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- Barbara Blomberg, Volume 10. - 6/13 -
executed one June day in the market place of Brussels, opinions, even of members of the Spanish party, were divided, especially as Count Egmont was a Catholic, and had acted finally according to the views of the government.
Barbara sincerely lamented his terrible end, for she had seen in him a brilliant model for her John. In hours of depression, the sudden fall of this favourite of the people seemed like an evil omen. But she would not let these disquieting thoughts gain power over her, for she wished at last to enjoy life and, as the mother of such a son, felt entitled to do so.
She regarded this cruel deed of Alba as a false step at any rate, for, though she kept so far aloof from the Netherland burghers and common people, she perceived what deep indignation this measure aroused.
Meanwhile the Prince of Orange, the spirit and soul of this execrable rebellion, had escaped the sentence of the court.
Nevertheless, she regarded Alba with great admiration, for he was a man of ability, whom the Emperor Charles had held in high esteem. Besides, after her husband's death the haughty noble had been courteous enough to assure her of his sympathy.
Moreover, a time was just approaching in which she withdrew too far from this conflict to follow it with full attention, for her son's first deed of heroism became known in Brussels.
The King had appointed John to the command of the fleet, and sent him against the pirates upon the African coast. He could now gather his first laurels, and to do everything in her power for the success of his arms, Barbara spent the greater portion of her time in church, praying devoutly. In September he was greeted in Madrid as a conqueror, but her joy was not unclouded; for the Infant Don Carlos had yielded up his young life in July as a prisoner, and she believed him to be her John's best friend, and lamented his death because she thought that it would grieve her hero son.
But this little cloud soon vanished, and how brilliantly the blue sky arched above her the next year, when she learned that Don John of Austria had received the honourable commission of crushing the rebellion of the infidel Moriscoes in Andalusia! Here her royal son first proved himself a glorious military hero, and his deeds at the siege of Galera and before Seron filled her maternal heart with inexpressible pride. The words which he shouted to his retreating men: "Do you call yourselves Spaniards and not know what honour means? What have you to fear when I am with you?" echoed in her ears like the most beautiful melody which she had ever sting or heard.
Yet a dark shadow fell on these radiant joys also; her John's friend and foster-father, Don Luis Quijada, had been wounded in these battles, and died from his injuries. Barbara felt what deep pain this would cause her distant son, and expressed her sympathy to him in a letter.
But the greatest happiness was still in store for her and for him. On the 7th of October, 1571, the young hero, now twenty-four years old, as commander of the united fleets of Spain, Venice, and the Pope, gained the greatest victory which any Castilian force had ever won over the troops of the infidels.
Instead of the name received at his baptism, and the one which he owed to his brother, that of Victor of Lepanto now adorned him. Not one of all the generals in the world received honours even distantly approaching those lavished upon him. And besides the leonine courage and talent for command which he had displayed, his noble nature was praised with ardent enthusiasm. How he had showed it in the distribution of the booty to the widow of the Turkish high admiral Ali Pasha! This renowned Moslem naval commander had fallen in the battle, and his two sons had been delivered to Don John as prisoners. When the unfortunate mother entreated him to release the boys for a large ransom, he restored one to her love with the companions for whose liberty he had interceded, with a letter containing the words, "It does not beseem me to keep your presents, since my rank and birth require me to give, not to receive."
These noble words were written by Barbara Blomberg's son, the boy to whom she gave birth, and who had now become just what her lofty soul desired.
After the conquest of Cyprus, the Crescent had seriously threatened the Cross in the Mediterranean, and it was Don John who had broken the power of the Turks.
Alas, that her father could not have lived to witness this exploit of his grandson! What a happy man the victory of Lepanto, gained by his "Wawerl's" son, would have made him! How the fearless old champion of the faith would have rejoiced in this grandchild, his deeds, and nature!
And what honours were bestowed upon her John!
King Philip wrote to him, "Next to God, gratitude for what has been accomplished is due to you." A statue was erected to him in Messina. The Pope had used the words of Scripture, "There was a man sent by God, and his name was John." Now, yes, now she was more than rewarded for the sacrifice of Landshut; now the splendour and grandeur for which she had longed and prayed was far, far exceeded.
This time it was gratitude, fervent gratitude, which detained her in church. The child of her love, her suffering, her pride, was now happy, must be happy.
When, two years later, Don John captured Tunis, the exploit could no longer increase his renown.
At this time also happened many things which filled the heart of a woman so closely connected with royalty sometimes with joy, sometimes with anxiety.
In Paris, the night of St. Bartholomew, a year after her son had chastised the Moslems at Lepanto, dealt the French heretics a deep, almost incurable wound, and in the Netherlands there were not gallows enough to hang the misguided fanatics.
Yet this rebellious nation did not cease to cause the King unspeakable difficulties and orthodox Christians sorrow. On the sea the "Beggars" conquered his Majesty's war ships; Haarlem, it is true, had been forced by the Spanish troops to surrender, but what terrible sacrifices the siege had cost where women had taken part in the defence with the courage of men!
And, in spite of everything, Alba's harshness had been futile.
Then Philip recalled him and put in his place the gentle Don Luis de Requesens, who had been governor in Milan. He would willingly have made peace with the people bleeding from a thousand wounds, but how could he concede the toleration of the heretical faith and the withdrawal of the troops on which he relied? And how did the rebels show their gratitude to him for his kindness and good will?
The Beggars destroyed his fleet, and, though the brother of William of Orange had been defeated upon the Mooker-Heide, this by no means disheartened the enraged nation, resolved upon extremes, and their silent but wise and tireless leader.
In Leyden the obstinacy of the foes of the King and the Church showed itself in a way to which even Barbara and her party could not deny a certain degree of admiration. True, the nature of the country aided the rebels like an ally. Mortal warriors could not contend against wind and storm. But he who from without directed the defence here, who had issued the order to break through the dikes, and then with shameful effrontery had founded in the scarcely rescued city a university which was to nurture the spirit of resistance in the minds of the young men, was again the Prince of Orange; and who else than he, his shrewdness and firmness, robbed Requesens of gratitude for his mildness and the success of his honest labours?
But how much easier was the part of the leader of the enemy, who in Brussels had escaped the fate of Egmont, than the King's kindly disposed governor! When Barbara chanced to hear the men of the people talking with each other, and they spoke of "Father William," they meant the Prince of Orange; and with what abuse, both verbally and in handbills, King Philip and the Spanish Government were loaded!
To Barbara, as well as to the members of her party, William of Orange, whom she often heard called the "Antichrist" and "rebel chief," was an object of hatred. Now he frustrated the kind Requesens's attempt at mediation, and it was also his fault that two provinces had publicly revolted from the Holy Church. The Protestant worship of God was now exercised as freely there as in Ratisbon. Like William of Orange, most of the citizens professed the doctrine of Calvin, but there was no lack of Lutherans, and the clergyman whose sermons attracted the largest congregations was Erasmus Eckhart, Barbara's old acquaintance, Dr. Hiltner's foster-son, who during the Emperor Charles's reign had come to the Netherlands as an army chaplain, and, amid great perils, was said to have lured thousands from the Catholic Church. Deeply as her sentiments rebelled, here, too, Barbara had become his preserver; for when the Bloody Council had sentenced him to the gallows, she had succeeded, with great difficulty, through her manifold relations to the heads of the Spanish party, in obtaining his pardon. A grateful letter from Frau Sabina Hiltner had abundantly repaid her for these exertions.
The boldness with which William of Orange, who was himself the most dangerous heretic and rebel, protested that he was willing to grant every one full religious liberty, had no desire to injure the Catholic Church in any way, and was even ready to acknowledge the supremacy of the King, could not fail to enrage every pious Catholic and faithful subject of King Philip.
To spoil a Requesens's game was no difficult task for the man who, though by no means as harmless as the dove, was certainly as wise as the serpent; but that the Duke of Alba, the tried, inflexible commander, had been obliged to yield and retire vanquished before the little, merry, industrious, thoroughly peaceful nation which intrusted itself to the leadership of William of Orange, had been too much for her and, when it happened, seemed like a miracle.
What spirits were aiding the Prince of Orange to resist the King and the power of the Church so successfully? He was in league with hell, her old confessor said, and there were rumours that his Majesty was trying to have the abominable mischief-maker secretly put out of the world. But this would have been unworthy of a King, and Barbara would not believe it.
In the northern provinces the Spanish power was only a shadow, but in the southern ones also hatred of the Spaniards was already bursting into flames, and Requesens was too weak to extinguish them.
The King and Barbara's political friends perceived that Alba's pitiless, murderous severity had injured the cause of the crown and the Church far more than it had benefited them. Personally, he had treated her on the whole kindly, but he had inflicted two offences which were hard to conquer. In the first place, he urged her to leave Brussels and settle
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