Netherlands 1935 Part IX

By | December 1, 2021

Under the reign of Charles V, the Reformation was introduced in the Netherlands. The country’s intellectual, economic and social state created the circumstances favorable to the spread of the religious movement. From the intellectual point of view, humanism, whose critical tendencies and boldness of thought could constitute a danger to the traditional teaching of the Church, had developed strongly. The most illustrious representative of these trends, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, exerted a considerable influence on the thinking of the management circles. In Leuven, next to the ancient university founded in 1427 by John IV, Duke of Brabant, the Collegium Trilingue was established in 1517 by Jérôme de Busleyden, for the dissemination of new critical methods.

The economic development of Antwerp had formed an environment very well disposed to welcome and develop new religious ideas. The city had become the great market for the new drapery industry and its economic liberalism, favored by the circumstances of the moment, and particularly by the discovery of America, had made it the largest port in Western Europe. The Florentine Luigi Guicciardini, who visited it in 1565, left an enthusiastic description of its wealth and activity. A cosmopolitan population lived there, who participated in that activity and contributed to that wealth: Italians (such as the Affaitadi of Cremona or the Grimaldis of Genoa), Spaniards and Portuguese, including Moors and converted Jews (maranos) occupied a first-rate position; Germans, including the agents of the famous Fugger d’Augusta. In this heterogeneous crowd the doctrines of the Reformation had to penetrate and spread with greater ease, since those foreign merchants could not be opposed without compromising the prosperity of the port. The existence in Antwerp of several printing works, including the famous Plantin house founded in 1550, allowing the spread of the Bible and theological and polemical writings, favored, albeit indirectly, the spread of Protestantism. For Netherlands 2006, please check

Finally, it should be noted that the concentration of capital and the multiplication of industrial enterprises produced the formation of a proletariat, of a “poor and miserable plebe”, as the Venetian ambassador F. Badoero said in 1557. Misery, begging and wandering reached such a point that in the first half of the century. XVI a charity reform was implemented to remedy this state of affairs. In such an environment, naturally greedy for change, the Reformation had to recruit adherents en masse.

It entered the Netherlands first in the Lutheran form; its first martyrs were burned in Brussels in 1523. Charles V promulgated against it, in a series of edicts or notices (placards), a fierce legislation and the search for heretics was entrusted to a state inquisition. The spread of Lutheranism and Anabaptism, which appeared in the Netherlands from 1529, was arrested; but around 1543 Calvinism spread to the Seventeen Provinces and immediately recruited a very large number of followers.

A few years later, in 1555, the abdication of Charles V passed the dominion of the Netherlands to his son Philip II, whose policy had as its essential goal the destruction of heresy. Shortly after his departure for Spain in 1559, serious conflicts arose in the Netherlands, which confronted, on the one hand, Antonio Granvelle bishop of Arras, who exercised power nominally under the authority of the governor Margaret of Parma, and on the other hand, the nobility of the country in favor, if not of Protestantism, at least of tolerance. One of the first differences arose on the occasion of the creation, on the initiative of the king, of fourteen new bishoprics, destined to favor his campaign against heresy (1559). Granvelle had to withdraw from the government; but after her retirement (1564) an otherwise serious conflict was unleashed by a doubling of energy on the part of the governor in the repression of the cult and of Calvinistic propaganda. At the instigation of those among their members who had adhered to the new ideas, and especially of John and Philip de Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde, the nobles gathered in “compromise” and asked for the withdrawal of the placards (1566). It was on this occasion that they assumed the nickname of Gueux (v.), Which was then passed on to the Protestants of the Netherlands. Bold by this action, bands of fanatical Protestants, recruited from the industrial proletariat, spread across the territory, pillaging the churches; but when, in 1567, the Duke of Alba arrived in the Netherlands to punish the rebels, the governor had already restored order.

Many Protestants had emigrated and Prince William of Orange, who had been the most active architect of the resistance to the savage struggle against heresy, had also withdrawn to Germany. When the Duke of Alba began the repression, his first victims were Catholics; the counts of Egmont and Hornes were executed in Brussels in 1568. The establishment of extraordinary courts (Conseil des troubles) and of arbitrary impositions and the general disregard of the rights of the residents deeply indisposed the populations. Therefore when the Protestants began the evident resistance in the northern regions (taking of the Brielle in 1572 by the Gueux of the sea), the population, both Catholic and Protestant, took the side of the rebels against the Spanish tyranny. Despite some military successes, the duke could not prevent Holland and Zeeland, protected by the waters, from remaining the armed center of the Protestant and national resistance.

Netherlands 1935 Part IX