|by Mary Macgregor|
|Story of the struggle for religious liberty in the Netherlands. By the middle of the sixteenth century the little country of the Netherlands was standing at bay, defying those who, with the aid of inquisitions and edicts, were trying to stamp out all who would not subscribe to the Roman Catholic faith. The fight was long and desperate, but it was fought to the death by the Provinces, under the leadership of the hero and liberator of the Netherlands, William of Orange. Admirable retelling of the narratives given in Motley's Dutch Republic and Prescott's Philip II, with numerous full-page illustrations complementing the text. Ages 13-18 |
PHILIP IN THE NETHERLANDS
 AS sovereign of the Netherlands Philip's first act was to visit the Provinces to receive from them their oaths of
allegiance. He was but little known to his new subjects, for it was now seven years since he had first visited the
Provinces, damping the enthusiasm of the people by his cold, ungracious manner. The impression of disappointment had
been renewed by Philip's unfortunate reserve and inability to speak to the people in their own language on the occasion
of Charles V.'s abdication, which had just taken place. In spite of this his tour through the Provinces was prepared for
with an eagerness which might well have gratified the new ruler.
But once again enthusiasm was met by indifference. Philip rode through the streets of the different Provinces shut up in
a carriage, seemingly anxious to escape from the gaze of his subjects, while their demonstrations of loyalty served only
to annoy him; and it was scarcely surprising that as the tour was drawing to a close the enthusiasm of the Provinces
waned. Slowly they realised that they, with their country, had passed into the hands of a foreigner,
 to whom their nature and their customs were alien.
On his return to Brussels Philip proceeded to appoint a Regent in the place of Queen Mary of Hungary, who had resigned
the post on the abdication of Charles V. His choice fell on the Duke of Savoy, a vagrant cousin of his own, who was yet
a brave and experienced soldier, having indeed been beloved by the Emperor as one of his most successful commanders. War
being his element, his adventurous spirit had but little love for peace. Yet at the moment of his appointment to the
Regency of the Netherlands peace reigned. For Charles, who had waged war all his life, thinking to make his son's career
more smooth than had been his own, attempted, as the last act of his reign, to procure peace among the nations. By his
efforts a treaty of truce, rather than of peace, had been signed on the 5th February 1555, a truce of five years by land
and sea for France, Spain, Flanders, and Italy, and for all the dominions of the French and Spanish monarchs.
Unfortunately those who signed the treaty had no intention of keeping it longer than was convenient.
Meanwhile, however, the Netherlands especially rejoiced that at last peace reigned. And they had reason to do so. For to
furnish money and soldiers had been their part throughout the long campaigns of their Emperor, and even victory when it
came had brought them little benefit.
Antwerp, whose trade had suffered greatly during the long wars of Charles V., believed that with the truce her troubles
would be over. Her rebound
 from depression to rejoicing was, as ever, exuberant. Oxen were roasted whole in her streets, barrels of wine were
freely distributed to the citizens, and triumphant arches adorned the pathways. And while the Netherlands were, as was
their way, feasting and ringing merry bells and lighting bonfires, Philip, knowing well how unstable was the treaty, had
even now begun to revolve new military schemes—schemes which would once more plunge his unconscious subjects into the
horrors of war. Vain indeed were the rejoicings of the Netherlanders, for a year later the truce was broken by the
French King Henry.
Philip, finding his expectation of war realised, crossed to England, there to cajole the Queen, and if possible to
browbeat her ministers to join with him in war against France. He spent three months in England, and, as a Spanish
historian tells us, did more than any one could have believed possible with that proud and indomitable nation. He caused
her to declare war against France with fire and sword, by sea and land. Queen Mary, always willing to gratify Philip,
and on this occasion supported by her Parliament, sent an army of 8000 men to join in the war against France.
These—cavalry, infantry, and scouts—were all clad in blue uniform.
Philip meanwhile returned in haste to the Netherlands, and at once gave orders to organise a large army, composed mainly
of troops belonging to the Netherlands. With some German auxiliaries, the army of 85,000 foot and 12,000 horse assembled
under the Duke of Savoy, who, as Governor-General of the
 Netherlands, held the chief command. All the well-known nobles of the Provinces were present with the troops, Orange,
Aerschot, Berlaymont, Meghem, Brederode; but conspicuous among them all was Lamoral, Count of Egmont, the life and soul
of the army.
In the thirty-sixth year of his age, handsome and valiant, Count Egmont was eager to win new laurels in the campaign
that was just beginning. Prompt in emergency, bold almost to rashness, he was accounted one of the most distinguished
generals in the Spanish service as he took his place at the head of the King's cavalry in 1557. But as a statesman he
was singularly unsuccessful, being vacillating and vain, and easily led by those who understood the weakness of his
In the beginning of the campaign the tactics of the Duke of Savoy were to deceive the enemy. The real point of attack
being Saint Quentin, the army was directed to make a feint upon the city of Guise, in order that the enemy might draw
off their forces from the real point of danger. Montmorency, the Constable of France, was not, however, deceived by this
expedient. Knowing that Saint Quentin was the most dangerous point on the enemy's route towards Paris, he was convinced
that it was the city which was in reality to be attacked. And his conviction was correct, information reaching him from
the well-known Admiral Coligny that the Spanish army, after remaining three days before Guise, had withdrawn and
invested Saint Quentin with their entire force.
 Saint Quentin, standing on a height, protected on one side by a great stretch of morass, through which flowed a branch
of the river Somme, was a wealthy city, whose inhabitants were thriving and industrious. A detachment of the Dauphin's
regiment, commanded by Teligny, was in the city. Both Teligny and Captain Brueuil, commandant of the town, informed
Coligny of the urgent need of reinforcements, both of men and supplies, if the city were to be able to sustain a siege.
Coligny, knowing well that dire indeed would be the consequences should Saint Quentin fall, and the enemy be thus left
free to march unopposed on Paris, determined to go to the help of the besieged city. Without delay he set out, but it
was too late to introduce help by the route he had taken, for it was already occupied by the English, who had joined the
Duke of Savoy and were now in the camp before Saint Quentin. Coligny, however, in his anxiety had ridden in advance of
his army, and thus he, with the few troops which had followed him closely, was able to gain an entrance into the city.
Having done this he resolved either to effect her deliverance or to share her fate. The presence of the Admiral inspired
in the inhabitants of the beleaguered city a confidence which he did all in his power to increase, but which he could
not share; for, gazing over the country from one of the highest towers in the city, he tried in vain to discover fords
across the morass by means of which supplies might be introduced.
Meanwhile the garrison was daily growing weaker. Coligny ordered those not engaged in active defence
 to leave the city, while the women he ordered to be lodged in the Cathedral and other churches, where they were locked
in, lest by their tears they should weaken or depress the garrison. At the same time the defences of the city were
strengthened and all that was possible was done to confirm the resolution of the inhabitants to withstand the siege.
Still affairs were growing desperate, and the Admiral wrote to Montmorency that without relief the city could not hold
out more than a few days, while at the same time he told him of a route he had discovered by which it might yet be
possible to relieve the city. This route was across the morass, which at certain places was traversed by a few narrow
and difficult pathways, usually under water, and by a running stream which could only be crossed in boats. No sooner did
Coligny's information reach the Constable than he set out at once with 4000 infantry and 2000 horse. Halting his troops
at a small village, Montmorency himself walked to the edge of the morass to view the ground and prepare his plans.
Thereafter his decision was to attempt to introduce men and supplies by the plan suggested by the Admiral, who had
undertaken to provide the boats that were necessary to cross the stream.
On the 10th August 1557 the Constable had advanced far enough to see that his project would have to be carried out in
full view of the enemy, for the Spanish army, under the Duke of Savoy, was encamped near the morass, and their white
tents stretched far beyond the river. On Montmorency's right stood a windmill, commanding a ford of the
 river which led to the Spanish camp. The building was in the possession of a small company of the besieging troops, and
while it was held by them it was impossible for the Constable to advance. The mill accordingly was secured, and
Montmorency, placing a detachment under the Prince of Condé at that point, felt he might safely proceed; for in the
meanwhile a cannonade directed upon the quarters of the Duke of Savoy had torn his tent to pieces, and he had been
forced to abandon his position and to withdraw his camp three miles farther down the river. Taking advantage of his
success, Montmorency at once began to move his soldiers across the morass. It was then that the real difficulties of the
passage were apparent. Many of the soldiers lost the narrow and submerged pathways and fell floundering into the morass,
while the boats promised by Coligny for the passage across the stream did not appear until two hours had elapsed. The
delay was serious, and even when they at last arrived, the boats were so small that each as it left the shore was
overcrowded by the eager soldiers and in imminent danger of being swamped. In the middle of the stream, the risk being
apparent, some of the soldiers jumped out to lighten the load. Many were drowned, and those who reached the opposite
shore were unable to land owing to the steep and treacherous nature of the bank. Some of the boats stuck fast in the
marshy water, and while trying to free themselves were subjected to the fire of Spanish troops stationed on an eminence
that commanded the stream. In the end there were few who entered the town, but among those who did were Andelot,
 the brother of Coligny, and about five hundred of his troops.
Meanwhile in Count Egmont's tent, to which the Duke of Savoy had hastily retreated, a council was being held. Should the
Constable be allowed to retire with the army he had failed to introduce into Saint Quentin, or should an engagement be
risked? Amid the deliberations and the indecisions of the officers, Egmont's voice was heard. Vehement and eloquent as
ever, the Count urged an immediate encounter. The Constable, on a desperate venture, had placed himself and the bravest
troops of France in their grasp. Could they dream of letting them depart unhindered? His fiery words had the desired
effect, and it was determined to cut off the Constable's retreat.
Montmorency, finding it impossible to throw the body of his troops into the besieged city, and realising the danger of
his position, had resolved to withdraw. Remembering, however, a narrow pass between steep and closely hanging hills
where it would be easy to intercept his retreat, the Constable, who, when advancing, had merely guarded the spot with a
company of carabineers, now determined to further safeguard it, and for this purpose he sent forward the Duc de Nevers
with four companies of cavalry.
But his act of caution came too late. Egmont's quick eye had already detected the narrow defile, and immediately 2000 of
his cavalry had been sent to occupy the narrow passage. The Duc de Nevers, reaching the fatal spot, found it already
occupied by the Spanish troops. His first impulse was to order a headlong charge, which indeed might
 possibly have cleared the pass and left an exit for the Constable had he followed up the movement by a rapid advance.
But his orders had been strict, that no engagement was to be risked, and as he hesitated the passage was completely
blocked by fresh troops of Spanish and Flemish cavalry, while the Duc was forced to fall back on the mill where the
Prince of Condé, with the light horse, had been stationed. Here they were joined by the Constable with the main body of
the army. Having failed to secure the pass, Montmorency knew that escape was well-nigh impossible; the morass was behind
them, in front and on either side the enemy. No sooner had they come in sight of the pass than the signal of assault was
given by Count Egmont himself. The camp followers in the French army, a motley, undisciplined crew, fled at the sight of
the foe, and in their flight carried confusion throughout the army. The cavalry was nearly destroyed at the first
onset, while that part of the infantry which still held firm and attempted to continue its retreat was completely
annihilated. The defeat was complete, the Constable himself being wounded and taken prisoner, most of his officers also
being in the same plight. The Duc de Nevers and the Prince of Condé had escaped in some miraculous way, though the
Spaniards apparently did not believe in their safety; for when Nevers sent a trumpeter, after the battle was over, to
the Duke of Savoy to petition the exchange of prisoners, the trumpeter was called an impostor and the letter a forgery,
so hard did the victors find it to believe that Nevers still lived.
 Philip II. might well be proud of his army, of whom but fifty had lost their lives. He arrived in camp the day after the
battle was won, the Duke of Savoy hailing him as victor, and laying at his feet the banners and other trophies of the
fight. Philip cordially congratulated the General on his success, and at the same time acknowledged the promptness and
bravery of Count Egmont, to whose readiness and insight the success was mainly due. The victory had saved the Flemish
frontier, and this was enough to account for the unmixed joy with which it was hailed by the Netherlanders. "Egmont and
Saint Quentin!" The name of the brave Hollander rang throughout the Provinces. "Egmont and Saint Quentin!"—the names
were shouted henceforth as the battle-cry of the army.
Among the Spanish officers there was not a doubt that the victory would be followed up by an immediate march upon Paris,
but they had forgotten to take into account the lack of enthusiasm and the abundance of caution possessed by their King.
The city of Saint Quentin, although defended by only 800 soldiers, was still untaken. Philip feared to leave it behind.
He also feared that the Duc de Nevers, who was in front with the wreck of the French army, might organise fresh troops
and intercept his army in its victorious march upon Paris. Thus timidly the fruits of Count Egmont's great triumph on
the battlefield of Saint Quentin were lost.
And Coligny, shut up in the city, was still holding out bravely, knowing that every day the siege lasted
 gave his nation a day longer to recover from the heavy blow that had been dealt her. Yet the condition of the besieged
was desperate. Toil and exposure, with but a scanty supply of food, had done its work and left them feeble and
despondent. In spite of failures, Coligny still talked hopefully of resources at his command. If any should hear him
even hint at surrender, he gave them leave to tie him hand and foot and throw him into the moat; while, should he hear
so much as a whisper of surrender, he himself would tie the whisperer hand and foot and throw him into the moat. But if
the Admiral's words were brave, so likewise were his deeds, for, learning from a fisherman of a submerged path, he
succeeded in bringing into the city by means of it 150 soldiers. The pathway being covered several feet deep in water,
it was true that the soldiers entered the city unarmed and half drowned; yet even thus they were greeted gladly as more
fit to fight than were many of the city's well-nigh starved defenders. Mining and countermining were now resorted to,
and for a week a steady cannonade was directed against the wall of the city.
On the 21st of August, eleven breaches having been made, an assault at four of these openings was commanded. Citizens
were stationed on the walls, soldiers manned the breaches, resisting every attack with the greatest bravery, inspired by
the spirit of the heroic Admiral. The contest was short but severe. Suddenly an entrance was gained by the Spaniards
through a tower, which, being strong, had been left unguarded. Coligny, rushing to the spot,
 fought almost single-handed, but was overcome and taken prisoner. In the streets the fight raged fiercely, Andelot,
Coligny's brother, resisting to the last. Half an hour from the time the Spaniards had effected an entrance, resistance
had ceased. The town was won, and Philip, arriving in the trenches by noon, in complete armour, with his helmet carried
by a page, was told the city was his own.
A terrible scene followed. The victorious troops spread over the town, killing and torturing all whom they met, till
women and little children fled in terror, hiding themselves as chance served them in cellar or garret, anywhere to
escape the soldiers. Fire breaking out in the city added to the horror of the situation, but nothing could daunt the
troops in their eager search for booty. Heedless of danger, they dashed through the flames to secure were it only some
broken image which might be converted into coin. For nearly three days the fires blazed and the soldiers plundered, and
when at length the flames were extinguished and the soldiers under discipline, the city was well-nigh ruined. Many of
the women and children who had again sought shelter in the Cathedral were crouched together anxiously awaiting their
fate. On the 29th August they were driven by Philip's orders into French territory, for Saint Quentin, which seventy
years before had been a Flemish town, was to be reannexed, every single man, woman, or child who could speak the French
language being banished from the city. Few, if any, were the men who had escaped the siege or the sack of the city, but
 8500 women, starving, desperately wounded, and for the most part husbandless, fatherless and brotherless, were escorted
by a company of armed troopers out of their native city. Children between two and six years of age were alone
transported in carts, the rest of the homeless multitude having to make the journey on foot.
After Saint Quentin had fallen, time was wasted in the siege of a few unimportant places, and in September Philip
disbanded his army and returned to Brussels. The campaign of 1557 was ended.
In January of the following year the French were again in the field, with a large army under the Duke of Guise. But
Philip was now anxious to conciliate Henry, that together they might wage a warfare against a common foe, even against
heresy, which Henry held in horror, and which Philip himself believed was the arch-enemy of France and Spain, and indeed
of the whole world. With the hope, therefore, of furthering Philip's desire for reconciliation with France, the Bishop
of Arras, on behalf of the King of Spain, met the Cardinal de Lorraine, the representative of the French King. Before
they separated, the Bishop had convinced the Cardinal that peace with Spain would advance, not only the glory of his
country, but his own house. He accordingly returned to France resolved to use his influence on the side of peace;
resolved, too, to induce Henry to join in a crusade with Philip against all heretics to be found in their dominions.
Before these plans had time to ripen, a new campaign and fresh disaster to France predisposed
 Henry to move in the direction desired by his Cardinal. The battle of Gravelines, in July of the year 1558, won by the
Dutch hero Egmont, was of so decisive a nature as to settle the fate of the war. It also placed Philip in a position
from which he could dictate terms of peace.
With King Henry tired of defeat, and Philip eager to begin his battle with heresy, with the Duke of Savoy now in favour
of peace, and the people of the Netherlands clamouring for it, the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis was readily signed in
1559. The Prince of Orange and the Duke of Alva were among the commissioners who acted for Philip on this occasion, and
were also, along with the Duke of Aerschot and the Count of Egmont, hostages with the King of France for the execution
of the terms of the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis. During the negotiations Philip lost both his father, and his wife Mary
Tudor, Queen of England. But while Philip mourned, his subjects in the Netherlands were once again rejoicing at the
prospect of peace. Once again joybells were ringing, while for nine days business was suspended that the populace might
join in the national enthusiasm; and once again Philip found himself in but little sympathy with the mood of his
subjects. Peace had been made not that the industrious citizens should leave their industries and ring their joybells
and strew their flowers along the streets. It had been made for other and sterner reasons, as the people would soon
learn. Peace would leave Philip free to combat heresy, and to crush it in its strongholds, which were at present
 to be found in his own dominions, notably in the provinces of the Netherlands. Peace would also leave him free to return
to Spain, and of this he was speedily to take advantage, believing that from his distant Cabinet he could better carry
out his designs against the religious freedom of his Netherlander subjects.
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