William the Silent

53

William the Silent : biography

24 April 1533 – 10 July 1584

Notes

War

In October 1568, William responded by leading a large army into Brabant, but Alba carefully avoided a decisive confrontation, expecting the army to fall apart quickly. As William advanced, riots broke out in his army, and with winter approaching and money running out, William decided to turn back.Wedgwood (1944) p. 109. William made several more plans to invade in the next few years, but little came of them, since he lacked support and money. He remained popular with the public, in part through an extensive propaganda campaign conducted through pamphlets. One of his most important claims, with which he attempted to justify his actions, was that he was not fighting the rightful owner of the land, the Spanish king, but only the inadequate rule of the foreign governors in the Netherlands, and the presence of foreign soldiers.

On 22 August 1571, his second wife Anna gave birth to a daughter – named Christina von Dietz – fathered by Jan Rubens, best known as the father of painter Peter Paul Rubens; Jan Rubens had been sent by her uncle in 1570 to manage her finances.H. C. Erik Midelfort, , page 58, University of Virginia Press, January 22, 1996. Retrieved February 2, 2013. Later that year, William had this marriage legally disbanded on claims that his wife Anna was insane.

On 1 April 1572 a band of Watergeuzen captured the city of Brielle, which had been left unattended by the Spanish garrison. Contrary to their normal "hit and run" tactics, they occupied the town and claimed it for the prince by raising the Prince of Orange’s flag above the city.Wedgwood (1944) p. 120. This event was followed by other cities opening their gates for the Watergeuzen, and soon most cities in Holland and Zeeland were in the hands of the rebels, notable exceptions being Amsterdam and Middelburg. The rebel cities then called a meeting of the Staten Generaal (which they were technically unqualified to do), and reinstated William as the stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland.

Concurrently, rebel armies captured cities throughout the entire country, from Deventer to Mons. William himself then advanced with his own army and marched into several cities in the south, including Roermond and Leuven. William had counted on intervention from the French Protestants (Huguenots) as well, but this plan was thwarted after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on 24 August, which signalled the start of a wave of violence against the Huguenots. After a successful Spanish attack on his army, William had to flee and he retreated to Enkhuizen, in Holland. The Spanish then organised countermeasures, and sacked several rebel cities, sometimes massacring their inhabitants, such as in Mechelen or Zutphen. They had more trouble with the cities in Holland, where they took Haarlem after seven months and a loss of 8,000 soldiers, and they had to break off their siege of Alkmaar.

In 1573, William joined the Calvinist Church.G. Parker, The Dutch Revolt (revised edition, 1985), p. 148

In 1574, William’s armies won several minor battles, including several naval encounters. The Spanish, led by Don Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens since Philip replaced Alba in 1573, also had their successes. Their decisive victory in the Battle of Mookerheyde in the south east, on the Meuse embankment, on 14 April cost the lives of two of William’s brothers, Louis and Henry. Requesens’s armies also besieged the city of Leiden. They broke off their siege when nearby dykes were breached by the Dutch. William was very content with the victory, and established the University of Leiden, the first university in the Northern Provinces.

William married for the third time on 24 April 1575 to Charlotte de Bourbon-Monpensier, a former French nun, who was also popular with the public. Together, they had six daughters. The marriage, which seems to have been a love match on both sides, was happy.

After failed peace negotiations in Breda in 1575, the war lingered on. The situation improved for the rebels when Don Requesens died unexpectedly in March 1576, and a large group of Spanish soldiers, not having received their salary in months, mutinied in November of that year and unleashed the Spanish Fury on the city of Antwerp, a tremendous propaganda coup for the Dutch Revolt. While the new governor, Don John of Austria, was under way, William of Orange managed to have most of the provinces and cities sign the Pacification of Ghent, in which they declared themselves ready to fight for the expulsion of Spanish troops together. However, he failed to achieve unity in matters of religion. Catholic cities and provinces would not allow freedom for Calvinists, and vice versa.