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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1580-82 - 1/11 -

By John Lothrop Motley



Captivity of La Noue--Cruel propositions of Philip--Siege of Groningen--Death of Barthold Enter--His character--Hohenlo commands in the north--His incompetence--He is defeated on Hardenberg Heath-- Petty operations--Isolation of Orange--Dissatisfaction and departure of Count John--Remonstrance of Archduke Matthias--Embassy to Anjou-- Holland and Zealand offer the sovereignty to Orange--Conquest of Portugal--Granvelle proposes the Ban against the Prince--It is published--The document analyzed--The Apology of Orange analyzed and characterized--Siege of Steenwyk by Renneberg--Forgeries--Siege relieved--Death of Renneberg--Institution of the "land-Council"-- Duchess of Parma sent to the Netherlands--Anger of Alexander-- Prohibition of Catholic worship in Antwerp, Utrecht, and elsewhere-- Declaration of Independence by the United Provinces--Negotiations with Anjou--The sovereignty of Holland and Zealand provisionally accepted by Orange--Tripartition of the Netherlands--Power of the Prince described--Act of Abjuration analyzed--Philosophy of Netherland politics.--Views of the government compact--Acquiescence by the people in the action of the estates--Departure of Archduke Matthias.

The war continued in a languid and desultory manner in different parts of the country. At an action near Ingelmunster, the brave and accomplished De la Noue was made prisoner. This was a severe loss to the states, a cruel blow to Orange, for he was not only one of the most experienced soldiers, but one of the most accomplished writers of his age. His pen was as celebrated as his sword. In exchange for the illustrious Frenchman the states in vain offered Count Egmont, who had been made prisoner a few weeks before, and De Belles, who was captured shortly afterwards. Parma answered contemptuously, that he would not give a lion for two sheep. Even Champagny was offered in addition, but without success. Parma had written to Philip, immediately upon the capture, that, were it not for Egmont, Seller, and others, then in the power of Oranges he should order the execution of La Noue. Under the circumstances, however, he had begged to be in formed as to his Majesty's pleasure, and in the meantime had placed the prisoner in the castle of Limburg, under charge of De Billy.

[Strada, d. 2, iii. 155, 156. Parma is said to have hinted to Philip that De Billy would willingly undertake, the private assassination of La Noue.--Popeliniere, Hist. des Pays Bas; 1556- 1584.]

His Majesty, of course, never signified his pleasure, and the illustrious soldier remained for five years in a loathsome dungeon more befitting a condemned malefactor than a prisoner of war. It was in the donjon keep of the castle, lighted only by an aperture in the roof, and was therefore exposed to the rain and all inclemencies of the sky, while rats, toads, and other vermin housed in the miry floor. Here this distinguished personage, Francis with the Iron Arm, whom all Frenchmen, Catholic or Huguenot, admired far his genius, bravery, and purity of character, passed five years of close confinement. The government was most anxious to take his life, but the captivity of Egmont and others prevented the accomplishment of their wishes. During this long period, the wife and numerous friends of La Noue were unwearied in, their efforts to effect his ransom or exchange, but none of the prisoners in the hands of the patriots were considered a fair equivalent. The hideous proposition was even made by Philip the Second to La Noue, that he should receive his liberty if he would permit his eyes to be put out, as a preliminary condition. The fact is attested by several letters written by La Noue to his wife. The prisoner, wearied, shattered in health, and sighing for air and liberty, was disposed and even anxious to accept the infamous offer, and discussed the matter philosophically in his letters. That lady, however, horror-struck at the suggestion, implored him to reject the condition, which he accordingly consented to do. At last, in June, 1585, he was exchanged, on extremely rigorous terms, for Egmont. During his captivity in this vile dungeon, he composed not only his famous political and military discourses, but several other works, among the rest; Annotations upon Plutarch and upon the Histories of Guicciardini.

The siege of Groningen proceeded, and Parma ordered some forces under Martin Schenck to advance to its relief. On the other hand, the meagre states' forces under Sonoy, Hohenlo, Entes, and Count John of Nassau's young son, William Louis, had not yet made much impression upon the city. There was little military skill to atone for the feebleness of the assailing army, although there was plenty of rude valor. Barthold Entes, a man of desperate character, was impatient at the dilatoriness of the proceedings. After having been in disgrace with the states, since the downfall of his friend and patron, the Count De la Marck, he had recently succeeded to a regiment in place of Colonel Ysselstein, "dismissed for a homicide or two." On the 17th of May, he had been dining at Rolda, in company with Hohenlo and the young Count of Nassau. Returning to the trenches in a state of wild intoxication, he accosted a knot of superior officers, informing them that they were but boys, and that he would show them how to carry the faubourg of Groningen on the instant. He was answered that the faubourg, being walled and moated, could be taken only by escalade or battery. Laughing loudly, he rushed forward toward the counterscarp, waving his sword, and brandishing on his left arm the cover of a butter firkin, which he had taken instead of his buckler. He had advanced, however, but a step, when a bullet from the faubourg pierced his brain, and he fell dead without a word.

So perished one of the wild founders of the Netherland commonwealth--one of the little band of reckless adventurers who had captured the town of Brill in 1572, and thus laid the foundation stone of a great republic, which was to dictate its laws to the empire of Charles the Fifth. He was in some sort a type. His character was emblematical of the worst side of the liberating movement. Desperate, lawless, ferocious--a robber on land, a pirate by sea--he had rendered great service in the cause of his fatherland, and had done it much disgrace. By the evil deeds of men like himself, the fair face of liberty had been profaned at its first appearance. Born of a respectable family, he had been noted, when a student in this very Groningen where he had now found his grave, for the youthful profligacy of his character. After dissipating his partrimony, he had taken to the sea, the legalized piracy of the mortal struggle with Spain offering a welcome refuge to spendthrifts like himself. In common with many a banished noble of ancient birth and broken fortunes, the riotous student became a successful corsair, and it is probable that his prizes were made as well among the friends as the enemies of his country. He amassed in a short time one hundred thousand crowns--no contemptible fortune in those days. He assisted La Marck in the memorable attack upon Brill, but behaved badly and took to flight when Mondragon made his memorable expedition to relieve Tergoes. He had subsequently been imprisoned, with La Marck for insubordination, and during his confinement had dissipated a large part of his fortune. In 1574, after the violation of the Ghent treaty, he had returned to, his piratical pursuits, and having prospered again as rapidly as he had done during his former cruises, had been glad to exchange the ocean for more honorable service on shore. The result was the tragic yet almost ludicrous termination which we have narrated. He left a handsome property, the result of his various piracies, or, according to the usual euphemism, prizes. He often expressed regret at the number of traders whom he had cast into the sea, complaining, in particular, of one victim whom he had thrown overboard, who would never sink, but who for years long ever floated in his wake, and stared him in the face whenever he looked over his vessel's side. A gambler, a profligate, a pirate, he had yet rendered service to the cause of freedom, and his name--sullying the purer and nobler ones of other founders of the commonwealth--"is enrolled in the capitol."

Count Philip Hohenlo, upon whom now, devolved the, entire responsibility of the Groningen siege and of the Friesland operations, was only a few degrees superior to this northern corsair. A noble of high degree, nearly connected with the Nassau family, sprung of the best blood in Germany, handsome and dignified in appearance, he was, in reality only a debauchee and a drunkard. Personal bravery was his main qualification for a general; a virtue which he shared with many of his meanest soldiers. He had never learned the art of war, nor had he the least ambition to acquire it. Devoted to his pleasures, he depraved those under his command, and injured the cause for which he was contending. Nothing but defeat and disgrace were expected by the purer patriots from such guidance. "The benediction of God," wrote Albada, "cannot be hoped for under this chieftain, who by life and manners is fitter to drive swine than to govern pious and honorable men."

The event justified the prophecy. After a few trifling operations before Groningen, Hohenlo was summoned to the neighbourhood of Coewerden, by the reported arrival of Martin Schenck, at the head of a considerable force. On the 15th of June, the Count marched all night and a part of the follow morning, in search of the enemy. He came up with them upon Hardenberg Heath, in a broiling summer forenoon. His men were jaded by the forced march, overcame with the heat, tormented with thirst, and unable to procure even a drop of water. The royalists were fresh so that the result of the contest was easily to be foreseen. Hohenlo's army was annihilated in an hour's time, the whole population fled out of Coewerden, the siege of Groningen was raised; Renneberg was set free to resume his operations on a larger scale, and the fate of all the north- eastern provinces was once more swinging in the wind. The boors of Drenthe and Friesland rose again. They had already mustered in the field at an earlier season of the year, in considerable force. Calling themselves "the desperates," and bearing on their standard an eggshell with the yolk running out--to indicate that, having lost the meat they were yet ready to fight for the shell--they had swept through the open country, pillaging and burning. Hohenlo had defeated them in two enchanters, slain a large number of their forces, and reduced them for a time to tranquillity. His late overthrow once more set them loose. Renneberg, always apt to be over-elated in prosperity, as he was unduly dejected in adversity, now assumed all the airs of a conqueror. He had hardly eight thousand men under his orders, but his strength lay in the weakness of his adversaries. A small war now succeeded, with small generals, small armies, small campaigns, small sieges. For the time, the Prince of Orange was even obliged to content himself with such a general as Hohenlo. As usual, he was almost alone. "Donec eris felix," said he, emphatically--

"multos numerabis amicos, Tempera cum erunt nubila, nullus erit,"

and he was this summer doomed to a still harder deprivation by the final departure of his brother John from the Netherlands.

The Count had been wearied out by petty miseries. His stadholderate of Gelderland had overwhelmed him with annoyance, for throughout the north- eastern provinces there was neither system nor subordination. The magistrates could exercise no authority over an army which they did not pay, or a people whom they did not protect. There were endless quarrels between the various boards of municipal and provincial government-- particularly concerning contributions and expenditures.

[When the extraordinary generosity of the Count himself; and the altogether unexampled sacrifices of the Prince are taken into account, it may well be supposed that the patience of the brothers would be sorely tried by the parsimony of the states. It appears by

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1580-82 - 1/11

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