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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1579-80 - 1/9 -

By John Lothrop Motley



Parma's feint upon Antwerp--He invests Maestricht--Deputation and letters from the states-general, from Brussels, and from Parma, to the Walloon provinces--Active negotiations by Orange and by Farnese --Walloon envoys in Parma's camp before Maestricht--Festivities--The Treaty of Reconciliation--Rejoicings of the royalist party--Comedy enacted at the Paris theatres--Religious tumults in Antwerp, Utrecht, and other cities--Religious Peace enforced by Orange-- Philip Egmont's unsuccessful attempt upon Brussels--Siege of Maestricht--Failure at the Tongres gate--Mining and countermining-- Partial destruction of the Tongres ravelin--Simultaneous attack upon the Tongres and Bolls-le-Duo gates--The Spaniards repulsed with great loss--Gradual encroachments of the besiegers--Bloody contests --The town taken--Horrible massacre--Triumphal entrance and solemn thanksgiving--Calumnious attacks upon Orange--Renewed troubles in Ghent--Imbue and Dathenus--The presence of the Prince solicited-- Coup d'etat of Imbue--Order restored, and Imbue expelled by Orange

The political movements in both directions were to be hastened by the military operations of the opening season. On the night of the 2nd of March, 1579, the Prince of Parma made a demonstration against Antwerp. A body of three thousand Scotch and English, lying at Borgerhout, was rapidly driven in, and a warm skirmish ensued, directly under the walls of the city. The Prince of Orange, with the Archduke Matthias, being in Antwerp at the time, remained on the fortifications; superintending the action, and Parma was obliged to retire after an hour or two of sharp fighting, with a loss of four hundred men. This demonstration was, however, only a feint. His real design was upon Maestricht; before which important city he appeared in great force, ten days afterwards, when he was least expected.

Well fortified, surrounded by a broad and deep moat; built upon both sides of the Meuse, upon the right bank of which river, however, the portion of the town was so inconsiderable that it was merely called the village of Wyk, this key to the German gate of the Netherlands was, unfortunately, in brave but feeble hands. The garrison was hardly one thousand strong; the trained bands of burghers amounted to twelve hundred more; while between three and four thousand peasants; who had taken refuge within the city walls, did excellent service as sappers and miners. Parma, on the other hand, had appeared before the walls with twenty thousand men; to which number he received constant reinforcements. The Bishop of Liege, too, had sent him four thousand pioneers--a most important service; for mining and countermining was to decide the fate of Maestricht.

Early in January the royalists had surprised the strong chateau of Carpen, in the neighbourhood of the city, upon which occasion the garrison were all hanged by moonlight on the trees in the orchard. The commandant shared their fate; and it is a curious fact that he had, precisely a year previously, hanged the royalist captain, Blomaert, on the same spot, who, with the rope around his neck, had foretold a like doom to his destroyer.

The Prince of Orange, feeling the danger of Maestricht, lost no time in warning the states to the necessary measures, imploring them "not to fall asleep in the shade of a peace negotiation," while meantime Parma threw two bridges over the Meuse, above and below the city, and then invested the place so closely that all communication was absolutely suspended. Letters could pass to and fro only at extreme peril to the messengers, and all possibility of reinforcing the city at the moment was cut off.

While this eventful siege was proceeding, the negotiations with the Walloons were ripening. The siege and the conferences went hand in hand. Besides the secret arrangements already described for the separation of the Walloon provinces, there had been much earnest and eloquent remonstrance on the part of the states-general and of Orange--many solemn embassies and public appeals. As usual, the Pacification of Ghent was the two-sided shield which hung between the parties to cover or to justify the blows which each dealt at the other. There is no doubt as to the real opinion entertained concerning that famous treaty by the royal party. "Through the peace of Ghent," said Saint Vaast, "all our woes have been brought upon us." La Motte informed Parma that it was necessary to pretend a respect for the Pacification, however, on account of its popularity, but that it was well understood by the leaders of the Walloon movement, that the intention was to restore the system of Charles the Fifth. Parma signified his consent to make use of that treaty as a basis, "provided always it were interpreted healthily, and not dislocated by cavillations and sinister interpolations, as had been done by the Prince of Orange." The Malcontent generals of the Walloon troops were inexpressibly anxious lest the cause of religion should be endangered; but the arguments by which Parma convinced those military casuists as to the compatibility of the Ghent peace with sound doctrine have already been exhibited. The influence of the reconciled nobles was brought to bear with fatal effect upon the states of Artois, Hainault, and of a portion of French Flanders. The Gallic element in their blood, and an intense attachment to the Roman ceremonial, which distinguished the Walloon population from their Batavian brethren, were used successfully by the wily Parma to destroy the unity of the revolted Netherlands. Moreover, the King offered good terms. The monarch, feeling safe on the religious point, was willing to make liberal promises upon the political questions. In truth, the great grievance of which the Walloons complained was the insolence and intolerable outrages of the foreign soldiers. This, they said, had alone made them malcontent. It was; therefore, obviously the cue of Parma to promise the immediate departure of the troops. This could be done the more easily, as he had no intention of keeping the promise.

Meantime the efforts of Orange, and of the states-general, where his influence was still paramount, were unceasing to counteract the policy of Parma. A deputation was appointed by the generality to visit the estates of the Walloon provinces. Another was sent by the authorities of Brussels. The Marquis of Havre, with several colleagues on behalf of the states-general, waited upon the Viscount of Ghent, by whom they were received with extreme insolence. He glared upon them, without moving, as they were admitted to his presence; "looking like a dead man, from whom the soul had entirely departed." Recovering afterwards from this stony trance of indignation, he demanded a sight of their instructions. This they courteously refused, as they were accredited not to him, but to the states of Artois. At this he fell into a violent passion, and threatened them with signal chastisement for daring to come thither with so treasonable a purpose. In short, according to their own expression; he treated them "as if they had been rogues and vagabonds." The Marquis of Havre, high-born though he was, had been sufficiently used to such conduct. The man who had successively served and betrayed every party, who had been the obsequious friend and the avowed enemy of Don John within the same fortnight, and who had been able to swallow and inwardly digest many an insult from that fiery warrior, was even fain to brook the insolence of Robert Melun.

The papers which the deputation had brought were finally laid before the states of Artois, and received replies as prompt and bitter as the addresses were earnest and eloquent. The Walloons, when summoned to hold to that aegis of national unity, the Ghent peace, replied that it was not they, but the heretic portion of the states-general, who were for dashing it to the ground. The Ghent treaty was never intended to impair the supremacy of the Catholic religion, said those provinces, which were already on the point of separating for ever from the rest. The Ghent treaty was intended expressly to destroy the inquisition and the placards, answered the national-party. Moreover, the "very marrow of that treaty" was the-departure of the foreign soldiers, who were even then overrunning the land. The Walloons answered that Alexander had expressly conceded the withdrawal of the troops. "Believe not the fluting and the piping of the crafty foe," urged the patriots. "Promises are made profusely enough--but only to lure you to perdition. Your enemies allow you to slake your hunger and thirst with this idle hope of the troops' departure, but you are still in fetters, although the chain be of Spanish pinchbeck, which you mistake for gold." "'Tis not we," cried the Walloons, "who wish to separate from the generality; 'tis the generality which separates from us. We had rather die the death than not maintain the union. In the very same breath, however, they boasted of the excellent terms which the monarch was offering, and of their strong inclination to accept them." "Kings, struggling to recover a lost authority, always promise golden mountains and every sort of miracles," replied the patriots; but the warning was uttered in vain.

Meantime the deputation from the city of Brussels arrived on the 28th of March at Mons, in Hainault, where they were received with great courtesy by Count de Lalain, governor of the province. The enthusiasm with which he had espoused the cause of Queen Margaret and her brother Anjou had cooled, but the Count received the Brussels envoys with a kindness in marked contrast with the brutality of Melun. He made many fine speeches --protesting his attachment to, the union, for which he was ready to shed the last drop of his blood--entertained the deputies at dinner, proposed toasts to the prosperity of the united provinces, and dismissed his guests at last with many flowery professions. After dancing attendance for a few days, however, upon the estates of the Walloon provinces, both sets of deputies were warned to take their instant departure as mischief- makers and rebels. They returned, accordingly, to Brussels, bringing the written answers which the estates had vouchsafed to send.

The states-general, too, inspired by William of Orange, addressed a solemn appeal to their sister provinces, thus about to abjure the bonds of relationship for ever. It seemed right, once for all, to grapple with the Ghent Pacification for the last time, and to strike a final blow in defence of that large statesmanlike interpretation, which alone could make the treaty live. This was done eloquently and logically. The Walloons were reminded that at the epoch of the Ghent peace the number of Reformers outside of Holland and Zealand was supposed small. Now the new religion had spread its roots through the whole land, and innumerable multitudes desired its exercise. If Holland and Zealand chose to reestablish the Catholic worship within their borders, they could manifestly do so without violating the treaty of Ghent. Why then was it not competent to other provinces, with equal allegiance to the treaty, to sanction the Reformed religion within their limits?

Parma, on his part, publicly invited the states-general, by letter, to sustain the Ghent treaty by accepting the terms offered to the Walloons, and by restoring the system of the Emperor Charles, of very lofty memory. To this superfluous invitation the states-general replied, on the 19th of March, that it had been the system of the Emperor Charles; of lofty memory, to maintain the supremacy of Catholicism and of Majesty in the Netherlands by burning Netherlanders--a custom which the states, with common accord, had thought it desirable to do away with.

In various fervently-written appeals by Orange, by the states-general, and by other bodies, the wavering provinces were warned against seduction. They were reminded that the Prince of Parma was using this minor negotiation "as a second string to his bow;" that nothing could be more puerile than to suppose the Spaniards capable, after securing Maestricht, of sending away their troops thus "deserting the bride in the midst of the honeymoon." They expressed astonishment at being invited to

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1579-80 - 1/9

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