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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

The Viscount de Brederode presided


year 1566 saw the origin of a new confederated opposition to Philip's mode of ruling the Netherlands. Francis Du Jon, a young Frenchman of noble birth, belonging to Bourges, had studied for the ministry at Geneva, and had been sent as a missioner to the Netherlands, where his learning and eloquence had made a deep impression on young men of the upper classes. His life was in constant peril, and he was compelled to flit secretly from the house of one sympathiser to that of another. During the festivities which accompanied the marriage of the young Alexander of Parma with Maria of Portugal, he was concealed in the house of the Count of Culemburg in Brussels. On the day of the wedding he preached and prayed with a small company of young nobles, twenty in all. There and at other meetings held afterwards it was resolved to form a confederacy of nobles, all of whom agreed to bind themselves to support principles laid down in a carefully drafted manifesto which went by the name of the _Compromise_. It was mainly directed against the Inquisition, which it calls a tribunal opposed to all laws, divine and human. Copies passed from hand to hand soon obtained over two thousand signatures among the lower nobility and landed gentry. Many substantial burghers also signed. The leading spirits in the confederacy were Louis of Nassau, the younger brother of the Prince of Orange, then a Lutheran; Philip de Marnix, lord of Sainte Aldegonde, a Calvinist; and Henry Viscount Brederode, a Roman Catholic.
The confederates declared that they were loyal subjects; but pledged themselves to protect each other if any of them were attacked.

The confederates met privately at Breda and Hoogstraten (March 1566), and resolved to present a petition to the Regent asking that the King should be recommended to abolish the _Placards_ and the Inquisition, and that the Regent should suspend their operation until the King's wishes were known; also that the States General should be assembled to consider other ordinances dangerous to the country. The Regent had called an assembly of the Notables for March 28th, and it was resolved to present the petition then. The confederation and its _Compromise_ were rather dreaded by the great nobles who had been the leaders of the constitutional opposition, and there was some debate about the presentation of the _Request_. The Baron de Barlaymont went so far as to recommend a massacre of the petitioners in the audience hall; but wiser counsels prevailed. The confederates met and marshalled themselves,--two hundred young nobles,--and marched through the streets to the Palace, amid the acclamations of the populace, to present the _Request_.[255] The Regent was somewhat dismayed by the imposing demonstration, but Barlaymont reassured her with the famous words: "Madame, is your Highness afraid of these beggars (_ces gueux_)?" The deputation was dismissed with fair words, and the promise that although the Regent had no power to suspend the _Placards_ or the Inquisition, there would be some moderation used until the King's pleasure was known.

Before leaving Brussels, three hundred of the confederates met in the house of the Count of Culemburg to celebrate their league at a banquet. The Viscount de Brederode presided, and during the feast he recalled to their memories the words of Barlaymont: "They call us beggars," he said; "we accept the name. We pledge ourselves to resist the Inquisition, and keep true to the King and the beggar's wallet." He then produced the leathern sack of the wandering beggars, strapped it round his shoulder, and drank prosperity to the cause from a beggar's wooden bowl. The name and the emblem were adopted with enthusiasm, and spread far beyond the circle of the confederacy.[256] Everywhere burghers, lawyers, peasants as well as nobles appeared wearing the beggar's sack. Medals, made first of wax set in a wooden cup, then of gold and silver, were adopted by the confederated nobles. On the one side was the effigies of the King, and on the obverse two hands clasped and the beggar's sack with the motto, _Fidelles au Roi jusques a porter la besace_ (beggar's sack).

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