The States-General consisted of representatives of the Estates of the seven sovereign provinces of Gelderland, Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overyssel, and Groningen (Stad en Landeri) in the order of precedence given above. Gelderland, having been a duchy, ranked before those that had formerly been counties or lordships. The provinces sent deputations varying in number; Holland and Gelderland generally six, the others less. Each province had but a single vote. The president changed week by week, being chosen in turn from each province according to their order of precedence. Holland had nominally no more weight than the others; its practical influence, however, was great in proportion to the burden of taxation that it bore and was increased by the fact that the sessions, which after 1593 were permanent, were held at the Hague in the same building with the Estates of Holland, and that the Council-Pensionary of Holland was the spokesman of the province in the States-General. The States-General had control of the foreign affairs of the Union. To them belonged the supreme control of military and naval matters. The Captain-General and Admiral-General of the Union were appointed by them; and a deputation of the States-General accompanied the army into the field and the commanders were bound to consult it. They exercised a strong supervision of finance, and sovereign authority over the entire administration of the "Generality" lands. Ambassadors were appointed by them, also the Treasurer-General of the Union, and numerous other important officials. Yet with all these attributes and powers the States-General possessed only a derived, not an inherent, authority. To foreigners the sovereignty of the republic of the United Netherlands appeared to be vested in their "High-Mightinesses." In reality the States-General was, as already stated, a gathering of deputations from the seven sovereign provinces. Each deputation voted as a unit; and in all important affairs of peace and war, treaties and finance, there must be no dissentient. A single province, however small, could, by obstinate opposition, block the way to the acceptance of any given proposal. Moreover the members, despite their lofty designation as High-Mightinesses, did not vote according to their convictions or persuasions, but according to the charge they had received from their principals. The deputation of a province had no right to sanction any disputable measure or proposal without referring it back to the Estates of that province for approval or disapproval. Hence arose endless opportunities and occasions for friction and dissension and manifold delays in the transaction of the business of the republic, oftentimes in a manner inimical to its vital interests.
The Provincial Estates in their turn were by no means homogeneous or truly representative bodies. In Holland the nobles had one vote; and eighteen towns, Dordrecht, Haarlem, Delft, Leyden, Amsterdam, Gouda, Rotterdam, Gorkum, Schiedam, Schoonhoven, Brill, Alkmaar, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Edam, Monnikendam, Medemblik and Purmerend, had one each. The nobles, though they had only one vote, were influential, as they represented the rural districts and the small towns which had no franchise, and they voted first. Here again, as in the States-General, though each of the privileged towns counted equal in the voting, as a matter of fact their weight and influence was very different. The opposition of wealthy and populous Amsterdam was again and again sufficient to override the decision of the majority, for there was no power to enforce its submission, except the employment of armed force. For at this point it may be as well to explain that each one of these municipalities (vroedschappen) claimed to be a sovereign entity, and yet, far from being bodies representing the citizens as a whole, they were close corporations of the narrowest description. The ordinary inhabitants of these towns had no voice whatever in the management of their own affairs. The governing body or vroedschap consisted of a limited number of persons, sometimes not more than forty, belonging to certain families, which filled up vacancies by co-option and chose the burgomasters and sheriffs (schepenen). Thus it will be seen that popular representation had no place in Holland. The regent-burghers were a small patrician oligarchy, in whose hands the entire government and administration of the towns rested, and from their number were chosen the deputies, who represented the eighteen privileged cities in the Provincial Estates.
The other provinces do not need such detailed notice. In Zeeland the Estates consisted of seven members, the "first noble" (who presided) and six towns. There was but one noble, the Marquis of Flushing and Veere. William the Silent in 1581 obtained this marquisate by purchase; and his heirs, through its possession, continued to exercise great influence in the Provincial Estates. As Philip William, Prince of Orange, was in Madrid, Maurice sat in the assembly as "first noble" in his place. In Utrecht the three Estates were represented, i.e. the nobles, the towns (four in number) and the clergy. The representatives of the clergy were, however, chosen no longer from the Chapter but from the possessors of what had been Church lands and property. They were elected by the knights and the small towns out of a list drawn up by the corporation of Utrecht. They necessarily belonged to the Reformed (Calvinist) faith. Gelderland was divided into three (so-called) quarters, Nijmwegen, Zutphen and Arnhem. Each of these quarters had its separate assembly; and there was also a general diet. The nobles, who were numerous and had large estates, were here very influential. Friesland was divided into four quarters, three of which (Oostergoo, Westergoo and Zevenwolden) were country districts, the fourth a gathering of the deputies of eleven towns. The Diet of Friesland was not formed of Estates, the nobles and the town representatives sitting together in the same assembly, which was elected by a popular vote, all who had a small property-qualification possessing the franchise, Roman Catholics excepted. The system of administration and divided authority was in Friesland a very complicated one, inherited from mediaeval times, but here again the nobles, being large land-owners, had much influence. The stadholder presided at the diet and had a casting vote. The Estates of Groningen were divided into two parts—town and districts—each with one vote. The districts were those of Hunsingoo, Fivelingoo and the West-Quarter. Here also the stadholder had a casting vote. In Overyssel the Estates, like those of Groningen, consisted of two members, the nobles from the three quarters, Sallant, Twente and Vollenhove, and the deputies of the three towns, Deventer, Kampen and Zwolle.
The ordinary executive and administrative work of Provincial government was carried out in Holland by a body known as the Commissioned-Councillors—Gecommitteerde-Raden; in the other provinces by Deputed-Estates—Gedeputeerde-Staten. The Commissioned-Councillors were to the Estates of Holland what the Council of State was to the States-General. They enjoyed considerable independence, for they were not appointed by the Estates but directly by the nobles and cities according to a fixed system of rotation, and they sat continuously, whereas the Estates only met for short sessions. Their duty was to see that all provincial edicts and ordinances decreed by the Estates were published and enforced, to control the finances and to undertake the provision and oversight of all military requirements; and to them it belonged to summon the meetings of the Estates. The Deputed-Estates in the other provinces had similar but generally less extensive and authoritative functions.
Such a medley of diverse and often conflicting authorities within a state of so small an area has no counterpart in history. It seemed impossible that government could be carried on, or that there could be any concerted action or national policy in a republic which was rather a many-headed confederation than a federal state. That the United Netherlands, in spite of all these disadvantages, rapidly rose in the 17th century to be a maritime and commercial power of the first rank was largely due to the fact that the foreign policy of the republic and the general control of its administration was directed by a succession of very able men, the stadholders of the house of Orange-Nassau and the council-pensionaries of Holland. For a right understanding of the period of Dutch history with which we are about to deal, it is necessary to define clearly what was the position of the stadholder and of the council-pensionary in this cumbrous and creaking machinery of government that has just been described, and the character of those offices, which conferred upon their holders such wide-reaching influence and authority.
The Stadholder or governor was really, both in title and office, an anomaly in a republic. Under the Burgundian and Habsburg rulers the Stadholder exercised the local authority in civil and also in military matters as representing the sovereign duke, count or lord in the province to which he was appointed, and was by that fact clothed with certain sovereign attributes during his tenure of office. William the Silent was Stadholder of Holland and Zeeland at the outbreak of the revolt, and, though deprived of his offices, he continued until the time of the Union of Utrecht to exercise authority in those and other provinces professedly in the name of the king. After his death one would have expected that the office would have fallen into abeyance, but the coming of Leicester into the Netherlands led to a revival of the stadholderate. Holland and Zeeland, in their desire to exercise a check upon the governor-general's arbitrary exercise of his powers, appointed Maurice of Nassau to take his father's place; and at the same time William Lewis of Nassau became Stadholder of Friesland, and stadholders were also appointed in Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel. In 1609 Maurice was Stadholder in the five provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Utrecht and Overyssel; his cousin William Lewis in Friesland and Groningen with Drente. The powers of the stadholder were not the same in the different provinces, but generally speaking he was the executive officer of the Estates; and in Holland, where his authority was the greatest, he had the supervision of the administration of justice, the appointment of a large number of municipal magistrates, and the prerogative of pardon, and he was charged with the military and naval defence of the province. The stadholder received his commission both from the Provincial Estates and from the States-General and took an oath of allegiance to the latter. In so far, then, as he exercised quasi-sovereign functions, he did it in the name of the States, whose servant he nominally was. But when the stadholder, as was the case with Maurice and the other Princes of Orange, was himself a sovereign-prince and the heir of a great name, he was able to exercise an authority far exceeding those of a mere official. The descendants of William the Silent—Maurice, Frederick Henry, William II and William III—were, moreover, all of them men of exceptional ability; and the stadholderate became in their hands a position of almost semi-monarchical dignity and influence, the stadholder being regarded both by foreign potentates and by the people of the Netherlands generally as "the eminent head of the State." Maurice, as stated above, was stadholder in five provinces; Frederick Henry, William II and William III in six; the seventh province, Friesland, remaining loyal, right through the 17th century, to their cousins of the house of Nassau-Siegen, the ancestors of the present Dutch royal family. That the authority of the States-General and States-Provincial should from time to time come into conflict with that of the stadholder was to be expected, for the relations between them were anomalous in the extreme. The Stadholder of Holland for instance appointed, directly or indirectly, the larger part of the municipal magistrates; they in their turn the representatives who formed the Estates of the Province. But, as the stadholder was the servant of the Estates, he, in a sense, may be said to have had the power of appointing his own masters. The stadholders of the house of Orange had also, in addition to the prestige attaching to their name, the possession of large property and considerable wealth, which with the emoluments they received from the States-General, as Captain-General and Admiral-General of the Union, and from the various provinces, where they held the post of stadholder, enabled them in the days of Frederick Henry and his successors to maintain the state and dignity of a court.
The office of Land's Advocate or Council-Pensionary was different altogether in character from the stadholderate, but at times scarcely less influential, when filled by a man of commanding talents. The Advocate in the time of Oldenbarneveldt combined the duties of being legal adviser to the Estates of Holland, and of presiding over and conducting the business of the Estates at their meetings, and also those of the Commissioned-Councillors. He was the leader and spokesman of the Holland deputies in the States-General. He kept the minutes, introduced the business and counted the votes at the provincial assemblies. It was his duty to draw up and register the resolutions. What was perhaps equally important, he carried on the correspondence with the ambassadors of the republic at foreign courts, and received their despatches, and conducted negotiations with the foreign ambassadors at the Hague. It is easy to see how a man like Oldenbarneveldt, of great industry and capacity for affairs, although nominally the paid servant of the Estates, gradually acquired an almost complete control over every department of administration and became, as it were, a Minister of State of all affairs. In Oldenbarneveldt's time the post was held for life; and, as Maurice did not for many years trouble himself about matters of internal government and foreign diplomacy, the Advocate by the length of his tenure of office had at the opening of the 17th century become the virtual director and arbiter of the policy of the State. After his death the title of advocate and the life-tenure ceased. His successors were known as Council-Pensionaries, and they held office for five years only, but with the possibility of re-election. The career of John de Witt showed, however, that in the case of a supremely able man these restrictions did not prevent a Raad-Pensionarius from exercising for eighteen years an authority and influence greater even than that of Oldenbarneveldt.
An account of the multiplied subdivision of administrative control in the United Provinces would not be complete without some mention of the Admiralty Colleges in Holland. Holland with Zeeland furnished the fleets on which the existence and well-being of the republic depended. Both William the Silent and his son Maurice were, as stadholders, admirals of Holland and of Zeeland, and both likewise were by the States-General appointed Admirals-General of the Union. They thus wielded a double authority over maritime affairs in the two provinces. In 1574 William had at his side a Council of Admiralty erected by the Provincial Estates, but Leicester in 1585 was annoyed by the immediate control of naval matters being withdrawn from the governor-general and the Council of State. He succeeded therefore in obtaining a division of the Council of Admiralty into three Chambers, shortly afterwards increased to five—Rotterdam, Hoorn with Enkhuizen, Veere, Amsterdam and Harlingen with Dokkum. In 1597 it was determined that each Admiralty should consist of seven members nominated by the States-General. The Admiral-General presided over each College and over joint meetings of the five Colleges. The Admiralties nominated the lieutenants of the ships and proposed a list of captains to be finally chosen by the States-General. The Lieutenant-Admiral and Vice-Admirals of Holland and the Vice-Admiral of Zeeland were chosen by the Provincial Estates. The States-General appointed the Commander-in-Chief. Such a system seemed to be devised to prevent any prompt action or swift decision being taken at times of emergency or sudden danger.
* * * * *
THE TWELVE YEARS' TRUCE
The first years of the truce were for the United Provinces, now recognised as "free and independent States," a period of remarkable energy and enterprise. The young republic started on its new career with the buoyant hopefulness that comes from the proud consciousness of suffering and dangers bravely met and overcome, and, under the wise and experienced guidance of Oldenbarneveldt, acquired speedily a position and a weight in the Councils of Europe out of all proportion to its geographical area or the numbers of its population. The far-seeing statecraft and practised diplomatic skill of the Advocate never rendered greater services to his country than during these last years of his long tenure of power. A difficult question as to the succession to the Juelich-Cleves duchies arose at the very time of the signing of the truce, which called for delicate and wary treatment.
In March, 1609, the Duke of Juelich and Cleves died without leaving a male heir, and the succession to these important border territories on the Lower Rhine became speedily a burning question. The two principal claimants through the female line were the Elector of Brandenburg and William, Count-Palatine of Neuburg. The Emperor Rudolph II, however, under the pretext of appointing imperial commissioners to adjudicate upon the rival claims, aroused the suspicions of Brandenburg and Neuburg; and these two came to an agreement to enter into joint possession of the duchies, and were styled "the possessors." The Protestant Union at Heidelberg recognised "the possessors," for it was all-important for the balance of power in Germany that these lands should not pass into the hands of a Catholic ruler of the House of Austria. For the same reason Brandenburg and Neuburg were recognised by the States-General, who did not wish to see a partisan of Spain established on their borders. The emperor on his part not only refused to acknowledge "the possessors," but he also sent his cousin Archduke Leopold, Bishop of Passau, to intervene by armed force. Leopold seized the fortress of Juelich and proceeded to establish himself.
It was an awkward situation, for neither the United Provinces nor the archdukes nor the King of Spain had the smallest desire to make the Juelich succession the cause of a renewal of hostilities, immediately after the conclusion of the truce. The eagerness of the French king to precipitate hostilities with the Habsburg powers however forced their hands. Henry IV had for some time been making preparations for war, and he was at the moment irritated by the protection given by the archdukes to the runaway Princess of Conde, who had fled to Brussels. He had succeeded in persuading the States to send an auxiliary force into Germany to assist the French army of invasion in the spring of 1610, when just as the king was on the point of leaving Paris to go to the front he was assassinated on May 14. This event put an end to the expedition, for the regent, Marie de' Medici, was friendly to Austria. The States nevertheless did not feel disposed to leave Leopold in possession of Juelich. Maurice led an army into the duchy and laid siege to the town. It capitulated on September 1. As might have been anticipated, however, the joint rule of the "possessors" did not turn out a success. They quarrelled, and Neuburg asked for Catholic help. Maurice and Spinola in 1614 found themselves again face to face at the head of rival forces, but actual hostilities were avoided; and by the treaty of Nanten (November 12, 1614) it was arranged that the disputed territory should be divided, Brandenburg ruling at Cleves, Neuburg at Juelich. Thus, in the settlement of this thorny question, the influence of Oldenbarneveldt worked for a temporary solution satisfactory to the interests of the United Provinces; nor was his successful intervention in the Juelich-Cleves affair an isolated instance of his diplomatic activity. On the contrary it was almost ubiquitous.
The growth of the Dutch trade in the Baltic had for some years been advancing by leaps and bounds, and now far exceeded that of their old rivals, the Hanseatic league. Christian IV, the ambitious and warlike King of Denmark, had been seriously interfering with this trade by imposing such heavy dues for the passage of the Sound as on the one hand to furnish him with a large revenue, and on the other hand to support his claim to sovereign rights over all traffic with the inland sea. The Hanse towns protested strongly and sought the support of the States-General in actively opposing the Danish king. It was granted. A force of 7000 men under Frederick Henry was sent into Germany to the relief of Brunswick, which was besieged by Christian IV. The siege was raised; and an alliance was concluded between the republic and the Hanse towns for common action in the protection of their commercial interests. Nor was this all. Oldenbarneveldt entered into diplomatic relations with Charles IX of Sweden and with Russia. Cornelis Haga was sent to Stockholm; and from this time forward a close intimacy was established between Sweden and the States. The seaport of Gotheborg, just outside the entrance to the Sound, was founded by a body of Dutch colonists under a certain Abraham Cabelliau, an Amsterdam merchant, and continued to be for years practically a Dutch town.
Scarcely less important was the enterprise shown in the establishment of friendly relations with distant Russia. Balthazar de Moucheron established a Dutch factory at Archangel so early as 1584; and a growing trade sprang up with Russia by way of the White Sea, at first in rivalry with the English Muscovy Company. But a Dutch merchant, by name Isaac Massa, having succeeded in gaining the ear and confidence of the Tsar, Russian commerce gradually became a Dutch monopoly. In 1614 a Muscovite embassy conducted by Massa came to the Hague, and access to the interior of Russia was opened to the traders of Holland and to them only.
In the Mediterranean no less foresight and dexterity was shown in forwarding the interests of the States. The Advocate's son-in-law, Van der Myle, went in 1609 as ambassador to Venice; and the following year the first Venetian envoy, Tommaso Contarini, arrived in Holland. In 1612 Cornelis Haga, who had been in Sweden, was sent to Constantinople to treat with the Turks about commercial privileges in the Levant and for the suppression of piracy, and he remained in the East in charge of the republic's interests for many years.
More difficult was the maintenance of friendly relations with England. In 1604 James I had made peace with Spain; and the growing rivalry upon the seas between the Dutch and English tended to alienate his sympathies from the rising maritime power of the republic. He outwardly maintained friendly relations; his ambassador had a seat on the Council of State; he retained his garrisons in the cautionary towns; and after the signing of the truce he bestowed the Garter upon Prince Maurice. But at this very time, May, 1609, James took a step which was most hurtful to that industry which had laid the foundation of the commercial prosperity of Holland—this was the issuing of an edict imposing a tax on all foreigners fishing in English waters. Though general in its form, this edict was really directed against the right heretofore enjoyed by the Netherlanders to fish on the English coast, a right conferred by a series of treaties and never challenged since its confirmation by the Magnus Intercursus of 1496. Dutch public opinion was strongly aroused and a special embassy was sent to London, April, 1610, to protest against the edict and endeavour to procure its withdrawal or its modification. This was by no means an easy matter. The fisheries, on which a large part of the population of Holland and Zeeland depended for their livelihood, were of vital importance to the States. On the other hand their virtual monopoly by the Dutch caused keen resentment in England. In the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth that adventurous sea-faring spirit, which was destined eventually to plant the flag of England on the shores of every ocean, had come to the birth, and everywhere it found, during this early part of the 17th century, Dutch rivals already in possession and Dutch ships on every trading route. The Dutch mercantile marine in fact far exceeded the English in numbers and efficiency. The publication of Hugo Grotius' famous pamphlet, Mare Liberum, in March, 1609, was probably the final cause which decided James to issue his Fisheries' proclamation. The purpose of Grotius was to claim for every nation, as against the Portuguese, freedom of trade in the Indian Ocean, but the arguments he used appeared to King James and his advisers to challenge the dominium maris, which English kings had always claimed in the "narrow seas." The embassy of 1610, therefore, had to deal not merely with the fisheries, but with the whole subject of the maritime relations of the two countries; and a crowd of published pamphlets proves the intense interest that was aroused. But the emergence of the dispute as to the Juelich-Cleves succession, and the change in the policy of the French government owing to the assassination of Henry IV, led both sides to desire an accommodation; and James consented, not indeed to withdraw the edict, but to postpone its execution for two years. It remained a dead letter until 1616, although all the time the wranglings over the legal aspects of the questions in dispute continued. The Republic, however, as an independent State, was very much hampered by the awkward fact of the cautionary towns remaining in English hands. The occupation of Flushing and Brill, commanding the entrances to important waterways, seemed to imply that the Dutch republic was to a certain extent a vassal state under the protection of England. Oldenbarneveldt resolved therefore to take advantage of King James' notorious financial embarrassments by offering to redeem the towns by a ready-money payment. The nominal indebtedness of the United Provinces for loans advanced by Elizabeth was L600,000; the Advocate offered in settlement L100,000 in cash and L150,000 more in half-yearly payments. James accepted the offer, and the towns were handed over, the garrisons being allowed to pass into the Dutch service, June 1616. Sir Dudley Carleton, however, who about this time succeeded Sir Ralph Winwood as English envoy at the Hague, continued to have a seat in the Council of State.
Oldenbarneveldt thus, at a time when his dominant position in the State was already being undermined and his career drawing to an end, performed a great service to his country, the more so as King James, in his eagerness to negotiate a marriage between the Prince of Wales and a Spanish infanta, was beginning to allow his policy to be more and more controlled by the Count of Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador at Whitehall. James' leaning towards Spain naturally led him to regard with stronger disfavour the increasing predominance of the Dutch flag upon the seas, and it was not long before he was sorry that he had surrendered the cautionary towns. For the fishery rights and the principle of the dominium maris in the narrow seas were no longer the only questions in dispute between England and the States. English seamen and traders had other grievances to allege against the Hollanders in other parts of the world. The exclusive right to fish for whales in the waters of Spitsbergen and Greenland was claimed by the English on the ground of Hugh Willoughby's alleged discovery of Spitsbergen in 1553. The Dutch would not admit any such claim, and asserted that Heemskerk was the first to visit the archipelago, and that he planted in 1596 the Dutch flag on the shores of the island, to which he gave the name of Spitsbergen. In 1613 James conferred the monopoly upon the English Muscovy Company, who sent out a fishing fleet with orders to drive off any interlopers; and certain Dutch vessels were attacked and plundered. The reply of the States-General was the granting of a charter, January 27, 1614, to a company, known as the Northern or Greenland Company, with the monopoly of fishing between Davis' Straits and Nova Zembla; and a fishing fleet was sent out accompanied by warships. The result was a temporary agreement between the English and Dutch companies for using separate parts of Spitsbergen as their bases, all others being excluded. Meanwhile the dispute was kept open; and despite conferences and negotiations neither side showed any disposition to yield. Matters reached an acute stage in 1618. English and Dutch fishing fleets of exceptional strength sailed into the northern waters in the early summer of that year, and a fierce fight took place, which, as two Dutch war vessels were present, resulted in the scattering of the English vessels and considerable loss of life and property.
The rivalry and opposition between the Dutch and English traders in the East-Indies was on a larger scale, but here there was no question of the Dutch superiority in force, and it was used remorselessly. The Dutch East India Company had thriven apace. In 1606 a dividend of 50 per cent, had been paid; in 1609 one of 325 per cent. The chief factory was at Bantam, but there were many others on the mainland of India, and at Amboina, Banda, Ternate and Matsjan in the Moluccas; and from these centres trade was carried on with Ceylon, with Borneo and even with distant China and Japan. But the position of the company was precarious, until the secret article of the treaty of 1609 conceded liberty of trade during the truce. The chief need was to create a centre of administration, from which a general control could be exercised over all the officials at the various trading factories throughout the East-Indian archipelago. It was resolved, therefore, by the Council of Seventeen to appoint a director-general, who should reside at Bantam, armed with powers which made him, far removed as he was from interference by the home authorities, almost a sovereign in the extensive region which he administered. Jan Pieterszoon Koen, appointed in 1614, was the first of a series of capable men by whose vigorous and sometimes unscrupulous action the Dutch company became rapidly the dominant power in the eastern seas, where their trade and influence overshadowed those of their European competitors. The most enterprising of those competitors were the English. Disputes quickly arose between the rival companies as to trading rights in the Moluccas, the Banda group and Amboina; and some islands, where the English had made treaties with the natives, were occupied by the Dutch, and the English expelled.
Another grievance was the refusal of the States-General in 1616 to admit English dyed cloths into the United Provinces. This had caused especial irritation to King James. The manufacture of woollen cloth and the exportation of wool had for long been the chief of English industries; and the monopoly of the trade was, when James ascended the throne, in the hands of the oldest of English chartered companies, the Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers. The Adventurers held since 1598 their Court and Staple at Middelburg in Zeeland. The English had not learnt the art of finishing and dyeing the cloth that they wove; it was imported in its unfinished state, and was then dyed and prepared for commerce by the Dutch. Some thousands of skilled hands found employment in Holland in this work. James, always impecunious, determined in 1608, on the proposal of a certain Alderman Cockayne, to grant Cockayne a patent for the creation of a home-dyeing industry, reserving to the crown a monopoly for the sale of the goods. The Adventurers complained of this as a breach of their charter; and, after much bickering, the king in 1615 settled the dispute by withdrawing the charter. Cockayne now hoped that the company he had formed would be a profitable concern, but he and the king were doomed to disappointment. The Estates of Holland refused to admit the English dyed cloths, and their example was followed by the other provinces and by the States-General. Cockayne became bankrupt, and in 1617 the king had to renew the charter of the Adventurers. James was naturally very sore at this rebuff, and he resolved upon reprisals by enforcing the proclamation of 1609 and exacting a toll from all foreign vessels fishing in British waters. Great was the indignation in Holland, and the fishing fleet in 1617 set sail with an armed convoy. A Scottish official named Browne, who came to collect the toll, was seized and carried as a prisoner to Holland. James at once laid hands on two Dutch skippers in the Thames, as hostages, and demanded satisfaction for the outrage upon his officer. Neither side would at first give way, and it was not until after some months that an accommodation was patched up. The general question of the fishery privileges remained however just as far from settlement as ever, for the States stood firm upon their treaty rights. At length it was resolved by the States to send a special mission to England to discuss with the king the four burning questions embittering the relations between the two countries. The envoys arrived in London, December, 1618. For seven months the parleyings went on without any definite result being reached, and in August, 1619, the embassy returned. Very important events had meanwhile been occurring both in the United Provinces and in Germany, which made it necessary to both parties that the decision on these trade questions, important as they were, should be postponed for awhile, as they were overshadowed by the serious political crises in Holland and in Bohemia, which were then occupying all men's attention.
* * * * *
MAURICE AND OLDENBARNEVELDT
The conclusion of the truce did not bring, with material progress and trade expansion, internal peace to the United Provinces. The relations between the Prince-stadholder and the all-powerful Advocate had long been strained. In the long-drawn-out negotiations Maurice had never disguised his dislike to the project of a truce, and, though he finally acquiesced, it was a sullen acquiescence. At first there was no overt breach between the two men, but Maurice, though he did not refuse to meet Oldenbarneveldt, was cold and unfriendly. He did not attempt to interfere with the old statesman's control of the machinery of administration or with his diplomatic activities, for he was naturally indolent and took little interest in politics. Had he been ambitious, he might many years before have obtained by general consent sovereign power, but he did not seek it. His passion was the study of military science. From his early youth he had spent his life in camps, and now he found himself without occupation. The enemies of Oldenbarneveldt seized the opportunity to arouse Maurice's suspicions of the Advocate's motives in bringing about the truce, and even to hint that he had been bribed with Spanish gold. Chief among these enemies was Francis van Aerssens, for a number of years ambassador of the States at Paris. Aerssens owed much to the Advocate, but he attributed his removal from his post at the French court to the decision of Oldenbarneveldt to replace him by his son-in-law, Van der Myle. He never forgave his recall, and alike by subtle insinuation and unscrupulous accusation, strove to blacken the character and reputation of his former benefactor.
By a curious fatality it was the outbreak of fierce sectarian strife and dissension between the extreme and the moderate Calvinists which was eventually to change the latent hostility of Maurice to Oldenbarneveldt into open antagonism. Neither of the two men had strong religious convictions, but circumstances brought it about that they were to range themselves irrevocably on opposite sides in a quarrel between fanatical theologians on the subject of predestination and grace.
From early times Calvinism in the northern Netherlands had been divided into two schools. The strict Calvinists or "Reformed," known by their opponents as "Precisians," and the liberal Calvinists, "the Evangelicals," otherwise "the Libertines." To this Libertine party belonged William the Silent, Oldenbarneveldt and the majority of the burgher-regents of Holland. These men regarded the religious question from the statesman's point of view. Having risen in rebellion against the tyranny of the Spanish Inquisition, they were anxious to preserve their countrymen (only a minority of whom were Protestants) from being placed under the heel of a religious intolerance as narrow and bigoted as that from which they had escaped. The "Reformed" congregations on the other hand, led by the preachers, were anxious to summon a National Synod for the purpose of creating a State Church to whose tenets, rigidly defined by the Heidelberg catechism and the Netherland confession, all would be required to conform on pain of being deprived of their rights as citizens. The Libertines were opposed to such a scheme, as an interference with the rights of each province to regulate its own religious affairs, and as an attempt to assert the supremacy of Church over State.
The struggle between the two parties, which had continued intermittently for a number of years, suddenly became acute through the appointment by Maurice of Jacob Harmensz, better known as Arminius, to the Chair of Theology at Leyden, vacated by the death of Junius in 1602. The leader of the strict Calvinist school, the learned Franciscus Gomarus, had at the time of the appointment of Arminius already been a professor at Leyden for eight years. Each teacher gathered round him a following of devoted disciples, and a violent collision was inevitable. Prolonged and heated controversy on the high doctrines of Predestination and Freewill led to many appeals being made to the States-General and to the Estates of Holland to convene a Synod to settle the disputed questions, but neither of these bodies in the midst of the negotiations for the truce was willing to complicate matters by taking a step that could not fail to accentuate existing discords. Six months after the truce was signed Arminius died. The quarrel, however, was only to grow more embittered. Johannes Uyttenbogaert took the leadership of the Arminians, and finally, after consultation with Oldenbarneveldt, he called together a convention of Arminian preachers and laymen at Gouda (June, 1610). They drew up for presentation to the Estates a petition, known as the Remonstratie, consisting of five articles, in which they defined the points wherein they differed from the orthodox Calvinist doctrines on the subjects of predestination, election and grace. The Gomarists on their part drew up a Contra-Remonstratie containing seven articles, and they declined to submit to any decision on matters of doctrine, save from a purely Church Synod. These two weighty declarations gained for the two parties henceforth the names of Remonstrants and Contra-Remonstrants. For the next three years a fierce controversy raged in every province, pulpit replying to pulpit, and pamphlet to pamphlet. The Contra-Remonstrants roundly accused their adversaries of holding Pelagian and Socinian opinions and of being Papists in disguise. This last accusation drew to their side the great majority of the Protestant population, but the Remonstrants had many adherents among the burgher-regents, and they could count upon a majority in the Estates of Holland, Utrecht and Overyssel, and they had the powerful support of Oldenbarneveldt.
The Advocate was no theologian, and on the doctrinal points in dispute he probably held no very clear views. He inclined, however, to the Arminians because of their greater tolerance, and above all for their readiness to acknowledge the authority of the State as supreme, in religious as well as in civil matters. He was anxious to bring about an accommodation which should give satisfaction to both parties, but he was dealing with fanatics, and the fires of religious bigotry when once kindled are difficult to quench. And now was seen a curious object lesson in the many-headed character of the government of the United Netherlands. A majority of the provinces in the States-General favoured the Contra-Remonstrants. The Estates of Holland, however, under the influence of Oldenbarneveldt by a small majority refused the Contra-Remonstrant demand and resolved to take drastic action against the Gomarists. But a number of the representative towns in Holland, and among them Amsterdam, declined to enforce the resolution. At Rotterdam, on the other hand, and in the other town-councils, where the Arminians had the majority, the Gomarist preachers were expelled from their pulpits; and the Advocate was determined by coercion, if necessary, to enforce the authority of the Estates throughout the province. But coercion without the use of the military force was impossible in face of the growing uprising of popular passion; and the military forces could not be employed without the consent of the stadholder. Thus in 1617, with the question of civil war in Holland trembling in the balance, the ultimate decision lay with the stadholder; and Maurice after long hesitation determined to throw the sword of the soldier into the scale against the influence of the statesman.
Maurice had not as yet openly broken with his father's old friend, whose immense services to the republic during the greater part of four decades he fully recognised. As to the questions now in dispute the stadholder was to an even less degree than the Advocate a zealous theologian. It is reported that he declared that he did not know whether predestination was blue or green. His court-chaplain, Uyttenbogaert, was a leading Arminian; and both his step-mother, Louise (see p. 78), to whose opinions he attached much weight, and his younger brother, Frederick Henry, were by inclination "libertines." On the other hand William Lewis, the Frisian Stadholder, was a zealous Calvinist, and he used all his influence with his cousin to urge him to make a firm stand against Oldenbarneveldt, and those who were trying to overthrow the Reformed faith. Sir Dudley Carleton, the new English ambassador, ranged himself also as a strong opponent of the Advocate. While Maurice, however, was hesitating as to the action he should take, Oldenbarneveldt determined upon a step which amounted to a declaration of war. In December, 1616, he carried in the Estates of Holland a proposal that they should, in the exercise of their sovereign rights, enlist a provincial force of 4000 militia (waardgelders) in their pay. Thus Holland, though a strong minority in the Estates was in opposition, declared its intention of upholding the principle of provincial sovereignty against the authority of the States-General. The States-General at the instance of the two stadholders, May, 1617, declared for the summoning of a National Synod by a vote of four provinces against three. The Estates of Holland, again with a sharp division of opinion but by a majority, declined to obey the summons. An impasse was thus reached and Maurice at last openly declared for the Contra-Remonstrant side.
On July 23 the Prince, accompanied by his suite, ostentatiously attended divine service at the Cloister Church at the Hague, where the Contra-Remonstrants had a fortnight before, in face of the prohibition of the Estates, established themselves. This step was countered by decisive action on the part of Oldenbarneveldt. A proposal was made in the Estates of Holland, August 4, known as the "Sharp Resolution"—and it well merited its name, for it was of the most drastic character. It was a most unqualified declaration of provincial sovereignty, and yet it was only passed in the teeth of a strong minority by the exertion of the Advocate's personal influence. By this resolution Holland declined to assent to the summoning of any Synod, National or Provincial, and asserted the supremacy of the Estates in matters of religion. The municipal authorities were ordered to raise levies of Waardgelders to keep the peace; and all officials, civil or military, were required to take an oath of obedience to the Estates on pain of dismissal. A strong protest was made by the representatives of the dissenting cities headed by Reinier Pauw, burgomaster of Amsterdam.
On the plea of ill-health Oldenbarneveldt now left the Hague, and took up his residence at Utrecht. His object was to keep this province firm in its alliance with Holland. He did not return till November 6, but all the time he was in active correspondence with his party in Holland, at whose head were the three pensionaries of Rotterdam, Leyden and Haarlem—De Groot, Hoogerbeets and De Haan. Under their leadership levies of Waardgelders were made in a number of towns; but other towns, including Amsterdam, refused, and the total levy did not amount to more than 1800 men. Meanwhile the majority of the States-General, urged on by Maurice and William Lewis, were determined, despite the resistance of Holland and Utrecht, to carry through the proposal for the summoning of a National Synod. Overyssel had been overawed and persuaded to assent, so that there were five votes against two in its favour. All through the winter the wrangling went on, and estrangement between the contending parties grew more bitter and acute. A perfect flood of pamphlets, broadsheets and pasquinades issued from the press; and in particular the most violent and envenomed attacks were made upon the character and administration of the Advocate, in which he was accused of having received bribes both from Spanish and French sources and to have betrayed the interests of his country. The chief instigator of these attacks was Oldenbarneveldt's personal enemy, Francis van Aerssens, whose pen was never idle. The defenders of the Remonstrant cause and of the principles of provincial sovereignty were not lacking in the vigour and virulence of their replies; and the Advocate himself felt that the accusations which were made against him demanded a formal and serious rejoinder. He accordingly prepared a long and careful defence of his whole career, in which he proved conclusively that the charges made against him had no foundation. This Remonstratie he addressed to the Estates of Holland, and he also sent a copy to the Prince. If this document did not at the time avail to silence the voices of prejudiced adversaries whose minds were made up, it has at least had the effect of convincing posterity that, however unwise may have been the course now deliberately pursued by the Advocate, he never for the sake of personal gain betrayed the interests of his country. Had he now seen that the attempt of a majority in the Estates of Holland to resist the will of the majority in the States-General could only lead to civil war, and had he resigned his post, advising the Estates to disband the Waardgelders and yield to superior force, a catastrophe might have been averted. There is no reason to believe that in such circumstances Maurice would have countenanced any extreme harshness in dealing with the Advocate. But Oldenbarneveldt, long accustomed to the exercise of power, was determined not to yield one jot of the claim of the sovereign province of Holland to supremacy within its own borders in matters of religion. The die was cast and the issue had to be decided by force of arms.
On June 28, 1618, a solemn protest was made by the Advocate in the States-General against the summoning of a National Synod in opposition to the expressed opinion of the Estates of Holland; and a threat was made that Holland might withhold her contribution to the general fund. The majority of the States-General (July 9) declared the raising of local levies illegal, and (July 23) it was resolved that a commission be sent to Utrecht with Maurice at its head to demand the disbanding of the Waardgelders in that town.
The Estates of Holland impelled by Oldenbarneveldt now took a very strong step, a step which could not be retrieved. They resolved also to despatch commissioners to Utrecht to urge the town-council to stand firm. De Groot, Hoogerbeets and two others were nominated, and they at once set out for Utrecht. Maurice, with the deputation from the States-General and a large suite, left the Hague only a little later than De Groot and his companions, and reached Utrecht on the evening of the 25th. This strange situation lasted for several days, and much parleying and several angry discussions took place. Matters were further complicated by the news that the dissentient towns of Holland were also sending a deputation. This news had a considerable effect upon Colonel Ogle, the commander of the Waardgelders in Utrecht, and his officers. They were already wavering; they now saw that resistance to the orders of the States-General would be useless. The Prince, who had been collecting a body of troops, now determined on action. His force entered the city on the evening of the 31st, and on the following morning he commanded the local levies to lay down their arms. They at once obeyed, and Maurice took possession of the city. The Holland commissioners and the members of the town-council fled. Maurice appointed a new town-council entirely Contra-Remonstrant; and changes were made in both branches of the Estates, so as to secure a Contra-Remonstrant majority and with it the vote of the province in the States-General for the National Synod. Holland now stood alone, and its opposition had to be dealt with in a fashion even sterner than that of Utrecht.
The Remonstrant cities of Holland were still for resistance, and attempts were made to influence the stadholder not to resort to extreme measures. Maurice had, however, made up his mind. On August 18 the States-General passed a resolution demanding the dismissal of the Waardgelders in Holland within twenty-four hours. The placard was published on the 20th and was immediately obeyed. The Estates of Holland had been summoned to meet on the 21st, and were at once called upon to deal with the question of the National Synod. A few days later (August 28) a secret resolution was adopted by the majority in the States-General, without the knowledge of the Holland deputies, to arrest Oldenbarneveldt, De Groot, Hoogerbeets and Ledenburg, the secretary of the Estates of Utrecht, on the ground that their action in the troubles at Utrecht had been dangerous to the State. On the following day the Advocate, on his way to attend the meeting of the Estates, was arrested and placed in confinement. De Groot, Hoogerbeets and Ledenburg met with similar treatment. After protesting the Estates adjourned on the 30th until September 12, the deputies alleging that it was necessary to consult their principals in this emergency, but in reality because the suddenness of the blow had stricken them with terror. It was a prudent step, for Maurice was resolved to purge the Estates and the town-councils of Holland, as he had already purged those of Utrecht. Attended by a strong body-guard he went from town to town, changing the magistracies, so as to place everywhere the Contra-Remonstrants in power. As a consequence of this action the deputies sent by the towns were likewise changed; and, when the Estates next met, the supporters of Oldenbarneveldt and his policy had disappeared. A peaceful revolution had been accomplished. All opposition to the summoning of the Synod was crushed; and (November 9) the Estates passed a vote of thanks to the stadholder for "the care and fidelity" with which he had discharged a difficult and necessary duty.
Meanwhile Oldenbarneveldt and the other prisoners had been confined in separate rooms in the Binnenhof and were treated with excessive harshness and severity. They were permitted to have no communication with the outside world, no books, paper or writing materials; and the conditions of their imprisonment were such as to be injurious to health. A commission was appointed by the States-General to examine the accused, and it began its labours in November. The method of procedure was unjust and unfair in the extreme, even had it been a case of dealing with vile criminals. The treatment of Oldenbarneveldt in particular was almost indecently harsh. The aged statesman had to appear sixty times before the commission and was examined and cross-examined on every incident of the forty years of his administration and on every detail of his private life. He was allowed not only to have no legal adviser, but also was forbidden access to any books of reference or to any papers or to make any notes. It was thus hoped that, having to trust entirely to his memory, the old man might be led into self-contradictions or to making damaging admissions against himself. De Groot and Hoogerbeets had to undergo a similar, though less protracted, inquisition. Such was its effect upon Ledenburg that he committed suicide.
It was not until February 20, 1619, that the States-General appointed an extraordinary court for the trial of the accused. It consisted of twenty-four members, of whom twelve were Hollanders.
It is needless to say that such a court had no legal status; and the fact that nearly all its members were the Advocate's personal or political enemies is a proof that the proceedings were judicial only in name. It was appointed not to try, but to condemn the prisoners. Oldenbarneveldt protested in the strongest terms against the court's competence. He had been the servant of the Estates of the sovereign province of Holland, and to them alone was he responsible. He denied to the States-General any sovereign rights; they were simply an assembly representing a number of sovereign allies. These were bold statements, and they were accompanied by an absolute denial of the charges brought against him. It was quite useless. All the prisoners were condemned, first De Groot, then Hoogerbeets, then Oldenbarneveldt. The trials were concluded on May 1, but it was resolved to defer the sentences until after the close of the National Synod, which had been meeting at Dordrecht. This took place on May 9.
Meanwhile strong and influential efforts were made for leniency. The French ambassador, Aubrey du Maurier, during the trial did his utmost to secure fair treatment for the Advocate; and a special envoy, Chatillon, was sent from Paris to express the French king's firm belief in the aged statesman's integrity and patriotism based on an intimate knowledge of all the diplomatic proceedings during and after the negotiations for the Truce. But these representations had no effect and were indeed resented. Equally unfruitful were the efforts made by Louise de Coligny to soften the severity of her step-son's attitude. Even William Lewis wrote to Maurice not to proceed too harshly in the matter. All was in vain. The Prince's heart was steeled. He kept asking whether the Advocate or his family had sued for pardon. But Oldenbarneveldt was far too proud to take any step which implied an admission of guilt; and all the members of his family were as firmly resolved as he was not to supplicate for grace. Few, however, believed that capital punishment would be carried out. On Sunday, May 12, however, sentence of death was solemnly pronounced; and on the following morning the head of the great statesman and patriot was stricken off on a scaffold erected in the Binnenhof immediately in front of the windows of Maurice's residence. The Advocate's last words were a protestation of his absolute innocence of the charge of being a traitor to his country; and posterity has endorsed the declaration.
That Oldenbarneveldt had in the last two years of his life acted indiscreetly and arrogantly there can be no question. His long tenure of power had made him impatient of contradiction; and, having once committed himself to a certain course of action, he determined to carry it through in the teeth of opposition, regardless of consequences and with a narrow obstinacy of temper that aroused bitter resentment. His whole correspondence and private papers were however seized and carefully scrutinised by his personal enemies; and, had they found any evidence to substantiate the charges brought against him, it would have been published to the world. It is clear that not a shred of such evidence was discovered, and that the Advocate was perfectly innocent of the treasonable conduct for which a packed court condemned him to suffer death. Such was the reward that Oldenbarneveldt received for life-long services of priceless value to his country. He more than any other man was the real founder of the Dutch Republic; and it will remain an ineffaceable stain on Maurice's memory that he was consenting unto this cruel and unjust sentence.
Sentences of imprisonment for life were passed upon De Groot and Hoogerbeets. They were confined in the castle of Loevestein. The conditions of captivity were so far relaxed that the famous jurist was allowed to receive books for the continuance of his studies. Through the ingenuity and daring of his wife De Groot contrived to escape in 1621 by concealing himself in a trunk supposed to be filled with heavy tomes. The trunk was conveyed by water to Rotterdam, from whence the prisoner managed to make his way safely to France.
Concurrently with the political trials the National Synod had been pursuing its labours at Dordrecht. On November 13 rather more than one hundred delegates assembled under the presidency of Johannes Bogerman of Leeuwarden. Fifty-eight of the delegates were preachers, professors and elders elected by the provincial synods, fifteen were commissioners appointed by the States-General, twenty-eight were members of foreign Reformed churches. English and Scottish representatives took an active part in the proceedings. The Synod decided to summon the Remonstrants to send a deputation to make their defence. On December 6 accordingly, a body of twelve leading Remonstrants with Simon Episcopius at their head took their seats at a table facing the assembly. Episcopius made a long harangue in Latin occupying nine sessions. His eloquence was, however, wasted on a court that had already prejudged the cause for which he pleaded. After much wrangling and many recriminations Bogerman ordered the Remonstrants to withdraw. They did so only to meet in an "anti-synod" at Rotterdam at which the authority of the Dordrecht assembly to pronounce decisions on matters of faith was denied. Meanwhile the Contra-Remonstrant divines at Dordrecht during many weary sessions proceeded to draw up a series of canons defining the true Reformed doctrine and condemning utterly, as false and heretical, the five points set forth in the Remonstrance. On May 1 the Netherland confession and the Heidelberg catechism were unanimously adopted, as being in conformity with Holy Scripture, and as fixing the standard of orthodox teaching. The Synod was dissolved eight days later. The final session was the 154th; and this great assembly of delegates from many lands, the nearest approach to a general council of the Protestant churches that has ever been held, came to a close amidst much festivity and no small congratulation. No time was lost in taking action by the dominant party against their opponents. Two hundred Remonstrant preachers were driven into exile; and the congregations were treated with the same spirit of intolerance as had hitherto been the lot of the Catholics, and were forbidden the exercise of public worship.
After the Advocate's death, except for the persecution directed against the Remonstrant party, the course of public affairs went on smoothly. Maurice, who by the death of his brother, Philip William, had in February, 1618, become Prince of Orange, was virtually sovereign in the United Provinces. His name appeared in treaties with eastern potentates and in diplomatic despatches, just as if he were a reigning monarch; and the people of the Netherlands were even at times spoken of as his subjects. But Maurice never cared to trouble himself about the details of politics, and he now left the management of affairs in the hands of a few men that he could trust, notably in those of Francis van Aerssens (henceforth generally known as lord of Sommelsdijk) and Reinier Pauw, the influential burgomaster of Amsterdam. Aerssens had shown himself spiteful and vindictive in his conduct towards his earlier patron, Oldenbarneveldt, but being a clever diplomatist and gifted with considerable powers of statesmanship, he became henceforth for many years the trusted adviser and confidant not only of Maurice, but of his successor Frederick Henry.
The year 1620 was marked by the sudden death in June of William Lewis, the Stadholder of Friesland. His loss was much deplored by Maurice, who had for years been accustomed to rely upon the tried experience and sound judgment of his cousin both in peace and war. A few months earlier (March) Louise de Coligny had died at Fontainebleau. She too had been from his youth the wise adviser of her step-son, but she was deeply grieved at the fate of Oldenbarneveldt, and after his execution left the Netherlands to take up her residence in her native country. By the death of William Lewis the two stadholderates of Groningen with Drente and of Friesland became vacant. Maurice succeeded to that of Groningen, but the Frieslanders remained faithful to the house of Nassau-Siegen and elected Ernest Casimir, the younger brother of William Lewis, as their stadholder.
* * * * *
FROM THE END OF THE TWELVE YEARS' TRUCE TO THE PEACE OF MUENSTER (1621-48). THE STADHOLDERATE OF FREDERICK HENRY OF ORANGE
Civil disturbances and religious persecutions were not the only causes of anxiety to the political leaders in the United Provinces during the crisis of 1618-19; foreign affairs were also assuming a menacing aspect. The year 1618 saw the opening in Germany of the Thirty Years' War. The acceptance of the Crown of Bohemia by Frederick, Elector Palatine, meant that the long-delayed struggle for supremacy between Catholics and Protestants was to be fought out; and it was a struggle which neither Spain nor the Netherlands could watch with indifference. Maurice was fully alive to the necessity of strengthening the defences of the eastern frontier; and subsidies were granted by the States-General to Frederick and also to some of the smaller German princes. This support would have been larger, but the unexpected refusal of James I to give aid to his son-in-law made the Dutch doubtful in their attitude. The States, though friendly, were unwilling to commit themselves. In the spring of 1620, however, by James' permission, the English regiments in the Dutch service under the command of Sir Horace Vere were sent to oppose Spinola's invasion of the Rhineland. Accompanied by a Dutch force under Frederick Henry, they reached the Palatinate, but it was too late. The fate of the King of Bohemia was soon to be decided elsewhere than in his hereditary dominions. Completely defeated at the battle of Prague, Frederick with his wife and family fled to Holland to seek the protection of their cousin, the Prince of Orange. They met with the most generous treatment at his hands, and they were for many years to make the Hague the home of their exile.
As the date at which the Twelve Years' Truce came to an end drew near, some efforts were made to avert war. There were advocates of peace in the United Provinces, especially in Gelderland and Overyssel, the two provinces most exposed to invasion.
The archdukes had no desire to re-open hostilities; and Pecquinius, the Chancellor of Brabant, was sent to the Hague to confer with Maurice, and was authorised to name certain conditions for the conclusion of a peace. These conditions proved, however, to be wholly unacceptable, and the early summer of 1621 saw Maurice and Spinola once more in the field at the head of rival armies. The operations were, however, dilatory and inconclusive. The stadholder now, and throughout his last campaigns, was no longer physically the same man as in the days when his skilful generalship had saved the Dutch republic from overthrow; he had lost the brilliant energy of youth. The deaths in the course of this same year, 1621, of both the Archduke Albert and Philip III of Spain, were also hindrances to the vigorous prosecution of the war. In 1622 there was much marching and counter-marching, and Maurice was successful in compelling Spinola to raise the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom, the last success he was destined to achieve. In the course of this year the prince's life was in serious danger. A plot was laid to assassinate him on his way to Ryswyck, the leading conspirator being William van Stoutenberg, the younger son of Oldenbarneveldt. Stoutenberg had, in 1619, been deprived of his posts and his property confiscated, and he wished to avenge his father's death and his own injuries. The plot was discovered, but Stoutenberg managed to escape and took service under the Archduchess Isabel. Unfortunately he had implicated his elder brother, Regnier, lord of Groeneveldt, in the scheme. Groeneveldt was seized and brought to the scaffold.
From this time nothing but misfortune dogged the steps of Maurice, whose health began to give way under the fatigues of campaigning. In 1623 a carefully planned expedition against Antwerp, which he confidently expected to succeed, was frustrated by a long continuance of stormy weather. Spinola in the following year laid siege to Breda. This strongly fortified town, an ancestral domain of the Princes of Orange, had a garrison of 7000 men. The Spanish commander rapidly advancing completely invested it. Maurice, who had been conducting operations on the eastern frontier, now hastened to Breda, and did his utmost by cutting off Spinola's own supplies to compel him to raise the blockade. All his efforts however failed, and after holding out for many months Breda surrendered. In the spring of 1625 the prince became so seriously ill that he asked the States-General to appoint his brother commander-in-chief in his stead. Feeling his end drawing near, Maurice's chief wish was to see Frederick Henry married before his death. Frederick Henry, like Maurice himself, had never shown any inclination for wedlock and there was no heir to the family. He had, however, been attracted by the Countess Amalia von Solms, a lady of the suite of Elizabeth of Bohemia. Under pressure from the dying man the preliminaries were speedily arranged, and the wedding was quietly celebrated on April 4. Though thus hastily concluded, the marriage proved to be in every way a thoroughly happy one. Amalia was throughout his life to be the wise adviser of her husband and to exercise no small influence in the conduct of public affairs. Maurice died on April 23, in the fifty-eighth year of his age. His forty years of continuous and strenuous service to the State had made him prematurely old; and there can be but little doubt that the terrible anxieties of the crisis of 1618-19 told upon him. Above all a feeling of remorse for his share in the tragedy of Oldenbarneveldt's death preyed upon his mind.
The new Prince of Orange succeeded to a difficult position, but he was endowed with all the qualities of a real leader of men. Forty-one years old and brought up from boyhood in camps under the eye of his brother, Frederick Henry was now to show that he was one of the most accomplished masters of the military art, and especially siege-craft, in an age of famous generals, for Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, Torstenson, Turenne, Charles Gustavus and the Great Elector were all trained in his school. He was, however, much more than an experienced and resourceful commander in the field. He inherited much of his father's wary and tactful statesmanship and skill in diplomacy. He was, moreover, deservedly popular. He was a Hollander born and bred, and his handsome face, chivalrous bearing, and conciliatory genial temper, won for him an influence, which for some years was to give him almost undisputed predominance in the State. To quote the words of a contemporary, Van der Capellen, "the prince in truth disposed of everything as he liked; everything gave way to his word."
The offices and dignities held by Maurice were at once conferred on Frederick Henry. He was elected Stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overyssel, and was appointed Captain-General and Admiral-General of the Union and head of the Council of State. During practically the whole of his life the prince spent a considerable part of the year in camp, but he was able all the time to keep in touch with home affairs, and to exercise a constant supervision and control of the foreign policy of the State by the help of his wife, and through the services of Francis van Aerssens. The Court of the Princess of Orange, graced as it was by the presence of the exiled King and Queen of Bohemia, was brilliant and sumptuous, and gave to the reality of power possessed by the stadholder more than a semblance of sovereign pomp. During her husband's absence she spared no pains to keep him well-acquainted with all the currents and under-currents of action and opinion at the Hague, and was not only able to give sound advice, but was quite ready, when necessity called, to meet intrigue with intrigue and render abortive any movements or schemes adverse to the prince's policy or authority. The obligations of Frederick Henry to Aerssens were even greater. The stadholder was at first suspicious of the man, whom he disliked for the leading part he had taken against Oldenbarneveldt. But he did not allow personal prejudice to prevent him from employing a diplomatist of Aerssens' experience and capacity, and, with acquaintance, he learned to regard him, not merely as a clever and wise councillor, but as a confidential friend.
The right conduct of foreign affairs was of peculiar importance at the moment, when Frederick Henry became stadholder, for a change of regime took place almost simultaneously both in France and England. In Paris Cardinal Richelieu had just laid firm hands upon the reins of power, and the timorous and feeble James I died in the autumn of 1625. Richelieu and Charles I were both hostile to Spain, and the republic had reason to hope for something more than friendly neutrality in the coming years of struggle with the united forces of the two Habsburg monarchies.
One of the chief difficulties which confronted the new stadholder was the religious question. The prince himself, as was well known, was inclined to Remonstrant opinions. He was, however, anxious not to stir up the smouldering embers of sectarian strife, and he made no effort to withdraw the placards against the Remonstrants, but confined himself to moderate in practice their severity. He recalled from exile Van der Myle, Oldenbarneveldt's son-in-law; made Nicholas van Reigersberg, De Groot's brother-in-law, a member of the council; and released Hoogerbeets from his captivity at Loevestein. When, however, De Groot himself, presuming on the stadholder's goodwill, ventured to return to Holland without permission, the prince refused to receive him and he was ordered to leave the country once more.
The year 1626 was marked by no events of military importance; both sides were in lack of funds and no offensive operations were undertaken. Much rejoicing, however, attended the birth of a son and heir to the Prince of Orange, May 27. The child received the name of William. Early in the following year Sir Dudley Carleton, as envoy-extraordinary of King Charles I, invested Frederick Henry at the Hague with the Order of the Garter. This high distinction was not, however, a mark of really friendlier relations between the two countries. The long-standing disputes as to fishing rights in the narrow seas and at Spitsbergen, and as to trading spheres in the East Indian Archipelago, remained unsettled; and in the unfortunate and ill-considered war, which broke out at this time between England and France, the sympathies of the States were with the latter. Already those close relations between the French and the Dutch, which for the next decade were to be one of the dominating factors in determining the final issue of the Thirty Years' War, were by the diplomatic efforts of Richelieu and of Aerssens being firmly established. France advanced to the States a large subsidy by the aid of which the stadholder was enabled to take the field at the head of a really fine army and to give to the world a brilliant display of his military abilities. Throughout his stadholderate the persistent aim which Frederick Henry held before himself was never aggression with a view to conquest, but the creation of a scientific frontier, covered by strong fortresses, within which the flat lands behind the defensive lines of the great rivers could feel reasonably secure against sudden attack. It was with this object that in 1629 he determined to lay siege to the town of Hertogenbosch. A force of 24,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry were gathered together for the enterprise. It was composed of many nationalities, like all the armies commanded by Maurice and Frederick Henry, but was admirably disciplined and devoted to its commander. Four English, three Scottish and four French regiments, all choice troops, raised by permission of their sovereigns for the service of the States, formed the backbone of the force. On April 30 the town was invested.
Hertogenbosch, or Bois-le-duc, was strongly fortified, and so surrounded by marshy ground, intersected by a number of small streams, that the only way of approach for a besieging force was a single causeway defended by the forts of St Isabella and St Anthony. The garrison consisted of 8000 men, and the governor, Grobendonc, was an experienced and resolute soldier.
The stadholder began by surrounding the town with a double line of circumvallation. The marshes were crossed by dykes, and two streams were dammed so as to fill a broad deep moat round the lines and flood the country outside. Other lines, three miles long, connected the investing lines with the village of Crevecceur on the Meuse, Frederick Henry's base of supplies, which were brought by water from Holland. These works completed, approaches were at once opened against the forts of St Anthony and St Isabella, the task being entrusted to the English and French troops. The court of Brussels now began to take serious measures for relieving the town. At first regarding Bolduc la pucelle as impregnable, they had been pleased to hear that the prince had committed himself to an enterprise certain to be a dismal failure. Then came the news of the circumvallation, and with it alarm. The Count de Berg was therefore ordered (June 17) at the head of an army of 30,000 foot and 7000 horse to advance into North Brabant and raise the siege. But the stadholder was prepared and ceaselessly on his guard; and the Spanish general, after several vain attempts, found the Dutch lines unassailable. With the view of compelling Frederick Henry to follow him, Berg now marched into the heart of the United Provinces, devastating as he went with fire and sword, took Amersfoort and threatened Amsterdam. But the prince confined himself to despatching a small detached force of observation; and meanwhile a happy stroke, by which a certain Colonel Dieden surprised and captured the important frontier fortress of Wesel, forced the Spaniards to retreat, for Wesel was Berg's depot of supplies and munitions.
While all this was going on the Prince of Orange had been pushing forward the siege operations. On July 17 the forts of St Isabella and St Anthony were stormed. The attack against the main defences, in which the English regiments specially distinguished themselves, was now pressed with redoubled vigour. The resistance at every step was desperate, but at last the moat was crossed and a lodgment effected within the walls. On September 14 Hertogenbosch surrendered; and the virgin fortress henceforth became the bulwark of the United Provinces against Spanish attack on this side. The consummate engineering skill, with which the investment had been carried out, attracted the attention of all Europe to this famous siege. It was a signal triumph and added greatly to the stadholder's popularity and influence in the republic.
It was needed. The Estates of Holland were at this time once more refractory. The interests of this great commercial and maritime province differed from those of the other provinces of the Union; and it bore a financial burden greater than that of all the others put together. The Estates, then under the leadership of Adrian Pauw, the influential pensionary of Amsterdam, declined to raise the quota of taxation assigned to the province for military needs and proceeded to disband a number of troops that were in their pay. Inconsistently with this action they declined to consider certain proposals for peace put forward by the Infanta Isabel, for they would yield nothing on the questions of liberty of worship or of freedom to trade in the Indies. Their neglect to furnish the requisite supplies for the war, however, prevented the prince from undertaking any serious military operations in 1630. Fortunately the other side were in no better case financially, while the death of Spinola and the withdrawal of the Count de Berg from the Spanish service deprived them of their only two competent generals. This attitude of Holland, though it thwarted the stadholder's plans and was maintained in opposition to his wishes, by no means however implied any distrust of him or lack of confidence in his leadership. This was conclusively proved by the passing, at the instigation of Holland, of the Acte de Survivance (April 19,1631). This Act declared all the various offices held by the prince hereditary in the person of his five-year-old son. He thus became, in all but name, a constitutional sovereign.
An expedition planned for the capture of Dunkirk at this time, spring 1631, proved too hazardous and was abandoned, but later in the year the Dutch sailors gave a signal proof of their superiority at sea. Encouraged by the failure of the attempted attack on Dunkirk the government at Brussels determined on a counter-stroke. A flotilla of 35 frigates, accompanied by a large number of smaller vessels to carry supplies and munitions and having on board a body of 6000 soldiers, set sail from Antwerp under the command of Count John of Nassau (a cousin of the stadholder) and in the presence of Isabel herself to effect the conquest of some of the Zeeland islands. As soon as the news reached Frederick Henry, detachments of troops were at once despatched to various points; and about a dozen vessels were rapidly equipped and ordered to follow the enemy and if possible bring him to action. A landing at Terscholen was foiled by Colonel Morgan, who, at the head of 2000 English troops, waded across a shallow estuary in time to prevent a descent. At last (September 12) the Dutch ships managed to come up with their adversaries in the Slaak near the island of Tholen. They at once attacked and though so inferior in numbers gained a complete victory. Count John of Nassau just contrived to escape, but his fleet was destroyed and 5000 prisoners were taken.
The year 1632 witnessed a renewal of military activity and was memorable for the famous siege and capture of Maestricht. This fortress held the same commanding position on the eastern frontier as Hertogenbosch on the southern; and, though its natural position was not so strong as the capital of North Brabant, Maestricht, lying as it did on both sides of the broad Meuse, and being strongly fortified and garrisoned, was very difficult to invest. The stadholder, at the head of a force of 17,000 infantry and 4000 horse, first made himself master of Venloo and Roeremonde and then advanced upon Maestricht. Unfortunately before Roeremonde, Ernest Casimir, the brave stadholder of Friesland and Groningen, was killed. He was succeeded in his offices by his son, Henry Casimir. Arriving (June 10) before Maestricht, Frederick Henry proceeded to erect strongly entrenched lines of circumvallation round the town connecting them above and below the town by bridges. Supplies reached him plentifully by the river. To the English and French regiments were once more assigned the place of honour in the attack. All went well until July 2, when Don Gonzales de Cordova led a superior Spanish force from Germany, consisting of 18,000 foot and 6000 horse, to raise the siege, and encamped close to the Dutch lines on the south side of the river. Finding however no vulnerable spot, he awaited the arrival at the beginning of August of an Imperialist army of 12,000 foot and 4000 horse, under the renowned Pappenheim. This impetuous leader determined upon an assault, and the Dutch entrenchments were attacked suddenly with great vigour at a moment when the prince was laid up with the gout. He rose, however, from his bed, personally visited all the points of danger, and after desperate fighting the assailants were at last driven off with heavy loss. The Spaniards and Imperialists, finding that the stadholder's lines could not be forced, instituted a blockade, so that the besiegers were themselves besieged. But Frederick Henry had laid up such ample stores of munitions and provisions that he paid no heed to the cutting of his communications, and pushed on his approaches with the utmost rapidity. All difficulties were overcome by the engineering skill of the scientific commander; and finally two tunnels sixty feet deep were driven under the broad dry moat before the town walls. The English regiments during these operations bore the brunt of the fighting and lost heavily, Colonels Harwood and the Earl of Oxford being killed and Colonel Morgan dangerously wounded. After exploding a mine, a forlorn hope of fifty English troops rushed out from one of the tunnels and made good their footing upon the ramparts. Others followed, and the garrison, fearing that further resistance might entail the sacking of the town, surrendered (August 23) with honours of war.
One result of the fall of Maestricht was a renewal on the part of the Archduchess Isabel of negotiations for peace or a long truce. On the authority of Frederick Henry's memoirs the terms first offered to him in camp were favourable and might have been accepted. When, however, the discussion was shifted to the Hague, the attitude of the Belgic representatives had stiffened. The cause was not far to seek, for on November 6, 1632 the ever-victorious Gustavus Adolphus had fallen in the hour of triumph in the fatal battle of Luetzen. The death of the Swedish hero was a great blow to the Protestant cause and gave fresh heart to the despondent Catholic alliance. The negotiations dragged however their slow length along, the chief point of controversy being the old dispute about freedom to trade in the Indies. On this point agreement was impossible. Spain would yield nothing of her pretensions; and the Hollanders would hear of no concessions that threatened the prosperity of the East and West India Companies in which so many merchants and investors were deeply interested. Any admission of a Spanish monopoly or right of exclusion would have spelt ruin to thousands. The diplomatic discussions, however, went on for many months in a desultory and somewhat futile manner; and meanwhile though hostilities did not actually cease, the campaign of 1633 was conducted in a half-hearted fashion. The death of Isabel on November 29, 1633, shattered finally any hopes that the peace party in the Provinces (for there was a strong peace party) might have had of arriving at any satisfactory agreement. By the decease of the arch-duchess, who had been a wise and beneficent ruler and had commanded the respect and regard not only of her own subjects but of many northerners also, the Belgic provinces reverted to the crown of Spain and passed under the direct rule of Philip IV. The Cardinal Infante Ferdinand, fresh from his crushing victory over the Swedes at Noerdlingen, came as governor to Brussels in 1634, at the head of considerable Spanish forces, and an active renewal of the war in 1635 was clearly imminent.
In these circumstances Frederick Henry determined to enter into negotiations with France for the conclusion of an offensive and defensive alliance against Spain, the common enemy. He had many difficulties to encounter. The Estates of Holland, though opposed to the terms actually offered by the Brussels government, were also averse to taking any step which shut the door upon hopes of peace. Richelieu on his side, though ready, as before, to grant subsidies and to permit the enrolment of French regiments for the Dutch service, shrank from committing France to an open espousal of the Protestant side against the Catholic powers. The stadholder, however, was not deterred by the obstacles in his way; and the diplomatic skill and adroitness of Aerssens, aided by his own tact and firmness of will, overcame the scruples of Richelieu. The opposition of the Estates of Holland, without whose consent no treaty could be ratified, was likewise surmounted. Adrian Pauw, their leader, was despatched on a special embassy to Paris, and in his absence his influence was undermined, and Jacob Cats was appointed Council-Pensionary in his stead. In the spring of 1635 a firm alliance was concluded between France and the United Provinces, by which it was agreed that neither power should make peace without the consent of the other, each meanwhile maintaining a field force of 25,000 foot and 5000 horse and dividing conquests in the Southern Netherlands between them. This treaty was made with the concurrence and strong approval of the Swedish Chancellor, Oxenstierna, and was probably decisive in its effect upon the final issue of the Thirty Years' War.
In the early spring of 1635, therefore, a French force entered the Netherlands and, after defeating Prince Thomas of Savoy at Namur, joined the Dutch army at Maestricht. Louis XIII had given instructions to the French commanders, Chatillon and de Breze, to place themselves under the orders of the Prince of Orange; and Frederick Henry at the head of 32,000 foot and 9000 horse now entered the enemy's territory and advanced to the neighbourhood of Louvain. Here however, owing to the outbreak of disease among his troops, to lack of supplies and to differences of opinion with his French colleagues, the prince determined to retreat. His action was attended by serious results. His adversary, the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand, was a wary and skilful general. He now seized his opportunity, rapidly made himself master of Diest, Gennep, Goch and Limburg, and took by surprise the important fort of Schenck at the junction of the Waal and the Rhine. Vexed at the loss of a stronghold which guarded two of the main waterways of the land, the stadholder at once laid siege to Schenck. But the Spanish garrison held out obstinately all through the winter and did not surrender until April 26,1636. The Dutch army had suffered much from exposure and sickness during this long investment and was compelled to abstain for some months from active operations. Ferdinand thereupon, as soon as he saw that there was no immediate danger of an attack from the north, resolved to avenge himself upon the French for the part they had taken in the preceding year's campaign. Reinforced by a body of Imperialist troops under Piccolomini he entered France and laid the country waste almost to the gates of Paris. This bold stroke completely frustrated any plans that the allies may have formed for combined action in the late summer.
The following year the States determined, somewhat against the wishes of Frederick Henry, to send an expedition into Flanders for the capture of Dunkirk. This was done at the instance of the French ambassador, Charnace, acting on the instructions of Richelieu, who promised the assistance of 5000 French troops and undertook, should the town be taken, to leave it in the possession of the Dutch. The stadholder accordingly assembled (May 7) an army of 14,000 foot and a considerable body of horse at Rammekens, where a fleet lay ready for their transport to Flanders. Contrary winds, however, continued steadily to blow for many weeks without affording any opportunity for putting to sea. At last, wearied out with the long inaction and its attendant sickness the prince (July 20) suddenly broke up his camp and marched upon Breda. Spinola, after capturing Breda in 1625, had greatly strengthened its defences; and now, with a garrison of 4000 men under a resolute commander, it was held to be secure against any attack. The siege was a repetition of those of Hertogenbosch and Maestricht. In vain did the Cardinal Infante with a powerful force try to break through the lines of circumvallation, which the prince had constructed with his usual skill. Called away by a French invasion on the south, he had to leave Breda to its fate. The town surrendered on October 10.
During the years 1637 and 1638 the ever-recurring dissensions between the province of Holland and the Generality became acute once more. The Provincial Estates insisted on their sovereign rights and refused to acknowledge the authority of the States-General to impose taxes upon them. This opposition of Holland was a great hindrance to the prince in the conduct of the war, and caused him constant anxiety and worry. It was impossible to plan or to carry out a campaign without adequate provision being made for the payment and maintenance of the military and naval forces, and this depended upon Holland's contribution. Amsterdam was the chief offender. On one occasion a deputation sent to Amsterdam from the States-General was simply flouted. The burgomaster refused to summon the council together, and the members of the deputation had to return without an audience. All the prince's efforts to induce the contumacious city to consider his proposals in a reasonable and patriotic spirit were of no avail; they were rejected insultingly. In his indignation Frederick Henry is reported to have exclaimed, "I have no greater enemy, but if only I could take Antwerp, it would bring them to their senses."
The immense and growing prosperity of Amsterdam at this time was indeed mainly due to the fall of Antwerp from its high estate. To reconquer Antwerp had indeed long been a favourite project of Frederick Henry. In 1638 he made careful and ample preparations for its realisation. But it was not to be. Misfortune this year was to dog his steps. The advance was made in two bodies. The larger under the prince was to march straight to Antwerp. The second, of 6000 men, commanded by Count William of Nassau, was instructed to seize some outlying defences on the Scheldt before joining the main force before the town. Count William began well, but, hearing a false rumour that a fleet was sailing up the Scheldt to intercept his communications, he hastily retreated. While his ranks were in disorder he was surprised by a Spanish attack, and practically his entire force was cut to pieces. On hearing of this disaster the stadholder had no alternative but to abandon the siege.
Constant campaigning and exposure to the hardships of camp life year after year began at this time seriously to affect the health of the stadholder. He was much troubled by attacks of gout, which frequently prevented him from taking his place in the field. In 1639 there were no military events of importance; nevertheless this year was a memorable one in the annals of the Dutch republic.
It was the year of the battle of the Downs. A great effort was made by Spain to re-establish her naval supremacy in the narrow seas, and the finest fleet that had left the harbours of the peninsula since 1588 arrived in the Channel in September, 1639. It consisted of seventy-seven vessels carrying 24,000 men, sailors and soldiers, and was under the command of an experienced and capable seaman, Admiral Oquendo. His orders were to drive the Dutch fleet from the Channel and to land 10,000 men at Dunkirk as a reinforcement for the Cardinal Infante. Admiral Tromp had been cruising up and down the Channel for some weeks on the look-out for the Spaniards, and on September 16 he sighted the armada. He had only thirteen vessels with him, the larger part of his fleet having been detached to keep watch and ward over Dunkirk. With a boldness, however, that might have been accounted temerity, Tromp at once attacked the enemy and with such fury that the Spanish fleet sought refuge under the lee of the Downs and anchored at the side of an English squadron under Vice-Admiral Pennington. Rejoined by seventeen ships from before Dunkirk, the Dutch admiral now contented himself with a vigilant blockade, until further reinforcements could reach him. Such was the respect with which he had inspired the Spaniards, that no attempt was made to break the blockade; and in the meantime Tromp had sent urgent messages to Holland asking the Prince of Orange and the admiralties to strain every nerve to give him as many additional ships as possible. The request met with a ready and enthusiastic response. In all the dockyards work went on with relays of men night and day. In less than a month Tromp found himself at the head of 105 sail with twelve fire-ships. They were smaller ships than those of his adversary, but they were more than enough to ensure victory. On October 21, after detaching Vice-Admiral Witte de with 30 ships to watch Pennington's squadron, Tromp bore down straight upon the Spanish fleet though they were lying in English waters. Rarely has there been a naval triumph more complete. Under cover of a fog Oquendo himself with seven vessels escaped to Dunkirk; all the rest were sunk, burnt, or captured. It is said that 15,000 Spaniards perished. On the side of the Dutch only 100 men were killed and wounded. The Spanish power at sea had suffered a blow from which it never recovered.
Charles I was very angry on learning that English ships had been obliged to watch the fleet of a friendly power destroyed in English waters before their eyes. The king had inherited from his father a long series of grievances against the Dutch; and, had he not been involved in serious domestic difficulties, there would probably have been a declaration of war. But Charles' finances did not permit him to take a bold course, and he was also secretly irritated with the Spaniards for having sought the hospitality of English waters (as written evidence shows) without his knowledge and permission. Aerssens was sent to London to smooth over the matter. He had no easy task, but by skill and patience he contrived, in spite of many adverse influences at the court, so to allay the bitter feelings that had been aroused by "the scandal of the Downs" that Charles and his queen were willing, in the early months of 1640, to discuss seriously the project of a marriage between the stadholder's only son and one of the English princesses. In January a special envoy, Jan van der Kerkoven, lord of Heenvlict, joined Aerssens with a formal proposal for the hand of the princess royal; and after somewhat difficult negotiations the marriage was at length satisfactorily arranged. The ceremony took place in London, May 12, 1641. As William was but fifteen years of age and Mary, the princess royal, only nine, the bridegroom returned to Holland alone, leaving the child-bride for a time at Whitehall with her parents. The wedding took place at an ominous time. Ten days after it was celebrated Strafford was executed; and the dark shadow of the Great Rebellion was already hanging over the ill-fated Charles. In the tragic story of the House of Stewart that fills the next two decades there is perhaps no more pathetic figure than that of Mary, the mother of William III. At the time this alliance gave added lustre to the position of the Prince of Orange, both at home and abroad, by uniting his family in close bonds of relationship with the royal houses both of England and France.