HOLLAND THE HISTORY OF THE NETHERLANDS
THOMAS COLLEY GRATTAN
WITH A SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER OF RECENT EVENTS BY JULIAN HAWTHORNE
Lardner's ‘Cyclop.’ vol. x. 1830
TO THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER, PRINCE OF PARMA A.D. 1584--1592
The death of William of Nassau not only closes the scene of his individual career, but throws a deep gloom over the history of a revolution that was sealed by so great a sacrifice. The animation of the story seems suspended. Its events lose for a time their excitement. The last act of the political drama is performed. The great hero of the tragedy is no more. The other most memorable actors have one by one passed away. A whole generation has fallen in the contest; and it is with exhausted interest, and feelings less intense, that we resume the details of war and blood, which seem no longer sanctified by the grander movements of heroism. The stirring impulse of slavery breaking its chains yields to the colder inspiration of independence maintaining its rights. The men we have now to depict were born free; and the deeds they did were those of stern resolve rather than of frantic despair. The present picture may be as instructive as the last, but it is less thrilling. Passion gives place to reason; and that which wore the air of fierce romance is superseded by what bears the stamp of calm reality.
The consternation caused by the news of William's death soon yielded to the firmness natural to a people inured to suffering and calamity. The United Provinces rejected at once the overtures made by the prince of Parma to induce them to obedience. They seemed proud to show that their fate did not depend on that of one man. He therefore turned his attention to the most effective means of obtaining results by force which he found it impossible to secure by persuasion. He proceeded vigorously to the reduction of the chief towns of Flanders, the conquest of which would give him possession of the entire province, no army now remaining to oppose him in the field. He soon obliged Ypres and Termonde to surrender; and Ghent, forced by famine, at length yielded on reasonable terms. The most severe was the utter abolition of the reformed religion; by which a large portion of the population was driven to the alternative of exile; and they passed over in crowds to Holland and Zealand, not half of the inhabitants remaining behind. Mechlin, and finally Brussels, worn out by a fruitless resistance, followed the example of the rest; and thus, within a year after the death of William of Nassau, the power of Spain was again established in the whole province of Flanders, and the others which comprise what is in modern days generally denominated Belgium.
But these domestic victories of the prince of Parma were barren in any of those results which humanity would love to see in the train of conquest. The reconciled provinces presented the most deplorable spectacle. The chief towns were almost depopulated. The inhabitants had in a great measure fallen victims to war, pestilence and famine. Little inducement existed to replace by marriage the ravages caused by death, for few men wished to propagate a race which divine wrath seemed to have marked for persecution. The thousands of villages which had covered the face of the Country were absolutely abandoned to the wolves, which had so rapidly increased that they attacked not merely cattle and children, but grown-up persons. The dogs, driven abroad by hunger, had become as ferocious as other beasts of prey, and joined in large packs to hunt down brutes and men. Neither fields, nor woods, nor roads, were now to be distinguished by any visible limits. All was an entangled mass of trees, weeds, and grass. The prices of the necessaries of life were so high that people of rank, after selling everything to buy bread, were obliged to have recourse to open beggary in the streets of the great towns.
From this frightful picture, and the numerous details which imagination may readily supply, we gladly turn to the contrast afforded by the northern states. Those we have just described have a feeble hold upon our sympathies; we cannot pronounce their sufferings to be unmerited. The want of firmness or enlightenment, which preferred such an existence to the risk of entire destruction, only heightens the glory of the people whose unyielding energy and courage gained them so proud a place among the independent nations of Europe.
The murder of William seemed to carry to the United Provinces conviction of the weakness as well as the atrocity of Spain; and the indecent joy excited among the royalists added to their courage. An immediate council was created, composed of eighteen members, at the head of which was unanimously placed Prince Maurice of Nassau (who even then gave striking indications of talent and prudence); his elder brother, the Count of Beuren, now Prince of Orange, being still kept captive in Spain. Count Hohenloe was appointed lieutenant-general; and several other measures were promptly adopted to consolidate the power of the infant republic. The whole of its forces amounted but to five thousand five hundred men. The prince of Parma had eighty thousand at his command. With such means of carrying on his conquests, he sat down regularly before Antwerp, and commenced the operations of one of the most celebrated among the many memorable sieges of those times. He completely surrounded the city with troops; placing a large portion of his army on the left bank of the Scheldt, the other on the right; and causing to be attacked at the same time the two strong forts of Liefkinshoek and Lillo. Repulsed on the latter important point, his only hope of gaining the command of the navigation of the river, on which the success of the siege depended, was by throwing a bridge across the stream. Neither its great rapidity, nor its immense width, nor the want of wood and workmen, could deter him from this vast undertaking. He was assisted, if not guided, in all his projects on the occasion, by Barroccio, a celebrated Italian engineer sent to him by Philip; and the merit of all that was done ought fairly to be, at least, divided between the general and the engineer. If enterprise and perseverance belonged to the first, science and skill were the portion of the latter. They first caused two strong forts to be erected at opposite sides of the river; and adding to their resources by every possible means, they threw forward a pier on each side of, and far into, the stream. The stakes, driven firmly into the bed of the river and cemented with masses of earth and stones, were at a proper height covered with planks and defended by parapets. These estoccades, as they were called, reduced the river to half its original breadth; and the cannon with which they were mounted rendered the passage extremely dangerous to hostile vessels. But to fill up this strait a considerable number of boats were fastened together by chain-hooks and anchors; and being manned and armed with cannon, they were moored in the interval between the estoccades. During these operations, a canal was cut between the Moer and Calloo; by which means a communication was formed with Ghent, which insured a supply of ammunition and provisions. The works of the bridge, which was two thousand four hundred feet in length, were constructed with such strength and solidity that they braved the winds, the floods, and the ice of the whole winter.
The people of Antwerp at first laughed to scorn the whole of these stupendous preparations; but when they found that the bridge resisted the natural elements, by which they doubted not it would have been destroyed, they began to tremble in the anticipation of famine; yet they vigorously prepared for their defence, and rejected the overtures made by the prince of Parma even at this advanced stage of his proceedings. Ninety-seven pieces of cannon now defended the bridge; besides which thirty large barges at each side of the river guarded its extremities; and forty ships of war formed a fleet of protection, constantly ready to meet any attack from the besieged. They, seeing the Scheldt thus really closed up, and all communication with Zealand impossible, felt their whole safety to depend on the destruction of the bridge. The states of Zealand now sent forward an expedition, which, joined with some ships from Lillo, gave new courage to the besieged; and everything was prepared for their great attempt. An Italian engineer named Giambelli was at this time in Antwerp, and by his talents had long protracted the defence. He has the chief merit of being the inventor of those terrible fire-ships which gained the title of "infernal machines"; and with some of these formidable instruments and the Zealand fleet, the long-projected attack was at length made.
Early on the night of the 4th of April, the prince of Parma and his army were amazed by the spectacle of three huge masses of flame floating down the river, accompanied by numerous lesser appearances of a similar kind, and bearing directly against the prodigious barrier, which had cost months of labor to him and his troops, and immense sums of money to the state. The whole surface of the Scheldt presented one sheet of fire; the Country all round was as visible as at noon; the flags, the arms of the soldiers, and every object on the bridge, in the fleet, or the forts, stood out clearly to view; and the pitchy darkness of the sky gave increased effect to the marked distinctness of all. Astonishment was soon succeeded by consternation, when one of the three machines burst with a terrific noise before they reached their intended mark, but time enough to offer a sample of their nature. The prince of Parma, with numerous officers and soldiers rushed to the bridge, to witness the effects of this explosion; and just then a second and still larger fire-ship, having burst through the flying bridge of boats, struck against one of the estoccades. Alexander, unmindful of danger, used every exertion of his authority to stimulate the sailors in their attempts to clear away the monstrous machine which threatened destruction to all within its reach. Happily for him, an ensign who was near, forgetting in his general's peril all rules of discipline and forms of ceremony, actually forced him from the estoccade. He had not put his foot on the river bank when the machine blew up. The effects were such as really baffle description. The bridge was burst through; the estoccade was shattered almost to atoms, and, with all that it supported--men, cannon, and the huge machinery employed in the various works--dispersed in the air. The cruel marquis of Roubais, many other officers, and eight hundred soldiers, perished in all varietssies of death--by flood, or flame, or the horrid wounds from the missiles with which the terrible machine was overcharged. Fragments of bodies and limbs were flung far and wide; and many gallant soldiers were destroyed, without a vestige of the human form being left to prove that they had ever existed. The river, forced from its bed at either side, rushed into the forts and drowned numbers of their garrisons; while the ground far beyond shook as in an earthquake. The prince was struck down by a beam, and lay for some time senseless, together with two generals, Delvasto and Gajitani, both more seriously wounded than he; and many of the soldiers were burned and mutilated in the most frightful manner. Alexander soon recovered; and by his presence of mind, humanity, and resolution, he endeavored with incredible quickness to repair the mischief, and raised the confidence of his army as high as ever. Had the Zealand fleet come in time to the spot, the whole plan might have been crowned with success; but by some want of concert, or accidental delay, it did not appear; and consequently the beleaguered town received no relief.
One last resource was left to the besieged; that which had formerly been resorted to at Leyden, and by which the place was saved. To enable them to inundate the immense plain which stretched between Lillo and Strabrock up to the walls of Antwerp, it was necessary to cut through the dike which defended it against the irruptions of the eastern Scheldt. This plain was traversed by a high and wide Counter-dike, called the dike of Couvestien; and Alexander, knowing its importance, had early taken possession of and strongly defended it by several forts. Two attacks were made by the garrison of Antwerp on this important construction; the latter of which led to one of the most desperate enCounters of the war. The prince, seeing that on the results of this day depended the whole consequences of his labors, fought with a valor that even he had never before displayed, and he was finally victorious. The confederates were forced to abandon the attack, leaving three thousand dead upon the dike or at its base; and the Spaniards lost full eight hundred men.
One more fruitless attempt was made to destroy the bridge and raise the siege, by means of an enormous vessel bearing the presumptuous title of The End of the War. But this floating citadel ran aground, without producing any effect; and the gallant governor of Antwerp, the celebrated Philip de Saint Aldegonde, was forced to capitulate on the 16th of August, after a siege of fourteen months. The reduction of Antwerp was considered a miracle of perseverance and courage. The prince of Parma was elevated by his success to the highest pinnacle of renown; and Philip, on receiving the news, displayed a burst of joy such as rarely varied his cold and gloomy reserve.
Even while the fate of Antwerp was undecided, the United Provinces, seeing that they were still too weak to resist alone the undivided force of the Spanish monarchy, had opened negotiations with France and England at once, in the hope of gaining one or the other for an ally and protector. Henry III. gave a most honorable reception to the ambassadors sent to his court, and was evidently disposed to accept their offers, had not the distracted state of his own Country, still torn by civil war, quite disabled him from any effective co-operation. The deputies sent to England were also well received. Elizabeth listened to the proposalsof the states, sent them an ambassador in return, and held out the most flattering hopes of succor. But her cautious policy would not suffer her to accept the sovereignty; and she declared that she would in nowise interfere with the negotiations, which might end in its being accepted by the king of France. She gave prompt evidence of her sincerity by an advance of considerable sums of money, and by sending to Holland a body of six thousand troops, under the command of her favorite, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester; and as security for the repayment of her loan, the towns of Flushing and Brille, and the castle of Rammekins, were given up to her.
The earl of Leicester was accompanied by a splendid retinue of noblemen, and a select troop of five hundred followers. He was received at Flushing by the governor, Sir Philip Sidney, his nephew, the model of manners and conduct for the young men of his day. But Leicester possessed neither courage nor capacity equal to the trust reposed in him; and his arbitrary and indolent conduct soon disgusted the people whom he was sent to assist. They had, in the first impulse of their gratitude, given him the title of governor and captain-general of the provinces, in the hope of flattering Elizabeth. But this had a far contrary effect: she was equally displeased with the states and with Leicester; and it was with difficulty that, after many humble submissions, they were able to appease her.
To form a Counterpoise to the power so lavishly conferred on Leicester, Prince Maurice was, according to the wise advice of Olden Barnevelt, raised to the dignity of Stadtholder , captain-general, and admiral of Holland and Zealand. This is the first instance of these states taking on themselves the nomination to the dignity of Stadtholder , for even William has held his commission from Philip, or in his name; but Friesland, Groningen, and Guelders had already appointed their local governors, under the same title, by the authority of the states-general, the archDuke Mathias, or even of the provincial states. Holland had now also at the head of its civil government a citizen full of talent and probity, who was thus able to contend with the insidious designs of Leicester against the liberty he nominally came to protect. This was Barnevelt, who was promoted from his office of pensionary of Rotterdam to that of Holland, and who accepted the dignity only on condition of being free to resign it if any accommodation of differences should take place with Spain.
Alexander of Parma had, by the death of his mother, in February, 1586, exchanged his title of prince for the superior one of Duke of Parma, and soon resumed his enterprises with his usual energy and success; various operations took place, in which the English on every opportunity distinguished themselves; particularly in an action near the town of Grave, in Brabant; and in the taking of Axel by escalade, under the orders of Sir Philip Sidney. A more important affair occurred near Zutphen, at a place called Warnsfeld, both of which towns have given names to the action. On this occasion the veteran Spaniards, under the marquis of Guasto, were warmly attacked and completely defeated by the English; but the victory was dearly purchased by the death of Sir Philip Sidney, who was mortally wounded in the thigh, and expired a few days afterward, at the early age of thirty-two years. In addition to the valor, talent, and conduct, which had united to establish his fame, he displayed, on this last opportunity of his short career, an instance of humanity that sheds a new lustre on even a character like his. Stretched on the battlefield, in all the agony of his wound, and parched with thirst, his afflicted followers brought him some water, procured with difficulty at a distance, and during the heat of the fight. But Sidney, seeing a soldier lying near, mangled like himself, and apparently expiring, refused the water, saying, "Give it to that poor man; his sufferings are greater than mine."
Leicester's conduct was now become quite intolerable to the states. His incapacity and presumption were every day more evident and more revolting. He seemed to consider himself in a province wholly reduced to English authority, and paid no sort of attention to the very opposite character of the people. An eminent Dutch author accounts for this, in terms which may make an Englishman of this age not a little proud of the contrast which his character presents to what it was then considered. "The Englishman," says Grotius, "obeys like a slave, and governs like a tyrant; while the Belgian knows how to serve and to command with equal moderation." The dislike between Leicester and those he insulted and misgoverned soon became mutual. He retired to the town of Utrecht; and pushed his injurious conduct to such an extent that he became an object of utter hatred to the provinces. All the friendly feelings toward England were gradually changed into suspicion and dislike. Conferences took place at The Hague between Leicester and the states, in which Barnevelt overwhelmed his contemptible shuffling by the force of irresistible eloquence and well-deserved reproaches; and after new acts of treachery, still more odious than his former, this unworthy favorite at last set out for England, to lay an account of his government at the feet of the queen.
The growing hatred against England was fomented by the true patriots, who aimed at the liberty of their Country; and may be excused, from the various instances of treachery displayed, not only by the commander-in-chief, but by several of his inferiors in command. A strong fort, near Zutphen, under the government of Roland York, the town of Deventer, under that of William Starily, and subsequently Guelders, under a Scotchman named Pallot, were delivered up to the Spaniards by these men; and about the same time the English cavalry committed some excesses in Guelders and Holland, which added to the prevalent prejudice against the nation in general. This enmity was no longer to be concealed. The partisans of Leicester were, one by one, under plausible pretexts, removed from the council of state; and Elizabeth having required from Holland the exportation into England of a large quantity of rye, it was firmly but respectfully refused, as inconsistent with the wants of the provinces.
Prince Maurice, from the caprice and jealousy of Leicester, now united in himself the whole power of command, and commenced that brilliant course of conduct which consolidated the independence of his Country and elevated him to the first rank of military glory. His early efforts were turned to the suppression of the partiality which in some places existed for English domination; and he never allowed himself to be deceived by the hopes of peace held out by the emperor and the kings of Denmark and Poland. Without refusing their mediation, he labored incessantly to organize every possible means for maintaining the war. His efforts were considerably favored by the measures of Philip for the support of the league formed by the House of Guise against Henry III. and Henry IV. of France; but still more by the formidable enterprise which the Spanish monarch was now preparing against England.
Irritated and mortified by the assistance which Elizabeth had given to the revolted provinces, Philip resolved to employ his whole power in attempting the conquest of England itself; hoping afterward to effect with ease the subjugation of the Netherlands. He caused to be built, in almost every port of Spain and Portugal, galleons, carricks, and other ships of war of the largest dimensions; and at the same time gave orders to the Duke of Parma to assemble in the harbors of Flanders as many vessels as he could collect together.
The Spanish fleet, consisting of more than one hundred and forty ships of the line, and manned by twenty thousand sailors, assembled at Lisbon under the orders of the Duke of Medina Sidonia; while the Duke of Parma, uniting his forces, held himself ready on the coast of Flanders, with an army of thirty thousand men and four hundred transports. This prodigious force obtained, in Spain, the ostentatious title of the Invincible Armada. Its destination was for a while attempted to be concealed, under pretext that it was meant for India, or for the annihilation of the United Provinces; but the mystery was soon discovered. At the end of May, the principal fleet sailed from the port of Lisbon; and being reinforced off Corunna by a considerable squadron, the whole armament steered its course, for the shores of England.
The details of the progress and the failure of this celebrated attempt are so thoroughly the province of English history that they would be in this place superfluous. But it must not be forgotten that the glory of the proud result was amply shared by the new republic, whose existence depended on it. While Howard and Drake held the British fleet in readiness to oppose the Spanish Armada, that of Holland, consisting of but twenty-five ships, under the command of Justin of Nassau, prepared to take a part in the conflict. This gallant though illegitimate scion of the illustrious house, whose name he upheld on many occasions, proved himself on the present worthy of such a father as William, and such a brother as Maurice. While the Duke of Medina Sidonia, ascending the Channel as far as Dunkirk, there expected the junction of the Duke of Parma with his important reinforcement, Justin of Nassau, by a constant activity, and a display of intrepid talent, contrived to block up the whole expected force in the ports of Flanders from Lillo to Dunkirk. The Duke of Parma found it impossible to force a passage on any one point; and was doomed to the mortification of knowing that the attempt was frustrated, and the whole force of Spain frittered away, discomfited, and disgraced, from the want of a co-operation, which he could not, however, reproach himself for having withheld. The issue of the memorable expedition, which cost Spain years of preparation, thousands of men, and millions or treasure, was received in the Country which sent it forth with consternation and rage. Philip alone possessed or affected an apathy which he covered with a veil of mock devotion that few were deceived by. At the news of the disaster, he fell on his knees, and rendering thanks for that gracious dispensation of Providence, expressed his joy that the calamity was not greater.
The people, the priests, and the commanders of the expedition were not so easily appeased, or so clever as their hypocritical master in concealing their mortification. The priests accounted for this triumph of heresy as a punishment on Spain for suffering the existence of the infidel Moors in some parts of the Country. The defeated admirals threw the whole blame on the Duke of Parma. He, on his part, sent an ample remonstrance to the king; and Philip declared that he was satisfied with the conduct of his nephew. Leicester died four days after the final defeat and dispersion of the Armada.
The war in the Netherlands had been necessarily suffered to languish, while every eye was fixed on the progress of the Armada, from formation to defeat. But new efforts were soon made by the Duke of Parma to repair the time he had lost, and soothe, by his successes, the disappointed pride of Spain. Several officers now came into notice, remarkable for deeds of great gallantry and skill. None among those was so distinguished as Martin Schenck, a soldier of fortune, a man of ferocious activity, who began his career in the service of tyranny, and ended it by chance in that of independence. He changed sides several times, but, no matter who he fought for, he did his duty well, from that unconquerable principle of pugnacity which seemed to make his sword a part of himself.
Schenck had lately, for the last time, gone over to the side of the states, and had caused a fort to be built in the isle of Betewe--that possessed of old by the Batavians--which was called by his name, and was considered the key to the passage of the Rhine. From this stronghold he constantly harassed the archbishop of Cologne, and had as his latest exploit surprised and taken the strong town of Bonn. While the Duke of Parma took prompt measures for the relief of the prelate, making himself master in the meantime of some places of strength, the indefatigable Schenck resolved to make an attempt on the important town of Nimeguen. He with great caution embarked a chosen body of troops on the Wahal, and arrived under the walls of Nimeguen at sunrise on the morning chosen for the attack. His enterprise seemed almost crowned with success; when the inhabitants, recovering from their fright, precipitated themselves from the town; forced the assailants to retreat to their boats; and, carrying the combat into those overcharged and fragile vessels, upset several, and among others that which contained Schenck himself, who, covered with wounds, and fighting to the last gasp, was drowned with the greater part of his followers. His body, when recovered, was treated with the utmost indignity, quartered, and hung in portions over the different gates of the city.
The following year was distinguished by another daring attempt on the part of the Hollanders, but followed by a different result. A captain named Haranguer concerted with one Adrien Vandenberg a plan for the surprise of Breda, on the possession of which Prince Maurice had set a great value. The associates contrived to conceal in a boat laden with turf (which formed the principal fuel of the inhabitants of that part of the Country), and of which Vandenberg was master, eighty determined soldiers, and succeeded in arriving close to the city without any suspicion being excited. One of the soldiers, named Matthew Helt, being suddenly afflicted with a violent cough, implored his comrades to put him to death, to avoid the risk of a discovery. But a corporal of the city guard having inspected the cargo with unsuspecting carelessness, the immolation of the brave soldier became unnecessary, and the boat was dragged into the basin by the assistance of some of the very garrison who were so soon to fall victims to the stratagem. At midnight the concealed soldiers quitted their hiding-places, leaped on shore, killed the sentinels, and easily became masters of the citadel. Prince Maurice, following close with his army, soon forced the town to submit, and put it into so good a state of defence that Count Mansfield, who was sent to retake it, was obliged to retreat after useless efforts to fulfil his mission.
The Duke of Parma, whose constitution was severely injured by the constant fatigues of war and the anxietssies attending on the late transactions, had snatched a short interval for the purpose of recruiting his health at the waters of Spa. While at that place he received urgent orders from Philip to abandon for a while all his proceedings in the Netherlands, and to hasten into France with his whole disposable force, to assist the army of the League. The battle of Yvri (in which the son of the unfortunate Count Egmont met his death while fighting in the service of his father's royal murderer) had raised the prospects and hopes of Henry IV. to a high pitch; and Paris, which he closely besieged, was on the point of yielding to his arms. The Duke of Parma received his uncle's orders with great repugnance; and lamented the necessity of leaving the field of his former exploits open to the enterprise and talents of Prince Maurice. He nevertheless obeyed; and leaving Count Mansfield at the head of the government, he conducted his troops against the royal opponent, who alone seemed fully worthy of coping with him.
The attention of all Europe was now fixed on the exciting spectacle of a contest between these two greatest captains of the age. The glory of success, the fruit of consummate skill, was gained by Alexander; who, by an admirable manoeuvre, got possession of the town of Lagny-sur-Seine, under the very eyes of Henry and his whole army, and thus acquired the means of providing Paris with everything requisite for its defence. The French monarch saw all his projects baffled, and his hopes frustrated; while his antagonist, having fully completed his object, drew off his army through Champagne, and made a fine retreat through an enemy's Country, harassed at every step, but with scarcely any loss.
But while this expedition added greatly to the renown of the general, it considerably injured the cause of Spain in the Low Countries. Prince Maurice, taking prompt advantage of the absence of his great rival, had made himself master of several fortresses; and some Spanish regiments having mutinied against the commanders left behind by the Duke of Parma, others, encouraged by the impunity they enjoyed, were ready on the slightest pretext to follow their example. Maurice did not lose a single opportunity of profiting by circumstances so favorable; and even after the return of Alexander he seized on Zutphen, Deventer, and Nimeguen, despite all the efforts of the Spanish army. The Duke of Parma, daily breaking down under the progress of disease, and agitated by these reverses, repaired again to Spa, taking at once every possible means for the recruitment of his army and the recovery of his health, on which its discipline and the chances of success now so evidently depended.
But all his plans were again frustrated by a renewal of Philip's peremptory orders to march once more into France, to uphold the failing cause of the League against the intrepidity and talent of Henry IV. At this juncture the emperor Rodolf again offered his mediation between Spain and the United Provinces. But it was not likely that the confederated States, at the very moment when their cause began to triumph, and their commerce was every day becoming more and more flourishing, would consent to make any compromise with the tyranny they were at length in a fair way of crushing.
The Duke of Parma again appeared in France in the beginning of the year 1592; and, having formed his communications with the army of the League, marched to the relief of the city of Rouen, at that period pressed to the last extremity by the Huguenot forces. After some sharp skirmishes--and one in particular, in which Henry IV. suffered his valor to lead him into a too rash exposure of his own and his army's safety--a series of manoeuvres took place, which displayed the talents of the rival generals in the most brilliant aspect. Alexander at length succeeded in raising the siege of Rouen, and made himself master of Condebec, which commanded the navigation of the Seine. Henry, taking advantage of what appeared an irreparable fault on the part of the Duke, invested his army in the hazardous position he had chosen; but while believing that he had the whole of his enemies in his power, he found that Alexander had passed the Seine with his entire force--raising his military renown to the utmost possible height by a retreat which it was deemed utterly impossible to effect.
On his return to the Netherlands, the Duke found himself again under the necessity of repairing to Spa, in search of some relief from the suffering which was considerably increased by the effects of a wound received in this last campaign. In spite of his shattered constitution, he maintained to the latest moment the most active endeavors for the reorganization of his army; and he was preparing for a new expedition into France, when, fortunately for the good cause in both Countries, he was surprised by death on the 3d of December, 1592, at the abbey of St. Vaast, near Arras, at the age of forty-seven years. As it was hard to imagine that Philip would suffer anyone who had excited his jealousy to die a natural death, that of the Duke of Parma was attributed to slow poison.
Alexander of Parma was certainly one of the most remarkable, and, it may be added, one of the greatest, characters of his day. Most historians have upheld him even higher perhaps than he should be placed on the scale; asserting that he can be reproached with very few of the vices of the age in which he lived. Others consider this judgment too favorable, and accuse him of participation in all the crimes of Philip, whom he served so zealously. His having excited the jealousy of the tyrant, or even had he been put to death by his orders, would little influence the question; for Philip was quite capable of ingratitude or murder, to either an accomplice or an opponent of his baseness. But even allowing that Alexander's fine qualities were sullied by his complicity in these odious measures, we must still in justice admit that they were too much in the spirit of the times, and particularly of the school in which he was trained; and while we lament that his political or private faults place him on so low a level, we must rank him as one of the very first masters in the art of war in his own or any other age.