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Spain and the Netherlands; the Armada. page 2

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At this time, an outburst of bigotry on the part of the Protestants unhappily gave Philip some excuse for a further exercise of tyranny. Not only did heretical "field-preachings" disturb the public peace, but the rioters known as Iconoclasts attacked the churches in several provinces, especially in Flanders and Brabant, breaking^ what they held to be idolatrous "images," plundering and ruining the interior of the splendid cathedral at Antwerp; doing like damage at Tournai, Ghent, Mechlin, Valenciennes, and several other towns; and pillaging in all over 400 Catholic places of worship.

Philip resolved on vengeance. He had already refused to allow the States to meet for the discussion of grievances, and he supplied the duchess of Parma with funds to raise a large force of horse and foot. Many of the Catholic nobles withdrew from the patriotic league. Open hostilities broke out, and Valenciennes, held by the Calvinists, was taken, after a bombardment, by Noircarmes, the governor of Hainault. The position of the country was such that William of Orange went into exile for a time, after vainly warning his friend Egmont to care for his own safety. William was aware of what Philip contemplated, and withdrew in order to plan for his country's freedom. The terrible duke of Alva, a relentless Catholic fanatic, an able general, and an everlasting type of cruel tyranny, arrived at Brussels in August, 1567, at the head of a veteran Spanish army of 15,000 men, and assumed the government of the Netherlands in place of Margaret. The absolute destruction of all heretics had been decreed, and Alva established what he called the Council of Troubles, styled by the patriots and known in history as the Council of Blood. The Inquisition was re-established, and the work began. The new Council paid no respect to any existing contracts or privileges, and its judgments were without appeal. Counts Egmont and Horn were beheaded in Brussels. Hanging, decapitation, quartering, and burning of human beings were in full swing, with enormous confiscations of property. Countless refugees fled to England, and were welcomed by Elizabeth who was glad for her realm to benefit by their skill in manufactures. The country, in some parts, was lapsing into a state of brigandage. William, collecting troops in Germany with money raised by the sale of his own property, by the help of his relatives, and by the subscriptions of refugee Hollanders and Flemings, took the field. In the spring of 1568 the Netherlands were invaded at four points. In May a division of the royal forces was defeated by the patriots at Heiligerlee, in the north-east of Holland, with the loss to the cause of freedom of one of William's brothers, Adolphus of Nassau. In July Alva in person routed his foe, with the loss of all their cannon and baggage, under Louis of Nassau, at Jemminghem, near Emden. William, heading an army of 30,000 men, could not bring the wary Alva to a battle, and in October the great patriot was forced to disband his men from sheer lack of funds. He retired to France for a time, and Alva, in the insolence of success, razed to the ground the Culemburg mansion at Brussels where the banquet of the Gueux had taken place, and set up, in the new strong citadel of Antwerp, his own statue in brass, made from the guns taken at Jemminghem. The patriots, unable to do anything on land, were developing a naval force in privateers swarming forth from every port in Holland and Zealand, and cutting off Spanish ships conveying army-stores and the goods of commerce. The atrocious Alva, whose truthful boast it was that, in a rule of six years, he caused 18,000 people of the Netherlands to die by the hands of his executioners, was now wearying out Philip, when it was found that all his murders and plunderings did not subdue the spirit of resistance. In the darkest hour of the country's fortunes, a gleam of success for the patriotic cause came, in April, 1572, with the capture of the town of Brill (Briel), on an island at the mouth of the Maas, by the fierce sea-rover William de la Marck. The people of Holland and Zealand rose in revolt, and William again appeared in the field, and took many towns in the south of the country,, aided by his brother Louis. Alva would not meet him in battle, but attacked the northern towns captured by the Hollanders. The famous siege of Haarlem continued for seven months of 1572-1573, costing the Spaniards 10,000 men before they could succeed. The women had fought like tigresses on the ramparts, facing the long pikes of the enemy, flinging boiling oil and tarred hoops set alight, and using dagger and pistol in defence of their lives and their honour. The governor, chief officers, and 2,000 of the garrison were murdered on surrender. On the other hand, the enemy were repulsed with great loss by the citizens of Alkmaar, and the Spanish fleet was nearly destroyed in a fight on the Zuyder Zee. In 1573 Alva was recalled, and his successor, Requesens, a man of mild character, removed Alva's statue and suppressed his famous Council.

The struggle continued, with alternations of success. An offer of a general amnesty was rejected with disdain by men who had resolved on freedom or death. In 1574 a large Spanish fleet, gathered for the relief of Middelburg, in Walcheren, was utterly defeated by Louis Boisot, admiral of Zealand, and that important city, after two years' siege, surrendered to the patriots. William of Orange, and his brothers Louis and Henry, were again in arms, but in April, at the battle of Mookerheyde, on the Maas, the great leader's two brothers were defeated and slain. The renowned and successful defence of Leyden followed. Force and famine were used in vain against the noble citizens, and in October, 1574, the place was delivered by William's desperate measure in cutting the dykes, flooding the country with the waters of the sea, and thus bringing up boats with provisions for the starving people. 1,000 Spaniards were drowned before they could withdraw along their embankments. At all points of the heroic struggle William was present, in person or in spirit, by speech or by letter, with prudent counsel, vigilant care, indomitable courage, and unfailing resolution. The sudden death of Requesens in March, 1576, brought a lull, during which the government was in the hands of a council of state, including many Flemish Catholic nobles. Then came horrors due to the rage of the Spanish troops in lack of pay. Alost was stormed, and the country around was put under tribute. Maestricht was sacked, with every circumstance of atrocity befalling property and person; and in November the awful event known as "The Spanish Fury," or the "Sack of Antwerp," ruined the great commercial town of northern Europe. For three days the place was in possession of mere fiends filled with the spirit of greed, murder, and lust, while fire destroyed the town-hall and hundreds of the better houses, and thousands of the citizens perished by the sword.

In November, 1576, the famous Pacification of Ghent was drawn up and issued. This treaty was a bond of union between the northern provinces, especially Holland and Zealand, and the "Estates" or representative-bodies of Brabant, Flanders, Hainault, and other territories in the southern Netherlands. The people were thereby pledged, without regard to religious differences, to drive the Spanish troops from the country. Its importance consists in its practical defiance of Philip by the bold assertion of popular rights in the suspension of the edicts against heresy, and the annulling of all sentences passed by Alva's council. Requesens was succeeded by Don John of Austria, a natural son of Charles V., and so a half-brother of Philip. He was the naval victor over the Turks at Lepanto, as will be seen, in 1571. William and the States-General had gathered a large army at Wavre, with some help in money from Elizabeth of England, in order to enforce the terms of the Pacification of Ghent. The Spanish troops were withdrawn, and the citadels which they had occupied were garrisoned by native soldiers. In September, 1577, William of Orange entered Brussels in triumph, and was named Governor ("Ruward" or "Protector") of Brabant, by the revival of an old office, invested with almost absolute power. All seemed to be going well, when some of the nobles of Flanders and Brabant combined against him, and offered the government, in the name of Philip, to the young Archduke Mathias of Austria, who came to the country. William managed to checkmate his opponents by accepting Mathias on terms which made him a mere puppet, while real power lay in the council of state and the States-General, and with himself as administrative ruler. A new actor now appeared on the scene in succession to Don John, who died in 1578. This was Alessandro Farnese, prince of Parma, son of Margaret, the former regent. He was one of the most skilful generals of modern times, an able statesman, a thorough Spaniard in his training and character. In January, 1578, with a large force of Italian, Spanish, and French troops, he utterly defeated the patriot army at Gembloux, near Wavre. Mathias retired from office, and Parma captured Louvain and other towns. Amsterdam now declared openly for the cause of freedom, and the States-General, with some help from Elizabeth, obtained a fresh army of Germans and English volunteers.

At this crisis the southern provinces, containing the AValloon, French-speaking people, mainly Catholics in religion, began to fall away from the common cause, and William adopted a new course. In January, 1579, looking to the north alone, he formed the Union of Utrecht, whereby the provinces of Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Gueldres (Gelderland), and Groningen, afterwards joined by Friesland and Overyssel, became the real basis of the republic of Holland or the "Seven United Provinces." The omission of Philip's name from this document made it a practical renunciation of allegiance to Spain. Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges, and Ypres soon afterwards joined the union. Then came the siege of Maestricht, taken by Parma in June, 1579, and given up to a three days' massacre and sack. An attempt at reconciliation, in a congress at Cologne, was frustrated by Philip's obstinate refusal to allow Protestant worship, and William of Orange then took a decisive step. Early in 1580 a States-General met at Antwerp, and the United Provinces were declared to be a free and independent state. Thus Holland entered the states-system of Europe. The hatred of Philip towards William had now reached the highest point and he covered his name with infamy by issuing his edict of proscription, full of the foulest and falsest charges, calling on all persons to assail him "in his fortune, person, and life, as an enemy to human nature." The sum of 25,000 golden crowns was promised to whosoever should deliver up William of Nassau, dead or alive, with a patent of nobility to the successful assailant.

William replied by his famous "Apology," published all over Europe, one of the noblest monuments of history, in which every false charge of the tyrant is refuted, and a crushing recrimination is made. William thus stood forth at the tribunal of the public opinion of the civilised world, as the accuser of a king who was a disgrace to his lineage, to his country, to civilisation, to Christianity, to humanity itself. The war continued under the prince of Parma, who was in power from 1578 to 1592.

It was in March, 1582, that Philip's premium on the murder of a man whom he could neither bribe, nor cajole, nor catch, nor conquer had its primary effect in the first attempt on the life of William. He was at Antwerp, leaving the dining-room after a party to some of his kindred, when a young man advanced from among the servants and offered him a petition. He took it, and was at once wounded by a pistol-shot fired close to his head, the ball passing under the right ear, through the mouth, and out at the left jaw. The assassin was promptly killed by the attendants. The wounded patriot recovered in three months from his terrible injury. The papers found on the man's body proved him to be a Spaniard named Juan Jaureguy, in the employ of Anastro, a Spanish merchant of Antwerp. He had been hired by this man, who was on the verge of bankruptcy, to do the deed, with the connivance of a Dominican friar. Anastro had engaged with Philip to murder Orange, and to receive 80,000 ducats and the Cross of Santiago as his reward. He got away safely to the prince of Parma's camp. The bargain made with the king of Spain was signed in Philip's hand and sealed with his seal. Anastro's cashier, Venero, and the friar, Zimmermann, were arrested, and after confessing their share in the crime, and due trial, were executed. Parma, believing his enemy to be mortally wounded, sent circular letters to the revolted cities, calling on them to return to their allegiance to their forgiving sovereign, and to the holy Inquisition. The United Provinces, troubled by the loss of Bruges and other towns through treason, offered the sovereignty to William of Orange. He went to Delft to be inaugurated, and there, on July roth, 1584, he was fatally wounded in his left side by three balls from a huge pistol. On this occasion also he had just risen from table, and fell at the side of his wife, Louisa de Coligny, daughter of the man who died in the "St. Bartholomew." William expired in a few minutes. The murderer, Balthasar Gerard, whose parents were both living in Burgundy, was a desperate and fanatical Catholic who had for years cherished the design of slaying William. He had purchased his weapon with alms received from the victim, to whom he had presented himself as "Francis Guion," a Calvinist, and the son of a martyred Calvinist. He nearly made his escape in the confusion, but was caught through stumbling at the edge of the town-moat, on the other side of which a horse was ready for him to mount. After two days' severe torturing, Gerard was executed. The murderer's parents were ennobled and enriched by Philip, and, with a malignity worthy of the man, the pension which they received was secured upon the estate of the murdered patriot's eldest son, who had been carried off as a hostage to Spain. The best epitaph of William of Orange consists in Motley's words: "He went through life bearing the load of a people's sorrows upon his shoulders with a smiling face.... As long as he lived, he was the guiding-star of a whole brave nation, and when he died the little children cried in the streets."

The death of a patriot is not always fatal to the cause which he supports. The prince of Parma, who was privy to the foul deed, was alive, and strong in military force, but he could not undo the victim's work. That work was taken up by his second son, Prince Maurice of Nassau, now 18 years old, and the spirit of freedom, after the first shock, rose higher than ever. In August, 1585, after a famous siege of 14 months' duration, Antwerp succumbed to the genius and determination of Parma and his engineers. A little help was rendered to the patriots by Elizabeth, who sent over some troops under the incompetent and lukewarm earl of Leicester, and brave, good Sir Philip Sidney died in 1586 in a skirmish at Zutphen. In the south, Ghent and other towns were taken by Parma; the reformed religion was abolished; Brussels and Mechlin, weary of resistance, submitted. In 1585 the power of Spain was again established in most of the country now called Belgium, and it became the "Spanish Netherlands." The state of this reconquered territory was fearful. Most of the people in the towns had perished by war, pestilence, and famine. Much of the once fertile country was given up to wolves and wild dogs. The fields had become wildernesses; the very roads were overgrown with vegetation. People of rank were begging their bread in the streets. From this spectacle, from these ghastly results of bigotry and tyranny, we turn with relief to the Seven United Provinces of the north, in their courage, energy, and hard-won freedom, still to be maintained, with a few thousand troops, commanded by a lad, against Parma, the skilful and victorious veteran, having 80,000 men at his command. Prince Maurice was named Stadtholder, captain-general, and admiral of Holland and Zealand. The civil government of the new state was committed to the able and virtuous Jan van Olden Barneveldt. The share of Holland against the Armada will be seen hereafter. There was a lull in the land-warfare at this time, but in 1591 Maurice took Breda by surprise, and Parma, now duke, by his mother's death, went to France to oppose Henry of Navarre. During his absence more fortresses were taken by the Dutch, and even after his return Zutphen, Deventer, and Nimeguen were captured. The most formidable military foe of Holland disappeared with the death of the duke of Parma, from disease, at the end of 1592. Albert of Austria, archduke and nephew of Philip, became governor in the southern Netherlands in 1596. In the previous year Maurice had taken Groningen, and in-1597, after'defeating Albert's forces, he captured more towns. In 1599 the Archduke married Philip's daughter Isabella, and the southern provinces became an independent sovereignty under the husband and wife, known as "the Archdukes." Philip II. of Spain had died in September, 1598, and all Dutch patriots were breathing more freely for the removal of that deadly and relentless foe of civil and religious freedom.

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