18. The Troubles at Den Briel, 1566-1567

Explanatory Comment : Even before Alva arrived in the Netherlands in August 1567 investigations into the ‘Troubles’ of 1566-1567 were under way. With the establishment of the Council of Troubles, the so-called ‘Council of Blood’, all matters relating to the disturbances were transferred to that tribunal. A huge enquiry was mounted throughout the Netherlands to discover those responsible and also to examine the conduct of the local magistrates. After witnesses had been heard on oath the Council cited those accused of sundry offences. Those indicted included the lay preachers and apostate priests, the iconoclasts, the members of the Calvinist consistories, the signatories of the Compromise and those who bore arms against their prince. The following document summons eighty-three inhabitants of Den Briel or Brielle in South Holland to answer such charges. Those who failed to appear and to clear their name were sentenced in their absence to be banished and to have their estates confiscated. Roughly 12,000 persons were cited before the Council of Trouble whose records provide the historian with an abundance of information about the nature of the early Calvinist movement in the Low Countries.

[On 20 October 1568 the Council of Troubles passed sentenced on eighty-three men from Den Briel and the surrounding region. In their absence they were sentenced to be banished and their estates confiscated. The sentences summarised the charges laid against each of those who had been convicted].

Text : Willem van Treslong, having been a gentleman in the household of the Heer van Brederode, a member of the Compromise of the Nobility, having been a signatory to their pernicious and seditious league and for this reason present at the presentation of the Request,1 as is notorious, and also at the meeting at St. Truiden, having seduced his eldest brother Jan van Treslong also to appear and to sign the said Compromise and in January 1567 to have presented the last Request of the Heer van Brederode to Her Highness, according to which they demanded complete freedom to exercise the new religion in return for laying down their arms ….; Nicolaas van Sandijck,2 having also been a member of the said Compromise, and having been a signatory to their seditious league and having maintained two horses in the service of the Heer van Brederode, and who gave refuge and advice to the image-breakers of the town of Den Briel. Hugo Quirynsz. was present in the chamber of the Rhetoricians in the town hall on Ash Wednesday 15673 and there with other brother rhetoricians to have mocked the mass by drinking from the chalice belonging to the altar of the same fraternity. On this occasion the missal, the canon of the mass and the statue of St. Rochus were put on trial, and, after psalms had been sung by way of a refrain, they sentenced the said missal, canon of the mass and the statue of St. Rochus to be burnt; this was carried out and the whole lot thrown on the fire. Corvinck Thonisse and Jan Thysse, deans of the rhetoricians, were present during the said blasphemies and abominations, when four statues from the altar of St. Rochus (which had been removed from the parish church and taken to the said chamber to keep them from being broken) were likewise condemned to be burnt, and indeed thrown into the fire, together with the ornaments and furnishings belonging to the said altar. Dierick de Nayer also drank from the said chalice. Aert Daniels, Pieter Michielsz., Jan Commersz. and Jan Lenartsz. were very thoroughly involved in the new preachings, and had carried messages for the members of the consistory, and had shown great favour to the image-breakers and had been commissioned by the sectaries to go the Prince of Orange and the Heer van Brederode; and the said Pieter Michielsz. had been present during the image-breaking in the convent of the Poor Clares, instructing the iconoclasts what they ought to smash, [and] when a Catholic asked him ‘if the Gospel commanded the breaking [of images]?’ he replied that ‘it was necessary and that the Whore of Babylon must be overthrown’. The said Hugo Pietersz., Jacob Cornelisz., Mr. Pieter van der Heyde and Andries de Wever had been deacons; and the said Jan Commersz., Mr. Pieter and Andries de Wever had broken in the parish church of Maerlant; and the said Hugo Pietersz. held the consistory in his house; and the said Mr. Pieter, besides having one of his children baptised in the Calvinist way, had been the ringleader and one of the chiefest of the said breakers. Jacob Jacobsz. Coster, having been detained on account of the past troubles, had broken prison and escaped; [he] was charged with having led his pupils to the burial of someone of the new religion and there made them sing psalms. Eeuwout Cornelisz., until recently the schout of the said town, and Willem Willemsz. Apotheker had been foremost in promoting and encouraging the iconoclasm there and had themselves broken [images]. The said Eeuwout Cornelisz. had been commissioned by the sectaries and put in charge of the ordnance drawn up on the town fortifications and in front of the gates of the same to defend them and to have worn the badge of the Beggars. Boudewyn Jansse, [was] also a member of the Compromise and had been a signatory to their seditious league under the Heer van Brederode and to have worn their badge and dress. Mathys Andriesse and Jacob his son had also broken into the convent of the Poor Clares as have also broken … [54 names follow], all of whom have been convicted of having broken images. The said Simon Jansse Sleeper has been a member of the said Compromise of the nobility, having been a signatory to their seditious league and had one of his children baptised in the new way and having broken statues. Jan van Delft also broke [images] and attended the aforementioned abominable insolence perpetrated against the service of the mass. Adriaen de Kleermaeker had been a messenger for the consistory and broken images in the convent of the Poor Clares. Cornelis Heyndricxz., a burgomaster in 1566, had lodged a minister of the sectaries. Mr. Cornelis Rutgersz. had shown great favour towards the image-breakers and was alleged to have hired some of them to break the said statues and to have expressed several blasphemous remarks against the Catholic religion and the venerable Sacrament [of the altar]. Pieter Jansz. Coninck [was charged with being] thoroughly involved in the new Religion and their preachings, [with] having made several journeys on behalf of the consistory, received the sums collected on behalf of the Heer van Brederode and [with having] held the consistory at his house. Lenaert Benoyt alias de Wael [was charged with being] deeply involved in the said new Religion and preachings, having been a member of the said Compromise and a signatory to their league; also [with having] received money for the said Heer van Brederode. Mr. Dirck Cock, rector and schoolmaster, is one of the foremost authors of the alteration of the old religion and of the introduction of the sects and new preachings, having infected all his pupils with his false and erroneous doctrines and having instructed them in Calvin’s catechism and taught them to sing the psalms, no longer leading them to mass on feast-days and Sundays or to any other church service, yet taking them to the grave-side of those buried in the new way to sing the psalms there, in these ways alienating them completely from the ancient Catholic and Roman religion so that most of the youth of the town are infected by the said false doctrines; and when he was summoned before the magistrates and asked whether he would not instruct his said pupils in the old way, he roundly replied that he would not, but that he wanted to teach what he had recently learned; having also ripped up the missal and other books in the convent of St. Catherine; and the said Jan Smeet de Borst having gone into hiding because he had married a nun who had fled from the convent of st. Catherine.

Having also seen the evidence shown by the said procureur-generaal in support of the facts set out above … His Excellence [the Duke of Alva] banishes all those who have been cited.
Done in Antwerp 20 October 1568.

Source : J. Marcus, Sententiën en indagingen van den Hertog van Alba (Amsterdam, 1735) 155-164. Marcus published the sentences passed by the Council of Troubles against those who had taken a leading part in the disorders of 1566-1567.