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- The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1582-84 - 1/11 -

By John Lothrop Motley



Parma recals the foreign troops--Siege of Oudenarde--Coolness of Alexander--Capture of the city and of Nineve--Inauguration of Anjou at Ghent--Attempt upon his life and that of Orange--Lamoral Egmont's implication in the plot--Parma's unsuccessful attack upon Ghent-- Secret plans of Anjou--Dunkirk, Ostend, and other towns surprised by his adherents--Failure at Bruges--Suspicions at Antwerp--Duplicity of Anjou--The "French Fury"--Details of that transaction-- Discomfiture and disgrace of the Duke--His subsequent effrontery-- His letters to the magistracy of Antwerp, to, the Estates, and to Orange--Extensive correspondence between Anjou and the, French Court with Orange and the Estates--Difficult position of the Prince--His policy--Remarkable letter to the States-general--Provisional arrangement with Anjou--Marriage of the Archbishop of Cologne-- Marriage of Orange with Louisa de Coligny--Movements in Holland, Brabant, Flanders, and other provinces, to induce the Prince to accept sovereignty over the whole country--His steady refusal-- Treason of Van den Berg in Gueldres--Intrigues of Prince Chimay and Imbize in Flanders--Counter efforts of Orange and the patriot party --Fate of Imbize--Reconciliation of Bruges--Death of Anjou

During the course of the year 1582, the military operations on both sides had been languid and desultory, the Prince of Parma, not having a large force at his command, being comparatively inactive. In consequence, however, of the treaty concluded between the United states and Anjou, Parma had persuaded the Walloon provinces that it had now become absolutely necessary for them to permit the entrance of fresh Italian and Spanish troops. This, then, was the end of the famous provision against foreign soldiery in the Walloon treaty of reconciliation. The Abbot of Saint Vaast was immediately despatched on a special mission to Spain, and the troops, by midsummer, had already begun to pour, into the Netherlands.

In the meantime, Farnese, while awaiting these reinforcements, had not been idle, but had been quietly picking up several important cities. Early in the spring he had laid siege to Oudenarde, a place of considerable importance upon the Scheld, and celebrated as the birthplace of his grandmother, Margaret van Geest. The burghers were obstinate; the defence was protracted; the sorties were bold; the skirmishes frequent and sanguinary: Alexander commanded personally in the trenches, encouraging his men by his example, and often working with the mattock, or handling a spear in the assault, Like a private pioneer or soldier. Towards the end of the siege, he scarcely ever left the scene of operation, and he took his meals near the outer defences, that he might lose no opportunity of superintending the labors of his troops. One day his dinner was laid for himself and staff in the open air, close to the entrenchment. He was himself engaged in planting a battery against a weak point in the city wall, and would on no account withdraw for all instant. The tablecloth was stretched over a number of drum-heads, placed close together, and several, nobles of distinction--Aremberg, Montigny, Richebourg, La Motte, and others, were his guests at dinner. Hardly had the repast commenced, when a ball came flying over the table, taking off the head of a, young Walloon officer who was sitting near Parma, and, who was earnestly requesting a foremost place in the. morrow's assault. A portion of his skull struck out the eye of another gentleman present. A second ball from the town fortifications, equally well directed, destroyed two more of the guests as they sat at the banquet--one a German captain, the other the Judge-Advocate-General. The blood and brains of these unfortunate individuals were strewn over the festive board, and the others all started to their feet, having little appetite left for their dinner. Alexander alone remained in his seat, manifesting no discomposure. Quietly ordering the attendants to remove the dead bodies, and to bring a clean tablecloth, he insisted that his guests should resume their places at the banquet which had been interrupted in such ghastly fashion. He stated with very determined aspect that he could not allow the heretic burghers of Oudenarde the triumph of frightening him from his dinner, or from the post of danger. The other gentlemen could, of course, do no less than imitate the impassibility of their chief, and the repast was accordingly concluded without further interruption. Not long afterwards, the city, close pressed by so determined a commander, accepted terms, which were more favorable by reason of the respect which Alexander chose to render to his mother's birthplace. The pillage was commuted for thirty thousand, crowns, and on the 5th of July the place was surrendered to Parma almost under the very eyes of Anjou, who was making a demonstration of relieving the siege.

Ninove, a citadel then belonging to the Egmont family, was next reduced. Here, too, the defence was more obstinate than could have been expected from the importance of the place, and as the autumn advanced, Parma's troops were nearly starved in their trenches, from the insufficient supplies furnished them. They had eaten no meat but horseflesh for weeks, and even that was gone. The cavalry horses were all consumed, and even the chargers of the officers were not respected. An aid-de-camp of Parma fastened his steed one day at the door of the Prince's tent, while he entered to receive his commander's instructions. When he came out again, a few minutes afterwards, he found nothing but the saddle and bridle hanging where he had fastened the horse. Remonstrance was useless, for the animal had already been cut into quarters, and the only satisfaction offered to the aid-de-camp was in the shape of a steak. The famine was long familiarly known as the "Ninove starvation," but notwithstanding this obstacle, the place was eventually surrendered.

An attempt upon Lochum, an important city, in Gelderland, was unsuccessful, the place being relieved by the Duke of Anjou's forces, and Parma's troops forced to abandon the siege. At Steenwyk, the royal arms were more successful, Colonel Tassis, conducted by a treacherous Frisian peasant, having surprised the city which had so, long and so manfully sustained itself against Renneberg during the preceding winter. With this event the active operations under Parma closed for the year. By the end of the autumn, however, he had the satisfaction of numbering, under his command, full sixty thousand well-appointed and disciplined troops, including the large reinforcements recently despatched: from Spain and Italy. The monthly expense of this army-half of which was required for garrison duty, leaving only the other moiety for field Operations--was estimated at six hundred and fifty thousand florins. The forces under Anjou and the united provinces were also largely increased, so that the marrow of the land was again in fair way of being thoroughly exhausted by its defenders and its foes.

The incidents of Anjou's administration, meantime, during the year 1582, had been few and of no great importance. After the pompous and elaborate "homage-making" at Antwerp, he had, in the month of July, been formally accepted, by writing, as Duke of Guelders and Lord of Friesland. In the same month he had been ceremoniously, inaugurated at Bruges as Count of Flanders--an occasion upon which the Prince of Orange had been present. In that ancient and stately city there had been, accordingly, much marching about under triumphal arches, much cannonading and haranguing, much symbol work of suns dispelling fogs, with other cheerful emblems, much decoration of ducal shoulders with velvet robes lined with weasel skin, much blazing of tar-barrels and torches. In the midst of this event, an attempt was made upon the lives both of Orange and Anjou. An Italian, named Basa, and a Spaniard, called Salseda, were detected in a scheme to administer poison to both princes, and when arrested, confessed that they had been hired by the Prince of Parma to compass this double assassination. Basa destroyed himself in prison. His body was, however, gibbeted, with an inscription that he had attempted, at the instigation of Parma, to take the lives of Orange and Anjou. Salseda, less fortunate, was sent to Paris, where he was found guilty, and executed. by being torn to pieces by four horses. Sad to relate, Lamoral Egmont, younger son and namesake of the great general, was intimate with Salseda, and implicated in this base design. His mother, on her death-bed, had especially recommended the youth to the kindly care of Orange. The Prince had ever recognized the claim, manifesting uniform tenderness for the son of his ill-started friend; and now the youthful Lamoral--as if the name of Egmont had not been sufficiently contaminated by the elder brother's treason at Brussels--had become the comrade of hired conspirators against his guardian's life. The affair was hushed up, but the story was current and generally believed that Egmont had himself undertaken to destroy the Prince at his own table by means of poison which he kept concealed in a ring. Saint Aldegonde was to have been taken off in the same way, and a hollow ring filled with poison was said to have been found in Egmont's lodgings.

The young noble was imprisoned; his guilt was far from doubtful; but the powerful intercessions of Orange himself, combined with Egmont's near relationship to the French Queen saved his life, and he was permitted, after a brief captivity, to take his departure for France.

The Duke of Anjou, a month later, was received with equal pomp, in the city of Ghent. Here the ceremonies were interrupted in another manner. The Prince of Parma, at the head of a few regiments of Walloons, making an attack on a body of troops by which Anjou had been escorted into Flanders, the troops retreated in good order, and without much loss, under the walls of Ghent, where a long and sharp action took place, much to the disadvantage of Parma, The Prince, of Orange and the Duke; of Anjou were on the city walls during the whole skirmish giving orders and superintending the movements of their troops, and at nightfall Parma was forced, to retire, leaving a large number of dead behind him.

The 15th day of December, in this year was celebrated according to the new ordinance of Gregory the Thirteenth--as Christmas. It was the occasion of more than usual merry-making among the Catholics of Antwerp, who had procured, during the preceding summer, a renewed right of public worship from Anjou and the estates. Many nobles of high rank came from France, to pay their homage to the new Duke of Brabant. They secretly expressed their disgust, however, at the close constitutional bonds in which they found their own future sovereign imprisoned by the provinces. They thought it far beneath the dignity of the "Son of France" to play the secondary part of titular Duke of Brabant, Count of Flanders, Lord of Friesland, and the like, while the whole power of government was lodged with the states. They whispered that it was time to take measures for the incorporation of the Netherlands into France, and they persuaded the false and fickle Anjou that there would never be any hope of his royal brother's assistance, except upon the understanding that the blood and treasure of Frenchmen were to be spent to increase the power, not of upstart and independent provinces, but of the French crown.

They struck the basest chords of the Duke's base nature by awakening his jealousy of Orange. His whole soul vibrated to the appeal. He already hated the man by whose superior intellect he was overawed, and by whose pure character he was shamed. He stoutly but secretly swore that he would assert his own rights; and that he would no longer serve as a shadow, a statue, a zero, a Matthias. It is needless to add, that neither in his own judgment nor in that of his mignons, were the constitutional articles which he had recently sworn to support, or the solemn treaty which he had signed and sealed at Bordeaux, to furnish any obstacles to his seizure of unlimited power, whenever the design could be cleverly accomplished. He rested not, day or night, in the elaboration of his plan.

Early in January, 1583, he sent one night for several of his intimate

The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1582-84 - 1/11

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