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History of the United Netherlands, 1584-1609 Part 53

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["There is provided for lights a great number of torches, and so tempered that no water can put them out. A great number of little mills for grinding corn, great store of biscuit baked and oxen salted, great number of saddles and boots also there is made 500 pair of velvet shoes-red, crimson velvet, and in every cloister throughout the country great quant.i.ty of roses made of silk, white and red, which are to be badges for divers of his gentlemen. By reason of these roses it is expected he is going for England. There is sold to the Prince by John Angel, pergaman, ten hundred-weight of velvet, gold and silver to embroider his apparel withal. The covering to his mules is most gorgeously embroidered with gold and silver, which carry his baggage. There is also sold to him by the Italian merchants at least 670 pieces of velvet to apparel him and his train. Every captain has received a gift from the Prince to make himself brave, and for Captain Corralini, an Italian, who hath one cornet of horse, I have seen with my eyes a saddle with the trappings of his horse, his coat and rapier and dagger, which cost 3,500 French crowns. (!!) All their lances are painted of divers colours, blue and white, green and White, and most part blood-red-- so there is as great preparation for a triumph as for war. A great number of English priests come to Antwerp from all places. The commandment is given to all the churches to read the Litany daily for the prosperity of the Prince in his enterprise." John Giles to Walsingham, 4 Dec. 1587.(S. P. Office MS.)

The same letter conveyed also very detailed information concerning the naval preparations by the Duke, besides accurate intelligence in regard to the progress of the armada in Cadiz and Lisbon.

Sir William Russet wrote also from Flushing concerning these preparations in much the same strain; but it is worthy of note that he considered Farnese to be rather intending a movement against France.

"The Prince of Parma," he said, "is making great preparations for war, and with all expedition means to march a great army, and for a triumph, the coats and costly, apparel for his own body doth exceed for embroidery, and beset with jewels; for all the embroiderers and diamond-cutters work both night and day, such haste is made. Five hundred velvet coats of one sort for lances, and a great number of brave new coats made for hors.e.m.e.n; 30,000 men are ready, and gather in Brabant and Flanders. It is said that there shall be in two days 10,000 to do some great exploit in these parts, and 20,000 to march with the Prince into France, and for certain it is not known what way or how they shall march, but all are ready at an hour's warning --4,000 saddles, 4000 lances. 6,000 pairs of boots, 2,000 barrels of beer, biscuit sufficient for a camp of 20,000 men, &c. The Prince hath received a marvellous costly garland or crown from the Pope, and is chosen chief of the holy league..."]

Nor was much concealed from the Argus-eyed politicians in the republic.

The States were more and more intractable. They knew nearly all the truth with regard to the intercourse between the Queen's government and Farnese, and they suspected more than the truth. The list of English commissioners privately agreed upon between Burghley and De Loo was known to Barneveld, Maurice, and Hohenlo, before it came to the ears of Leicester. In June, Buckhurst had been censured by Elizabeth for opening the peace matter to members of the States, according to her bidding, and in July Leicester was rebuked for exactly the opposite delinquency. She was very angry that he had delayed the communication of her policy so long, but she expressed her anger only when that policy had proved so transparent as to make concealment hopeless. Leicester, as well as Buckhurst, knew that it was idle to talk to the Netherlanders of peace, because of their profound distrust in every word that came from Spanish or Italian lips; but Leicester, less frank than Buckhurst, preferred to flatter his sovereign, rather than to tell her unwelcome truths. More fortunate than Buckhurst, he was rewarded for his flattery by boundless affection, and promotion to the very highest post in England when the hour of England's greatest peril had arrived, while the truth-telling counsellor was consigned to imprisonment and disgrace. When the Queen complained sharply that the States were mocking her, and that she was touched in honour at the prospect of not keeping her plighted word to Farnese, the Earl a.s.sured her that the Netherlanders were fast changing their views; that although the very name of peace had till then been odious and loathsome, yet now, as coming from her Majesty, they would accept it with thankful hearts.

The States, or the leading members of that a.s.sembly, factious fellows, pestilent and seditious knaves, were doing their utmost, and were singing sirens' songs' to enchant and delude the people, but they were fast losing their influence--so warmly did the country desire to conform to her Majesty's pleasure. He expatiated, however, upon the difficulties in his path. The knowledge possessed by the pestilent fellows as to the actual position of affairs, was very mischievous. It was honey to Maurice and Hohenlo, he said, that the Queen's secret practices with Farnese had thus been discovered. Nothing could be more marked than the jollity with which the ringleaders hailed these preparations for peace-making, for they now felt certain that the government of their country had been fixed securely in their own hands. They were canonized, said the Earl, for their hostility to peace.

Should not this conviction, on the part of men who had so many means of feeling the popular pulse, have given the Queen's government pause? To serve his sovereign in truth, Leicester might have admitted a possibility at least of honesty on the part of men who were so ready to offer up their lives for their country. For in a very few weeks he was obliged to confess that the people were no longer so well disposed to acquiesce in her Majesty's policy. The great majority, both of the States and the people, were in favour, he agreed, of continuing the war. The inhabitants of the little Province of Holland alone, he said, had avowed their determination to maintain their rights--even if obliged to fight single-handed--and to shed the last drop in their veins, rather than to submit again to Spanish tyranny. This seemed a heroic resolution, worthy the sympathy of a brave Englishman, but the Earl's only comment upon it was, that it proved the ringleaders "either to be traitors or else the most blindest a.s.ses in the world." He never scrupled, on repeated occasions, to insinuate that Barneveld, Hohenlo, Buys, Roorda, Sainte Aldegonde, and the Na.s.saus, had organized a plot to sell their country to Spain. Of this there was not the faintest evidence, but it was the only way in which he chose to account for their persistent opposition to the peace-negotiations, and to their reluctance to confer absolute power on himself. "'Tis a crabbed, sullen, proud kind of people," said he, "and bent on establishing a popular government,"--a purpose which seemed somewhat inconsistent with the plot for selling their country to Spain, which he charged in the same breath on the same persons.

Early in August, by the Queen's command, he had sent a formal communication respecting the private negotiations to the States, but he could tell them no secret. The names of the commissioners, and even the supposed articles of a treaty already concluded, were flying from town to town, from mouth to mouth, so that the Earl p.r.o.nounced it impossible for one, not on the spot, to imagine the excitement which existed.

He had sent a state-counsellor, one Bardesius, to the Hague, to open the matter; but that personage had only ventured to whisper a word to one or two members of the States, and was a.s.sured that the proposition, if made, would raise such a tumult of fury, that he might fear for his life. So poor Bardesius came back to Leicester, fell on his knees, and implored him; at least to pause in these fatal proceedings. After an interval, he sent two eminent statesmen, Valk and Menin, to lay the subject before the a.s.sembly. They did so, and it was met by fierce denunciation. On their return, the Earl, finding that so much violence had been excited, pretended that they had misunderstood his meaning, and that he had never meant to propose peace-negotiations. But Valk and Menin were too old politicians to be caught in such a trap, and they produced a brief, drawn up in Italian--the foreign language best understood by the Earl--with his own corrections and interlineations, so that he was forced to admit that there had been no misconception.

Leicester at last could no longer doubt that he was universally odious in the Provinces. Hohenlo, Barneveld, and the rest, who had "championed the country against the peace," were carrying all before them. They had persuaded the people, that the "Queen was but a tickle stay for them,"

and had inflated young Maurice with vast ideas of his importance, telling him that he was "a natural patriot, the image of his n.o.ble father, whose memory was yet great among them, as good reason, dying in their cause, as he had done." The country was bent on a popular government, and on maintaining the war. There was no possibility, he confessed, that they would ever confer the authority on him which they had formerly bestowed.

The Queen had promised, when he left England the second time, that his absence should be for but three months, and he now most anxiously claimed permission to depart. Above all things, he deprecated being employed as a peace-commissioner. He was, of all men, the most unfit for such a post.

At the same time he implored the statesmen at home to be wary in selecting the wisest persons for that arduous duty, in order that the peace might be made for Queen Elizabeth, as well as for King Philip. He strongly recommended, for that duty, Beale, the councillor, who with Killigrew had replaced the hated Wilkes and the pacific Bartholomew Clerk. "Mr. Beale, brother-in-law to Walsingham, is in my books a prince," said the Earl. "He was drowned in England, but most useful in the Netherlands. Without him I am naked."

And at last the governor told the Queen what Buckhurst and Walsingham had been perpetually telling her, that the Duke of Parma meant mischief; and he sent the same information as to hundreds of boats preparing, with six thousand shirts for camisados, 7000 pairs of wading boots, and saddles, stirrups, and spurs, enough for a choice band of 3000 men. A shrewd troop, said the Earl, of the first soldiers in Christendom, to be landed some fine morning in England. And he too had heard of the jewelled suits of cramoisy velvet, and all the rest of the finery with which the triumphant Alexander was intending to astonish London. "Get horses enough, and muskets enough in England," exclaimed Leicester, "and then our people will not be beaten, I warrant you, if well led."

And now, the governor--who, in order to soothe his sovereign and comply with her vehement wishes, had so long misrepresented the state of public feeling--not only confessed that Papists and Protestants, gentle and simple, the States and the people, throughout the republic, were all opposed to any negotiation with the enemy, but lifted up his own voice, and in earnest language expressed his opinion of the Queen's infatuation.

"Oh, my Lord, what a treaty is this for peace," said he to Burghley, "that we must treat, altogether disarmed and weakened, and the King having made his forces stronger than ever he had known in these parts, besides what is coming out, of Spain, and yet we will presume of good conditions. It grieveth me to the heart. But I fear you will all smart for it, and I pray G.o.d her Majesty feel it not, if it be His blessed will. She meaneth well and sincerely to have peace, but G.o.d knows that this is not the way. Well, G.o.d Almighty defend us and the realm, and especially her Majesty. But look for a sharp war, or a miserable peace, to undo others and ourselves after."

Walsingham, too, was determined not to act as a commissioner. If his failing health did not serve as an excuse, he should be obliged to refuse, he said, and so forfeit her Majesty's favour, rather than be instrumental in bringing about her ruin, and that of his country. Never for an instant had the Secretary of State faltered in his opposition to the timid policy of Burghley. Again and again he had detected the intrigues of the Lord-Treasurer and Sir James Croft, and ridiculed the "comptroller's peace."

And especially did Walsingham bewail the implicit confidence which the Queen placed in the sugary words of Alexander, and the fatal parsimony which caused her to neglect defending herself against Scotland; for he was as well informed as was Farnese himself of Philip's arrangements with the Scotch lords, and of the subsidies in men and money by which their invasion of England was to be made part of the great scheme. "No one thing," sighed Walsingham, "doth more prognosticate an alteration of this estate, than that a prince of her Majesty's judgment should neglect, in respect of a little charges, the stopping of so dangerous a gap. . . .

The manner of our cold and careless proceeding here, in this time of peril, maketh me to take no comfort of my recovery of health, for that I see, unless it shall please G.o.d in mercy and miraculously to preserve us, we cannot long stand."

Leicester, finding himself unable to counteract the policy of Barneveld and his party, by expostulation or argument, conceived a very dangerous and criminal project before he left the country. The facts are somewhat veiled in mystery; but he was suspected, on weighty evidence, of a design to kidnap both Maurice and Barneveld, and carry them off to England. Of this intention, which was foiled at any rate, before it could be carried into execution, there is perhaps not conclusive proof, but it has already been shown, from a deciphered letter, that the Queen had once given Buckhurst and Wilkes peremptory orders to seize the person of Hohenlo, and it is quite possible that similar orders may have been received at a later moment with regard to the young Count and the Advocate. At any rate, it is certain that late in the autumn, some friends of Barneveld entered his bedroom, at the Hague, in the dead of night, and informed him that a plot was on foot to lay violent hands upon him, and that an armed force was already on its way to execute this purpose of Leicester, before the dawn of day. The Advocate, without loss of time, took his departure for Delft, a step which was followed, shortly afterwards, by Maurice.

Nor was this the only daring--stroke which the Earl had meditated. During the progress of the secret negotiations with Parma, he had not neglected those still more secret schemes to which he had occasionally made allusion. He had determined, if possible, to obtain possession of the most important cities in Holland and Zeeland. It was very plain to him, that he could no longer hope, by fair means, for the great authority once conferred upon him by the free will of the States. It was his purpose, therefore, by force and stratagem to recover his lost power. We have heard the violent terms in which both the Queen and the Earl denounced the men who accused the English government of any such intention. It had been formally denied by the States-General that Barneveld had ever used the language in that a.s.sembly with which he had been charged. He had only revealed to them the exact purport of the letter to Junius, and of the Queen's secret instructions to Leicester. Whatever he may have said in private conversation, and whatever deductions he may have made among his intimate friends, from the admitted facts in the case, could hardly be made matters of record. It does not appear that he, or the statesmen who acted with him, considered the Earl capable of a deliberate design to sell the cities, thus to be acquired, to Spain, as the price of peace for England. Certainly Elizabeth would have scorned such a crime, and was justly indignant at rumours prevalent to that effect; but the wrath of the Queen and of her favourite were, perhaps, somewhat simulated, in order to cover their real mortification at the discovery of designs on the part of the Earl which could not be denied. Not only had they been at last compelled to confess these negotiations, which for several months had been concealed and stubbornly denied, but the still graver plots of the Earl to regain his much-coveted authority had been, in a startling manner, revealed. The leaders of the States-General had a right to suspect the English Earl of a design to reenact the part of the Duke of Anjou, and were justified in taking stringent measures to prevent a calamity, which, as they believed, was impending over their little commonwealth. The high-handed dealings of Leicester in the city of Utrecht have been already described. The most respectable and influential burghers of the place had been imprisoned and banished, the munic.i.p.al government wrested from the hands to which it legitimately belonged, and confided to adventurers, who wore the cloak of Calvinism to conceal their designs, and a successful effort had been made, in the name of democracy, to eradicate from one ancient province the liberty on which it prided itself.

In the course of the autumn, an attempt was made to play the same game at Amsterdam. A plot was discovered, before it was fairly matured, to seize the magistrates of that important city, to gain possession of the a.r.s.enals, and to place the government in the hands of well-known Leicestrians. A list of fourteen influential citizens, drawn up in the writing of Burgrave, the Earl's confidential secretary, was found, all of whom, it was a.s.serted, had been doomed to the scaffold.

The plot to secure Amsterdam had failed, but, in North Holland, Medenblik was held firmly for Leicester, by Diedrich Sonoy, in the very teeth of the States. The important city of Enkhuyzen, too, was very near being secured for the Earl, but a still more significant movement was made at Leyden. That heroic city, ever since the famous siege of 1574, in which the Spaniard had been so signally foiled, had distinguished itself by great liberality of sentiment in religious matters. The burghers were inspired by a love of country, and a hatred of oppression, both civil and, ecclesiastical; and Papists and Protestants, who had fought side by side against the common foe, were not disposed to tear each other to pieces, now that he had been excluded from their gates. Meanwhile, however, refugee Flemings and Brabantines had sought an asylum in the city, and being, as usual, of the strictest sect of the Calvinists were shocked at the lat.i.tudinarianism which prevailed. To the honour of the city--as it seems to us now--but, to their horror, it was even found that one or two Papists had seats in the magistracy. More than all this, there was a school in the town kept by a Catholic, and Adrian van der Werff himself--the renowned burgomaster, who had sustained the city during the dreadful leaguer of 1574, and who had told the famishing burghers that they might eat him if they liked, but that they should never surrender to the Spaniards while he remained alive--even Adrian van der Werff had sent his son to this very school? To the clamour made by the refugees against this spirit of toleration, one of the favourite preachers in the town, of Arminian tendencies, had declared in the pulpit, that he would as lieve see the Spanish as the Calvinistic inquisition established over his country; using an expression, in regard to the church of Geneva, more energetic than decorous.

It was from Leyden that the chief opposition came to a synod, by which a great attempt was to be made towards subjecting the new commonwealth to a masked theocracy; a scheme which the States of Holland had resisted with might and main. The Calvinistic party, waxing stronger in Leyden, although still in a minority, at last resolved upon a strong effort to place the city in the hands of that great representative of Calvinism, the Earl of Leicester. Jacques Volmar, a deacon of the church, Cosmo de Pescarengis, a Genoese captain of much experience in the service of the republic, Adolphus de Meetkerke, former president of Flanders, who had been, by the States, deprived of the seat in the great council to which the Earl had appointed him; Doctor Saravia, professor of theology in the university, with other deacons, preachers, and captains, went at different times from Leyden to Utrecht, and had secret interviews with Leicester.

A plan was at last agreed upon, according to which, about the middle of October, a revolution should be effected in Leyden. Captain Nicholas de Maulde, who had recently so much distinguished himself in the defence of Sluys, was stationed with two companies of States' troops in the city. He had been much disgusted--not without reason--at the culpable negligence through which the courageous efforts of the Sluys garrison had been set at nought, and the place sacrificed, when it might so easily have been relieved; and he ascribed the whole of the guilt to Maurice, Hohenlo, and the States, although it could hardly be denied that at least an equal portion belonged to Leicester and his party. The young captain listened, therefore, to a scheme propounded to him by Colonel Cosine, and Deacon Volmar, in the name of Leicester. He agreed, on a certain day, to muster his company, to leave the city by the Delft gate--as if by command of superior authority--to effect a junction with Captain Heraugiere, another of the distinguished malcontent defenders of Sluys, who was stationed, with his command, at Delft, and then to re-enter Leyden, take possession of the town-hall, arrest all the magistrates, together with Adrian van der Werff, ex-burgomaster, and proclaim Lord Leicester, in the name of Queen Elizabeth, legitimate master of the city. A list of burghers, who were to be executed, was likewise agreed upon, at a final meeting of the conspirators in a hostelry, which bore the ominous name of 'The Thunderbolt.' A desire had been signified by Leicester, in the preliminary interviews at Utrecht, that all bloodshed, if possible, should be spared, but it was certainly an extravagant expectation, considering the temper, the political convictions, and the known courage of the Leyden burghers, that the city would submit, without a struggle, to this invasion of all their rights. It could hardly be doubted that the streets would run red with blood, as those of Antwerp had done, when a similar attempt, on the part of Anjou, had been foiled.

Unfortunately for the scheme, a day or two before the great stroke was to be hazarded, Cosmo de Pescarengis had been accidentally arrested for debt. A subordinate accomplice, taking alarm, had then gone before the magistrate and revealed the plot. Volmar and de Maulde fled at once, but were soon arrested in the neighbourhood. President de Meetkerke, Professor Saravia, the preacher Van der Wauw, and others most compromised, effected their escape. The matter was instantly laid before the States of Holland by the magistracy of Leyden, and seemed of the gravest moment. In the beginning of the year, the fatal treason of York and Stanley had implanted a deep suspicion of Leicester in the hearts of almost all the Netherlanders, which could not be eradicated. The painful rumours concerning the secret negotiations with Spain, and the design falsely attributed to the English Queen, of selling the chief cities of the republic to Philip as the price of peace, and of reimburs.e.m.e.nt for expenses incurred by her, increased the general excitement to fever. It was felt by the leaders of the States that as mortal a combat lay before them with the Earl of Leicester, as with the King of Spain, and that it was necessary to strike a severe blow, in order to vindicate their imperilled authority.

A commission was appointed by the high court of Holland, acting in conjunction with the States of the Provinces, to try the offenders. Among the commissioners were Adrian van der Werff, John van der Does, who had been military commandant of Leyden during the siege, Barneveld, and other distinguished personages, over whom Count Maurice presided. The accused were subjected to an impartial trial. Without torture, they confessed their guilt. It is true, however, that Cosmo was placed within sight of the rack. He avowed that his object had been to place the city under the authority of Leicester, and to effect this purpose, if possible, without bloodshed. He declared that the attempt was to be made with the full knowledge and approbation of the Earl, who had promised him the command of a regiment of twelve companies, as a recompense for his services, if they proved successful. Leicester, said Cosmo, had also pledged himself, in case the men, thus executing his plans, should be discovered and endangered, to protect and rescue them, even at the sacrifice of all his fortune, and of the office he held. When asked if he had any written statement from his Excellency to that effect, Cosmo replied, no, nothing but his princely word which he had voluntarily given.

Volmar made a similar confession. He, too, declared that he had acted throughout the affair by express command of the Earl of Leicester. Being asked if he had any written evidence of the fact, he, likewise, replied in the negative. "Then his Excellency will unquestionably deny your a.s.sertion," said the judges. "Alas, then am I a dead man," replied Volmar, and the unfortunate deacon never spoke truer words. Captain de Maulde also confessed his crime. He did not pretend, however, to have had any personal communication with Leicester, but said that the affair had been confided to him by Colonel Cosmo, on the express authority of the Earl, and that he had believed himself to be acting in obedience to his Excellency's commands.

On the 26th October, after a thorough investigation, followed by a full confession on the part of the culprits, the three were sentenced to death. The decree was surely a most severe one. They had been guilty of no actual crime, and only in case of high treason could an intention to commit a crime be considered, by the laws of the state, an offence punishable with death. But it was exactly because it was important to make the crime high treason that the prisoners were condemned. The offence was considered as a crime not against Leyden, but as an attempt to levy war upon a city which was a member of the States of Holland and of the United States. If the States were sovereign, then this was a lesion of their sovereignty. Moreover, the offence had been aggravated by the employment of United States' troops against the commonwealth of the United States itself. To cut off the heads of these prisoners was a sharp practical answer to the claims of sovereignty by Leicester, as representing the people, and a terrible warning to all who might, in future; be disposed to revive the theories of Deventer and Burgrave.

In the case of De Maulde the punishment seemed especially severe. His fate excited universal sympathy, and great efforts were made to obtain his pardon. He was a universal favourite; he was young; he was very handsome; his manners were attractive; he belonged to an ancient and honourable race. His father, the Seigneur de Mansart, had done great services in the war of independence, had been an intimate friend of the great Prince of Orange, and had even advanced large sums of money to a.s.sist his n.o.ble efforts to liberate the country. Two brothers of the young captain had fallen in the service of the republic. He, too, had distinguished himself at Ostend, and his gallantry during the recent siege of Sluys had been in every mouth, and had excited the warm applause of so good a judge of soldiership as the veteran Roger Williams. The scars of the wounds received in the desperate conflicts of that siege were fresh upon his breast. He had not intended to commit treason, but, convinced by the sophistry of older soldiers than himself, as well as by learned deacons and theologians, he had imagined himself doing his duty, while obeying the Earl of Leicester. If there were ever a time for mercy, this seemed one, and young Maurice of Na.s.sau might have remembered, that even in the case of the a.s.sa.s.sins who had attempted the life of his father, that great-hearted man had lifted up his voice--which seemed his dying one--in favour of those who had sought his life.

But they authorities were inexorable. There was no hope of a mitigation of punishment, but a last effort was made, under favour of a singular ancient custom, to save the life of De Maulde. A young lady of n.o.ble family in Leyden--Uytenbroek by name--claimed the right of rescuing the condemned malefactor, from the axe, by appearing upon the scaffold, and offering to take him for her husband.

Intelligence was brought to the prisoner in his dungeon, that the young, lady had made the proposition, and he was told to be of good cheer: But he refused to be comforted. He was slightly acquainted with the gentle-woman, he observed; and doubted much whether her request would be granted. Moreover if contemporary chronicle can be trusted he even expressed a preference for the scaffold, as the milder fate of the two.

The lady, however, not being aware of those uncomplimentary sentiments, made her proposal to the magistrates, but was dismissed with harsh rebukes. She had need be ashamed, they said; of her willingness to take a condemned traitor for her husband. It was urged, in her behalf, that even in the cruel Alva's time, the ancient custom had been respected, and that victims had been saved from the executioners, on a demand in marriage made even by women of abandoned character. But all was of no avail. The prisoners were executed on the 26th October, the same day on which the sentence had been p.r.o.nounced. The heads of Volmar and Cosmo were exposed on one of the turrets of the city. That of Maulde was interred with his body.

The Earl was indignant when he heard of the event. As there had been no written proof of his complicity in the conspiracy, the judges had thought it improper to mention his name in the sentences. He, of course, denied any knowledge of the plot, and its proof rested therefore only on the a.s.sertion of the prisoners themselves, which, however, was circ.u.mstantial, voluntary, and generally believed!

France, during the whole of this year of expectation, was ploughed throughout its whole surface by perpetual civil war. The fatal edict of June, 1585, had drowned the unhappy land in blood. Foreign armies, called in by the various contending factions, ravaged its-fair territory, butchered its peasantry, and changed its fertile plains to a wilderness.

The unhappy creature who wore the crown of Charlemagne and of Hugh Capet, was but the tool in the hands of the most profligate and designing of his own subjects, and of foreigners. Slowly and surely the net, spread by the hands of his own mother, of his own prime minister, of the Duke of Guise, all obeying the command and receiving the stipend of Philip, seemed closing over him. He was without friends, without power to know his friends, if he had them. In his hatred to the Reformation, he had allowed himself to be made the enemy of the only man who could be his friend, or the friend of France. Allied with his mortal foe, whose armies were strengthened by contingents from Parma's forces, and paid for by Spanish gold, he was forced to a mock triumph over the foreign mercenaries who came to save his crown, and to submit to the defeat of the flower of his chivalry, by the only man who could rescue France from ruin, and whom France could look up to with respect.

For, on the 20th October, Henry of Navarre had at last gained a victory.

After twenty-seven years of perpetual defeat, during which they had been growing stronger and stronger, the Protestants had met the picked troops of Henry III., under the Due de Joyeuse, near the burgh of Contras. His cousins Conde and Soissons each commanded a wing in the army of the Warnese. "You are both of my family," said Henry, before the engagement, "and the Lord so help me, but I will show you that I am the eldest born."

And during that b.l.o.o.d.y day the white plume was ever tossing where the battle, was fiercest. "I choose to show myself. They shall see the Bearnese," was his reply to those who implored him to have a care for his personal safety. And at last, when the day was done, the victory gained, and more French n.o.bles lay dead on the field, as Catharine de' Medici bitterly declared, than had fallen in a battle for twenty years; when two thousand of the King's best troops had been slain, and when the bodies of Joyeuse and his brother had been laid out in the very room where the conqueror's supper, after the battle, was served, but where he refused, with a shudder, to eat, he was still as eager as before--had the wretched Valois been possessed of a spark of manhood, or of intelligence--to shield him and his kingdom from the common enemy.'

For it could hardly be doubtful, even to Henry III., at that moment, that Philip II. and his jackal, the Duke of Guise, were pursuing him to the death, and that, in his breathless doublings to escape, he had been forced to turn upon his natural protector. And now Joyeuse was defeated and slain. "Had it been my brother's son," exclaimed Cardinal de Bourbon, weeping and wailing, "how much better it would have been." It was not easy to slay the champion of French Protestantism; yet, to one less buoyant, the game, even after the brilliant but fruitless victory of Contras, might have seemed desperate. Beggared and outcast, with literally scarce a shirt to his back, without money to pay a corporal's guard, how was he to maintain an army?

But 'Mucio' was more successful than Joyeuse had been, and the German and Swiss mercenaries who had come across the border to a.s.sist the Bearnese, were adroitly handled by Philip's great stipendiary. Henry of Valois, whose troops had just been defeated at Contras, was now compelled to partic.i.p.ate in a more fatal series of triumphs. For alas, the victim had tied himself to the ap.r.o.n-string of "Madam League," and was paraded by her, in triumph, before the eyes of his own subjects and of the world.

The pa.s.sage of the Loire by the auxiliaries was resisted; a series of petty victories was gained by Guise, and, at last, after it was obvious that the leaders of the legions had been corrupted with Spanish ducats, Henry allowed them to depart, rather than give the Balafre opportunity for still farther successes.

Then came the triumph in Paris--hosannahs in the churches, huzzas in the public places--not for the King, but for Guise. Paris, more madly in love with her champion than ever, prostrated herself at his feet. For him paeans as to a deliverer. Without him the ark would have fallen into the hands of the Philistines. For the Valois, shouts of scorn from the populace, thunders from the pulpit, anathemas from monk and priest, elaborate invectives from all the pedants of the Sorbonne, distant mutterings of excommunication from Rome--not the toothless beldame of modern days, but the avenging divinity of priest-rid monarchs. Such were the results of the edicts of June. Spain and the Pope had trampled upon France, and the populace in her capital clapped their hands and jumped for joy. "Miserable country miserable King," sighed an ill.u.s.trious patriot, "whom his own countrymen wish rather to survive, than to die to defend him! Let the name of Huguenot and of Papist be never heard of more. Let us think only of the counter-league. Is France to be saved by opening all its gates to Spain? Is France to be turned out of France, to make a lodging for the Lorrainer and the Spaniard?" Pregnant questions, which could not yet be answered, for the end was not yet. France was to become still more and more a wilderness. And well did that same brave and thoughtful lover, of his: country declare, that he who should suddenly awake from a sleep of twenty-five years, and revisit that once beautiful land, would deem himself transplanted to a barbarous island of cannibals.--[Duplessis Mornay, 'Mem.' iv. 1-34.]

It had now become quite obvious that the game of Leicester was played out. His career--as it has now been fully exhibited--could have but one termination. He had made himself thoroughly odious to the nation whom he came to govern. He had lost for ever the authority once spontaneously bestowed; and he had attempted in vain, both by fair means and foul, to recover that power. There was nothing left him but retreat. Of this he was thoroughly convinced. He was anxious to be gone, the republic most desirous to be rid of him, her Majesty impatient to have her favourite back again. The indulgent Queen, seeing nothing to blame in his conduct, while her indignation, at the att.i.tude maintained by the Provinces was boundless, permitted him, accordingly, to return; and in her letter to the States, announcing this decision, she took a fresh opportunity of emptying her wrath upon their heads.

She told them, that, notwithstanding her frequent messages to them, signifying her evil contentment with their unthankfulness for her exceeding great benefits, and with their gross violations of their contract with herself and with Leicester, whom they had, of their own accord, made absolute governor without her instigation; she had never received any good answer to move, her to commit their sins to oblivion, nor had she remarked, any amendment in their conduct. On the contrary, she complained: that they daily increased their offences, most notoriously in the sight of--the world and in so many points that she lacked words to express them in one letter. She however thought it worth while to allude to some of their transgressions. She, declared that their sinister, or rather barbarous interpretation of her conduct had been notorious in perverting and falsifying her princely and Christian intentions; when she imparted to them the overtures that had been made to her for a treaty of peace for herself and for them with the King of Spain. Yet although she had required their allowance, before she would give her a.s.sent, she had been grieved that the world should see what impudent untruths had been forged upon her, not only by their sufferance; but by their special permission for her Christian good meaning towards them. She denounced the statements as to her having concluded a treaty, not only without their knowledge; but with the sacrifice of their liberty and religion, as utterly false, either for anything done in act, or intended in thought, by her. She complained that upon this most false ground had been heaped a number of like untruths and malicious slanders against her cousin Leicester, who had hazarded his life, spend his substance, left his native country, absented himself from her, and lost his time, only for their service. It had been falsely stated among them, she said, that the Earl had come over the last time, knowing that peace had been secretly concluded. It was false that he had intended to surprise divers of their towns, and deliver them to the King of Spain. All such untruths contained matter so improbable, that it was most, strange that any person; having any sense, could imagine them correct. Having thus slightly animadverted upon their wilfulness, unthankfulness, and bad government, and having, in very plain English, given them the lie, eight distinct and separate times upon a single page, she proceeded to inform them that she had recalled her cousin Leicester, having great cause to use his services in England, and not seeing how, by his tarrying there, he could either profit them or herself. Nevertheless she protested herself not void of compa.s.sion for their estate, and for the pitiful condition of the great mult.i.tude of kind and G.o.dly people, subject to the miseries which, by the States government, were like to fall upon them, unless G.o.d should specially interpose; and she had therefore determined, for the time, to continue her subsidies, according to the covenant between them. If, meantime, she should conclude a peace with Spain, she promised to them the same care for their country as for her own.

Accordingly the Earl, after despatching an equally ill-tempered letter to the States, in which he alluded, at unmerciful length, to all the old grievances, blamed them for the loss of Sluys, for which place he protested that they had manifested no more interest than if it had been San Domingo in Hispaniola, took his departure for Flushing. After remaining there, in a very moody frame of mind, for several days, expecting that the States would, at least, send a committee to wait upon him and receive his farewells, he took leave of them by letter. "G.o.d send me shortly a wind to blow me from them all," he exclaimed--a prayer which was soon granted--and before the end of the year he was safely landed in England. "These legs of mine," said he, clapping his hands upon them as he sat in his chamber at Margate, "shall never go again into Holland. Let the States get others to serve their mercenary turn, for me they shall not have." Upon giving up the government, he caused a medal to be struck in his own honour. The device was a flock of sheep watched by an English mastiff. Two mottoes--"non gregem aed ingratos," and "invitus desero"--expressed his opinion of Dutch ingrat.i.tude and his own fidelity.

The Hollanders, on their part, struck several medals to commemorate the same event, some of which were not dest.i.tute of invention. Upon one of them, for instance, was represented an ape smothering her young ones to death in her embrace, with the device, "Libertas ne its chara ut simiae catuli;" while upon the reverse was a man avoiding smoke and falling into the fire, with the inscription, "Fugiens fumum, incidit in ignem."

Leicester found the usual sunshine at Greenwich. All the efforts of Norris, Wilkes, and Buckhurst, had been insufficient to raise even a doubt in Elizabeth's mind as to the wisdom and integrity by which his administration of the Provinces had been characterised from beginning to end. Those who had appealed from his hatred to the justice of their sovereign, had met with disgrace and chastis.e.m.e.nt. But for the great Earl; the Queen's favour was a rock of adamant. At a private interview he threw himself at her feet, and with tears and sobs implored her not to receive him in disgrace whom she had sent forth in honour. His blandishments prevailed, as they had always done. Instead, therefore, of appearing before the council, kneeling, to answer such inquiries as ought surely to have been inst.i.tuted, he took his seat boldly among his colleagues, replying haughtily to all murmurs by a reference to her Majesty's secret instructions.

The unhappy English soldiers, who had gone forth under his banner in midsummer, had been returning, as they best might, in winter, starving, half-naked wretches, to beg a morsel of bread at the gates of Greenwich palace, and to be driven away as vagabonds, with threats of the stock.

This was not the fault of the Earl, for he had fed them with his own generous hand in the Netherlands, week after week, when no money for their necessities could be obtained from the paymasters. Two thousand pounds had been sent by Elizabeth to her soldiers when sixty-four thousand pounds arrearage were due, and no language could exaggerate the misery to which these outcasts, according to eye-witnesses of their own nation, were reduced.

Lord Willoughby was appointed to the command, of what remained of these unfortunate troops, upon--the Earl's departure. The sovereignty of the Netherlands remained undisputed with the States. Leicester resigned his, commission by an instrument dated 17/27 December, which, however, never reached the Netherlands till April of the following year. From that time forth the government of the republic maintained the same forms which the a.s.sembly had claimed for it in the long controversy with the governor-general, and which have been sufficiently described.

Meantime the negotiations for a treaty, no longer secret, continued. The Queen; infatuated as ever, still believed in the sincerity of Farnese, while that astute personage and his master were steadily maturing their schemes. A matrimonial alliance was secretly projected between the King of Scots and Philip's daughter, the Infants Isabella, with the consent of the Pope and the whole college of cardinals; and James, by the whole force of the Holy League, was to be placed upon the throne of Elizabeth.

In the case of his death, without issue, Philip was to succeed quietly to the crowns of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Nothing could be simpler or more rational, and accordingly these arrangements were the table-talk at Rome, and met with general approbation.

Communications to this effect; coming straight from the Colonna palace, were thought sufficiently circ.u.mstantial to be transmitted to the English government. Maurice of Na.s.sau wrote with his own hand to Walsingham, professing a warm attachment to the cause in which Holland and England were united, and perfect personal devotion to the English Queen.

His language, was not that of a youth, who, according to Leicester's repeated insinuations, was leagued with the most distinguished soldiers and statesmen of the Netherlands to sell their country to Spain.

But Elizabeth was not to be convinced. She thought it extremely probable that the Provinces would be invaded, and doubtless felt some anxiety for England. It was unfortunate that the possession of Sluys had given Alexander such a point of vantage; and there was moreover, a fear that he might take possession of Ostend. She had, therefore, already recommended that her own troops should be removed from that city, that its walls should be razed; its marine bulwarks destroyed, and that the ocean.

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History of the United Netherlands, 1584-1609 Part 53 summary

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