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 projects in which majesty itself, with all its powerful supports, might have failed.
The land, indeed, flourished; and a general prosperity appeared to testify to the blessings of the peace which had so lately been bestowed upon it. An external repose deceived the eye, for within raged all the elements of discord. If the foundations of religion totter in a country they totter not alone; the audacity which begins with things sacred ends with things profane. The successful attack upon the hierarchy had awakened a spirit of boldness, and a desire to assail authority in general, and to test laws as well as dogmas — duties as well as opinions. The fanatical boldness with which men had learned to discuss and decide upon the affairs of eternity might change its subject matter; the contempt for life and property which religious enthusiasm had taught could metamorphose timid citizens into foolhardy rebels. A female government of nearly forty years had given the nation room to assert their liberty; continual wars, of which the Netherlands had been the theatre, had introduced a license with them, and the right of the stronger had usurped the place of law and order. The provinces were filled with foreign adventurers and fugitives; generally men bound by no ties of country, family, or property, who had brought with them from their unhappy homes the seeds of insubordination and rebellion. The repeated spectacles of torture and of death had rudely burst the tenderer threads of moral feeling, and had given an unnatural harshness to the national character.
Still the rebellion would have crouched timorously and silently on the ground if it had not found a support in the nobility. Charles V. had spoiled the Flemish nobles of the Netherlands by making them the participators of his glory, by fostering their national pride, by the marked preference he showed for them over the Castilian nobles, and by opening an arena to their ambition in every part of his empire. In the late war with France they had really deserved this preference from Philip; the advantages which the king reaped from the peace of Chateau- Cambray were for the most part the fruits of their valor, and they now sensibly missed the gratitude on which they had so confidently reckoned. Moreover, the separation of the German empire from the Spanish monarchy, and the less warlike spirit of the new government, had greatly narrowed their sphere of action, and, except in their own country, little remained for them to gain. And Philip now appointed his Spaniards where Charles V. had employed the Flemings. All the passions which the preceding government had raised and kept employed still survived in peace; and in default of a legitimate object these unruly feelings found, unfortunately, ample scope in the grievances of their country. Accordingly, the claims and wrongs which had been long supplanted by new passions were now drawn from oblivion. By his late appointments the king had satisfied no party; for those even who obtained offices were not much more content than those who were entirely passed over, because they had calculated on something better than they got. William of Orange had received four governments (not to reckon some smaller dependencies which, taken together, were equivalent to a fifth), but William had nourished hopes of Flanders and Brabant. He and Count Egmont forgot what had really fallen to their share, and only remembered that they had lost the regency. The majority of the nobles were either plunged into debt by their own extravagance, or had willingly enough been drawn into it by the government. Now that they were excluded from the prospect of lucrative appointments, they at once saw themselves exposed to poverty, which pained them the more sensibly when they contrasted the splendor of the affluent citizens with their own necessities. In the extremities to which they were reduced many would have readily assisted in the commission even of crimes; how then could they resist the seductive offers of the Calvinists, who liberally repaid them for their intercession and protection? Lastly, many whose estates were past redemption placed their last hope in a general devastation, and stood prepared at the first favorable moment to cast the torch of discord into the republic.
This threatening aspect of the public mind was rendered still more alarming by the unfortunate vicinity of France. What Philip dreaded for the provinces was there already accomplished. The fate of that kingdom prefigured to him the destiny of his Netherlands, and the spirit of rebellion found there a seductive example. A similar state of things had under Francis I. and Henry II. scattered the seeds of innovation in that kingdom; a similar fury of persecution and a like spirit of faction had encouraged its growth. Now Huguenots and Catholics were struggling in a dubious contest; furious parties disorganized the whole monarchy, and were violently hurrying this once-powerful state to the brink of destruction. Here, as there, private interest, ambition, and party feeling might veil themselves under the names of religion and patriotism, and the passions of a few citizens drive the entire nation to take up arms. The frontiers of both countries merged in Walloon Flanders; the rebellion might, like an agitated sea, cast its waves as far as this: would a country be closed against it whose language, manners, and character wavered between those of France and Belgium? As yet the government had taken no census of its Protestant subjects in these countries, but the new sect, it was aware, was a vast, compact republic, which extended its roots through all the monarchies of Christendom, and the slighest disturbance in any of its most distant members vibrated to its centre. It was, as it were, a chain of threatening volcanoes, which, united by subterraneous passages, ignite at the same moment with alarming sympathy. The Netherlands were, necessarily, open to all nations, because they derived their support from all. Was it possible for Philip to close a commercial state as easily as he could Spain? If he wished to purify these provinces from heresy it was necessary for him to commence by extirpating it in France.
It was in this state that Granvella found the Netherlands at the beginning of his administration (1560).
To restore to these countries the uniformity of papistry, to break the co-ordinate power of the nobility and the states, and to exalt the royal authority on the ruins of republican freedom, was the great object of Spanish policy and the express commission of the new minister. But obstacles stood in the way of its accomplishment; to conquer these demanded the invention of new resources, the application of new machinery. The Inquisition, indeed, and the religious edicts appeared sufficient to check the contagion of heresy; but the latter required superintendence, and the former able instruments for its now extended jurisdiction. The church constitution continued the same as it had been in earlier times, when the provinces were less populous, when the church still enjoyed universal repose, and could be more easily overlooked and controlled. A succession of several centuries, which changed the whole interior form of the provinces, had left the form of the hierarchy unaltered, which, moreover, was protected from the arbitrary will of its ruler by the particular privileges of the provinces. All the seventeen provinces were parcelled out under four bishops, who had their seats at Arras, Tournay, Cambray, and Utrecht, and were subject to the primates of Rheims and Cologne. Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, had, indeed, meditated an increase in the number of bishops to meet the wants of the increasing population; but, unfortunately, in the excitement of a life of pleasure had abandoned the project. Ambition and lust of conquest withdrew the mind of Charles the Bold from the internal concerns of his kingdom, and Maximilian had already too many subjects of dispute with the states to venture to add to their number by proposing this change. A stormy reign prevented Charles V. from the execution of this extensive plan, which Philip II. now undertook as a bequest from all these princes. The moment had now arrived when the urgent necessities of the church would excuse the innovation, and the leisure of peace favored its accomplishment. With the prodigious crowd of people from all the countries of Europe who were crowded together in the towns of the Netherlands, a multitude of religious opinions had also grown up; and it was impossible that religion could any longer be effectually superintended by so few eyes as were formerly sufficient. While the number of bishops was so small their districts must, of necessity, have been proportionally extensive, and four men could not be adequate to maintain the purity of the faith through so wide a district.
The jurisdiction which the Archbishops of Cologne and Rheims exercised over the Netherlands had long been a stumbling-block to the government, which could not look on this territory as really its own property so long as such an important branch of power was still wielded by foreign hands. To snatch this prerogative from the alien archbishops; by new and active agents to give fresh life and vigor to the superintendence of the faith, and at the same time to strengthen the number of the partisans of government at the diet, no more effectual means could be devised than to increase the number of bishops. Resolved upon doing this Philip II. ascended the throne; but he soon found that a change in the hierarchy would inevitably meet with warm opposition from the provinces, without whose consent, nevertheless, it would be vain to attempt it. Philip foresaw that the nobility would never approve of a measure which would so strongly augment the royal party, and take from the aristocracy the preponderance of power in the diet. The revenues, too, for the maintenance of these new bishops must be diverted from the abbots and monks, and these formed a considerable part of the states of the realm. He had, besides, to fear the opposition of the Protestants, who would not fail to act secretly in the diet against him. On these accounts the whole affair was discussed at Rome with the greatest possible secrecy. Instructed by, and as the agent of, Granvella, Francis Sonnoi, a priest of Louvain, came before Paul IV. to inform him how extensive the provinces were, how thriving and populous, how luxurious in their prosperity. But, he continued, in the immoderate enjoyment of liberty the true faith is neglected, and heretics prosper. To obviate this evil the Romish See must have recourse to extraordinary measures. It was not difficult to prevail on the Romish pontiff to make a change which would enlarge the sphere of his own jurisdiction.
Paul IV. appointed a tribunal of seven cardinals to deliberate upon this important matter; but death called him away, and he left to his successor, Pius IV., the duty of carrying their advice into execution. The welcome tidings of the pope's determination reached the king in Zealand when he was just on the point of setting sail for Spain, and the minister was secretly charged with the dangerous reform. The new constitution of the hierarchy was published in 1560; in addition to the then existing four bishoprics thirteen new ones were established, according to the number of seventeen provinces, and four of them were raised into archbishoprics. Six of these episcopal sees, viz., in Antwerp, Herzogenbusch, Ghent, Bruges, Ypres, and Ruremonde, were placed under the Archbishopric of Malines; five others, Haarlem, Middelburg, Leuwarden, Deventer, and Groningen, under the Archbishopric of Utrecht; and the remaining four, Arras, Tournay, St. Omer, and Namur, which lie nearest to France, and have language, character, and manners in common with that country, under the Archbishopric of Cambray. Malines, situated in the middle of Brabant and in the centre of all the seventeen provinces, was made the primacy of all the rest, and was, with several rich abbeys, the reward of Granvella. The revenues of the new bishoprics were provided by an appropriation of the treasures of the cloisters and abbeys which had accumulated from pious benefactions during centuries. Some of the abbots were raised to the episcopal throne, and with the possession of their cloisters and prelacies retained also the vote at the diet which was attached to them. At the same time to every bishopric nine prebends were attached, and bestowed on the most learned juris-consultists and theologians, who were to support the Inquisition and the bishop in his spiritual office. Of these, the two who were most deserving by knowledge, experience, and unblemished life were to be constituted actual inquisitors, and to have the first voice in the Synods. To the Archbishop of Malines, as metropolitan of all the seventeen provinces, the full authority was given to appoint, or at discretion depose, archbishops and bishops; and the Romish See was only to give its ratification to his acts.
At any other period the nation would have received with gratitude and approved of such a measure of church reform since it was fully called for by circumstances, was conducive to the interests of religion, and absolutely indispensable for the moral reformation of the monkhood. Now the temper of the times saw in it nothing but a hateful change. Universal was the indignation with which it was received. A cry was raised that the constitution was trampled under foot, the rights of the nation violated, and that the Inquisition was already at the door, and would soon open here, as in Spain, its bloody tribunal. The people beheld with dismay these new servants of arbitrary power and of persecution. The nobility saw in it nothing but a strengthening of the royal authority by the addition of fourteen votes in the states' assembly, and a withdrawal of the firmest prop of their freedom, the balance of the royal and the civil power. The old bishops complained of the diminution of their incomes and the circumscription of their sees; the abbots and monks had not only lost power and income, but had received in exchange rigid censors of their morals. Noble and simple, laity and clergy, united against the common foe, and while all singly struggled for some petty private interest, the cry appeared to come from the formidable voice of patriotism.
Among all the provinces Brabant was loudest in its opposition. The inviolability of its church constitution was one of the important privileges which it had reserved in the remarkable charter of the "Joyful Entry," — statutes which the sovereign could not violate without releasing the nation from its allegiance to him. In vain did the university of Louvain assert that in disturbed times of the church a privilege lost its power which had been granted in the period of its tranquillity. The introduction of the new bishoprics into the constitution was thought to shake the whole fabric of liberty. The prelacies, which were now transferred to the bishops, must henceforth serve another rule than the advantage of the province of whose states they had been members. The once free patriotic citizens were to be instruments of the Romish See and obedient tools of the archbishop, who again, as first prelate of Brabant, had the immediate control over them. The freedom of voting was gone, because the bishops, as servile spies of the crown, made every one fearful. "Who," it was asked, "will after this venture to raise his voice in parliament before such observers, or in their presence dare to protect the rights of the nation against the rapacious hands of the government? They will trace out the resources of the provinces, and betray to the crown the secrets of our freedom and our property. They will obstruct the way to all offices of honor; we shall soon see the courtiers of the king succeed the present men; the children of foreigners will, for the future, fill the parliament, and the private interest of their patron will guide their venal votes." "What an act of oppression," rejoined the monks, "to pervert to other objects the pious designs of our holy institutions, to contemn the inviolable wishes of the dead, and to take that which a devout charity had deposited in our chests for the relief of the unfortunate and make it subservient to the luxury of the bishops, thus inflating their arrogant pomp with the plunder of the poor?" Not only the abbots and monks, who really did suffer by this act of appropriation, but every family which could flatter itself with the slightest hope of enjoying, at some time or other, even in the most remote posterity, the benefit of this monastic foundation, felt this disappointment of their distant expectations as much as if they had suffered an actual injury, and the wrongs of a few abbot-prelates became the concern of a whole nation.
Historians have not omitted to record the covert proceedings of William of Orange during this general commotion, who labored to conduct to one end these various and conflicting passions. At his instigation the people of Brabant petitioned the regent for an advocate and protector, since they alone, of all his Flemish subjects, had the misfortune to unite, in one and the same person, their counsel and their ruler. Had the demand been granted, their choice could fall on no other than the Prince of Orange. But Granvella, with his usual presence of mind, broke through the snare. "The man who receives this office," he declared in the state council, "will, I hope, see that he divides Brabant with the king!" The long delay of the papal bull, which was kept back by a misunderstanding between the Romish and Spanish courts, gave the disaffected an opportunity to combine for a common object. In perfect secrecy the states of Brabant despatched an extraordinary messenger to Pins IV. to urge their wishes in Rome itself. The ambassador was provided with important letters of recommendation from the Prince of Orange, and carried with him considerable sums to pave his way to the father of the church. At the same time a public letter was forwarded from the city of Antwerp to the King of Spain containing the most urgent representations, and supplicating him to spare that flourishing commercial town from the threatened innovation. They knew, it was stated, that the intentions of the monarch were the best, and that the institution of the new bishops was likely to be highly conducive to the maintenance of true religion; but the foreigners could not be convinced of this, and on them depended the prosperity of their town. Among them the most groundless rumors would be as perilous as the most true. The first embassy was discovered in time, and its object disappointed by the prudence of the regent; by the second the town of Antwerp gained so far its point that it was to remain without a bishop, at least until the personal arrival of the king, which was talked of.
The example and success of Antwerp gave the signal of opposition to all the other towns for which a new bishop was intended. It is a remarkable proof of the hatred to the Inquisition and the unanimity of the Flemish towns at this date that they preferred to renounce all the advantages which the residence of a bishop would necessarily bring to their local trade rather than by their consent promote that abhorred tribunal, and thus act in opposition to the interests of the whole nation. Deventer, Ruremond, and Leuwarden placed themselves in determined opposition, and (1561) successfully carried their point; in the other towns the bishops were, in spite of all remonstrances, forcibly inducted. Utrecht, Haarlem, St. Omer, and Middelburg were among the first which opened their gates to them; the remaining towns followed their example; but in Malines and Herzogenbusch the bishops were received with very little respect. When Granvella made his solemn entry into the former town not a single nobleman showed himself, and his triumph was wanting in everything that could make it real, because those remained away over whom it was meant to be celebrated.