Page images

prevail on the king to consent to an augmentation of the Council of State. As, however, this could not be surreptitiously obtained in so quiet a manner, the attempt was made to extort it from the court by a third and more daring stepby a formal conspiracy, the League of the Gueux. The fourth step to the same end was the present embassy, which at length boldly cast aside the mask, and by the insane proposals which they were not ashamed to make to their king, clearly brougət to light the object to which all the preceding steps had tended. Could the abolition of the Inquisition, they exclaimed, lead to any thing less than a complete freedom of belief ? Would not the guiding helm of conscience be lost with it? Did not the proposed moderation " introduce an absolute impunity for all heresies? What was the project of augmenting the Council of State and of suppressing the two other councils, but a complete remodelling of the government of the country in favour of the nobles ?-a general constitution for all the provinces of the Netherlands ? Again, what was this compact of the ecclesiastics in their public preachings, but a third conspiracy, entered into with the very same objects which the league of the nobles in the Council of State, and that of the Gueux, had failed to effect?

However, it was confessed, that whatever might be the source of the evil, it was not on that account the less im. portant and imminent. The immediate personal presence of the king in Brussels was, indubitably, the most efficacious means, speedily and thoroughly to remedy it. As, however, it was already so late in the year, and the preparations alone for the journey would occupy the short time which was to elapse before the winter set in; as the stormy season of the year, as well as the danger from French and English ships which rendered the sea unsafe, did not allow of the king's taking the northern route, which was the shorter of the two; as the rebels themselves meanwhile might become possessed of the island of Walcheren, and oppose the landing of the king : for all these reasons, the journey was not to be thought of before the spring, and in absence of the only complete remedy it was necessary to rest satisfied with a partial expe dien. The council, therefore, agreed to propose to the king, in the first place, that he should recall the Papal Inquisition from the provinces and rest satisfied with that of the bishops.

ir the second place, that a new plan for the mitigation of the edicts should be projected, by which the honour of religion and of the king would be better preserved than it had been in the transmitted "moderation ;" thirdly, that in order to re assure the minds of the people, and to leave no means un tried, the king should impart to the regent full powers to extend free grace and pardon to all those who had not already committed any heinous crime, or who had not as yet been condemned by any judicial process; but from the benefit of this indemnity, the preachers, and all who harboured them, were to be excepted. On the other hand, all leagues, associations, public assemblies, and preachings, were to be henceforth prohibited under heavy penalties; if, however, this prohibition should be infringed, the regent was to be at liberty to employ the regular troops and garrisons for the forcible reduction of the refractory, and also, in case of necessity, to enlist new troops, and to name the commanders over them, according as should be deemed advisable. Finally, it would have a good effect, if his majesty would write to the most eminent towns, prelates, and leaders of the nobility, to some in his own hand, and to all in a gracious tone, in order to stimulate their zeal in his service.

When this resolution of his Council of State was submitted to the king, his first measure was to command public processions and prayers in all the most considerable places of the kingdom, and also of the Netherlands, imploring the divine guidance in his decision. He appeared in his own person in the Council of State in order to approve this resolution, and render it effective. He declared the General Assembly of the States to be useless, and entirely abolished it. Не, , however, bound himself to retain some German regiments in his pay, and that they might serve with the more zeal, to pay them their long-standing arrears. He commanded the regent, in a private letter, to prepare secretly for war; three thousand horse and ten thousand infantry were to be Assembled by her in Germany, to which end he furnished her with the necessary letters, and transmitted to her a sum of three hundred thousand gold florins. He also accompanied this resolution with several autograph letters to some privato individuals and towns, in which he thanked them in the most gracious terms for the zeal which they had already displayed

in his service, and called upon them to manifest the same for the future. Notwithstanding that he was inexorable on the most important point, and the very one on which the nation most particularly insisted—the convocation of the states, notwithstanding that his limited and ambiguous pardon was as good as none, and depended too much on arbitrary will to calm the public mind; notwithstanding, in fine, that he rejected, as too lenient, the proposed “moderation,” but which, on the part of the people, was complained of as too severe; still he had this time made an unwonted step in the favour of the nation; he had sacrificed to it the Papal Inquisition and left only the Episcopal, to which it was accustomed. The nation had found more equitable judges in the Spanish council than they could reasonably have hoped for. Whether, at another time, and under other circumstances, this wise concessior would have had the desired effect, we will not pretend to say It came too late : when (1566) the royal letters reached Brussels, the attack on images had already commenced

BOOK IV The springs of this extraordinary occurrence are plainly not to be sought for so far back as many historians affect to trace them. It is certainly possible, and very probable that the French Protestants did industriously exert themselves to raise in the Netherlands a nursery for their religion, and to prevent, by all means in their power, an amicable adjustment of differences between their brethren in the faith in that quarter and the King of Spain, in order to give that implacable foe of their party enough to do in his own country. It is natural, therefore, to suppose that their agents in the provinces left nothing undone to encourage their oppressed brethren with daring hopes, to nourish their animosity against the ruling church, and by exaggerating the oppression under which they sighed, to hurry them imperceptibly into illegal

It is possible, too, that there were many among the confederates who thought to help out their own lost cause by mcreasing the number of their partners in guilt; who thought they coulă not otherwise maintain the legal character of their league, unless the unfortunate results, against which they had warned the king, really came to pass; and who hoped in the general guilt of all to conceal their own individual criminality.


It is, however, incredible that the outbreak of the Iconoclasta was the fruit of a deliberate plan, preconcerted, as it is: alleged, at the convent of St. Truyen. It does not seem likely, that in a solemn assembly of so many nobles and war riors, of whom the greater part were the adherents of popery, an individual should be found insane enough to propose au act of positive infamy, which did not so much injure any religious party in particular, as rather tread under foot all respect for religion in general, and even all morality too, and which could have been conceived only in the mind of the vilest reprobate. Besides, this outrage was too sudden in its outbreak, too vehement in its execution altogether, too monstrous to have been any thing more than the offspring of the moment in which it saw the light, it seemed to flow so naturally from the circumstances which preceded it, that it does not re quire to be traced far back to remount to its origin.

A rude mob, consisting of the very dregs of the populace, rendered brutal by harsh treatment, by sanguinary decrees which dogged them in every town, scared from place to place, and driven almost to despair, were compelled to worship their God, and to hide, like a work of darkness, the universal sacred privilege of humanity. Before their eyes proudly rose the temples of the dominant church, in which their haughty brethren indulged in ease their magnificent devotion, while they themselves were driven from the walls, expelled, too, by the weaker number perhaps, and forced, here in the wild woods, under the burning heat of noon, in disgraceful secrecy to worship the same God cast out from civil society into a state of nature, and reminded, in one dread moment, of the rights of that state! The greater their superiority of numbers, the more unnatural did their lot appear-with wonder they perceive the truth. The free heaven, tne arms lying ready, the frenzy in their brains and fury in their hearts combine to aid the suggestions of some preaching fanatic; the occasion calls, no premeditation is necessary, where all eyes at once declare consent; the resolution is formed ere yet the word is scarcely uttered; ready for any un. lawful act, no one yet clearly knows what, the furious band rushes onwards. The smiling prosperity of the hostile religion insults the poverty of their own; the pomp of the authorized temples casts contempt on their proscribed belief:

every cross set up upon the highway, every image of thù saints that they meet, is a trophy erected over their humiliation, and they all must be removed by their avenging hands. Fanaticism suggests these detestable proceedings, but base passions carry them into execution,

1566 The commencement of the attack on images took place in West Flanders and Artois, in the districts between Lys and the sea. A frantic herd of artisans, boatmen, and peasants, mixed with prostitutes, beggars, vagabonds, and thieves, about 300 in number, furnished with clubs, axes, hammers, ladders, and cords, (a few only were provided with swords or fire-arms,) cast themselves, with fanatical fury, into the villages and hamlets near St. Omer, and breaking open the gates of such churches and cloisters as they find locked, overthrow everywhere the altars, break to pieces the images of the saints, and trample them under foot. With their excitement increased by its indulgence, and reinforced by new comers, they press on, by the direct road, to Ypres, where they can count on the support of a strong body of Calvinists. Unopposed, they break into the cathedral, and mounting on ladders, they hammer to pieces the pictures, hew down with axes the pulpits and pews, despoil the altars of their orna: ments, and steal the holy vessels. This example was quickly followed in Menin, Comines, Verrich, Lille, and Oudenard; in a few days, the same fury spreads through the whole of Flanders. At the very time, when the first tidings of this occurrence arrived, Antwerp was swarming with a crowd of houseless people, which the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin had brought together in that city. Even the presence of the Prince of Orange was hardly sufficient to restrain the licentious mob, who burned to imitate the doings of their bre thren in St. Omer; but an order from the court, which summoned him to Brussels, where the regent was just assembling ner Council of State, in order to lay before them the royal letters, ubliged him to abandon Antwerp to the outrages of this band. His departure was the signal for tumalt: Apprehensive of the lawless violence, of whi on the very first day of the fes tival, the mob had given indications in derisory allusions, the priests, after carrying about tho image of the Virgin for a short time, brought it for safety to the choir, without, as

« PreviousContinue »