Suppression of Protestantism Golden Age

The Showdown : the Dutch Revolt, 1572-1609

A.) The Early Period, 1572-1584

King Philip II. was perceived, by the Netherlanders, as a foreigner. He did not speak the language, was educated in Madrid, a staunch Catholic and an absolute ruler, intending to break the autonomy of the Low Countries, to impose a more centralized system of government.
This policy alienated not only the hardcore protestants, many of whom chose emigration over having to renounce their belief. The city of EMDEN emerged as a haven for Dutch protestant emigres. It also alienated the Dutch nobility, which saw it's position threatened. A petition to restore the old privileges failed (1566), the petitors being nicknamed GEUZEN (beggars), a name the Dutch rebels soon afterward would bear with honour. Held responsible for the riots of Calvinist iconoclasts that erupted in 1566, the noblemen VAN EGMOND and VAN HOORNE were arrested and executed (1567). The wealthiest noble landowner, WILLIAM OF ORANGE, byname THE SILENT, left the Netherlands, took up residence in Nassau (Germany) and from there undertook raids into the Netherlands, to harm the King of Spain in retaliation for injustice done to him (a feud).
The Spanish administration of the Netherlands, from 1567 onward, was based on Spain's military power rather than on laws and tradition. Stadholder ALVA ruled with a harsh hand, instituting the COUNCIL OF TROUBLES, responsible for the execution of 6,000 (although Alva himself boasted of a number of 20,000). Soon he became the most hated man in the Netherlands. The GEUZEN formed, a ragtag group which combined refugee Calvinists, disgruntled noblemen as well as criminal elements; as WATERGEUZEN, on board of ships, they harmed the Spanish (and found open ports in England). In 1572, a number of cities in Holland and Zeeland opened their gates to them, thus joined the rebellion (1572). The Spanish laid siege to HAARLEM, the capital of Holland (1572-73), which was sacked, it's garrison massacred. The Spanish now laid siege to LEIDEN; when the Geuzen opened the floodgates and the water level rose, the Spanish had to withdraw and the city was saved. The Spanish failed to reestablish control over Holland; the rebels openly adapted Calvinist religion and in 1575 established the UNIVERSITY OF LEIDEN as a Calvinist university.
In 1576 the STATEN GENERAEL assembled, were sympathetic with the rebels. They passed the PACIFICATION OF GHENT, a document which established a common position of the countries : any new stadholder was only to be acknowledged if he signed the pacification first.

The Spanish answer was an armed one; the new stadholder Parma arrived with an army and began to take control of the southern territories, "representants" of which in 1579 established the UNION OF ARRAS, a pro-Catholic and pro-Spanish federation, the remaining rebelling provinces formed the UNION OF UTRECHT (1579). From now, war was in full scale. In 1584 Balthasar Gerard, induced by a reward of 25,000 gold crowns, assassinated Prince William of Orange, Stadholder of the Netherlands and political head of the rebellion.

B.) Spanish Offensive

The Spanish army was superior on the battlefield and experienced in laying siege; BRUGES, YPRES and GHENT fell in 1584, BRUSSELS and ANTWERP in 1585. Antwerp was sacked and plundered - that was the way the soldiers were paid, and most surviving cities emigrated, to AMSTERDAM. On the seas the WATERGEUZEN (rebels) were superior. They also could protect cities in low-lying areas, as dykes could be pierced, fields inundated, forcing the Spanish army to line up on a dyke if they did not want to drown. Once there they had no option but to withdraw (as in the case of the abandoned siege of Leiden) or surrender.
At the time of William's assassination, his son and heir Maurice was still an infant. The imminent military threat required capable military leadership; the Staten Generael offered the stadholdership first to the King of France, and then to Queen Elizabeth of England, who declined it for herself, but appointed EARL ROBERT DUDLEY OF LEICESTER instead. While the Duke himself did not travel to the Netherlands, Englishmen did fight in the Netherlands to safeguard the young Dutch Republic.

C.) Prince Maurice of Orange and Johan van Oldenbarneveld

Spain fought in many theatres at the same time, was involved in France's civil wars and prepared to invade England with the SPANISH ARMADA. Because Spain did not focus on the revolt, the Dutch were able to organize their defense. Spain was constantly lacking money to pay for it's army, a fact which helped the Dutch wear down the Spanish. By 1600 the Dutch had cleared the area north of the Rhine from the Spanish; the military situation was a stalemate, Spain controlling the southern Netherlands, the Dutch the North.
PRINCE MAURICE was appointed stadholder of the provinces of Holland and Zeeland in 1585, of the other provinces in 1590 resp. 1591. He was supported by JOHAN VAN OLDENBARNEVELD, pensionary of the powerful estates of Holland.
As commander of the Dutch army, Maurice took a number of Spanish-held fortresses by siege : Nijmegen and Zutphen, 1591; Steenwijk and Coevorden, 1592; Groningen, 1594; Oldenzaal, Enschede and Grol, 1597, thus clearing the stretch to the north of the Rhine from Spanish troops. Maurice relied on the engineering genius of SIMON STEVIN as well as on tactics learned from the authors of Greek and Roman antiquity, quickly gaining fame as Europe's leading military commander. He avoided fighting pitched battles, the only exception being the BATTLE OF NIEUPOORT 1600 - the Spanish infantry was regarded superior.
In effect, the Netherlands were split in two, the DUTCH REPUBLIC, consisting of 7 provinces - Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Friesland, Groningen, Overijssel and Gelderland (Drente was not counted, as it was too poor) and the SPANISH NETHERLANDS (Flanders, Artois, Hainaut, Namur, Liege, Limburg, Luxemburg). In 1609 a truce was signed, lasting for 12 years, in effect recognizing Dutch independence.

Website Dutch Republic History Site, scholarly bibliography, maintained at Univ. of Leiden, in English, links
De Tachtigjaarige Oorlog (The 80 Years War), from University of Leiden, in Dutch, detailed bibliography, links
Tilburgse lakenwerkers in Rotterdam, from Historie Tilburg, in Dutch; on late 16th/early 17th century (Tilburg clothmakers in Rotterdam)
General Narratives Short narratives of the 80 Years War for Dutch independence from Pattie's History; from Our History
Short narratives in Dutch from Golden Age Web (in Dutch)
Detailed narrative : History of Protestantism in the Netherlands, Chapter 18 of History of Protestantism by James A. Wylie (1878)
Map : The Low Countries 1556-1648, from Historical and Political Maps of the Modern Age
Lists of Rulers
Chronology of the Dutch Revolt, from Ons Verleden (in Dutch)
List of Spanish stadholders, 1506-1656, from Golden Age Web
Biographies William the Silent, from Portraits of Faithful Saints, a Calvinist publication; another biography from
Maurice of Orange, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis (in Dutch)
Biographies of prominent persons related to the Dutch Revolt, from Ons Verleden (in Dutch)
for biographies of the Duke of Alva, see Netherlands 1500-1580, of Alessandro Farnese Spanish Netherlands
Biography of Simon Stevin, from MacTutor (History of Mathematics); from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition; from BBC Online
Webpage on the taking of Den Briel, in Dutch, richly illustrated
De Rozekruisers in Holland in 1592-1622, from A.M.O.R.C. (The (Catholic) Rose Cruisers Order in Holland, 1592-1622)
Others The Martyrs of Gorkum (1572), article from Catholic Encyclopedia , on 9 Franciscans killed when the city of Gorkum was liberated by the Watergeuzen; another site related to the Gorcum martyrs, by Barry Bossa
Jetons : The Dutch Revolt, in Jetons, their use in History by Bert van Beek, scroll down
Text Documents
in English
The Wonders of the Most High, a chronicle of the history of the United Provinces, 1550-1675, by Abraham van de Velde
Dutch Declaration of Independence 1581, from the Modern History Sourcebook; as Plakkaat van Verlatinghe, from Historische Teksten, in Dutch
Documents in English, from Univ. of Southhampton posted by Dr. Alistair Duke / Univ. Leiden
Documents in Dutch, from Historische Teksten (Univ. Gent)
Een nieu Geuzen liedt boecxken, from A Hundred Highlights from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Geuzen song book (1581), short comment in English
E.T. Kuiper (ed.), Het Geuzenliedboek (Geusen Song book; in Dutch)
William of Orange, Apology, 1581, addressed to the King of Spain, from AP Modern Euro, by Mrs. Mendelsund
Text Documents
in other languages
Dutch Revolt : Letters, from Golden Age Web, click : brieven, in French/Dutch; Documents 1477-1617, from Golden Age Web, click : bronnen, (in Sp./Fr./Dutch)
Contemporary songs and poems on the Dutch Revolt, from Ons Verleden, in Dutch
List of Mottoes from the period of the Dutch Revolt, with explanations, from Golden Age Web (in Dutch)
Maps Atlas Beudeker, Conquesten der Vereende Nederlanden (Conquests of the United Netherlands), posted by KB; click : bladeren, Atlas Beudeker; 134 maps, mostly of fortress towns, 1572 ff.
Map of the Netherlands in 1603, from Gardiner's Atlas of English History, 1892, political
Abraham Ortelius, Le Miroir du Monde, 1598 (Atlas), posted by MATEO (Univ. Mannheim), clickable maps of Belgia Antiqua, Cvyika, Kesselia et Pelia, Dvvelandia et Vornia, Falckenburgium, Flandria Maritima, Flandria, Flandria Imperialis, Flandris Liberae Territorium, Frisia Orientalis et Occidentalis, Frisia Occidentalis, Geldria, Groninga, Hannonia et Namur, Hollandia, Horna, Luczenburgum, Mechliniae Territorium, Nort-Hollandia, Partie Meridionale de Brabant, Transisalania et Velvania, Walcharia, Wasia, Zelandia, Zutphania, Zuytbevelandia
Paintings, Prints William the Silent : no. 1, no. 2, from Art istocracy
Duke of Alva, William the Silent, Alessandro Farnese, from Univ. of Virginia (Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic)
The Duke of Alva in the Netherlands (1835), from The Wallace Collection
Egmond and Hoorne (1851), from DHM
Tyranny of the Duke of Alva, 1577, posted by Andrew Sawyer
Illustratioins from Custos, Dominicus, Atrium heroicum Caesarum, regum, [...] imaginibus [...] illustr[atum]. Pars 1-4.Augsburg: M. Manger, J. Praetorius, 1600-1602 : Prince Maurice, William the Silent, Lamoral of Egmont, Frederik Hendrik of Orange, future stadholder; posted by MATEO / Univ. Mannheim
Belägering der Statt Ostende, 1604-1605, posted by University of Glasgow
Coins etc. Jetons on negotiations to the Union of Utrecht, 1579, on an attempt to assassinate William the Silent, 1582, on the assassination of William the Silent in 1584, on the inauguration of Maurice of Orange as Count of Nassau, on the capture of St. Andrew by Prince Maurice in 1600, from Jetons, their use and history, by Bert van Beek (1986)
Sea Beggars' Medal, 1574, from Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, collection, 1250 major exhibits, encyclopedia, b, beggars, thumbnail picture in center
List of coins issued in the Southern Netherlands during the revolt : Francis of Anjou 1581-1584, Siege of Antwerp 1584-1585, Estates of Flanders, 1583-1584, Siege of Breda 1577, Siege of Maastricht 1579, Siege of Brussels 1579-1585, Siege of Tournai, 1581, Siege of Oudenaarde, 1583, Siege of Ypres, 1583, from, in Dutch, no images
REFERENCE The Dutch Revolt, pp.219-222, and : Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, pp.260-271 from : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe
Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude, The First Modern Economy. Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815, Cambridge : UP 1997, KMLA Lib.Sign. 330.9492 V982f

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First posted in 2000, last revised on April 20th 2009

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