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The Netherlands by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

ORANGE OPPOSES GRANVELLE

[60] FOUR months had passed since Philip's departure from the Netherlands. In spite of his promise that the Spanish troops should be removed before that interval had passed, they still occupied their quarters on the frontier, and no preparations were being made for their removal.

The four months had passed into fourteen and still the troops remained, being quartered now in Walcheren and Brill. So exasperated grew the Zeelanders at their presence that they absolutely refused to begin the repairs necessary to the great sea-dykes at that season. Rather than have their soil longer profaned by the presence of the hated foreign troops, of whose insolence they were weary, they would let their land be for ever sunk in the ocean. Men, women, children, they swore to perish together in the waves rather than endure longer the outrages which the soldiers daily inflicted.

To trifle with the determined temper of the Zeelanders was impossible, and it was evident to the haughty Bishop, as also to the Regent, that the troops would no longer be tolerated. Accordingly, [61] at a meeting of the Council of State, held in October 1560, the Bishop represented to the Regent the necessity for the final departure of the troops. Vigilius, knowing the character of the Zeelanders, seconded the proposal without hesitation, and Orange briefly spoke in the same terms, declining to serve any longer as commander of the troops, a post he had accepted only upon Philip's pledge that they should be withdrawn in four months. Letters were therefore written in the name of the Regent to the King, with undoubted reasons for the withdrawal of the hated troops.

Not a stiver would be paid into the treasury while they remained. That, indeed, would hit Philip hard in the embarrassed state of his finances. Should the troops, however, actually set sail, the necessary amount to cover arrears would be immediately paid to the Government. Surely an unanswerable argument this for their withdrawal.

Even more strongly wrote the Bishop. "It cuts me to the heart to see the Spanish infantry leave us, but go they must. Would to God we could devise any pretext, as your Majesty desires, under which to keep them here. We have tried all means humanly possible for retaining them, but I see no way to do it without putting the Provinces in manifest danger of sudden revolt."

Necessity being thus laid upon him, Philip found a reason for employing the troops elsewhere, and thus for a short time the Netherlands was free from the presence of foreign mercenaries. But the Bishop's difficulties did not decrease, while the [62] hatred already felt towards him by the populace daily grew stronger.

To the four bishoprics already existing in the Netherlands, Philip had resolved, by the advice of the Bishop it was believed, to add thirteen. As each Bishop was himself to be an inquisitor of his diocese, with two others serving under him, the change was regarded as part of a great scheme for introducing the Spanish Inquisition into the country. All the hatred stirred up by the new arrangement fell upon Arras, and so bitterly did he feel the position that we find him writing in 1561, "Would to God the creation of these bishoprics had never been thought of!" In spite of this outbreak of despair at the position of danger in which he felt the King had placed him, he worked faithfully to introduce the bishoprics into the country. Philip, from his palace in Spain, did not scruple to take measures to secure information regarding heretics in the Provinces. Frequently he sent lists to the Bishop, with the names of the humblest individuals in the Netherlands, and, stating their names, ages, personal appearance, occupation, and residence, demanded their immediate execution. The Bishop assured the King of his zeal in carrying out his instructions, but bewailed the lukewarmness, even the coldness, with which the inquisitors and judges did their share of the work. Vigilius and Berlaymont indeed were commended, but as for the Council of Brabant, it was "for ever prating of the constitutional rights of the Province, and deserved much less commendation."

[63] If the Bishop's zeal in persecution increased the hatred felt towards him, so also did the new dignity of Cardinal to which he was now raised, through the influence of Margaret, the Regent. For with his new title the prelate assumed a more insolent manner. He was already in relations which were far from cordial with his colleagues in the Council of State, and from this time he began openly to take the control of affairs more entirely into his own hands, with the result of still further alienating Egmont and Orange; for they, while ignored in all important consultations, were yet held responsible for the actions of the Government. Egmont had little thought of submitting to the bland insolence and air of authority assumed by the Cardinal, while Granvelle himself felt a contempt for the Count which was obvious in his manner, and which showed itself in his private letters to the King.

Causes were not wanting to develop the impetuous Count's dislike. He requested appointments for his friends. They were already, through Granvelle's influence, bestowed elsewhere. He asked for lands for his needy relatives. Granvelle, by the King's permission, had already added them to his own possessions. In his presence or behind his back Egmont did not scruple to express his aversion of the prelate. Once, exasperated beyond bearing at the polished insolence with which his violent language was received, Egmont drew his dagger in the presence of the Regent, and would, in his passion, have killed the Cardinal had not the Prince of Orange forcibly restrained him.

[64] No report of scenes such as these was received by the King. Granvelle still wrote of the amicable relations existing between himself and the nobles, for as long as it was possible to avoid it, he had little wish that the King should question his power of governing the Council.

But if the Cardinal could treat the headstrong Egmont with disdain, he needed to employ other methods in his treatment of William of Orange. In him Granvelle had met his match, and he had the wisdom to recognise the genius of his opponent. The intellect of the Prince was as keen, his temper as controlled, and even more haughty, than that of Granvelle, and the prelate knew it. He wrote of William to the King "as a man of profound genius, vast ambition, dangerous, acute, politic." And the Cardinal was giving no cursory judgment of the Prince of Orange. He had thought it worth while to cultivate friendship with one who from his boyhood had been a favourite of the Emperor, and whose talents and rank marked him out as one likely to hold a position of trust in Philip's reign, and he knew the man. There had been intimacy between them, but the friendship had gradually been strained to the last degree, and as Granvelle arrogated more and more power to himself it altogether ceased to exist.

The Prince was roused to active hostility by the election, without his knowledge, of magistrates for Antwerp, of which city he was burgrave. When the nominations for new members came before the Regent, she arranged the whole matter in the secret [65] Council of Three, without the knowledge of William, and in a manner opposed to his wishes. The appointments made however, a list of the new magistrates was sent to the Prince, and he was told that he, along with Count Aremberg, had been commissioned to see that the appointments were carried out. But not thus easily was the Prince to be thwarted. Sending back the Regent's messenger, he informed her that he was no lackey whom she might send on her errands. His words were repeated in the Council of State, and a fierce quarrel ensued, Orange asserting that it was unbearable that this matter, as well as every other affair of State, should be settled by the secret Council, of which Granvelle was chief. Furious at such direct opposition, Granvelle hurriedly left the Council, hurling bitter reproaches at Orange. Calling for the Chancellor of Brabant, he asked him to secure the services of some humble gentleman to carry out the commission refused by the Prince and Aremberg.

A few weeks later, in July 1561, Count Egmont and the Prince of Orange wrote to the King complaining bitterly of their exclusion from all business of importance in the State Council, while yet they were held responsible by the people for the measures in which they had had no share. Reminding him that this was contrary to his assurance when they accepted office, they begged the King to accept their resignations, or to give orders that no business should be transacted without the attendance of the whole Council.

Philip's answer was to thank the nobles for their [66] zeal in his service, and to promise that Count Hoorn, who was returning to the Netherlands shortly, should bring with him an answer to their complaint.

Prejudiced by Granvelle, the King had but little liking for the vehement and quick-tempered Count, who had even ventured, so said the Cardinal, to oppose the scheme for introducing new bishoprics into the Provinces, a scheme dear to the King's heart. Accordingly Hoorn, who had accompanied Philip to Spain, and was now returning to the Provinces, was received ungraciously by the King, while his expressions of sympathy with the nobles in the Netherlands were listened to with impatience. But when, in answer to the King's questions, he spoke of the aversion inspired by Granvelle's greed and insolence, the King interrupted, crying out fiercely, "What, miserable man! you all complain of this Cardinal, and always in vague language. Not one of you, in spite of all my questions, can give me a single reason for your dissatisfaction." Thereupon so fierce was his wrath, that Hoorn left his presence in dismay, with no further satisfaction for the expectant nobles in the Netherlands.

And Philip's wrath was never allowed to cool, for always it was artfully fanned by the Cardinal, who even ventured to suggest to his Sovereign the terms in which he might answer a letter which would soon reach him from the Prince of Orange and the Marquis of Berghen. The letter was one of remonstrance on the subject of the bishoprics. Remonstrances from great nobles or from doughty burghers, these would never interfere with the [67] execution of Philip's grand scheme to extirpate all heretics. Of this scheme the new bishoprics formed an important part.

Nevertheless opposition, while it could not move, could irritate Philip, and his hatred for his opponents grew more and more deadly. " 'Tis no time to temporise," he wrote to Granvelle; "we must inflict chastisement with full rigour and severity. These rascals can only be made to do right through fear, and not always even by that means." At the same time any very active measures to enforce Philip's policy were hampered by the difficulty of obtaining money. Granvelle complained bitterly that the States would still interfere with the expenditure of money, and were tedious and slow in granting subsidies.

It was at this critical point in the affairs of the Netherlands that the Prince of Orange, who had been a widower since 1556, proposed to marry Anna of Saxony. The fact that she was a Lutheran caused Philip at first to oppose the match; he, however, withdrew his objections, and as a sign of his favour asked the Regent to purchase a ring worth 3000 crowns and to present it as his gift to the bride. The wedding was fixed for the 24th August 1561, and took place at Leipzig.

During the Prince's absence in Germany, Granvelle proceeded to make his entry into the city of Mechlin as Archbishop. But in the city were found none to welcome the Archbishop to his new see. The nobles were absent, the people silent.

In Brabant, too, the new bishoprics were established, [68] and now, with each bishop head inquisitor in his diocese, and with two special inquisitors under him, it seemed that at length Philip would be able with some show of success to carry out his scheme of killing all heretics.


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