William Elliot Griffis.

Young people's history of Holland online

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was a shrewd politician, kept himself informed
of the secrets of the Spanish king ; for he paid
the clerk to the king's secretary in Madrid
three hundred crowns a year for sending him
copies of documents taken at night from his
royal master's pockets. Orange knew that he
must either conform to the king's orders or
escape to some other country. Egmont became
a hot royalist. Brederode retired to the town of

Vianen, and fortified it.



Some of the other confederated nobles were
attacked at Ostrawaal, near Antwerp, and
badly defeated. A force of three thousand
Protestants, who were marching to help their
fellow believers shut up in Valenciennes, was
routed and scattered. Then the city surren-
dered, after a siege of five months. Two hun-
dred of the people were brutally murdered in
cold blood.

The outlook was now very black ; for instead
of Philip's coming to show mercy, the merci-
less duke of Alva was rapidly advancing from
the south with an army of Spaniards and Ital-
ians. The time had come for Egmont and
Orange to part, one from the other, never more
to look upon each other's face. A popular
story declares that, in his haste, Orange's head
was uncovered. At their farewell meeting,
Egmont said, " Good-by, Prince without a hat ; ' :
and Orange replied, even more mournfully,
" Good-by, Count without a head."

At the Spanish council in Madrid, three
nobles pleaded for mercy and methods of wise
gentleness ; but Granvelle the cardinal and
the duke of Alva urged a policy of fire and
blood. One side argued that the Netherland-
ers were quiet, serious people, who would yield

to kindness and reason. The others declared



that Dutchmen were only "men of butter,"
able to raise hens and chickens, but that they
would not fight.

How strange that Philip could not know
that people who had for a thousand years been
battling against the sea were too brave and

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earnest to be trifled with ; but he was too blind
a bigot to see anything very clearly beyond
what he had been educated to believe. He
was a typical Spaniard ; and his pride was the
cause of his ruin.





Now began the gathering and the march of
the Spanish army, numbering over ten thou-
sand men, and one of the finest that had been
seen in Europe since the days of the Roman
legions. This army, so handsomely equipped,
did not stand for freedom, but for oppression.
It represented all the elements of the old, the
mediaeval world, that was already passing away,
though nobles, soldiers, and priests could not
see it. Nor could these splendid warriors
dream that the sailors, peasants, merchants, and
men of the new world the new world of the
printing press, the open Bible, and the free
school were in the end to triumph.

The Spanish and Italian veterans believed
in the king and the holy corporation called the
Church, and in government for the sake of the
governors, instead of the governed ; and they
believed that God was on their side. To sup-
port Philip's army, even the clergy and inquisi-



tors contributed their money as if it were for a
crusade. Spanish noblemen, eager to kill here-
tics, and also to get rich off their spoil, came
with the army as volunteers. Over the moun-
tains of Italy, and down through Switzerland
and France, this splendid body of men marched.
They were mostly veterans, the officers in gold
inlaid armor, and the soldiers with hats of steel,
and armed with the finest weapons of keenest
temper. Large numbers among them were
equipped with firearms. When they reached
the Netherlands and joined the other troops,
the united forces were twenty thousand strong.
When the news was confirmed that this army
of chastisement had really begun its march, the
country seemed paralyzed. At once, from the
Belgian or southern Netherlands chiefly, began
a great exodus of the people to lands of refuge,
in order to escape death and loss of property.
Hundreds of thousands fled to England, Hol-
land, Germany, and Denmark. Nobles, mer-
chants, mechanics, peasants, and laborers were
mixed together in the great company that
turned their backs upon the homeland and set
their faces north, east, and west. On large ships
and small, and on fishing boats, they fled across
the channel, making in all, counting those of

earlier flight, a hundred thousand people, who



settled mostly in the southern and eastern
towns of England.

Many of these emigrants were, in reality, as
they called themselves, " beggars." These had
to be helped by the magistrates and the char-
ity of the people of the English, Dutch, and
German towns and cities. Most of them,
however, were thrifty, God-fearing, and Bible-
reading people, with enough money to main-
tain themselves and to start industries new to
the countries in which they began life afresh.
They enjoyed family worship and loved their
religion, considering conscience more than

These Netherlander so enriched England
with their new trades and " mysteries," that
Queen Elizabeth was only too glad to wel-
come them in her realm. In a great industrial
procession at Norwich, in which these " Flem-
ings " surprised the English with their wonder-
ful machines, inventions, and occupations, she
was present in great state. Indeed, these re-
fugees changed England from an agricultural

o o o o

country that raised only sheep and wool, and
had little or no foreign commerce, into one
that soon, with manufactures and commerce,
led the world.

The Belgic Netherlands lost, during the

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seventeen years, from 1567 to the capture of
Antwerp by Parma in 1585, a million people,
the most industrious and capable in the coun-
try; while the Spanish armies, often unpaid
and mutinous, were like seventeen-year locusts,
eating up the country. This was the begin-
ning of that " eighty years' war," during which
350,000 Spaniards or their mercenaries were
to find graves in the soil of the Netherlands.

Margaret had feared just what came to pass.
The Spanish army, she thought, would only
stir up fresh troubles and depopulate the coun-
try; so she begged her brother the king to
stop the march of the troops. Philip's only
reply was in ordering Alva to hasten his steps.
When Egmont came out to meet Alva, the
latter said, " Here comes the arch-heretic."
When the Dutch nobles, hoping by their cour-
tesy to soften the duke, congratulated him, he
said, " Welcome or not, it is all one. Here
I am."

Margaret, now very angry, asked her royal
brother that she might be dismissed. Alva
soon showed her what he had come for. He
garrisoned the towns and kept the keys of the
gates. He had Counts Hoorn and Egmont
and other nobles arrested, thrown into prison,

and their household effects and papers seized ;



but Hoogstraaten escaped. When Granvelle,
" the red fellow " in Madrid, heard that Alva
had seized the nobles, he asked -whether they
had caught William the Silent. When they
told him no, he replied, " Ah, then, if he is not
in the nest, Alva has caught nothing."

The duke of Alva began to obtain, as far
as possible, the charters of the cities, and to
break both their seals and the king's promises.
The Pope had given permission to the king
of Spain to be rid of his oath, and to lie in-
stead of keeping his promises. Alva erected
what he called a Council of Troubles, but
which soon received the name from the peo-
ple of the Council of Blood. It was made up
of twelve members, with a Spaniard at the
head. In it was a judge named Hessels, who
was often asleep during the trials, but who
usually voted " To the gallows ! To the gal-
lows ! " It is not wonderful that, having hanged
so many others, Hessels himself was at last,
eleven years afterwards, hanged to a tree by
the people of Ghent.

Margaret soon after resigned and left the
country, and the duke of Alva became gov-
ernor-general. He had those who had worn


the Beggars' badges, or drunk their health, put

to death. He had rich people tried and their

1 68


property seized, after which they were dragged
at the tail of a horse to the gallows and
hanged, while the poor were tortured and put
to death at once. It was common to find
trees loaded with corpses, and bodies burned,
mangled, and headless, or fastened to stakes.
Within a few weeks, hundreds of people were
put to death, Alva declaring that the king
would rather see the whole country a desert
than allow a single heretic to live in it. All
business was for a time stopped. Thousands
of the fugitive men enlisted in the army of the
Huguenots in France, while the " Wild Beg-
gars ' in the woods of West Flanders, who
had to get food or starve, became a terror to
the country; but many of these were caught
and quickly put to death by Alva's soldiers.

Alva made war even on children. The son
of William the Silent, then a student at the
University of Louvain, was seized and sent to
Spain. The brothers William and Louis of
Nassau, and the nobles Brederode and Hoog-
straaten, were summoned to the court. Alva
fortified the frontier towns on the German as
well as on the French side, and began to com-
plete a strong citadel at Antwerp.

One hundred thousand people had in the

one year of 1568 left the Netherlands to escape



the Inquisition and Alva. Many of these were
seafaring men from towns on the coast. As
exiles from home, these ship captains, sailors,
and fishermen were not content to settle down
quietly, but longed to be on the waves again.
They quickly took to the sea to destroy Span-
ish commerce and revenge the death of those
whom Alva beheaded. At first freebooters
and pirates, they became in time the liberators
of their country. We shall soon hear of these
" Water Beggars," or " Beggars of the Sea."

It was about this time that the flag of the
Netherlands, the Dutch tri-color, took its rise.
These brave patriots looked to the prince of
Orange, the stadholder of Holland, as their
leader, and so they chose as their standard the
three principal colors on his coat of arms,
orange, white, and blue. At first the common
sailors did not know how to arrange them in
their proper order, and those who had charge
of the ship's flag would sometimes put the
blue or white topmost. Then the captain
would roar out, " Oranje boven," the orange
color first, on top, or " Up with the orange."
Thus it came to pass that orange, white, and
blue became the national colors for a century
or more, and the cry " Oranje boven ' con-
tinues to this day.




WILLIAM OF ORANGE, now feeling that there
was no hope of reconciliation with the king,
published, in 1568, in several languages, a de-
fense of his conduct, and reviewed the events
of the last few years. He then began to raise
an army. He declared that the penal edicts
had been enacted for the purpose of rooting
out the pure word and service of God.

On his banners were his own ancestral coat
of arms. It was rich in the colors orange,
white, and blue, and in lion emblems. One of
the four large quarterings bore seventeen turf-
brick marks, representing the seventeen pro-
vinces of the Netherlands. The smaller shield
overlapping the quarterings had on it the hunt-
ing-horns of his ancestor, a grandson of Charle-
magne. On the heart, and in the centre of all,
he set the cross of Geneva, the city of Calvin,
in token of his own faith founded on the Bible.
On another banner was the emblem of the

mother pelican in the nest, feeding her young



with blood from her own breast, with the
motto, Pro rege, pro lege, pro grege ; that is,
" For the king, for the law, for the common-
wealth." Still other banners were embroidered
with the emblem of the beggar's bowl and
sack. In those days there was scarcely any
idea of government without a king or prince
of some sort, and so, although Philip was the
chief enemy of the people, and William was
fighting against him, yet, since he was a ruler
undeposed, William's motto was Pro rege ; that
is, " For the king." He was fighting in Philip's
name, just as our fathers, before July 4, 1776,
fought the battle of Lexington and marched to

o o

Bunker Hill in the name of King George III.

William was slow and deliberate ; of his
four brothers, Henry was the youngest, Louis
was the most impulsive and hasty, Adolph was
the most eager, and John, the next oldest to
William, was the most statesmanlike.

Hastily gathering a few hundred soldiers,
Louis invaded Groningen. At a place called
Heiligerlee, and meaning the Holy Lea, or the
Holy Lion, he met the Spanish, Italian, and
German troops which Alva had sent to meet
him. The Spaniards had a battery of field
pieces which were named do, re, mi, fa, sol,

etc., after the notes in the musical scale.



On May 23, 1568, the patriots pretending
to retreat, the Spanish soldiers gave hot pur-
suit, and Louis, thus luring the enemy into
swampy ground, won a great victory. Six
hundred of the enemy were slain and their
baggage and cannon captured, but alas! the
brave young Count Adolph was killed. Three
hundred years after this event, a monument
was erected on the spot to his memory. It
shows the angry lion of Holland and mother
Batavia holding a shield of defense over her

When Alva heard the news of this victory
of the Beggars, he was infuriated. He im-
mediately ordered eighteen noblemen, then in
prison, to be brought forth into the horse mar-
ket at Brussels, where their heads were cut off.
The bodies of seven of them were left on the
highway to rot. Egmont and Hoorn were tried,
as it now seems in mockery, and were con-
demned to death. On June 5, 1568, they were
conducted by two thousand soldiers to the
scaffold in the same horse market at Brussels.
The people could hardly believe that two noble-
men of ancient families, who had served the
king so long and well, could be so cruelly put
to death. They gathered in such crowds that
Alva feared a rescue. The axemen severed



their heads. These were then stuck on iron
poles and exposed during two hours.

After the soldiers had gone away, thousands
rushed to the scaffold to dip their handker-
chiefs in the count's blood, to keep as memen-
toes, while many a stalwart man there vowed
not to cut his hair, nails, or beard, till the
blood of these martyrs was avenged. Indeed,
for years afterwards, the fierce fighting Beggars
were noted for the long hair on their faces
and heads. One man's beard grew down to his
feet and had to be carried on his shoulders.
While patriots swore vengeance, even Spanish
soldiers shed tears. To-day, in Brussels, two
marble statues of these unhappy men, set
over a fountain, commemorate Egmont and

Having thus struck terror into the hearts of
all, Alva marched at the head of his own best
troops into Groningen. The soldiers of Count
Louis were mostly Germans who served only
for pay. He had no money for their wages,
and when Alva appeared, they mutinied, broke
ranks, and fled. In the battle which ensued
at Jemmingen, the Spaniards, led by Alva in
person, slaughtered thousands of them. From
the battle, or rather massacre, Louis escaped
only by leaping into the river Ems and swim-



ming lustily. He reached the opposite shore,
nearly naked, and alone in a foreign land.

Yet without bating a jot of heart or hope,
Louis rallied his forces and moved on to join
his brother William in Germany, who had sold
his family plate and jewels to raise funds, and
had now over twelve thousand men and ten
pieces of artillery. They marched southward
against the duke of Alva, at Maastricht, where
were now over twenty-one thousand men in
waiting. Orange crossed the river Maas Oc-


tober 5, by night, under the light of the moon,
and camped on the opposite shore ; but Alva
would not fire a shot. He fought him, only
with the weapons of time, patience, and retreat
These, strange to say, completely defeated the
prince of Orange. Alva garrisoned the towns
so that no one could help the patriot cause
with men, money, or food. He cut off all
William's supplies, knowing that he would
soon have his money spent and could not pay
his troops, who were Germans, and that these
mercenaries would mutiny.

The shrewd old Spanish veteran, who was
great in that he could conquer himself, was
right in his ideas. William was unable to get
further supplies, and, with an empty treasury,
he was obliged to disband his army at Stras-



burg. Alva, overjoyed at his bloodless vic-
tory, reared a bronze statue of himself in
Antwerp, made of the cannon which he had
captured from Louis at Jemmingen. He then
distributed his troops throughout the cities,
but Amsterdam was excused from quartering
a garrison, by paying two hundred thousand

Alva, at the point of the sword, forced the
new bishops and the decrees of the Council of
Trent upon the people. He demanded from
each city its charter, but the great council of
Leyden refused to obey the order. There-
upon this city was marked for vengeance.
Meanwhile, the hanging, burning, and behead-
ing went on.

The Pope was so pleased with Alva's work
that he sent him a holy hat and sword. At
the same time he excommunicated Queen
Elizabeth, but this only inclined her to help
the Netherlanders. When, further, Elizabeth
seized the money found in some Spanish ships
at Southampton, Alva arrested the English
merchants in the Netherlands, and all trade
was stopped between the two countries for
nearly four years. Nevertheless, Alva had no
cash on hand to pay his troops and soon found

himself in deep trouble. He had promised,



when he left Spain, that he would make a
stream of silver a yard deep flow into the
king's coffers. Knowing very little about busi-
ness matters, he levied a tax of ten per cent,
on all things bought and sold. This roused
first the hatred, and then the defiance of the
Dutch, to an uncontrollable degree. In Zee-
land and Holland especially, the feeling was

Paul Buys, pensionary of Leyden, went into
Germany. There he met the prince of Orange
and told him the state of affairs, how that the
whole people, without regard to their religious
opinions, were bitter against Alva and the new
tax. At once William saw his opportunity.
He determined to make use of the brave sailors,
so numerous in Zeeland and Holland. He
gave commissions to the privateers, who were
at once called the Water Beggars. These men
strapped across their breast, or fastened on
their hats, a silver crescent with the words,
" Better Turk than Papist." They also hoisted
the orange, white, and blue flag of freedom,
and put the arms of the prince on their ban-
ners. Prince William arranged also to receive
aid and gifts through his agents in the dif-
ferent towns, hoping soon to lead another
army. Before he could do anything, a great


flood of water rolled over part of the coun-
try, in November, 1570, breaking the dikes
and sweeping away houses, trees, cattle, and
human beings in one ruin. So nothing could
be done that year. Meanwhile, he gave com-
mand of his little navy to William Van der
Mark, of whom we shall hear again.




WILLIAM OF ORANGE had hard work to find
some place on the earth's surface where his
little navy would be welcome. The Water
Beggars were desperate men, led by Van der
Mark, one of many who had sworn not to cut
hair or beard till Egmont's death was avenged.
The Beggars of the Sea were not popular
anywhere ; for they failed to be particular whose
vessels they seized. All the Dutch ports were
in control of the officers of Philip II., and the
kings of Denmark and Sweden would not
allow them to enter their harbors, so the
havens of England were the only ones in
which they could cast anchor. When Alva
heard of their being received by the English,
he sent word to Elizabeth not to welcome
pirates and rebels from the king of Spain's
dominions. So the English queen, who feared
a war with Spain, ordered the Beggars to quit
her dominion. Then the fleet, flaunting the
tri-color flas: of freedom, was driven out to sea.


Nevertheless, this harsh treatment gave them
their opportunity, and an unexpected victory
on land.

These Sea Beggars, under William Van der
Mark and Treslong, moved out into the Eng-
lish Channel and the North Sea. They cap-
tured two ships under the Spanish flag almost
as soon as they started. They then sailed into
the Texel, and attacked the Spanish ships ly-
ing there, but a great storm came on and drove
them back. Unable to go north, they boldly
dashed into the river Maas April i, 1572, and
came to the town of Briel, from which the
garrison had gone to Utrecht to collect " the
tenth penny."

Briel was the seaport for trade and passen-
gers for England. The Beggars quickly seized
the place and hoisted the colors of Orange
on the lofty church tower, whence they could
be descried by the people for miles around.
Maddened by previous Spanish cruelties, they
smashed the images in the churches. After
hanging thirteen of the priests, they dressed
themselves in their splendid robes and strutted
about in mockery of their office.

This bold and brave exploit of the Water
Beggars at Briel sent a thrill of courage

throughout the country. Their example was

i So


quickly followed. The towns of Veer, Hoorn,
and others defiantly raised the colors of the
prince of Orange.

The duke of Alva was in a rage when he
heard the news. The word " brill," or " briel,"
in Dutch, means a pair of spectacles, and the
funny men made a verse in rhyme, which peo-
ple sang on the streets. It ran as follows :

" Op den eersten April
Vierloor Alva zyn brill ; "

or, as Motley puts it in English :

" On April Fool's Day
Duke Alva's spectacles
Were stolen away,"

though the Dutch know nothing of an April
Fool's Day.

Alva had already punished the cities of
Utrecht and Brussels for not approving of his
policy. The first had refused to consent to
the tax of the tenth penny. When the citi-
zens appealed to the king, he, to vex them,
further ordered out the Spanish garrisons from
Leyden, Haarlem, Delft, and Briel, and quar-
tered them all in Utrecht. By doing this, he
gave the Beggars the chance which they im-
proved at Briel. Amsterdam was fined heavily
for not publishing Alva's tax decree. In Brus-
sels, the people shut their shops and refused



to do any business. The duke then prepared
seventy ladders and ropes, in order to hang
seventy of the principal shopkeepers before
their own doors on the next night. But when
the news of the capture of Briel came, Alva
saw his folly, and went no further in the matter.
Count Bossu, at Utrecht, went back, hoping to
recapture the town he had left.

He and his Spaniards took ship and came
down the river Maas to Briel, where the Beg-
gars had fortified themselves. At the right
time, when the enemy was in sight, one brave
fellow named Rochus Meeuwsen, holding an
axe, climbed out over the sluice gates, hacked
away the timbers, and opened the sluices, so
that the whole country was laid under water.
On account of this, the Spaniards could not
march along the road, but had to step in
single file along the top of the dike. Mean-
while the cannon from the city walls played
on them, and their vessels in the river were all
set on fire or captured. Finding the flood
rising higher and higher, Bossu's men, in much
lessened numbers, retreated by wading, swim-
ming, or groping through marshes, and got
back to Dordrecht very wet, very tired, and
very hungry. As maddened as wounded tigers,

they thirsted for any and all Dutchmen's blood.



Later obtaining ships and boats, they dropped
down the Maas to Rotterdam.

Bossu informed the city authorities that he
was on his way to The Hague, and wished to
pass peacefully through Rotterdam. After
promising to go through the city, marching
only one file of men at a time, the Spaniards
were admitted. Immediately breaking their
promise, they rushed through the streets,
slaughtering men, women, and children. They
behaved more like devils than human beings.

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Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisYoung people's history of Holland → online text (page 9 of 16)