Copyright
William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

. (page 11 of 59)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 11 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


along the streets crjang, " Let the Spaniards in ; oh, for God's
sake let them in." Assembling with hoarse clamours at the
house of Van der Werf, they demanded that he should give them
food, or else surrender. " I have no food to give you," was the
burgomaster's reply, " and I have sworn that I will not sur-
render to the Spaniards ; but if my body will be of any service
to you, tear me to pieces, and let the hungriest of you eat me."
The poor wretches went away, and thought no more of surren-
dering.

The thought of the Prince of Orange night and day was how
to render assistance to the citizens of Leyden — how to convey
provisions into the town. He had collected a larg-e supply ; but
all his exertions could not raise a sufficient force to break through
the line of blockade. In this desperate extremity they resolved
to have recourse to that expedient which they kept in reserve
until it should be clear that no other was left — they would
break their dykes, open their sluices, inundate the whole level
country round Leyden, and wash the Spaniards and their circle
of forts utterly away. It was truly a desperate resource ; and it
was only in the last extremity that they could bring themselves
to think of it. All that vast tract of fertile land, which the
labour of ages had drained and cultivated — to see it converted
into a sheet of water ! there could not possibly be a sight more
unseemly and melancholy to a Dutchman's eyes. The damage,
it was calculated, would amount to 600,000 gilders. But when
the destruction of the dykes round Leyden was once resolved
upon, they set to work with a heartiness and a zeal greater than
that which had attended their building. Hatchets, hammers,
spades, and pickaxes, were in requisition ; and by the labour of a
sin2:le nio-ht, the labour of ag-es was demolished and undone.
The water, availing itself of the nevv'- outlets, poured over the flat
country, and in a short time the whole of the region situated
between Leyden and Rotterdam M-as flooded to a considerable
depth. The Spaniards, terror-stricken at first, bethought them-
selves of the fate of the antediluvians ; but at last, seeing that
the water did not rise above a certain level, they recovered their
courage, and though obliged to abandon those of their forts

19



WILLIAM OF ORANGE AND THE NETHERLANDS.

■U'hicli were stationed in the low grounds, they persevered in the
blockade. But there was another purpose to be served by the
inundation of the country besides that of washing away the
Spaniards, and the Prince of Orange was making preparations
for effecting it. He had caused about 200 large flat-bottomed
boats to be built, and loaded with provisions ; these now began
to row towards the famished city. The inhabitants saw them
coming ; they watched them eagerly advancing across the waters,
fighting their way past the Spanish forts, and bringing bread to
them. But it almost seemed as if Heaven itself had become
cruel ; for a north wind was blowing, and so long as it continued
to blow, the waters would not be deep enough to enable the boats
to reach the city. They waited for days, every eye fixed on the
vanes ; but still the wind blew from the north, although never
almost within the memory of the oldest citizen had there been such
a continuance of north wind at that season of the year. Many
died in sight of the vessels which contained the food which would
have kept them alive ; and those who still survived shuffled along
the streets more like skeletons than men. In two days these
would to a certainty'- have been all dead too ; when, lo ! the vanes
trembled and veered round ; the wind shifted first to the north-
west, blowing the sea tides with hurricane force into the mouths
of the rivers ; and then to the south, driving the waves exactly ii>.
the direction of the city. The remaining forts of the Spaniards
were quickly begirt with water. The Spaniards themselves, pur-
sued by the Zealanders in their boats, were either drowned or
shot swimming, or fished out with hooks fastened to the end of
poles, and killed with the sword. Several bodies of them, how-
ever, effected their escape. The citizens had all crowded to the
gates to meet their deliverers. With bread in their hands, they
ran through the streets ; and many who had outlived the famine
died of surfeit. That same day they met in one of the churches
— a lean and sickly congregation — with the magistrates at their
head, to return thanks to Almighty God for his mercy.

The siege of Ley den was raised on the 3d of October 1574 ;
and the anniversary of that day is still celebrated by the citizens.
It is the most memorable day in the historj'' of Leyden ; and
many memorials exist to keep the inhabitants in remembrance
of the event which happened on it. Usually, the object which
first excites the curiosity of the traveller who visits Leyden is
the Stadthouse, or Hotel de Ville, which occupies a conspicuous
situation on one of the sides of the Breed Straat, or Broad
Street. The date of the erection of the building, 1574, is carved
on the front, along witli the arms of the town, two cross-keys,
and several inscriptions referring to the sufferings of the place
during the period of its besiegement. The walls of the vene-
rable apartment in which the burgomasters assemble are of dark
panelled wood, partly hung with beautiful old tapestry, and
ornamented with several paintings. One picture of modern

20



WILLIAM OF ORANGE AND THE NETHERLANDS.

date, by Van Bree of Antwerp, is of a size so large as almost to
cover one side of the room, and represents the streets of Lejden
filled with its famishing- inhabitants, in the midst of whom stands
prominently forward the figure of the burgomaster, Peter Van
der AY erf, offering his body to be eaten. The small cut at the
head of the present paper is expressive of this affecting scene.
Another memorial of the siege of Leyden by the Spaniards is
the university of that city, so celebrated for the number of great
historical names connected with it. " The Prince of Orange, as
a recompense to the inhabitants of Leyden for their heroic
conduct, gave them the choice of exemption from taxes for a
certain number of years, or of having a university established
in the city ; and, much to their honour, they preferred the
latter. The university of Leyden was according-ly established
in 1575."

The fortunate issue of the sieg-e of Leyden changed the face of
affairs. Philip consented to hold a conference with the patriots
at Breda. Concessions were made on both sides, with a view
of coming to an agreement ; but on the question of the conduct
which the government ought to pursue with reference to reli-
gion, the two parties were completely at variance. " The here-
tics must be expelled from the maritime j^rovinces," was the
demand of the Spanish deputies. " If you expel the heretics,
as you call them," said the deputies of the patriots, '"' you will
expel more than two-thirds of the inhabitants, and if you do
so, there will not be enough of men to mend the dykes." " The
king," replied the Spaniards, " would rather lose the provinces
than have them peopled with heretics." The conference accord-
ingly broke up, without having accomplished anything.

Again armies began their marchings and countermarchings
through the country. Requesens had succeeded in an attempt
which he expected to be of g-reat assistance to him in his design
of reducing Zealand, and he was endeavouring to follow up this
advantage by lajdng siege to the town of Zuricsee, when he was
seized with a fever, and died after a few days' illness.

PATRIOTIC MEASURES OF THE PRINCE OF ORANGE.

On the death of Requesens, the Council of State, consisting at
that time of nine members, among whom were Viglius and Bar-
laimont, as well as some others less devoted to the Spanish cause,
assumed the government, there being no person on the spot
authorised by Philip to take upon himself the office of recent.
Under the rule of this committee the greatest confusion pre-
vailed ; but at length the liberal members of the Council of
State took courage, and issued an order for a convention of the
states; and at this convention, which was opened on the 14th
of September 1576, it was ag-reed to hold a solemn congress
of representatives from the various provinces, in the town-house
of Ghent, on the 10th of October.

21



WILLIAM OF ORANGE AND THE NETHERLANDS.

This remarkable turn of affairs was broug-ht about in a great
measure by the exertions of the Prince of Orang-e. The war
had now lasted nearly ten years. The result was, that the seven-
teen provinces constituting- the Netherlands, which on Philip's
accession had acknowledged his sway, were now broken up into
two groups, the maritime provinces constituting' one group, and
the inland provinces another. In the maritime group, of which
Holland and Zealand were the most important members, the
majority of the inhabitants were Protestants, and consequently
they had maintained a more determined attitude during the
war; and at this moment, although they had not formally
disowned Philip's sovereignty, they were really g-overning"
themselves under the administration of the Prince of Orang-e.
In the inland group, the state of matters was very different.
The majority of the inhabitants of this g-roup were Catholics^
and consequently their opposition to Spanish tyranny had
been less vigorous and less enthusiastic. But William was not
content with seeing only one part of the Netherlands delivered
from Spanish tjvannj, even if it had been possible to deliver the
maritime provinces without convulsing- and agitating- the others.
His object was to secure liberty to the whole of the Netherlands^
whether that were to be accomplished by a judicious compromise
with Spain, or by formally casting- off all allegiance to Spain
whatever, and uniting- the various provinces into a new indepen-
dent European state. It was in consequence, therefore, of his
public recommendations to the Council of State, and his secret
dealings with influential men, that the States-General had been
held, and the congress of Ghent agreed upon.

After sitting: for about a month, the congress published the
result of its deliberations in the shape of a treaty of confederacy
between the maritime and the inland provinces. This treaty is
known in history by the name of the Pacification of Ghent. It
consisted of twenty-live articles, and its principal provisions were,
that the maritime provinces, with the Prince of Orange on the
one hand, and the inland or Catholic provinces on the other,
should mutually assist each other in expelling- the Spaniards ;
that all the tyrannous and persecuting- decrees of Alva should be
repealed ; that in the inland provinces the Catholic religion should
still continue to be the legal one ; and that in Holland and Zea-
land all civil and religious arrangements should be permitted to
stand until they should be revised by a future assembly of the
states.

At the very instant when the Netherlands were beginning- to
rejoice in the hopes arising from the pacification of Ghent, there
arrived a new regent, sent from Spain. This was Don John of
Austria, a natural son of Charles V., a man of great talent, both
civil and military, and of an exceeding-ly amiable and winning-
disposition. By the advice of the Prince of Orange, the Council
resolved to conclude a strict bargain with the new regent before

22



■WILLIAM OF ORANGE AND THE NETHERLANES.

admitting him to tlie government. A meeting of noblemen^,
ecclesiastics, and other influential persons was held at Brussels
on the 9th of January 1577, at which a compact in support of
the late resolutions at Ghent was formed, known by the name of
the Union of Brussels ; and a copy of the deed of union having
been transmitted to Don John, the result was a conference
between him and certain deputies appointed by the states. At
this conference, which was held in a city of Luxemburg, a
treaty was agreed upon, dated the 12th of February 1577, and
known by the name of the Perpetual Edict. It secured for the
inland provinces all that they had been so earnestly contending
for, all that the Pacification of Ghent bound them to demand —
the removal of the Spanish troops, the release of prisoners, and
a mild and considerate government. The Protestant provinces
of Holland and Zealand, however, were dissatisfied with it, and
refused their concurrence.

It appeared now as if the long struggle had come to an end ;
as if Spain and the Netherlands had finally compromised their
differences. AYhen Don John made his entry into Brussels on
the 1st of May 1577, the citizens congratulated themselves on
the skill with which they had managed to limit his authority,
and said to each other, " Ah, it will cost our new regent some
trouble to play his game as Alva did."

No sooner, however, had John taken the reins of government
in his hands, than he began to free himself from all the restraints
which the inland provinces thought they had imposed on him.
Kesolved to recover all the prerogatives he had parted with, he
despatched letters written in cipher to Philip, urging him to send
back the Spanish and Italian forces into the Netherlands ; and
making a journey from Brussels to the frontier province of Namur,
he took possession of the capital of the province, intending to
wait there till the troops should arrive. The letters were inter-
cepted by the king of Navarre, and being immediately sent to the
Prince of Orange, were by him made public. Enraged at the
discovery of the regent's treachery, the authorities of the inland
provinces now determined to cast him off; and at the same time
they intreated the Prince of Orange to come to Brussels and
assume the administration of affairs. Accordingly, leaving his
own faithful maritime provinces, the prince sailed up the Scheldt,
and thence made his passage by canal to Brussels, amid the
cheers of the multitudes who stood lining* the banks for miles,
anxious to obtain a sight of " Vader Willem" coming to do for
them what he had already done for the Hollanders and Zea-
landers. He entered Brussels on the 23d of September, and
was immediately invested with the office of governor of Brabant,
a title which gave him as much power as if he had been a regent
appointed by Philip himself. The whole of the Netherlands now,
except the two frontier provinces of Luxemburg and Namur,
where Don John still maintained his influence, were under the

23



WILLIAM OF ORAXGE AND THE NETHERLANDS.

g-overnment of William of Orange. His darling; scheme of unit-
ing" the maritime and the inland provinces under one system of
fovernment, extending to both the blessings of perfect civil free-
om, and allowing each group to establish that form of worship
"which was most conformable to its own wishes — the maritime
g'roup the Protestant, and the inland group the Catholic form —
while yet neither the Catholics should be persecuted in the one,
nor the Protestants in the other — this scheme was now all but
realised. With respect to the question, how Philip's rights as the
sovereign of the Netherlands should be dealt with, this was a
point about which, in the meantime, it was unnecessary to give
himself much trouble. It would be decided afterwards by the
^course of events.

This happy aspect of things was not of long duration. William
had hardly entered on his office, when he began to be harassed
by those petty insect annoyances which always buzz and flutter
round greatness, making- the life of a man who pursues a career
■of active well-doing on a large scale very far from a pleasant one
to himself. At length a powerful cabal was formed against him
by certain Catholic noblemen ; and, without the consent of the
states, or any other legitimate authority, the Archduke Mathias,
brother of the emperor of Germany, was invited to come and
assume the government of the southern provinces of the Nether-
lands. The arrival of this self-announced governor was a decided
surprise to the states ; but the quick eye of the Prince of Orange
saw that it might be turned to advantage. By inviting Mathias
to assume the office which Don John considered to be his, the
Catholic nobles had given an unpardonable offence to Philip;
and if Mathias did assume the government, it would set the
Spanish king and the German emperor at variance; both of
which events were exceedingly desirable as matters then stood.
William therefore was the first to recommend his own resigna-
tion, and the appointment of Mathias as governor instead ; a
change which would do no harm, as Mathias was a silly young
man whom it would be very easy to manage. On the 18th of
January 1578, Mathias therefore was formally installed as go-
vernor-general, with the Prince of Orange as his lieutenant in
•every department ; and Don John was at the same time declared
a public enemy.

Meanwhile Philip had sent a powerful army to reinstate Don
John. At the head of this army was Alexander Farnese, Prince
•of Parma, the son of that Duchess of Parma who had been
regent before Alva, and though yet young, reputed to be the
first military genius of the age. Pushing into the interior of
the Netherlands with this army, Don John speedily reconquered
a large tract of the country ; and the states, defeated in several
engagements, were obliged to intreat assistance from foreign
powers. After several months of war, they were delivered from
&11 fear of having the treacherous John restored to the regency ;

24



WILLIAM OF ORANGE AN'D THE NETHERLANDS,

for, on the 1st of October 1578, he died suddenly at Boug-y^
But if delivered of one enem}^ in John, they had to contend with
another in all respects more formidable in his successor, the
matchless Prince of Parma. The prospect of a campaign against
a man so eminent in the art of war completely disheartened
them ; and any chance they mig'ht have had of being* able to repel
the invasion which he conducted, was infinitely lessened by the
outbreak of violent dissensions in the southern provinces, espe-
cially between the Flemings, or inhabitants of Flanders, and the
Walloons; or inhabitants of the south-eastern provinces.

UNION OF THE SEVEN PROVINCES,

In these circumstances, the Prince of Orange thought it best
to take precautions for securing the independence of at least a
part of the Netherlands. It had long* appeared to William that
the next best thing to a miion of all the pro^^nces of the Nether-
lands under a free government, would be the union of the mari-
time provinces by themselves under such a g'overnment. These
provinces would form a distinct state, thoroug'hly Dutch and
thoroughly Protestant; and the difficulty of governing- them
separately would be far less than that of governing them in con-
junction with the southern or AValloon provinces, whose in-
habitants were not only Catholic, but half French in their
lineage and their habits. The progress which the Prince of
Parma was now making, not only in conquering, but in con-
ciliating* the Walloons, decided William to carry into effect his
long-cherished idea, and to attempt a formal separation between
the northern provinces and the rest of the Netherlands. His
efforts succeeded ; and on the 29th of January, there was so-
lemnly signed at Utrecht a treaty of union between the five
provinces of Holland, Zealand, Guelderland, Utrecht, and Fries-
land, by which they formed themselves into an independent re-
public. Thus was a new European state founded, which, being
joined afterwards by the two provinces of Overyssel and Gro-
ningen, and recognised by the foreign powers, obtained the
name of The Seven United Provinces^ and subsequently of Hol-
land.

But while labouring to effect this great object, William by
no means ceased to struggle for another which he considered
greater still, the independence of the whole Netherlands. If a
community of religion, and the enthusiastic attachment of the-
people to his person, endeared the northern provinces to him in a
peculiar manner, the breadth of his intellect, and his general love
of liberty, made him take a deep interest in the fate of the
southern provinces ; and gladly would he devote his best exer-
tions to secure for the Flemings and the Walloons of the south
that independence which he had to all appearance secured for
the Dutch of the north. Accordingly, both before and after
the union of the northern provinces, he continued to act as

25



WILLIAM OF ORANGE AND THE NETHERLANDS.

lieutenant-governor under Mathias, and to superintend tlie ad-
ministration of the southern provinces.

Meanwhile an attempt was made by the pope and the emperor
of Germany to bring- about a reconciliation between Spain and
the Netherlands. But Philip's big-otry ag-ain interposed a
barrier in the way of an ag-reement ; for he declared, that what-
ever other concessions he might be willing- to make, he never
would be at peace with heresy. While these neg-otiations were
pending", the Prince of Parma had slackened his military acti-
vity ; but when the congress broke up its sitting's in the end of
1579, he recommenced his campaign in the southern provinces
with fresh ardour.

It was evident, however, to the Prince of Orange, that the
issue of the struggle could not be decided by one or two battles
with the Prince of Parma. His aim all along had been to thwart
Philip by engaging some of the principal European powers on.
the side of the Netherlands. No sooner, therefore, had he seen
the Protestant provinces of the north united by the treaty of
Utrecht, than he began to mature another scheme by which he
hoped to obtain for the union greater strength within itself, and
greater estimation in the eyes of foreign nations. This was no
other than the formal deposition of Philip from the sovereignty
of the Netherlands, and the election of a new sovereign capable
of bringing into the field all the power of some foreign nation to
counterpoise that of Spain. He hesitated for some time whether
the future sovereign of the Netherlands should be Queen Eliza-
beth of England, or the Duke of Anjou, brother to the French
king; but at last decided in favour of the latter. Having
finally weighed his scheme, and resolved to adopt it, he procured
a meeting of the States-General at Antwerp ; and there Philip
was deposed as " a tyrant ; " the Netherlands were declared a free
and independent state; and the Duke of Anjou having become
bound to use the power of France to expel the Spaniards from
his new dominion, entered on the exercise of the sovereignty.
At the same time, William of Orange was installed in the
government of Holland, Zealand, and Friesland, under the title
of Stadtholder, and with the reservation of the right of homage
to the Duke of Anjou.

These arrangements were concluded in 1581 and 1582; and
for two years after, the history of the struggle is but an uninte-
resting record of sieges and engagements, important at the time,
but too numerous to be detailed in a narrative. We hasten to
the concluding act of the drama.

ASSASSINATION OF THE PRINCE OF ORANGE.

Philip, surrounded by the haughty ceremonial of a Spanish
court, kept his dark and evil eye ever rolling towards the Nether-
lands. Foiled, defeated, gaining an advantage only to lose it
again, he had watched the course of the struggle with a bitter

26



WILLIAM OF ORANGE AND THE NETHERLANDS.

earnestness. A scowl passed over his brow at every recollection
of the manner in which his heretical subjects had resisted his
authority and baffled his purposes. But the last indiornity was
worst of all. To be openly deposed in the face of all Europe, to
be rejected and cast off" by a portion of his subjects inhabiting* a
little corner of his vast dominions, to have another sovereign
elected in his stead ; this was an insult such as monarch had
never experienced before. And all this had been done by that
one man, William of Orange. In the course of his life he had
already been thwarted, or supposed himself to be thwarted, by
one personal enemy after another ; and these, if history be true,
he had successively disposed of, by sending them prematurely
out of the world. The poisoned cup, or the dagg-er of the hired
assassin, had rid him of several blood relations whom he con-
ceived to be his enemies. His own son, his eldest born, had
died by his orders ; and now he resolved to rid himself by similar
means of the man who had robbed him of the Netherlands.
Early in 1580 he issued a proclamation offering- a reward of
25,000 g'olden crowns, with a patent of nobility, and a pardon



Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 11 of 59)