A. D. 1384-1506
THUS the house of Burgundy, which soon after became so formidable and celebrated, obtained this vast accession to its power. The various changes which had taken place in the neighboring provinces during the continuance of these civil wars had altered the state of Flanders altogether. John d’Avesnes, count of Hainault, having also succeeded in 1299 to the county of Holland, the two provinces, though separated by Flanders and Brabant, remained from that time under the government of the same chief, who soon became more powerful than the bishops of Utrecht, or even than their formidable rivals the Frisons.
During the wars which desolated these opposing territories, in consequence of the perpetual conflicts for superiority, the power of the various towns insensibly became at least as great as that of the nobles to whom they were constantly opposed. The commercial interests of Holland, also, were considerably advanced by the influx of Flemish merchants forced to seek refuge there from the convulsions which agitated their province. Every day confirmed and increased the privileges of the people of Brabant; while at Liege the inhabitants gradually began to gain the upper hand, and to shake off the former subjection to their sovereign bishops.
Although Philip of Burgundy became count of Flanders, by the death of his father-in-law, in the year 1384, it was not till the following year that he concluded a peace with the people of Ghent, and entered into quiet possession of the province. In the same year the duchess of Brabant, the last descendant of the duke of that province, died, leaving no nearer relative than the duchess of Burgundy; so that Philip obtained in right of his wife this new and important accession to his dominions. But the consequent increase of the sovereign’s power was not, as is often the case, injurious to the liberties or happiness of the people. Philip continued to govern in the interest of the country, which he had the good sense to consider as identified with his own. He augmented the privileges of the towns, and negotiated for the return into Flanders of those merchants who had emigrated to Germany and Holland during the continuance of the civil wars. He thus by degrees accustomed his new subjects, so proud of their rights, to submit to his authority; and his peaceable reign was only disturbed by the fatal issue of the expedition of his son, John the Fearless, count of Nevers, against the Turks. This young prince, filled with ambition and temerity, was offered the command of the force sent by Charles III. of France to the assistance of Sigismund of Hungary in his war against Bajazet. Followed by a numerous body of nobles, he entered on the contest, and was defeated and taken prisoner by the Turks at the battle of Nicopolis. His army was totally destroyed, and himself only restored to liberty on the payment of an immense ransom.
John the Fearless succeeded in 1404 to the inheritance of all his father’s dominions, with the exception of Brabant, of which his younger brother, Anthony of Burgundy, became duke. John, whose ambitious and ferocious character became every day more strongly developed, now aspired to the government of France during the insanity of his cousin Charles VI. He occupied himself little with the affairs of the Netherlands, from which he only desired to draw supplies of men. But the Flemings, taking no interest in his personal views or private projects, and equally indifferent to the rivalry of England and France, which now began so fearfully to afflict the latter kingdom, forced their ambitious count to declare their province a neutral country ; so that the English merchants were admitted as usual to trade in all the ports of Flanders, and the Flemings equally well received in England, while the duke made open war against Great Britain in his quality of a prince of France and sovereign of Burgundy. This is probably the earliest well-established instance of such a distinction between the prince and the people.
Anthony, duke of Brabant, the brother of Philip, was not so closely restricted in his authority and wishes. He led all the nobles of the province to take part in the quarrels of France; and he suffered the penalty of his rashness in meeting his death in the battle of Agincourt. But the duchy suffered nothing by this event, for the militia of the country had not followed their duke and his nobles to the war; and a national council was now established, consisting of eleven persons, two of whom were. ecclesiastics, three barons, two knights, and four commoners. This council, formed on principles so fairly popular, conducted the public affairs with great wisdom during the minority of the young duke. Each province seems thus to have governed itself upon principles of republican independence. The sovereigns could not at discretion, or by the want of it, play the bloody gaine of war for their mere amusement; and the emperor putting in his claim at this epoch to his ancient rights of sovereignty over Brabant, as an imperial fief, the council and the people treated the demand with derision.
The spirit of constitutional liberty and legal equality which now animated the various provinces is strongly marked in the history of the time by two striking and characteristic incidents. At the death of Philip the Bold, his widow deposited on his tomb her purse, and the keys which she carried at her girdle in token of marriage; and by this humiliating ceremony she renounced her rights to a succession overloaded with her husband”s debts. In the same year (1404) the widow of Albert, count of Holland and Hainault, finding herself in similar circumstances, required of the bailiff of Holland and the judges of his court permission to make a like renunciation. The claim was granted; and, to fulfil the requisite ceremony, she walked at the head of the funeral procession, carrying in her hand a blade of straw, which she placed on the coffin. We thus find that in such cases the reigning families were held liable to follow the common usages of the country. From such instances there required but little progress in the principle of equality to reach the republican contempt for rank which made the citizens of Bruges in the following century arrest their count for his private debts.
The spirit of independence had reached the same point at Liege. The families of the counts of Holland and Hainault, which were at this time distinguished by the name of Bavaria, because they were only descended from the ancient counts of Netherland extraction in the female line, had sufficient influence to obtain the nomination to the bishopric for a prince who was at the period in his in-fancy. John of Bavaria for so he was called, and to his name was afterward added the epithet of “the Pitiless” on reaching his majority, did not think it necessary to cause himself to be consecrated a priest, but governed as a lay sovereign. The indignant citizens of Liege expelled him, and chose another bishop. But the Houses of Burgundy and Bavaria, closely allied by intermarriages, made common cause in his quarrel; and John, duke of Burgundy, and William IV., count of Holland and Hainault, brother of the bishop, replaced by force this cruel and unworthy prelate.
This union of the government over all the provinces in two families so closely connected rendered the preponderance of the rulers too strong for that balance hitherto kept steady by the popular force. The former could on each new quarrel join together, and employ against any particular town their whole united resources; whereas the latter could only act by isolated efforts for the maintenance of their separate rights. Such was the cause of a considerable decline in public liberty during the fifteenth century. It is true that John the Fearless gave almost his whole attention to his French political intrigues, and to the fierce quarrels which he maintained with the House of Orleans. But his nephew, John, duke of Brabant, having married, in 1416, his cousin Jacqueline, daughter and heiress of William IV., count of Holland. and Hainault, this branch of the House of Burgundy seemed to get the start of the elder in its progressive influence over the provinces of the Netherlands. The dukes of Guelders, who had changed their title of counts for one of superior rank, acquired no accession of power proportioned to their new dignity. The bishops of Utrecht became by degrees weaker; private dissensions enfeebled Friesland; Luxemburg was a poor, unimportant dukedom; but Holland, Hainault, and Brabant formed the very heart of the Netherlands; while the elder branch of the same family, under whom they were united, possessed Flanders, Artois, and the two Burgundies. To complete the prosperity and power of this latter branch, it was soon destined to inherit the entire dominions of the other.
A fact the consequences of which were so important for the entire of Europe merits considerable attention; but it is most difficult to explain at once concisely and clearly the series of accidents, manoeuvres, tricks, and crimes by which it was accomplished. It must first be remarked that this John of Brabant, become the husband of his cousin Jacqueline, countess of Holland and Hainault, possessed neither the moral nor physical qualities suited to mate with the most lovely, intrepid, and talented woman of her times; nor the vigor and firmness required for the maintenance of an increased, and for those days a considerable, dominion. Jacqueline thoroughly despised her insignificant husband; first in secret, and subsequently by those open avowals forced from her by his revolting combination of weakness, cowardice, and tyranny. He tamely allowed the province of Holland to be invaded by the same ungrateful bishop of Liege, John the Pitiless, whom his wife’s father and his own uncle had re-established in his justly forfeited authority. But John of Brabant revenged him-self for his wife’s contempt by a series of domestic persecutions so odious that the states of Brabant interfered for her protection. Finding it, however, impossible to remain in a perpetual contest with a husband whom she hated and despised, she fled from Brussels, where he held his ducal court, and took refuge in England, under the protection of Henry V., at that time in the plenitude of his fame and power.
England at this epoch enjoyed the proudest station in European affairs. John the Fearless, after having caused the murder of his rival, the duke of Orleans, was himself assassinated on the bridge of Montereau by the followers of the dauphin of France, and in bis presence. Philip, duke of Burgundy, the son and successor of John, had formed a close alliance with Henry V., to revenge his father’s murder; and soon after the death of the king he married his sister, and thus united himself still more nearly to the celebrated John, duke of Bedford, brother of Henry, and regent of France, in the name of his infant nephew, Henry VI. But besides the share on which he reckoned in the spoils of France, Philip also looked with a covetous eye on the inheritance of Jacqueline, his cousin. As soon as he had learned that this princess, so well received in England, was taking measures for having her marriage annulled, to enable her to espouse the duke of Gloucester, also the brother of Henry V., and subsequently known by the appellation of “the good duke Humphrey,” he was tormented by a double anxiety. He, in the first place, dreaded that Jacqueline might have children by her projected marriage with Gloucester (a circumstance neither likely nor even possible, in the opinion of some historians, to result from her union with John of Brabant : Hume, vol. iii., p. 133), and thus deprive him of his right of succession to her states; and in the next, he was jealous of the possible domination of England in the Netherlands as well as in France. He therefore soon be-came self-absolved from all his vows of revenge in the cause of his murdered father, and labored solely for the object of his personal aggrandizement. To break his connection with Bedford; to treat secretly with the dauphin, his father’s assassin, or at least the witness and warrant For his assassination; and to shuffle from party to party as occasion required, were movements of no difficulty to Philip, surnamed “the Good.” He openly espoused the cause of his infamous relative, John of Brabant; sent a powerful army into Hainault, which Gloucester vainly strove to defend in right of his affianced wife; and next seized on Holland and Zealand, where he met with a long but ineffectual resistance on the part of the courageous woman he so mercilessly op-pressed. Jacqueline, deprived of the assistance of her stanch but ruined friends,’ and abandoned by Gloucester (who, on the refusal of Pope Martin V. to sanction her divorce, had married another woman, and but feebly aided the efforts of the former to maintain her rights), was now left a widow by the death of John of Brabant. But Philip, without a shadow of justice, pursued his designs against her dominions, and finally despoiled her of her last possessions, and even of the title of countess, which she forfeited by her marriage with Vrank Van Borselen, a gentleman of Zea land, contrary to a compact to which Philip’s tyranny had forced her to consent. After a career the most checkered and romantic which is recorded in history, the beautiful and hitherto unfortunate Jacqueline found repose and happiness in the tranquillity of private life, and her death in 1436, at the age of thirty-six, removed all restraint from Philip’s thirst for aggrandizement, in the indulgence of which he drowned his remorse. As if fortune had conspired for the rapid consolidation of his greatness, the death of Philip, count of St. Pol, who had succeeded his brother John in the dukedom of Brabant, gave him the sovereignty of that extensive province; and his dominions soon extended to the very limits of Picardy, by the Peace of Arras, concluded with the dauphin, now become Charles VII., and by his finally contracting a strict alliance with France.
Philip of Burgundy, thus become sovereign of dominions at once so extensive and compact, had the precaution and address to obtain from the emperor a formal renunciation of his existing, though almost nominal, rights as lord paramount. He next purchased the title of the duchess of Luxemburg to that duchy; and thus the states of the House of Burgundy gained an extent about equal to that of the existing kingdom of the Netherlands. For although on the north and east they did not include Friesland, the bishopric of Utrecht, Guelders, or the province of Liege, still on the south and west they comprised French Flanders, the Boulonnais, Artois, and a part of Picardy, besides Burgundy. But it has been already seen how limited an authority was possessed by the rulers of the maritime provinces. Flanders in particular, the most populous and wealthy, strictly pre-served its republican institutions. Ghent and Bruges were the two great towns of the province, and each maintained its individual authority over its respective territory, with great indifference to the will or the wishes of the sovereign duke. Philip, however, had the policy to divide most effectually these rival towns. After having fallen into the hands of the people of Bruges, whom he made a vain attempt to surprise, and who massacred numbers of his followers before his eyes, he forced them to submission by the assistance of the citizens of Ghent, who sanctioned the banishment of the chief men of the vanquished town. But some years later Ghent was in its turn oppressed and punished for having resisted the payment of some new tax. It found no support from the rest of Flanders. Nevertheless this powerful city singly maintained the war for the space of two years; but the intrepid burghers finally yielded to the veterans of the duke, formed to victory in the French wars. The principal privileges of Ghent were on this occasion revoked and annulled.
During these transactions the province of Holland, which enjoyed a degree of liberty almost equal to Flanders, had declared war against the Hanseatic towns on its own proper authority. Supported by Zealand, which formed a distinct country, but was strictly united to it by a common interest, Holland equipped a fleet against the pirates which infested their coasts and assailed their commerce, and soon forced them to submission. Philip in the meantime contrived to manage the conflicting elements of his power with great subtlety. Notwithstanding his ambitious and despotic character, he conducted himself so cautiously that his people by common consent confirmed his title of “the Good,” which was somewhat inappropriately given to him at the very epoch when he appeared to deserve it least. Age and exhaustion may be adduced among the causes of the toleration which signalized his latter years; and if he was the usurper of some parts of his dominions, he cannot be pronounced a tyrant over any.
Philip had an only son, born and reared in the midst of that ostentatious greatness which he looked on as his own by divine right; whereas his father remembered that it had chiefly become his by fortuitous acquirement, and much of it by means not likely to look well in the sight of Heaven. This son was Charles, count of Charolais, afterward celebrated under the name of Charles the Rash. He gave, even in the lifetime of his father, a striking specimen of despot-ism to the people of Holland. Appointed stadtholder of that province in 1457, he appropriated to himself several important successions; forced the inhabitants to labor in the formation of dikes for the security of the property thus acquired; and, in a word, conducted himself as an absolute master. Soon afterward he broke out into open opposition to his father, who had complained of this undutiful and impetuous son to the states of the provinces, venting his grief in lamentations instead of punishing his people’s wrongs. But his private rage burst forth one day in a manner as furious as his public expressions were tame. He went so far as to draw his sword on Charles and pursue him through his palace; and a disgusting yet instructive spectacle it was, to see this father and son in mutual and disgraceful discord, like two birds of prey quarrelling in the same eyry; the old count outrageous to find he was no longer undisputed sovereign, and the young one in feeling that he had not yet become so. But Philip was declining daily. Yet even when dying he preserved his natural haughtiness and energy; and being provoked by the in-subordination of the people of Liege, he had himself carried to the scene of their punishment. The refractory town of Dinant, on the Meuse, was utterly destroyed by the two counts, and six hundred of the citizens drowned in the river, and in cold blood. The following year Philip expired, leaving to Charles his long-wished-for inheritance.
The reign of Philip had produced a revolution in Belgian manners; for his example and the great increase of wealth had introduced habits of luxury hitherto quite unknown. He had also brought into fashion romantic notions of military honor, love, and chivalry; which, while they certainly softened the character of the nobility, contained nevertheless a certain mixture of frivolity and extravagance. The celebrated order of the Golden Fleece, which was introduced by Philip, was less an institution based on grounds of rational magnificence than a puerile emblem of his passion for Isabella of Portugal, his third wife. The verses of a contemporary poet induced him to make a vow for the conquest of Constantinople from the Turks. He certainly never attempted to execute this senseless crusade; but he did not omit so fair an opportunity for levying new taxes on his people. And it is undoubted that the splendor of his court and the immorality of his example were no slight sources of corruption to the countries which he governed.
In this respect, at least, a totally different kind of government was looked for on the part of his son and successor, who was by nature and habit a mere soldier. Charles began his career by seizing on all the money and jewels left by his father; he next dismissed the crowd of useless functionaries who had fed upon, under the pretence of managing, the treasures of the state. But this salutary and sweeping reform was only effected to enable the sovereign to pursue uncontrolled the most fatal of all passions, that of war. Nothing can better paint the true character of this haughty and impetuous prince than his crest (a branch of holly), and his motto, “Who touches it, pricks himself.” Charles had conceived a furious and not ill-founded hatred for his base yet formidable neighbor and rival, Louis XL of France. The latter had succeeded in obtaining from Philip the restitution of some towns in Picardy; cause sufficient to excite the resentment of his inflammable successor, who, during his father’s lifetime, took open part with some of the vassals of France in a temporary struggle against the throne. Louis, who had been worsted in a combat where both he and Charles bore a part, was not behindhand in his hatred. But inasmuch as one was haughty, audacious, and intemperate, the other was cunning, cool, and treacherous. Charles was the proudest, most daring, and most unmanageable prince that ever made the sword the type and the guarantee of greatness; Louis the most subtle, dissimulating, and treacherous king that ever wove in his closet a tissue of hollow diplomacy and bad faith in government. The struggle between these sovereigns was unequal only in respect to this difference of character; for France, subdivided as it still was, and exhausted by the wars with England, was not comparable, either as regarded men, money, or the other resources of the state, to the compact and prosperous dominions of Burgundy.
Charles showed some symptoms of good sense and greatness of mind, soon after his accession to power, that gave a false coloring to his disposition, and encouraged illusory hopes as to his future career. Scarcely was he proclaimed count of Flanders at Ghent, when the populace, surrounding his hotel, absolutely insisted on and extorted his consent to the restitution of their ancient privileges. Furious as Charles was at this bold proof of insubordination, he did not revenge it; and he treated with equal indulgence the city of Mechlin, which had expelled its governor and razed the citadel. The people of Liege, having revolted against their bishop, Louis of Bourbon, who was closely connected with the House of Burgundy, were defeated by the duke in 1467, but he treated them with clemency; and immediately after this event, in February, 1468, he concluded with Ed-ward IV. of England an alliance, offensive and defensive, against France.
The real motive of this alliance was rivalry and hatred against Louis. The ostensible pretext was this monarch’s having made war against the duke of Brittany, Charles’s old ally in the short contest in which he, while yet but count, had measured his strength with his rival after he became king. The present union between England and Burgundy was too powerful not to alarm Louis; he demanded an explanatory conference with Charles, and the town of Perenne in Picardy was fixed on for their meeting. Louis, willing to imitate the boldness of his rival, who had formerly come to meet him in the very midst of his army, now came to the rendezvous almost alone. But he was severely mortified and near paying a greater penalty than fright for this hazardous conduct. The duke, having received intelligence of a new revolt at Liege excited by some of the agents of France, instantly made Louis prisoner, in defiance of every law of honor or fair dealing. The excess of his rage and hatred might have carried him to a more disgraceful extremity, had not Louis, by force of bribery, gained over some of his most influential counsellors, who succeeded in appeasing his rage. He contented himself with humiliating, when he was disposed to punish. He forced his captive to accompany him to Liege, and witness the ruin of this unfortunate town, which he delivered over to plunder; and having given this lesson to Louis, he set him at liberty.
From this period there was a marked and material change in the conduct of Charles. He had been previously moved by sentiments of chivalry and notions of greatness. But sullied by his act of public treachery and violence toward the monarch who had, at least in seeming, manifested unlimited confidence in his honor, a secret sense of shame embittered his feelings and soured his temper. He became so insupportable to those around him that he was abandoned by several of his best officers, and even by his natural brother, Baldwin of Burgundy, who passed over to the side of Louis. Charles was at this time embarrassed by the expense of entertaining and maintaining Edward IV. and numerous English exiles, who were forced to take refuge in the Netherlands by the successes of the earl of Warwick, who had replaced Henry VI. on the throne. Charles at the same time held out to several princes in Europe hopes of bestowing on them in marriage his only daughter and heiress Mary, while he privately assured his friends, if his courtiers and ministers may be so called, “that he never meant to Lave a son-in-law until he was disposed to make himself a monk.” In a word, he was no longer guided by any principle but that of fierce and brutal selfishness.
In this mood he soon became tired of the service of his nobles and of the national militia, who only maintained toward him a forced and modified obedience founded on the usages and rights of their several provinces ; and he took into his pay all sorts of adventurers and vagabonds who were willing to submit to him as their absolute master.
When the taxes necessary for the support and pay of these bands of mercenaries caused the people to murmur, Charles laughed at their complaints, and severely punished some of the most refractory. He then entered France at the head of his army, to assist the duke of Brittany; but at the moment when nothing seemed to oppose the most extensive views of his ambition he lost by his hot-brained caprice every advantage within his easy reach: he chose to sit down before Beauvais; and thus made of this town, which lay in his road, a complete stumbling-block on his path of conquest.
The time he lost before its walls caused the defeat and ruin of his unsupported, or as might be said his abandoned, ally, who made the best terms he could with Louis; and thus Charles’s presumption and obstinacy paralyzed all the efforts of his courage and power. But he soon afterward acquired the duchy of Guelders from the old Duke Arnoul, who had been temporarily despoiled of it by his son Adolphus. It was almost a hereditary consequence in this family that the children should revolt and rebel against their parents. Adolphus had the effrontery to found his justification on the argument that his father having reigned forty-four years, he was fully entitled to his share-a fine practical authority for greedy and expectant heirs. The old father replied to this reasoning by offering to meet his son in single combat. Charles cut short the affair by making Adolphus prisoner and seizing on the disputed territory; for which he, however, paid Arnoul the sum of two hundred and twenty thousand florins.
After this acquisition Charles conceived and had much at heart the design of becoming king, the first time that the Netherlands were considered sufficiently important and consolidated to entitle their possessor to that title. To lead to this object he offered to the emperor of Germany the hand of his daughter Mary for his son Maximilian. The emperor acceded to this proposition, and repaired to the city of Troves to meet Charles and countenance his coronation. But the insolence and selfishness of the latter put an end to the project. He humiliated the emperor, who was of a niggardly and mean-spirited disposition, by appearing with a train so numerous and sumptuous as totally to eclipse the imperial retinue; and deeply offended him by wishing to postpone the marriage, from his jealousy of creating for himself a rival in a son-in-law who might embitter his old age as he had done that of his own father. The mortified emperor quitted the place in high dudgeon, and the projected kingdom was doomed to a delay of some centuries.
Charles, urged on by the double motive of thirst for aggrandizement and vexation at his late failure, attempted, under pretext of some internal dissensions, to gain possession of Cologne and its territory, which belonged to the empire ; and at the same time planned the invasion of France, in concert with his brother-in-law Edward IV., who had recovered possession of England. But the town of Nuys, in the archbishopric of Cologne, occupied him a full year before its walls. The emperor, who came to its succor, actually besieged the besiegers in their camp; and the dispute was terminated by leaving it to the arbitration of the pope’s legate, and placing the contested town in his keeping. This half triumph gained by Charles saved Louis wholly from destruction. Edward, who had landed in France with a numerous force, seeing no appearance of his Burgundian allies, made peace with Louis; and Charles, who arrived in all haste, but not till after the treaty was signed, up-braided and abused the English king, and turned a warm friend into an inveterate enemy.
Louis, whose crooked policy had so far succeeded on all occasions, now seemed to favor Charles’s plans of aggrandizement, and to recognize his pretended right to Lorraine, which legitimately belonged to the empire, and the invasion of which by Charles would be sure to set him at variance with the whole of Germany. The infatuated duke, blind to the ruin to which he was thus hurrying, abandoned to Louis, in return for this insidious support, the constable of St. Pol; a nobleman who had long maintained his independence in Picardy, where he had large possessions, and who was fitted to be a valuable friend or formidable enemy to either. Charles now marched against, and soon over-came, Lorraine. Thence he turned his army against the Swiss, who were allies to the conquered province, but who sent the most submissive dissuasions to the invader. They begged for peace, assuring Charles that their romantic but sterile mountains were not altogether worth the bridles of his splendidly equipped cavalry. But the more they hum-bled themselves, the higher was his haughtiness raised. It appeared that he had at this period conceived the project of uniting in one common conquest the ancient dominions of Lothaire I., who had possessed the whole of the countries traversed by the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Po; and he even spoke of passing the Alps, like Hannibal, for the invasion of Italy.
Switzerland was, by moral analogy as well as physical fact, the rock against which these extravagant projects were shattered. The army of Charles, which engaged the hardy mountaineers in the gorges of. the Alps near the town of Granson, were literally crushed to atoms by the stones and fragments of granite detached from the heights and hurled down upon their heads. Charles, after this defeat, returned to the charge six weeks later, having rallied his army and drawn reinforcements from Burgundy. But Louis had despatched a body of cavalry to the Swiss a force in which they were before deficient; and thus augmented, their army amounted to thirty-four thousand men. They took up a position, skilfully chosen, on the borders of the Lake of Morat, where they were attacked by Charles at the head of sixty thousand soldiers of all ranks. The result was the total defeat of the latter, with the loss of ten thousand killed, whose bones, gathered into an immense heap, and bleaching in the winds, remained for above three centuries; a terrible monument of rashness and injustice on the one hand, and of patriotism and valor on the other.
Charles was now plunged into a state of profound melancholy; but he soon burst from this gloomy mood into one of renewed fierceness and fatal desperation. Nine months after the battle of Morat he re-entered Lorraine, at the head of an army, not composed of his faithful militia of the Netherlands, but of those mercenaries in whom it was madness to place trust. The reinforcements meant to be despatched to him by those provinces were kept back by the artifices of the count of Campo Basso, an Italian who commanded his cavalry, and who only gained his confidence basely to betray it. Rene, duke of Lorraine, at the head of the confederate forces, offered battle to Charles under the walls of Nancy; and the night before the combat Campo Basso went over to the enemy with the troops under his command. Still Charles had the way open for retreat. Fresh troops from Burgundy and Flanders were on their march to join him; but he would not be dissuaded from his resolution to fight, and he resolved to try his fortune once more with his dispirited and shattered army. On this occasion the fate of Charles was decided, and the fortune of Louis triumphant. The rash and ill-fated duke lost both the battle and his life. His body, mutilated with wounds, was found the next day, and buried with great pomp in the town of Nancy, by the orders of the generous victor, the duke of Lorraine.
Thus perished the last prince of the powerful House of Burgundy. Charles left to his only daughter, then eighteen years of age, the inheritance of his extensive dominions, and with them that of the hatred and jealousy which he had so largely excited. External spoliation immediately commenced, and internal disunion quickly followed. Louis XI. seized on Burgundy and a part of Artois, as fiefs devolving to the crown in default of male issue. Several of the provinces refused to pay the new subsidies commanded in the name of Mary; Flanders alone showing a disposition to uphold the rights of the young princess. The states were assembled at Ghent, and ambassadors sent to the king of France, in the hopes of obtaining peace on reasonable terms. Louis, true to his system of subtle perfidy, placed before one of those ambassadors, the burgomaster of Ghent, a letter from the inexperienced princess, which proved her intention to govern by the counsel of her father’s ancient ministers rather than by that of the deputies of the nation. This was enough to decide the indignant Flemings to render them-selves at once masters of the government and get rid of the ministers whom they hated. Two Burgundian nobles, Hugonet and Imbercourt, were arrested, accused of treason, and beheaded under the very eyes of their agonized and outraged mistress, who threw herself before the frenzied multitude, vainly imploring mercy for these innocent men. The people having thus completely gained the upper hand over the Burgundian influence, Mary was sovereign of the Netherlands but in name.
It would have now been easy for Louis XI. to have obtained for the dauphin, his son, the hand of this hitherto unfortunate but interesting princess; but he thought himself sufficiently strong and cunning to gain possession of her states without such an alliance. Mary, however, thus in some measure disdained, if not actually rejected, by Louis, soon after married her first-intended husband, Maximilian of Austria, son of the emperor Frederick III. ; a prince so absolutely destitute, in consequence of his father’s parsimony, that she was obliged to borrow money from the towns of Flanders to defray the expenses of his suite. Nevertheless he seemed equally acceptable to his bride and to his new subjects. They not only supplied all his wants, but enabled him to maintain the war against Louis XI., whom they defeated at the battle of Guinegate in Picardy, and forced to make peace on more favorable terms than they had hoped for. But these wealthy provinces were not more zealous for the national defence than bent on the maintenance of their local privileges, which Maximilian little understood, and sympathized with less. He was bred in the school of absolute despotism; and his duchess having met with a too early death by a fall from her horse in the year 1484, he could not even succeed in obtaining the nomination of guardian to his own children without passing through a year of civil war. His power being almost nominal in the northern provinces, he vainly attempted to suppress the violence of the factions of Hoeks and Kaabeljauws. In Flanders his authority was openly resisted. The turbulent towns of that country, and particularly Bruges, taking umbrage at a government half German, half Burgundian, and altogether hateful to the people, rose up against Maximilian, seized on his person, imprisoned him in a house which still exists, and put to death his most faithful followers. But the fury of Ghent and other places becoming still more outrageous, Maximilian asked as a favor from his rebel subjects of Bruges to be guarded while a prisoner by them alone. Ile was then king of the Romans, and all Europe became interested in his fate. The pope addressed a brief to the town of Bruges, demanding his deliverance. But the burghers were as inflexible as factious; and they at length released him, but not until they had concluded with him and the assembled states a treaty which most amply secured the enjoyment of their privileges and the pardon of their rebellion.
But these kind of compacts were never observed by the princes of those days beyond the actual period of their capacity to violate them. The emperor having entered the Netherlands at the head of forty thousand men, Maximilian, so supported, soon showed his contempt for the obligations lie had sworn to, and had recourse to force for the extension of his authority. The valor of the Flemings and the military talents of their leader, Philip of Cleves, thwarted all his projects, and a new compromise was entered into. Flanders paid a large subsidy, and held fast her rights. The German troops were sent into Holland, and employed for the extinction of the Hoeks; who, as they formed by far the weaker faction, were now soon destroyed. That province, which had been so long distracted by its intestine feuds, and which had consequently played but an insignificant part in the transactions of the Netherlands, now resumed its place; and acquired thenceforth new honor, till it at length came to figure in all the importance of historical distinction.
The situation of the Netherlands was now extremely precarious and difficult to manage, during the unstable sway of a government so weak as Maximilian’s. But he having succeeded his father on the imperial throne in 1493, and his son Philip having been proclaimed the following year duke and count of the various provinces at the age of sixteen, a more pleasing prospect was offered to the people. Philip, young, handsome, and descended by his mother from the ancient sovereigns of the country, was joyfully hailed by all the towns. He did not belie the hopes so enthusiastically expressed. He had the good sense to renounce all pretensions to Friesland, the fertile source of many preceding quarrels and sacrifices. He re-established the ancient commercial relations with England, to which country Maximilian had given mortal offence by sustaining the imposture of Perkin Warbeck. Philip also consulted the states-general on his projects of a double alliance between himself and his sister with the son and daughter of Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and Isabella, queen of Castile; and from this wise precaution the project soon became one of national partiality instead of private or personal interest. In this manner complete harmony was established between the young prince and the inhabitants of the Netherlands. All the ills produced by civil war disappeared with immense rapidity in Flanders and Brabant, as soon as peace was thus consolidated. Even Holland, though it had particularly felt the scourge of these dissensions, and suffered severely from repeated inundations, began to recover. Yet for all this, Philip can be scarcely called a good prince : his merits were negative rather than real. But that sufficed for the nation; which found in the nullity of its sovereign no obstacle to the resumption of that prosperous career which had been checked by the despotism of the House of Burgundy, and the attempts of Maximilian to continue the same system.
The reign of Philip, unfortunately a short one, was rendered remarkable by two intestine quarrels; one in Friesland, the other in Guelders. The Frisons, who had been so isolated from the more important affairs of Europe that they were in a manner lost sight of by history for several centuries, had nevertheless their full share of domestic disputes; too long, too multifarious, and too minute, to allow us to give more than this brief notice of their existence. But finally, about the period of Philip’s accession, eastern Friesland had chosen for its count a gentleman of the country surnamed Edzart, who fixed the headquarters of his military government at Embden. The sight of such an elevation in an individual whose pretensions he thought far inferior to his own induced Albert of Saxony, who had well served Maximilian against the refractory Flemings, to demand as his reward the title of stadtholder or hereditary governor of Friesland. But it was far easier for the emperor to accede to this request than for his favorite to put the grant into effect. The Frisons, true to their old character, held firm to their privileges, and fought for their maintenance with heroic courage. Albert, furious at this resistance, had the horrid barbarity to cause to be impaled the chief burghers of the town of Leuwaarden, which he had taken by assault. But he himself died in the year 1500, without succeeding in his projects of an ambition unjust in its principle and atrocious in its practice.
The war of Guelders was of a totally different nature. In this case it was not a question of popular resistance to a tyrannical nomination, but of patriotic fidelity to the reigning family. Adolphus, the duke who had dethroned his father, had died in Flanders, leaving a son who had been brought up almost a captive as long as Maximilian governed the states of his inheritance. This young man, called Charles of Egmont, and who is honored in the history of his country under the title of the Achilles of Guelders, fell into the hands of the French during the combat in which he made his first essay in arms. The town of Guelders unanimously joined to pay his ransom; and as soon as he was at liberty they one and all proclaimed him duke. The emperor Philip and the Germanic diet in vain protested against this measure, and declared Charles a usurper. The spirit of justice and of liberty spoke more loudly than the thunders of their ban; and the people resolved to support to the last this scion of an ancient race, glorious in much of its conduct, though often criminal in many of its members. Charles of Egmont found faithful friends in his devoted subjects; and he maintained his rights, sometimes with, sometimes without, the assistance of France making up for his want of numbers by energy and enterprise. We cannot follow this warlike prince in the long series of adventures which consolidated his power; nor stop to depict his daring adherents on land, who caused the whole of Holland to tremble at their deeds; nor his pirates the chief of whom, Long Peter, called himself king of the Zuyder Zee. But amid all the consequent troubles of such a struggle, it is marvellous to find Charles of Egmont upholding his country in a state of high prosperity, and leaving it at his death almost as rich as Holland itself.
The incapacity of Philip the Fair doubtless contributed to cause him the loss of this portion of his dominions. This prince, after his first acts of moderation and good sense, was remarkable only as being the father of Charles V. The remainder of his life was worn out in undignified pleasures; and he died almost suddenly, in the year 1506, at Burgos in Castile, whither he had repaired to pay a visit to his brother-in-law, the king of Spain.