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

Alva henceforth was untrammelled by even nominal restraint

the Inquisition, or the _Placards_;

to have tolerated public preaching under any circumstances; to have omitted to resist iconoclasm, or field-preaching, or the presentation of the _Request_; to have asserted that the King had not the right to suspend the charters of the provinces; or to maintain that the Council of Tumults had not a right to override all the laws and privileges of the Netherlands. All these things were treason, and all of them were capital offences. Proof was not required; all that was needed was reasonable suspicion, or rather what the Duke of Alva believed to be so. The Council soon got to work. It sent commissioners through every part of the land--towns, villages, districts--to search for any who might be suspected of having committed any act which could be included within their definition of treason. Informers were invited, were bribed, to come forward; and soon shoals of denunciations and evidence flowed in to them. The accused were brought before the Council, tried (if the procedure could be called a trial), and condemned in batches. The records speak of ninety-five, eighty-four, forty-six, thirty-five at a time. Alva wrote to Philip that no fewer than fifteen hundred had been taken in their beds early on Ash-Wednesday morning, and later he announces another batch of eight hundred. In each case he adds, "I have ordered all of them to be executed." In view of these records, the language of a contemporary chronicler does not appeared exaggerated:


gallows, the wheel, stakes, trees along the highways, were laden with carcasses or limbs of those who had been hanged, beheaded, or roasted; so that the air which God made for the respiration of the living, was now become the common grave or habitation of the dead. Every day produced fresh objects of pity and of mourning, and the noise of the bloody passing-bell was continually heard, which by the martyrdom of this man's cousin, and the other's brother or friend, rang dismal peals in the hearts of the survivors."[261]

Whole families left their dwellings to shelter themselves in the woods, and, goaded by their misery, pillaged and plundered. The priests had been active as informers, and these _Wild-Beggars_, as they were called, "made excursions on them, serving themselves of the darkest nights for revenge and robbery, punishing them not only by despoiling them of their goods, but by disfiguring their faces, cutting off ears and noses." The country was in a state of anarchy.

Margaret, Duchess of Parma, the nominal Regent of the Netherlands, had found her position intolerable since the arrival of the Duke of Alva, and was permitted by Philip to resign (Oct. 6th, 1567). Alva henceforth was untrammelled by even nominal restraint. A process was begun against the Counts Egmont and Hoorn, and William of Orange was proclaimed an outlaw (Jan. 24th, 1568) unless he submitted himself for trial before the _Council of Tumults_. Some days afterwards, his eldest son, a boy of fifteen and a student in the University of Louvain, was kidnapped and carried off to Spain.[262]

William replied in his famous _Justification of the Prince of Orange against his Calumniators_, in which he declared that he, a citizen of Brabant, a Knight of the Golden Fleece, a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, one of the sovereign Princes of Europe (in virtue of the principality of Orange), could not be summoned before an incompetent tribunal. He reviewed the events in the Netherlands since the accession of Philip II., and spoke plainly against the misgovernment caused, he said diplomatically, by the evil counsels of the King's advisers. The _Justification_ was published in several languages, and was not merely an act of defiance to Philip, but a plea made on behalf of his country to the whole of civilised Europe.

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