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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1577-78 - 1/8 -

By John Lothrop Motley



Orange invited to visit Brussels--His correspondence upon the subject with the estates--general--Triumphant journey of the Prince to the capital----Stop put by him to the negotiations with Don John --New and stringent demands made upon the Governor--His indignation --Open rupture--Intrigue of Netherland grandees with Archduke Matthias--Policy of Orange--Attitude of Queen Elizabeth--Flight of Matthias from Vienna--Anxiety of Elizabeth--Adroitness of the Prince--The office of Reward--Election of Orange to that dignity-- His complaints against the great nobles--Aerschot Governor of Flanders--A storm brewing in Ghent--Ryhove and Imbize--Blood- Councillor Hessels--Arrogance of the aristocratic party in Flanders --Ryhove's secret interview with Orange--Outbreak at Ghent--Arrest of Aerschot, Hessels, and others of the reactionary party--The Duke liberated at demand of Orange--The Prince's visit to Ghent-- Rhetorical demonstrations--The new Brussels Union characterized-- Treaty with England--Articles by which Matthias is nominally constituted Governor-General--His inauguration at Brussels-- Brilliant and fantastic ceremonies--Letter of Don John to the Emperor--His anger with England--An army collecting--Arrival of Alexander Farnese--Injudicious distribution of offices in the States' army--The States' army fall back upon Gemblours, followed by Don John--Tremendous overthrow of the patriots--Wonderful disparity in the respective losses of the two armies.

While these matters were in progress, an important movement was made by the estates-general. The Prince of Orange was formally and urgently invited to come to Brussels to aid them with his counsel and presence. The condemned traitor had not set foot in the capital for eleven years. We have narrated the circumstance of his departure, while the advancing trumpets of Alva's army were almost heard in the distance. His memorable and warning interview with Egmont has been described. Since that period, although his spirit had always been manifesting itself in the capital like an actual presence; although he had been the magnet towards which the states throughout all their, oscillations had involuntarily vibrated, yet he had been ever invisible. He had been summoned by the Blood Council to stand his trial, and had been condemned to death by default. He answered the summons by a defiance, and the condemnation by two campaigns, unsuccessful in appearance, but which had in reality prostrated the authority of the sovereign.

Since that period, the representative of royalty had sued the condemned traitor for forgiveness. The haughty brother of Philip had almost gone upon his knees, that the Prince might name his terms, and accept the proffered hand of majesty.

The Prince had refused, not from contumely, but from distrust. He had spurned the supplications, as he had defied the proscription of the King. There could be no friendship between the destroyer and the protector of a people. Had the Prince desired only the reversal of his death-sentence, and the infinite aggrandizement of his family, we have seen how completely he had held these issues in his power. Never had it been more easy, plausible, tempting, for a proscribed patriot to turn his back upon an almost sinking cause. We have seen how his brave and subtle Batavian prototype, Civilis, dealt with the representative of Roman despotism. The possible or impossible Netherland Republic of the first century of our era had been reluctantly abandoned, but the modern Civilis had justly more confidence in his people.

And now again the scene was changed. The son of the Emperor, the King's brother, was virtually beleaguered; the proscribed rebel had arrived at victory through a long series of defeats. The nation everywhere acknowledged him master, and was in undisguised revolt against the anointed sovereign. The great nobles, who hated Philip on the one hand, and the Reformed religion on the other, were obliged, in obedience to the dictates of a people with whom they had little sympathy, to accept the ascendency of the Calvinist Prince, of whom they were profoundly jealous. Even the fleeting and incapable Aerschot was obliged to simulate adhesion; even the brave Champagny, cordial hater of Spaniards, but most devotedly Catholic, "the chiefest man of wysedome and stomach at that tyme in Brussels," so envoy Wilson wrote to Burghley, had become "Brabantized," as his brother Granvelle expressed himself, and was one of the commissioners to invite the great rebel to Brussels. The other envoys were the Abbot of Saint Gertrude, Dr. Leoninus, and the Seigneur de Liesvelt. These gentlemen, on arriving at Gertruydenberg, presented a brief but very important memorial to the Prince. In that document they informed him that the states-general, knowing how efficacious would be his presence, by reason of his singular prudence, experience, and love for the welfare and repose of the country, had unanimously united in a supplication that he would incontinently transport himself to the city of Brussels, there to advise with them concerning the necessities of the land; but, as the principal calumny employed by their adversaries was that all the provinces and leading personages intended to change both sovereign and religion, at the instigation of his Excellency, it was desirable to disprove such fictions. They therefore very earnestly requested the Prince to make some contrary demonstration, by which it might be manifest to all that his Excellency, together with the estates of Holland and Zealand, intended faithfully to keep what they had promised. They prayed, therefore, that the Prince, permitting the exercise of the Roman Catholic religion in the places which had recently accepted his authority, would also allow its exercise in Holland and Zealand. They begged, further, that ho would promise by a new and authentic act, that the provinces of Holland and Zealand, would not suffer the said exercise to be impugned, or any new worship to be introduced, in the other provinces of the Netherlands.

This letter might almost be regarded as a trap, set by the Catholic nobles. Certainly the Ghent Pacification forbade the Reformed religion in form, and as certainly, winked at its exercise in fact. The proof was, that the new worship was spreading everywhere, that the exiles for conscience' sake were returning in swarms, and that the synod of the Reformed churches, lately held at Dort, had been, publicly attended by the ministers and deacons of numerous dissenting churches established in many different, places throughout all the provinces. The pressure of the edicts, the horror of the inquisition being removed, the down-trodden religion had sprung from the earth more freshly than ever.

The Prince was not likely to fall into the trap, if a trap had really been intended. He answered the envoys loyally, but with distinct reservations. He did not even accept the invitation, save on condition that his visit to Brussels should be expressly authorized by Holland and Zealand. Notwithstanding his desire once more to behold his dear country, and to enjoy the good company of his best friends and brothers, he felt it his duty to communicate beforehand with the states of those two provinces, between which, and himself there had been such close and reciprocal obligations, such long-tried and faithful affection. He therefore begged to refer the question to the assembly of the said provinces about to be held at Gouda, where, in point of fact, the permission for his journey was, not without considerable difficulty, a few days afterwards obtained.

With regard to the more difficult requests addressed to him in the memorial, he professed generally his intention to execute the treaty of Ghent. He observed, however, that the point of permitting the exercise of the Roman Catholic religion in Holland and Zealand regarded principally the estates of these provinces, which had contracted for no innovation in this matter, at least till the assembling of the states -general. He therefore suggested that he neither could, nor ought to, permit any innovation, without the knowledge and consent of those estates. As to promising by authentic act, that neither he nor the two provinces would suffer the exercise of the Catholic religion to be in any wise impugned in the rest of the Netherlands, the Prince expressed himself content to promise that, according to the said Ghent Pacification, they would suffer no attempt to be made against the public repose or against the Catholic worship. He added that, as he had no intention of usurping any superiority over the states-general assembled at Brussels, he was content to leave the settlement of this point to their free-will and wisdom, engaging himself neither to offer nor permit any hindrance to their operations.

With this answer the deputies are said to have been well pleased. If they were so, it must be confessed that they were thankful for small favors. They had asked to have the Catholic religion introduced into Holland and Zealand. The Prince had simply referred them to the estates of these provinces. They had asked him to guarantee that the exercise of the Reformed religion should not be "procured" in the rest of the country. He had merely promised that the Catholic worship should not be prevented. The difference between the terms of the request and the reply was sufficiently wide.

The consent to his journey was with difficulty accorded by the estates of Holland and Zealand, and his wife, with many tears and anxious forebodings, beheld him depart for a capital where the heads of his brave and powerful friends had fallen, and where still lurked so many of his deadly foes. During his absence, prayers were offered daily for his safety in all the churches of Holland and Zealand, by command of the estates.

He arrived at Antwerp on the 17th of September, and was received with extraordinary enthusiasm. The Prince, who had gone forth alone, without even a bodyguard, had the whole population of the great city for his buckler. Here he spent five days, observing, with many a sigh, the melancholy changes which had taken place in the long interval of his absence. The recent traces of the horrible "Fury," the blackened walls of the Hotel de Ville, the prostrate ruins of the marble streets, which he had known as the most imposing in Europe, could be hardly atoned for in his eyes even by the more grateful spectacle of the dismantled fortress.

On the 23rd of September he was attended by a vast concourse of citizens to the new canal which led to Brussels, where three barges were in waiting for himself and suite. In one a banquet was spread; in the second, adorned with emblematic devices and draped with the banners of the seventeen provinces, he was to perform the brief journey; while the third had been filled by the inevitable rhetoric societies, with all the wonders of their dramatic and plastic ingenuity. Rarely had such a complication of vices and virtues, of crushed dragons, victorious archangels, broken fetters, and resurgent nationalities, been seen before, within the limits of a single canal boat. The affection was, however, sincere, and the spirit noble, even though the taste which presided at these remonstrations may have been somewhat pedantic.

The Prince was met several miles before the gates of Brussels by a procession of nearly half the inhabitants of the city, and thus escorted, he entered the capital in the afternoon of the 23rd of September. It was the proudest day of his life. The representatives of all the provinces, supported by the most undeniable fervor of the united Netherland people, greeted "Father William." Perplexed, discordant, hating, fearing, doubting, they could believe nothing, respect nothing, love nothing, save the "tranquil" Prince. His presence at that moment in Brussels was the triumph of the people and of religious toleration. He meant to make use

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1577-78 - 1/8

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