Margaret of Austria had been regent of the Low Countries or Netherlands 1506-15 while her nephew Charles of Burgundy was a minor. After becoming King of Spain in 1516 he asked the States General for another 100,000 guilders in October, and he appointed her regent again in June 1517 before going to Spain. She governed the Netherlands until her death on December 1, 1530. She ruled in an authoritarian manner with mostly foreign advisors; the only local noble she consulted regularly was Count Antoine de Lalaing of Hoogstraten (1522-40). In 1517 the Guelders attacked the shipping in the Zuider Zee of Friesland, and their Black Band of mercenaries invaded and plundered Holland up to the walls of Amsterdam.
The Hapsburg Emperor Charles V (1519-56) ruled over the Netherlands and Germany. At Malines in 1519 he cancelled the right of the guilds to choose their own aldermen. He summoned the States General in June 1520. Things were made difficult by a plague, and Dordrecht’s warships seized two salt ships from Brill. Charles told them he wanted to preserve peace in the Netherlands as he worked to unite all Christian princes; but in 1521 he reconquered Tournai, taking it back from the French. Spain’s Chancellor Gattinara explained to the States General in Brussels in April 1522 that the Emperor would protect them, and Charles left the Netherlands in May.
In 1522 Flanders agreed to pay for five companies of soldiers, and Margaret asked the other provinces to follow the example of the Flemings and warned Charles their finances were desperate. When Dordrecht and Haarlem demanded a 66% gracien (rebate) on their taxes, the other towns in Holland wanted cuts too. Taxes increased greatly in the next two years to pay for the war against France which had resumed in 1521. In Holland the aides of £100,000 rose to £210,000 in 1521 and to £305,000 in 1522 while the rebate of about 15% decreased to 8.5% in 1523. The States of Holland financed an expedition against Friesland in 1521, but an alliance with Guelders (Gelderland) helped Holland end Frisian independence. Guelder forces raided Friesland in September 1523. On November 10 the Estates of Friesland voted a large amount for the victorious imperial troops. Flanders was vulnerable to French attacks while Holland and Brabant had to fight off raids by Guelders.
Bishop Philip of Burgundy died in April 1524, and in May the Guelder army defeated Holland’s Walloon mercenaries. Charles V and Holland agreed to a one-year truce with the Guelders in June. The high nobles complained about Margaret in a petition to Charles who was in Spain. He wrote to her, but she was not influenced much. In 1525 Ghent refused to pay their share of the aide from Flanders, but the dispute was settled the next year. In 1526 the lower classes in Tournai revolted. The Emperor admitted that citizens had the right to petition the regent and her ministers but not in the States General, and he warned that anyone trying to do so would be guilty of sedition.
The guilds in Utrecht had revolted in 1525 and took over the city, ending privileges of the wealthy and the clergy. The nobles and clergy fought back and defeated the popular party, but in August 1527 Duke Karel of Guelders sent in his troops to help the rebels. On November 15 Utrecht’s prince-bishop Heinrich of Bavaria agreed to a treaty with Regent Margaret who promised to restore places taken by the Guelders. In 1528 Karel’s commander Maarten van Rossum invaded southern Holland and occupied The Hague. Holland united with Brabant in March for a spring offensive. The States General voted for £460,000 with the gracien at 20%, and 3,500 men drove Karel’s forces out of Utrecht and then captured Hattem, Elburg, and Harderwijk in Guelders. On October 3, 1528 Karel renounced his alliance with France at Gorkum and submitted to Charles V for a pension of 16,000 guilders, and on October 21 the Estates of Utrecht accepted Emperor Charles V as their lord. Holland funded the building of the large citadel Vredenburg in Utrecht, but the Emperor removed the judicial administration of the Hof of Holland and Zeeland from Utrecht and gave the city its own provincial Hof in 1529.
In 1529 Margaret warned Charles V that they could not use their aides to help other countries in his empire. Prelates of the Church were only paying 4% of the proposed aide, and the city of Louvain and other towns in Brabant refused to pay anything. Margaret threatened to collect the full 12% from the clergy and sealed the act herself when the Brabant chancellor refused. The provincial governors over groups of cities were called stadholders. In 1529 Statholder Hoochstraten argued that Charles V could levy the export tax on wheat by his imperial authority, and the Estates of Holland could only complain.
The renowned humanist Erasmus was living in Leuven (Louvain) in the Netherlands 1516-21 as the Reformation erupted, and in May 1519 he observed that Luther’s works were circulating widely in the Low Countries. He secretly supported Luther in his attacks on the Church until 1524 when he began to express his concerns. A disturbance occurred at Dordrecht in 1520, and a Dominican doctor of divinity who preached against Luther was attacked by a mob. He blamed Erasmus and wrote to the rector of Leuven University. The humanist Gerardus Listrius, the rector of the Latin school at Zwolle, went over to Luther in 1520, and the city council expelled him the next year. Hieronymus van Busleyden of the Great Council of Mechlin contributed money to establish the Collegium Trilingue for the study of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which Erasmus found so useful in Biblical and other scholarship. Erasmus also criticized the anti-Luther campaign in the Netherlands, and he was upset that the university burned 80 of Luther’s books at Leuven in October 1520 and 400 at Antwerp and 300 at Ghent in July 1521. Lutheran literature was also burned at Utrecht. In February 1521 the papal nuncio Girolamo Aleandro reported that Erasmus was responsible for Luther’s doctrines being preached in the Netherlands, and in March the Emperor banned the books, sermons, and writings of Luther and his followers in Flanders.
Erasmus moved to Basel in autumn 1521, and his translation of the New Testament and his commentary as well as his Handbook for the Militant Christian began appearing in Dutch in 1523. On July 1 the Inquisition burned the Augustinian friars Hendrik Voet and Jan van Etten in the market-place at Brussels. On September 15, 1525 the first martyr burned in Holland was the Roman Catholic priest Johannes Pistorius at The Hague. Lutheran books were burned in Hapsburg territory in 1526 at Amsterdam, and that year the stadholder banned them in Friesland. In October 1529 Charles V removed the discretion of the local judges by decreeing that each offense violating his heresy edicts must be punished by death. The first heretic was burned in Friesland in 1530, and Duke Karel of Guelders began executing Protestants at Nijmegen and Arnhem.
Charles de Croy was from a Walloon noble family and was Bishop of Tournai 1525-64, and Georges van Egmond, the Bishop of Utrecht 1535-59, patronized artists to decorate churches. In the Netherlands at least one-fifth of the lower clergy had concubines. The main cities had what they called “guilds of rhetoric” where they met for poetic, dramatic, and musical exhibitions which had started in France in the 15th century.
Emperor Charles V visited Brussels in January 1531 for a year and urged his sister Mary of Hungary (r. 1531-55) to organize the administration of the Low Countries. He forbade her to bring her associates from Vienna, and French was the language of the Hapsburg court. Charles set up in Brussels a Council of State to advise on defense and military concerns; the Council of Finance was reorganized; and a renovated but secret Privy Council was given all administrative and judicial authority and began to prepare legislation and to supervise appointments. Brabant and Flanders each granted 1,200,000 gulden for six years, and Holland promised 480,000.
On October 7 Charles decreed regulations on poor relief, alms, and begging and stipulated stronger enforcement against heresy. Alms were to be centralized by charitable institutions and were restricted to the disabled, lepers, mendicants, and pilgrims. Children of vagrants were to be enrolled in religious schools or trained in a craft. All festivals, carnivals, and celebrations had to be limited to one day. He warned that even if his own family members were infected by Lutheran doctrines, he would consider them enemies. Also in October the cities of Holland got from the Emperor a ban on industries operating outside of walled towns. Archbishop Jean de Carondolet of Palermo never visited his see but served the Hapsburgs as president of the Privy Council and State Council until his death in 1540.
Wars in Italy and over trade in the Baltic Sea had caused unemployment, and on August 5, 1532 a bread riot broke out in the marketplace of Brussels against bakers and grain merchants. The crowd went to free prisoners in the town hall and forced Regent Mary to accept guild proposals and send them to the Emperor. In 1533 Mary wrote to her brother Charles that heretics should be prosecuted with severity, and in July 1534 at the States General of Malines she proposed uniting all the provinces in a defensive union. Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht were united under one stadholder. Regular contributions for a standing army were proposed with the quota system of taxes previously used by Charles the Bold. However, the large provinces of Brabant, Flanders, and Holland opposed the union, and the States General rejected the standing army in July 1535. That year the Emperor decreed at Brussels that all heretics were to be condemned to death. The imperial deficit for the Netherlands was 330,000 livres for 1534 and rose to 500,000 in 1535.
In 1535 Hoochstraten advised the Estates to influence the counts of Nassau and Bueren even though Treasurer-general Ruffault had been promised the tax. So the Estates bribed the great lords and gained their support. On January 4, 1536 Mary wrote to her brother Charles about problems, especially in Brabant. Early that year the proposed export tax was dropped, and the Estates of Holland paid their share to the counts of Hoochstraten, Nassau, Berghes, and Molembaix. Others on the regent’s council were also paid, but Treasurer Ruffault got nothing. Secretaries Philip Nigri and Louis Schoere voted to retain the tax but declined the gratuities. The war against France resumed in 1536, and French warships off the coast of Holland frightened their herring fleet from sailing.
Mary tried to negotiate with the States General extension of the six-year grants passed in 1531, and she warned Charles that they had money for only three more months of war. The war with the Guelders had already cost 1,100,000 florins. She proposed an excise tax on beer, wine, silk, and luxury textiles without the usual exemptions. This was rejected, and in January 1537 she asked Flanders for an aide of 52,000 livres a month. On March 27 the government proposed a chimney tax which would raise 200,000 florins per month to pay for an army of 300,000 men in the revived war against France. Before voting for it, the Estates of Holland demanded a redress of their grievances. The government decided they could raise the money any way they chose, and the provinces agreed to an aide of 1,200,000 gulden. Flanders refused but was expected to pay 400,000 gulden.
On June 7 the Emperor recognized the Frisian stadholder George Schenk as Duke of Brabant, Count of Holland, and Lord of Friesland and Overijssel. He managed to reduce Appingadam by persuading the Guelders troops to leave their fortresses. The most prominent stadholder was René de Chalons (1519-44) who inherited Orange. He succeeded his father Hendrik of Nassau in 1538 in the Netherlands. In 1540 René was appointed to govern Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht; but while besieging a French town he was killed by a cannon-ball. He was succeeded by his son Willem who had been born on April 24, 1533. He served Charles V at Brussels from 1544, eventually learning eight languages.
Ghent offered to raise troops instead of paying its share of the aide, but the government preferred professional soldiers to local militia. The smaller towns were taxed, and Ghent complained in spring 1537 that people were being taxed against their will. During the summer some were arrested for not paying taxes. Ghent protested, and Mary submitted the case to the Great Council. In the summer of 1539 the chambers of rhetoric in Ghent held an expensive festival. Brabant’s chancellor complained that the religious plays were infected with Lutheran ideas and asked the Regent to prohibit the sale of the book of plays, and the theology teachers at the University of Leuven put the book on the index. In late summer Ghent revolted by deposing and arresting magistrates and appointing their own nominees. The chief law officer fled, and law enforcement stopped in Ghent. On February 14, 1540 Emperor Charles entered the city with 4,000 troops and forced Ghent to pay its aide of 1537 and a fine of 150,000 gulden with an annuity of 6,000 gulden. On April 29 the city was found guilty and lost their privileges. Charles imposed a new constitution that ended the representation of the guilds in the city council, and he appointed a commission to appoint all the magistrates. One quarter of the city was leveled so that they could build an imperial fortress.
Duke Karel of Guelders died in 1538. In 1539 Duke Wilhelm von der Marck of Cleves began ruling and opposed uniting with the Netherlands under the Hapsburg Emperor, and in 1541 he became a Lutheran and allied with the Schmalkaldic League of the German Protestants. In 1542 France, which was again at war with Spain, financed Wilhelm and raids led by Maarten van Rossum into Hapsburg territory that occupied Amersfoort, but in 1543 Charles V sent a German army down the Rhine River and defeated the Guelders, forcing them to cede Guelderland to his empire at Velo in September. The Estates of Holland spent 485,000 guilders on war from April 1542 to April 1544. The Protestant religion was banned in the Low Countries, and in 1546 an edict prohibited the printing of ballads and songs considered scandalous. Guelders was given its own Hof at Arnhem in 1547. The Netherlands except for Flanders and Artois was now part of the Hapsburg empire.
Charles V visited the Netherlands again from September 1548 to May 1550. At an Imperial Diet the States General recognized the Hapsburg Netherlands in the Pragmatic Sanction, and this was ratified by all seventeen provincial assemblies and high courts in 1549. On April 29, 1550 an imperial “Edict of Blood” confirmed the severity of previous decrees for use by the Inquisition. In 1551 merchants of Antwerp petitioned the imperial government complaining that Scots and other pirates had taken 1,600,000 Holland pounds from them in the previous decade. On July 6, 1551 Willem of Orange married Anna van Egmont, Countess of Buren, who would inherit the wealthy lands of her father. Willem was appointed a captain in the cavalry and by 1555 was a commander in the armies of his patron Charles V and was on the Council of State.
The Hapsburg-Valois war between Spain and France escalated in 1552 for the next seven years, and the battlefields became the border regions between northwest France and the Netherlands. After refusals by the States General, Regent Mary imposed a one-percent tax on the export of all goods by imperial decree. Costs of war greatly increased, and the Spain’s imperial debt by 1557 was seven times what it had been in 1544. Emperor Charles V confiscated silver imported from America by taking nearly 600,000 ducats in 1553 and more than 800,000 in 1555, promising the owners annuities (juros in Spanish or rentes in French) to be paid later by the government; but he exempted the powerful Fuggers and other favored financiers. The States had to guarantee the annuities, or else no one would buy them. In two years (1552 and 1553) 5,700,000 ducats were sent from Spain to the Netherlands as loans. Between 1552 and 1560 the interest rate on the annuities was between 3% and 7% while the capital borrowed increased from 13 million ducats to nearly 22 million. The annual deficit was 3 million florins in 1553 and 7 million in 1555. In February 1555 councilor Willem Snouckaert submitted an indictment with 67 charges of fiscal mismanagement by the States. Regent Mary of Austria-Hungary announced her resignation on September 24, 1555. When Charles V abdicated in the Netherlands on October 25, the debt he left behind in the Netherlands had reached 7 million livres. Interest rates sometimes surpassed 20%. Charles advised them to continue his four main policies of maintaining the faith of the Catholic Church, honoring justice, staying united to overcome their enemies, and obeying their sovereign.
The Anabaptist movement began in Zurich and spread in Switzerland and Germany. Melchior Hoffman was the first to reach the Low Countries in June 1530. He converted the Dutch tailor Sikke Freerks at Leeuwarden who was beheaded there in March 1531. Melchiorite Anabaptism spread in the Netherlands, and the painter David Joris of Delft became a prominent leader. Soon Amsterdam had 3,000 Anabaptists, and in March 1534 seven men and five women ran naked through the city shouting about the wrath of God. The civic militia was activated, and by the end of the month executions were taking place there and in Haarlem. In March 1535 about 300 armed Frisian Anabaptists, including Pieter Simons, took over and fortified the Cistercian Abbey of Oldecloster, destroying altars and images, and Stadholder Schenk von Tautenburg besieged them with artillery, killing many. The 24 survivors were hanged or later beheaded, and the women were drowned in a river. On May 10 a mob stormed Amsterdam’s town hall and murdered Burgomaster Pieter Colijin, and then dozens were killed in a battle. Five days later seven Anabaptist women were drowned there. The executions spread to The Hague, Leiden, Maastricht, Liege, Middelburg, Deventer, and Wesel.
After Melchior Hoffman was imprisoned at Strasbourg in 1533, Jan Matthys was considered a prophet by the Melchiorites. In January 1534 his disciples won over the evangelical preachers at Münster in Germany. Matthys arrived at Münster in February and began to govern the city. He wanted the godless killed, but the people merely expelled them on the 27th. The Bible was proclaimed the city’s law-book, and Bernhard Rothman declared the Torah of Moses divine wisdom. On Easter in 1534 Matthys and thirty others attacked those besieging them and were killed. He was succeeded by Jan van Leiden (Jan Beukelsz) who proposed polygamy and took sixteen wives. People protested, and the opposition became stronger. On June 25 the city of Münster was taken by treachery. The king, queen, and others were imprisoned, and Rothman was killed in the battle. Beukelsz admitted his error and was executed, and Münster became Catholic again. Those following his ideas were called Münsterites.
Jan van Batenburg led raids of villages, monasteries, and churches, and his followers were called Batenburgers. In December 1535 about sixty attacked the village Hazerswoude near Delft. Ten were killed, and some were captured; but most escaped. Batenburg was caught and executed in 1537. In the next ten years an estimated 30,000 Anabaptists were killed in Holland and Friesland. In Antwerp 161 people were executed for heresy between 1522 and 1565, and 139 of them were Anabaptists. In that period about 1,300 people were executed in the Hapsburg realm of the Low Countries. The Inquisition was unpopular, and sometimes crowds forced the release of prisoners.
In April 1557 two Anabaptists were jailed at Haarlem but were able to preach through a window to a crowd outside. Sheriff Pieter van Soutelande ordered them hanged after midnight; 300 people gathered to support the prisoners and afterward chased away the magistrates. On March 28, 1558 at Rotterdam three men and two women were to be hanged, but a crowd rescued them and burned the records in the building. Later some of the leaders were arrested and punished. After this there were no more executions for heresy in Holland except for a kinsman of David Joris at The Hague in 1564. The death penalty for religious offenses had become the most important issue, and in 1565 councilor Hippolytus Persijn concluded that heresy should no longer be punished by death.
Most of the Anabaptist groups, such as the Davidites who followed David Joris, were pacifists. About 25 delegates held a conference at Bocholt in 1536. A large reward was offered for Joris, and 27 Davidites including his mother were executed in Delft in 1539. That year 73 other Davidites were executed in Holland including 13 in Haarlem. In May the Sheriff and gerecht of Haarlem reported to the Council that the captured Anabaptists they interrogated knew nothing of the Batenburgers and were “only seeking God with an upright heart.” In 1540 David Joris changed his beliefs and became a Spiritualist, and in 1542 he published his Wonder-Boeck. Hendrik Niclaes led a group called the Family of Love (Huys der Liefde or Familia Caritasis) that he founded in 1540, and he wrote Glass of Righteousness.
Dirk Volckertszoon Coornhert was also a Spiritualist, and in 1566 he persuaded iconoclasts not to attack churches in Haarlem. He criticized Niclaes and the Familists in his Little Glass of Unrighteousness published in 1579. He was a scholar and in 1552 published his translations of Cicero, Seneca, and Boethius. His translation of the first twelve books of Homer’s Odyssey was published in 1562. Coornhert wrote a treatise against capital punishment and a manifesto against Spanish rule for Willem of Orange in 1566. During the Alba years he took refuge in the Rhineland. His New Testament in Dutch was not completed before his death in 1590.
Menno Simons, the younger brother of Pieter, was born into a peasant family at Witmarsum in the province of Friesland in 1496. In a monastic school he learned Latin and Greek, and he was ordained a priest at Utrecht in 1524. Two years later with trepidation he began to read the Bible. He had doubts about the transubstantiation of the bread and wine during the mass and discovered that the New Testament did not necessarily back up the Catholic dogma. In 1531 Menno commented on the strangeness of the city of Leeuwarden executing a tailor for being baptized a second time. He came to the view that infant baptism was a deception. Based on scripture he believed that baptism should be a confession of faith in Christ. He admitted that his attachment to his large income kept him performing the mass and baptizing infants for two more years.
Menno objected to violent methods, and early in 1535 he wrote “The Blasphemy of Jan of Leiden.” He asked how Christians could fight with weapons of war, and he was shocked by the armed attack by those in the Münster kingdom on the Cistercian abbey at Oldeklooster. Menno knew some of those killed and began to preach against the errors of the radicals. In January 1536 Menno Simons renounced his Catholic priesthood, and one year later he was baptized and ordained, probably by Obbe Philips. Unlike Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli who maintained their professional positions and were protected by their provincial governments, Menno became homeless and faced persecution. About this time he married Gertrude and while traveling with her raised a family. In 1539 the first of several people was executed for having sheltered Menno. That year Menno published The Foundation of Christian Doctrine. He was appalled that reasoning humans shaped in the image of God and born without fangs, claws, and horns with tender flesh could be so cruel and full of hatred, especially when Christ taught and demonstrated peace so well. He believed that two opposing kingdoms have opposing princes and that the Christian should not act as an official in the Antichrist’s realm of strife, though he did make an exception that the ordinary sword of the judicial magistrate may be used. In his True Christian Faith Menno exhorted rulers to be both spiritual and worldly kings by using wisdom and by living in the peace of God.
In 1541 the Regent Mary offered a reward for the arrest of Menno Simons, and the next year Emperor Charles V announced a reward of 100 guilders with an edict of death for Menno. The empire had decreed death for all Anabaptists in 1529, but the persecution in some parts of Germany was less than in the Netherlands. In 1541 Menno went to Amsterdam and spent two years preaching in northern Holland. In January 1544 he debated the Zwinglian reformer John a’Lasco for three days in East Friesland. Countess Anna allowed Menno to leave in peace, and Menno went to Cologne. For many years his talks were not publicly announced, and his influential writings appeared without naming a printer or a location. Many Anabaptists began calling themselves Mennonites to distinguish themselves from the more violent policies of the Melchiorites. After spending two years in the Rhineland, Menno took refuge with his ill wife in Holstein at Wustenfelde on the estates of the German nobleman Bartholomaus von Ahlefeldt. He was joined there by his followers.
Although Menno agreed with Pilgram Marpeck that one could serve some legitimate functions of government, he later clarified his position by opposing punishments that are not humanitarian. He admired the ancient Spartans for assigning criminals to hard labor instead of using capital punishment. In the Cross of Christ he denounced false Christians who devastated lands and killed thousands, robbing and plundering the innocent poor because of the quarrels of princes. Even Lutherans such as the Hanseatic League in 1553 forbade Anabaptists from living in their territories. In 1554 the Reformed theologian Martin Micron in a debate at Wismar accused Menno of rejecting Christian government. Menno replied that bloodshed did not befit a Christian government. He argued that the criminal who is executed is not given a chance to repent, and he thought it strange that a Christian could hang or torture anyone. Menno came to believe that criminals should be punished but in a Christian manner with fairness and modesty. Within the Mennonite community he approved of avoiding or shunning those who were excommunicated.
After Menno died in 1561, many Anabaptists who followed his nonviolent way were called Mennonites. The Anabaptists had two bishops. Gillis van Aiken was executed in 1557, but Lenaert Bouwens kept records of those baptized in their faith until his death in 1582. In 1558 alone 22 Anabaptists were executed, followed by 17 in 1559. Another 34 received the death penalty in the next six years. The family of the weaver Jan de Zwarte had eighteen martyrs for Anabaptism put to death between 1558 and 1567. In 1562 confessions and letters of martyrs were published in The Lord’s Sacrifice from citizens in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leeuwarden, Antwerp, and Ghent. In 1568 at the Waterlandian conference in East Friesland the Mennonites decided to excommunicate anyone who took part in training for military service unless the person repented and asked forgiveness.
When the Netherlands went to war against Spain in 1572, the Dutch Mennonites refused to participate and used the ban against those who did. That year Mennonites collected money and gave it to Prince Willem of Orange, asking for his friendship if he should gain the government. Willem used the funds for the cause, and in 1575 his representative exempted Mennonites from the obligation for every able man to guard with weapons. This is the first law known to grant conscientious objection to war, and it was confirmed by Prince Maurits of Orange in 1593. The Mennonites did, however, pay commutation money that supported war.
Spain’s King Felipe II came to the Netherlands in September 1555 and stayed there four years even though he could not speak Dutch or French. His father Charles V abdicated to him on October 25. They appointed the Council of State and Duke Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy to be governor-general of the Netherlands in Brussels with his lieutenant Willem of Orange, the richest man in the Low Countries. Though affable, he kept his thoughts to himself and became known as “William the Silent.”
Many nobles were admitted into the Order of the Golden Fleece and were made stadholders and given seats on the Council of State. In 1556 interest payments on the debt jumped to 1,360,000 florins. Felipe II summoned the States General for March 12, and he asked them for three million guilders; but Brabant led the opposition that criticized the war with France and refused. In February 1557 the war with France resumed on the Netherlands border, but the imperial Spanish army of 56,000 Spaniards, Belgians, and Germans used 6,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry led by the Count of Egmont to defeat the French at Saint-Quentin on August 10. That month Savoy convened the States General at Valenciennes, but no money was appropriated for war. They moved back to Brussels in November. The theologian Willem Lindanus of Leuven was commissioned to investigate heresy in Friesland, and this provoked resistance there. In the years 1557-59 another four million ducats were transferred from Spain to the Netherlands.
In May 1558 the States General agreed to the Novennial aide of 800,000 livres in tax annually for nine years; but they insisted that their own commissioners raise the money, and the States General at Ghent demanded that the 3,000 Spanish soldiers stationed there leave the country. Holland demanded that inquisitors be restrained by canon law, and Brabant did not let them in their province at all. Friesland avoided paying taxes for war, and in 1558 the Frisian Assembly refused to vote any funds for war. The States General met again in June 1559 and voted that the Novennial aide depended on the removal of the 3,000 troops. King Felipe II’s half-sister Margaret of Parma was the illegitimate daughter of Charles V by a young woman from Ghent and was educated in the Netherlands. She had married Duke Alessandro of Florence in 1536 and after his death Duke Ottavio Farnese of Parma in 1538. The King appointed her to govern the Netherlands with the advice of his most trusted man, Bishop Antoine Perrenot of Arras, the lord of Granvelle, with Viglius van Ayta as president of the State Council and the Count of Berlaymont as president of the Finance Council. Then on July 5 Felipe II left Brussels for the last time and went back to Spain. The States of Holland convened 285 times between 1542 and 1562. In January 1561 the Spanish soldiers left the Netherlands.
In the 1550s and 1560s many Calvinists came from Geneva to the Netherlands and from France to the Walloon region. Many Calvinists settled in Flanders and Brabant, and some later moved north to Holland because of the persecution. The Polish Calvinist Jan Laski reformed the national church of East Friesland, and Calvinists from the Netherlands took refuge there. A. C. van Haemsted became a Calvinist minister at Antwerp and wrote the influential Book of Martyrs that was published there in 1559. In 1561 the Walloon minister Guido de Bres at Tournai drafted a confession of faith for the Netherlands Church based on the French model, and it was quickly translated into Dutch. Many Baptists joined the new church.
When the war with France ended with a treaty on April 3, 1559, Orange, Egmont, and the Duke of Alba went to Paris as honored hostages, arriving on June 16. Fifteen new bishoprics for the Lowlands received papal sanction. The nomination of bishops was taken from the chapters and given to the King; but Pope Pius IV demanded a fee of 10,000 pounds, and they were not appointed until March 1561. Grenvelle became Archbishop of Malines, a cardinal, and Primate of the Netherlands. Cambrai and Utrecht also became archbishoprics. Mechlin now had sees in Ypres, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and Roermond; Cambrai had them in Arras, Tournai, St. Omer, and Namur; and Utrecht’s sees were in Middelberg, Haarlem, Deventur, Groningen, and Leeuwarden. Each new diocese of about 160,000 inhabitants would have nine canons with two commissioned as inquisitors. Nicholas de Castro of Middelberg, Sonnius of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Wilhelmus Lindanus of Roermond, and Nicholas van Nieuwland of Haarlem were professional inquisitors, though the last was an alcoholic. Sonnius was so unpopular that he was not installed until November 1562. These changes provoked resistance from all classes as a violation of their rights, and many remonstrances were published. Most protests were aimed at Cardinal Granvelle.
In 1559 Felipe II had appointed Prince Willem the Silent of Orange stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht, and Count Lamoral of Egmont stadholder of Flanders and Artois. The Dutch complained that Orange, Egmont, and Philipe de Montmorency, the Count of Hoorne, were exempted from taxes on their estates in Holland. Willem’s income from his Netherlands estates was 150,000 florins, and he got about that much again from his public offices. His father died in 1559 and left behind debts of almost a million florins, mostly to the Landgrave of Hesse. In January 1561 the last 3,000 Spanish troops were withdrawn from the Netherlands. Orange and Egmont wrote to Felipe II in July objecting to Granvelle’s government. After the death of his first wife Willem married Lutheran Anna of Saxony on August 25, 1561. Her father had been the bitterest enemy of Charles V, and Orange became suspected at court. Her dowry helped him become financially independent.
So many Calvinists had come to Flanders that on September 4 the Council warned the regent that strictly enforcing the heresy laws would cause depopulation. Calvinists in Tournai protested the procession on the feast day of Our Lady on September 14, and on September 29 the fiscal procurer Pasquier de la Barre estimated that at least four hundred Calvinists marched singing psalms on September 29 and more than three thousand the next day. On April 27, 1562 a crowd of Calvinists rescued the deacons Simon Fauveau and Philip Maillart from being burned in Valenciennes.
In May 1562 Margaret summoned the Knights of the Golden Fleece. Willem of Orange convened a meeting in his palace, and he and Egmont organized a league against Granvelle. In March 1563 a mob pillaged a Cistercian nunnery near Leiden. That month the Council of State sent Emmanuel-Philibert de Lalaing, the Baron of Montigny, to King Felipe II with a request written by Orange, Egmont, and Hoorne, and they withdrew from the Council of State until their demands were met. On April 6 the States of Holland accepted Orange’s offer to mediate, and on May 7 they agreed to terms proposed by Egmont. On May 1 a decree made hedge sermons punishable by death, but the outdoor gatherings increased. Orange led the opposition to installing a bishop at Antwerp, and this was suspended. Montigny was held in Spain and was secretly strangled in October 1570.
On January 1, 1564 Willem spoke to the full Council of State, saying that he could “not approve of princes attempting to rule the consciences of their subjects and wanting to rob them of the liberty of faith.”1 On December 14, 1563 Felipe II recalled Granvelle from the Netherlands, and he left Brussels on March 14, 1564, leaving Margaret of Parma in charge. Six days later Orange, Egmont, and Hoorne returned to the Council. The minister Fabritius de Smet was executed at Antwerp. In 1565 De Bres was arrested, and he was hanged at Valenciennes on May 31, 1567. After Granvelle departed, opposition against the Inquisition increased. Many people protested the Brussels government, and Catholics as well as Protestants opposed the tyrannical edicts. Pieter Titelmans had been inquisitor for Flanders since 1545, and by 1566 he had presided over 454 trials and 105 of the 200 executions for heresy in Flanders.
In 1565 the artist Maarten van Heemskerk published prints showing angry men destroying idolatrous temples and statues with hammers and axes. Pieter Breughel had previously painted his Massacre of the Innocents depicting babies murdered by Spanish soldiers. In 1566 his Sermon by St. John the Baptist showed a large crowd outside. In the spring of 1565 the Council of State sent Egmont to Spain, and he returned believing that Felipe II would relax his edicts. In August a group of Calvinist nobles led by Jean Marnix of Tholouse and Louis of Nassau created a manifesto swearing to defend their privileges, expel the Inquisition, and remain loyal to the King. At festivals and meetings they obtained 2,000 signatures. However, in October the King sent his letters from the Segovia Woods to Margaret ordering strict enforcement of his edicts, and she placed them before the Council of State on November 14. On December 20 they proclaimed that all provincial authorities must enforce the heresy laws they approved. In these two months bread riots occurred in Breda, Mechelen, Ghent, Ter Goes, and other towns, and the price of wheat doubled in Antwerp, Utrecht, Diksmuide, and Lier.
In December about four hundred lesser nobles led by Count Hendrik of Brederode, Orange’s brother Count Louis of Nassau, and Count Charles of Mansfield signed the “Compromise of the Nobility.” They formed a union to oppose the edicts, and in order to appeal to Catholics as well as Protestants they called it the League of Compromise. In January 1566 Orange, Egmont, and Hoorne left the Council of State again, and Stadholder Bergen of Hainaut and Cambresis and Stadholder Brimeu of Guelders resigned. The States of Holland used taxes to finance their provincial debt but not for the central government. By 1566 half the debt caused by the war from 1552 to 1559 had been paid off.
On March 27, 1566 Regent Margaret appealed to the Knights of the Golden Fleece, but Willem of Orange made a long speech opposing the edicts against heretics and the Inquisition. Two days later she called the Council of State and persuaded Orange to support her moderate policy. Jean Marnix of Tholouse and Louis of Nassau presented a petition to Margaret at Brussels. Orange favored it, but Egmont and Meghen declined to oppose the government. On April 5 about four hundred nobles gathered in a procession to the Governor’s palace, and Brederode presented the Compromise petition. The President of the Council of Finance, Count Charles of Berlaymont, contemptuously referred to them as “beggars” (gueux), and they began to use this name which became geus in Dutch. The city of Antwerp with about 90,000 people became the champion of the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands. In the mid-1560s a war in the Baltic region and suspended imports of British cloth had caused unemployment and high prices for food. Regent Margaret suspended the edicts in April, and some exiles returned. She asked the lords to return to the Council and ordered the provinces to use caution with the edicts. This was considered a suspension while they were submitted to King Felipe.
Hedge sermons became much more popular in the summer of 1566. Calvinist and other preaching to masses of people outside erupted in June outside Antwerp, Breda, and ‘s-Hertogenbosch. In July the outdoor preaching spread in Holland from Hoorn to Enkhuizen, Haarlem, and Amsterdam. Willem also served as Burgrave of Antwerp, and Margaret sent him to restore order there. On August 10 a sermon in west Flanders provoked a crowd to attack a convent and destroy images. This iconoclastic fury was called beeldenstorm and spread in Flanders, Hainaut, Brabant, Zeeland, Holland, Utrecht, Guelders, and eventually to Friesland and Groningen. On the 14th merchants of Antwerp presented a petition to Willem of Orange who left the city on the 19th. On August 21 and 22 large crowds in Antwerp shouted “Vivent les Gueux!” as no one stopped them from ransacking and plundering images, paintings, and other religious objects in all 42 churches. Two days later mobs pillaged churches in Middelburg, Flushing, and Breda, followed by a main church in Amsterdam the next day while the militia did nothing. At Middelburg the burgher guard (schutters) refused to “fight for church, pope, and monks.” Guildsmen went on strike in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
On August 23, 1566 Margaret agreed to an Accord which allowed preaching wherever it was already practiced if the people would not carry arms nor interfere with Catholic services. The iconoclastic behavior reached Holland in September protected by armed nobles. Only in Guelders and the southern Walloon towns such as Lille, Liege, Namur, and Douai were the Catholics able to prevent this destruction. Catholic jonkers in Nijmegen were able to retake their town. Calvinist consistories formed in Holland, Limburg, Hainaut, and Flanders, some with more than a thousand members. Eventually Reformed consistories were established all over Friesland. During the summer the Calvinists gathered 8,000 troops that were supported by money pledged to the Beggars’ service. By November the congregations stopped contributing, and most of these troops went to serve the government.
The Accord replaced the Compromise as Orange mediated between Catholics and Protestants in Antwerp, Breda, Amsterdam, Haarlem, and other Dutch towns. On December 3 Orange convened a meeting with Egmont, Hoorne, Hoogstraten, and his brother Louis of Nassau at Dendermonde. They had learned that Felipe II planned to send thousands of soldiers to the Netherlands, though Egmont did not believe they were in danger. On October 17 the consistory of Ghent offered the imperial government three million florins for religious toleration. Other individuals contributed, and the money was held in Antwerp to see if the King would agree. On November 29 the Duke of Alba accepted command of the army in the Netherlands as captain-general, and on December 17 Margaret proclaimed Tournai and Valenciennes guilty of treason and rebellion for refusing to accept a royal garrison.
Calvinists held a synod at Antwerp, and on December 1, 1566 they asserted their right to use armed resistance against a monarch who was taking away their privileges. Calvinist congregations raised money, and Brederode was put in command of troops raised in Germany. Orange had declined the position. Margaret sent a force led by Philippe de St. Aldegonde, the Lord of Noircarmes, to besiege Valenciennes. Bands of men took up arms but were defeated by Stadholder Rassenghien of Tournai at Watrelos and by Noircarmes with 650 cavalry and 950 infantry at Lannoy on December 29, killing about 600 Calvinists as the rest of the 3,000 fled. On January 2, 1567 Noircarmes arrived at the gates of Tournai with eleven companies to carry out Margaret’s orders to strengthen the garrison and disarm the inhabitants, and the officials were summoned and submitted. People in the Netherlands now had to choose between armed revolt and submission.
In February 1567 Regent Margaret required her leading stadholders to renew their loyalty oath to the King. Willem of Orange and Hoogstraten declined, but Egmont and others took it. Jean Marnix of Tholouse sent to Friesland and published his Vraye Narration et apologie arguing that Felipe II had violated the freedom and privileges of the Netherlands. Marnix led the march on Zealand, but they were defeated at Flushing in March 1567 and dispersed around Antwerp. On March 13 about 800 government veterans, half provided by Egmont, attacked a camp at Oosterweel and routed the rebels, killing Jean Marnix. Orange ordered the gates of Antwerp closed, but 2,000 armed men forced them open and went out but were too late to help Marnix; their compatriots at Oosterweel were killed. Willem opened the arsenal for them to defend the city, and he proclaimed freedom of religion.
On March 24 Valenciennes surrendered to Noircarmes. Before they were hanged, De Bres and Pérégin de la Grange called Orange a traitor. The towns of Haarlem, Venlo, and Roermond were not occupied, but they expelled Calvinist preachers and stopped their Protestant services. Many Protestant preachers fled from the Netherlands. On April 10 Orange sent a letter to Felipe resigning his offices in Antwerp, and he left the next day and went to Breda and then fled to Germany on the 21st. The Amsterdam vroedschap (council) banned Protestant preaching on April 17, and thousands of Calvinists and others went into exile. Antwerp accepted a garrison of 3,000 troops on April 26. The next day Brederode fled from Amsterdam after failing to win over the city. When Vianen fell on May 3, the rebellion was over. Orange moved to his castle at Dillenburg in May, and Hoogstraten, Culemborg, and other nobles also found refuge in Germany. Brederode visited Orange at Dillenburg in June but could not persuade him to use armed revolt. Brederode died on February 15, 1568.
Four regiments of Spanish infantry with 1,200 cavalry were sent in June 1567 from Naples, Sicily, Milan, and Sardinia, and Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, the Duke of Alba, reached Thionville (Luxembourg) on August 3 with 10,000 troops and entered Brussels on August 22. He knew Spanish, Latin, French, Italian, and some German. On September 5 Alba established the Conseil des Troubles to investigate disturbances and by 1569 had a prosecuting staff of 170. During the Alba regime they tried about 12,000 people, convicted 9,000 mostly in absentia, confiscated their property, and executed more than a thousand. The city of Tournai had 1,063 people condemned, Antwerp 525, Ypres 478, Valenciennes 425, ‘s-Hertogenbosch 360, Utrecht 288, Ghent 248, Amsterdam 242, Groningen 209, Nijmegen 187, Brussels 157, Bruges 149, Breda and Middelburg 140 each, Honschoote 116, Leeuwarden 105, Brill 88, Kortrijk 84, Leiden and Mechelen 83 each, Lille 68, Haarlem 35, Namur 21, and Leuven 20. Residences of suspected nobles were searched, and papers were confiscated.
On September 8 Margaret of Parma resigned the regency, and the next day after a banquet the Duke of Alba arrested the magnates Egmont and Hoorne and their secretaries, seizing their papers. They were accused of treason and were imprisoned. Margaret left for Italy on December 30. The main waves of refugees leaving were in the spring of 1567 and the following winter after many arrests. The Dutch in the north went to northwest Germany while many from Flanders and Zeeland crossed the sea to England. Those from Brabant and southern Holland went mostly to Cleves and the Rhineland. All together about 60,000 people left the Netherlands to avoid Alba’s repression.
In January 4, 1568 the Duke of Alba executed 84 prominent citizens in Brussels. That month about 1,500 refugees returned from England and began stirring up rebellion in western Flanders. Willem of Orange was ordered to answer a charge of treason, and Alba ordered a garrison placed in Orange’s palace at Breda; its contents and weapons were shipped to Ghent on seven barges. This persuaded Orange to lead the revolt, and the Reformed Elector of the Palatinate helped him raise money from German Protestants. Orange’s oldest son Philips Willem was studying at the University of Leuven and was taken to Spain in February and would never see his father again. On March 3 they arrested 500 people in the Netherlands. One quarter of Holland’s nobility were suspected of heresy or rebellion. Fewer executions took place in the northern provinces, but Alba had a citadel built in Groningen staffed with German soldiers in the occupying army. He punished Utrecht by billeting soldiers there.
Willem of Orange published his Justification in April 1568, and the next month Emperor Maximilian II ordered him to stop arming rebels against the Spanish government and threatened him with imperial penalties. Willem’s brother Count Louis of Nassau led 3,900 infantry and 200 cavalry from East Friesland on April 24 that invaded Groningen and on May 23 defeated the Spanish army of 3,200 infantry led by Duke Johan de Ligne of Aremberg at Heiligerlee, inflicting more than 1,500 losses while suffering only 50 casualties. Egmont and Hoorne were condemned to death on June 4 and were beheaded the next day. Four days later eighteen rebellious nobles were executed in the Great Market Square. On July 12 Orange, Egmont, Brederode, Culemborg, and leaders of the Beggars met at Duffel near Antwerp and agreed to insist on religious toleration and the summoning of a States General. The next day Orange entered Antwerp to the cheers of “Vivent les Gueux!” On July 21 Alba’s army of 12,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry defeated 10,000 rebel soldiers and 2,000 cavalry led by Louis at Jemmingen, killing and wounding about 7,000 men while losing only 300 casualties.
Willem wrote back to Maximilian II in August denouncing the tyranny of the Duke of Alba, claiming that resistance against him was justified. By then he had mustered 25,000 mercenaries from Germany at Duisberg in Cleves. On October 6 his army crossed the Meuse River and seized Tongres and then moved west hoping to join French Huguenots. At night on October 19 they were attacked by Alba’s army and lost 2,000 men including Hoogstraten.
Magistrate Pasquier de le Barre in Tournai kept a diary of Calvinist activities from 1559 to 1567, but in 1568 he was executed for his part in the iconoclastic riots of 1566. The merchant Jacques Bombault was put to death in 1569 for crimes that included wearing the Beggars symbol around his neck at a hedge sermon in 1566. Westkwartier iconoclasts were also punished later for activities in 1566. Reformed congregations with consistories managed to hide in Delft, Haarlem, Enkhuizen, and Leeuwarden. Mennonites survived in Friesland, the Ommelands, and southern Holland. Many people resumed attending Catholic mass, but attendance declined again in the early 1570s. Gradually the new Catholic bishops were installed, and town councils still controlled the civic Latin schools. In November 1568 delegates met at Wesel in Cleves, and orthodox Calvinists mistrusted those who had been in the government. The strict Calvinists would maintain the upper hand at the first Synod of the Netherlands Reformed Church when it met at Emden in October 1571.
Five ships carrying 400,000 florins from Spain to the Netherlands were attacked by Huguenot pirates in November 1568 and were taken to Southampton and Plymouth. The ships were detained on December 19, and the treasure was taken to the Tower of London. On December 29 the Spanish ambassador Guerau de Spes informed Alba who ordered all English property in the Netherlands confiscated in February 1569. To maintain a standing army of 11,000 Spaniards, Italians, and Walloons in the Netherlands the Duke of Alba and King Felipe II needed to raise revenues. For the first time in nearly a decade Alba convened the States General. On March 20, 1569 with the knights of the Golden Fleece attending he asked the States General for a one-percent tax on assessed wealth, a five-percent tax on real estate sales, and a ten-percent tax on commercial transactions called the Tenth Penny. Most of the recently annexed provinces did not have to collect these last two if they voted annual subsidies, and the other provinces refused to do so.
Sint-Aldegonde had published his Roman Beehive, a satire on the Catholic Church in 1569. Abraham Ortels published his large world atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, in 1570 with a Dutch edition in 1571. Frans Hogenberg illustrated the first four volumes with his engravings. He also depicted dramatic scenes during the Dutch revolt.
On March 26, 1569 imperial forces attacked the bookshops in the Netherlands, and on June 16 more than 500 books deemed heretical were burned in public at Tournai. On October 17 Alba demanded that Holland pay the Tenth and Twentieth Penny taxes or 271,000 guilders annually for six years. The States objected, and on November 22 Stadholder Bossu asked for a loan of 65,000 pounds. In 1570 Louis of Nassau went with his brother Willem of Orange to France where Louis established a center at La Rochelle. Alba forced Groningen to accept a new bishop and build a fortress.
In March 1570 Alba modified the taxes, but they still were not collected. By February 1571 the one-percent tax had brought in 3.3 million florins. In July 1570 Alba proclaimed a general pardon to those who would seek reconciliation within three months, but most people suspected it was a trick. On July 31 Alba decreed that the Twentieth and Tenth Penny taxes had to be collected. After Willem of Orange’s resignation in 1567, Maximilien de Hennin, Count Bossu, had been appointed stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht, and he ordered fines of 1,000 guilders to burgomasters and 500 guilders for magistrates who failed to collect taxes. Even Amsterdam gave in before the Sea-Beggars liberated Brill. In 1570 the Netherlands had revenues of over 4 million florins per year. The Antwerp citadel was completed in June 1571 and had cost 801,900 guilders.
By March 1572 the militias had been alienated by their town governments and would not enforce the taxes. Flemish bishops and other loyalists asked for the Tenth Penny and Twentieth Penny taxes to be suspended, but Alba would not abolish them until June 26. On March 1 Queen Elizabeth ordered 600 “Beggars” to leave English ports within a month. On April 1 Willem Blois van Treslong’s 26 ships were led by Count Lumey de la Marck and seized the port of Brill. Five days later as Spanish reinforcements were approaching, the citizens of Flushing took over their town, expelled the Walloon garrison, and welcomed 800 Beggars sent from Brill. The town council enacted a law under the authority of the Prince of Orange and King Felipe II to ban attacks on churches. Flushing became a naval base for the Beggars that controlled the Scheldt Estuary. Rotterdam rose up on April 8 followed by Schiedam and Gouda two days later. Veere was seized by its fishermen and militia on May 21. Stadholder Bossu tried to blockade Brill, and Rotterdam closed its gates against him. As imperial troops attacked them, Count Louis of Nassau invaded Hainaut with 1,000 Huguenot soldiers and 500 cavalry on May 23, and the next day they took over Mons on the French border.
On June 2 Orange’s northern commander Diederik Sonoy established a base at Enkhuien in North Holland and Friesland. Alba borrowed 200,000 ducats from his relative Cosimo de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and activated the Hapsburg’s German commanders for a month. He recalled his son Fadrique of Toledo, and his 4,000 men camped by Mons on June 23. Then a rebel force led by Count Van den Bergh invaded Guelders from Germany and seized Doetinchem, Zutphen, Deventer, Zwolle, Kampen, and Steenwijk. On June 20 the Scots Privy Council urged unemployed men to fight for Holland. Haarlem was one of the last towns in the area to go over to Orange in early July. In the north only Amsterdam had not yet been liberated. Burgomaster Hendrick Dirkszoon led the Catholics against the party of the sheriff (schout), and they kept Amsterdam loyal to King Felipe II until 1578.
Gouda was one of the first towns to join the revolt in south Holland on June 21, 1572 after Beggars captured Oudewater. Leiden revolted from within, and Beggar troops arrived ten days later. As the rebellion spread, another beeldenstorm against Catholic priests and churches erupted in spite of Orange’s wishes. After a revolution in Dordrecht the churches were pillaged, and a few were reopened for Protestant services. On July 7 the Prince of Orange crossed the Rhine with an army of 20,000 men, and they captured Roermond, Straelen, Geldern, and Wachtendonck. On July 18 the Orangists assembled the States of Holland at Dordrecht because The Hague remained loyal to the King until late July. Of the six main cities only Amsterdam and Delft declined to attend. Willem of Orange sent his secretary Philippe de Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde to instruct them, and they accepted his conservative ideas to preserve law and order. On July 20 they promised freedom of religion to all the Reformed and Catholics. Eight days later the deputies paid a committee of deputies to advise Orange on government. In August they gained control of the Catholic Church’s property, and in October they added commissioners on war.
Willem of Orange asserted that he was still stadholder for the King in Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht. The States of Holland recognized this and named him captain-general and Protector of the Netherlands. They let him appoint Lumey in South Holland and Sonoy in North Holland as his lieutenants. On July 23 they appropriated 600,000 guilders to pay his troops for three months and planned to raise more by selling confiscated Church property. Orange promised that he would govern with the consent of the States, and he and the States agreed not to negotiate with Felipe II without mutual consent. They blockaded Delft. As the town fell, homes of the four fleeing burgomasters, churches, and monasteries were plundered. Friesland’s Stadholder Gaspar de Robles repulsed the Beggar attacks in August 1572, and his troops massacred the inhabitants of Dokkum. Groningen reinforced Robles, and he secured Leeuwarden and other places.
After the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in late August, Alba did not worry about a French invasion in the southern Netherlands. After hiring mercenaries in Germany the Duke of Alba had an army of 40,000 men. On August 27 he brought 8,500 men to Mons, and three days later began bombarding the walls with 37 cannons. Willem of Orange led a mostly German mercenary army of 16,000 men into Brabant, but only the towns of Mechelen and Oudenaarde asked him for garrisons. On September 8 Orange’s army confronted the imperial army by Mons; but his brother Louis of Nassau surrendered Mons to Alba on September 19. Then Alba’s forces marched on Mechelen and sacked the city on October 2, plundering it for three days. The southern towns of Leuven, Oudenaarde, and Diest submitted and were let off with fines. Antwerp, Brussels, and Flemish towns had not changed. On November 14 the imperial forces massacred hundreds at Zutphen, and other rebellious towns in Guelders and Overijssel capitulated. Most of the 49 Catholic clerics killed by rebels between 1567 and 1591 died in Holland in 1572.
Orange with the advice of the Estates appointed new magistrates to the Court of Holland, and their administrative functions were removed from their judicial role. On December 2 Alba’s son Fadrique ordered every person in Naarden into their church and set it on fire, killing all 3,000 citizens. These massacres increased the Dutch will to resist Spanish oppression. A few days later Alba’s army besieged Haarlem; but they refused to surrender until starvation forced them on July 12, 1573. To prevent being sacked the magistrates promised to pay an indemnity of 240,000 pounds. Alba had promised mercy, but he had the garrison of 2,000 men put to death. Unpaid Spanish soldiers resented the deal and mutinied for a month.
In 1572 the nobles in the States General had been replaced. In February 1573 the States doubled the excise tax on beer and wine. In March the Calvinists in Holland took control of state education. Felipe II recalled the Duke of Alba on October 15. He was replaced by Luis de Requesens who had been governing Milan. He arrived on November 17 and was inaugurated at Brussels on the 29th. Alba left the Netherlands for Spain on December 18. Fadrique began preparing another siege of Leiden on October 31, and the city was surrounded by December 2. Spain’s military occupation and repression of the Netherlands had already cost Spain more than 25 million florins with 8 million of it during Alba’s years. The troops were owed 6 million crowns in pay, and military expenses were running 600,000 florins a month. The war in the Netherlands with Spain that began in 1568 would go on until 1648 and would be named the “Eighty Years’ War.”
In the northwest rebels blockaded the Spanish garrison at Middelberg for twenty months until they capitulated on February 21, 1574. In March about 30,000 Spanish forces moved south to meet the army of 15,000 men raised in Germany by Willem of Orange and his brother Louis. They lacked discipline and on May 14 were routed by the Spanish army as Louis of Nassau was killed. Governor-general Requesens negotiated taxes with the separate provinces, and all except Brabant demanded he summon the States General. Felipe II agreed in March, and they met at Brussels on June 4. Requesens cancelled the Tenth Penny tax and offered a pardon to all who would submit to Felipe II.
Orange opened the States of Holland at Rotterdam on June 5 and advised them not to submit to the King. Ten days later they agreed to raise enough money for the garrisons needed in the cities. He persuaded them to vote on July 30 to open the dykes in order to relieve the besieged city of Leiden which was besieged for eighteen months and ran out of supplies in August. The province would pay for the extensive damage. Willem went to rescue them, and heavy rains forced the Spaniards to pull back on October 3. They withdrew from Utrecht and Haarlem, evacuating South Holland. The States General and Brabant could not agree with Requesens on taxes. On October 11 the rebels defeated the Spaniards in a battle on the Zuider Zee, capturing Bossu. Royalist Amsterdam and Haarlem suffered because they were cut off from their markets. The humanist Elbertus Leoninus taught law at the University of Leuven, and in December he advised Orange and the States of Holland.
Requesens wanted to divide Holland in two and tried again in 1575. He was willing to negotiate with the rebelling provinces, and Felipe II finally gave permission. Diplomats began meeting at Breda on March 3. However, they could not agree on religion and the form of government, and Requesens ended the peace talks on July 13. The Dutch increased secular control over churches by decreeing that magistrates were to appoint officials to administer church property and the salaries of ministers and schoolmasters. The Orangists demanded the withdrawal of foreigners and convocation of the States General. Holland and Zeeland formed a union in June under the military command of Orange to maintain the reformed religion with freedom of conscience. On February 5, 1575 they founded a university at Leiden to serve Holland and Zeeland. Gilles de Berlaymont, the Baron of Hierges, served as the last Hapsburg stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht from 1574 to 1577. In 1574 Spain spent nearly 8 million florins on its army in the Netherlands. In 1575 it would cost more than 5 million, and in September the government ran out of money and cancelled all its debts without converting them into juros (bonds) as they had in 1557. After 2 million ducats arrived from Peru in 1577, they negotiated a compromise with their creditors.
Rebels gathered 3,000 peasants from the hinterland of Dordrecht and forced the Krimpen garrison to surrender on February 26, 1576. Governor Requesens died of typhus at Brussels on March 5, freezing royal finances. On April 25 Holland and Zeeland created the Act of Federation which was called the Union of Delft. For the first time they gave Willem of Orange interim powers, and he agreed to head the Union on July 11. A pamphlet called for peace and argued that the Netherlands should not be ruled by an absolute monarch but by a republic. Unpaid soldiers maintained the siege of Zierikzee which capitulated on July 2. That day the veterans mutinied, demanding two years of back pay. The mutiny spread, and on the 25th they sacked Aalst near Brussels. The Council of State gave Brabant permission to raise troops to protect Brussels, but on September 4 Orange sent armed soldiers led by Jacques de Glymes, and they broke into the palace and arrested most of those on the Council.
On September 8 the States of Brabant and Hainaut invited all the provinces of the Low Countries except Holland and Zeeland to convene a States General at Brussels. The deputies of this States General wanted to end the war with the rebels, and they appointed Philippe de Croy, the Duke of Aerschot, to lead the Council of State. The States of Holland and Zeeland at Middelburg sent a message to the south that they wanted to negotiate a reunion of the Netherlands. Orange proposed a union of all the provinces. On October 30 the States General agreed to an armistice with Holland and Zeeland in order to drive out the mutinous Spaniards. The States General recognized Willem of Orange in those areas of Holland and Zeeland he controlled while suspending his authority in the rest and in Utrecht. On November 4 the mutineers sacked Antwerp and killed about 8,000 people. Spanish soldiers took Maastricht and terrorized Ghent which appealed to Orange who sent troops from the north and ships with grain for Antwerp.
Ghent’s Committee of Eighteen was formed on November 8, 1576, and one week later they agreed to expel all Spanish troops from the Low Countries in what was called the “Pacification of Ghent.” Edicts against heresy were revoked, but article 4 protected the Catholic religion except in Holland and Zeeland. Because of this 15 of the 17 provinces approved the Pacification. Willem of Orange addressed the States General and said they represented “the universal body of all the people.” On December 15 the armies of Spain and the States agreed to a cease-fire. In 1576 about 2,000 Scots fought for Orange and the Dutch states. From April 1575 to April 1577 Sea Beggars from Flushing captured 258 prizes worth 72,000 florins. In 1576 the army of Flanders had 21,226 Germans, 22,616 Netherlanders, and 6,125 Spaniards, but most of the senior officers were Spanish.
Felipe II appointed his half-brother Johann of Austria governor-general. The States General in Brussels agreed to recognize him if he would remove the Spanish troops, uphold the Pacification of Ghent, and govern with the States General. On January 9, 1577 the States General formed the Union of Brussels. Stadholder Hierges used German troops to besiege the remaining Spaniards in the fortress at Vredenberg, and they surrendered in February. Without troops and money Johann faced a union of sixteen provinces. On February 12 he signed the Perpetual Edict and promised to send troops home to implement the Pacification. The States General agreed to pay off the departing Spaniards, Italians, and Burgundians, pay the German soldiers, recognize Johann as governor-general, and allow the Catholic religion “everywhere.” Holland and Zeeland withdrew their deputies from the States General and rejected the Perpetual Edict. The foreign troops departed from Maastricht on April 28. Johann and the States General negotiated with Orange in May, but he broke with the States General and left Brussels in July, moving to Namur. After Spanish soldiers were expelled from Antwerp, the people demolished the citadel. They cheered as Willem entered Antwerp on September 18. Two days later he traveled on the new canal to Brussels. He resided there and then at Antwerp for the next six years.
On September 21, 1577 Johann of Austria accepted the ultimatum of the States to abide by the Pacification and send home his troops. The States General repudiated him on October 8, and ten days later they elected Willem of Orange stadholder of Brabant and agreed to a compromise on religion. The Vredenberg fortress was demolished. That month Calvinists took over Ghent. The Duke of Aerschot joined with Egmont’s son Philip and Bossu against Orange and the rebels. Aerschot was governing Ghent, and he appealed to Archduke Matthias who arrived in the Netherlands on October 20. On the 28th the Calvinists François van de Kethulle of Ryhove and Jan van Hembyze seized power and arrested fifty gentlemen including the Duke of Aerschot and the bishops of Bruges and Ypres. Ghent began building its walls in October, but they were not completed until 1581.
Johann of Austria arrived in Luxembourg on November 3. On December 7 the Orangists persuaded the States General to approve conditions for Matthias of Austria to govern which increased the powers of the States General. Many Calvinist refugees accompanied Willem of Orange as he entered Brussels on December 23, and the Calvinists controlled the government. The States repudiated Johann, declared war against Spain, and gave strong powers to the Prince of Orange, promising to reimburse him for the 2 million pounds of debt he had contracted during the war. On December 29 Orange with 170 men from Antwerp entered Ghent and began demolishing the citadel the next day.
On January 19, 1578 Orange escorted Matthias from Antwerp to Brussels. On the 30th Johann’s army defeated the States’ forces at Gembloux because of reinforcements brought by Duke Alessandro Farnese of Parma. Matthias, Orange, and the States General moved from Brussels to Antwerp. Georges de Lalaing, the Count of Rennenberg, was stadholder of Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe, and Overijssel since 1576, and in February 1578 he was forced to purge the royalists from the town councils of Leeuwarden, Franeker, Sneek, Bolsward, and Harlingen. That month Spaniards captured Leuven, but Calvinists from Ghent took over Oudenaarde. In March they installed Calvinists at Kortrijk, Hulst, and Bruges. Because they depended on companies in Holland, the Catholics in Guelders agreed to accept Orange’s younger brother Count Jan van Nassau as stadholder even though he was a Calvinist.
On May 26 Calvinists took over Amsterdam with a coup by replacing the Catholics on the city council. The royalists were also driven out of Haarlem. On June 10 a mob pillaged churches in Utrecht. England funded Johann Casimir of the Palatinate who invaded Brabant with 12,000 mercenaries in August to help the Calvinists in the States General. That month Orange proclaimed the “Religious Peace” in Antwerp, and it was announced at Brussels in September and at Mechelen in October. The States of Guelders met in September and tried to prevent a Dutch union. Hainaut and Artois opposed the Religious Peace, and on October 15 they considered a union to defend the Catholic faith against the Calvinists from their neighbors in Flanders and Brabant. Six days later Catholics removed Calvinist leaders of Arras and executed them.
Johann of Austria died of typhoid fever on October 1, 1578 and was succeeded by Felipe II’s nephew Alessandro Farnese, son of Margaret of Parma. Ryhove tried to take over Ghent, but Hembyze supported Willem of Orange and defeated him. On December 2 Willem entered Ghent, and he persuaded them to accept his Religious Peace.
On January 6, 1579 Alessandro Farnese met at Arras with delegates from Walloon provinces, and those from Hainaut, Artois, Lille, Douai, Orchies, and the bishopric of Cambrai and formed the Union of Arras. The Walloons of Flanders soon joined, and on May 17 they signed a treaty agreeing to no foreign troops in garrisons, restoring privileges that existed before the Dutch revolt including no taxation without consent of the States, and recognizing King Felipe II and Roman Catholicism as the only religion. Those from Namur, Luxembourg, and Limburg also favored the Union of Arras but did not sign the treaty.
On January 23 at Utrecht delegates of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Friesland, Guelders, and the Ommelands (except for Groningen) agreed to form the Closer Union initiated by the Guelders governor Jan van Nassau, brother of Orange. This Union of Utrecht formed a war council and enforced collection of taxes. Calvinists in January removed Catholics from town councils in Harderwijk, Elburg, Arnhem, Nijmegen, and Zutphen, and in February fanatics destroyed images and paintings in Catholic churches at Nijmegen. The Spanish army of 20,000 men besieged Maastricht on March 12 and entered the city on the night of June 29 and plundered it for three days. The Dutch had only 2,000 soldiers and suffered 9,000 casualties as 4,000 Spaniards were killed or wounded. Guelders joined the Union of Holland in March.
Orange signed the Union of Utrecht on May 3 and encouraged the towns of Brabant and Flanders to join also. That month he managed to rescue 180 Catholic clergy during rioting at Antwerp which joined the Union by June along with Breda and s’-Hertogenbosch. Frisian towns favored the Union in June, and the States of Friesland joined in August. However, in May the States of Overijssel had rejected the Union of Utrecht. Emperor Rudolf sponsored peace talks at Cologne, but they soon failed. Willem of Orange led a coup in Ghent in August that removed the radical Calvinists from power.
In 1578 Brevissima Relacion de la Destruccion de las Indias by Bartolomé de las Casas was translated into Dutch with the revised title The Mirror of Spanish Tragedy (Spiegel der Spaensche tyrannye), and had 25 editions by 1648. Cornelius Van Kiel put together his influential Dutch dictionary in 1574, and his third edition entitled Etymologicon Theutonicae Linguae appeared in 1599. The poet Hendrik Laurenszoon Spieghel of Amsterdam wrote his Dialog of Dutch Literature and published it with a preface by his friend Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert in 1584.
Calvinists had become intolerant of other sects, and royalist Catholics would not compromise either, leaving moderates and Lutherans with difficult choices. In February 1580 Farnese captured Kortrijk in west Flanders. Georges de Lalaing, the Count of Rennenberg, was Stadholder of Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe, Lingen, and Overijssel for the General Union and was one of the last remaining Catholic magnates opposing Spain. In March 1580 he broke with Orange to support King Felipe II and led a Catholic revolt against Holland, but their uprising at Zwolle was soon squelched and provoked iconoclastic riots against the Catholic churches. The Calvinist Delegated States of Friesland closed the remaining Catholic churches, expelled Catholic clergy, and banned the mass. Utrecht also reacted with repression of Catholics. Orange attended the States of Overijssel in March 1580, and they supported the rebel cause but declined to join the Union of Utrecht. On March 31 Holand and Zeeland repudiated Felipe II and proclaimed Orange as their sovereign. In May the States General required its delegates to swear loyalty to the Union of Utrecht.
King Felipe II banned Willem of Orange on March 15, 1580 and put a price on his head in June. The next year Orange published his defense that the Huguenot Philippe du Plessis-Mornay helped write. Leoninus resigned from the Netherlands Council of State as did Matthias in July. Rennenberg captured Delfzijl in July and Oldenzaal in September. By then Farnese had mobilized 45,435 troops. Felipe II sent Margaret of Parma back to govern the Netherlands again, demoting her son Farnese to captain-general until she left in 1582. However, Farnese defied his king by continuing to govern himself.
Orange persuaded the States General to offer the sovereignty of the Netherlands to Duke François Hercules of Anjou with constitutional conditions, and this was accepted by the States of Brabant and Flanders. Sint Aldegonde led envoys of the States General to meet Anjou at Tours, and they signed a treaty in September 1580. The peace conference at Cologne ended in November. Orange summoned the States General from Antwerp to Delft and opened the meeting on December 13. That month he wrote his defense (Apology) against the charges made by Felipe II, and it was printed at Delft and Leiden in four languages and distributed throughout western Europe.
Anjou came to Antwerp in January 1581 and took the oath as the Prince of the Netherlands. In July the States General repudiated Felipe II and his heirs. Anjou crossed the frontier with 8,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry in August, and he established a unified Council of State to direct the war against Spain. The southern part met in Brabant, and the Council of the Lands east of the Maas conducted the war in Guelders, Overijssel, Drenthe, and Groningen which was part of Holland.
The States General of the United Netherlands convened at Amsterdam in May 1581, and on July 26 the Edict of Abjuration condemned the tyranny of Felipe II. Two days later representatives of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, Friesland, Groningen, Overijssel, Malines, Flanders, and Brabant declared their independence from Spain by proclaiming Willem of Orange their new sovereign.
Farnese’s army had captured Breda in June 1581. That month Leoninus was appointed Chancellor of the Hof at Arnhem in Guelders. In January 1582 Catholic worship was banned in Guelders and Culemborg. The imperial army had 61,000 Spanish, Italian, and German soldiers by October 1582, and they invaded Guelders and captured Steenwijk in November. Elbertus Leoninus refused to take either side and decided to reside at Cologne. He advocated the General Union and tried to avoid breaking with Spain by remaining a Catholic; but when the General Union organized in Brabant was failing, he followed Orange and became a Calvinist.
After courting Queen Elizabeth the Duke of Anjou returned to Brussels and was made Duke of Brabant in February. Orange welcomed him to Antwerp on the 19th. On March 18, 1582 Anjou was celebrating his birthday, and Juan Juaréguy shot Willem of Orange in the face; but no vital organ was hit, and he recovered during three months in bed. Farnese captured Oudenaarde in April and Lier in August. That summer Anjou brought 12,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry to Cambrai, scaring Farnese away.
On January 17, 1583 the Duke of Anjou’s troops attacked Antwerp but lost 2,000 men in the streets. However, other French forces took over Dunkirk, Aalst, and other places in Flanders. Orange tried to persuade people to accept Anjou’s rule, but the duke left the Netherlands in June and died a year later of tuberculosis. Catholics in Breda opened the gates for the Spaniards, and angry Protestants in Antwerp took it out on the churches there. On July 16 Farnese began bombarding Dunkirk, and taking this port enabled him to isolate Antwerp. On July 22 Orange moved his family to Middelburg. The States General also moved there from Antwerp and later went to Delft before establishing themselves in The Hague. In September they made Orange governor-general and head of the revived Council of State, and Brabant’s Council was dissolved in October. That month Farnese’s army captured towns along the Scheldt estuary, and their territory in the northeast connected to Verdugo’s conquests in Friesland.
Spain was offering a reward of 25,000 écus for Orange’s head, but he continued to receive petitioners openly. After nine months of siege Farnese’s Spaniards took Ypres on April 9, 1584, followed by Bruges on May 24 and Ghent on September 17 as many Protestants migrated from Flanders and Brabant to Holland and Zeeland. Willem of Orange was still popular in the north except in Amsterdam, Gouda, and Middelburg, but on July 10 a fanatical Catholic from Burgundy named Baltasar Gérard assassinated him. He was replaced by his young son Maurits of Nassau who was elected First Councilor on August 18. He was appointed stadholder of Holland and Zealand in early 1585.
In 1584 Justus Lipsius published his Stoic ethics in De Constantia in Latin and rejected Dutch translations for the common people. By avoiding references to scriptures his ideas could be used by various sects. Coornhert still favored religious tolerance and appealed to Spiritualists in his Zedekunst treatise in 1587.
The four provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, and Utrecht contributed 2,400,000 guilders a year to the States General for the war and provided a subsidy to defend Antwerp. Brabant’s agent at The Hague urged Holland to unite under one ruler and suggested France’s King Henri III, but Cornelis Hooft urged the Dutch to rely on their own leaders. The Dutch sent an embassy to Paris in February 1585, but Henri was busy with a civil war and on March 9 declined to take on more conflict in the Netherlands. On March 10 Brussels surrendered to Farnese. Catholic burghers in Nijmegen persuaded the town to accept Spain’s sovereignty, but Culemborg accepted a garrison paid for by Holland. An army and navy helped Holland and Zeeland to attack the Spanish siege of Antwerp, but they were driven away in April. Mechelen capitulated on July 19, and Antwerp finally surrendered to Farnese on August 17 and had to pay an indemnity of 400,000 florins. The Dutch blockaded Antwerp’s trade. Protestants were forced to convert to Catholicism or sell their property and leave. About half of Antwerp’s 75,000 people moved north in the next four years.
The States General at The Hague appealed to England’s Queen Elizabeth who offered advice and military aid. On August 10 she signed the Nonsuch treaty which made the United Provinces of the Netherlands a protectorate of England. Elizabeth appointed Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, governor-general and sent an expeditionary force of 6,350 infantry and 1,000 cavalry. After negotiation she agreed on September 14 to pay for 5,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry, and the States General ratified the treaty on October 2. Felipe II in December ordered all English and Dutch ships in Spanish ports seized, and in January 1586 he began planning an invasion of England. That winter the University of Franeker was founded in Friesland.
Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was born on September 14, 1547 and studied law at universities in Leuven, Bourges, Heidelberg, and Padua. In 1576 he became the pensionary (chief legal advisor) of Rotterdam, and he supported the Union of Utrecht in 1579. He succeeded Paulus Buys as Land’s Advocate of Holland on March 16, 1586 and held this important office for 32 years. He opposed Leicester’s centralizing policies.
On January 6, 1586 the States at The Hague welcomed the Calvinist Leicester and his English troops. He set up a central Chamber of Finances under Jacques Reingauld from Brabant, and French became the official language of the Council of State. Spain maintained control over Namur, Limbourg, and Luxembourg. Civil war still raged in Artois, southern Hainaut, and southern Flanders. On April 14 Leicester imposed an embargo on food and munitions to the southern Netherlands and Guelders, Overijssel, Drenthe, and Groningen. Oldenbarnevelt criticized this and drafted a new edict which permitted trade with neutrals. Leicester accepted this, and on August 4 the embargo also was extended to Emden, Calais, and French ports east of the Somme estuary. Grave capitulated to Farnese on June 10, followed by Venlo 18 days later. Farnese reconquered all the cities of Flanders and Brabant except the ports of Sluis, Ostende, and Bergen-op-Zoom. The States General excluded Flanders and Brabant in 1586. The Hague Church Order of 1586 established the supremacy of the provincial states in church issues.
In February 1587 English commanders turned the city of Deventer and the fortifications of Zutphen over to the Spaniards, angering the Dutch who attacked English soldiers. Thomas Wilkes had become the English member on the Council of State in the Netherlands, and he wrote a “Remonstrance” to the States of Holland arguing that Leicester had become the sovereign of the Netherlands. Leicester occupied Gouda and other cities in September. However, François Vranck, the Pensionary of the city of Gouda, on October 16 replied in his “Deduction” that sovereignty in Holland for eight centuries had belonged to the nobles and the people in their local councils. His views became the ideology of the Dutch States Party. Elizabeth accused the Dutch States of not paying her troops. Oldenbarnevelt responded by removing the Earl of Leicester’s partisans from the Council of State and naming Maurits of Nassau commander-in-chief.
Felipe II in June ordered Farnese to capture the three remaining harbors to prepare for the great armada. Sluis surrendered on August 5, but the other two were successfully defended in 1588 by the Dutch from Holland. Leicester came back to the Netherlands in July 1587 but failed and left by the end of the year. In 1588 the States General of the Netherlands consisted of Holland, Zeeland, Guelders, Friesland, Overijssel, Utrecht, and the Ommelands. Revenues were raised by the provinces, and internal tariffs were prohibited. England and the Dutch people loaned money to the Netherlands.
1. Quoted in The Revolt of the Netherlands 1555-1609 by Pieter Geyl, p. 78.