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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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had conceived this plan for obtaining possession of Amiens.
Having sent these disguised soldiers on before him, he had
passed the night w4th his men in ambush until the signal
should sound. The burghers of the town were mostly in
church ; none were dreaming of an attack, as men rarely do —
for otherwise how should they ever be surprised — and in half
an hour Amiens was the property of Philip of Spain, There
were not very many lives lost, for the resistance was small,
but great numbers were tortured for ransom and few women
escaped outrage. The sack was famous, for the city was rich
and the captors were few in number, so that each soldier
had two or three houses to plunder for his own profit.

When the work was done, the faubourgs were all destroyed,
for it was the intention of the conquerors to occupy the place,
which would be a most convenient basis of operations for any
attack upon Paris, and it was desirable to contract the limits
to be defended. Fifteen hundred houses, many of them
beautiful villas surrounded with orchards and pleasure
gardens, were soon in flames, and afterwards razed to
the ground. The governor of the place. Count St. Pol,
managed to effect his escape. His place was now supj)lied
by the Marquis of Montenegro, an Italian in the service of
the Spanish king. Such was the fate of Amiens in the
month of March, 1597 "'j such the result of the refusal by the
citizens to accept the garrison urged upon them by Henry.

It would be impossible to exaggerate the consternation pro-
duced throughout France by this astounding and altogether
unlooked for event. " It seemed," said President De Thou, "as
if it had extinguished in a moment the royal majesty and the
French name." A few nights later than the date of this
occurrence, Maximilian de Bethune ' (afterwards Duke of
Sully, but then called Marquis de Rosny) was asleep in
his bed in Paris. He had returned, at past two o'clock in the
morning, from a magnificent baU given by the Constable of

« Bor, IV. 314, 315. Meteren, 395,
396. BentivogUo, 447. Coloma, 238-
263. De Thou, xiii. 103-109, 118.

Albert to Philip, 14 March, 1597
(Arch, de Simancas MS.)
' De Thou, ubi sup. 109.


France, The capital had been uncommonly brilliant during
the winter with banquets and dances, tourneys and mas-
querades, as if to cast a lurid glare over the unutterable
misery of the people and the complete desolation of the
country ; but this entertainment — given by Montmorency in
honour of a fair dame wdth w^hom he supposed himself des-
perately in love, the young bride of a very ancient courtier —
surpassed in splendour every festival that had been heard of
for years. De Bethune had hardly lost himself in slumber
when he was startled by Beringen, who, on drawing his
curtains in this dead hour of the night, presented such a
ghastly visage that the faithful friend of Henry instantly
imagined some personal disaster to his well-beloved sovereign.
" Is the King dead ? " he cried.*

Being re-assured as to this point and told to hasten to
the Louvre, Rosny instantly complied with the command.
When he reached the palace he was admitted at once to the
royal bed-chamber, where he found the king in the most
unsophisticated of costumes, striding up and down the room,
with his hands clasped together behind his head, and with an
expression of agony upon his face. Many courtiers were
assembled there, stuck all of them like images against the
wall, staring before them in helpless perplexity.-*

Henr}^ rushed forward as Rosny entered, and wringing him
by the hand, exclaimed, " Ah, my friend, what a misfortune,
Amiens is taken ! "

"Very well," replied the .financier, with unperturbed
visage ; " I have just completed a plan which will restore to
your Majesty not only Amiens but many other places."

The king drew a great sigh of relief and asked for his
project. Rosny, saying that he would instantly go and fetch
his papers, left the apartment for an interval, in order to give
vent to the horrible agitation which he had been enduring
and so bravely concealing ever since the fatal words had been
spoken. That a city so important, the key to Paris, without
a moment's warning, without the semblance of a siege, should

^ Sully, Memoires, i. 484, aeqq. • Ibid.


thus fall into the hands of the enemy, was a blow as directly
to the heart of De Bethune as it could have been to any other
of Henry's adherents. But while they had been distracting
the king by unavailing curses or wailings, Henry, who had
received the intelligence just as he was getting into bed, had
sent for support and consolation to the tried friend of years,
and he now reproachfully contrasted their pusillanimity with
De Rosny's fortitude.

A great plan for reorganising the finances of the kingdom
was that very night submitted by Rosny to the king, and it
was wrought upon day by day thereafter until it was carried
into effect.

It must be confessed that the crudities and immoralities
which the project revealed do not inspire the political student
of modern days with so high a conception of the financial
genius of the great minister as his calm and heroic deport-
ment on trying occasions, whether on the battle-field or in
the council-chamber, does of his natural authority over his
fellow-men. The scheme was devised to put money in the
king's coffers, which at that moment were completely empty.
Its chief features were to create a great many new offices in
the various courts of justice and tribunals of administration,
aU to be disposed of by sale to the highest bidder ; to extort
a considerable loan from the chief courtiers and from the
richest burghers in the principal towns ; to compel all the
leading peculators — whose name in the public service was
legion — to disgorge a portion of their ill-gotten gains, on
being released from prosecution ; and to increase the tax
upon salt.^"

Such a project hardly seems a masterpiece of ethics or
political economy, but it was hailed with rapture by the
needy monarch. At once there was a wild excitement amongst
the jobbers and speculators in places. The creation of
an indefinite number of new judgeships and magistracies,
to be disposed of at auction, was a tempting opportunity
even in that age of corruption. One of the most notorious

10 Sully, Memoires, i. lib. ix. p. 485, 8eqq.


traders in the judicial ermine, limping Robin de Tours by
name, at once made a private visit to Madame de Rosny*
and oflfered seventy-two thousand crowns for the exclusive
right to distribute these new offices. If this could be
managed to his satisfaction, he promised to give her a
diamond worth two thousand crowns, and another, worth six
thousand, to her husband. The wife of the great minister,
who did not comprehend the whole amount of the insult,
presented Robin to her husband. She was enlightened,
however, as to the barefaced iniquity of the offer, when she
heard De Bethune's indignant reply, and saw the jobber limp
away, crest-fallen and amazed. That a financier or a magis-
trate should decline a bribe or interfere with the private sale
of places, which were after all objects of merchandise, was to
him incomprehensible. The industrious Robin, accordingly,
recovering from his discomfiture, went straightway to the
chancellor, and concluded the same bargain in the council
chamber which had been rejected by De Bethune, with the
slight difference that the distribution of the places was
assigned to the speculator for seventy-five thousand instead
of seventy-two thousand crowns. It was with great difficulty
that De Bethune. who went at once to the king with com-
plaints and insinuations as to the cleanness of the chancellor's
hands, was able to cancel the ojieration." The day was fast
approaching when the universal impoverishment of the great
nobles and landholders — the result of the long, hideous,
senseless massacres called the wars of religion — was to
open the way for the labouring classes to acquire a pro-
perty in the soil. Thus that famous fowl in every pot was to
make its appearance, which vulgar tradition ascribes to the
bounty of a king who hated everything like popular rights,
and loved nothing but his own glory and his own amusement.
It was not until the days of his grandchildren and great-
grandchildren that Privilege could renew those horrible
outrages on the People, which were to be avenged by a
dread series of wars, massacres, and crimes, comjmred to

" Sully, Memoires, i. lib. ix. p. 490.


which even the religious conflictB of the sixteenth century
grow j)ale.

Meantime De Bethune comforted his master "vvith these
financial j^lans, and assured him in the spirit of jiroj^hecy that
the King of Spain, now tottering as it was thought to his
grave, would soon be glad to make a favourable peace with
France, even if he felt obliged to restore not only Amiens but
every other city or stronghold that he had ever conquered in
that kingdom. Time would soon show whether this predic-
tion Avere coiTect or delusive ; but while the secret negotiations
between Henry and the Pope were vigorously proceeding for
that peace with Spain which the world in general and the
commonwealth of the Netherlands in particular thought to
be farthest from the warlike king's wishes, it was necessary
to set about the siege of Amiens.

Henry assembled a force of some twelve or fifteen thousand
men for that purpose, while the cardinal-archduke, upon his
part, did his best to put an army in the field in order to
relieve the threatened city so recently acquired by a coarse
but successful artifice.

But Albert was in even a worse plight than that in which
his great antagonist found himself. When he had first
arrived in the provinces, his exchequer was ovei'flowing, and
he was even supposed to devote a considerable portion of the
military funds to defray the expenses of his magnificent
housekeeping at Brussels.'^ But those halcyon days were
over. A gigantic fraud, just perpetrated by Philip, had
descended like a thunderbolt upon the provinces and upon all
commercial Europe, and had utterly blasted the unfortunate
dceroy. In the latter days of the preceding year the king
had issued a general repudiation of his debts.

He did it solemnly, too, and with great religious unction,
for it was a peculiarity of this remarkable sovereign that he

'^ "Non possiede 1' amore di quei I e nel sostentar la propria albagia. Da
popoli quanto bisognerehbe, oltrecclie j che nasce poi clie si veggono tante sol-
lia nome di non favorir molto la solda- I levazioni e le cose di quella guerra
tesca e di gettar gran parte di denaro prendono sempre peggior piega." —
ehe doverebbe esser distribuito alle Soranzo. Relazione, before cited, p.
milizie in quelli della sua propria casa i 168.




was ever wont to accomplisli liis darkest crimes, whether
murders or sti-atagems, as if they were acts of virtue. Perhaps
he really believed them to be such, for a man, before whom
80 many millions of his fellow worms had been writhing for
half a century in the dust, might well imagine himself a

So the king, on the 20th November, 1596, had publicly
revoked all the assignments, mortgages, and other deeds
by which the royal domains, revenues, taxes, and other
public property had been transferred or pledged for moneys
already advanced to merchants, bankers, and other companies
or individuals, and formally took them again into his own
possession, on the ground that his exertions in carrying on
this long war to save Christianity from destruction had re-
duced him to beggary, while the money-lenders, by charging
him exorbitant interest, had all grown rich at his expense.^^

"^ " Whereas it has come to our
knowledge," so ran tliis famous pro-
clamation of repudiation in its prin-
cipal paragraphs, " that notwithstand-
ing all which our royal incomes from
this monarchy and from without have
yielded ; together with the assistance
rendered to us by his Holiness to main-
tain the war against the English, and
to protect the Catholic religion, and
with the steady burthens borne for this
object by the subjects and vassals of
the crown, according to their ancient
and great fidelity ; and besides the
great abundance of the gold and silver
produced by our Indies ; likewise all
that has come from the sums furnished
by the farmers of oui finances and
revenues, we find ourselves now so
wholly exhausted and ruined, and our
royal inherited estates so diminished,
and as it were reduced to nothing,
tliat, although the foremost causes f)f
this ruin is the great and incredible
expense which we have sustained and
are still enduring foi- the protection of
Christendom, of our kingdom and do
mains ; other chief causes are the
grievous damages, discounts, and in-
terest which have been forced upon
us, and which at present obtain in
the finances, bills of exchange, and
wther obligations, which have beeii

made and taken up m our name, since
we coiild not escape the same in ordei
to be able to provide for our so en-
tirely necessary and pressing necessi-
ties. Thus all our domains, taxes, re-
venues, and all ordinary and extraor-
dinary resources stand, burthened and
covered with obligations in the hands
of merchants. And what is most op-
pressive, our affairs are come to extre-
mities through our having no means
by which we might help ourselves, nor
do we know of any other resources that
we can make use of. And now the
said merchants, who hitherto have
given on bills of exchange such monies
as were necessary to provide for the
protection of our royal state and to
carry on the war which we are waging
forthese righteous and special reasons,
refuse to do this any longer, and make
difficulties in further dealing with us,
seeing that they have in their own
hands and power all the royal reve-
nues by means of the said pledges, cer-
tificates, and transfers, and hereby
such embarrassments arise that if they
are not provided against, it would be
enouirh to put in hazard all that which
God the Lordlias sohighly commanded
us to perform, nanu'ly, the protection
and maintenance of the Catholic
Church, of our subjects und Vftstjals




This was perfectly simple. There was no attempt to dis-
guise the villany of the transaction. The massacre of so
many millions of Protestants, the gigantic but puerile
attempts to subjugate the Dutch republic, and to annex
France, England, and the German empire to his hereditary
dominions, had been attended vnth more expense than Philip
had calculated upon. The enormous w^ealth which a long
series of marriages, inheritances, conquests, and maritime dis-
coveries had heaped upon Spain had been exhausted by the
insane ambition of the king to exterminate heresy throughout
the world, and to make himself the sovereign of one undi-
vided, universal, catholic monarchy. All the gold and silver
Df America had not sufficed for this purpose, and he had seen,
with an ever rising indignation, those very precious metals

"nd all those who dwell under our


" Therefore to put an end to such
*^nanciering and unhallowed practices
with bills of exchange wliich have been
introduced and have spread abroad
among so many people, who in order
to follow such pursuits have abandoned
agriculture, cattle-raising, and mecha-
nical works, and embarked in trade,
finding therein gain and profit to the
disservice of the Lord God and of us,
with great injury to our kingdom. .
. . . and wliich have brought great
masses of coin and species to flow out
of India (t. e. America) into the king-
doms and lands of the rebels and foes
of Christianity and of us, enabling
them to keep every thing in commo-
tion, so that we are compelled to in-
crease our armaments and our forces,
and to incur more expenses. We have
now given command to devise some
means of restoring order, and of ac-
complishing in the best possible way
that wliich we are so highly and legally
bound to do, whereupon hang the pro-
tection of Christendom and the secu-
rity of our realms ; and we have found
no other remedy than to call in and to
disburthen our royal incomes, liberat-
ing the same from the unjust damage
put upon them through this financier-
ing and bills of exchange, which we
have suffered and are continuing to suf-
fer at the time we made such coritracts.

in order to avoid still greater embarrass-
ments that would have arisen had
there been want of provision for our

military affairs Having

decided to cancel and annihilate all
the aforesaid interests and impositions,
we shall afterwards meditate upon
ways and means by which may be
paid to the merchants and traders what
may seem to us properly due to them
in regard to these contracts, transfers,
and assignments Accord-
ingly we suspend and declare sus-
pended all such assignations made by
us in any manner whatsoever since
Sept. 1, 1575,andDec. 1, 1577, unto this
date, to the said merchants and traders,
whether of taxes, gifts, domains, rents,
or any other property or revenues what-
soever, on account of such bills of ex-
change or other advances. And we
order the monies coming from sucli
pledged property to be henceforth
paid into our royal treasury, for the
support of our own necessities, de-
claring from this day forth all pay-
ments otherwise made to be null and

" 20 November, 1596."

Bor, III. 318, 319. Herrera, iii. 711,
seqq. Compare Reyd, 301, 302. Me-
te ren, 388-391 . It was found necessary
after the expiration of a year to revoke
these orders, as the usual consequences
of repudiation followed.


which, in his ignorance of the laws of trade, he considered
his exclusive property flowing speedily into the coffers of the
merchants of Europe, especially those of the hated common-
wealth of the rebellious Netherlands,

Therefore he solemnly renounced all his contracts, and
took God to witness that it was to serve His Divine will."
How else could he hope to continue his massacre of the
Protestants ?

The effect of the promulgation of this measure was instan-
taneous. Two millions and a half of hills of exchange sold by
the Cardinal Albert came back in one day protested. The
chief merchants and bankers of Europe suspended payment.
Their creditors became bankrupt. At the Frankfort fair
there were more failures in one day than there had ever
been in all the years since Frankfort existed.^^ In Genoa
alone a million dollars of interest were confiscated.^^ It was
no better in Antwerp ; but Antwerp was already ruined.
There was a general howl of indignation and despair upon
every exchange, in every counting-room, in every palace,
in every cottage of Christendom. Such a tremendous repudia-
tion of national debts was never heard of before. There had
been debasements of the currency, petty frauds by kings upon
their unfortunate peoples, but such a crime as this had never
been conceived by human heart before.

The archduke was fain to pawn his jewelry, his plate, his
furniture, to support the daily expenses of his household.
Meantime he was to set an army in the field to relieve a city,
beleaguered by the most warlike monarch in Christendom.
Fortunately for him, that prince was in very similar straits,
for the pressure upon the public swindlers and the auction
sales of judicial ermine throughout his kingdom were not as
rapidly productive as had been hoped.

It was precisely at this moment, too, that an incident of
another nature occurred in Antwerp, which did not tend
to make the believers in the possibility .^f religious or

'* Bor, Herrera, %ibi sup. " Bor, Reyd, vM sup. " Ibid.


political freedom more in love with the system of Spain and
Rome. Those blood-dripping edicts against heresy in the
Netherlands, of which enough has been said in previous
volumes of this history, and which had caused the deaths, by
axe, faggot, halter, or burial alive, of at least fifty thousand
human creatures — however historical scepticism may shut
its eyes to evidence — had now been dormant for twenty
years. Their activity had ceased with the pacification of
Grhent ; but the devilish spirit which had inspired them still
lived in the persons of the Jesuits, and there were now more
Jesuits in the obedient provinces than there had been for
years. We have seen that Champagny's remedy for the ills
the country was enduring was " more Jesuits." And this,
too, was Albert's rei^ipe. Always more Jesuits.'" And now
the time had come when the Jesuits thought that they might
step openly with their works into the daylight again. Of late
years they had shrouded themselves in comparative mystery,
but from their seminaries and colleges had gone forth a
plentiful company of assassins against Elizabeth and Hem-y,
Nassau, Barneveld, and others who, whether avowedly or
involuntarily, were prominent in the party of human progress.
Some important murders had already been accomplished, and
the prospect was fair that still others might follow, if the
Jesuits persevered. Meantime those ecclesiastics thought
that a wholesome example might be set to humbler heretics
by the spectacle of a public execution.

Two maiden ladies lived on the north rampart of Antwerp.
They had formerly professed the Protestant religion, and had
been thrown into prison for that crime ; but the fear of
further persecution, human weakness, or perhaps sincere
conviction, had caused them to renounce the error of their
ways, and they now went to mass. But they had a maid-
servant, forty years of age, Anna van den Hove by name,
who was staunch in that reformed faith in which she had
been born and bred. The Jesuits denounced this maid-

- , " Albert to Philip, 3 May, 1596. (Arch, de Simancas MS.)


servant to the civil authority, and claimed her condemnation
and execution under the edicts of 1540, decrees which every
one had supposed as obsolete as the statutes of Draco, which
they had so entirely put to shame.

The sentence having been obtained from the docile and
priest-ridden magistrates, Anna van den Hove was brought to
Brussels and informed that she was at once to be buried
alive. At the same time, the Jesuits told her that by con-
verting herself to the Church she might escape punishment.'**

When King Henry lY. was summoned to renounce
that same Huguenot faith, of which he was the political
embodiment and the militaiy champion, the candid man
answered by the simple demand to be instructed. When the
proper moment came, the instruction was accomplished by an
archbishop with the raj)idity of magic. Half an hour undid
the work of half a life- time. Thus expeditiously could
religious conversion be eiFected when an earthly crown was
its guerdon. The poor serving-maid was less open to con-
viction. In her simple fanaticism she too talked of a crown,
and saw it descending from Heaven on her poor forlorn head
as the reward, not of apostasy, but of steadfastness. She
asked her tormentors how they could expect her to abandon
her religion for fear of death. She had read her Bible every
day, she said, and had found nothing there of the pope
or j)urgatory, masses, invocation of saints, or the absolution
of sins except through the blood of the blessed Redeemer.
She interfered with no one who thought differently ; she
quarrelled with no one's religious belief. She had prayed for
enlightenment from Him, if she were in error, and the result
was that she felt strengthened in her simplicty, and resolved
to do nothing against her conscience. Rather than add this
sin to the manifold ones committed by her, she preferred, she
said, to die the death. So Anna van den Hove was led, one
fine midsummer morning, to the hay-field outside of Brussels,
between two Jesuits, followed by a number of a peculiar kind

•8 Bor, rV. 334, 335. Meteren, 400.


of monks called love-brothers. Those holy men goaded her
as she went, telling her that she was the devil's carrion, and
calling on her to repent at the last moment, and thus save
her life and escape eternal damnation beside. But the poor
soul had no ear for them, and cried out that, like Stephen,
she saw the heavens oj)ening, and the angels stooping down
to conduct her far away from the power of the evil one.

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 42 of 118)