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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1564-65 - 1/9 -

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]





1564-1565 [CHAPTER V.]

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

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1564-65 - 1/9

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