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History of the United Netherlands: from the death of William the Silent to the twelve years' truce--1609 (Volume 2) online

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of the Leaguers, coalescing with those of the Huguenots
whose fidelity might prove stanch even against the religious
apostasy contemplated by their chief — this combination might
prove an over-match for the ultra-leaguers, the democrats,
and the Spaniards. The king's name would be a tower of
strength for that " third party," which began to rear its head
very boldly and to call itself " Politica." Madam League
might succumb to this new rival in the fickle hearts of the

At the beginning of the year 1591, Buzanval had presented
his credentials to the States-General at the Hague 26 Jan.
as envoy of Henry IV. In the speech which he 1591.
made on this occasion he expressed the hope that the mission
of the Viscount Turenne, his Majesty's envoy to England and
to the Netherlands, had made kno^vn the royal sentiments
towards the States and the great satisfaction of the king with
their energetic sympathy and assistance. It was notorious, said
Buzanval, that the King of Spain for many years had been
governed by no other motive than to bring all the rest of
Christendom under his dominion, while at the same time he
forced upon those already placed under his sceptre a violent
tyranny, passing beyond all the bounds that God, nature, and
reason had sot to lawful forms of government. In regard to
nations born under other laws than his, he had used the pretext
of religion for reducing them to servitude. The wars stirred up

'3 De Thou, xi. 447, 448.


by his family in Germany, and his recent invasion of England,
were proofs of this intention, still fresh in the memory of all
men. Still more flagrant were his machinations in the present
troubles of France. Of his dealings with his hereditary realms,
the condition of the noble provinces of the Netherlands, once so
blooming under reasonable laws, furnished a sufficient illus-
tration. You see, my masters, continued the envoy, the subtle
plans of the Spanish king and his counsellors to reach with cer-
tainty the object of their ambition. They have reflected that
Spain, which is the outermost comer of Europe, cannot con-
veniently make war upon other Christian realms. They have
seen that a central position is necessaiy to enable them to
stretch their arms to every side. They have remembered that
princes who in earlier days were able to spread their wings over
all Christendom had their throne in France, like Charles the
Great and his descendants. Therefore the king is now earnestly
bent on seizing this occasion to make himself master of France.
The death of the late king (Henry III.) had no sooner occurred,
than — as the blood through great terror rushes from the
extremities and overflows the heart — they here also, fearing
to lose their opportunity and astonished at the valour of our
present king, abandoned all their other enterprises in order to
pour themselves upon France.'^

Buzanval further reminded the States that Henry had
received the most encouraging promises from the protestant
princes of Germany, and that so great a personage as the
Viscount Turenne, who had now gone thither to reap the fruit
of those promises, would not have been sent on such a mission
except that its result was certain. The Queen of England.
too, had promised his Majesty most liberal assistance.

It was not necessary to argue as to the close connection
between the cause of the Netherlands and that of France.
The king had beaten down the mutiny of his own subjects,
and repulsed the invasion of the Dukes of Savoy and of
Lorraine. In consideration of the assistance promised by
Germany and England — for a powerful army would be at the

" Bor, HI. xxviii. 551, 553.


command of Hemy in the spring — it might be said that
the Netherlands might repose for a time and recruit their
exhausted energies, under the shadow of these mighty pre-

" I do not believe, however," said the minister, " that you
will all answer me thus. The faint-hearted and the inexpe-
rienced might flatter themselves with such thoughts, and
seek thus to cover their cowardice, but the zealous and the
courageous will see that it is time to set sail on the ship, now
that the wind is rising so freshly and favourably.

"For there are many occasions when an army might be
ruined for want of twenty thousand crowns. What a pity if
a noble edifice, furnished to the roof-tree, should fall to decay
for want of a few tiles. No doubt your own interests are
deeply connected with our own. Men may say that our pro-
posals should be rejected on the principle that the shirt is
nearer to the skin than the coat, but it can be easily proved
that our cause is one. The mere rumour of this army will
prevent the Duke of Parma from attacking you. His forces
will be drawn to France. He will be obliged to intercept the
crash of this thunderbolt. The assistance of this army is
worth millions to you, and has cost you nothing. To bring
France into hostility with Spain is the very policy that
you have always pursued and always should pursue in order
to protect your freedom. You have always desired a war
between France and Spain, and here is a fierce and cruel one
in which you have hazarded nothing. It cannot come to an
end without bringing signal advantages to yourselves.

" You have always desired an alliance with a French
sovereign, and here is a firm friendship offered you by our
king, a natural alliance.

" You know how unstable are most treaties that are founded
on shifting interests, and do not concern the freedom of bodies
and souls. The first are written with pen upon paper, and
are generally as light as paper. They have no roots in the
heart. Those founded on mutual assistance on trying ocoa-

" Bor, in. xxviii. 551, 553


sions have the perjietual strength of nature. They hring
always good and enduring fruit in a rich soil like the heart
of our king ; that heart which is as beautiful and as pure from
all untruth as the lily upon his shield.

" You wiU derive the first profits from the army thus raised.
From the moment of its mustering under a chief of such
experience as Turenne, it will absorb the whole attention of
Spain, and will draw her thoughts from the Netherlands
to France."

All this and more in the same earnest manner did the
envoy urge upon the consideration of the States-General,
concluding with a demand of 100,000 florins as their con-
tribution towards the French campaign.^"

His eloquence did not fall upon unwilling ears ; for the
9 May, States-General, after taking time to deliberate,
1591. replied to the propositions by an expression of the
strongest sympathy wdth, and admiration for, the heroic
efforts of the King of France. Accordingly, notwithstanding
their own enormous expenses, past and present, and their
strenuous exertions at that very moment to form an army of
foot and horse for the campaign, the brilliant results of which
have already been narrated, they agreed to furnish the
required loan of 100,000 florins to be repaid in a year, besides
six or seven good ships of war to co-operate with the fleets of
England and France upon the coasts of Normandy.^^ And
the States Avere even better than their word.

Before the end of autumn of the year 1591, Henry had
laid siege to Kouen, then the second city of the kingdom.
To leave much longer so important a place — dominating, as
it did, not only Normandy but a principal portion of the
maritime borders of France — under the control of the League
and of Spain was likely to be fetal to Henry's success. It
was perfectly sound in Queen Elizabeth to insist as she did,
with more than her usual imperiousness towards her excel-
lent brother, that he should lose no more time before
reducing that city. It was obvious that Rouen in the hands
i« Bor, HI. xxv-iii. 551, 553. " Ibid. 553, 553.


of her arch-enemy was a perpetual menace to the safety of
her own kingdom. It was therefore with correct judgment, as
well as with that high-flown gallantry so dear to the heart of
Elizabeth, that her royal champion and devoted slave assured
her of his determination no longer to defer obeying her com-
mands in this respect.

The queen had repeatedly warned him of the necessity of
defending the maritime frontier of his kingdom, and she was
not sparing of her reproaches that the large sums which she
expended in his cause had been often ill bestowed. Her
criticisms on Avhat she considered his military mistakes were
not few, her threats to withdraw her subsidies frequent.
" Owning neither the East nor the West Indies," she said,
" we are unable to supply the constant demands upon us ; and
although we have the reputation of being a good housewife,
it does not follow that we can be a housewife for all the
world." '^ She was persistently warning the king of an attack
upon Dieppe, and rebuking him for occupying himself with
petty enterprises to the neglect of vital points. She expressed
her surprise that after the departure of Parma, he had not
driven the Spaniards out of Brittany, without allowing them
to fortify themselves in that country. "I am astonished,"
she said to him, " that your eyes are so blinded as not to see
this danger. Remember, my dear brother," she frankly
added, "^'that it is not only France that I am aiding, nor are
my own natural realms of little consequence to me. Believe
me, if I see that you have no more regard to the ports and
maritime places nearest to us, it will be necessary that my
prayers should serve you in place of any other assistance,
because it does not please me to send my people to the
shambles where they may perish before having rendered you
any assistance. I am sure the Spaniards will soon besiege
Dieppe, Beware of it, and excuse my bluntness, for if in the
beginning you had taken the maritime forts, which are the
very gates of your kingdom, Paris would not have been so
well furnished, and other places nearer the heart of the

18 queen to the Duke (I'Espenion, 19 Feb, 1593, (S. P, Office MS )


kingdom would not have received so mucli foreign assistance,
without which the others woukl have soon been vanquished.
Pardon my simplicity as belonging to my own sex wishing to
give a lesson to one who knows better, but my experience in
government makes me a little obstinate in believing that I
am not ignorant of that which belongs to a king, and I per-
suade myself that in following my advice you will not fail to
conquer your assailants." ^^

Before the end of the year Henry had obtained control of
the Seine, both above and below the city, holding Pont
de I'Arche on the north — where was the last bridge across
the river ; that of Rouen, buUt by the English when they
governed Normandy, being now in ruins — and Caudebec on
the south in an iron grasp. Several war-vessels sent by the
Hollanders, according to the agreement with Buzanval, cruised
in the north of the river below Caudebec, and rendered much
service to the king in cutting off sujjplies from the beleaguered
place, while the investing army of Hemy, numbering twenty-
five thousand foot — inclusive of the English contingent,
and three thousand Netherlanders — and ten thousand ca-
valry, nearly all French, was fast reducing the place to ex-

Parma, as usual, in obedience to his master's orders, but

*' Queen to the King of France, 7 | them, but how contrarily the King

March, 1593. (S. P. Office MS.
French, in her own hand.) " The
poor king," said Umton, " must be
miraculously defended by God, or else
he cannot long subsist. He wanteth

took another course to seek other
towns and places, and to permit her
M.'s forces to remain about Dieppe
almost two montlis without any use
but to spend her M.'s money, and to

means and has need of miracles, and I waste her people, and instead of be-
without herMajestysupholdiugwould sieging of Rouen, suffered it to be vie-
quickly perish. She only giveth life tualled, manned, and fortified in such
to his actions and terror to his ene- sort as experience hath taught the
mies " To Burghley, from Dieppe, 15 , King how difficult, or rather how de-
March, 1593. (S. P. Office MS.) I sperate, it hath been as yet to recover

" Knowing," said Sir Robert CecU, it And of tliis error hath

'■ that no place in all France, no, not followed the opportunity of th« Duke
Paris itself, was of more importance of Parma's entering with so mighty an
to be recovered than Rouen and New- army, and the King's professed disa-
haven, the Queen levied and sent over bility to fight with him." Mr. Wilkes's
troops with such speed as the like has Instructions to the French King : the
seldom been seen, being performed whole in Sir R. Cecil's handwriting ;
within twenty days, sending also a 19 March, 1593. (S. P. Office MS.)
nobleman of her own realm to conduct i


entirely against his own judgment, had again left the rising
young general of the Netherlands to proceed from one triumph
to another, while he transferred beyond the borders of that
land which it was his first business to protect, the whole
weight of his military genius and the better portion of his
well-disciplined forces.

Most bitterly and indignantly did he express himself, both
at the outset and during the whole progress of the expedition,
concerning the utter disproportions between the king's means
and aims. The want of money w^as the cause of wholesale
disease, desertion, mutiny, and death in his slender army.
Such great schemes as his master's required, as he per-
petually urged, liberality of expenditure and measures of
breadth. He protested that he was not to blame for the ruin
likely to come upon the whole enterprise. He had besought,
remonstrated, reasoned with the king in vain. He had seen
his beard first grow, he said, in the king's service, and he had
grown gray in that service, but rather than be kept longer in
such a position, without money, men, or means to accomplish
the great purposes on which he was sent, he protested that
he would abandon his office and retire into the woods to feed
on roots.^ Repeatedly did he implore his master for a large
and powerful army ; for money and again monej^ The royal
plans should be enforced adequately or abandoned entirely.
To spend money in small sums, as beretofore, was only throw-
ing it into the sea.-^

It was deep in the winter however before he could fairly
come to the rescue of the besieged city. Towards January
the end of January, 1592, he moved out of Hainault, I'^i^S-
and once more made his junction at Guise with the Duke of
Mayenne. At a revicAv of his forces on 16th January, 1592,
Alexander found himself at the head of thirteen thousand
five hundred and sixteen infantry and four thousand and
sixty-one cavalry. The Duke of Mayenne's army, for pay-
ment of which that personage received from Philip 100,000

'" Parma to Philip, It March, 1592. "Que antes me detenninaria a reco
germe en un bosque a comer raices." (Arch, de Simancas MS.) -' Ibid.


dollars a month, besides 10,000 dollars a month for his own
pocket, ought to have numbered ten thousand foot and three
thousand horse, according to contract, but was in reality
much less/^

The Duke of Montemarciano, nephew of Gregory XIV.,
had brought two thousand Swiss, furnished by the pontiff to
the cause of the League, and the Duke of Lorraine had sent
his kinsmen, the Counts Chaligny and Vaudemont, with a
force of seven hundred lancers and cuirassiers.^

The town of Fere was assigned in pledge to Famese to
hold as a convenient mustering-place and station in proximity
to his own borders, and, as usual, the chief command over the
united armies was placed in his hands. These arrangements
concluded, the allies moved slowly forward much in the same

'^ From a statement in the Archives of Simancas, dated 25 Nov. 1591, it
appears that the force called tlie " greater army of France " (el ejercito mayoi
de Francia), provided by Philip, and under command of Famese, was com,
posed of —

Infantry • 23,512 Costing per month $115,981

Cavalry 4,969 „ „ 44,505

Other expenses of the army, in-
cluding $12,629 per month for
artillery- ; salaries, of which
the Duke of Parma'swas $3600
per month, and other contin-
gencies ...... ^ „ 42,321

Besides a large monthly sum for

secret military service.

Thus the whole force was . . 28,481 men, costing per month $202,807
But there were 7681 wanting to
the number determined upon,
which addedwould give total of 7,681

36,162 men, costing per month $250,871
The force included — of Spanish infantry . . . . . . 6,078 men.

German „ 11,518 „

The rest being Walloons and Italians.

The lesser armv of France (ejercito menor de Francia) was stated at —

10,000 foot '. costing per month $49,912

3,000 horse „ „ 49,750

Total 99,662,

and was commanded by the Duke of Mayenne, but paid by the King of Spain.

To the Duke of Mayenne, in person, according to order, $10,000 per month.
— (" A la persona del Duque de Umena conforme la orden.")

The total of the King's army in the Netherlands was stated at 29,233 men,
at a monthly cost of $149,187 ; but there was a large number wanting. The
total force of the three armies paid for by Philip was intended to be 86,561
men, at a monthly cost of $542,428.

*2 De Thou, t. xi. 452, seqq. Bentivoglio, P. II. lib. vi. p. 356-369.

1592. SIEGE OP ROUEN. 139

order as in the previous year. The young Duke of Guise, who
had just made his escape from the prison of Tours, where he
had been held in durance since the famous assassination of
his father and uncle, and had now come to join his uncle
Mayenne, led the vanguard, Ranuccio, son of the duke, rode
.also in the advance, while two experienced commanders,
Vitry and De la Chatre, as well as the ftxmous Marquis del
Vasto, formerly general of cavalry in the Netherlands, who
had been transferred to Italy but was now serving in the
League's army as a volunteer, were associated with the young
j)rinces. Parma, Mayenne, and Montemarciano rode in the
battalia, the rear being under command of the Duke of
Aumale and the Count Chaligny. Wings of cavalry pro-
tected the long trains of wagons which were arranged on
each flank of the invading army. The march was very slow,
it being Farnese's uniform practice to guard himself scrupu-
lously against any possibility of surprise and to entrench
himself thoroughly at nightflill.^

By the middle of February they reached the vicinity of
Aumale in Picardy. Meantime Henry, on the news of the
advance of the relieving army, had again the same problem
to solve that had been presented to him before Paris in the
summer of 1590. Should he continue in the trenches, pressing
more and more closely the city already reduced to great
straits ? Should he take the open field against the invaders
and once more attempt to crush the League and its most
redoubtable commander in a general engagement ? Biron
strenuously advised the continuance of the siege. Turenne,
now, through his recent marriage with the heiress, called Due
de Bouillon, great head of the Huguenot party in France,
counselled as warmly the open attack. Henry, hesitating
more than was customary with him, at last decided on a
middle course. The resolution did not seem a very Avise one,
but the king, who had been so signally out-generalled in the
preceding campaign by the great Italian, was anxious to
avoid his former errors, and might perhaps fall into as
** Bentivoglio, ubisup De Thou, ubi m/p. Dondini, iii. 474, scqij.


great ones by attempting two inconsistent lines of action.
Leaving Biron in command of the infantry and a portion of
the horse to continue the siege, he took the field himself
with the greater part of the cavalry, intending to intercept
and harass the enemy and to prevent his manifest purpose
of throwing reinforcements and supplies into the invested

Proceeding to Neufchatel and Aumale, he soon found him-
self in the neighbourhood of the Leaguers, and it was not long
before skirmishing began. At this time, on a memorable
occasion, Henry, forgetting as usual in his eagerness for the
joys of the combat that he was not a young captain of cavalry
with his spurs to win by dashing into every mad adventure
that might present itself, but a king fighting for his crown,
with the welfare of a whole people depending on his fortunes,
thought proper to place himself at the head of a handful of
troopers to reconnoitre in person the camp of the Leaguers.
Starting with five hundred horse, and ordering Lavardin and
Givry to follow with a larger body, while the Dukes of Nevers
and Longueville were to move out, should it prove necessary,
in force, the king rode forth as merrily as to a hunting party,
drove in the scouts and pickets of the confederated armies,
and, advancing still farther in his investigations, soon found
himself attacked by a cavalry force of the enemy much
superior to his own. A skirmish began, and it was necessary
for the little troop to beat a hasty retreat, fighting as it ran.
It was not long before Henry was recognised by the enemy,
and the chase became all the more lively ; George Basti, the
famous Albanian trooper, commanding the force which
pressed most closely upon the king. The news spread to the
camp of the League that the Bearnese was the leader of the
skirmishers, Mayenne believed it, and urged the instant
advance of the flying squadron and of the whole vanguard.
Farnese refused. It was impossible that the king should be
there, he said, doing picket duty at the head of a company.
It was a clumsy ambush to bring on a general engagement
in the open field, and he was not to be drawn out of his


trenches into a trap by such a shallow device. A French
captain, who by command of Henry had purposely allowed
himself to be taken, informed his captors that the skirmishers
were in reality supported by a heavy force of infantry. This
suggestion of the ready Bearnese confirmed the doubts of
Alexander. Meantime the skirmishing steeplechase went on
before his eyes. The king dashing down a hill received an
arquebus shot in his side, but still rode for his life. Lavardin
and Givry came to the rescue, but a panic seized their fol»
lowers as the rumour flew that the king was mortally
wounded — was already dead — so that they hardly brought a
sufficient force to beat back the Leaguers. Givry's horse was
soon killed under him, and his own thigh crushed ; Lavardin
was himself dangerously wounded. The king Avas more hard
pressed than ever, men were falling on every side of him,
when four hundred French dragoons — as a kind of musketeers
who rode on hacks to the scene of action but did their work
on foot, were called at that day — now dismounted and threw
themselves between Henry and his pursuers. Nearly every
man of them laid down his life, but they saved the king's.
Their vigorous hand to hand fighting kept off the assailants
until Nevers and Longueville received the king at the gates
of Aumale with a force before which the Leaguers were fain to
retreat as rapidly as they had come.^

*^ Bentivoglio, ubi sup. Dondini,
iii. 480^94. Coloma, v.. 81, seqq.,
who {ifives the date of this remarkable
skirmish as Feb. 16, while Umton
furnishes a description of the affair in
his letter of ^^^r^r^- Both were present
on the g^round.

" The king was most unhappily shot
into tlie lowest part of his reins, which
did nothing amaze liim, and he not-
withstanding, with great resolution,
comforted the rest, and made liis re-
treat Tlie sliot (entered

with obliqiiity downwards into the
flesh, and not directly into the body,
so that great hope is received of his
short recovery, and tlie surgeon is of
opinion that no vital y)art is offended."
Umton (who mad» the whole cam-

paign with the King) to Burghley,
tS: ' 1593. (S. p. Office MS )

Sir E. Stafford, who died towards
the end of 1590, was succeeded as
ambassador to Henry IV. by Sir
Henry Umton, or Umpton, son of Sir
Edward Umpton, by Anne, relict of
John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, and
eldest daughter of Edward Seymour,
Duke of Somerset. In the spring of
this year he cliallenged the Duke of
Guise for speaking of Queen Elizabeth
"impudently, lightly, and overboldly,
whose Siicnui person he represented."
He ])ropos('d to meet the Duke with
wliatever arms he should clioose, and

Online LibraryJohn Lothrop MotleyHistory of the United Netherlands: from the death of William the Silent to the twelve years' truce--1609 (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 118)