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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1577 - 1/7 -

By John Lothrop Motley



The city of Namur--Margaret of Valois--Her intrigues in Hainault in favour of Alencon--Her reception by Don John at Namur--Festivities in her, honor--Seizure of Namur citadel by Don John--Plan for seizing that of Antwerp--Letter of the estates to Philip, sent by Escovedo--Fortunes and fate of Escovedo in Madrid--Repairing of dykes--The Prince's visit to Holland--His letter to the estates-- general on the subject of Namur citadel--His visit to Utrecht-- Correspondence and commissioners between Don John and the estates-- Acrimonious and passionate character of these colloquies--Attempt of Treslong upon Antwerp citadel frustrated by De Bourse--Fortunate panic of the German mercenaries--Antwerp evacuated by the foreign troops--Renewed correspondence--Audacity of the Governor's demands-- Letters of Escovedo and others intercepted--Private schemes of Don John not understood by the estates--His letter to the Empress Dowager--More correspondence with the estates--Painful and false position of the Governor--Demolition, in part, of Antwerp citadel, and of other fortresses by the patriots Statue of Alva--Letter of estates-general to the King.

There were few cities of the Netherlands more picturesque in situation, more trimly built, and more opulent of aspect than the little city of Namur. Seated at the confluence of the Sombre with the Meuse, and throwing over each river a bridge of solid but graceful structure, it lay in the lap of a most fruitful valley. Abroad crescent-shaped plain, fringed by the rapid Meuse, and enclosed by gently rolling hills cultivated to their crests, or by abrupt precipices of limestone crowned with verdure, was divided by numerous hedgerows, and dotted all over with corn-fields, vineyards, and flower gardens. Many eyes have gazed with delight upon that well-known and most lovely valley, and many torrents of blood have mingled with those glancing waters since that long buried and most sanguinary age which forms our theme; and still placid as ever is the valley, brightly as ever flows the stream. Even now, as in that vanished, but never-forgotten time, nestles the little city in the angle of the two rivers; still directly over its head seems to hang in mid-air the massive and frowning fortress, like the gigantic helmet-in the fiction, as if ready to crush the pigmy town below.

It was this famous citadel, crowning an abrupt precipice five hundred feet above the river's bed, and placed near the frontier of France, which made the city so important, and which had now attracted Don John's attention in this hour of his perplexity. The unexpected visit of a celebrated personage, furnished him with the pretext which he desired. The beautiful Margaret of Valois, Queen of Navarre, was proceeding to the baths of Spa, to drink the waters. Her health was as perfect as her beauty, but she was flying from a husband whom she hated, to advance the interest of a brother whom she loved with a more than sisterly fondness-- for the worthless Duke of Alencon was one of the many competitors for the Netherland government; the correspondence between himself and his brother with Orange and his agents being still continued. The hollow truce with the Huguenots in France had, however, been again succeeded by war. Henry of Valois had already commenced operations in Gascony against Henry of Navarre, whom he hated, almost as cordially as Margaret herself could do, and the Duke of Alencon was besieging Issoire. Meantime, the beautiful Queen came to mingle he golden thread of her feminine intrigues with the dark woof of the Netherland destinies.

Few spirits have been more subtle, few faces so fatal as hers. True child of the Medicean mother, worthy sister of Charles, Henry; and Francis--princes for ever infamous in the annals of France--she possessed more beauty and wit than Mary of Scotland, more learning and accomplishments than Elizabeth of England. In the blaze of her beauty, according to the inflated language of her most determined worshiper, the wings of all rivals were melted. Heaven required to be raised higher and earth made wider, before a full sweep could be given to her own majestic flight. We are further informed that she was a Minerva for eloquence, that she composed matchless poems which she sang most exquisitely to the sound of her lute, and that her familiar letters were so full of genius, that "poor Cicero" was but a fool to her in the same branch of composition. The world has shuddered for ages at the dark tragedy of her nuptials. Was it strange that hatred, incest, murder, should follow in the train of a wedding thus hideously solemnized?

Don John, as in his Moorish disguise he had looked upon her perfections, had felt in danger of becoming really the slave he personated--"her beauty is more divine than human," he had cried, "but fitter to destroy men's souls than to bless them;" and now the enchantress was on her way to his dominions. Her road led through Namur to Liege, and gallantry required that he should meet her as she passed. Attended by a select band of gentlemen and a few horsemen of his body-guard, the Governor came to Namur.

Meantime the Queen crossed the frontier, and was courteously received at Cambray. The bishop-of the loyal house of Berlaymont--was a stanch supporter of the King, and although a Fleming, was Spanish to the core. On him the cajolery of the beautiful Queen was first essayed, but was found powerless. The prelate gave her a magnificent ball, but resisted her blandishments. He retired with the appearance of the confections, but the governor of the citadel, the Seigneur d'Inchy remained, with whom Margaret was more successful. She found him a cordial hater of Spain, a favorer of France, and very impatient under the authority of the bishop. He obtained permission to accompany the royal visitor a few stages of her journey, and returned to Cambray, her willing slave; holding the castle in future, neither for king nor bishop, but for Margaret's brother, Alencon, alone. At Mons she was received with great state by the Count Lalain, who was governor of Hainault, while his Countess governed him. A week of festivities graced the advent of the Queen, during which period the hearts of both Lalain and his wife were completely subjugated. They agreed that Flanders had been too long separated from the parental France to which it of right belonged. The Count was a stanch Catholic, but he hated Spain. He was a relative of Egmont, and anxious to avenge his death, but he was no lover of the people, and was jealous of Orange. Moreover, his wife had become entirely fascinated by the designing. Queen. So warm a friendship had sprung up between the two fair ladies as to make it indispensable that Flanders and Hainault should be annexed to France. The Count promised to hold his whole government at the service of Alencon, and recommended that an attempt should be made to gain over the incorruptible Governor of Cambray. Margaret did not inform him that she had already turned that functionary round her finger, but she urged Lalain and his wife to seduce him from his allegiance, if possible.

The Count, with a retinue of mounted men, then accompanied her on her way towards Namur, but turned as the distant tramp of Don John's cavalcade was heard approaching, for it was not desirable for Lalain, at that moment, to find himself face to face with the Governor. Don John stood a moment awaiting the arrival of the Queen. He did not dream of her political intrigues, nor see in the fair form approaching him one mortal enemy the more. Margaret travelled in a splendid litter with gilt pillars, lined with scarlet velvet, and entirely enclosed in glass, which was followed by those of the Princess de la Roche sur Yon, and of Madame de Tournon. After these came ten ladies of honor on horseback, and six chariots filled with female domestics. These, with the guards and other attendants, made up the retinue. On meeting the Queen's litter, Don John sprang from his horse and presented his greetings. The Queen returned his salutation, in the French fashion, by offering her cheek to his embrace, extending the same favor to the Duke of Aerschot and the Marquis of Havre. The cavaliers then remounted and escorted the Queen to Namur, Don John riding by the side of the litter and conversing with her all the way. It was late in the evening when the procession arrived in the city. The streets had, however, been brilliantly illuminated; houses and shops, though it was near midnight, being in a blaze of light. Don John believing that no attentions could be so acceptable at that hour as to provide for the repose of his guest, conducted the Queen at once to the lodgings prepared for her. Margaret was astonished at the magnificence of the apartments into which she was ushered. A spacious and stately hall, most gorgeously furnished, opened into a series of chambers and cabinets, worthy, in their appointments, of a royal palace. The tent and bed coverings prepared for the Queen were exquisitely embroidered in needlework with scenes representing the battle of Lepanto. The great hall was hung with gorgeous tapestry of satin and velvet, ornamented with columns of raised silver work, and with many figures in antique costume, of the same massive embroidery. The rest of the furniture was also of satin, velvet, cloth of gold, and brocade. The Queen was dazzled with so much magnificence, and one of the courtiers could not help expressing astonishment at the splendor of the apartments and decorations, which, as he observed to the Duke of Aerschot; seemed more appropriate to the palace of a powerful monarch than to the apartments of a young bachelor prince. The Duke replied by explaining that the expensive embroidery which they saw was the result, not of extravagance, but of valor and generosity. After the battle of Lepanto, Don John had restored the two sons, who had been taken prisoners, of a powerful Turkish bashaw. The father; in gratitude had sent this magnificent tapestry as a present to the conqueror, and Don John had received it, at Milan; in which city, celebrated for the taste of its upholsterers; it had been arranged for furniture.

The next morning a grand mass with military music was performed, followed by a sumptuous banquet in the grand hall. Don John and the Queen sat at a table three feet apart from the rest, and Ottavio Gonzaga served them wine upon his knees. After the banquet came, as usual; the ball, the festivities continuing till late in the night, and Don John scarcely quitting his fair guest for a moment. The next afternoon, a festival had been arranged upon an island in the river. The company embarked upon the Meuse, in a fleet of gaily-scarfed; and painted vessels, many of which were filled with musicians. Margaret reclined in her gilded barge, under a richly embroidered canopy. A fairer and falser Queen than "Egypt," had bewitched the famous youth who had triumphed not, lost the world, beneath the heights of Actium. The revellers landed on the island, where the banquet was already spread within a spacious bower of ivy, and beneath umbrageous elms. The dance upon the sward was protracted to a late hour, and the summer stars had been long in the sky when the company returned to their barges.

Don John, more than ever enthralled by the bride of St. Bartholomew, knew not that her sole purpose in visiting his dominion had been to corrupt his servants and to undermine his authority. His own purpose, however, had been less to pay court to the Queen than to make, use of her presence to cover his own designs. That purpose he proceeded instantly to execute. The Queen next morning pursued her voyage by the river to Liege, and scarcely had she floated out of his sight than he sprang upon his horse and, accompanied by a few trusty attendants, galloped out of the gate and across the bridge which led to the citadel. He had already despatched the loyal Berlaymont, with his four equally loyal sons, the Seigneurs de Meghen, Floyon, Hierges, and Haultepenne to that fortress. These gentlemen had informed the castellan that the Governor was about to ride forth hunting, and that it would be proper to offer him the hospitalities of the castle as he passed on his way. A considerable number of armed men had been concealed in the woods and thickets of the neighbourhood. The Seigneur de Froymont, suspecting nothing, acceded to the propriety of the suggestion made by the Berlaymonts. Meantime, with a blast of his horn, Don John appeared at the castle gate. He entered the fortress with the castellan, while one of the gentlemen watched

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1577 - 1/7

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