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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1573 - 1/8 -

[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.]



By John Lothrop Motley


1573 [CHAPTER IX.]

Position of Alva--Hatred entertained for him by elevated personages --Quarrels between him and Medina Coeli--Departure of the latter-- Complaints to the King by each of the other--Attempts at conciliation addressed by government to the people of the Netherlands--Grotesque character of the address--Mutinous demonstration of the Spanish troops--Secret overtures to Orange-- Obedience, with difficulty, restored by Alva--Commencement of the siege of Alkmaar--Sanguinary menaces of the Duke--Encouraging and enthusiastic language of the Prince--Preparations in Alkmaar for defence--The first assault steadily repulsed--Refusal of the soldiers to storm a second time--Expedition of the Carpenter-envoy-- Orders of the Prince to flood the country--The Carpenter's despatches in the enemy's hands--Effect produced upon the Spaniards --The siege raised--Negotiations of Count Louis with France-- Uneasiness and secret correspondence of the Duke--Convention with the English government--Objects pursued by Orange--Cruelty of De la Marck--His dismissal from office and subsequent death--Negotiations with France--Altered tone of the French court with regard to the St. Bartholomew--Ill effects of the crime upon the royal projects-- Hypocrisy of the Spanish government--Letter of Louis to Charles IX. --Complaints of Charles IX.--Secret aspirations of that monarch and of Philip--Intrigues concerning the Polish election--Renewed negotiations between Schomberg and Count Louis, with consent of Orange--Conditions prescribed by the Prince--Articles of secret alliance--Remarkable letter of Count Louis to Charles IX.-- Responsible and isolated situation of Orange--The "Address" and the "Epistle"--Religious sentiments of the Prince--Naval action on the Zuyder Zee--Captivity of Bossu and of Saint Aldegonde--Odious position of Alva--His unceasing cruelty--Execution of Uitenhoove-- Fraud practised by Alva upon his creditors--Arrival of Requesens, the new Governor-General--Departure of Alva--Concluding remarks upon his administration.

For the sake of continuity in the narrative, the siege of Harlem has been related until its conclusion. This great event constituted, moreover, the principal stuff in Netherland, history, up to the middle of the year 1573. A few loose threads must be now taken up before we can proceed farther.

Alva had for some time felt himself in a false and uncomfortable position. While he continued to be the object of a popular hatred as intense as ever glowed, he had gradually lost his hold upon those who, at the outset of his career, had been loudest and lowest in their demonstrations of respect. "Believe me," wrote Secretary Albornoz to Secretary Cayas, "this people abhor our nation worse than they abhor the Devil. As for the Duke of Alva, they foam at the mouth when they hear his name." Viglius, although still maintaining smooth relations with the Governor, had been, in reality, long since estranged from him. Even Aerschot, far whom the Duke had long maintained an intimacy half affectionate, half contemptuous, now began to treat him with a contumely which it was difficult for so proud a stomach to digest.

But the main source of discomfort was doubtless the presence of Medina Coeli. This was the perpetual thorn in his side, which no cunning could extract. A successor who would not and could not succeed him, yet who attended him as his shadow and his evil genius--a confidential colleague who betrayed his confidence, mocked his projects, derided his authority, and yet complained of ill treatment--a rival who was neither compeer nor subaltern, and who affected to be his censor--a functionary of a purely anomalous character, sheltering himself under his abnegation of an authority which he had not dared to assume, and criticising measures which he was not competent to grasp;--such was the Duke of Medina Coeli in Alva's estimation.

The bickering between the two Dukes became unceasing and disgraceful. Of course, each complained to the King, and each, according to his own account, was a martyr to the other's tyranny, but the meekness manifested by Alva; in all his relations with the new comer, was wonderful, if we are to believe the accounts furnished by himself and by his confidential secretary. On the other hand, Medina Coeli wrote to the King, complaining of Alva in most unmitigated strains, and asserting that he was himself never allowed to see any despatches, nor to have the slightest information as to the policy of the government. He reproached, the Duke with shrinking from personal participation in military operations, and begged the royal forgiveness if he withdrew from a scene where he felt himself to be superfluous.

Accordingly, towards the end of November, he took his departure, without paying his respects. The Governor complained to the King of this unceremonious proceeding, and assured His Majesty that never were courtesy and gentleness so ill requited as his had been by this ingrate and cankered Duke. "He told me," said Alva, "that if I did not stay in the field, he would not remain with me in peaceful cities, and he asked me if I intended to march into Holland with the troops which were to winter there. I answered, that I should go wherever it was necessary, even should I be obliged to swim through all the canals of Holland." After giving these details, the Duke added, with great appearance of candor and meekness, that he was certain Medina Coeli had only been influenced by extreme zeal for His Majesty's service, and that, finding, so little for him to do in the Netherlands, he had become dissatisfied with his position.

Immediately after the fall of Harlem, another attempt was made by Alva to win back the allegiance of the other cities by proclamations. It had become obvious to the Governor that so determined a resistance on the part of the first place besieged augured many long campaigns before the whole province could be subdued. A circular was accordingly issued upon the 26th July from Utrecht, and published immediately afterwards in all the cities of the Netherlands. It was a paper of singular character, commingling an affectation of almost ludicrous clemency, with honest and hearty brutality. There was consequently something very grotesque about the document. Philip, in the outset, was made to sustain towards his undutiful subjects the characters of the brooding hen and the prodigal's father; a range of impersonation hardly to be allowed him, even by the most abject flattery. "Ye are well aware," thus ran the address, "that the King has, over and over again, manifested his willingness to receive his children, in however forlorn a condition the prodigals might return. His Majesty assures you once more that your sins, however black they may have been, shall be forgiven and forgotten in the plenitude of royal kindness, if you repent and return in season to his Majesty's embrace. Notwithstanding your manifold crimes, his Majesty still seeks, like a hen calling her chickens, to gather you all under the parental wing. The King hereby warns you once more, therefore, to place yourselves in his royal hands, and not to wait for his rage, cruelty, and fury, and the approach of his army."

The affectionate character of the address, already fading towards the end of the preamble, soon changes to bitterness. The domestic maternal fowl dilates into the sanguinary dragon as the address proceeds. "But if," continues the monarch, "ye disregard these offers of mercy, receiving them with closed ears, as heretofore, then we warn you that there is no rigor, nor cruelty, however great, which you are not to expect by laying waste, starvation, and the sword, in such manner that nowhere shall remain a relic of that which at present exists, but his Majesty will strip bare and utterly depopulate the land, and cause it to be inhabited again by strangers; since otherwise his Majesty could not believe that the will of God and of his Majesty had been accomplished."

It is almost superfluous to add that this circular remained fruitless. The royal wrath, thus blasphemously identifying itself with divine vengeance, inspired no terror, the royal blandishments no affection.

The next point of attack was the city of Alkmaar, situate quite at the termination of the Peninsula, among the lagunes and redeemed prairies of North Holland. The Prince of Orange had already provided it with a small garrison. The city had been summoned to surrender by the middle of July, and had returned a bold refusal.--Meantime, the Spaniards had retired from before the walls, while the surrender and chastisement of Harlem occupied them during the next succeeding weeks. The month of August, moreover, was mainly consumed by Alva in quelling a dangerous and protracted mutiny, which broke out among the Spanish soldiers at Harlem-- between three and four thousand of them having been quartered upon the ill-fated population of that city.

Unceasing misery was endured by the inhabitants at the hands of the ferocious Spaniards, flushed with victory, mutinous for long arrears of pay, and greedy for the booty which had been denied. At times, however, the fury of the soldiery was more violently directed against their own commanders than against the enemy. A project was even formed by the malcontent troops to deliver Harlem into the hands of Orange. A party of them, disguised as Baltic merchants, waited upon the Prince at Delft, and were secretly admitted to his bedside before he had risen. They declared to him that they were Spanish soldiers, who had compassion on his cause, were dissatisfied with their own government, and were ready, upon receipt of forty thousand guilders, to deliver the city into his hands. The Prince took the matter into consideration, and promised to accept the offer if he could raise the required sum. This, however, he found himself unable to do within the stipulated time, and thus, for want of so paltry a sum, the offer was of necessity declined.

Various were the excesses committed by the insubordinate troops in every province in the Netherlands upon the long-suffering inhabitants. "Nothing," wrote Alva, "had given him so much pain during his forty years of service." He avowed his determination to go to Amsterdam in order to offer himself as a hostage to the soldiery, if by so doing he could quell the mutiny. He went to Amsterdam accordingly, where by his exertions, ably seconded by those of the Marquis Vitelli, and by the payment of thirty crowns to each soldier--fourteen on account of arrearages and sixteen as his share in the Harlem compensation money--the rebellion was appeased, and obedience restored.

There was now leisure for the General to devote his whole energies against the little city of Alkmaar. On that bank and shoal, the extreme verge of habitable earth, the spirit of Holland's Freedom stood at bay. The grey towers of Egmont Castle and of Egmont Abbey rose between the city and the sea, and there the troops sent by the Prince of Orange were quartered during the very brief period in which the citizens wavered as to receiving them. The die was soon cast, however, and the Prince's garrison admitted. The Spaniards advanced, burned the village of Egmont

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1573 - 1/8

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