The Flemings and Walloons who fled for refuge, firstly to Sandwich, and from thence to Norwich, London, Canterbury and Colchester, caine for the greater part from the Châtellenies of West Flanders. The fotwoCllowing are the brief details of the chief events which led up to and caused so great an emigration from that portion of the Netherlands, and which eventually proved so beneficial to England by the refuges bringing with them the knowledge of so many industries before almost unknown in this country. Bailleul, Cassell, Bergues, and Bourbourg, were the four Châtellenies whence the refugees to England chiefly came; it is therefore to the history of the religious troubles in these districts that it is necessary to look for insight into their painful history, though a glance must be taken from time to time at the other provinces of the Netherlands, to understand clearly the struggles of those eventful times which terminated by the northern portion of the Netherlands freeing itself from the Spanish rule, while all those who held the reformed religion in the southern portion were compelled either to revert to the Roman faith, or leave the land of their birth. The majority of these settled down peacefully in the various cities and places of this country by the especial favour and licence of Queen Elizabeth.
Flanders, formerly a province of France, was ceded absolutely to the Emperor Charles V by the treaty of Cambrai on the 3rd August, 1529; the inhabitants were indisposed to submit at once to hard treatment from their sovereigns, losing, as they had, their appeal to the King of France, according to the custom of feudal law.
The Netherlanders had one dominant feeling, the love of liberty. They ever kept up a determined struggle to maintain the free use of their charter rights which had been granted to them by their rulers. This feeling, added to the desire to worship God according to the light revealed by the spread of the Bible through the introduction of printing, impelled them to offer opposition to the bigoted and tyrannical government of their Spauish rulers in the 16th century. More than half the population were of the reformed religion, openly or secretly, and Philip II, with dogged obstinacy and brute force, ordered the suppression of the so-called heresy, rejecting nearly all the resolutions of the states, whether they regarded the government of the country or matters connected with religion.
Hondschoote, in the Châtellenie of Bergues, was one of the first towns in which the reformed religion was introduced, and as early as 1547 proceedings were taken against Guillaume van Damme, for having prohibited books in his possession and writing letters concerning the reformed religion, which terminated with his execution.1 In 1556 the King, Philip II, renewed and confirmed by a placard, dated 20th August, the earlier ones of his father, Charles V, against heresy, and made them perpetual edicts, all judges and others being required to aid and assist the officers of the Inquisition in the discharge of their duties.2 The erection of new dioceses in 1559 was a menace to the people with regard to their tendency to more freedom in religion, and the rumour ran through the country that the new bishops were to introduce the Inquisition, which even the Duchess of Parma in a letter to the King designated as odious.3 By 1560 those of the reformed religion must have much increased in nuinbers, for on the 13th May of that year it was recorded "good hed is given to the proceedings in Flanders, who be not yet so forward as was thought, nor their ministers here so hot as first judged."4 In the time of Queen Mary many of the fugitives and those banished on account of being of the Protestant religion went to the Netherlands and their[sic] taught their opinions.5 "The people saw in the presence of the Spanish troops a menace against their liberty, and there is no one who would not die to defend it."6 In the month of October, 1561, a French minister set himself up to preach in the Market Place of Tournai, and the whole town soon resounded with the chant of the Psalm "à la Calvin."7 At Valenciennes the same scene took place at night; on the banks of the river Lys bands of armed men collected to set free the prisoners who had been arrested by the authorities.68
THE EXASPERATION OF THE PROTESTANTS.
In 1561 the Commissioners at Hondschoote sent letters to the Council, which had fallen into their hands and which threatened destruction to the towns and the Romanists; an example of one of these will show the exasperation of the Protestants caused by the treatment of their brethren by the authorities.
Duke Frederic de Nausburch and Messire Gerard van Sevenberghe, Prince Electors.
A petition to the burghers of the town of Hondschoote. That it will please you to massacre no longer in so inhuman a manner our innocent brothers. You have already taken seven or eight of them, as we have heard, holding the doctrine of Calvin; we ask you to have pity on them, and to set them at liberty. If you burn one of this faith, forty companies of foot soldiers and three hundred companies of horsemen will come to help you keep Easter. Your town will be burnt by fire in the same way that you exterminate our poor brethren. As pitiless as you would be to them, so will they be pitiless to you; they will show as much mercy to you as you show to them. But if you cruelly burn our poor brothers, if you shed their blood, they will burn you without mercy, you and your sanguinary city. The same fate is reserved for Bruges, Furnes, Berghes, Bailleul, Lille, Tournay and other cruel towns. We warn you that there is at Renaix a priest, whom we will without pity burn, as we will other ferocious ecclesiastics of West Flanders. As you have sucked the blood of our poor brethren, so will we suck your blood.
We have no other object, honourable burghers of the city, than to recommend you to imitate the clemency of your heavenly Father. If you do not, a letter of our words will not fail.
Translated at Amsterdam, in the Netherland language by order of the seigneurs named above and copied there, the 1st of March 1561, by me, charged to take this letter to Hondschoote.
At the bottom appeared: The punishment of the city: Fire and the sword."9
The more threatening meetings were in the country around Cassel, where the late Carmelite monk, Pieter Dathenus, who had a red beard, preached to the people at the village of Boeschepe on Sunday, 12th June, 1562, when after the service a band of two hundred of the congregation, armed with sticks, swords, and pistols, headed by their minister, committed various acts of violence and sacked several churches.10 Many of the persecuted Protestants left Bailleul in 1562 to take refuge in England, leaving their goods and property to be realised at a later date if possible; they nearly all settled at Sandwich and Norwich.11 They found it necessary to keep up a communication with their friends and relations by means of messengers in whom they could trust. Jan Pollet was one of these, who, having acted in this way for some years, was arrested at Hondschoote in 1571; the magistrates applied to Bailleul, his place of origin, for information concerning him, which resulted in the knowledge that he had frequent communication with his daughter, who lived near Calais. In his confession, under torture, he admitted that he had had the letters found on him at Calais, but would not admit that he had been in England, or knew Braefken, a supposed messenger from France to England. He said that he knew Thomas van Hille, who was suspected of going to England. Pollet was sentenced to be publicly whipped and banished for a term of ten years.12 In the spring of 1563 the nobles, confederated against the tyranny of the Spanish rule, spread the report that the King would not send the Duke of Alva to tyrannise over the Netherlands,13 and for some time not one Calvinist was arrested in consequence of the country being quieter,14 but in August the King was warned that if he maintained Cardinal Granvelle in the Netherlands a general insurrection would ensue.15 The Cardinal received a secret letter from Philip II by the hands of Armenteros, ordering him to quit the Netherlands, in order to appease the hatred all bore him.16 Whether the Protestants thought that the rumours and sending away the detested Cardinal presaged better times for them, or whether the severity shown to them by the Council of Flanders had cowed them, it is difficult to decide, but it is found that very few of their party were brought to trial in 1564 and 1565, only three persons having been condemned in the town of Hondschoote, of whom one was burned alive, and one sentenced to the galleys.17 The other districts of West Flanders enjoyed the same comparatively quiet state of affairs until 1566, in the spring of which year the religious enthusiasm of the masses could no longer be restrained.
"In the last days of May, 1566, the preachings commenced at Bondues, near Tournai. Three or four thousand persons were collected together to hear the minister, who was a Frenchman, the chief people and ladies of Tournai being among the crowd. The women were seated, behind them were ranged the men holding their halberds and swords raised." The priests fled every where, and the Bishop of Tournai wrote to Marguerite of Parma "de ceste license intolerable est jà le peuple stimulé à telle rebellion, que nous ne pouvons attendre autre chose que une pillerie et extrême incredulité des gens desvoyés sur nos corps et biens."7 There were other preachings near Valenciennes, Armentières and Warneton, the different reformed churches having names assig18ed to them for secret use, that of Armentières being "le Bouton," Lille, "la Rose," and Valenciennes, "l'Aigle."19
The placard of 3rd July, 1566, was especially directed against these meetings, and also heresies and conspiracies against the Roman Catholic religion. "Preachers, teachers and ministers, and their followers shall be liable to death and execution by hanging, with confiscation of all their goods. All who entertain preachers, ministers, etc., shall be brought to the gallows and executed, and fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, masters, mistresses, and other relations shall be responsible for their children, or those under them, should they take part in any of the meetings or do anything against the placards."20 The inquisition and enforcement of this placard, and those of Charles V, caused great distrust and a vague terror.
Assonleville wrote to Granvelle "aux maux causés par les troubles de la religion se joignent la cherté des grains et la misére du peuple causée par la cessation du traffic. Le pays se dépeuple tellement quon voit journellement gens de ce pays aller en Angleterre avec leurs familles et leur instruments et jà Londres, Sandvich et le pays à l'environ est si plain que le nombre surpasse trente mille testes.21 La royne a assigne à ceux qui viennent journellement une anltre ville maritime, grande et vide nommée Norwich, pour y faire leurs mestiers, et là pense se refaire de nostre despaulle; et certes elle ne s'abuse pas, car par tels moyens est en commenchiée la drapperie d'Angleterre à la destruction de la nostre."22
THE EXCESSES OF THE GUEUX.
Hondschoote had a population of twenty-eight thousand inhabitants, and was an important centre of the cloth trade, which caused it to have many business relations with England.23 So great was the fury of the Protestants of this town aroused by the savage treatment they had experienced for over twenty years, that after the meetings, held for religious worship and attended by thousands, the armed portion of the congregations which escorted the preachers, in the year 1566, commenced to violate the sanctity of churches. They not only ravaged the holy buildings in their own district, but committed the same excesses in the Châtellenie of Furnes, and went as far as Poperinghe and Ypres. No less than twenty-nine parish and conventual churches suffered.24 These bands, four to five hundred in number, had as leaders the chief ministers of their congregations. These excesses were directed almost entirely against the visible and outward signs of what was in the eyes of the Calvinists the erroneous teaching of the Roman Church. These bands were impelled, by what their members considered a sense of religious duty, "to take arms for the defence of the Gospel and to inscribe themselves in the Evangelist Militia"; they went openly through the country beating drums and flying colours;25 they could not resist the regular forces of the Crown in any way, always seeking refuge in flight when in danger. They went to houses where they knew there were arms and demanded them.26
By August, 1566, the movement had so increased, and the people were so inflamed with a religious frenzy, that they could no longer be restrained froin attacking the monasteries and churches. On the 16th of that month all those at Ypres were pillaged, including the house of the Canons; from Ypres the Gueux (as they were termed) directed their steps to Courtrai pillaging and burning the churches of Menin, Wervicq and Coinmines, sacking also the monastery of Marquette. Lille and Douai were threatened, but the resistance of the Seigneur of Runneghem, with a party of his friends and some peasants, saved those towns. At Ghent, Antwerp, and other places the same excesses were committed. In West Flanders the bands did not consist of more than four hundred to five hundred men, according to an English witness,27 so that the authorities either did not care or were afraid to oppose the outrages which appear to have been only directed against the objects of their religious prejudices.
At Valenciennes the church of Notre Dame and the monasteries were pillaged; at Tournai the equestrian statue of St. George, erected by Henry VIII, was thrown down and other outrages committed. These devastations were not confined to Flanders and Artois, they spread to the extremities of Limbourg, Friesland, and Holland.
The sectaries of Antwerp, under guidance of Herman Modet, marched to Brussels, threatening to commit the same ravages in that city. The Duchess of Parma wished to retire to Mons, but on hearing froin the Duke of Arschot that he was menaced there and that the gates of Brussels were in the hands of the insurgents, she sent to the Prince of Orange and the Counts Egmont and de Horne to announce her submission to the terms demanded for the allowance of the reformed religion in these terms, "Je cède.... mais c'est à la violence." The accord was made, 23rd August, 1566, at night-time, the reformers promising that the Catholics should no longer be molested, and that they could use their churches as heretofore. Louis de Nassau wrote to the ministers, consistories, and merchants of Flanders, that the exercise of the reformed religion was henceforth acknowledged, and that all would for the future be in order and peace.28 The secretaries were calmed and disorders immediately ceased; all they wanted was permission to worship God according to their own belief.
The King swore vengeance on all who had thus offended and wrote furious letters, the contents of which the Duchess did not make known in the Netherlands, determining to try what clemency would effect. On the 26th August following she, acting on the compact come to with the confederates three days before, wrote to the magistrates of the principal towns that the King, on the advice of his council, had suspended the Inquisition and the placards relative to heresy; thus allowing that at all places where the reformed religion had been preached it should be permitted."29
The Count of Egmont, as Governor of Flanders and Artois, under the terms of this accord, agreed with those "of the new religion" in the various towns, and they were all required to sign an agreement with their respective magistrates.30 This they did, little thinking of the result of thus formally declaring themselves as protestants. Under the accord, places for their churches were assigned to the sectaries in the various Châtellenies, but under rules and regulations; in that of Bergues, Wormhoudt was the place appointed on the 27th September, 1566. Faith, however, was not kept by the Crown, for on the 3rd February following the services and preachings were again disallowed by the Count of Egmont, as Governor, and on the 18th April all those of "the new religion" were threatened if they did not iminediately conform to his orders.31
At the same time things did not go much better with the Roman Church; the monks and priests did not dare to resume their religious garments, the churches were not restored and the altars remained broken. The mass was celebrated only in secret, no sermons or canticles were heard, and the Duchess of Parma complained that the heretics alone assorted themselves, baptized and married.32 At Tournai it was arranged that three places should be assigned to the protestants outside the walls, where they might build meeting houses. Nicholas Taffin, one of the town council, claimed that, as three-quarters of the inhabitants were of the reformed religion, the corporation should defray the expenses of the new churches; this was not agreed to, but forty livres only were voted. The building of the first temple (as these new churches were termed) was at once commenced outside the Porte de Cocquerel. As the building could not be completed before the winter set in, and the weather was getting too inclement for the open air services, Count de Horne, subject to revocation by the Regent, permitted the Clothiers' Hall to be used provisionally until the new church was ready for use. This action gave great offence at head-quarters, the Count was immediately recalled, and notwithstanding the accord so lately granted, the reformed religion was suppressed. On the 2nd January, 1567, the Seigneur de Noircarmes arrived at Tournai with eleven companies of soldiers, with orders from the Duchess to disarm the citizens.33
The accord had only been made to be broken, so, as soon as the government was strong enough, the reformed relgion was suppressed at Tournai, and by the end of the year the city was reduced to a sullen state of quiet, and on 2nd January, 1567, it was disarmed. The result for those who had signed the accords before the magistrates was disastrous; nearly all with their families had to leave their hoines and goods, which were confiscated, the majority finding their way to England. The "Conseil des troubles" had under its direction all matters and inquiries relating to the troubles arising from this state of things. The Duke of Alva, who was the president, named extraordinary commissioners in each province, and the procedures were sent to the council, who examined them, or assigned them to sub-commissioners.34 The sentences were capital punishment, the galleys, banishment or fine. There were four capital punishments, the scaffold (being the least infamous), hanging, burning, which was either after being strangled or alive, and the wheel.35 Those of the reformed religion, who could be found, were arrested and sentenced, while those who had fled were banished, their goods being confiscated. The special commissioners communicated with colleagues in the neighbouring districts, as well as with the magistrates and the military authorities of the sea-ports. Great endeavours were made to arrest those who returned from England with letters from members of the foreign churches there; Gilles Ente of Neuve-Eglise was unfortunate enough to be taken, and his trial was conducted before the council of Flanders at Ghent.36 Nearly all those of the Châtellenie of Bailleul who were banished took refuge in England, going as a rule to Norwich or Sandwich, where they found the principal ministers who had also taken refuge there. There was great fear that these refugees had a design to send a large force of their number to disembark at Boulogne, where they would be received by the Governor of that town who, as a Calvinist, was supposed to be able to furnish twelve or thirteen hundred arquebusiers to join them in a design to make a descent on West Flanders, to pillage and burn the churches. It was said that this plot was concocted at London aud Norwich, and much alarm was caused by the rumour. There is no circumstantial evidence that there was any truth in the reports concerning this affair, though there are several documents and letters of de Bevere de la Cressonnière, Governor of Gravelines, and de Rassenghien, to the Duke of Alva, concerning it in the first three months of 1568.
The first mention of the supposed raid was by Charles d'Offay, who wrote from Gravelines, 21st January, 1568, (N.S.), that three vessels had arrived from England at Boulogne, and that one of them had disembarked five hundred men, the others being presumed to contain as many. Another rumour, reported to the Duke by de Rassenghien, was that those coming from England would land on the dunes in small boats.37 The Duke by letter to Rassenghien dated 29th Feb., 1568, ordered some prisoners who were supposed to be implicated in this affair to be examined under torture. De Rassenghien answered this the next day, saying that "he had received five or six reports that the plan had failed. That it was instigated by those banished, who had taken refuge in England, where not having any more means of subsistence, they were forced to persuade the Governor of Boulogne, that with his favour and the assistance of twelve or thirteen hundred arquebusiers, they could easily enter West Flanders, and seize some walled town, etc."38 There is no trace in the archives of the foreign churches or in the state papers in England that the strangers there ever made such an attack on the country of their birth after they had fled from it. M. de Coussemaker makes much of this supposed affair, though he remarks that it had escaped the knowledge of all those interested in the history of the troubles.
THE TREATMENT OF THE PEOPLE BY DE NOIRCARMES.
One Jacques, the son of Jacques Visaige, a carpenter of Dranoutre, examined under torture, 15th January, 1568, alleged he had known, without being present, that his countrymen at Sandwich and Norwich had arranged plans for pillage of churches and other outrages; that three of their ministers, Pieter de Haze, Jan Michiel, and another, had come from England, and that he had seen and assisted them in Flanders; and that those who had been concerned in the murders committed at Houtkerke, Roedsbrugge, Oostcapelle, Reninghelst, Steenwercq, and elsewhere, one of these being named G. van Schoemaker, had robbed churches, and had burnt and destroyed images, and had been sent from England to carry out the resolutions taken at Sandwich and Norwich; he also added that Pauwels de Hoorne, Clais Struwe and Marc van Berten were the chief men of the new religion in England.39 Jacques Visaige (with six others) was executed on the 18th February, being burnt alive, because, as was considered proved by his evidence under torture, he was at Sandwich, where the conspiracy to kill the priests and the papists was asserted to have been entered into, and that he had taken money, powder, and lead to the brigands of Mont des Cats, and because he had assisted in the murder of certain priests; of the others of his party five were hung and the remaining one burnt after having been strangled.40
Charles Ryckwaert alias Theophilus, a native of Neuve-Eglise, who was a preacher at Ypres in 1566, and signed the accord on the 5th October of that year, was summoned before the magistrates of the above town. Not appearing he was sentenced on the 8th August, 1567, to fifty years' banishment and confiscation of all his goods for having established a church, performed baptisms, and made collections at the services. Ryckwaert was replaced as second preacher by Matthew Logier of Steewerck, and he took refuge in Norwich (where he was minister of the Dutch congregation in August, 1568); returning to the Netherlands he died at Ypres in 1578.41
The possession of Valenciennes was considered by the leaders of the confederates necessary as a means of allying those of the Reformed Church in Flanders with the French Huguenots. Gilles le Clercq, the secretary of Louis de Nassau, corresponded for this purpose with the ministers and numerous Protestants of that town.42 Foreign sectaries met there in great numbers, who desired to make that place a second Geneva.43 The magistrates refused to receive a garrison of royal soldiers, and closed their gates. As soon as Noircarmes re-united his troops, the Duchess of Parma, 14th December, 1566, declared the inhabitants of Valenciennes rebels. On this, those in the town committed excesses in the churches and fortified the ramparts. The Seigneur de Noircarmes laid seige to the town and closed the way of the French Huguenots. The townspeople wrote a long remonstrance, laying their case before the Council of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and complaining of the action of the royal forces, which ravaged the country around the city, inflicting the most inhuman treatment on the peasants and on all attempting communication with the citizens. Every house was plundered of every thing valuable, and even the children were robbed of their shoes and clothing; unutterable out rages were committed on the married women and girls, who were afterwards sold by auction to the highest bidders.44 Men and women were murdered in cold blood by hundreds.
In the middle of December all the ministers of West Flanders met at Neuve-Eglise; among them were Pierre Datenus and Herman Modet. Jean Denis was chosen as captain, and under his orders were Jean Soreau and Jean Ramault. Subscription lists were opened at Neuve Eglise for the cost of the war; Bruges was inscribed for eight thousand florins, Ypres for three thousand, Dixmude, Furnes, Dunkirk, and Nieuport together for four thousand, Steenwerk and Neuve-Eglise for seven hundred. The Seigneur de Rassenghien wrote that "the Gueux were arming all around the place. Each church had to furnish one hundred men, which would amount to about six thousand in these parts."45 The insurgents, amounting to about three or four thousand in number, determined to go to Valenciennes to assist their friends there and to keep open the road for the French Huguenots. The Seigneur de Rassenghien with some of his friends, fifty horsemen, armed with arquebuses, and five hundred on foot, similarly armed, went from Lille and fell on the sectaries at Wattrelos. These were marching in disorder and were cut to pieces, although they had been reinforced by two thousand armed peasants and other bands; the victory of the royalists was complete. Datenus fled to Holland and joined the Prince of Orange at Amsterdam. Jean Dennis also must have saved himself, as in 1567 he was one of those who went to Walcheren. The colours of the insurgent forces were white, with a red cross of St. Andrew.46 Datenus and Modet a little later joined Taffin at Antwerp, and entreated the people there to take arms. At the same time the Seigneur de Noircarmes dispersed some united bands at the village of Lannoy, near Tournai. These defeats greatly depressed the hopes of the party, and on 14th February, 1567, the Duke of Alva ordered reparation to be made of the damages done to churches, etc., by the iconoclasts. On the 13th March following, the army of the confederates was surprised at Anstruweel in Brabant by the royal forces under the Seigneur de Beauvoir, who totally defeated it, the survivors finding a refuge at Antwerp. The exciting scenes of that time in the latter town are related by Thomas Churchyard, who saved the life of the Prince of Orange.47 The Prince of Orange, on the defeat of Anstruweel, let those of Valenciennes know that he could not succour them. The Prince of Condé and Coligny also failed them, the result being that the gates of that town were opened to Noircarmes on the 24th March, 1567.
The Prince of Orange wrote on the 10th April of the same year to King Philip resigning all his charges, and at the same time professing his loyalty. In this year a league was made between the Pope, the Emperor, the King of Spain, the King of Portugal, the Duke of Bavaria, the Duke of Savoy, and others, "into which contract or leage they have sought meanes to drawe in the French King, which hath allready consented Anno 1567." This treaty consisted of twenty-three articles, the first of which was "all Lutherans and Calvinists or Hogonots which be against the Churche of Rome shalbe rooted out, etc."48 Rigorous measures were taken against the people in Flanders; all persons had to provide themselves with certificates that they were not objects of pursuit, and on 19th April, 1567, a price was put on the heads of preachers.4
In August following the Duke of Alva arrived at Luxembourg with his "barbes-noires," twenty-four thousand men, veteran Spaniards from the garrisons of Milan and Naples, besides some Italian companies. Fear fell on all. The Duke entered Brussels on the 22nd August, at about three o ' clock in the afternoon. By a letter of the 5th October Philip II. ordered the Duchess of Parma to renounce the Government of the Netherlands, and three days later he named Alva Governor-General.50
"The emigration of the Protestants, commenced after the defeat of Anstruweel, and considerably increased by arrival of the Spanish troops, followed two principal currents. The Calvinist ministers for the most part took refuge in England, where their churches and consistories had long been regularly organised. The fighting men preferred an asylum in Germany... the ministers who came from West Flanders found important help in England."51 The greater part of those banished were condemned for contumacy.52
The Duchess of Parma wrote on the 7th July, 1567, to the magistrates of Nieuport, Dunkirk, Gravelines, Middelburg, Flushing, and Arnemuiden that many of her subjects went to England by those routes with their goods. She ordered inquiries to be made of these, and if they affirmed that they went for their business, as merchants, etc., they were to be allowed to pass, but in all cases without their goods and tools. If on the other hand they said it was to change their domiciles, they were to be detained and arrested, notice being given to the authorities.53
ALL IN THE LOW COUNTRIES SENTENCED TO DEATH.
De Gourdan, Governor of Calais, and de Morvilliers, Governor of Boulogne, had no orders to stop the refugees; they wrote to De la Motte on the 24th and 28th February, 1568, that the Flemings went freely by those routes to England, but that if their names and abodes were given, they should be stopped.54 The port of Gravelines was well guarded, but still several persons escaped by that route.55 Dunkirk also was well looked after; Pieter Annoot, Daniel Gallant, Jean Camphen and others tried to go from thence to England, to avoid the commissaries sent by the Council of Flanders to Bailleul, but they were arrested there, and were condemned to be burnt.56 There was a regular service from Nieuport to Norwich viâ Yarmouth, passengers and goods going by the vessel of which Wulffaert Boeteman was captain, every confidence being placed in him by the refugees.57
Middelburg was a great retreat for the Flemings, as soon as it was free from the Spanish yoke in 1574 on the capitulation of Montdragon, but before this they had gone to Flushing in 1572, when the English troops under Morgan occupied that town.
On 16th February, 1568, the Inquisition decreed the death of all the inhabitants of the Low Countries as heretics, with the exception of those persons especially mentioned by name; ten days later this was confirmed by a royal proclamation, dated at Madrid, which ordered the decree to be put in force without distinction of sex, age, or rank.58
The people in all parts of the Netherlands were fairly driven mad by the vengeance dealt out to them, nothing being left to them but torture and execution or self-expatriation, with the confiscation of all their property and goods. The records of the criminal courts of West Flanders show that in some cases they took summary measures of retaliation, and the following cases are well established, though the allegations that these crimes were conceived at Norwich or at Sandwich will not bear investigation. In the sentence to death, 16th Feb., 1573, by being broken on a Saint Andrew's cross, passed on one Pierre Waels, an agriculturalist of Houtkerque, it is recorded that he conspired with Messire Jacques de Huele of Bruges to join the band of Jean Camerlynck, Jean Michiels, a lame minister, and their followers, who were prepared to pillage churches, and assassinate priests and officials. Pierre Waels had been banished by the inquisitor Tytelman in 1562, with confiscation of his goods, for not rendering himself to justice on the charge of being a Protestant. He was stated to have taken refuge at Norwich, to have been a deacon in the church there before,59 and to have returned to Flanders in 1567, after numerous voyages from and to France and England; he was also said to have joined the company of Jean van der Camere alias Camerlynck and his associates, by name Balten Nauwyck, Pierre de Buysere alias Hooghe van Zitten, Pieter Damman, Jan de Cotz, Pieter de Crop and others, and with Camerlynck and van Huele to have gone to Boulogne where they met Jean Michiels; returning to Flanders with their companions, to have gone to Houtkerque, where on the 22nd November, 1567, they seized the curé, Theodoric, aged 68 years, and robbed him of one hundred and forty florins. A month later returning to Houtkerque, they so wounded him that he died soon after they left him.60
On the 28th of the same November the elderly curé of Oostcappel, Henri Turcq by name, was cruelly treated to compel him to disclose where his money was secured.
On the 3rd of December following, the band had information that nine soldiers of the Bailly of Bergues, having in their custody one of their associates named Mahieu, implicated in the murder of the curé, were to pass the night at the Auberge of Saint George at Rousbrugghe. The soldiers arrived there at seven in the evening. From evidence given to the court, two days later, it was learned that at about midnight Camerlinck and his companions entered the house and discharged thirteen or fourteen pistol-shots, which killed four of the soldiers; two others and their prisoner were dispatched later, and the three remaining soldiers saved themselves by flight.61 It was arranged by the various bands formed in Flanders towards the end of 1567 that they should unite at a place called Spaenschen-Dael near Poperinghe on 10th January, 1568, but this plan was not carried out. The authorities, being warned, had taken steps to prevent it, and arrested some of the rebels, the others retiring into the woods. An extraordinary heavy rain also hindered the meeting at which Jean Michiel had intended to address the Protestants of Bailleul, Poperinghe, Steenwerck, Hondschoote, and other places.62 On the 12th January the band under Jean Michiel entered Reninghelst armed with halberds, arquebuses, and pistols; they, after robbing the church of valuables, seized the priest and the two chaplains at the altar and took them away. At eleven o'clock at night these priests were barbarously killed. It would appear from the details that this cruel vengeance was taken for the priests denouncing the sectaries to the authorities.
The section under Camerlynck went to Hondschoote, where it rested until the 26th January, living in the drinking-houses and making night expeditions to demand weapons at the various houses in the locality. The night previous to the above day they met in council and determined on the death of the curé of that place.
On the 26th January the curé and the chaplain had hardly entered the church, between six and seven o'clock, when a dozen armed men followed them. One, perceiving that the curé was about to leave the church, fired at him with his arquebuse, wounding him in the breast, another hit him in the head. Others also wounded him, but the curé escaped for a time, dying two days afterwards. A scuffle took place with the chaplain, who received several wounds, but on an alarm being given by a whistle repeated twice, he saved his life, taking refuge under an altar. While this scene was going on in the church, others of the band, acting as sentinels, killed a corporal in charge of a detachment of twelve to fifteen soldiers, he being decoyed from his house by a pretended message from the Bailly.63
The same day Camerlynck and his band went to Rexpoele, and on arriving there found the curé celebrating mass. They entered the church and shot the priest there and then, also wounding him with a halberd.64 An active pursuit caused Camerlynck and his band to take refuge in the forest between Steenvcorde and Bailleul, where he was arrested 18th September, 1568, with eleven of his companions in a wood between Caestre and Eecke.65 Two of these ruffians being nearly dead were saved for justice by hanging after examination, and the others were sent in fetters to Ypres. The Baron de Rassenghien wrote to the magistrates of Ypres on the 11th October of the same year to warn them of the danger of attacks from the side of England, according to the confessions of Camerlinck made under torture. George van den Halle, the lieutenant of the bailly of Ypres, had also written to Hondschoote, 20th February, 1568, concerning three preachers, said to have returned from England, by name Jean Michiels, Pierre Hazaert, and Pierre Bert.66
It is to be remarked that the evidence of Roman-Catholic and Protestant writers prove that no deeds of violence were committed in West Flanders against women or men in the fury of the Iconoclasts with the exceptions referred to of priests, soldiers, and officials. Strada67 relates that when the convents were sacked the nuns were all able to save themselves by seeking refuge in their parents' houses. Another Roman-Catholic writer of Valenciennes wrote, "certain chroniclers have greatly mistaken the character of this image-breaking. It has been said that the Calvinists killed a hundred priests in this city, cutting some of them into pieces, and burning others over a slow fire. I remember very well everything which happened upon that abominable day (24th August, 1566), and I can affirm that not a single priest was injured. The Huguenots took good care not to injure in any way the living images."68 Had other excesses against the person been committed they could not fail to have been brought to light by the careful examination the criminal records of the time have received. The question whether it were lawful for ministers to contribute to the expenses of vessels of war (query privateers) and partake in the booty, was raised at the eighth colloquy of the French churches met in London 17-25 January, 1589. It was ruled by Act 16, "il nést nullement convenable es Eglises refugiées en ce Pais composés pour la plupart de marchants et artizans, que les freres qui ont chargé en l'Eglise et notamment de ministere s'entremettent en tels equipages de navires de guerre, ni prendre part au butin qui en seroit provenu; et pourtant que les dits fréres s'en doivent du tout abstenir."69 This act shows the feeling among the refugees with regard to taking part in the troubles of their abandoned fatherland.
At the period of these frightful crimes the examinations of prisoners were conducted under torture according to the custom of the times; this went by the term of "examination rigoreuse." They had to answer leading questions, the answers to which, extorted from those examined, served the purpose of the authorities. The documents of the trial of Camerlynck are missing, but his sentence given by Wynckius (Geusianismus p. 61) serves to show his fate. He was condemned on the 26th November, 1568, and executed as follows. His ears were first cut off, he was then dragged on a hurdle through the streets and round the market place. Six pieces of hot iron were then attached to different parts of his body and being fastened with chains to a stake on the scaffold in the middle of a pile of wood, and having a pot of pitch placed on his head, he was burnt alive.70
The following particulars of an examination of a prisoner under torture in the Netherlands at this period will show the nature of the proceedings. "When they can get nothing at all of him, but that hee is able to excuse himselfe, they then put hym to a shrewde trumpe or tryall; for first they bryng him through many odde doores of certaine caves under the ground, unto a place where the judge sitteth. And thither presently commeth the hangman, apparrelled in a blacke linnen cassocke much like unto the garmente which the Spaniardes weare uppon Maundie Thursday, when as for pennaunce sake they beate themselves until the blood trickle down withall. Theyr head and face is covered with an hood, having no more than two holes in it, for to look out at. In this sort commeth in the hangman apparrelled, to terrifie the prysoner, as if the Divell himselfe woulde correct him for his sinnes; when this is done, the Judge admonisheth him to tell the truth, protesting that if through torture any leg or limme of his be broken, that the fault and scathe should bee his, and lye in his owne necke. After this, the poore prysoner is shaken out of all his clowtes, save that they tye a lynnen ragge to cover his priuities. Anone after hee maketh the hangman a signe, what torment hee shall have.
Nowe the ordinary torment of the prysoner is this: first, his handes are bounde together behinde his backe, and his body being trysed up into the ayre with a tormentrous engine, they bind to his feete instruments of yron of twentie-five pounds weight; then the Inquisitors say unto him: "Understand thou fellow, that if thou wilt not confess the troth, assure thy selfe we will leave thee heere to die in these torments." In this paine hangeth this wretched and miserable patient, all his weeping and teares helping him nothing at all. Then the hangman letteth him slip at one choppe almost to the ground, by meane whereof one joynt falleth from another. When this is done the hanginan giveth him the second and third charge, and then getteth hymn up; and thus this unnaturall torture and horrible torment lasteth from niene of the clocke untill it bee eleven or twelve. When the pysoner continueth constant and will confesse nothyng hee is carried to the Church, where the Barbour Surgeons put him to three times somuch paine. The patient being in this miserable estate, they will him to be confessed or shriven, whereupon they finde of what religion hee is, and if so bee that he will confesse bimselfe to the Priest, they have a notarie hid behinde some clothes to write and note all the prysoner's confession, because hee maketh him to speake distinctly and a loude. Then the Priest telleth him: That hee hath power and aucthoritie to deliver him out of the handes of the father Inquisitors. By these and such like words they sometimes deceive and beguile the poore prysoners, for if they confesse any thing, they bring their owne testimonie against them, to render them punishable. Then the Inquisitors give it openly out both abroad and in the prison that the prysoner hath confessed enough, and besides, hath accused and named all his companions and fellow brethren, although it bee nothyng so. Which thing causeth the neighbours that have hearde of ye great crosses of the patient accuse themselves, before any body els hath accused them, because they would be reconciled to the fathers and Inquisitors of the faith, thinking they should bee out of all danger, when as they had once confessed their fault."
The description of the execution follows: "When the day of giving sentence and of execution draweth neere, to wit, two days before, they sende for the prysoners, whom the Inquisitors commaund to tell and shewe them of all theyr moveable and unmoveable goods, willying them to conceale nothing, to the end that they which are in their houses bee not accused of theft, or that they themselves, by the judgementes of God, fall not dead to the grounde, as Ananias and Saphyra his wife did at the Apostles feete, because they lyed and kept backe some of their goods. The night before the day appointed they are shryven, and that day in the morning the officers of the Inquisition bryng unto them Saint Bennet's furniture of apparel, which is a gally cassocke without sleeves, much like unto the Romanes clokes, covered with blacke linnen cloth. And upon their heads they have a Bishop's myter made of paper, upon which is painted a man sitting by the fire; and the man aforesaide hath his hands bound to his necke, who first is led about the flame and afterwarde to the fire. ......... An oration beeing ended one beginneth openly to pronounce the judgements upon the poore pacients, orderly one after another, beginning first with those that have the most gracious and easiest kinde of punishment. After the publication of these sentences the chiefe and head Inquisitor, singing certain collects, to wit, Oremus and Quaesumus, for the convertes, praying also unto God that it would please hym of his meere favour and grace, to graunt them perseverance in the Romish catholike faith unto their lives ende.
When hee hath thus saide, al the Cleargie sing the Psalme Miserere mei deus, which being ended, the Inquisitor singeth certaine versicles, whom the singing men answere in theyr musical notes, crying, yelling, and bleating out like calves, as they are. Last of all, the saide Inquisitor singeth the absolution, whereby the penitents are absolved of the errour of heresie, but not of the punishment or paine, which is incontinently to be executed, without favour or mercy, yea contrary to all right and reason."71
In the present age the fact that admissions, beyond facts proved by confirmatory evidence, were made under examination by torture compels us to put on one side all statements so given, criminating others living in another country. The precautions taken in England prevented all strangers leaving the country without permission; the very fact of their prosperity here was a guarantee against a return to their scourged and panic-stricken mother country; their letters, saved to us by the action of the authorities, who made a house to house search, prove that their only idea was to flee to England with their wives and children, abandoning all their property in order to save their lives and to be enabled to worship God according to their consciences.
On the 2nd April, 1568, the provost of the Marshals of Artois, charged with the duty of pursuing and arresting the sectaries, accused of pillage and murder, stopped to pass the night at Lestrem with sixteen of his men at the house of Jehan Caulier. At midnight they were assassinated by the sectaries of that place under the lead of the two sons of Fran¸ois de Lescluse who had been executed and his goods confiscated), and of the brothers Cruot, Quino, Lesvesque, and Gendebleu. In the same year the people of the town attacked the bailly and the curé of the latter place on the road from Béthune to La Gorgne, who, badly wounded, died soon afterwards.72
On Easter Day, 1568, a band visited Rubroucq in the district of Cassel and took the cure and his chaplain from their house; the church was set on fire, and the band drowned the two priests in a neighbouring well, the curé being first strangled, and the chaplain knocked on the head. The above are all the murders of priests and others in West Flanders by the sectaries during the troubles, the facts of which there can be no doubt about, proved as they are by the incontestable evidence of official records. It is equally clear that retaliation for personal injuries, received by those committing the crimes, was the moving cause of the outrages.
The arrest and execution of Counts Egmont and de Horne with many other nobles in 1568 caused the greatest panic in the minds of all. The former had been carrying out the orders of the government in Flanders. If those who adhered to the hated Spanish rule were not safe, what could be the position of those who opposed it ? All who by flight could save their lives did so. The horror caused by these sentences caused the excesses of the "Gueux" to be in some way forgotten. In the four first days of Septeinber, 1568, the number of those banished and summoned amounted to four thousand two hundred persons.73 Decapitation was a favour, burning alive was reserved for those who respected their consciences and would not abjure their faith. The judges, under the direction of Alva, were pitiless, and the confiscation of all the properties and goods of those sentenced followed as a matter of course. The Council of Troubles was only the Council of Vargas;74 the Inquisitor Titelman was the instrument of Spanish repression, all Protestants handed by him to the secular judges being immediately condemned, their tongues being burnt with hot irons to prevent them from addressing the people when they suffered execution.75 Another example may be given of the discrimination shewn by the sectaries in their vengeance against their opponents. Jean de Visch, after having acted as "bailli" at Ingelmunster near Ghent, was appointed lieutenant of the "grand-bailli" of Flanders, whose seat of office was at Ypres. De Visch's duty frequently was to preside at capital punishments, to take informations and to pronounce sentences. He made himself a marked man by his activity and zeal for the so-called interests of the Crown under the rule of the Duke of Alva. In 1578 the bands from Ghent under the command of Ryhove ravaged the Walloon district, and visiting Ypres carried off Jean de Visch and other officials to Ghent, where Jacques Hessele, formerly a member of the Council of Troubles or "Bloedraed, " was in prison, having just before this fallen into the hands of his enemies. On the 4th October the Seigneurs de Ryhove, de Croovelde, and Captain Meghem, taking de Visch and Hessele out of their prison, went with them and their escort out side the city, where they were hung, being forced to ascend a ladder to the branch of a tree. Committed without the form of a trial, such acts must be reprehended by all, but such was the blind fury and hatred between those of opposing religions that little mercy was shown in such cases, especially towards those who had sent so many thousands to death and expatriation. On the 16th July, 1570, the Duke of Alva caused an amnesty to be publicly read at Brussels which was received in silence by the people. Many took this opportunity to return to the Roman church, and those who appeared to be satisfied were to be counted by thousands in each of the large towns. The flow of emigration ceased for a time, and it was not until the Prince of Parma finally subdued the rebellion in Flanders, in 1584, that it was again resorted to by numbers to be counted by thousands.
The people, worn out by the persecution of their ruler, had in 1571 to submit to the tax of the tenth and twentieth pennies, which against the advice and entreaties of all classes was rigorously exacted. The people saw that their ruin was presaged, it being against the liberties of their land that taxes should be imposed unvoted by the States.76
THE QUEEN GAVE NO SUPPORT TO THE REBELS.
Alva complained bitterly at the supposed aid given to the rebels by the refugees in England. This was resented in England where the Queen published a declaration on the 11th February, 1571, that she would help no rebel against Philip II, and she told the envoy sent by Alva in February, 1572, that she would give no support to freebooters; 77 at the same time the vessels of William de la Marck, which had put in to re-victual, were ordered to leave the havens immediately.
It is on record that the Protestants were not the only ones who sacked the churches and plundered houses; the Spanish troops professing the Roman faith did the same with infinitely greater damage and bloodshed. At Malines they seized the bishops of Namur and Antwerp, putting ransoms on their heads, and they forced the burghers to purchase their own goods which the soldiers had stolen. Worse was the fate of Naarden, where the inhabitants were forced into the church and put to the sword, the town being given to the flames.78 The Spanish Fury at Antwerp in 1576 will also be remembered for ever in that city. On the 3rd November and two following days the Spaniards murdered two thousand five hundred of the citizens with the sword, double that number being burned or drowned.79 The city was in ruins, "five hundred palaces, mostly of marble or hammered stone, being a smouldering mass of destruction."80 "Of all the deeds of darkness yet compassed in the Netherlands, this was the worst."81 Inconceivable were the acts of barbarity perpetrated, and inconceivable is it that the Protestants were so merciful in return.
The treaty signed at Ghent on the 8th November, 1576, between the Prince of Orange, with the States of Holland and Zeeland on the one side, and of the other provinces who would do so, then or thereafter, on the other, caused all those of the reforined religion to hope for better times. The Protestants were to have toleration on the one hand, and the Roman-Catholic faith was to be respected on the other. All the placards and edicts against heresy were to be suspended, and all estates and property not alienated to be restored, and all confiscations since 1566 annulled. These with other articles were to be signed by all provinces and cities, when they desired to do so, and all were to join to drive the hated Spaniards from the Netherland soil.82 This treaty, called the "Pacification of Ghent," was to a certain extent agreed to by King Philip, and a better state of things prevailed. There was immediately a great demand for preachers for the Protestant churches in the Netherlands, and requests came to the Austin Friars church in London for help. Joannes Cubus was lent to the Antwerp church at the request of Casparus Heydanus, minister there. Jacobus Regius was sent to Ghent (recalled in 1584), Adrianus Saravia to Courtrai, and many were received into the ministry in London to be ready to be sent out.83 At the meeting of the Colloquy of the Dutch churches in England held at Colchester, 17th May, 1577, it was brought forward that many churches "over sea" had great need of ministers, and it was agreed that as "all stand bound to the church of Christ and our fatherland" each church should do the best to provide as many ministers as possible.84 On the 22nd of July, 1578, the Archduke Mathias issued a new edict by which all old crimes were pardoned. Protestants and Roman-Catholics were free to exercise their respective services.85 These promises were not much trusted in, and throughout the country the Catholics had to submit for a time, being in fear of the sectaries who had possession of many of the cities.
Things went on in the same way until 1584, when the negociations of the Prince de Chimay gained the city of Bruges to the royalists, an accord being signed with the Prince of Parma on the 20th May of that year.86 Ypres soon after this yielded, and the Bishop of that city on entering it caused the bodies of many Protestants, which had been long buried, to be hung in chains. All those professing the reformed religion were banished, their ministers not having been included in the accord.
The murder of the Prince of Orange was effected on the 10th July, 1584, by Balthazar Gérard, whom the Regent of the Jesuit College at Tréves had blessed there on being told of the scheme, and who had been promised that his name should be added to the list of martyrs, should his life be lost in the attempt,87 a reward being paid to the representatives of the murderer by Philip II. At Ghent the negociations with the Prince were long and difficult; a strong party in the city being against the surrender of the town, the houses of those favouring this course were sacked and burned. Hembyze was tried and suffered execution on the 4th August, 1584, for having conducted the negociations, and terror reigned in the city, in consequence of the violence shown to all who favoured the royal side in them. Six weeks later Ghent surrendered on the best conditions obtainable, Brussels and Malines soon followed in their submission, Antwerp held out until the 17th August, 1585, when the sanguinary conflict between the King of Spain and those of the reformed religion was ended by the separation and freedom of the United Provinces. Had the life of the Prince of Orange been spared, the whole of the Netherlands would have been wrested from the Spanish rule, the provinces of the northern portion of the Netherlands having become firmly united by the confederation of Utrecht, finally signed 3rd May, 1579. 88
The termination of hostilities by the surrender of the cities of the southern Netherlands caused a renewed flight en masse of the Protestants to Holland and England, only equalled by the migration in 1567 on the arrival of Alva with his Spanish troops.