Abbildungen der Seite

prudent, she was not, in this resolution, guided by any prejudice or mistaken affection. She was determined not to permit, without opposition, the total subjection of the revolted provinces, whose interests she deemed so closely connected with her own : but foreseeing that the acceptance of their sovereignty would oblige her to employ her whole force in their defence, would give umbrage to her neighbours, and would expose

her to the reproach of ambition and usurpation, imputations which hitherto she had carefully avoided, she immediately rejected this offer. She concluded a league with the States on the following conditions :—That she should send over an army to their assistance, of five thousand foot and a thousand horse, and pay them during the war ; that the general, and two others whom she should appoint, should be admitted into the council of the States ; that neither party should make peace without the consent of the other ; that her expenses should be refunded after the conclusion of the war; and that the towns of Flushing and the Brille, with the castle of Rammekins, should in the meantime be consigned into her hands by way of security.

The queen knew that this measure would immediately engage

her in open hostilities with Philip ; yet was not she terrified with the view of the present greatness of that monarch. The continent of Spain was at that time rich and populous ; and the late addition of Portugal, besides securing internal tranquillity, had annexed an opulent kingdom to Philip's dominions, had made him master of many settlements in the East Indies, and of the whole commerce of those regions, and had much increased his naval power, in which he was before chiefly deficient. All the princes of Italy, even the Pope and the court of Rome, were reduced to a kind of subjection under him, and seemed to possess their sovereignty on terms somewhat precarious. The Austrian branch in Germany, with their dependent principalities, was closely connected with him, and was ready to supply him with troops for every enterprise. All the treasures of the


West Indies were in his possession; and the present scarcity of the precious metals in every country of Europe rendered the influence of his riches the more forcible and extensive. The Netherlands seemed on the point of relapsing into servitude ; and small hopes were entertained of their withstanding those numerous and veteran armies which, under the command of the most experienced generals, he employed against them. Even France, which was wont to counterbalance the Austrian greatness, had lost all her force from intestine commotions ; and as the Catholics, the ruling party, were closely connected with him, he rather expected thence an augmentation than a diminution of his power. Upon the whole, such prepossessions were everywhere entertained concerning the force of the Spanish monarchy, that the King of Sweden, when he heard that Elizabeth had openly embraced the defence of the revolted Flemings, scrupled not to say that she had now taken the diadem from her head, and had ventured it upon the doubtful chance of war.

Yet was this princess rather cautious than enterprising in her natural temper : she ever needed more to be impelled by the vigour, than restrained by the prudence, of her ministers : but when she saw an evident necessity, she braved danger with magnanimous courage ; and trusting to her own consummate wisdom, and to the affections, however divided, of her people, she prepared herself to resist, and even to assault, the whole force of the Catholic monarch.



In person, Orange was above the middle height, perfectly well made and sinewy, but rather spare than stout. His eyes, hair, beard, and complexion were brown. His head was small, symmetrically shaped, combining the alertness and compactness characteristic of the soldier, with the capacious brow furrowed prematurely with the horizontal lines of

thought, denoting the statesman and the sage. His physical appearance was, therefore, in harmony with his organisation, which was of antique model. Of his moral qualities, the most prominent was his piety. He was more than anything else a religious man. From his trust in God, he ever derived support and consolation in the darkest hours. Implicitly relying upon Almighty wisdom and goodness, he looked danger in the face with a constant smile, and endured incessant labours and trials with a serenity which seemed more than human. While, however, his soul was full of piety, it was tolerant of error. Sincerely and deliberately himself a convert to the Reformed Church, he was ready to extend freedom of worship to Catholics on the one hand, and to Anabaptists on the other; for no man ever felt more keenly than he, that the reformer who becomes in his turn a bigot, is doubly odious.

His firmness was allied to his piety. His constancy in bearing the whole weight of struggle, as unequal as men have ever undertaken, was the theme of admiration even to his enemies. The rock in the ocean, 'tranquil amid raging billows,' was the favourite emblem by which his friends expressed their sense of his firmness. From the time when, as a hostage in France, he first discovered the plan of Philip to plant the Inquisition in the Netherlands, up to the last moment of his life, he never faltered in his determination to resist that iniquitous scheme. This resistance was the labour of his life. To exclude the Inquisition, to maintain the ancient liberties of his country, was the task which he appointed to himself when a youth of three-and-twenty. Never speaking a word concerning a heavenly mission, never deluding himself or others with the usual phraseology of enthusiasts, he accomplished the task, through danger, amid toils, and with sacrifices such as few men have ever been able to make on their country's altar ;-for the disinterested benevolence of the man was as prominent as his fortitude. A prince of high rank and with royal revenues, he stripped himself of station, wealth, almost at times of the common necessaries of life, and became, in his country's cause, nearly a beggar as well as an outlaw.

Nor was he forced into his career by an accidental impulse from which there was no recovery. Retreat was ever open to him. Not only pardon but advancement was urged upon him again and again. Officially and privately, directly and circuitously, his confiscated estates, together with indefinite and boundless favours in addition, were offered to him on every great occasion. On the arrival of Don John, at the Breda negotiations, at the Cologne conferences, we have seen how calmly these offers were waived aside, as if their rejection was so simple that it hardly required many words for its signification; yet he had mortgaged his estates so deeply that his heirs hesitated at accepting their inheritance, for fear it should involve them in debt. Ten years after his death, the account between his executors and his brother John amounted to one million four hundred thousand florins due to the Count, secured by various pledges of real and personal property, and it was finally settled upon this basis. He was, besides, largely indebted to every one of his powerful relatives, so that the payment of the incumbrances upon his estates very nearly justified the fears of his children. While on the one hand, therefore, he poured out these enormous sums like water, and firmly refused a hearing to the tempting offers of the royal government, upon the other hand, he proved the disinterested nature of his services by declining, year after year, the sovereignty over the provinces, and by only accepting, in the last days of his life, when refusal had become almost impossible, the limited constitutional supremacy over that portion of them which now makes the realm of his descendants. He lived and died, not for himself, but for his country. 'God pity this poor people !' were his dying words.

His intellectual faculties were various, and of the highest order. He had the exact, practical, and combining qualit

« ZurückWeiter »