Gateway to the Classics: European Hero Stories by Eva March Tappan
European Hero Stories by  Eva March Tappan

The Troubles Of Philip II, King Of Spain

When Phi'lip II of Spain was a young prince, he married his cousin Mary, Queen of England. He cared nothing for her, but, he hoped to help her bring England back to the Roman Catholic faith, and also, when Mary should die, to wear the English crown. In both these hopes he was disappointed, for when Mary died she was succeeded by E-liz'a-beth, who was a Protestant.

In those times there was much discussion of religious matters. About forty years earlier, the monk, Mar'tin Lu'ther, had preached against some of the teachings of the Church. He was bidden to come to a place in Germany called Worms to defend himself before the Emperor, representing the pope, and the German princes. He explained what he believed and why he believed it, and declared, "I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. God help me." With the aid of others Luther translated the Bible into German; and now that printing had been invented, almost every one could buy or borrow a copy, or at least get an opportunity to read one. Many people came to disagree with parts of the Church teachings, or to "protest" against observing them. These became known as "protestants," and before long that name was given to all those who did not accept the faith and customs of the Roman Catholic Church.


Philip II. of Spain.

There were many Protestants in the Netherlands, or the land which is now called Hol'land, and Bel'gi-um. This country as well as Spain was ruled by Philip. It was in the first place a low, marshy district, hardly more than a great morass, and frequently the ocean swept over it.

But the Neth'er-land-ers had built strong walls called dikes to keep the ocean and the rivers from overflowing it. All over the country they erected windmills to pump up the water from the swampy lands, and make them dry enough to live upon, and they made hundreds of canals for the water to flow through. The land thus drained was rich and fertile, and there were no better gardens and orchards in western Europe than in this country which had formerly been a swamp. The people who had rescued the land from the ocean were sturdy and independent. They had liked Philip's father, because he was kindly and genial; but Philip was cold and stern in his manner and had no liking for people who did not agree with him. He made the mistake of thinking that by imprisoning the Protestants or torturing them, he could make them obedient to the Church. When he returned to Spain, he left his half-sister, the Duchess of Par'ma, to rule the land in the same fashion. The Netherlanders were so indignant at his laws that thousands left the country and went to England. Queen Elizabeth gave them a hearty welcome, for many of them were weavers, and she was much pleased to have these excellent workmen come to her realm. Now the trade of the Netherlands began to suffer, and the country fell into wild disorder. The nobles were generally Catholics, but they were not pleased with the laws of Philip, and they presented a petition against them to the Duchess. She was much troubled, and at this one of the royal councilors said, "Madam, are you afraid of a pack of beggars?" The nobles caught up the name, and after this the party was known as the Beggars. Many of them put on the coarse gray dress often worn by beggars, and wore little badges marked with the beggar's wallet and bowl.


Dutch Windmills.

Philip sent an able general, the famous Duke of Alva, to quiet the country; but now the Netherlanders were determined to be free from Spanish rule, and they fought so resolutely that when the Spaniards besieged one of their towns they declared that they would never surrender, and that if the siege was not given up they would cut the dikes and let the ocean overflow the country and their enemies together. The Spaniards fled. They were good soldiers, but they could not fight the ocean.


William of Orange pledges his jewles for the defense of his country.

The most powerful man in the Netherlands was William, Prince of Or'ange, or William the Silent. He had withdrawn to Germany rather than help the Spaniards; and while there he had become a Protestant. So deep was his love for his country that he had even pledged his jewels for its defense. He and his brothers were supplying men and money to oppose Alva, and at length the Duke gave up the contest and went home to Spain. William brought about a union of the seven Protestant states; and they stood alone against the mighty power of Spain. Queen Elizabeth did not wish to quarrel with Spain, but she did wish Philip to be kept so busy fighting with some one that he would have no leisure to attack England. Therefore, she sent the seven little states money, but with the utmost secrecy. At length she became bold enough to lend the Netherlanders a few soldiers. Among them was a young man whom she called one of the jewels of her crown, the famous Sir Philip Sid'ney. He was so brave and knightly that all England loved him. In one of the battles of the Netherlands he was fatally wounded, and the story is told that while he was suffering most severely a cup of water was brought to him. He was about to drink when he saw a soldier, also wounded, gazing at the cup longingly. "Give it to him," said Sidney, "his need is greater than mine."

Still the fighting against King Philip went on. He offered a large reward to anyone who would kill William of Orange; and before long the leader of the Netherlanders was shot in his own house. Still they would not yield, and finally Spain had to give up the seven states. These we now know as the kingdom of Holland, or the Netherlands; and the southern part of the country became known as Belgium. Philip still held Belgium, but he had lost Holland.


Philip hopes for the English throne. — Luther at Worms. — His translation of the Bible. — "Protestants."—The Netherlands. — The Netherlanders flee to England. — Disorder in the Netherlands. — The "Beggars."—The Duke of Alva. — William the Silent unites the seven Protestant states. — The aid of Elizabeth. — Sir Philip Sidney. — The murder of William.

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