Imágenes de páginas


because the vendor could not supply a particular kind of chopped bullets or slugs which he desired. Before the sunset of the following day the soldier had stabbed himself to the heart, and died despairing, on hearing for what purpose the pistols had been bought.

“On Tuesday, the 10th of July, 1584, at about half-past twelve, the prince, with his wife on his arm, and followed by the ladies and gentlemen of his family, was going to the dining-room. William the Silent was dressed upon that day, according to his usual custom, in very plain fashion. He wore a wide-leafed, loosely-shaped hat of dark felt, with a silken cord round the crown, such as had been worn by the Beggars, as the Patriots were called, in the early days of the revolt. A high ruff encircled his neck, from which also depended one of the Beggar's medals, with the motto, ' Fidèles au roy jusqu'à la besace,' while a loose surcoat of grey frieze cloth, over a tawny leather doublet, with wide slashed underclothes, completed his costume. Gérard presented himself at the doorway, and demanded a passport. The princess, struck with the pale and agitated countenance of the man, anxiously questioned her husband concerning the stranger. The prince carelessly observed, that "it was merely a person who came for a passport,” ordering at the same time a secretary to prepare one. The princess, still not relieved, observed in an under tone that “she had never seen so villanous a countenance.” Orange, however, not at all impressed with the appearance of Gérard, conducted himself at table with his usual cheerfulness, conversing much with the burgomaster of Leewarden, the only guest present at the family dinner, concerning the political and religious aspects of Friesland.

" At two o'clock the company rose from table. The prince led the way, intending to pass to his private apartments above. The dining-room, which was on the ground floor, opened into a little square vestibule, which communicated, through an arched passage way, with the main entrance into the court-yard. This vestibule was also directly at the foot of the wooden staircase leading to the next floor, and was scarcely six feet in width. Upon its left side, as one approached the stairway, was an

. obscure arch, sunk deep in the wall and completely in the shadow of the door. Behind this arch a portal opened to the narrow lane at the side of the house. The stairs themselves were completely lighted by a large window half way up the flight. The prince came from the dining-room and began leisurely to ascend. He had only reached the second stair, when a man emerged from the sunken arch, and, standing within a foot or two


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

of him, discharged a pistol full at his heart. Three balls entered his body, one of which, passing quite through him, struck with violence against the wall beyond. The prince exclaimed in French, as he felt the wound, O my God, have mercy upon my soul! O my God, have mercy upon this poor people!

“These were the last words he ever spoke, save that when his sister, Catharine of Schwartzburg, immediately afterwards asked him if he commended his soul to Jesus Christ, he faintly answered, “Yes. His master of the horse, Jacob van Maldere, had caught him in his arms as the fatal shot was fired. The prince was then placed on the stairs for an instant, when he immediately began to swoon. He was afterwards laid upon a couch in the dining-room, where, in a few minutes, he breathed his last in the arms of his wife and sister.

“The murderer succeeded in making his escape through the side door, and sped swiftly up the narrow lane. He had almost reached the ramparts, from which he intended to spring into the moat, when he stumbled over a heap of rubbish. As he rose, he was seized by several pages and halberdiers, who had pursued him from the house. He had dropped his pistols upon the spot where he had committed the crime, and upon his person were found a couple of bladders, provided with a piece of pipe, with which he had intended to assist himself across the moat, beyond which a horse was waiting for him. He made no effort to deny his guilt, but boldly avowed himself and his deed. He was brought back to the house, where he immediately underwent a preliminary examination before the city magistrates. He was afterwards subjected to excruciating tortures ; for the fury against the wretch who had destroyed the father of the country was uncontrollable, and William the Silent was no longer alive to intercede -as he had often done before-in behalf of those who assailed his life.”

Gérard suffered the penalty of his crime, the success of which was the occasion of great rejoicing through Spain.

William the Silent being dead, what remained but to reduce the revolted provinces, and bring them once again into subjection to Spain ? What need had Philip or Duke Parma now to dread this Prince of Orange ?

“Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone,

That could not work them ill,
And yet they feared him all the more,

For lying there so still:
There was a manhood in his look,

Which murder could not kill.”

[ocr errors][merged small]

The spirit of the murdered man still animated the “poor people,” for whom his last prayer had been offered; but his death produced a sudden change in the whole political arrangements of the liberated Netherlands. Who should be their leader? They had, as we have seen, looked at one period towards the Duke of Anjou; and although he had shamelessly betrayed them in his attack on Antwerp, where he met with signal defeat, they had still, at the warmly urged solicitations of our Queen Elizabeth, made another arrangement with him, whereby he should be recognized as sovereign of the United Provinces. Prince William the Silent was to be recognized as Count of Holland; but the duke died just one month before the prince was murdered, and so the Estates of the United Provinces held the sovereignty in trust.

The Estates were the elected councillors of the various provinces, the representatives of the Commonwealth ; and on the very day of the murder they passed a resolution “to maintain the good cause, with God's help, to the uttermost, without sparing gold or blood.” They also addressed letters of encouragement to their great captains by land and sea, begging them to “bear themselves manfully and valiantly without faltering in the least, on account of the great misfortune which had occurred, or allowing themselves to be seduced by any one from the union of the States."

William the Silent left a widow and eleven children. His eldest son had been kidnapped at school in Leyden, and for several years had been captive in Spain. His next son, Maurice, a handsome youth of seventeen years of age, was placed at the head of the States Council, and assumed at once for his device a fallen oak with a young sapling springing from its root; and his motto, " Tandem fit sicculus arbor," the twig shall yet become a tree, was nobly justified by his career.

But notwithstanding the firm attitude assumed by the States General, the whole of the provinces were neither true to themselves nor to each other. The accomplished general and adroit statesman, Alexander of Parma, immediately on the death of Prince William, set himself to the work of recovering, if possible by fair means, the territory lost to Spain. He offered easy terms of reconciliation, and bribed wherever bribery availed. In Holland and Zeland his bribes and blandishments were alike unavailing; but in Flanders and Brabant the spirit was less noble. The city of Bruges surrendered without a struggle, and then seconded Parma’s efforts to bring Ghent over to the royal cause. After some delay,

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »