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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1576-77 - 1/8 -

By John Lothrop Motley




1576-1577 [CHAPTER I.]

Birth and parentage of Don John--Barbara Blomberg--Early education and recognition by Philip--Brilliant military career--Campaign against the Moors--Battle of Lepanto--Extravagant ambition--Secret and rapid journey of the new Governor to the Netherlands--Contrast between Don John and William of Orange--Secret instructions of Philip and private purposes of the Governor--Cautious policy and correspondence of the Prince--Preliminary, negotiations with Don John at Luxemburg characterized--Union of Brussels--Resumption of negotiations with the Governor at Huy--The discussions analyzed and characterized--Influence of the new Emperor Rudolph II. and of his envoys--Treaty of Marche en Famine, or the Perpetual Edict, signed-- Remarks upon that transaction--Views and efforts of Orange in opposition to the treaty--His letter, in name of Holland and Zealand, to the States-General--Anxiety of the royal government to gain over the Prince--Secret mission of Leoninus--His instructions from Don John--Fruitless attempts to corrupt the Prince--Secret correspondence between Don John and Orange--Don John at Louvain--His efforts to ingratiate himself with the Netherlanders--His incipient popularity--Departure of the Spanish troops--Duke of Aerschot appointed Governor of Antwerp citadel--His insincere character.

Don John of Austria was now in his thirty-second year, having been born in Ratisbon on the 24th of February, 1545. His father was Charles the Fifth, Emperor of Germany, King of Spain, Dominator of Asia, Africa, and America; his mother was Barbara Blomberg, washerwoman of Ratisbon. Introduced to the Emperor, originally, that she might alleviate his melancholy by her singing, she soon exhausted all that was harmonious in her nature, for never was a more uncomfortable, unmanageable personage than Barbara in her after life. Married to one Pyramus Kegell, who was made a military commissary in the Netherlands, she was left a widow in the beginning of Alva's administration. Placed under the especial superintendence of the Duke, she became the torment of that warrior's life. The terrible Governor, who could almost crush the heart out of a nation of three millions, was unable to curb this single termagant. Philip had expressly forbidden her to marry again, but Alva informed him that she was surrounded by suitors. Philip had insisted that she should go into a convent, but Alva, who, with great difficulty, had established her quietly in Ghent, assured his master that she would break loose again at the bare suggestion of a convent. Philip wished her to go to Spain, sending her word that Don John was mortified by the life his mother was leading, but she informed the Governor that she would be cut to pieces before she would go to Spain. She had no objection to see her son, but she knew too well how women were treated in that country. The Duke complained most pathetically to his Majesty of the life they all led with the ex-mistress of the Emperor. Never, he frequently observed, had woman so terrible a head. She was obstinate, reckless, abominably extravagant. She had been provided in Ghent with a handsome establishment: "with a duenna, six other women, a major domo, two pages, one chaplain, an almoner, and four men-servants," and this seemed a sufficiently liberal scheme of life for the widow of a commissary. Moreover, a very ample allowance had been made for the education of her only legitimate son, Conrad, the other having perished by an accident on the day of his father's death. While Don John of Austria was, gathering laurels in Granada, his half-brother, Pyramus junior, had been ingloriously drowned in a cistern at Ghent.

Barbara's expenses were exorbitant; her way of life scandalous. To send her money, said Alva, was to throw it into the sea. In two days she would have spent in dissipation and feasting any sums which the King might choose to supply. The Duke, who feared nothing else in the world, stood in mortal awe of the widow Kegell. "A terrible animal, indeed, is an unbridled woman," wrote secretary Gayas, from Madrid, at the close of Alva's administration for, notwithstanding every effort to entice, to intimidate, and to kidnap her from the Netherlands, there she remained, through all vicissitudes, even till the arrival of Don John. By his persuasions or commands she was, at last, induced to accept an exile for the remainder of her days, in Spain, but revenged herself by asserting. that he was quite mistaken: in supposing himself the Emperor's child; a point, certainly, upon which her, authority might be thought conclusive. Thus there was a double mystery about Don John. He might be the issue of august parentage on one side; he was; possibly, sprung of most ignoble blood. Base-born at best, he was not sure whether to look for the author of his being in the halls of the Caesara or the booths of Ratisbon mechanics.

[Cabrera, xii. 1009. An absurd rumor had existed that Barbara Blomberg had only been employed to personate Don John's mother. She died at an estate called Arronjo de Molinos, four leagues from Madrid, some years after the death of Don John.]

Whatever might be the heart of the mystery, it is certain that it was allowed to enwrap all the early life of Don John. The Emperor, who certainly never doubted his responsibility for the infant's existence, had him conveyed instantly to Spain, where he was delivered to Louis Quixada, of the Imperial household, by whom he was brought up in great retirement at Villa-garcia. Magdalen Ulloa, wife of Quixada, watched over his infancy with maternal and magnanimous care, for her husband's extreme solicitude for the infant's welfare had convinced her that he was its father. On one occasion, when their house was in flames, Quixada rescued the infant before he saved his wife, "although Magdalen knew herself to be dearer to him than the apple of his eye." From that time forth she altered her opinion, and believed the mysterious child to be of lofty origin. The boy grew up full of beauty, grace, and agility, the leader of all his companions in every hardy sport. Through the country round there were none who could throw the javelin, break a lance, or ride at the ring like little Juan Quixada. In taming unmanageable horses he was celebrated for his audacity and skill. These accomplishments, however, were likely to prove of but slender advantage in the ecclesiastical profession, to which he had been destined by his Imperial father. The death of Charles occurred before clerical studies had been commenced, and Philip, to whom the secret had been confided at the close of the Emperor's life, prolonged the delay thus interposed. Juan had already reached his fourteenth year, when one day his supposed father Quixada invited him to ride towards Valladolid to see the royal hunt. Two horses stood at the door--a splendidly caparisoned charger and a common hackney. The boy naturally mounted the humbler steed, and they set forth for the mountains of Toro, but on hearing the bugles of the approaching huntsmen, Quixada suddenly halted, and bade his youthful companion exchange horses with himself. When this had been done, he seized the hand of the wondering boy and kissing it respectfully, exclaimed, "Your Highness will be informed as to the meaning of my conduct by his Majesty, who is even now approaching." They had proceeded but a short distance before they encountered the royal hunting party, when both Quixada and young Juan dismounted, and bent the knee to their monarch. Philip, commanding the boy to rise, asked him if he knew his father's name. Juan replied, with a sigh, that he had at that moment lost the only father whom he had known, for Quixada had just disowned him. "You have the same father as myself," cried the King; "the Emperor Charles was the august parent of us both." Then tenderly embracing him, he commanded him to remount his horse, and all returned together to Valladolid, Philip observing with a sentimentality that seems highly apocryphal, that he had never brought home such precious game from any hunt before.

This theatrical recognition of imperial descent was one among the many romantic incidents of Don John's picturesque career, for his life was never destined to know the commonplace. He now commenced his education, in company with his two nephews, the Duchess Margaret's son, and Don Carlos, Prince-royal of Spain. They were all of the same age, but the superiority of Don John was soon recognized. It was not difficult to surpass the limping, malicious, Carlos, either in physical graces or intellectual accomplishments; but the graceful; urbane, and chivalrous Alexander, destined afterwards to such wide celebrity, was a more formidable rival, yet even the professed panegyrist of the Farnese family, exalts the son of Barbara Blomberg over the grandson of Margaret Van Geest.

Still destined for the clerical profession, Don John, at the age of eighteen, to avoid compliance with Philip's commands, made his escape to Barcelona. It was his intention to join the Maltese expedition. Recalled peremptorily by Philip, he was for a short time in disgrace; but afterwards made his peace with the monarch by denouncing some of the mischievous schemes of Don Carlos. Between the Prince-royal and the imperial bastard, there had always been a deep animosity, the Infante having on one occasion saluted him with the most vigorous and offensive appellation which his illegitimate birth could suggest. "Base-born or not," returned Don John, "at any rate I had a better father than yours." The words were probably reported to Philip and doubtless rankled in his breast, but nothing appeared on the surface, and the youth rose rapidly in favor. In his twenty-third year, he was appointed to the command of the famous campaign against the insurgent Moors of Granada. Here he reaped his first laurels, and acquired great military celebrity. It is difficult to be dazzled by such glory. He commenced his operations by the expulsion of nearly all the Moorish inhabitants of Granada, bed- ridden men, women, and children, together, and the cruelty inflicted, the sufferings patiently endured in that memorable deportation, were enormous. But few of the many thousand exiles survived the horrid march, those who were so unfortunate as to do so being sold into slavery by their captors. Still a few Moors held out in their mountain fastnesses, and two years long the rebellion of this handful made head against the, power of Spain. Had their envoys to the Porte succeeded in their negotiation, the throne of Philip might have trembled; but Selim hated the Republic of Venice as much as he loved the wine of Cyprus. While the Moors were gasping out their last breath in Granada and Ronda, the Turks had wrested the island of Venus from the grasp of the haughty Republic Fainagosta had fallen; thousands of Venetians had been butchered with a ferocity which even Christians could not have surpassed; the famous General Bragadino had been flayed; stuffed, and sent hanging on the yard- arm of a frigate; to Constantinople, as a present to the Commander of the Faithful; and the mortgage of Catherine Cornaro, to the exclusion of her husband's bastards, had been thus definitely cancelled. With such practical enjoyments, Selim was indifferent to the splendid but shadowy vision of the Occidental caliphate--yet the revolt of the Moors was only terminated, after the departure of Don John, by the Duke of Arcos.

The war which the Sultan had avoided in the West, came to seek him in the East. To lift the Crucifix against the Crescent, at the head of the powerful but quarrelsome alliance between Venice, Spain, and Rome, Don John arrived at Naples. He brought with him more than a hundred ships and twenty-three thousand men, as the Spanish contingent:--Three months long the hostile fleets had been cruising in the same waters without an encounter; three more were wasted in barren manoeuvres. Neither Mussulman nor Christian had much inclination for the conflict, the Turk fearing the consequences of a defeat, by which gains already secured might be forfeited; the allies being appalled at the possibility of their own triumph. Nevertheless, the Ottomans manoeuvred themselves at last

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1576-77 - 1/8

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