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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/834

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NETHERLANDS


762


NETHERLANDS


ish tyranny they were lieinp enslaved under Protes- tantism, tliev turned from William's party and sought onco more tfieir lawful kinp, in spite of the just com- plaints they had against liis government. This reac- tionary movement was most marked in the Walloon provinces: Artois, Haiiuiult, and French Flanders in the van; Namur and Luxemburg joining them later. It lx?gan as a league among the noliles of these prov- inces, who styled themselves the Jlalcontents, and who i)n)ke with the States-Ciencral to recognize anew the authority of I'hilip II. It was they who prevented the realization of the great scheme of William of Orange to fedenite the seventeen provinces in a league of which he was to \>e the head, and which woukl ultimately cast otT all allegiance to the king. When he saw his great ambition foiled, William contented him- self with uniting the northern provinces in the Union of rtn'cht (l.')79), under the name of the United Provinces, and with proclaiming the deposition of Philip II at least within these provinces. To the Mal- contents, therefore, is due the credit of saving the royal autliority and the Catholic religion in the Belgian provinces.

The new regent, .\lessandro Famese, son of the for- mer regent, ilargaret of Parma, graspc-d the situation adminibly. lie entered into negotiations with the Malcontents, and reconciled them with the king's government by redressing their grievances; then with their support he set about recovering l)y force of arms the towns t hat had fallen into the hands of the Protes- tants. One after the other they were recaptured, some, like Tournai and Antwerp, only after memor- able sieges, till at last Ostend alone of all Belgium remained in Protestant hands. And now the popular regent was preparing for a campaign against the northern provinces, demoralized by the assassination of William of Orange in 1.584, when once more Philip IPs ill-ad viscfl policy mined everything. Instead of allowing Famese to continue his military success in the .Netherlands, Philip used him as an instrument of wild projects against F>ance and England. At one moment obliged to take part in maritime preparations ag:iinst Kngland, and at another to cross the frontier in support of the League against Henry IV, Famese had to leave his task unfinished, and he died in 1.592 of a wound received in one of his French expeditions. His death was the greater misfortune for Belgium because Maurice of Nassau, son of William of Orange, and one of the greatest war-captains of the age, was just then coming to the front.

Philip fin;illy .saw that a new policy mast be tried, lie bctliDught him of .separating the Catholic Nether- lands from Spain, and of giving the sovereignty to his daughter I.sabella and her husband the .Arch- duke .Mbert of .\ustria; in the event of their being childless the country was to revert to Spain (1.59S). This was one of the most important events in the his- tory of Belgium, which thus became once more an inde[)endent nation, acquired a national dynasty, and might now h(i\>c. for the return of former prosperity; that this hope was frustrated was the result of events which defeated the plans of statecraft and the wishes of the new sovereigns.

During the short space of their united reign (1598- 1621) Albert and Isabella lavished benefits on the country. Ostend was recaptured from Holland after a three-years' siege which claimed the attention of all Europe, and a truce of twelve years (1609-21) made with the United Provinces was employed to the greatest advantage. The damage done by the reli- gious wars was repaired; more than three hundred churches and religious hou.ses were founded or re- stored; local customs were codified by the Perpetual Ivlict of 1611, which has been called the most splendid mf)nurrient of Belgian law; public education was fos- tered in every way, and the new sovereigns brought about the founding of many colleges by the protection


they extended to the religious teaching orders. More- over they showed themselves generous patrons of .science, literature, and art, and protected the interests of commerce and agriculture. Blameless in their pri- vate life and deeply pious, they gave an example of virtue on the throne not always to be found there. Unfortunately they died childless, Albert in 1621, I.sabella in UiXi, and their death put an end to the reviving prosperity of Belgium. Once more the coun- try was drawn into endless wars by Spain, principally against France, and became the battle-field of numer- ous international conflicts. It wais repeatedly de- spoiled of some of its provinces by Louis XIV, and cruelly plundered by all armies, friendly and hostile, that marched across its plains. The seventeenth cen- tury was the most calamitous of its history. Such then was the condition of Belgium until the peace of Utrecht (1713), which followed by that of Rastatt fiut an end to the long and bloody wars of the Spanish Succession which gave Spain to the Bourbons and handed over the Catholic Low Countries to the Haps- burgs of Austria.

It would be a mistake to suppose that all these calamities, domestic and foreign, had left Belgium entirely unfruitful from the point of view of civiliza- tion. Nothing could be more false; though it is a charge often made even in Belgium by writers whose prejudices would fain discover in Catholicism a retard- nig force for Belgium's progress. The University of Louvain with its forty-two colleges, where Erasmus, Bellarmine, and Justus Lipsius had taught, had always been the centre of orthodoxy, and did not cea.se even during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to manifest great activity, chiefly in the domains of theology and law, which were expounded there by a large number of eminent scholars. Side bj' side with Louvain stood the University of Douai founded in 1.562 by Philip II as a breakwater against heresy, and it also sent forth many famous men. Among the new bishops were men whose fame for learning was only equalled by their well-known piety. It is no doubt true that the controversies of the day have left their mark on the rehgious life of that period. Thus, Michael Baius, a professor at Louvain, was con- demned by Rome for his theories on free will, predesti- nation, and justification, but he retracted in all humility. His teaching came up again in a more pronounced form in a pupil of one of his pupils, Cornelius Jan.sen, Bishop of Ypres, and it is well known how the " Augustinus", a posthumous work of this prelate, which appeared in 1640, gave rise to what is called Jansenism. Another manifestation of the intellectual and scientific activity of Belgium was the beginning of the celebrated collection known as the "Acta Sanctorum" by the Belgian Jesuits. H^ribert Rosweyde drew up the plans for the undertaking, and Father Jan van Bollunrl began to carrj' them out, leaving the continuation to his successors, the Bollan- dists. Amongst these Henschen and Papebroch in the seventeenth century contrilnited brilliantly to the work which has not yet reached its conclusion.

If, apart altogether from the religious aspect, we would complete the picture of Belgium's culture in the seventeenth century, we have but to recall that art reached its apogee in the Flemish School, of which Rubens was the head, and Van Dyck, Teniers, and Jordsns the greatest masters after him. It would thus be easy to prove that the Catholic Low Countries, though caught as in a vise between powerful neigh- bours and ever in the throes of war, did not give way to despair, but in the days of direst calamity drew from tlieir own bosom works of art and beauty which have served to adorn even our present flay civilization.

Thk Austrian Netherl.^nd.s. — The Treaty of Utrecht opened an era of comparative peace and pros- perity for the Catholic Netherlands, but did not bring contentment. The Austrian regime under which the