and deceitful a man that it might be well to have it within their power at some future day to reproach him therewith.—Ibid. It will be seen in the sequel that Noircarmes more than justified the opinion of Mansfeld, but that the subsequent career of Mansfeld himself did not entitle him to reproach any of Philip's noble hangmen.]
Wherever Brederode was, there, it was probable, would be much severe carousing. Before the conclusion, accordingly, of the visit to Cambray, that ancient city rang with the scandal created by a most uproarious scene. A banquet was given to Egmont and his friends in the citadel. Brederode, his cousin Lumey, and the other nobles from Brussels, were all present. The Archbishop of Cambray, a man very odious to the liberal party in the provinces, was also bidden to the feast. During the dinner, this prelate, although treated with marked respect by Egmont, was the object of much banter and coarse pleasantry by the ruder portion of the guests. Especially these convivial gentlemen took infinite pains to overload him with challenges to huge bumpers of wine; it being thought very desirable, if possible; to place the Archbishop under the table. This pleasantry was alternated with much rude sarcasm concerning the new bishoprics. The conversation then fell upon other topics, among others, naturally upon the mission of Count Egmont. Brederede observed that it was a very hazardous matter to allow so eminent a personage to leave the land at such a critical period. Should any thing happen to the Count, the Netherlands would sustain an immense loss. The Archbishop, irritated by the previous conversation, ironically requested the speaker to be comforted, "because," said he, "it will always be easy to find a new Egmont." Upon this, Brederode, beside himself with rage, cried out vehemently, "Are we to tolerate such language from this priest?" Gulemburg, too, turning upon the offender, observed, "Your observation would be much more applicable to your own case. If you were to die, 't would be easy to find five hundred of your merit, to replace you in the see of Cambray." The conversation was, to say the least, becoming personal. The Bishop, desirous of terminating this keen encounter of wits, lifted a goblet full of wine and challenged Brederode to drink. That gentleman declined the invitation. After the cloth had been removed, the cup circulated more freely than ever. The revelry became fast and furious. One of the younger gentlemen who was seated near the Bishop snatched the bonnet of that dignitary from his head and placed it upon his own. He then drained a bumper to his health, and passed the goblet and the cap to his next neighbor. Both circulated till they reached the Viscount of Ghent, who arose from his seat and respectfully restored the cap to its owner. Brederode then took a large "cup of silver and gold," filled it to the brim, and drained it to the confusion of Cardinal Granvelle; stigmatizing that departed minister, as he finished, by an epithet of more vigor than decency. He then called upon all the company to pledge him to the same toast, and denounced as cardinalists all those who should refuse. The Archbishop, not having digested the affronts which had been put upon him already, imprudently ventured himself once more into the confusion, and tried to appeal to the reason of the company. He might as well have addressed the crew of Comus. He gained nothing but additional insult. Brederode advanced upon him with threatening gestures. Egmont implored the prelate to retire, or at least not to take notice of a nobleman so obviously beyond the control of his reason. The Bishop, however, insisted—mingling reproof, menace; and somewhat imperious demands—that the indecent Saturnalia should cease. It would have been wiser for him to retire. Count Hoogstraaten, a young man and small of stature, seized the gilt laver, in which the company had dipped their fingers before seating themselves at table: "Be quiet, be quiet, little man," said Egmont, soothingly, doing his best to restrain the tumult. "Little man, indeed," responded the Count, wrathfully; "I would have you to know that never did little man spring from my race." With those words he hurled the basin, water, and all, at the head of the Archbishop. Hoogstraaten had no doubt manifested his bravery before that day; he was to display, on future occasions, a very remarkable degree of heroism; but it must be confessed that the chivalry of the noble house of Lalaing was not illustrated by this attack upon a priest. The Bishop was sprinkled by the water, but not struck by the vessel. Young Mansfeld, ashamed of the outrage, stepped forward to apologize for the conduct of his companions and to soothe the insulted prelate. That personage, however, exasperated, very naturally, to the highest point, pushed him rudely away, crying, "Begone, begone! who is this boy that is preaching to me?" Whereupon, Mansfeld, much irritated, lifted his hand towards the ecclesiastic, and snapped his fingers contemptuously in his face. Some even said that he pulled the archiepiscopal nose, others that he threatened his life with a drawn dagger. Nothing could well have been more indecent or more cowardly than the conduct of these nobles upon this occasion. Their intoxication, together with the character of the victim, explained, but certainly could not palliate the vulgarity of the exhibition. It was natural enough that men like Brederode should find sport in this remarkable badgering of a bishop, but we see with regret the part played by Hoogstraaten in the disgraceful scene.
The prelate, at last, exclaiming that it appeared that he had been invited only to be insulted, left the apartment, accompanied by Noircarmes and the Viscount of Ghent, and threatening that all his friends and relations should be charged with his vengeance. The next day a reconciliation was effected, as well as such an arrangement was possible, by the efforts of Egmont, who dined alone with the prelate. In the evening, Hoogstraaten, Culemburg, and Brederode called upon the Bishop, with whom they were closeted for, an hour, and the party separated on nominal terms of friendship.
This scandalous scene; which had been enacted not only before many guests, but in presence of a host of servants, made necessarily a great sensation throughout the country. There could hardly be much difference of opinion among respectable people as to the conduct of the noblemen who had thus disgraced themselves. Even Brederode himself, who appeared to have retained, as was natural, but a confused impression of the transaction, seemed in the days which succeeded the celebrated banquet, to be in doubt whether he and his friends had merited any great amount of applause. He was, however, somewhat self-contradictory, although always vehement in his assertions on the subject. At one time he maintained—after dinner, of course—that he would have killed the Archbishop if they had not been forcibly separated; at other moments he denounced as liars all persons who should insinuate that he had committed or contemplated any injury to that prelate; offering freely to fight any man who disputed either of his two positions.
The whole scene was dramatized and represented in masquerade at a wedding festival given by Councillor d'Assonleville, on the marriage of Councillor Hopper's daughter, one of the principal parts being enacted by a son of the President-judge of Artois. It may be supposed that if such eminent personages, in close connexion with the government, took part in such proceedings, the riot must have been considered of a very pardonable nature. The truth was, that the Bishop was a cardinalist, and therefore entirely out of favor with the administration. He was also a man of treacherous, sanguinary character, and consequently detested by the people. He had done his best to destroy heresy in Valenciennes by fire and sword. "I will say one thing," said he in a letter to Granvelle, which had been intercepted, "since the pot is uncovered, and the whole cookery known, we had best push forward and make an end of all the principal heretics, whether rich or poor, without regarding whether the city will be entirely ruined by such a course. Such an opinion I should declare openly were it not that we of the ecclesiastical profession are accused of always crying out for blood." Such was the prelate's theory. His practice may be inferred from a specimen of his proceedings which occurred at a little later day. A citizen of Cambray, having been converted to the Lutheran Confession, went to the Archbishop, and requested permission to move out of the country, taking his property with him. The petitioner having made his appearance in the forenoon, was requested to call again after dinner, to receive his answer. The burgher did so, and was received, not by the prelate, but by the executioner, who immediately carried the Lutheran to the market-place, and cut off his head. It is sufficiently evident that a minister of Christ, with such propensities, could not excite any great sympathy, however deeply affronted he might have been at a drinking party, so long as any Christians remained in the land.
Egmont departed from Cambray upon the 30th January, his friends taking a most affectionate farewell of him; and Brederode assuring him, with a thousand oaths, that he would forsake God for his service. His reception at Madrid was most brilliant. When he made his first appearance at the palace, Philip rushed from his cabinet into the grand hall of reception, and fell upon his neck, embracing him heartily before the Count had time to drop upon his knee and kiss the royal hand. During the whole period of his visit he dined frequently at the King's private table, an honor rarely accorded by Philip, and was feasted and flattered by all the great dignitaries of the court as never a subject of the Spanish crown had been before. All vied with each other in heaping honors upon the man whom the King was determined to honor.
Philip took him out to drive daily in his own coach, sent him to see the wonders of the new Escorial, which he was building to commemorate the battle of St. Quentin, and, although it was still winter, insisted upon showing him the beauties of his retreat in the Segovian forest. Granvelle's counsels as to the method by which the "friend of smoke" was so easily to be gained, had not fallen unheeded in his royal pupil's ears. The Count was lodged in the house of Ruy Gomez, who soon felt himself able, according to previous assurances to that effect, contained in a private letter of Armenteros, to persuade the envoy to any course which Philip might command. Flattery without stint was administered. More solid arguments to convince the Count that Philip was the most generous and clement of princes were also employed with great effect. The royal dues upon the estate of Gaasbecque, lately purchased by Egmont, were remitted. A mortgage upon his Seigneurie of Ninove was discharged, and a considerable sum of money presented to him in addition. Altogether, the gifts which the ambassador received from the royal bounty amounted to one hundred thousand crowns. Thus feasted, flattered, and laden with presents, it must be admitted that the Count more than justified the opinions expressed in the letter of Armenteros, that he was a man easily governed by those who had credit with him. Egmont hardly broached the public matters which had brought him to Madrid. Upon the subject of the edicts, Philip certainly did not dissemble, however loudly the envoy may have afterwards complained at Brussels. In truth, Egmont, intoxicated by the incense offered to him at the Spanish court, was a different man from Egmont in the Netherlands, subject to the calm but piercing glance and the irresistible control of Orange. Philip gave him no reason to suppose that he intended any change in the religious system of the provinces, at least in any sense contemplated by the liberal party. On the contrary, a council of doctors and ecclesiastics was summoned, at whose deliberations the Count was invited to assist; on which occasion the King excited general admiration by the fervor of his piety and the vehemence of his ejaculations. Falling upon his knees before a crucifix, in the midst of the assembly, he prayed that God would keep him perpetually in the same mind, and protested that he would never call himself master of those who denied the Lord God. Such an exhibition could leave but little doubt in the minds of those who witnessed it as to the royal sentiments, nor did Egmont make any effort to obtain any relaxation of those religious edicts, which he had himself declared worthy of approbation, and fit to be maintained. As to the question of enlarging the state-council, Philip dismissed the subject with a few vague observations, which Egmont, not very zealous on the subject at the moment, perhaps misunderstood. The punishment of heretics by some new method, so as to secure the pains but to take away the glories of martyrdom, was also slightly discussed, and here again Egmont was so unfortunate as to misconceive the royal meaning, and to interpret an additional refinement of cruelty into an expression of clemency. On the whole, however, there was not much negotiation between the monarch and the ambassador. When the Count spoke of business, the King would speak to him of his daughters, and of his desire to see them provided with brilliant marriages. As Egmont had eight girls, besides two sons, it was natural that he should be pleased to find Philip taking so much interest in looking out husbands for them. The King spoke to him, as hardly could be avoided, of the famous fool's-cap livery. The Count laughed the matter off as a jest, protesting that it was a mere foolish freak, originating at the wine-table, and asseverating, with warmth, that nothing disrespectful or disloyal to his Majesty had been contemplated upon that or upon any other occasion. Had a single gentleman uttered an undutiful word against the King, Egmont vowed he would have stabbed him through and through upon the spot, had he been his own brother. These warm protestations were answered by a gentle reprimand as to the past by Philip, and with a firm caution as to the future. "Let it be discontinued entirely, Count," said the King, as the two were driving together in the royal carriage. Egmont expressed himself in handsome terms concerning the Cardinal, in return for the wholesale approbation quoted to him in regard to his own character, from the private letters of that sagacious personage to his Majesty. Certainly, after all this, the Count might suppose the affair of the livery forgiven. Thus amicably passed the hours of that mission, the preliminaries for which had called forth so much eloquence from the Prince of Orange and so nearly carried off with apoplexy the President Viglius. On his departure Egmont received a letter of instructions from Philip as to the report which he was to make upon his arrival in Brussels, to the Duchess. After many things personally flattering to himself, the envoy was directed to represent the King as overwhelmed with incredible grief at hearing the progress made by the heretics, but as immutably determined to permit no change of religion within his dominions, even were he to die a thousand deaths in consequence. The King, he was to state, requested the Duchess forthwith to assemble an extraordinary session of the council, at which certain bishops, theological doctors, and very orthodox lawyers, were to assist, in which, under pretence of discussing the Council of Trent matter, it was to be considered whether there could not be some new way devised for executing heretics; not indeed one by which any deduction should be made from their sufferings (which certainly was not the royal wish, nor likely to be grateful to God or salutary to religion), but by which all hopes of glory—that powerful incentive to their impiety—might be precluded. With regard to any suggested alterations in the council of state, or in the other two councils, the King was to be represented as unwilling to form any decision until he should hear, at length, from the Duchess Regent upon the subject.
Certainly here was a sufficient amount of plain speaking upon one great subject, and very little encouragement with regard to the other. Yet Egmont, who immediately after receiving these instructions set forth upon his return to the Netherlands, manifested nothing but satisfaction. Philip presented to him, as his travelling companion, the young Prince Alexander of Parma, then about to make a visit to his mother in Brussels, and recommended the youth, afterwards destined to play so prominent a part in Flemish history, to his peculiar caret Egmont addressed a letter to the King from Valladolid, in which he indulged in ecstasies concerning the Escorial and the wood of Segovia, and declared that he was returning to the Netherlands "the most contented man in the world."
He reached Brussels at the end of April. Upon the fifth of May he appeared before the council, and proceeded to give an account of his interview with the King, together with a statement of the royal intentions and opinions. These were already sufficiently well known. Letters, written after the envoy's departure, had arrived before him, in which, while in the main presenting the same views as those contained in the instructions to Egmont, Philip had expressed his decided prohibition of the project to enlarge the state council and to suppress the authority of the other two. Nevertheless, the Count made his report according to the brief received at Madrid, and assured his hearers that the King was all benignity, having nothing so much at heart as the temporal and eternal welfare of the provinces. The siege of Malta, he stated, would prevent the royal visit to the Netherlands for the moment, but it was deferred only for a brief period. To remedy the deficiency in the provincial exchequer, large remittances would be made immediately from Spain. To provide for the increasing difficulties of the religious question, a convocation of nine learned and saintly personages was recommended, who should devise some new scheme by which the objections to the present system of chastising heretics might be obviated.
It is hardly necessary to state that so meagre a result to the mission of Egmont was not likely to inspire the hearts of Orange and his adherents with much confidence. No immediate explosion of resentment, however, occurred. The general aspect for a few days was peaceful. Egmont manifested much contentment with the reception which he met with in Spain, and described the King's friendly dispositions towards the leading nobles in lively colors. He went to his government immediately after his return, assembled the states of Artois, in the city of Arras, and delivered the letters sent to that body by the King. He made a speech on this occasion, informing the estates that his Majesty had given orders that the edicts of the Emperor were to be enforced to the letter; adding that he had told the King, freely, his own opinion upon the subject; in order to dissuade him from that which others were warmly urging. He described Philip as the most liberal and debonair of princes; his council in Spain as cruel and sanguinary. Time was to show whether the epithets thus applied to the advisers were not more applicable to the monarch than the eulogies thus lavished by the blind and predestined victim. It will also be perceived that this language, used before the estates of Artois, varied materially from his observation to the Dowager Duchess of Aerschot, denouncing as enemies the men who accused him of having requested a moderation of the edicts. In truth, this most vacillating, confused, and unfortunate of men perhaps scarcely comprehended the purport of his recent negotiations in Spain, nor perceived the drift of his daily remarks at home. He was, however, somewhat vainglorious immediately after his return, and excessively attentive to business. "He talks like a King," said Morillon, spitefully, "negotiates night and day, and makes all bow before him." His house was more thronged with petitioners, courtiers, and men of affairs, than even the palace of the Duchess. He avowed frequently that he would devote his life and his fortune to the accomplishment of the King's commands, and declared his uncompromising hostility to all who should venture to oppose that loyal determination.
It was but a very short time, however, before a total change was distinctly perceptible in his demeanor. These halcyon days were soon fled. The arrival of fresh letters from Spain gave a most unequivocal evidence of the royal determination, if, indeed, any doubt could be rationally entertained before. The most stringent instructions to keep the whole machinery of persecution constantly at work were transmitted to the Duchess, and aroused the indignation of Orange and his followers. They avowed that they could no longer trust the royal word, since, so soon after Egmont's departure, the King had written despatches so much at variance with his language, as reported by the envoy. There was nothing, they said, clement and debonair in these injunctions upon gentlemen of their position and sentiments to devote their time to the encouragement of hangmen and inquisitors. The Duchess was unable to pacify the nobles. Egmont was beside himself with rage. With his usual recklessness and wrath, he expressed himself at more than one session of the state council in most unmeasured terms. His anger had been more inflamed by information which he had received from the second son of Berlaymont, a young and indiscreet lad, who had most unfortunately communicated many secrets which he had learned from his father, but which were never intended for Egmont's ear.
Philip's habitual dissimulation had thus produced much unnecessary perplexity. It was his custom to carry on correspondence through the aid of various secretaries, and it was his invariable practice to deceive them all. Those who were upon the most confidential terms with the monarch, were most sure to be duped upon all important occasions. It has been seen that even the astute Granvelle could not escape this common lot of all who believed their breasts the depositories of the royal secrets. Upon this occasion, Gonzalo Perez and Ruy Gomez complained bitterly that they had known nothing of the letters which had recently been despatched from Valladolid, while Tisnacq and Courterville had been ignorant of the communications forwarded by the hands of Egmont. They avowed that the King created infinite trouble by thus treating his affairs in one way with one set of councillors and in an opposite sense with the others, thus dissembling with all, and added that Philip was now much astonished at the dissatisfaction created in the provinces by the discrepancy between the French letters brought by Egmont, and the Spanish letters since despatched to the Duchess. As this was his regular manner of transacting business, not only for the Netherlands, but for all his dominions, they were of opinion that such confusion and dissatisfaction might well be expected.
After all, however, notwithstanding the indignation of Egmont, it must be confessed that he had been an easy dupe. He had been dazzled by royal smiles, intoxicated by court incense, contaminated by yet baser bribes. He had been turned from the path of honor and the companionship of the wise and noble to do the work of those who were to compass his destruction. The Prince of Orange reproached him to his face with having forgotten, when in Spain, to represent the views of his associates and the best interests of the country, while he had well remembered his own private objects, and accepted the lavish bounty of the King. Egmont, stung to the heart by the reproof, from one whom he honored and who wished him well, became sad and sombre for a long time, abstained from the court and from society, and expressed frequently the intention of retiring to his estates. He was, however, much governed by his secretary, the Seigneur de Bakerzeel, a man of restless, intriguing, and deceitful character, who at this period exercised as great influence over the Count as Armenteros continued to maintain over the Duchess, whose unpopularity from that and other circumstances was daily increasing.
In obedience to the commands of the King, the canons of Trent had been published. They were nominally enforced at Cambray, but a fierce opposition was made by the clergy themselves to the innovation in Mechlin, Utrecht, and many other places.
This matter, together with other more vitally important questions, came before the assembly of bishops and doctors, which, according to Philip's instructions, had been convoked by the Duchess. The opinion of the learned theologians was, on the whole, that the views of the Trent Council, with regard to reformation of ecclesiastical morals and popular education, was sound. There was some discordancy between the clerical and lay doctors upon other points. The seigniors, lawyers, and deputies from the estates were all in favor of repealing the penalty of death for heretical offences of any kind. President Viglius, with all the bishops and doctors of divinity, including the prelates of St. Omer, Namur and Ypres, and four theological professors from Louvain, stoutly maintained the contrary opinion. The President especially, declared himself vehemently in favor of the death punishment, and expressed much anger against those who were in favor of its abolition. The Duchess, upon the second day of the assembly, propounded formally the question, whether any change was to be made in the chastisement of heretics. The Prince of Orange, with Counts Horn and Egmont, had, however, declined to take part in the discussions, on the ground that it was not his Majesty's intention that state councillors should deliver their opinions before strangers, but that persons from outside had been summoned to communicate their advice to the Council. The seigniors having thus washed their hands of the matter, the doctors came to a conclusion with great alacrity. It was their unanimous opinion that it comported neither with the service of God nor the common weal, to make any change in the punishment, except, perhaps, in the case of extreme youth; but that, on the contrary, heretics were only to be dealt with by retaining the edicts in their rigor, and by courageously chastising the criminals. After sitting for the greater part of six days, the bishops and doctors of divinity reduced their sentiments to writing, and affixed their signatures to the document. Upon the great point of the change suggested in the penalties of heresy, it was declared that no alteration was advisable in the edicts, which had been working so well for thirty-five years. At the same time it was suggested that "some persons, in respect to their age and quality, might be executed or punished more or less rigorously than others; some by death, some by galley slavery, some by perpetual banishment and entire confiscation of property." The possibility was also admitted, of mitigating the punishment of those who, without being heretics or sectaries, might bring themselves within the provisions of the edicts, "through curiosity, nonchalance, or otherwise." Such offenders, it was hinted, might be "whipped with rods, fined, banished, or subjected to similar penalties of a lighter nature." It will be perceived by this slight sketch of the advice thus offered to the Duchess that these theologians were disposed very carefully to strain the mercy, which they imagined possible in some cases, but which was to drop only upon the heads of the just. Heretics were still to be dealt with, so far as the bishops and presidents could affect their doom, with unmitigated rigor.
When the assembly was over, the Duchess, thus put in possession of the recorded wisdom of these special councillors, asked her constitutional advisers what she was to do with it. Orange, Egmont, Horn, Mansfeld replied, however, that it was not their affair, and that their opinion had not been demanded by his Majesty in the premises. The Duchess accordingly transmitted to Philip the conclusions of the assembly, together with the reasons of the seigniors for refusing to take part in its deliberations. The sentiments of Orange could hardly be doubtful, however, nor his silence fail to give offense to the higher powers. He contented himself for the time with keeping his eyes and ears open to the course of events, but he watched well. He had "little leisure for amusing himself," as Brederode suggested. That free-spoken individual looked upon the proceedings of the theological assembly with profound disgust. "Your letter," he wrote to Count Louis, "is full of those blackguards of bishops and presidents. I would the race were extinct, like that of green dogs. They will always combat with the arms which they have ever used, remaining to the end avaricious, brutal, obstinate, ambitious, et cetera. I leave you to supply the rest."
Thus, then, it was settled beyond peradventure that there was to be no compromise with heresy. The King had willed it. The theologians had advised it. The Duchess had proclaimed it. It was supposed that without the axe, the fire, and the rack, the Catholic religion would be extinguished, and that the whole population of the Netherlands would embrace the Reformed Faith. This was the distinct declaration of Viglius, in a private letter to Granvelle. "Many seek to abolish the chastisement of heresy," said he; "if they gain this point, actum est de religione Catholica; for as most of the people are ignorant fools, the heretics will soon be the great majority, if by fear of punishment they are not kept in the true path."
The uneasiness, the terror, the wrath of the people seemed rapidly culminating to a crisis. Nothing was talked of but the edicts and the inquisition. Nothing else entered into the minds of men. In the streets, in the shops, in the taverns, in the fields; at market, at church, at funerals, at weddings; in the noble's castle, at the farmer's fireside, in the mechanic's garret, upon the merchants' exchange, there was but one perpetual subject of shuddering conversation. It was better, men began to whisper to each other, to die at once than to live in perpetual slavery. It was better to fall with arms in hand than to be tortured and butchered by the inquisition. Who could expect to contend with such a foe in the dark?
They reproached the municipal authorities with lending themselves as instruments to the institution. They asked magistrates and sheriffs how far they would go in their defence before God's tribunal for the slaughter of his creatures, if they could only answer the divine arraignment by appealing to the edict of 1550. On the other hand, the inquisitors were clamorous in abuse of the languor and the cowardice of the secular authorities. They wearied the ear of the Duchess with complaints of the difficulties which they encountered in the execution of their functions—of the slight alacrity on the part of the various officials to assist them in the discharge of their duties. Notwithstanding the express command of his Majesty to that effect, they experienced, they said, a constant deficiency of that cheerful co-operation which they had the right to claim, and there was perpetual discord in consequence. They had been empowered by papal and by royal decree to make use of the gaols, the constables, the whole penal machinery of each province; yet the officers often refused to act, and had even dared to close the prisons. Nevertheless, it had been intended, as fully appeared by the imperial and royal instructions to the inquisitors, that their action through the medium of the provincial authorities should be unrestrained. Not satisfied with these representations to the Regent, the inquisitors had also made a direct appeal to the King. Judocus Tiletanus and Michael de Bay addressed to Philip a letter from Louvain. They represented to him that they were the only two left of the five inquisitors-general appointed by the Pope for all the Netherlands, the other three having been recently converted into bishops. Daily complaints, they said, were reaching them of the prodigious advance of heresy, but their own office was becoming so odious, so calumniated, and exposed to so much resistance, that they could not perform its duties without personal danger. They urgently demanded from his Majesty, therefore, additional support and assistance. Thus the Duchess, exposed at once to the rising wrath of a whole people and to the shrill blasts of inquisitorial anger, was tossed to and fro, as upon a stormy sea. The commands of the King, too explicit to be tampered with, were obeyed. The theological assembly had met and given advice. The Council of Trent was here and there enforced. The edicts were republished and the inquisitors encouraged. Moreover, in accordance with Philip's suggestion, orders were now given that the heretics should be executed at midnight in their dungeons, by binding their heads between their knees, and then slowly suffocating them in tubs of water. Secret drowning was substituted for public burning, in order that the heretic's crown of vainglory, which was thought to console him in his agony, might never be placed upon his head.
In the course of the summer, Magaret wrote to her brother that the popular frenzy was becoming more and more intense. The people were crying aloud, she said, that the Spanish inquisition, or a worse than Spanish inquisition, had been established among them by means of bishops and ecclesiastics. She urged Philip to cause the instructions for the inquisitors to be revised. Egmont, she said, was vehement in expressing his dissatisfaction at the discrepancy between Philip's language to him by word of mouth and that of the royal despatches on the religious question. The other seigniors were even more indignant.
While the popular commotion in the Netherlands was thus fearfully increasing, another circumstance came to add to the prevailing discontent. The celebrated interview between Catharine de Medici and her daughter, the Queen of Spain, occurred in the middle of the month of June, at Bayonne. The darkest suspicions as to the results to humanity of the plots to be engendered in this famous conference between the representatives of France and Spain were universally entertained. These suspicions were most reasonable, but they were nevertheless mistaken. The plan for a concerted action to exterminate the heretics in both kingdoms had, as it was perfectly well known, been formed long before this epoch. It was also no secret that the Queen Regent of France had been desirous of meeting her son-in-law in order to confer with him upon important matters, face to face. Philip, however, had latterly been disinclined for the personal interview with Catharine. As his wife was most anxious to meet her mother, it was nevertheless finally arranged that Queen Isabella should make the journey; but he excused himself, on account of the multiplicity of his affairs, from accompanying her in the expedition. The Duke of Alva was, accordingly, appointed to attend the Queen to Bayonne. Both were secretly instructed by Philip to leave nothing undone in the approaching interview toward obtaining the hearty co-operation of Catharine de Medici in a general and formally-arranged scheme for the simultaneous extermination of all heretics in the French and Spanish dominions. Alva's conduct in this diplomatic commission was stealthy in the extreme. His letters reveal a subtlety of contrivance and delicacy of handling such as the world has not generally reckoned among his characteristics. All his adroitness, as well as the tact of Queen Isabella, by whose ability Alva declared himself to have been astounded, proved quite powerless before the steady fencing of the wily Catharine. The Queen Regent, whose skill the Duke, even while defeated, acknowledged to his master, continued firm in her design to maintain her own power by holding the balance between Guise and Montmorency, between Leaguer and Huguenot. So long as her enemies could be employed in exterminating each other, she was willing to defer the extermination of the Huguenots. The great massacre of St. Bartholomew was to sleep for seven years longer. Alva was, to be sure, much encouraged at first by the language of the French princes and nobles who were present at Bayonne. Monluc protested that "they might saw the Queen Dowager in two before she would become Huguenot." Montpensier exclaimed that "he would be cut in pieces for Philip's service—that the Spanish monarch was the only hope for France," and, embracing Alva with fervor, he affirmed that "if his body were to be opened at that moment, the name of Philip would be found imprinted upon his heart." The Duke, having no power to proceed to an autopsy, physical or moral, of Montpensier's interior, was left somewhat in the dark, notwithstanding these ejaculations. His first conversation with the youthful King, however, soon dispelled his hopes. He found immediately, in his own words, that Charles the Ninth "had been doctored." To take up arms, for religious reasons, against his own subjects, the monarch declared to be ruinous and improper. It was obvious to Alva that the royal pupil had learned his lesson for that occasion. It was a pity for humanity that the wisdom thus hypocritically taught him could not have sunk into his heart. The Duke did his best to bring forward the plans and wishes of his royal master, but without success. The Queen Regent proposed a league of the two Kings and the Emperor against the Turk, and wished to arrange various matrimonial alliances between the sons and daughters of the three houses. Alva expressed the opinion that the alliances were already close enough, while, on the contrary, a secret league against the Protestants would make all three families the safer. Catherine, however, was not to be turned from her position. She refused even to admit that the Chancellor de l'Hospital was a Huguenot, to which the Duke replied that she was the only person in her kingdom who held that opinion. She expressed an intention of convoking an assembly of doctors, and Alva ridiculed in his letters to Philip the affectation of such a proceeding. In short, she made it sufficiently evident that the hour for the united action of the French and Spanish sovereigns against their subjects had not struck, so that the famous Bayonne conference was terminated without a result. It seemed not the less certain, however, in the general opinion of mankind, that all the particulars of a regular plot had been definitely arranged upon this occasion, for the extermination of the Protestants, and the error has been propagated by historians of great celebrity of all parties, down to our own days. The secret letters of Alva, however, leave no doubt as to the facts.
In the course of November, fresh letters from Philip arrived in the Netherlands, confirming every thing which he had previously written. He wrote personally to the inquisitors-general, Tiletanus and De Bay, encouraging them, commending them, promising them his support, and urging them not to be deterred by any consideration from thoroughly fulfilling their duties. He wrote Peter Titelmann a letter, in which he applauded the pains taken by that functionary to remedy the ills which religion was suffering, assured him of his gratitude, exhorted him to continue in his virtuous course, and avowed his determination to spare neither pains, expense, nor even his own life, to sustain the Catholic Faith. To the Duchess he wrote at great length, and in most unequivocal language. He denied that what he had written from Valladolid was of different meaning from the sense of the despatches by Egmont. With regard to certain Anabaptist prisoners, concerning whose fate Margaret had requested his opinion, he commanded their execution, adding that such was his will in the case of all, whatever their quality, who could be caught. That which the people said in the Netherlands touching the inquisition, he pronounced extremely distasteful to him. That institution, which had existed under his predecessors, he declared more necessary than ever; nor would he suffer it to be discredited. He desired his sister to put no faith in idle talk, as to the inconveniences likely to flow from the rigor of the inquisition. Much greater inconveniences would be the result if the inquisitors did not proceed with their labors, and the Duchess was commanded to write to the secular judges, enjoining upon them to place no obstacles in the path, but to afford all the assistance which might be required.
To Egmont, the King wrote with his own hand, applauding much that was contained in the recent decisions of the assembly of bishops and doctors of divinity, and commanding the Count to assist in the execution of the royal determination. In affairs of religion, Philip expressed the opinion that dissimulation and weakness were entirely out of place.
When these decisive letters came before the state council, the consternation was extreme. The Duchess had counted, in spite of her inmost convictions, upon less peremptory instructions. The Prince of Orange, the Count of Egmont, and the Admiral, were loud in their denunciations of the royal policy. There was a violent and protracted debate. The excitement spread at once to the people. Inflammatory hand-bills were circulated. Placards were posted every night upon the doors of Orange, Egmont, and Horn, calling upon them to come forth boldly as champions of the people and of liberty in religious matters. Banquets were held daily at the houses of the nobility, in which the more ardent and youthful of their order, with brains excited by wine and anger, indulged in flaming invectives against the government, and interchanged vows to protect each other and the cause of the oppressed provinces. Meanwhile the privy council, to which body the Duchess had referred the recent despatches from Madrid, made a report upon the whole subject to the state council, during the month of November, sustaining the royal views, and insisting upon the necessity of carrying them into effect. The edicts and inquisition having been so vigorously insisted upon by the King, nothing was to be done but to issue new proclamations throughout the country, together with orders to bishops, councils, governors and judges, that every care should be taken to enforce them to the full.
This report came before the state council, and was sustained by some of its members. The Prince of Orange expressed the same uncompromising hostility to the inquisition which he had always manifested, but observed that the commands of the King were so precise and absolute, as to leave no possibility of discussing that point. There was nothing to be done, he said, but to obey, but he washed his hands of the fatal consequences which he foresaw. There was no longer any middle course between obedience and rebellion. This opinion, the soundness of which could scarcely be disputed, was also sustained by Egmont and Horn.
Viglius, on the contrary, nervous, agitated, appalled, was now disposed to temporize. He observed that if the seigniors feared such evil results, it would be better to prevent, rather than to accelerate the danger which would follow the proposed notification to the governors and municipal authorities throughout the country, on the subject of the inquisition. To make haste, was neither to fulfil the intentions nor to serve the interests of the King, and it was desirable "to avoid emotion and scandal." Upon these heads the President made a very long speech, avowing, in conclusion, that if his Majesty should not find the course proposed agreeable, he was ready to receive all the indignation upon his own head.
Certainly, this position of the President was somewhat inconsistent with his previous course. He had been most violent in his denunciations of all who should interfere with the execution of the great edict of which he had been the original draughtsman. He had recently been ferocious in combating the opinion of those civilians in the assembly of doctors who had advocated the abolition of the death penalty against heresy. He had expressed with great energy his private opinion that the ancient religion would perish if the machinery of persecution were taken away; yet he now for the first time seemed to hear or to heed the outcry of a whole nation, and to tremble at the sound. Now that the die had been cast, in accordance with the counsels of his whole life, now that the royal commands, often enigmatical and hesitating; were at last too distinct to be misconstrued, and too peremptory to be tampered with—the president imagined the possibility of delay. The health of the ancient Frisian had but recently permitted him to resume his seat at the council board. His presence there was but temporary, for he had received from Madrid the acceptance of his resignation, accompanied with orders to discharge the duties of President until the arrival of his successor, Charles de Tisnacq. Thus, in his own language, the Duchess was still obliged to rely for a season "upon her ancient Palinurus," a necessity far from agreeable to her, for she had lost confidence in the pilot. It may be supposed that he was anxious to smooth the troubled waters during the brief period in which he was still to be exposed to their fury; but he poured out the oil of his eloquence in vain. Nobody sustained his propositions. The Duchess, although terrified at the probable consequences, felt the impossibility of disobeying the deliberate decree of her brother. A proclamation was accordingly prepared, by which it was ordered that the Council of Trent, the edicts and the inquisition, should be published in every town and village in the provinces, immediately, and once in six months forever afterwards. The deed was done, and the Prince of Orange, stooping to the ear of his next neighbor, as they sat at the council-board, whispered that they were now about to witness the commencement of the most extraordinary tragedy which had ever been enacted.
The prophecy was indeed a proof that the Prince could read the future, but the sarcasm of the President, that the remark had been made in a tone of exultation, was belied by every action of the prophet's life.
The fiat went forth. In the market-place of every town and village of the Netherlands, the inquisition was again formally proclaimed. Every doubt which had hitherto existed as to the intention of the government was swept away. No argument was thenceforward to be permissible as to the constitutionality of the edicts as to the compatibility of their provisions with the privileges of the land. The cry of a people in its agony ascended to Heaven. The decree was answered with a howl of execration. The flames of popular frenzy arose lurid and threatening above the house-tops of every town and village. The impending conflict could no longer be mistaken. The awful tragedy which the great watchman in the land had so long unceasingly predicted, was seen sweeping solemnly and steadily onward. The superstitious eyes of the age saw supernatural and ominous indications in the sky. Contending armies trampled the clouds; blood dropped from heaven; the exterminating angel rode upon the wind.
There was almost a cessation of the ordinary business of mankind. Commerce was paralyzed. Antwerp shook as with an earthquake. A chasm seemed to open, in which her prosperity and her very existence were to be forever engulfed. The foreign merchants, manufacturers, and artisans fled from her gates as if the plague were raging within them. Thriving cities were likely soon to be depopulated. The metropolitan heart of the whole country was almost motionless.
Men high in authority sympathized with the general indignation. The Marquis Berghen, the younger Mansfeld, the Baron Montigny, openly refused to enforce the edicts within their governments. Men of eminence inveighed boldly and bitterly against the tyranny of the government, and counselled disobedience. The Netherlanders, it was stoutly maintained, were not such senseless brutes as to be ignorant of the mutual relation of prince and people. They knew that the obligation of a king to his vassals was as sacred as the duties of the subjects to the sovereign.
The four principal cities of Brabant first came forward in formal denunciation of the outrage. An elaborate and conclusive document was drawn up in their name, and presented to the Regent. It set forth that the recent proclamation violated many articles in the "joyous entry." That ancient constitution had circumscribed the power of the clergy, and the jealousy had been felt in old times as much by the sovereign as the people. No ecclesiastical tribunal had therefore been allowed, excepting that of the Bishop of Cambray, whose jurisdiction was expressly confined to three classes of cases—those growing out of marriages, testaments, and mortmains.
It would be superfluous to discuss the point at the present day, whether the directions to the inquisitors and the publication of the edicts conflicted with the "joyous entrance." To take a man from his house and burn him, after a brief preliminary examination, was clearly not to follow the letter and spirit of the Brabantine habeas corpus, by which inviolability of domicile and regular trials were secured and sworn to by the monarch; yet such had been the uniform practice of inquisitors throughout the country. The petition of the four cities was referred by the Regent to the council of Brabant. The chancellor, or president judge of that tribunal was notoriously corrupt—a creature of the Spanish. His efforts to sustain the policy of the administration however vain. The Duchess ordered the archives of the province to be searched for precedents, and the council to report upon the petition. The case was too plain for argument or dogmatism, but the attempt was made to take refuge in obscurity. The answer of the council was hesitating and equivocal. The Duchess insisted upon a distinct and categorical answer to the four cities. Thus pressed, the council of Brabant declared roundly that no inquisition of any kind had ever existed, in the provinces. It was impossible that any other answer could be given, but Viglius, with his associates in the privy council, were extremely angry at the conclusion. The concession was, however, made, notwithstanding the bad example which, according to some persons, the victory thus obtained by so important a province would afford to the people in the other parts of the country. Brabant was declared free of the inquisition. Meanwhile the pamphlets, handbills, pasquils, and other popular productions were multiplied. To use a Flemish expression, they "snowed in the streets." They were nailed nightly on all the great houses in Brussels. Patriots were called upon to strike, speak, redress. Pungent lampoons, impassioned invectives, and earnest remonstrances, were thrust into the hands of the Duchess. The publications, as they appeared; were greedily devoured by the people. "We are willing," it was said, in a remarkable letter to the King, "to die for the Gospel, but we read therein 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's.' We thank God that our enemies themselves are compelled to bear witness to our piety and patience; so that it is a common saying—'He swears not; he is a Protestant; he is neither a fornicator nor a drunkard; he is of the new sect.' Yet, notwithstanding these testimonials to our character, no manner of punishment has been forgotten by which we can possibly be Chastised." This statement of the morality of the Puritans of the Netherlands was the justification of martyrs—not the self-glorification of Pharisees. The fact was incontrovertible. Their tenets were rigid, but their lives were pure. They belonged generally to the middling and lower classes. They were industrious artisans, who desired to live in the fear of God and in honor of their King. They were protected by nobles and gentlemen of high position, very many of whom came afterwards warmly to espouse the creed which at first they had only generously defended. Their whole character and position resembled, in many features, those of the English Puritans, who, three quarters of a century afterwards, fled for refuge to the Dutch Republic, and thence departed to establish the American Republic. The difference was that the Netherlanders were exposed to a longer persecution and a far more intense martyrdom.
Towards the end of the year (1565) which was closing in such universal gloom; the contemporary chronicles are enlivened with a fitful gleam of sunshine. The light enlivens only the more elevated regions of the Flemish world, but it is pathetic to catch a glimpse of those nobles, many of whose lives were to be so heroic, and whose destinies so tragic, as amid the shadows projected by coming evil, they still found time for the chivalrous festivals of their land and epoch. A splendid tournament was held at the Chateau d'Antoing to celebrate the nuptials of Baron Montigny with the daughter of Prince d'Espinoy. Orange, Horn, and Hoogstraaten were the challengers, and maintained themselves victoriously against all comers, Egmont and other distinguished knights being, among the number.
Thus brilliantly and gaily moved the first hours of that marriage which before six months had fled was to be so darkly terminated. The doom which awaited the chivalrous bridegroom in the dungeon of Simancas was ere long to be recorded in one of the foulest chapters of Philip's tyranny.
A still more elaborate marriage-festival, of which the hero was, at a later day, to exercise a most decisive influence over the fortunes of the land, was celebrated at Brussels before the close of the year. It will be remembered that Alexander, Prince of Parma, had accompanied Egmont on his return from Spain in the month of April. The Duchess had been delighted with the appearance of her son, then twenty years of age, but already an accomplished cavalier. She had expressed her especial pleasure in finding him so thoroughly a Spaniard "in manner, costume, and conversation," that it could not be supposed he had ever visited any other land, or spoken any other tongue than that of Spain.
The nobles of the Flemish court did not participate in the mother's enthusiasm. It could not be denied that he was a handsome and gallant young prince; but his arrogance was so intolerable as to disgust even those most disposed to pay homage to Margaret's son. He kept himself mainly in haughty retirement, dined habitually alone in his own apartments, and scarcely honored any of the gentlemen of the Netherlands with his notice. Even Egmont, to whose care he had been especially recommended by Philip, was slighted. If, occasionally, he honored one or two of the seigniors with an invitation to his table, he sat alone in solemn state at the head of the board, while the guests, to whom he scarcely vouchsafed a syllable, were placed on stools without backs, below the salt. Such insolence, it may be supposed, was sufficiently galling to men of the proud character, but somewhat reckless demeanor, which distinguished the Netherland aristocracy. After a short time they held themselves aloof, thinking it sufficient to endure such airs from Philip. The Duchess at first encouraged the young Prince in his haughtiness, but soon became sad, as she witnessed its effects. It was the universal opinion that the young Prince was a mere compound of pride and emptiness. "There is nothing at all in the man," said Chantonnay. Certainly the expression was not a fortunate one. Time was to show that there was more in the man than in all the governors despatched successively by Philip to the Netherlands; but the proof was to be deferred to a later epoch. Meantime, his mother was occupied and exceedingly perplexed with his approaching nuptials. He had been affianced early in the year to the Princess Donna Maria of Portugal. It was found necessary, therefore, to send a fleet of several vessels to Lisbon, to fetch the bride to the Netherlands, the wedding being appointed to take place in Brussels. This expense alone was considerable, and the preparations for banquets, jousts, and other festivities, were likewise undertaken on so magnificent a scale that the Duke, her husband, was offended at Margaret's extravagance. The people, by whom she was not beloved, commented bitterly on the prodigalities which they were witnessing in a period of dearth and trouble. Many of the nobles mocked at her perplexity. To crown the whole, the young Prince was so obliging as to express the hope, in his mother's hearing, that the bridal fleet, then on its way from Portugal, might sink with all it contained, to the bottom of the sea.
The poor Duchess was infinitely chagrined by all these circumstances. The "insane and outrageous expenses" in which the nuptials had involved her, the rebukes of her husband, the sneers of the seigniors, the undutiful epigrams of her son, the ridicule of the people, affected her spirits to such a degree, harassed as she was with grave matters of state, that she kept her rooms for days together, weeping, hour after hour, in the most piteous manner. Her distress was the town talk; nevertheless, the fleet arrived in the autumn, and brought the youthful Maria to the provinces. This young lady, if the faithful historiographer of the Farnese house is to be credited, was the paragon of princesses.
[This princess, in her teens, might already exclaim, with the venerable Faustus:
"Habe nun Philosophie Juristerei and Medicin Und leider ach: Theologie Durch studirt mit heissem Bemuhen," etc.
The panegyrists of royal houses in the sixteenth century were not accustomed to do their work by halves.—Strada.]
She was the daughter of Prince Edward, and granddaughter of John the Third. She was young and beautiful; she could talk both Latin and Greek, besides being well versed in philosophy, mathematics and theology. She had the scriptures at her tongue's end, both the old dispensation and the new, and could quote from the fathers with the promptness of a bishop. She was so strictly orthodox that, on being compelled by stress of weather to land in England, she declined all communication with Queen Elizabeth, on account of her heresy. She was so eminently chaste that she could neither read the sonnets of Petrarch, nor lean on the arm of a gentleman. Her delicacy upon such points was, indeed, carried to such excess, that upon one occasion when the ship which was bringing her to the Netherlands was discovered to be burning, she rebuked a rude fellow who came forward to save her life, assuring him that there was less contamination in the touch of fire than in that of man. Fortunately, the flames were extinguished, and the Phoenix of Portugal was permitted to descend, unburned, upon the bleak shores of Flanders.
The occasion, notwithstanding the recent tears of the Duchess, and the arrogance of the Prince, was the signal for much festivity among the courtiers of Brussels. It was also the epoch from which movements of a secret and important character were to be dated. The chevaliers of the Fleece were assembled, and Viglius pronounced before them one of his most classical orations. He had a good deal to say concerning the private adventures of Saint Andrew, patron of the Order, and went into some details of a conversation which that venerated personage had once held with the proconsul Aegeas. The moral which he deduced from his narrative was the necessity of union among the magnates for the maintenance of the Catholic faith; the nobility and the Church being the two columns upon which the whole social fabric reposed. It is to be feared that the President became rather prosy upon the occasion. Perhaps his homily, like those of the fictitious Archbishop of Granada, began to smack of the apoplexy from which he had so recently escaped. Perhaps, the meeting being one of hilarity, the younger nobles became restive under the infliction of a very long and very solemn harangue. At any rate, as the meeting broke up, there was a good dial of jesting on the subject. De Hammes, commonly called "Toison d'Or," councillor and king-at-arms of the Order, said that the President had been seeing visions and talking with Saint Andrew in a dream. Marquis Berghen asked for the source whence he had derived such intimate acquaintance with the ideas of the Saint. The President took these remarks rather testily, and, from trifling, the company became soon earnestly engaged in a warm discussion of the agitating topics of the day. It soon became evident to Viglius that De Hammer and others of his comrades had been dealing with dangerous things. He began shrewdly to suspect that the popular heresy was rapidly extending into higher regions; but it was not the President alone who discovered how widely the contamination was spreading. The meeting, the accidental small talk, which had passed so swiftly from gaiety to gravity, the rapid exchange of ideas, and the free-masonry by which intelligence upon forbidden topics had been mutually conveyed, became events of historical importance. Interviews between nobles, who, in the course of the festivities produced by the Montigny and Parma marriages, had discovered that they entertained a secret similarity of sentiment upon vital questions, became of frequent occurrence. The result to which such conferences led will be narrated in the following chapter.
Meantime, upon the 11th November, 1565, the marriage of Prince Alexander and Donna Maria was celebrated; with great solemnity, by the Archbishop of Cambray, in the chapel of the court at Brussels. On the following Sunday the wedding banquet was held in the great hall, where, ten years previously, the memorable abdication of the bridegroom's imperial grandfather had taken place.
The walls were again hung with the magnificent tapestry of Gideon, while the Knights of the Fleece, with all the other grandees of the land, were assembled to grace the spectacle. The King was represented by his envoy in England, Don Guzman de Silva, who came to Brussels for the occasion, and who had been selected for this duty because, according to Armenteros, "he was endowed, beside his prudence, with so much witty gracefulness with ladies in matters of pastime and entertainment." Early in the month of December, a famous tournament was held in the great market-place of Brussels, the Duke of Parma, the Duke of Aerschot, and Count Egmont being judges of the jousts. Count Mansfeld was the challenger, assisted by his son Charles, celebrated among the gentry of the land for his dexterity in such sports. To Count Charles was awarded upon this occasion the silver cup from the lady of the lists. Count Bossu received the prize for breaking best his lances; the Seigneur de Beauvoir for the most splendid entrance; Count Louis, of Nassau, for having borne himself most gallantly in the melee. On the same evening the nobles, together with the bridal pair, were entertained at a splendid supper, given by the city of Brussels in the magnificent Hotel de Ville. On this occasion the prizes gained at the tournament were distributed, amid the applause and hilarity of all the revellers.
Thus, with banquet, tourney, and merry marriage bells, with gaiety gilding the surface of society, while a deadly hatred to the inquisition was eating into the heart of the nation, and while the fires of civil war were already kindling, of which no living man was destined to witness the extinction, ended the year 1565.