SPAIN FROM FERDINAND AND ISABELLA TO PHILIP
THE REVOLT OF THE NETHERLANDS
The rise of Spain in the sixteenth century to the position of the predominant power in Europe is in many ways an amazing phenomenon. It was a poor, barren country only about half its soil was fertile and it was not even unified at the start of the period, but consisted of separate kingdoms with their own distinctive histories and traditions. Yet it acquired a vast overseas empire and exerted its influence throughout Europe. This commanding position did not last long, however, and the decline of Spain is as spectacular as its rise. This chapter deals with its rise and the beginning of its decline.
Spain was characterized by pronounced regional variations. These were accentuated by the reconquest, the series of campaigns in the Middle Ages by which the Christian kingdoms of the peninsula subdued the Moslems. The different kingdoms accomplished their purpose at different rates of speed and with different effects. When Castile, the largest and most powerful, conquered Andalusia, the crown gave great blocks of land to the nobles; this helped to make the Castilian nobility exceptionally powerful. Since the nobles, as the military class, were the leaders in the reconquest, and since the process took longer in Castile than elsewhere, their ideals and outlook came to permeate Castilian life. The war against the infidel also helped to give the church a commanding position and to develop a crusading spirit among the people.
The great stretches of land acquired by Castile were too barren for agriculture but well suited for sheep grazing. This fact, together with the introduction of the merino sheep from North Africa about 1300, helped to make sheep raising the chief Castilian economic activity.
On the eastern coast of the peninsula was the crown of Aragon, consisting of Catalonia, Aragon, and Valencia. This area was deeply involved in maritime activity, especially Catalonia with its great harbor of Barcelona. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Catalonia acquired an overseas commercial empire, including Sardinia and Sicily, and Catalan merchants operated throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. Towns flourished, and the powerful merchant class that lived in them dominated the country.
Late in the fifteenth century, grave crises in Catalonia resulted in a weakening of the crown of Aragon at the time of the union with Castile. The Black Death and its reappearances led to a shortage of labor and bitter conflicts between peasants and landowners. The financial and commercial position of Catalonia suffered from these factors and from Genoese competition and class conflict in the towns. The climax was civil war from 1462 to 1472, followed by an uneasy peace. Louis XI of France was able to fish in these troubled waters and annex Cerdagne and Roussillon (to use their French names).
In Castile also there had been troubles in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, due to the excessive power of the nobles, disputed successions, and civil war. Yet Castile was the dominant force in the unification of Spain, with a territory three times as large as that of Aragon, and a population in 1500 of six or seven million to one million Aragonese. The union had its origin in the marriage on October 19, 1469, of Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon, with Isabella, heiress to Castile. A disputed succession was to cost Isabella ten years of fighting before her position was secured. Since the bride and groom were related, they needed a papal dispensation to get married. Such a document was duly produced, but it was actually a forgery, concocted by Ferdinand himself; his father, the king of Aragon; and the archbishop of Toledo. Castile and Aragon remained distinct, and the union was at first a personal one only; it was not certain that it would survive Ferdinand and Isabella.
Ferdinand became king of Aragon at the death of his father in 1479, the same year Isabella succeeded in finally securing the throne of Castile. It was their task to restore order and to strengthen royal authority. Early in their reign they set out to conquer Granada, the last independent Moorish kingdom; they finally succeeded in 1492, thus completing the reconquest. The terms given to the conquered Moslems were liberal: They were to be left in possession of their property and in the enjoyment of their own laws, customs, and, most interesting of all, their religion. These terms were observed, however, only for a few years. Then the archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Ximnez, instituted a policy of forcible conversion, which led to an uprising in 1499. In 1502, by order of Isabella, all Moors in Granada were given the choice of receiving Christian baptism or leaving Spain. Since measures were taken to block their departure, they were compelled to remain and become Christians, at least in name. These converted Moors were called Moriscos.
Ferdinand and Isabella are regarded as the creators of modern Spain, but they did not create it out of nothing. They worked on traditional lines, building on existing institutions and restoring them to working order, and modifying and adapting them to meet new needs. This process is illustrated in Ferdinand's government of Aragon where he made use of two already existing institutions, the viceroy and the council. Henceforth, there was a viceroy for each of the three parts of the crown of Aragon, and the old council of the kings of Aragon the curia regis became the Council of Aragon. Since it followed the king, the council spent most of its time in Castile. As new possessions were added to the Spanish monarchy, this system was extended; and Spain and its empire came to be governed by means of a series of councils in Castile and viceroys elsewhere.
In Castile, Isabella allowed her husband a good deal of authority, so that essentially they ruled jointly there. The first necessity was to suppress the power of the aristocracy, which had long meant misrule. The monarchs had the towns as allies in this endeavor, and the chief instrument the towns placed at their disposal was the institution of the Holy Brotherhood. The Brotherhood had its own troops to arrest criminals and its own courts to try them. By 1498 order was so far restored in Castile that the Brotherhood was abolished, though local brotherhoods continued to exist.
The crown also strengthened itself and weakened the nobles by acquiring control of the three great military religious orders: Santiago, Calatrava, and Alc ntara. These possessed enormous resources, which had previously been at the disposal of a small number of great nobles. Ferdinand and Isabella successfully asserted their authority over them, and this was confirmed by a papal bull in 1523 during the reign of their grandson, Charles.
Another means of weakening the great nobility was the employment of men of humbler origins in responsible posts. The royal Council of Castile, which had been dominated by the great nobles, was reconstituted so that its membership consisted of a prelate, three lesser nobles, and eight or nine jurists. The great nobles were permitted to attend meetings, but they had no vote. Similarly, the crown was careful to withhold military, diplomatic, and administrative appointments from them.
While Ferdinand and Isabella did weaken the political position of the nobility, this fact must be placed in proper perspective by the consideration of two related facts: They did not strengthen the townsmen politically, and they did not seriously weaken the great nobles socially or economically. Their treatment of the townspeople can be seen in the history of the Cortes of Castile in their reign. This body, the representative assembly of Castile, came to consist entirely of thirty-six townsmen, two from each of eighteen towns. The other two estates, the nobles and clergy, were normally not summoned after 1480; the towns, thus isolated, had little power to resist the demands of the monarchs. Ferdinand and Isabella did not even bother to call them unless they needed money. Since revenues were rising, there were long periods when the Cortes did not meet at all; they were not called between 1483 and 1497.
Ferdinand and Isabella strengthened their grip on the towns at the expense of the democratic traditions that had long prevailed there. Here again their chief instrument was an already existing institution, the officer known as the corregidor. Ferdinand and Isabella appointed one in each of the chief towns of Castile, and gave these corregidores broad administrative and judicial powers. Henceforth, royal authority was great in the towns, and only a little remained of the popular tradition.
The monarchs had a deep sense of their obligation to give justice to their people. Therefore, they reorganized the whole Castilian judicial system, and on Fridays made themselves publicly available to all who wished to appear before them to receive justice.
Thus Ferdinand and Isabella intervened creatively in many spheres of Spanish life. But there is a debit side to their achievements. Security was purchased at the expense of liberty. An increase of taxes took place, which together with their unequal incidence among different classes, was to have bad effects in the long run. The increase in governmental activity brought the growth of a bureaucracy with the abuses inherent in such bodies. Most serious of all was the failure to curb the economic and social privileges of the aristocracy. The nobles kept their traditional rights of feudal jurisdiction, they were exempt from taxes, and they had vast land holdings. Together with the high churchmen and the upper class in the cities, they comprised less than 2 percent of the population, yet these groups possessed about 95 to 97 percent of the land of Castile. Over half of this land belonged to a small number of immensely wealthy families. When Granada was conquered, most of it was granted to the nobles.
In their social and economic policies, the monarchs sacrificed long-term advantages to the needs of the moment. This is most clearly seen in the subordination of agriculture to the demands of the sheep growers. The latter had been united by the crown into an organization called the mesta, which received special privileges in return for its great contributions to the treasury. Ferdinand and Isabella reserved large areas for sheep grazing, thus removing them from agricultural production. Agriculture was already in a poor condition because of the poverty of the peasants, the lack of interest on the part of noble landowners, and the prevalence of primitive and wasteful methods of cultivation. All of this, together with a growing population and crop failures in the early sixteenth century, brought about the importation of grain and government price fixing. Both of these expedients were to be resorted to throughout the century.
Agriculture suffered also from the contempt of Castilians for this kind of work, a contempt traceable primarily to two factors. The aristocratic sense of values that permeated society exalted the occupation of warfare and brought all kinds of manual work into disrepute. The fact that agriculture was largely in the hands of the Moriscos contributed to the low standing it had in the eyes of the so-called Old Christians those without Moorish or Jewish blood. The harsh treatment of the Moriscos was harmful to agriculture, just as the harsh treatment of the converted Jews (conversos or Marranos) damaged trade. It was at this point that religion and the church impinged on the economic, social, and cultural life of Spain.
The Spanish church was rich and powerful. The archbishop of Toledo, chief prelate of Spain, was the richest man in the country after the king, and the richest ecclesiastic in the entire church after the pope. In the fifteenth century, with the weakening of royal power, the Spanish church had acquired a considerable degree of independence. If the monarchs were to control Spain, they needed to control the church. Here the chief issue was the right of presentation to benefices, that is the right to grant church positions; the chief antagonist was the papacy, which also claimed the right of presentation. Ferdinand and Isabella gained an important advantage when they secured from Innocent VIII in 1486 the right of presentation to all major benefices in the kingdom of Granada. This enabled them later to secure a similar right in the overseas empire. In 1523 their grandson, Charles V, received from Pope Adrian VI, his old tutor and adviser, the right to present to all bishoprics in Spain. Thus the monarchs managed to gain control over the church, which became one of their chief sources of income.
The church in Spain as elsewhere was in urgent need of reform at the start of the sixteenth century. The monarchs, especially the queen, were aware of this and undertook to improve conditions, with the help of Ximnez de Cisneros. This remarkable man, a Franciscan friar, became Isabella's confessor in 1492, and later was made archbishop of Toledo, cardinal, and Inquisitor General. Austere and zealous, he was an implacable enemy of church abuses, as he was of heresy.
The result was an improvement in the quality of the clergy. Monasteries were reformed, often against the will of the inmates; the Dominicans of Salamanca took up arms in their own defense. Four hundred Franciscan friars in Andalusia, faced with the prospect of celibacy, migrated to North Africa and became Moslems. Similarly, the secular clergy were reformed, bishops came to be chosen more for their learning and piety and less for family background, and schools were founded to provide a better educated clergy.
One of Ximnez's greatest contributions to the reform movement was the foundation in 1508 of the University of Alcal to further theological studies. Here he sponsored the great edition of the Bible known as the Complutensian Polyglot, which gave in parallel columns the text in the original languages and the Latin Vulgate as well. The New Testament was printed in 1514, before that of Erasmus, though it was not actually published until 1522. As a critical text it far excelled the one established by Erasmus. The Alcal version of the Hebrew Old Testament remained standard for centuries. Here the methods of humanism were put in the service of ecclesiastical and religious reform.
It was in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella that the Spanish Inquisition came into existence. It was established throughout Spain by a bull of Sixtus IV in 1478, at the request of the monarchs, and began operations in 1480. The Inquisition had previously existed in Aragon but had become inactive; it had not existed in Castile. It was an ecclesiastical tribunal for the discovery and suppression of heresy. In the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella, the chief threat of heresy was thought to proceed from the Jews and conversos. The Spanish Inquisition was in fact the outcome and weapon of racial prejudice, and its most profound motivation was the national passion for "purity of blood."
The Iberian peninsula was unique in medieval Europe in harboring a mixed population of Christians, Moslems, and Jews; the Spanish had been more tolerant of Jews than many other Christian nations. Though there was endemic anti-Semitism, Jews entered trades and professions and mingled freely with Gentiles. The Fourth Lateran Council, called by Pope Innocent III in 1215, urged the enactment of laws against Jews. From the thirteenth century onward such anti-Semitic legislation became common in Spain, though the Jews were powerful enough to prevent it from being rigorously enforced. In learning, the professions, government and administration, and finance, they had risen to positions of great importance. During the reconquest, they were indispensable; further, any systematic persecution would have been likely to drive them into the tolerant Moorish states.
With the progress of the reconquest, the latent hatred of the Jews rose more readily to the surface. The climax came in 1391, when massacres of Jews took place throughout Spain on an unprecedented scale. In Seville alone four thousand were killed, and the total number of victims may have reached fifty thousand. Many Jews, to save their lives, became Christians. With further massacres and anti-Semitic laws, the process of conversion was hastened. The New Christians another term for the conversos escaped from the disabilities imposed on Jews, and thus were again able to rise to leading positions. In both church and state, high offices came to be held by men who had Jewish blood; in intellectual life and literature they played a distinguished part. A large number married into the aristocracy, to the point where many, perhaps most, of the noble families of Spain had received some admixture of Jewish blood. Because of the intense feeling of the Spanish about "purity of blood," the prestige and privileges of the nobility were threatened. The Inquisition arose partly from the desire of the nobles to preserve their position by stamping out the threat of racial contamination.
The New Christians were suspected of being insincere in their Christianity and secretly adhering to their old beliefs and practices, and in some cases this was true. Others were truly devoted to the Christian faith. The first two Inquisitors General, including the famous Torquemada, had Jewish blood, as did Ferdinand himself.
The policy of Ferdinand and Isabella was consistently anti-Semitic, and its climax came in 1492 after the fall of Granada. They then decreed that all Jews in Spain must either be baptized or leave the country. Estimates as to the numbers involved vary greatly. Anywhere from 165,000 to 400,000 may have left; perhaps 50,000 remained and became converted. Thus there were officially no Jews in Spain after 1492, but popular hatred and bigotry made no distinction between Jews and converts.
The establishment of the Inquisition came about as an attempt to deal with the problem of the conversos who were secretly adhering to Judaism. The Inquisition had no authority to deal with unconverted Jews, who were still numerous when it began its operations in 1480. Its affairs were managed by the Council of the Inquisition, of which the president came to be known as the Inquisitor General. Tom s de Torquemada, a Dominican, was the first Inquisitor General. The Inquisition was established in all the Spanish kingdoms, and became the only institution whose jurisdiction ran throughout all the territories of the Spanish crown. It was controlled by the monarchy, which appointed and dismissed the Inquisitors, and this no doubt helps to explain the consistent support it enjoyed from the rulers of Spain. Attempts by the pope to assert some authority over it were successfully warded off, and complaints of injustice in its procedure were ignored.
The Inquisition administered a wide range of punishments from reprimands to burning. The death penalty was called "relaxation," because the victim was "relaxed" to the secular arm, or the state, which carried out the sentence in accordance with the doctrine that the church itself did not shed blood. Many persons fled abroad to avoid the Inquisition, so that the number who were burned in the flesh was much smaller than those who were out of reach and had to be burned in effigy. The exact number of persons punished by the Spanish Inquisition cannot be precisely known. A chronicler who was secretary to Ferdinand and Isabella estimated that by 1490 two thousand persons had been burned. Another contemporary claimed that in Seville, between 1480 and 1488, over seven hundred had been burned. At Toledo, between 1485 and 1501, the number was 250 with twice that number being burned in effigy. This level of activity was not constant; there were great waves of punishment, followed by periods that were more quiet.
The effects of the Inquisition cannot be gauged merely by estimating the number of persons put to death by it. For one thing, the number of persons who received lesser punishments far exceeded the number of those executed. Furthermore, "reconciliation," in which the penitent was received back into the church, was always accompanied by one of the punishments such as confiscation or imprisonment. Other punishments included scourging, assignment to galleys, and exile to another locality.
The Moriscos also came under the Inquisition's jurisdiction. The Moslems of Aragon were not affected by the decree of 1502, but their turn came in the reign of Charles V. In 1525 he ordered the expulsion of all Moors from the territories of Aragon by the end of January 1526. The resultant wave of conversions vastly increased the number of Moriscos. They differed from the conversos in that they were never assimilated into Spanish society. They remained a subject population of agricultural laborers, frequently unable to speak Spanish. In 1526, Charles and the Inquisitor General promised that the Moriscos would be free from persecution for forty years. This promise was ignored, and the Inquisition soon began prosecuting those suspected of reverting to the Moslem faith or customs. Through bribery, the Moriscos secured some mitigation in the severity of their treatment; but in 1567 in the reign of Philip II, the government decreed that the Moriscos of Granada must give up their traditional language, clothing, customs, and books. This brought a serious uprising in the following year, which took two years to subdue. To prevent a recurrence, all Moriscos were deported from Granada and scattered to various parts of Castile.
The suspected collusion of the Moriscos with Moslems abroad added to the urgency of the problem. Some fled Spain and joined the Turks. Others were believed to be cooperating with the Moslem raiders who periodically descended upon the coasts of Spain, so that Moriscos were eventually forbidden to live near the coasts. Another source of concern was the rapid growth of the Moriscos, increasing far more rapidly than the Old Christians. Though there were advocates of a liberal and humane policy toward the Moriscos, it was the policy advocated by the Inquisition that was eventually adopted. This policy was based on the conclusion that the Moriscos could not be assimilated into Spanish life.
In the reign of Philip III, therefore, the decision was taken to expel them from Spain. The order was given in 1609, and the actual expulsion lasted until 1614. Out of 300,000 Moriscos, about 275,000 were expelled. The economic consequences, especially in Valencia, were disastrous. Cardinal Richelieu referred to the expulsion as the most barbarous act in human history.
The Protestant Reformation gave the Inquisition something else to do. The Spanish looked on Protestantism with horror, and their horror was fed by ignorance. It was widely believed even by Philip II that the leaders of the new heresy were all descendants of Jews. The actual threat of Protestantism in Spain was never very great, but the fear of it was intense. Even before the start of Luther's revolt, there was present in Spain a movement called Illuminism. The Illuminists, or Alumbrados, were mystics who sought direct contact with God and criticized what they regarded as excessive formalism in the church. The appearance of Luther stimulated official action against the Illuminists, who were suspected of having close connections with Lutheranism. Among those arrested was Ignatius Loyola, questioned on two occasions by the Inquisition during these years. By the end of the 1520s, Illuminism had been disposed of.
Before the reign of Philip II, the Inquisition had found very few suspected Lutherans. In the late 1550s, however, circles of Protestants, small but containing important ecclesiastics, were uncovered in Seville and Valladolid. Between 1559 and 1562, in these two cities, seventy-six persons were burned at the stake as Protestants, one group in the presence of the king. Thereafter few native Spaniards were prosecuted as Protestants; burning generally involved foreigners.
The procedures of the Inquisition put the accused at a great disadvantage. Denunciations were encouraged, and were always taken seriously. People might be accused by friends, neighbors, and even relatives. In 1581, two men voluntarily denounced themselves for having said to their wives that fornication was not sinful. Apparently they accused themselves in order to forestall denunciation by their wives.
Names of accusers and witnesses were concealed from the accused. This encouraged irresponsible accusations and rendered very difficult the preparation of an adequate defense. The accused, not knowing who had accused him, was likely to be ignorant of the event or conversation on which the charges were based. Even without conviction, the accusation itself could do great harm. When a prominent physician died in 1622, secret witnesses claimed that he had been buried according to Jewish rites, and his whole family and household were imprisoned for ten years before being released for lack of evidence. Accusation always brought seizure of property, and as long as an individual was in prison, he had to pay for his upkeep and that of his dependents out of confiscated property. Since imprisonment and trial might drag on for years, the prisoner and his family might suffer great losses and even ruin. Bartolom de Carranza, archbishop of Toledo, was imprisoned on a charge of heresy in 1559, and remained in prison until 1576, when his case was finally adjudged by the pope, who found him not guilty of heresy though he condemned "errors" in Carranza's work. A few days later, Carranza died.
The Inquisition was no more inhumane than secular courts, and in some ways represented an improvement over them. Its prisons were considered cleaner and healthier than secular prisons, and, while it employed torture, it tried to avoid cruelty. Some of the secular courts were deliberately and unnecessarily cruel. Furthermore, it may also be pointed out that the number of those actually burned at the stake was a very small proportion of those who were tried.
Undoubtedly, the Inquisition had harmful effects, one of which was an atmosphere of fear and suspicion. People were afraid to speak freely, knowing that there were secret informers who had been planted among them. The Inquisition contributed a great deal to making Spain a closed society, sealed off from the outside world and afraid of all new ideas. In the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella and in the early sixteenth century, Spain was still open to the rest of the world and receptive to new ideas and experiences. Several universities were founded, and printing was introduced into the country. Before 1500 there were presses in twenty-five Spanish towns, and a law of 1480 permitted the importation of books duty-free. The influence of Erasmus in Spain was enormous; nowhere else, in fact, was his work so much admired in the first three decades of the sixteenth century.
All this was quickly changed by the fear of Illuminism and Protestantism. With the condemnation of Lutheranism, the Illuminists turned more and more to reading the works of Erasmus, especially the Enchiridion. There had always been a group of Spanish conservatives opposed to the ideas of Erasmus, and by 1529 they began to get the upper hand. Through unremitting persecution of men suspected of Erasmianism including some of the most distinguished thinkers in the country the works and even the name of Erasmus were wiped out in Spain by the end of the century.
These policies continued without change in the reign of Philip II; they were, if anything, intensified. In 1559, he ordered all Spaniards teaching or studying abroad to return home, except those at certain schools in Bologna, Rome, Naples, and Coimbra. The prosecution of leading intellectuals continued, and though only a few were directly involved, their example was enough to frighten a great many others into silence.
Censorship was a constant concern of the Inquisition and of the government as well. Ferdinand and Isabella retreated from their liberal policy, and in 1502 issued a regulation requiring a license for every book printed in Spain or introduced from abroad. Philip II imposed very serious restrictions on the publication and importation of books. The Inquisition meanwhile exercised its own censorship, chiefly by issuing lists or indexes of dangerous books; earlier in the century, lists from abroad had been adopted. The lists of the Inquisition contained, at one time or another, a part or all of the writings of some very distinguished people: at least two saints (Francis Borgia and Thomas More, whose Utopia had to be expurgated before it could be read), Erasmus, Boccaccio, Rabelais, Savonarola, Abelard, Dante (De monarchia), Ovid, Castiglione, Petrarch, Bodin, and Ariosto. Interestingly enough, scientific works by heretics, for example Kepler, were permitted. His works simply carried a statement that the author was condemned; thus designated, they could circulate freely.
The Inquisition exercised supervision over public and private libraries and burned many thousands of volumes. Prohibited books, however, continued to find their way into the country, although this kind of smuggling was a capital offense. All in all, Spanish intellectual life was stifled in many fields. On the other hand, the greatest age of Spanish literature and art the age of Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Vel zquez, El Greco coincides with an age of great power and activity of the Inquisition. In one respect the Inquisition was very enlightened; it refused to succumb to the general witchcraft hysteria. Yet it can hardly be denied that the Inquisition was on the whole a curse whose effects have not yet been exorcised from Spanish life.
Isabella died in 1504, Ferdinand in 1516. Through a series of historical accidents premature deaths and the madness of Joanna, oldest surviving daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella the Spanish crown came on the death of Ferdinand into the hands of Joanna's son Charles. His father had been the archduke Philip, son of Emperor Maximilian I, and, therefore, a Hapsburg. Thus the policy of Ferdinand and Isabella of marrying their children into the great royal families of Europe had accomplished what they would have wished to avoid: a foreign dynasty now held the Spanish throne. Since there was no surviving heir to the second marriage of Ferdinand (to a French princess), Charles inherited both Castile and Aragon and preserved the newly acquired unity of Spain. In addition to Aragon and Castile, Charles inherited, as king of Spain, Naples and Sicily and the great Spanish claims in the New World. As a Hapsburg he also inherited the Low Countries and the Austrian lands of the family.
When he became Charles I of Spain in 1516, he was still an adolescent. He had been born in Ghent on February 24, 1500. Both physically and mentally he showed the signs of his Hapsburg ancestry. His lower jaw protruded so far that it interfered with his speech. He looked stupid, spoke little, and thought slowly. In time he would acquire experience and wisdom, but in 1516 he had neither. Worst of all in Spanish eyes, he was a foreigner surrounded by foreigners. His entourage consisted of rapacious Flemings who were eager for lucrative offices and privileges in Spain, and Charles was complaisant. Even the archbishopric of Toledo was given to the young nephew of Charles's chief adviser. Furthermore, Charles knew no Spanish. He did not arrive in Spain until September 1517, more than a year and a half after the death of Ferdinand. The dissatisfaction aroused among the Spanish by all these circumstances was intensified by his election as Holy Roman Emperor.
In May 1520, he left for Germany. Shortly before his departure, there began the Comuneros revolt in Old Castile, the northern part of Castile. At first the revolt enlisted support from virtually all classes. Led by Toledo, several cities expelled royal officials. Charles's regent, Adrian of Utrecht, his former tutor and a Fleming, was for a while made a prisoner. After a period of success, the rebels were weakened by a split between nobles and commoners, and Charles was able to win over the nobles to his side. At the battle of Villalar on April 23, 1521, the royal army won a victory, which ended the revolt.
At about the same time, there took place in Aragon a completely independent rising, the Germania. This was a conflict between the nobles and the common people; the underlying cause was the protection by the nobles of their Moorish laborers, which infuriated the commoners. The Germania, or brotherhood, was an organization of the populace, which seized control of the city of Valencia and spread throughout the kingdom of Valencia; the other parts of the crown of Aragon were not affected. For a while the rebels were successful against royal troops, and they proceeded against the Moorish agricultural workers. They killed some and baptized others, thereby making them free and releasing them from their Christian overlords. Thus they struck a blow at the noble landowners and subjected the laborers now Moriscos to the Inquisition. By the end of 1522 the movement had been suppressed.
The results of these two revolts and their suppression were far-reaching. As has been shown, the enforced conversion of the Moors of the crown of Aragon was decreed in 1525. To do this, Charles had to violate an oath sworn in 1518 not to extend in Aragon the forced conversion of the Moors decreed in 1502 in Castile. In 1524 he secured from the pope release from the oath. In Castile, the failure of the revolt strengthened the monarchy and helped to establish royal absolutism. The Cortes of Castile became, henceforth, merely a tax-granting body. Throughout the rest of his reign, Charles asked large sums of money from Castile, and the Cortes invariably complied. Since the nobles of Castile were exempt from taxation, it was the commoners that paid. This was the money that largely sustained Charles's vast empire. Castile was, in effect, bled for the sake of interests and enterprises that were not related to Spain and of no benefit to the Spanish. During his reign of nearly forty years as king of Spain, Charles spent not quite sixteen in the country.
Yet there were compensations to the Spanish for their association with Charles's empire. He learned the Spanish language and came to love Spain more than any of his other territories. He employed Spaniards in posts throughout his domains. With the opening of great territories in the New World to Spanish dominion, the idea of empire became congenial to the Spaniards, particularly to the Castilians.
In the administration of Charles's domains, their sheer extent required an increasingly bureaucratic form of government. Charles was a great writer of letters, notes, and memoranda; there still exist tens of thousands of letters with his signature, and many of these letters are in his own hand. In his reign the Spanish administration took on the form it kept during the century. It was based on a series of councils some old, some new, some reorganized. These councils were of two kinds. One kind (for example, the Council of Finance) handled a particular branch of administration for the whole of the empire; the other kind (for example, the Council of Castile) dealt with the affairs of a specific territory. The Council of Castile was the chief governmental body. The Council of the Indies, founded in 1524, reflected the increasing amount of government business relating to the overseas possessions.
At the head of the government in each of the territories of the Spanish crown except Castile was the viceroy. These men had great powers, but at the same time were responsible to the particular councils that had the oversight of their territories. This combination of centralized supervision with local discretion proved effective in solving a very challenging problem: administering a worldwide empire in a period of slow communications. Under Charles and even more under his son, the system manifested also some serious weaknesses. Every matter of importance was discussed thoroughly by at least one council and perhaps by others, and every decision was made personally by the king. The decision-making process was, therefore, a very lengthy one, made even more so by the temperament of Charles himself, who was very slow and cautious. When the enormous number of his problems is taken into account, it can be readily seen that the whole system was subject to paralysis.
In these conditions, the office of royal secretary came to be a vital one, since the secretary acted as intermediary between the king and the councils. Francisco de los Cobos, who was secretary to Charles from 1516 until Cobos's death in 1547, had so much influence in administration and trained so many men to staff the bureaucracy, that he is regarded as one of the makers of the Castilian monarchy.
The period following the Comuneros uprising saw great prosperity in Castile. The colonies in the New World had in their early years a vast need for goods of all kinds from the mother country. The Spanish silk and woolen industries flourished: demand so far outran supply that orders remained unfilled for years. Iron and steel production prospered in the Basque provinces. Trade and colonization in the New World were reserved for Castilians, and the city of Seville enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the American trade. Into Seville poured the gold and silver of the New World, especially in the second half of the sixteenth century. In 1545 the great silver mines at Potos in Peru were discovered, and their exploitation on a large scale began about 1560. From then on the amount of silver imported was far greater than the amount of gold. One index of the prosperity of Seville is the growth of its population, which became so great that for a while it was surpassed in western Europe only by Paris and Naples. The population of Castile as a whole also increased, especially in the decade of the 1530s. This increase in the size of the population meant a growing internal market for goods to match the New World market.
During the sixteenth century a sharp increase in prices took place throughout Europe; in the second half of the century especially, it was so marked that it has been called the "Price Revolution." In Spain it was even higher than elsewhere. Contemporaries in general were not aware of the connection between the size of the money supply and the price level. Although Jean Bodin, the famous French thinker, has often been given credit for the discovery that prices will rise as the money supply expands, there were actually Spanish writers connected with the University of Salamanca who saw the relationship several years earlier than Bodin. Recent scholarship has established the fact that the amount of imported bullion was not the only factor in the Price Revolution, but it was certainly an important one. The rise of prices in Spain had only a temporarily beneficial effect in stimulating the economy. Later it was harmful, when Spanish goods began to price themselves out of the international market.
The great prosperity of Castile, in fact, was very short-lived. The Spanish economy was not sufficiently advanced to meet the demands of the expanding markets at home, in the New World, and in other parts of Europe. The mistreatment of the Moorish and Jewish populations, which had been very productive economically, may have played a part. Agriculture, long subordinate to the interests of sheep raising, was unable to supply all the food that was required. The rise in food prices left the ordinary Spaniard with little money to buy manufactured goods. The shortage of trained labor, for example in the vital textile industry, meant deficient quality and inadequate output. Spain was increasingly compelled to import manufactured goods and food as well, while the high price of Spanish products on the international market made it difficult to balance imports with exports. Thus the effects of the specie or coined money that came into Spain were mixed. It continued into the reign of Philip II to sustain the imperial enterprises of the crown, but it proved impossible to keep the money in the country. Consequently, after inflating Spanish prices, it passed out of the country to pay for goods from abroad.
Governmental policy must share the blame. The Council of Finance consisted mostly of men without experience in finance and trade who failed to take measures that would make the New World contribute to the prosperity of the mother country. They encouraged the development of industry in America, which meant the eventual loss of the overseas market for Spanish goods. Still, it was probably the vast expense of Charles V's imperial policy, more than anything else, that was responsible for the financial disasters that overtook Spain. Not until the reign of Philip II was the income from the New World large enough to provide a major source of funds. Charles had to depend on European resources, and in the early years of his reign drew heavily on the Low Countries and Italy. By 1540, he had taken so much from these territories that they could no longer provide for his needs, and he turned more and more, as we have seen, to Castile. He drew relatively little from Aragon, where the Cortes retained more power and where resources, in any case, were slight.
The grants by the Cortes of Castile increased in size during Charles's reign until they were four times as large as in the early years. Charles had other sources besides these grants. With the consent of the pope, he was able to tax the church, which made an indispensable financial contribution. He also was able to collect customs duties and a sales tax known as the alcabala. Titles of nobility were desired on social grounds and because of the tax-exempt status of the nobles, so sales of titles were used from the 1520s as a money-raising device. In spite of all this, Charles had to borrow on a large scale from his own subjects and from bankers. Loans from bankers were secured by future income, so that the crown's sources of revenue came more and more into the hands of the bankers, who were often foreigners. Internal borrowing took the form of the sale of annuities, which were sold in great quantities in Charles's reign. They yielded up to 7 percent and were also paid out of the regular revenues of the crown.
In addition to his problems with the other European states and his other domains in Europe and overseas, which are discussed elsewhere in this volume, Charles had serious problems with the Turks and the Moslems of North Africa. The Hapsburgs were exposed both by land and by sea to the Turks and their allies and tributaries. Under the great sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520 66), the Ottomans mounted a land offensive that penetrated deeply into central Europe. In 1521 they took Belgrade. In 1526 at the battle of Moh cs, most of Hungary fell to them; the king, Louis II, was killed. Henceforth, the greater part of Hungary was in their hands. In 1529 their advance was checked as they tried and failed to take Vienna.
Louis II had held the elective thrones of Hungary and Bohemia. His widow, Mary, was the sister of Charles V. To succeed her husband, both the Hungarians and the Bohemians elected Ferdinand, who was the brother of Mary and Charles. Charles, therefore, found himself the guardian of the frontier of Christian Europe against the Turks.
From North Africa also the Spanish were menaced by Moslem power. By 1534 Algeria and Tunis were Moslem states ruled by the famous pirate Kheireddin Barbarossa, who acknowledged the Turkish sultan as his overlord and held the position of grand admiral of the Turkish fleet. From their North African bases, Barbarossa and his Barbary pirates raided the coasts of Spain, assisted, as we have seen, by the Moriscos.
The struggle against the Turks had become a struggle for control of the central Mediterranean. In 1535, during an interval of peace with France, Charles marshaled one of the most formidable expeditions of the century about thirty thousand men and four hundred ships and led it personally against Tunis. After bitter fighting, his troops succeeded in taking the city. It was Charles's greatest success against the Moslems that brought him to the peak of his prestige in Europe. Yet the triumph was brief. Before long Barbarossa was again conducting raids against the coasts of Spain and Italy. In 1536 the French concluded an alliance with the Turks, thereby acknowledging openly a relationship that had existed for a decade. Some of the guns taken by the Spanish in the fight for Tunis were of French manufacture.
The emperor's later efforts against the Turks were unsuccessful. His renewed struggle with the French kept him occupied from 1536 to 1539. In 1538 he undertook a new campaign in alliance with Venice and the pope, hoping to advance into the eastern Mediterranean and even take Constantinople. The combined fleets of Charles and the Venetians, hampered by lack of cooperation, were defeated at Preveza by Barbarossa. In 1540 Venice made a separate peace. In 1541 Charles mounted a great expedition against Algiers. It was a complete failure, Charles's first great defeat and one of the worst disasters of his reign; thousands of men and 150 ships were lost. In the next phase of Charles's war with France, Barbarossa's fleet was a great help to the French. On Barbarossa's death in 1546, his place was taken by Dragut, another formidable pirate. The Turks extended their hold on North Africa, taking Tripoli in 1551, and continued to raid the Mediterranean coasts of Europe and to attack shipping between Spain and Italy. Charles's policy in North Africa and the Mediterranean was a failure, and again the fault lay largely with the emperor himself for scattering his efforts in the pursuit of imperial objectives.
When Charles, worn out by an accumulation of responsibilities as great perhaps as any statesman has ever borne, abdicated his many thrones and went into retirement, he chose to spend his last days in Spain near the monastery of Yuste. Spain had become the home of his choice. His son, who succeeded him as Philip II, was a native of Spain and was destined to spend the greater part of his reign there. In 1555 at Brussels, Charles abdicated to Philip the sovereignty of the Netherlands, and in the following year did the same with Spain and the Spanish possessions. These included the Italian territories of Milan, Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia, Franche-Comt, and the New World empire. The Hapsburg lands in Austria went to Charles's younger brother Ferdinand, who became Emperor Ferdinand I in 1558. Henceforth, there were two branches of the Hapsburg family, but the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburgs cooperated and intermarried to such an extent that it is still possible, for some time after the division, to speak of a Hapsburg power in European politics.
Philip II was born in 1527. Though his early education seems to have been deficient in everything but Latin, he managed to acquire a knowledge and taste for history and geography. He was fond of books, and built up a library of four thousand volumes. He was a connoisseur of art and a patron of artists; he continued his father's patronage of Titian. The Escorial, the great palace that was built for him, housed one of the finest art collections in the world. He played the guitar and even did a little composing. He was said also to do painting and modeling.
Philip was a devoted family man, affectionate and tender toward his children, except for the ill-fated Don Carlos, an unbalanced and unruly character who died in prison in 1568. Philip was an obedient son, who revered his father and tried to emulate him. He was apparently a more faithful husband than many crowned heads of his day. He was married four times and widowed four times. His last marriage is a good example of Hapsburg inbreeding. The bride, Anne of Austria, was the child of a marriage between Philip's first cousin, Emperor Maximilian II, and Philip's sister Marie. Philip's successor, Philip III, was one of the children of this last marriage.
Philip II's reputation among non-Spaniards and non-Catholics as an inhuman monster has been challenged only since the nineteenth century. His manner is one element in this picture. He was reserved and impassive, never showing emotion publicly. He was grave and courteous in bearing, spoke in a low voice, and never talked of himself. He submerged the man in the king. He had an intense sense of duty, which helped to make him one of the most hardworking of monarchs, spending interminable hours at his desk, year in and year out. His father had left him the advice, "Depend on none but yourself," and he followed it. Since he made all the decisions, and since he was even slower, more cautious, and more hesitant than his father, immense delays occurred in the conduct of public business. One of his officials in Italy once remarked, "If death came from Spain, we should live to a very great age."
Philip was a great believer in the written memorandum; he was one of the earliest of the bureaucratic rulers. He governed through the system of councils and viceroys that had been established, and all matters of state business received thorough discussion in the appropriate councils, including the Council of State, the most important one. However, none of the councils had any decision-making authority. So jealously did the king guard his power that nobody but himself had full information about affairs of state. Sometimes, when he made a decision, the councilors who had discussed the problem would be surprised to learn how much information had been withheld from them.
With all the decisions that had to be made, this system would hardly have worked if the king had been a fast thinker and worker. In Philip's case it was impossible. The king was unable or unwilling to distinguish important matters from trivial ones and to delegate the latter to subordinates. Thus the ruler of the greatest empire of his day would spend hours over minutiae, while matters of immense consequence had to wait. When the Armada was being prepared for the expedition against England, the king even decided how much water should be mixed with the sailors' wine.
In his efforts to avoid competitors, he kept the great nobles away from the seats of power. His secretaries, who shared more of the king's knowledge than anyone else, were of undistinguished birth. If great nobles were employed, they were given military and diplomatic posts that kept them out of the country. The only member of the class to whom the king ever gave his confidence was the duke of Alva, and even he spent part of his career in disgrace.
Before Philip's reign the Spanish monarchs had moved about, having no fixed residence. Under Philip, Madrid came to be regarded as the capital of Spain, and there the court became settled. The location of Madrid in the geographical center of the country made it seem to a certain extent the appropriate place for the seat of government, but the king's fixed residence deprived most of his subjects of the opportunity to see him and tended to induce a feeling that their king was neglecting them. Other monarchs, including Philip's father, were aware of the importance of personal contact with their subjects as a means of stimulating loyalty and devotion. Philip's subjects had no way of knowing that the solitary and inscrutable figure at his desk was deeply devoted to their interests as he understood them. His Italian subjects were offended at being ruled by a monarchy that came to appear more and more Spanish, while the Aragonese complained that the monarchy was becoming more and more Castilian. One reason for the king's relative immobility was the size of the court, which comprised some fifteen hundred persons, a far cry from the simple days of Ferdinand and Isabella. It must be said that Philip's personal habits were simple and even ascetic.
It was in 1561 that the court came to rest at Madrid. Two years later, in a lonely region of foothills about twenty miles northwest of the city, Philip began the construction of the Escorial, a royal residence, a mausoleum, and a monastery. In the center was a church, and a community of Hieronymite monks was also housed there. Built in honor of St. Lawrence on whose day, August 10, the great victory of St. Quentin was won in 1557, it was shaped like a gridiron, the instrument of the saint's martyrdom. Finished in 1584, it became Philip's favorite residence. Here he buried his father, all his wives except Mary Tudor, and his children who predeceased him. The king's room was as bare as a monk's cell. In the Escorial Philip worked, prayed, died, and was buried.
The Escorial, with its religious character, seems to symbolize the importance of religion in the life of Philip II. He heard Mass daily, and he consulted his confessors and theologians before taking any act that presented a moral problem. His policies he sincerely believed to be for the glory of God and the welfare of the church. Nevertheless, the older view of Philip as a crusader for the Counter Reformation has been questioned in recent years. The guiding principle of his policies, as in the case of other rulers, was reason of state. Though he saw the suppression of heresy as a religious duty, he also believed, as did most others in the sixteenth century, that the stability of his rule depended on religious uniformity within his domains. While Protestants were afraid of an international Catholic conspiracy, Catholics by the second half of the century could see in Protestantism, especially in its Calvinistic form, an international plot to subvert the Catholic church and Catholic governments. For Philip, this was no mere threat. Calvinism was making inroads in his Netherlands territories, and even in Spain, as we have seen, evidences of heresy cropped up early in the reign.
Philip often had trouble with the papacy. At the time of his accession, the pope was Paul IV, who hated Spain. Philip actually went to war with him, and in 1557 had troops in the Papal States. Sixtus V, one of the most zealous popes of the Counter Reformation, said in 1589, "The preservation of the Catholic religion which is the principal aim of the Pope is only a pretext for His Majesty whose principal aim is the security and aggrandisement of his dominions."12 Within Spain the pope had little influence; the king controlled the church completely, forbidding appeals to Rome and requiring royal approval for the publication of papal bulls and briefs. The appointment of bishops was in the king's hands, and the clergy were expected to assist in carrying out royal policy.
There was also conflict between the king and the papacy over the decrees of the Council of Trent, ratified by Pius IV on January 26, 1564. Philip found some of the decrees distasteful, such as the one declaring bishops papal delegates; Philip had supported the view that the bishops were divinely appointed. The king hesitated for months to publish in Spain the council's decrees. When he finally did, it was with the proviso that they should not encroach on the rights and privileges of the Spanish crown. This meant in actual practice that some of the council's enactments were invalid in Spain.
In the field of foreign affairs, Philip was at odds with the papacy again and again. This was true even when their interests coincided, as in the Netherlands. Pius V (1566 72) wanted Philip to go to the Low Countries in person, and when he refused to do so, the pope blamed him for all the Spanish misfortunes. While Pius was advocating a peaceful settlement in the Netherlands, Philip was reaching the decision to use force. In the case of England, he utterly repudiated the hostile policy of the popes toward Elizabeth's government, since he was not disposed to weaken the English for the benefit of his enemies the French. He opposed the bull of 1570 excommunicating Elizabeth, and wrote to the queen herself to that effect. After the failure of the Armada, which was launched against England in 1588, Sixtus V (1585 90) refused to pay the subsidy he had promised. The final blow to the already weakened relations between Philip and the papacy came in connection with France. Philip wanted to prevent Henry of Navarre from ascending the French throne; the popes, fearing any further increase in Philip's power, adopted a conciliatory policy toward Henry and recognized him as soon as he embraced the Catholic faith.
On the whole, Philip's record in foreign affairs would probably have to be regarded as unsuccessful. He failed to achieve his aims in England, France, and the Netherlands. In the Mediterranean struggle against the Turks, the fleet of Spain, Venice, and the papacy, commanded by Philip's half brother, Don John of Austria, won a great victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. The victory, famous and celebrated as it was, had no permanent effects; and Turkish power remained unbroken.
In Portugal Philip scored a success. The Spanish monarchs had long been preparing for the day when they could take over that country by promoting marriages between the members of their family and the Portuguese royal family. Thus when the king of Portugal, Sebastian, died in battle against the Moslems in Morocco in 1578, leaving no direct heir, Philip pushed his claims vigorously. Sebastian's immediate successor was his uncle, Cardinal Henry, who died in 1580. Philip used diplomacy, propaganda, and bribery, but finally had to resort to force. This was successful, and in 1581 he was able to go to Portugal and be recognized as king. The terms of annexation respected the autonomy and constitutional rights of the country, and on the whole the king kept his promises. He lived in Lisbon from 1581 to 1583. The union of Spain and Portugal lasted until 1640, when the Portuguese regained their independence.
In the later years of his reign, Philip had domestic problems as well as foreign ones. In Aragon revolt broke out in 1591. The Aragonese were very jealous of their "liberties" and resentful of the fact that the monarchy was becoming increasingly Castilian. The revolt of 1591 was precipitated by events that appeared to the Aragonese as violations of their precious liberties. One was the appointment of a viceroy who was not Aragonese. Another was the king's attempt to arrest his former secretary, Antonio Prez, who had escaped from prison, fled to Aragon, and taken refuge behind the liberties. The king's attempts to have Prez apprehended led to mob violence and the death of a royal officer. Philip was meticulous in his respect for legal rights and procedures, but finally in October 1591 he sent an army of twelve thousand men into Aragon. He subdued the country without much difficulty, and imposed a relatively mild settlement. Prez had escaped to France, and only a few men were put to death, while most were pardoned. Philip could have destroyed the Liberties of Aragon, but he did not do so. Changes were made in the constitution to strengthen royal control at the expense of the power of the nobles, a power that had been used for selfish ends and not for the general welfare. As in the case of Portugal, the king respected local rights. His concept of empire, like his father's, was that of a group of territories under one ruler, but otherwise possessing their separate identities and institutions.
Probably the most serious development in Spain was the continued decline of the economy. All the factors that have been identified earlier continued to operate and need not be repeated here in detail. The landed aristocracy remained wealthy because of its control of the land, and the peasants and artisans became more and more wretched. Those who worked got little return for their labor and had to bear the burden of higher taxes. Increasing numbers were unemployed, and added to the crowds of beggars and vagabonds who swarmed over Castile and the brigands who terrorized Aragon and Catalonia. Agricultural production continued to decline, and increasing amounts of grain had to be imported. Grain was even purchased from the Dutch, against whom Spain was fighting during most of the reign.
Even the mesta suffered at this period, although the government still favored it at the expense of agricultural interests. The high price of Spanish wool made it difficult to export, and the size of the flocks shrank; from 1552 to 1563 the number of sheep went down by 20 percent. Industry too was declining, especially in Castile. Excessive government regulation and guild restrictions hampered its development, while the adverse trade balance made it impossible to earn the needed capital through normal commercial channels. The government failed to lend adequate support to industry; the one source of capital available to Spain was America, but the wealth acquired from there was used for war expenditures, to pay for imported goods, or for luxuries.
The most important causes of Spanish industrial decline, however, were the rise in prices and the high level of taxation. The effects of these factors were not clearly understood, and the government's ignorant attempts to deal with them only made matters worse. It was believed that excessive exportation of goods helped to account for the rise in prices, and so a policy of forbidding exports and encouraging imports was adopted. The burden of taxes fell much more heavily on industry than on agriculture, driving businessmen to invest their capital in land rather than in business enterprise. The growing needs of the state, arising from Philip's wars, raised taxes and further helped to ruin industry.
The government was, of course, affected by these economic forces. While its revenues increased, its debts rose even faster. At several points during his reign, Philip was forced into what amounted to bankruptcy. In 1557 he suspended payment on government debt, an act which weakened the credit of the government and made money more difficult to get. Thereafter the Spanish government had to pay higher interest rates on the money it borrowed. It had to continue borrowing, however, and by 1575 had pledged all its revenues in advance to its creditors, most of whom were foreign bankers. By this time, the campaigns in the Netherlands were costing an immense amount, and there were no longer any lenders willing to supply money. Therefore, on September 1, 1575, the crown once more made a virtual declaration of bankruptcy. The government eventually made a settlement by repudiating much of its indebtedness, causing great distress both at home and abroad; the two largest banks in Seville, for example, failed as a result.
These financial failures had their effects on foreign policy. The crisis of 1557 made it impossible to continue the war with France and thus helped to bring about the Peace of Cateau-Cambrsis. The breakdown in 1575 meant that the troops in the Low Countries went without pay for months, until they finally sacked Antwerp in November 1576 in "the Spanish Fury." Nevertheless, Philip did not abandon his ambitious policies, until even the wealth of the Indies was inadequate. New taxes were levied, especially in Castile, and fell heavily on the poor, since now essential foodstuffs were taxed. In 1596 Philip once more had to admit bankruptcy. This time it meant the final blow to his imperial designs, already thwarted in one theater after another.
The New World was ceasing to be an unfailing source of support for the Spanish economy. The Dutch and English, Protestant and maritime nations at war with Spain, were encroaching on the Indies trade. The native population of Spanish America was decimated by epidemics, so that the Spanish could no longer count on an adequate labor force. The development of the colonial economy meant that the New World was producing the very goods previously imported from Spain: cloth, grain, wine, and oil.
At the end of the century, natural catastrophes intervened; crop failures and plague took a heavy toll. The labor supply was diminished and higher wages became necessary. A mood of bitterness, cynicism, and defeat spread over the country. The atmosphere of national disillusionment forms the background of Cervantes's Don Quixote, written in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. By the end of the reign of Philip II, Spain was going into a decline which would cause it eventually to sink to a position of secondary political importance among the European states, yet this decline is more evident to us than it was to contemporaries. When Philip II died on September 13, 1598, the country that he left to his successor still appeared to be a great and imposing power. Only time would reveal to what an extent the foundations of its strength had been undermined during the years of its greatest splendor.
THE REVOLT OF THE NETHERLANDS
It was during the sixteenth century that the Netherlands came under Spanish rule, and it was also during this century that a revolt began that was to deprive Spain of the northern part of this territory and give birth to a new nation.
By 1500 the group of provinces that constituted the Netherlands, or Low Countries, possessed an economic, cultural, and strategic importance far out of proportion to their modest geographical extent. They were centers of a flourishing trade and industry that had produced great and prosperous cities and a vigorous merchant class. This was especially true of the county of Flanders, with Ghent and Bruges, and the duchy of Brabant, with Brussels and Antwerp. For the greater part of the sixteenth century, Antwerp was the greatest financial and commercial center of Europe.
The rise of the great merchants and industrialists in the cities, and later the seizure of power by the craftsmen organized into guilds that came to dominate city governments, had made the histories of many cities a story of turbulence and upheaval. The urban classes had won recognition of their rights and privileges at the expense of nobles and of princes secular and ecclesiastical. In general, lay rulers proved easier to deal with than ecclesiastical ones. A good deal of anticlerical sentiment had grown up, coupled with a zeal for religion. Education had been to some extent wrested from clerical control, at least on the elementary level. The religious devotion present in the Low Countries was manifested in the movement known as the Devotio Moderna, or Modern Devotion, discussed in Chapter 9, and in the spread of radical theological ideas that later found expression in the left wing of the Reformation.
To grasp something of the cultural flowering of the Netherlands in the late Middle Ages and on the eve of the Reformation, one has only to remember the masters of Flemish art in the fifteenth century and to bear in mind that Erasmus was a Dutchman who never lost the impress of his early training in the Netherlands by the Brethren of the Common Life.
From about 1300, various forces combined to bring about a decline in the independence and power of the towns. They were governed by narrow oligarchies of craftsmen who ruled in their own interest and without much thought for the general welfare. They were in conflict with the great industrial enterprises, which they could not control. The workers were discontented with their position, and their unhappiness led to a number of violent but unsuccessful revolts. Conflicts within the towns were intensified by foreign complications. The French kings were consistently interested in annexing Flanders, and the different classes within the Flemish towns took sides either for or against these ambitions. Opposed to the kings were the counts of Flanders, in alliance with the workers, while the upper classes sided with the kings. When Philip the Fair of France defeated the count and annexed Flanders in 1300, his victory was annulled by a popular rising, which led to the massacre of French troops by the workers in the so-called Matins of Bruges in 1302.
While the cities were torn by internal conflicts, they were also afflicted with hostility and jealousy of one another, making it impossible for them to combine for the protection of their common interests. Consequently, they fell prey to the centralizing policies of the great Burgundian dukes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and later of the Hapsburgs, under whose rule they had fallen by the start of the sixteenth century.
The spectacular career of the duchy of Burgundy is one of the most interesting political developments of the late Middle Ages. For a while Burgundy seemed on its way to becoming one of the great powers of western Europe and constituted a serious threat to France. Ironically, it was the French monarchy itself that unwittingly raised up this enemy. King John the Good of France (1350 64), having acquired Burgundy at the extinction of the line of Capetian dukes, bestowed the duchy on his youngest son, Philip. The duchy, a fief of the crown, lay on the eastern border of France, just south of the county of Champagne. Philip entered into his inheritance in 1364. His marriage to the daughter of the count of Flanders brought him that important territory on the count's death in 1384. Thereafter, Philip known as Philip the Bold and his successors acquired by marriage, purchase, and conquest a vast agglomeration of territories in the Low Countries, the Holy Roman Empire, and France. Some of their lands they held as fiefs of the French crown, others as fiefs of the Holy Roman Empire. In addition to the original duchy of Burgundy and Flanders, they came to hold the Free County of Burgundy (Franche-Comt), Artois, Picardy, Brabant, Hainaut, Luxembourg, Holland, and Zeeland and this is not a complete list.
The dukes, ruling over a rich and flourishing territory, presiding over perhaps the most splendid court of its time, aspired not unnaturally to the creation of an independent state. Their ambitions appeared to be favored by the desperate condition of France during the Hundred Years' War. The four dukes who ruled Burgundy were men of marked ability. Philip the Bold died in 1404, to be succeeded by his son John the Fearless, who was murdered in 1419. His son, Philip the Good, had the longest and most successful career, ruling until his death in 1467. The end of the great Burgundian state came with Philip's son and successor, Charles the Bold (or Charles the Rash), who died fighting the Swiss at Nancy in 1477. In Charles we can see most clearly the force of the ambition that drove his dynasty; he fought incessantly (and, as his epithet implies, recklessly) for territory such as Lorraine, which would consolidate his domains and enable him to become a great monarch. His premature death, coming before he could achieve his ambitions, may seem to have meant failure, but in the long run the work of the great dukes endured. In their efforts to create a state, they gave to their disparate territories a unity that had not previously exited, and laid the foundations for the modern nations of Holland and Belgium.
Charles's successor was his young daughter, Mary. Louis XI of France took advantage of the situation to recover the original duchy of Burgundy, which remained French in spite of the claims asserted by the descendants of Charles. That the Burgundian state did not disintegrate is a tribute to the work of the great dukes. It is also due in part to the fact that Mary's husband, Archduke Maximilian, later Emperor Maximilian I, was able to defend and preserve the greater part of the Netherlands. In this way the Low Countries became part of the Hapsburg lands, and one of the areas of friction between the Hapsburgs and the French crown. Mary died in 1482; in 1494 the son of Maximilian and Mary, Philip the Handsome, became ruler of the Low Countries. A native of the area, he was a popular ruler. During his reign, the Netherlands reached new heights of prosperity, and Antwerp entered the era of its greatest influence. A class of great capitalists flourished, and alongside them a real industrial proletariat.
It was Philip's marriage to Joanna, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, that brought the Low Countries into the Spanish orbit, and made them a part of the vast domains of their son Charles, later to be Charles I of Spain and Emperor Charles V. Charles himself was born in Ghent, as we have seen, and brought up in the Low Countries. His father died when Charles was six, and during his childhood the Netherlands were ruled by his aunt Margaret, his father's sister, who was in charge of the boy's upbringing. In 1515 he was declared of age as duke of Burgundy. As a native of Flanders, he was popular in the Netherlands and never quite lost his rapport with his subjects there, although the relationship was strained by the tremendous financial demands that Charles made on the Low Countries to help support his far-flung ventures. He drew mercilessly on their wealth, especially in the first half of his reign, until they had reached the limit of their resources.
Both the Burgundian dukes and their Hapsburg successors pursued policies that helped to build up a national consciousness in the Netherlands. The Burgundians established a bureaucracy to administer the territory as a whole, and developed the Estates-General, made up of representatives of the provincial assemblies or estates, as a means of raising money. These meetings helped create a sense of unity. The noble Order of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good, had helped to give the members of the great nobility a sense of nationality. Charles V continued the work of building toward a unified state. He conquered several outlying provinces and added them to his domains; as late as 1543, Gelderland became the seventeenth Netherlands province to be ruled by him.
Charles carried out a number of measures aimed at centralizing the government of the Low Countries. In 1549 he required all the provinces to take an oath of fealty to his designated successor, his son Philip. In each province he established organs of the ruler's authority, including the official known as the stadtholder, the chief man in the province. Charles also reorganized the central administration. An ordinance of 1531 set up three specialized councils: the Secret Council, for justice; the Council of Finance; and the Council of State. The great nobles sat on the Council of State and discussed matters of general policy; it was from their ranks that the stadtholders were chosen.
During the reign of Charles, the nobles served their prince devotedly, and he never went too far in his relations with the Netherlands. When he could not get his way, he yielded. No doubt his need for money, as well as the fear that a harsh policy would push the Low Countries in the direction of his great enemy France helped to impose this restraint.
The problem of religion became a serious one in the Low Countries during the reign of Charles. Protestant ideas began to make headway there from an early date. It was the radical side of the Reformation, especially Anabaptism, which had the greatest appeal at first, though there was some Lutheranism as well. Charles was determined to wipe out heresy in his domains by every means available to him. He issued severe edicts, which culminated in the so-called Edict of Blood of 1550: This prescribed the death penalty for all offenses of this nature. This harsh policy was so contrary to the spirit and wishes of the people that it was never thoroughly enforced. There were a number of executions, but they failed to destroy heresy. Instead, they had the effect of driving the new ideas underground, causing many persons to leave the country, and even attracting many to the doctrines for which they saw their fellows ready to die courageously.
Before Charles abdicated, he had seen his son and successor, Philip, married to the English queen Mary Tudor. For Charles, the English alliance was essential to the security of the Netherlands, and he hoped it would be preserved. With the death of Mary in 1558, however, the link was broken, weakening the Spanish hold on the Low Countries. Philip's foreign birth and failure to understand the outlook and traditions of the area as his father had done, was to prove a further source of trouble, especially because he was determined to rule there as an absolute monarch without respecting the liberties of the provinces or the prerogatives of the great nobles.
One thing that Philip knew quite well about the citizens of the Netherlands, was that they were rich. He wanted them to contribute a share of their wealth to meet his urgent needs. They proved unwilling, however, to part with their money to support enterprises foreign to their interests. Money had been traditionally raised through the Estates-General, and during the earliest years of his rule, Philip had to abide by this method. But when frequent meetings of the estates gave them a chance to express their objections to his policies, he turned to absolutist methods, secretly instructing the regent, Margaret of Parma, not to call the estates again.
Margaret was Philip's half-sister, the illegitimate daughter of Charles V by a Flemish mother. Philip deprived her of all real power by naming her advisers and governing through them. The chief one was Antoine Perrenot, lord of Granvelle, whom he named president of the Council of State. The native nobles, accustomed to playing an important role in the government, were deliberately set aside, and made their resentment known.
In 1561 Philip was prevailed upon to make one important concession by withdrawing three thousand Spanish soldiers who had been stationed in the country during the war against France and who were hated by the natives. Even this move, however, may have been dictated more by financial considerations than by the local opposition, which deeply offended the king.
An even more inflammatory issue was the royal plan to reorganize the ecclesiastical structure of the Low Countries. Hitherto parts of the area had been under foreign archbishops Reims and Cologne. Now there were to be three new archbishoprics, Cambrai, Malines, and Utrecht, with the archbishop of Malines serving as chief prelate. There were also to be fourteen new bishoprics, with the bishops named by the crown, not by the cathedral chapters as before. Since the bishops would be members of the Estates-General, the power of the crown in the affairs of the Netherlands would be increased. Philip also hoped that enlarging the number of bishoprics would make it possible to deal more effectively with heresy. The bishops were to be good theologians, so that the great nobles would no longer be able to provide for their sons in this manner.
From the standpoint of administrative efficiency, and from a national and linguistic point of view, the plan had much to recommend it. Nevertheless, it aroused widespread opposition among all classes. In most cases, the new bishops required the intervention of armed force before they could enter their dioceses, and in some cases they had to wait several years. Granvelle was named archbishop of Malines, and in 1561 he was named cardinal. His position made him the chief target of discontent, and the nobles took the lead in a movement to get him removed from office. Three of the most prominent nobles Orange, Egmont, and Hoorn withdrew from the Council of State. In this case, as in that of the troops stationed in the Netherlands, Philip gave in, and in 1564 Granvelle was removed.
William of Nassau, prince of Orange (1533 84), also known as William the Silent, was the greatest of the nobles. He was stadtholder of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht. He had inherited vast estates and great wealth, but his lavish scale of living had brought him into debt. The greater part of his expenses, however, went for the welfare of his tenants and the payment of his troops, since his position made him commander in the armed forces of his three provinces. Brought up a Lutheran in Germany, where he was born, he had become a Catholic when he went to live at the imperial court in Brussels. He had enjoyed the confidence of Charles V, but was on very cool terms with Philip. Time would show him to be unalterably opposed to religious persecution.
His attitude on this subject was made clear at a meeting of the Council of State on December 31, 1564, after Philip had ordered the enforcement of the decrees of the Council of Trent in the Netherlands. "However strongly I am attached to the Catholic religion," William said, "I cannot approve of princes attempting to rule the consciences of their subjects and wanting to rob them of the liberty of faith."13
Other Catholics besides William, including the regent Margaret, urged the king to moderate the harshness of his religious policy. Philip's answer was to instruct Margaret to enforce strictly the laws against heresy. Orange, Egmont, and Hoorn protested by resigning again from the Council of State.
By the end of 1565, Philip's reassertion of his policy of repression had brought a tremendous wave of protest which spread throughout the entire territory. Out of it came a league or confederation of lesser nobles determined to secure a mitigation of religious persecution. The leaders of the movement were Protestant, but they enlisted many Catholic nobles in their cause. This group drew up a petition which was known as the "Compromise," protesting against religious persecution.
In April 1566, several hundred nobles gathered in Brussels to present their petition to the regent. When someone referred to them as "beggars," they adopted this as their name and began to wear the chains and wooden cups by which beggars were distinguished. Margaret gave in and suspended persecution until the question should once more be submitted to the king. The Protestants went beyond the terms given by the regent and began public preaching all over the country. Soon the movement went beyond preaching, and outbreaks of iconoclasm took place. In all this, the Calvinists, though still a minority among the Protestants, took the lead. William of Orange, aware that violent resistance to the king's policy would be self-defeating, tried without success to moderate the behavior of the Protestants. Margaret, in order to calm things down, issued the Accord on August 24, 1566, in which she permitted Protestant preaching and promised that the Protestants could build their own churches if they restored those that they had seized from the Catholics. She apparently never intended to fulfill these promises, however.
Philip was quite unmoved by protest; he never wavered in his determination to crush heresy and rebellion by force. Orange had come to see that no concessions could be expected from the king and that eventually armed resistance would be necessary. Meanwhile, the government was getting the upper hand and, contrary to the Accord, was silencing Protestant preachers. It was now clear to William that his moderate position was untenable, and he left the Low Countries for Germany in April 1567.
In August the duke of Alva entered Brussels with an army. One of his first acts was to arrest Egmont and Hoorn who had refused to join William and who persisted in trusting the king. To try the rebels he set up a court, the Council of Troubles, which the people called the "Council of Blood." It undertook to stamp out dissent by means of arrests, torture, confiscation of property, and executions. Many left the country; thousands were arrested and subjected to some form of punishment. The regent Margaret resigned her position and left the Low Countries.
In the spring of 1568, William's brother Louis attempted to invade the Netherlands. Alva answered this threat by further executions. Egmont and Hoorn were rewarded for their loyalty to the king by being put to death in Brussels on June 5, 1568. Alva then defeated Louis.
William was building up an army in preparation for an invasion. In an appeal to public opinion, he published his Justification in April 1568. In this document he tried to escape the stigma of rebellion by asserting his continued loyalty to Philip, blaming the troubles in the Netherlands on the king's advisers. He was able to build up a force of twenty-five thousand, but he was short of money and, therefore, had to strike before his funds were spent. He invaded the Low Countries in September in the neighborhood of Lige, counting on a popular uprising. The people did not rise; the French Huguenots, who had promised substantial help, sent inadequate reinforcements; an attack by Alva cost heavy casualties; and money and supplies ran out. William and his remaining troops retreated to France, but were ordered out of the country. Desperately ill, unable to pay his men, utterly defeated at least for the time being William found himself forced to escape from his own troops. Alva thought he was finished, but he was not. He was beginning to see that the success of the rebellion depended on two things: the support of the Calvinists, who formed the heart of the resistance, and foreign help.
A financial issue united the people in protest as religion by itself could probably have never done. Alva's desire to render the crown independent of grants by the Estates-General led him to propose a perpetual sales tax of 10 percent on every article sold. In the economy of the Low Countries, based largely on trade and industry, such a tax would mean disaster, and strong objections were registered, even by Alva's own advisers. Nevertheless, in 1571 he announced that it would be collected. In many places people simply refused to pay, and in this instance the use of force proved futile. The economy suffered, unemployment grew, and popular discontent reached enormous proportions.
William of Orange had in the meanwhile been getting ready for a renewed attempt to invade the Low Countries, and had been receiving invaluable help from a group of men known as the "Sea Beggars." These were a collection of seamen from the Netherlands, England, and France, who carried out raids along the coasts on William's behalf. They were disreputable, disorderly, and cruel, committing acts of destruction not only against the Spanish but also against friends of their own cause. Churches, priests, and monks were among their favorite targets. In some ways they were no better than pirates, but the gains of their plunder provided William with much needed money after the losses of his disastrous invasion of 1568. When things looked darkest for the cause of freedom, their successes kept alive a spark of hope.
For a while they were able to use English ports, but Elizabeth denied them this privilege in March 1572, endeavoring to protect the commerce of England and friendly countries from their depredations. In desperate need of a base, they captured the town of Brill in Zeeland. This was the first great military success of the rebels and was followed by others, until most of the towns of Holland and Zeeland were brought under William's authority.
Orange had been counting on aid from the Huguenots, but these hopes were wiped out by the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of August 24, 1572. He was forced to turn more and more to the northern provinces, Holland and Zeeland. To control these provinces it was necessary to have command of the sea, which the Spanish never succeeded in gaining. While Alva with great cruelty was suppressing revolts in the rest of the Low Countries, Holland and Zeeland held out, their resistance stiffened by the Calvinists who fled there from the areas that Alva was able to subdue. Even so, the towns often had to be forced by the Sea Beggars to accept the rule of Orange.
The revolt of the Netherlands was not the spontaneous rising of an overwhelmingly Protestant people against Catholic tyranny. The Calvinists dominated the revolt, but as a determined and efficient minority able to impose its will in much of the country through the abnormal conditions produced by the war. William never condoned religious persecution or the forceful conversion of Catholics to Calvinism, and he always tried to suppress the excesses of the Sea Beggars. In 1573 he became a Calvinist, but he never regarded the Catholics as enemies. His ideal was the formation of a free and unified nation, in which Catholic and Protestant would live together in peace. In this he was ahead of his time. The mutual hatred of the religious confessions made the realization of his ideal impossible.
The fighting begun between the Spanish and the rebels went on for about forty years. In general, the Spanish were superior in land fighting, but their successes were partly offset by lack of money, which led to a number of mutinies by their unpaid troops. The Sea Beggars fought on the side of the rebels as is shown by the siege of Leyden in 1574. The city had no garrison and was short of supplies. Only a determined minority maintained the resistance; most of the citizens, and the magistrates themselves, were lukewarm and inclined to surrender. As the siege went on and the sufferings of the inhabitants grew, the situation became extremely serious. In this crisis, William persuaded the estates of Holland to open the dikes and flood the land around the city. Thousands were made homeless and miles of fertile soil were inundated, but Leyden was saved. This act of heroism and self-sacrifice provided a great stimulus to the courage of the rebels and their will to resist. As a reward to the city and a memorial to its liberation, William founded the University of Leyden.
In 1573, Philip recalled Alva, whose brutal policy had clearly failed. Philip's attempts to offer a more conciliatory policy were doomed by his refusal to make concessions on religion or to remove his troops, and by the behavior of the troops themselves. In 1576, the year after Philip's second bankruptcy, his long unpaid army in the Low Countries mutinied and overran much of Flanders. The climax came in November when the soldiers, completely out of control, sacked Antwerp in what was called "the Spanish Fury." It was a shock comparable to the Sack of Rome half a century earlier. The soldiers stripped Antwerp of its wealth, killed seven thousand persons without regard to age or sex, and left about a third of the great city in flames.
This event temporarily united the provinces in a unanimous determination to get rid of the Spanish troops, embodied in a treaty known as the Pacification of Ghent, signed within a month of the Sack of Antwerp. The Spanish cause was further compromised by the behavior of Don John of Austria, who had been sent by his half-brother Philip as governor to the Low Countries. Chafing at the limitations imposed on his authority and ambitions both by the king and by the Netherlanders, he made the fatal mistake of taking by surprise the castle of Namur in July 1577, and trying, though unsuccessfully, to do the same thing at Antwerp. The revulsion of feeling was so strong that the Estates-General, meeting at Brussels, asked William of Orange to assume the government of the Netherlands. After some hesitation, he accepted. His support was not unanimous; it came chiefly from the popular party. Among the upper classes of nobles, clergy, and magistrates there were many who were not friendly and were beginning to turn away from the cause of the revolt. Thus long-standing class rivalries endangered the unity for which William never ceased to work.
In 1578 Don John died. His successor was Alessandro Farnese, duke of Parma, son of Margaret of Parma who had been the governor of the country earlier. Parma was one of the great men of this age, the leading general of the day, a skilled diplomat, and a man of outstanding integrity. It is perhaps characteristic of Philip that he never showed him the appreciation that he deserved, although it was through Parma's skill that much of the Netherlands was in the end saved for Spain.
A number of factors played into the hands of the Spanish and their commander. The behavior of the Calvinists, who violated the terms of the Pacification of Ghent by forcefully imposing their religion in Flanders where they were a minority, alienated the nobles. The intervention of foreign princes on the side of the rebels caused disaffection even among the people whom they were ostensibly aiding. William was always convinced of the necessity of assistance from a powerful outside dynasty, but he was unfortunate in the men who offered themselves for the task. The Austrian archduke Matthias was a harmless nonentity; the duke of Anjou, brother of the last three Valois kings of France, was self-seeking, dangerous, and unpopular; the Calvinist John Casimir, Elector Palatine, was belligerent and irresponsible, and meddled in the internal affairs of the country.
The ethnic and linguistic division of the country also worked against the cause of unity. Most of the provinces were inhabited by people of Germanic origin, who spoke a Germanic language. Along the southern edge were the seven Walloon provinces, which were French in speech, Catholic in religion, and controlled by the nobles. The long-standing antagonisms between these two groups of provinces helped Parma to win the Walloons over. In 1579 these provinces formed the Union of Arras, by which they pledged themselves to remain loyal to Philip and the Catholic church. Soon afterwards, the members of the union made peace with the king.
The answer to this was the Union of Utrecht, which joined several of the northern provinces under William of Orange. Within the territory of this union, the Catholic religion was ruthlessly suppressed, sometimes with the use of troops and in violation of previous agreements. William saw in all this the threatened wreck of his own aims, and only reluctantly and after some delay did he consent to join the union.
With the formation of the two unions in 1579, the conflict assumed a definitively religious character; it was now Catholic against Protestant, and the permanent split in the country was foreshadowed. The final division, however, would not be that of the two unions; instead of following racial and linguistic lines, it would be based on geographic and military considerations. The areas that Parma was able to control would remain Spanish; those parts of the country protected by the sea and the rivers would preserve their independence. Eventually much of the Walloon territory, weakened by the division and by the decline in Spanish power, was to fall to Louis XIV and be absorbed into France.
In 1580, Philip proclaimed William of Orange an outlaw, forbade obedience to him, and put a price on his head. William's answer, which appeared later in the year, was the Apology, in which he presented a theoretical justification for resistance. Philip, he claimed, had failed in his duty and forfeited the allegiance of the people of the Netherlands. This defense, with its implication of a contract between ruler and ruled, is closely related to the political ideas that were being developed by the French Huguenots. Indeed, Philippe du Plessis-Mornay, who may have written one of the most famous of the Huguenot tracts, was with William at this time.
The same line of thought can be seen in the act by which the Estates-General in 1581 formally declared their independence of Spain. Philip, it was asserted, had forfeited his rights by breaking his oath to the people and violating his obligations to them. William of Orange was offered the position of sovereign, but refused it, so the Estates-General merely recognized him as head of the government until a new sovereign could be found to replace Philip.
In 1582 at Antwerp, an attempt was made to assassinate William of Orange. The would-be murderer, a clerk employed by a Portuguese merchant, was killed on the spot by onlookers. William survived, although he was very seriously wounded. His narrow escape did not make him more careful; he had always made a point of being accessible to those who wished to see him and of leaving his house open to everyone, and he continued to live in the same way. The danger to his life was great; several men at various times hoped to kill him and collect the reward. All were detected in time, until one Balthasar Grard, who for a long time had dedicated himself with fanatical intensity to the task, murdered William at Delft on July 10, 1584.
William of Orange was one of the greatest men of his age, and one of the truly great men of all ages. On his tomb the estates placed the words "Father of the Fatherland," and never have these well-worn words been more fitting. He was truly the father of a new nation, which would be known as the Dutch republic or the United Provinces. He had loved his people as a father and had given everything for them. In the depths of defeat and humiliation he had not given up to despair, and in times of success he had remained untouched by the arrogance of power or the temptation to be a dictator.
His dearest dream would never come true a united Netherlands, in which men of differing religious faiths would live together in mutual tolerance. In 1585 Parma took Antwerp, the greatest city of the Low Countries, which had at one time been the most important center of the revolt. Its fall, coming so soon after the death of the great leader, made the cause of the resistance seem hopeless, and Holland and Zeeland were not expected to hold out. But they did hold out, and it was Antwerp that declined. After its surrender, the Beggars from the North cut it off from the sea, and its trade was ruined. Thousands of refugees, taking wealth and industrial skills with them, left the city and went north. And as the South declined, the North prospered.
The death of William finally brought Elizabeth I of England to intervene directly on the side of the rebels. She had allowed English volunteers to fight against Spain and she may have helped William financially. After his death she consented to send an army, in return for the towns of Brill and Flushing as security. Her troops, which arrived in 1585, were incompetently commanded by the earl of Leicester, who disobeyed orders by accepting a position of sovereignty and interfered in the internal politics of the Low Countries. He recovered none of the territory lost to the Spanish; in fact, further areas were lost. He returned to England in 1587 and died the following year. Once more it had been shown that the Netherlands would have to depend chiefly on themselves for their freedom.
Philip helped to bring about his own failure in the Low Countries by attempting to do too much in too many places. In 1588, Parma was diverted to "the Enterprise of England," the ill-fated Armada expedition. In the early years of the following decade, he was sent twice into France to oppose Henry of Navarre. Meanwhile, Philip had become distrustful of Parma without any good reason and had decided to remove him; the great general died in 1592 before he had become aware of his fall from favor. All these developments helped the rebels, who benefited also from their growing prosperity. This prosperity was most strikingly apparent in the province of Holland, which increasingly became the backbone of the resistance, with Amsterdam replacing Antwerp as the greatest city of the Low Countries. Holland was paying most of the expenses of the war, partly from the revenues of trade with the provinces loyal to Spain. There was even a certain amount of trade with Spain itself.
The predominance of Holland was not unopposed within the ranks of the rebels. An internal conflict was going on between the wealthy class which dominated the towns, a class that was especially strong in Holland, and the lower middle class led by the Calvinist clergy. The latter group tended to see political events from a religious point of view, while the wealthy oligarchs, though they were also Protestants, felt that the church should be kept subordinate to the civil authority. Their overriding allegiance was to freedom rather than to religion, and they had no intention of trading Spanish tyranny for the tyranny of the Calvinist church. They therefore fought the persistent efforts of the church to dominate the state. The outcome of the struggle on the whole favored the oligarchy with its more secular outlook. Their victory was the victory of the province of Holland, which also provided the civil and military leaders who proved able successors of William of Orange. The civilian leader was Oldenbarnevelt; the general was Maurice of Nassau, one of William's sons, who was able to take the offensive even before the death of Parma.
A further development of Dutch trade (using the term Dutch to refer to the northern provinces) came from Philip's efforts to damage it. When he forbade the use of Spanish and Portuguese harbors to the ships of the rebels, they retaliated by going directly to the sources of the trade. Soon their ships were to be found in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the waters of the Far East. They increasingly encroached on the trade of the Portuguese Empire in the East, and the climax came in 1602 with the formation of the Dutch East India Company, destined to play an important role in the history of the country.
Even after the death of Philip II in 1598 and the accession of Philip III, fighting continued, but the military situation had by this time reached a point of stalemate, and both sides were anxious to stop the fighting. Discussions toward this end were begun in 1606. Negotiations owed a great deal to the efforts of France and England, which served as mediators. A final peace settlement proved impossible for the time being, because the Spanish demanded that the Dutch give up their trade with the East, which they refused to do. The best that could be obtained was a truce, which was opposed by Maurice, who wanted nothing less than full Spanish recognition of Dutch independence. Finally, however, a truce was agreed to in 1609, for a twelve-year period.
Although fighting was resumed at the end of the truce period and full recognition of the new nation did not come until 1648, by 1609 the Dutch republic, an independent state, had for all practical purposes been born. It was to play a dazzling part in history, and to be, especially in the seventeenth century, one of the great powers of Europe. In art and learning it was to make splendid contributions to civilization. It was to serve as a refuge for victims of religious intolerance elsewhere. It was to create a great colonial and commercial empire. It was to produce, in the person of the great-grandson of William of Orange, the leader of the forces of European freedom against the aggressions of Louis XIV. Many men contributed to this greatness, but none of it would have been possible without the selfless devotion and unconquerable courage of William the Silent. The history of his country is his monument.