Netherlands - Mary Macgregor

Granvelle's Downfall

As the result of the vengeance taken on the citizens of Valenciennes, torrents of abuse were showered upon Granvelle by the populace. The nobles, too, openly showed their hostility, Orange, Egmont and Hoorn having already sent complaints of his conduct to the King. Their dislike to the Cardinal was soon still further intensified.

Civil war having broken out in France, Philip sent to her aid troops from both Italy and Spain, at the same time ordering the Duchess of Parma to despatch immediately two thousand cavalry from the Netherlands. When the King's order was read in the Council of State the uproar was long and fierce. It was intolerable that the troops, who for the most part would be in sympathy with the Huguenots, should be asked to fight against them. It was intolerable that troops necessary to guard the frontier at home should be demanded for foreign service. With angry voices and with fierce determination the nobles refused to comply with the order of the King.

In sore dismay, Margaret wrote to Philip that it was impossible to send the troops.

Meanwhile Philip, impatient at the delay, had written again to Margaret, wrathfully bidding her furnish the required soldiers immediately. The Duchess was plainly in a dilemma, from which she escaped only by having recourse to a trick suggested by the Cardinal. A private letter of the King was read to the Council, with alterations inserted by Granvelle, to the effect that while the King was exceedingly annoyed with the delay in sending the troops, he was willing that a sum of money should be furnished in place of the cavalry, as at first demanded. This compromise the Council, though not without a heated debate, accepted, while the Regent wrote to Philip explaining and apologising for the deception. The King, adding the disobedience of the Council to the day of reckoning, was perforce obliged to accept the money which was offered instead of the troops he had demanded, and the resources of the Netherlands were drained to enable the King to pay the fifteen thousand troops he had sent to the assistance of the French.

The dissatisfaction of the country was too evident to be entirely ignored, and the Regent resolved to send an envoy to Spain that the King might more clearly understand her difficulties. Montigny, the brother of Count Hoorn, was chosen for the mission. While a friend to Orange, he was one of the Cardinal's bitterest foes, and Granvelle, well aware of these facts, took care to prepare Philip for the visit of the envoy, as also to instruct him how to deal with Montigny's complaints.

In June 1562 the ambassador reached Spain, where he was graciously received by Philip, who gravely heard his account of the condition of his country and of the misunderstanding which existed between Granvelle and the nobles. The King did not fail to speak reassuringly. Montigny must tell his subjects in the Netherlands that it was not his intention to introduce the Spanish Inquisition into their land. He must also tell them that the bishoprics had been appointed solely for their own good, and to lead them back to the true fold, and that it was he, the King, and not his minister, with whom the plan had originated.

But Montigny was not influenced by these assurances. Was there not already in the Netherlands an Inquisition "much more pitiless than that of Spain?" Was not the Cardinal, even if guiltless of introducing the new bishoprics, the man who took daily and personal pains to see that the edicts were enforced and the horrors of the Inquisition carried out in all their rigour?

At their parting interview the King encouraged Montigny to speak frankly, and he, forgetting caution, told the King of the Cardinal's greediness and cruelty and his belief that at the root of the popular discontent were three evils: Granvelle, the Inquisition, and the new bishoprics. In days to come Montigny had to pay heavily for his plain speaking.

Late in December 1562 the envoy was again in his own country. The Council received his report with great dissatisfaction, having no belief in the fair words of the King, while Orange was convinced that the plot revealed to him by Henry II. in the wood of Vincennes was still dear to the heart of the Spanish King.

It was clear that the Government could not be carried on longer in its present condition. Either Granvelle or the nobles must give way, and the Prince of Orange was resolved that the Cardinal should fall, or that he himself would withdraw from any share in the government of the country. In this decision he was supported by Egmont, Hoorn, Montigny, Berghen and other of the leading nobles. Accordingly on the 11th March 1563 a letter was again written to the King by Orange, Egmont and Hoorn, renewing their complaints against Granvelle and asking plainly for his dismissal.

Philip was in no haste to answer the letter, but on the 6th June he briefly acknowledged their zeal and affection, and suggested that one of them should go to Madrid to confer with him on the subject of their letter.

Meanwhile the Regent, overwhelmed by her position between Granvelle and the nobles, determined to send her own secretary, Armenteros, to Spain to consult with the King. He reached Philip on the 15th September, and was at once granted an audience, which lasted for four hours. Margaret, in the letter presented by Armenteros, spoke of the miserable state of the finances, the failure of the edicts to check the spread of heresy, and of the quarrel between Granvelle and the nobles. While assuring the King of the minister's devotion and merits, she yet ventured to assert that to keep him in the Netherlands against the will of the nobles would be to court an insurrection.

Philip, both alarmed and puzzled, sought the advice of the Duke of Alva, and he, a man prompt to act, did not hesitate. "Cut off the heads of the leaders, as they deserve," he cried, but feeling that at present such action was scarcely practicable, he added that it would be well meantime to conceal their intention and try to divide the nobles by gaining Egmont to the King's side.

Thus in Spain the King dallied with the situation which in the Netherlands was fast approaching a crisis, a crisis hastened on even by the follies and revelries of the festive season. For it chanced that on December 15 Egmont, Berghen, and Montigny were at a banquet in Brussels. During dinner the conversation turned upon the grandeur displayed by the nobles, particularly in their liveries, the ostentation of the Cardinal in this connection being ridiculed with much zest. On the spur of the moment it was resolved that the guests present should set the example of a simple style by adopting a plain livery, and by some symbol added to the costume show their contempt for the regal splendour of Granvelle's followers. The dice were thrown, and it fell to Egmont to plan the device.

Accordingly in a few days he and his servants appeared in doublet and hose of the coarsest grey, with long hanging sleeves without ornament of any kind, save that upon each sleeve was embroidered a monk's cowl or a fool's cap and bells. That the device ridiculed the Cardinal ensured its popularity, and thousands appeared in the novel costume. The Regent at first laughed with the rest, perhaps not sorry to see one whom she had learned cordially to dislike made the subject of a jest, and carelessly accepted Egmont's excuses on the matter. Owing to its widespread adoption, however, the Regent tardily suggested a change in the badge, the cowl or fool's cap being accordingly replaced by a bundle of arrows, which emblem was supposed to signify that the wearers were bound together in dutiful obedience to their sovereign.

Meanwhile Philip had slowly made up his mind that in spite of Alva's advice Granvelle must be sacrificed. On January 23, 1564, Armenteros returned from Spain bearing Philip's answer to the Regent's letter. The King expressed his displeasure at the missive received by him from the nobles, and added, that as they had sent no definite complaint regarding Granvelle, he must deliberate further before withdrawing him from the post. But Armenteros was at the same time the bearer of a despatch addressed to the Cardinal himself, containing a letter headed, "By the hand of the King, Secret." In this letter Philip's double dealing was evident.

Expressing his regret at the ill-will shown to his minister in the Netherlands, he added: "For these causes I have thought it would be well, in order to allow the hatred which they bear you to grow calm, and to see how they will remedy matters, that you should leave the Provinces for some days in order to see your mother, and that, with the knowledge and permission of the Duchess of Parma, you should beg her to write to me to obtain my approbation. In this manner neither your authority nor mine will be touched."

A week later, on March 1, a courier arrived from Spain, bringing the King's long-delayed answer to the nobles who had asked for Granvelle's dismissal. The letter briefly ordered the nobles to resume their seats in the Council of State, and said that with regard to Granvelle the charges against him must be proved, and time given to consider the matter. In this way Philip hoped to remove the Cardinal without any one but Granvelle himself knowing that his dismissal came from the King. He succeeded, for Granvelle had for some time seen that his day was over, and loyally bowed to his master's decision. He departed on March 13 to visit his mother, whom he had not seen for nineteen years.

The public rejoicing at his departure was undisguised, and despite the mystery that surrounded his going, there were few who did not believe that he had been recalled by the King, and would never again be permitted to return to the Netherlands.

And indeed such was the case, the Cardinal living long in retreat in Burgundy, and thereafter being employed on the King's business in Rome.

So deep-rooted had been the hatred to him that his absence did not cause it to decrease, more than a year after his departure Berlaymont asserting that the nobles hated the Cardinal more than ever, and would eat him alive if they caught him.