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- History of the United Netherlands, 1595 - 1/6 -


CHAPTER XXXI.

Formal declaration of war against Spain--Marriage festivities--Death of Archduke Ernest--His year of government--Fuentes declared governor-general--Disaffection of the Duke of Arschot and Count Arenberg--Death of the Duke of Arschot----Fuentes besieges Le Catelet--The fortress of Ham, sold to the Spanish by De Gomeron, besieged and taken by the Duke of Bouillon--Execution of De Gomeron--Death of Colonel Verdugo--Siege of Dourlens by Fuentes-- Death of La Motte--Death of Charles Mansfeld--Total defeat of the French--Murder of Admiral De Pillars--Dourlens captured, and the garrison and citizens put to the sword--Military operations in eastern Netherlands and on the Rhine--Maurice lays siege to Groento --Mondragon hastening to its relief, Prince Maurice raises the siege--Skirmish between Maurice and Mondragon--Death of Philip of Nassau--Death of Mondragon--Bombardment and surrender of Weerd Castle--Maurice retires into winter quarters--Campaign of Henry Iv.- --He besieges Dijon--Surrender of Dijon--Absolution granted to Henry by the pope--Career of Balagny at Cambray--Progress of the siege-- Capitulation of the town--Suicide of the Princess of Cambray, wife of Balagny

The year 1595 Opened with a formal declaration of war by the King of France against the King of Spain. It would be difficult to say for exactly how many years the war now declared had already been waged, but it was a considerable advantage to the United Netherlands that the manifesto had been at last regularly issued. And the manifesto was certainly not deficient in bitterness. Not often in Christian history has a monarch been solemnly and officially accused by a brother sovereign of suborning assassins against his life. Bribery, stratagem, and murder, were, however, so entirely the commonplace machinery of Philip's administration as to make an allusion to the late attempt of Chastel appear quite natural in Henry's declaration of war. The king further stigmatized in energetic language the long succession of intrigues by which the monarch of Spain, as chief of the Holy League, had been making war upon him by means of his own subjects, for the last half dozcn years. Certainly there was hardly need of an elaborate statement of grievances. The deeds of Philip required no herald, unless Henry was prepared to abdicate his hardly-earned title to the throne of France.

Nevertheless the politic Gascon subsequently regretted the fierce style in which he had fulminated his challenge. He was accustomed to observe that no state paper required so much careful pondering as a declaration of war, and that it was scarcely possible to draw up such a document without committing many errors in the phraseology. The man who never knew fear, despondency, nor resentment, was already instinctively acting on the principle that a king should deal with his enemy as if sure to become his friend, and with his friends as if they might easily change to foes.

The answer to the declaration was delayed for two months. When the reply came it of course breathed nothing but the most benignant sentiments in regard to France, while it expressed regret that it was necessary to carry fire and sword through that country in order to avert the unutterable woe which the crimes of the heretic Prince of Bearne were bringing upon all mankind.

It was a solace for Philip to call the legitimate king by the title borne by him when heir-presumptive, and to persist in denying to him that absolution which, as the whole world was aware, the Vicar of Christ was at that very moment in the most solemn manner about to bestow upon him.

More devoted to the welfare of France than were the French themselves, he was determined that a foreign prince himself, his daughter, or one of his nephews--should supplant the descendant of St. Louis on the French throne. More catholic than the pope he could not permit the heretic, whom his Holiness was just washing whiter than snow, to intrude himself into the society of Christian sovereigns.

The winter movements by Bouillon in Luxembourg, sustained by Philip Nassau campaigning with a meagre force on the French frontier, were not very brilliant. The Netherland regiments quartered at Yssoire, La Ferte, and in the neighbourhood accomplished very little, and their numbers were sadly thinned by dysentery. A sudden and successful stroke, too, by which that daring soldier Heraugiere, who had been the chief captor of Breda, obtained possession of the town, and castle of Huy, produced no permanent advantage. This place, belonging to the Bishop of Liege, with its stone bridge over the Meuse, was an advantageous position from which to aid the operations of Bouillon in Luxembourg. Heraugiere was, however, not sufficiently reinforced, and Huy was a month later recaptured by La Motte. The campaigning was languid during that winter in the United Netherlands, but the merry-making was energetic. The nuptials of Hohenlo with Mary, eldest daughter of William the Silent and own sister of the captive Philip William; of the Duke of Bouillon with Elizabeth, one of the daughters of the same illustrious prince by his third wife, Charlotte of Bourbon; and of Count Everard Solms, the famous general of the Zeeland troops, with Sabina, daughter of the unfortunate Lamoral Egmont, were celebrated with much pomp during the months of February and March. The States of Holland and of Zeeland made magnificent presents of diamonds to the brides; the Countess Hohenlo receiving besides a yearly income of three thousand florins for the lives of herself and her husband.

In the midst of these merry marriage bells at the Hague a funeral knell was sounding in Brussels. On the 20th February, the governor-general of the obedient Netherlands, Archduke Ernest, breathed his last. His career had not been so illustrious as the promises of the Spanish king and the allegories of schoolmaster Houwaerts had led him to expect. He had not espoused the Infanta nor been crowned King of France. He had not blasted the rebellious Netherlands with Cyclopean thunderbolts, nor unbound the Belgic Andromeda from the rock of doom. His brief year of government had really been as dismal as, according to the announcement of his sycophants, it should have been amazing. He had accomplished nothing, and all that was left him was to die at the age of forty-two, over head and ears in debt, a disappointed, melancholy man. He was very indolent, enormously fat, very chaste, very expensive, fond of fine liveries and fine clothes, so solemn and stately as never to be known to laugh, but utterly without capacity either as a statesman or a soldier. He would have shone as a portly abbot ruling over peaceful friars, but he was not born to ride a revolutionary whirlwind, nor to evoke order out of chaos. Past and Present were contending with each other in fierce elemental strife within his domain. A world was in dying agony, another world was coming, full-armed, into existence within the hand-breadth of time and of space where he played his little part, but he dreamed not of it. He passed away like a shadow, and was soon forgotten.

An effort was made, during the last illness of Ernest, to procure from him the appointment of the elector of Cologne as temporary successor to tho government, but Count Fuentes was on the spot and was a man of action. He produced a power in the French language from Philip, with a blank for the name. This had been intended for the case of Peter Ernest Mansfeld's possible death during his provisional administration, and Fuentes now claimed the right of inserting his own name.

The dying Ernest consented, and upon his death Fuentes was declared governor-general until the king's further pleasure should be known.

Pedro de Guzman, Count of Fuentes, a Spaniard of the hard and antique type, was now in his sixty-fourth year. The pupil and near relative of the Duke of Alva, he was already as odious to the Netherlanders as might have been inferred from such education and such kin. A dark, grizzled, baldish man, with high steep forehead, long, haggard, leathern visage, sweeping beard, and large, stern, commanding, menacing eyes, with his Brussels ruff of point lace and his Milan coat of proof, he was in personal appearance not unlike the terrible duke whom men never named without a shudder, although a quarter of a century had passed since he had ceased to curse the Netherlands with his presence. Elizabeth of England was accustomed to sneer at Fuentes because he had retreated before Essex in that daring commander's famous foray into Portugal. The queen called the Spanish general a timid old woman. If her gibe were true, it was fortunate for her, for Henry of France, and for the republic, that there were not many more such old women to come from Spain to take the place of the veteran chieftains who were destined to disappear so rapidly during this year in Flanders. He was a soldier of fortune, loved fighting, not only for the fighting's sake, but for the prize-money which was to be accumulated by campaigning, and he was wont to say that he meant to enter Paradise sword in hand.

Meantime his appointment excited the wrath of the provincial magnates. The Duke of Arschot was beside himself with frenzy, and swore that he would never serve under Fuentes nor sit at his council-board. The duke's brother, Marquis Havre, and his son-in-law, Count Arenberg, shared in the hatred, although they tried to mitigate the vehemence of its expression. But Arschot swore that no man had the right to take precedence of him in the council of state, and that the appointment of this or any Spaniard was a violation of the charters of the provinces and of the promises of his Majesty. As if it were for the nobles of the obedient provinces to prate of charters and of oaths! Their brethren under the banner of the republic had been teaching Philip for a whole generation how they could deal with the privileges of freemen and with the perjury of tyrants. It was late in the day for the obedient Netherlanders to remember their rights. Havre and Arenberg, dissembling their own wrath, were abused and insulted by the duke when they tried to pacify him. They proposed a compromise, according to which Arschot should be allowed to preside in the council of state while Fuentes should content himself with the absolute control of the army. This would be putting a bit of fat in the duke's mouth, they said. Fuentes would hear of no such arrangement. After much talk and daily attempts to pacify this great Netherlander, his relatives at last persuaded him to go home to his country place. He even promised Arenberg and his wife that he would go to Italy, in pursuance of a vow made to our lady of Loretto. Arenberg privately intimated to Stephen Ybarra that there was a certain oil, very apt to be efficacious in similar cases of irritation, which might be applied with prospect of success. If his father-in-law could only receive some ten thousand florins which he claimed as due to him from Government, this would do more to quiet him than a regiment of soldiers could. He also suggested that Fuentes should call upon the duke, while Secretary Ybarra should excuse himself by sickness for not having already paid his respects. This was done. Fuentes called. The duke returned the call, and the two conversed amicably about the death of the archduke, but entered into no political discussion.

Arschot then invited the whole council of state, except John Baptist Tassis, to a great dinner. He had prepared a paper to read to them in which he represented the great dangers likely to ensue from such an appointment as this of Fuentes, but declared that he washed his hands of the consequences, and that he had determined to leave a country where he was of so little account. He would then close his eyes and ears to everything that might occur, and thus escape the infamy of remaining in a country where so little account was made of him. He was urged to refrain from reading this paper and to invite Tassis. After a time he consented to suppress the document, but he manfully refused to bid the objectionable diplomatist to his banquet.

The dinner took place and passed off pleasantly enough. Arschot did not read his manifesto, but, as he warmed with wine, he talked a great deal of nonsense which, according to Stephen Ybarra, much resembled it, and he


History of the United Netherlands, 1595 - 1/6

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