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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1578 - 1/8 -


By John Lothrop Motley

1855

PART VI.

ALEXANDER OF PARMA

1578-1584.

CHAPTER I.

Birth, education, marriage, and youthful character of Alexander Farnese--His private adventures--Exploits at Lepanto and at Gemblours--He succeeds to the government--Personal appearance and characteristics--Aspect of affairs--Internal dissensions--Anjou at Mons--John Casimir's intrigues at Ghent--Anjou disbands his soldiers--The Netherlands ravaged by various foreign troops--Anarchy and confusion in Ghent--Imbize and Ryhove--Fate of Hessels and Visch--New Pacification drawn up by Orange--Representations of Queen Elizabeth--Remonstrance of Brussels Riots and image-breaking in Ghent--Displeasure of Orange--His presence implored at Ghent, where he establishes a Religious Peace--Painful situation of John Casimir --Sharp rebukes of Elizabeth--He takes his departure--His troops apply to Farnese, who allows them to leave the country--Anjou's departure and manifesto--Elizabeth's letters to the states-general with regard to him--Complimentary addresses by the Estates to the Duke--Death of Bossu--Calumnies against Orange--Venality of the malcontent grandees--La Motte's treason--Intrigues of the Prior of Renty--Saint Aldegonde at Arras--The Prior of St. Vaast's exertions --Opposition of the clergy in the Walloon provinces to the taxation of the general government--Triangular contest--Municipal revolution in Arras led by Gosson and others--Counter-revolution--Rapid trials and executions--"Reconciliation" of the malcontent chieftains-- Secret treaty of Mount St. Eloi: Mischief made by the Prior of Renty--His accusations against the reconciled lords--Vengeance taken upon him--Counter movement by the liberal party--Union of Utrecht-- The Act analyzed and characterized.

A fifth governor now stood in the place which had been successively vacated by Margaret of Parma, by Alva, by the Grand Commander, and by Don John of Austria. Of all the eminent personages to whom Philip had confided the reins of that most difficult and dangerous administration, the man who was now to rule was by far the ablest and the best fitted for his post. If there were living charioteer skilful enough to guide the wheels of state, whirling now more dizzily than ever through "confusum chaos," Alexander Farnese was the charioteer to guide--his hand the only one which could control.

He was now in his thirty-third year--his uncle Don John, his cousin Don Carlos, and himself, having all been born within a few months of each other. His father was Ottavio Farnese, the faithful lieutenant of Charles the Fifth, and grandson of Pope Paul the Third; his mother was Margaret of Parma, first Regent of the Netherlands after the departure of Philip from the provinces. He was one of the twins by which the reunion of Margaret and her youthful husband had been blessed, and the only one that survived. His great-grandfather, Paul, whose secular name of Alexander he had received, had placed his hand upon the new-born infant's head, and prophesied that he would grow up to become a mighty warrior. The boy, from his earliest years, seemed destined to verify the prediction. Though apt enough at his studies, he turned with impatience from his literary tutors to military exercises and the hardiest sports. The din of arms surrounded his cradle. The trophies of Ottavio, returning victorious from beyond the Alps, had dazzled the eyes of his infancy, and when but six years of age he had witnessed the siege of his native Parma, and its vigorous defence by his martial father. When Philip was in the Netherlands--in the years immediately succeeding the abdication of the Emperor--he had received the boy from his parents as a hostage for their friendship. Although but eleven years of age, Alexander had begged earnestly to be allowed to serve as a volunteer on the memorable day of Saint Quentin, and had wept bitterly when the amazed monarch refused his request.--His education had been, completed at Alcala, and at Madrid, under the immediate supervision of his royal uncle, and in the companionship of the Infante Carlos and the brilliant Don John. The imperial bastard was alone able to surpass, or even to equal the Italian prince in all martial and manly pursuits. Both were equally devoted to the chase and to the tournay; both longed impatiently for the period when the irksome routine of monkish pedantry, and the fictitious combats which formed their main recreation, should be exchanged for the substantial delights of war. At the age of twenty he had been affianced to Maria of Portugal; daughter of Prince Edward, granddaughter of King Emanuel, and his nuptials with that peerless princess were; as we have seen, celebrated soon afterwards with much pomp in Brussels. Sons and daughters were born to him in due time, during his subsequent residence in Parma. Here, however, the fiery and impatient spirit of the future illustrious commander was doomed for a time to fret under restraint, and to corrode in distasteful repose. His father, still in the vigor of his years, governing the family duchies of Parma and Piacenza, Alexander had no occupation in the brief period of peace which then existed. The martial spirit, pining for a wide and lofty sphere of action, in which alone its energies could be fitly exercised, now sought delight in the pursuits of the duellist and gladiator. Nightly did the hereditary prince of the land perambulate the streets of his capital, disguised, well armed, alone, or with a single confidential attendant. Every chance passenger of martial aspect whom he encountered in the midnight streets was forced to stand and measure swords with an unknown, almost unseen but most redoubtable foe, and many were the single combats which he thus enjoyed, so long as his incognito was preserved. Especially, it was his wont to seek and defy every gentleman whose skill or bravery had ever been commended in his hearing: At last, upon one occasion it was his fortune to encounter a certain Count Torelli, whose reputation as a swordsman and duellist was well established in Parma. The blades were joined, and the fierce combat had already been engaged in the darkness, when the torch of an accidental passenger gashed full in the face of Alexander. Torelli, recognising thus suddenly his antagonist, dropped his sword and implored forgiveness, for the wily Italian was too keen not to perceive that even if the death of neither combatant should be the result of the fray, his own position was, in every event, a false one. Victory would ensure him the hatred, defeat the contempt of his future sovereign. The unsatisfactory issue and subsequent notoriety of this encounter put a termination to these midnight joys of Alexander, and for a season he felt obliged to assume more pacific habits, and to solace himself with the society of that "phoenix of Portugal," who had so long sat brooding on his domestic hearth.

At last the holy league was formed, the new and last crusade proclaimed, his uncle and bosom friend appointed to the command of the united troops of Rome, Spain, and Venice. He could no longer be restrained. Disdaining the pleadings of his mother and of his spouse, he extorted permission from Philip, and flew to the seat of war in the Levant. Don John received him with open arms, just before the famous action of Lepanto, and gave him an, excellent position in the very front of the battle, with the command of several Genoese galleys. Alexander's exploits on that eventful day seemed those of a fabulous hero of romance. He laid his galley alongside of the treasure-ship of the Turkish fleet, a vessel, on account of its importance, doubly manned and armed. Impatient that the Crescent was not lowered, after a few broadsides, he sprang on board the enemy alone, waving an immense two-handed sword--his usual weapon--and mowing a passage right and left through the hostile ranks for the warriors who tardily followed the footsteps of their vehement chief. Mustapha Bey, the treasurer and commander of the ship, fell before his sword, besides many others, whom he hardly saw or counted. The galley was soon his own, as well as another, which came to the rescue of the treasure-ship only to share its defeat. The booty which Alexander's crew secured was prodigious, individual soldiers obtaining two and three thousand ducats each. Don John received his nephew after the battle with commendations, not, however, unmingled with censure. The successful result alone had justified such insane and desperate conduct, for had he been slain or overcome, said the commander-in-chief, there would have been few to applaud his temerity. Alexander gaily replied by assuring his uncle that he had felt sustained by a more than mortal confidence, the prayers which his saintly wife was incessantly offering in his behalf since he went to the wars being a sufficient support and shield in even greater danger than he had yet confronted.

This was Alexander's first campaign, nor was he permitted to reap any more glory for a few succeeding years. At last, Philip was disposed to send both his mother and himself to the Netherlands; removing Don John from the rack where he had been enduring such slow torture. Granvelle's intercession proved fruitless with the Duchess, but Alexander was all eagerness to go where blows were passing current, and he gladly led the reinforcements which were sent to Don John at the close of the year 1577. He had reached Luxemburg, on the 18th of December of that year, in time, as we have seen, to participate, and, in fact, to take the lead in the signal victory of Gemblours. He had been struck with the fatal change which disappointment and anxiety had wrought upon the beautiful and haughty features of his illustrious kinsman. He had since closed his eyes in the camp, and erected a marble tablet over his heart in the little church. He now governed in his stead.

His personal appearance corresponded with his character. He had the head of a gladiator, round; compact, combative, with something alert and snake-like in its movements. The black, closely-shorn hair was erect and bristling. The forehead was lofty and narrow. The features were, handsome, the nose regularly aquiline, the eyes well opened, dark piercing, but with something dangerous and sinister in their expression. There was an habitual look askance; as of a man seeking to parry or inflict a mortal blow--the look of a swordsman and professional fighter. The lower part of the face was swallowed in a bushy beard; the mouth and chin being quite invisible. He was of middle stature, well formed, and graceful in person, princely in demeanor, sumptuous and stately in apparel. His high ruff of point lace, his badge of the Golden Fleece, his gold-inlaid Milan armor, marked him at once as one of high degree. On the field of battle he possessed the rare gift of inspiring his soldiers with his own impetuous and chivalrous courage. He ever led the way upon the most dangerous and desperate ventures, and, like his uncle and his imperial grandfather, well knew how to reward the devotion of his readiest followers with a poniard, a feather, a riband, a jewel, taken with his own hands from his own attire.

His military, abilities--now for the first time to be largely called into employment--were unquestionably superior to those of Don John; whose name had been surrounded with such splendor by the World-renowned battle of Lepanto. Moreover, he possessed far greater power for governing men, whether in camp or cabinet. Less attractive and fascinating, he was more commanding than his kinsman. Decorous and self-poised, he was only passionate before the enemy, but he rarely permitted a disrespectful look or word to escape condign and deliberate chastisement. He was no schemer or dreamer. He was no knight errant. He would not have crossed seas and mountains to rescue a captive queen, nor have sought to place her crown on his own head as a reward for his heroism. He had a single and concentrated kind of character. He knew precisely the work which Philip required, and felt himself to be precisely the workman that had so long


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