Schiller. Revolt of Netherlands, V2

This etext was produced by David Widger widger@cecomet.net


ANTHONY PERENOT, Bishop of Arras, subsequently Archbishop of Malines, and Metropolitan of all the Netherlands, who, under the name of Cardinal Granvella, has been immortalized by the hatred of his contemporaries, was born in the year 1516, at Besancon in Burgundy. His father, Nicolaus Perenot, the son of a blacksmith, had risen by his own merits to be the private secretary of Margaret, Duchess of Savoy, at that time regent of the Netherlands. In this post he was noticed for his habits of business by Charles V., who took him into his own service and employed him in several important negotiations. For twenty years he was a member of the Emperor's cabinet, and filled the offices of privy counsellor and keeper of the king's seal, and shared in all the state secrets of that monarch. He acquired a large fortune. His honors, his influence, and his political knowledge were inherited by his son, Anthony Perenot, who in his early years gave proofs of the great capacity which subsequently opened to him so distinguished a career. Anthony had cultivated at several colleges the talents with which nature had so lavishly endowed him, and in some respects had an advantage over his father. He soon showed that his own abilities were sufficient to maintain the advantageous position which the merits of another had procured him. He was twenty-four years old when the Emperor sent him as his plenipotentiary to the ecclesiastical council of Trent, where he delivered the first specimen of that eloquence which in the sequel gave him so complete an ascendancy over two kings. Charles employed him in several difficult embassies, the duties of which he fulfilled to the satisfaction of his sovereign, and when finally that Emperor resigned the sceptre to his son he made that costly present complete by giving him a minister who could help him to wield it.

Granvella opened his new career at once with the greatest masterpiece of political genius, in passing so easily from the favor of such a father into equal consideration with such a son. And he soon proved himself deserving of it. At the secret negotiations of which the Duchess of Lorraine had, in 1558, been the medium between the French and Spanish ministers at Peronne, he planned, conjointly with the Cardinal of Lorraine, that conspiracy against the Protestants which was afterwards matured, but also betrayed, at Chateau-Cambray, where Perenot likewise assisted in effecting the so-called peace.

A deeply penetrating, comprehensive intellect, an unusual facility in conducting great and intricate affairs, and the most extensive learning, were wonderfully united in this man with persevering industry and never- wearying patience, while his enterprising genius was associated with thoughtful mechanical regularity. Day and night the state found him vigilant and collected; the most important and the most insignificant things were alike weighed by him with scrupulous attention. Not unfrequently he employed five secretaries at one time, dictating to them in different languages, of which he is said to have spoken seven. What his penetrating mind had slowly matured acquired in his lips both force and grace, and truth, set forth by his persuasive eloquence, irresistibly carried away all hearers. He was tempted by none of the passions which make slaves of most men. His integrity was incorruptible. With shrewd penetration he saw through the disposition of his master, and could read in his features his whole train of thought, and, as it were, the approaching form in the shadow which outran it. With an artifice rich in resources he came to the aid of Philip's more inactive mind, formed into perfect thought his master's crude ideas while they yet hung on his lips, and liberally allowed him the glory of the invention. Granvella understood the difficult and useful art of depreciating his own talents; of making his own genius the seeming slave of another; thus he ruled while he concealed his sway. In this manner only could Philip II. be governed. Content with a silent but real power, Granvella did not grasp insatiably at new and outward marks of it, which with lesser minds are ever the most coveted objects; but every new distinction seemed to sit upon him as easily as the oldest. No wonder if such extraordinary endowments had alone gained him the favor of his master; but a large and valuable treasure of political secrets and experiences, which the active life of Charles V. had accumulated, and had deposited in the mind of this man, made him indispensable to his successor. Self-sufficient as the latter was, and accustomeded to confide in his own understanding, his timid and crouching policy was fain to lean on a superior mind, and to aid its own irresolution not only by precedent but also by the influence and example of another. No political matter which concerned the royal interest, even when Philip himself was in the Netherlands, was decided without the intervention of Granvella; and when the king embarked for Spain he made the new regent the same valuable present of the minister which he himself had received from the Emperor, his father.

Common as it is for despotic princes to bestow unlimited confidence on the creatures whom they have raised from the dust, and of whose greatness they themselves are, in a measure, the creators, the present is no ordinary instance; pre-eminent must have been the qualities which could so far conquer the selfish reserve of such a character as Philip's as to gain his confidence, nay, even to win him into familiarity. The slightest ebullition of the most allowable self-respect, which might have tempted him to assert, however slightly, his claim to any idea which the king had once ennobled as his own, would have cost him his whole influence. He might gratify without restraint the lowest passions of voluptuousness, of rapacity, and of revenge, but the only one in which he really took delight, the sweet consciousness of his own superiority and power, he was constrained carefully to conceal from the suspicious glance of the despot. He voluntarily disclaimed all the eminent qualities, which were already his own, in order, as it were, to receive them a second time from the generosity of the king. His happiness seemed to flow from no other source, no other person could have a claim upon his gratitude. The purple, which was sent to him from Rome, was not assumed until the royal permission reached him from Spain; by laying it down on the steps of the throne he appeared, in a measure, to receive it first from the hands of majesty. Less politic, Alva erected a trophy in Antwerp, and inscribed his own name under the victory, which he had won as the servant of the crown-but Alva carried with him to the grave the displeasure of his master. He had invaded with audacious hand the royal prerogative by drawing immediately at the fountain of immortality.

Three times Granvella changed his master, and three times he succeeded in rising to the highest favor. With the same facility with which he had guided the settled pride of an autocrat, and the sly egotism of a despot, he knew how to manage the delicate vanity of a woman. His business between himself and the regent, even when they were in the same house, was, for the most part, transacted by the medium of notes, a custom which draws its date from the times of Augustus and Tiberius. When the regent was in any perplexity these notes were interchanged from hour to hour. He probably adopted this expedient in the hope of eluding the watchful jealousy of the nobility, and concealing from them, in part at least, his influence over the regent. Perhaps, too, he also believed that by this means his advice would become more permanent; and, in case of need, this written testimoney would be at hand to shield him from blame. But the vigilance of the nobles made this caution vain, and it was soon known in all the provinces that nothing was determined upon without the minister's advice.

Granvella possessed all the qualities requisite for a perfect statesman in a monarchy governed by despotic principles, but was absolutely unqualified for republics which are governed by kings. Educated between the throne and the confessional, he knew of no other relation between man and man than that of rule and subjection; and the innate consciousness of his own superiority gave him a contempt for others. His policy wanted pliability, the only virtue which was here indispensable to its success. He was naturally overbearing and insolent, and the royal authority only gave arms to the natural impetuosity of his disposition and the imperiousness of his order. He veiled his own ambition beneath the interests of the crown, and made the breach between the nation and the king incurable, because it would render him indispensable to the latter. He revenged on the nobility the lowliness of his own origin; and, after the fashion of all those who have risen by their own merits, he valued the advantages of birth below those by which he had raised himself to distinction. The Protestants saw in him their most implacable foe; to his charge were laid all the burdens which oppressed the country, and they pressed the more heavily because they came from him. Nay, he was even accused of having brought back to severity the milder sentiments to which the urgent remonstrances of the provinces had at last disposed the monarch. The Netherlands execrated him as the most terrible enemy of their liberties, and the originator of all the misery which subsequently came upon them.

1559. Philip had evidently left the provinces too soon. The new measures of the government were still strange to the people, and could receive sanction and authority from his presence alone; the new machines which he had brought into play required to be kept in motion by a dreaded and powerful hand, and to have their first movements watched and regulated. He now exposed his minister to all the angry passions of the people, who no longer felt restrained by the fetters of the royal presence; and he delegated to the weak arm of a subject the execution of

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