19. Certain Advice and Plain Declaration for His Majesty the King Concerning the Control and Safety of His State and the Commonweal and the Prosperity of the Country, translated from the Spanish.

Explanatory Comment : A mystery surrounds this memorandum which purports to be advice to Philip II with regard to his Netherlands possessions. Whoever composed the ‘Advice’ evidently knew the Low Countries well and favoured a radical approach to the problems of the government of the Low Countries. Several candidates have been proposed as authors, including Cardinal Granvelle. Viglius and the Spanish councillor Luis del Rio (c.1530-78) who came to the Netherlands with Alva in 1567 to serve in the Council of Blood. The naivety of certain proposals, however, might indicate a loyalist outside the political elites, for example the inquisitor Lindanus. Whoever was the author, it is plain as a pikestaff that this memorandum has, contrary to what is sometimes alleged, nothing to do with the instructions given to Alva on 31 January 1567. The ‘Advice’ seems to have enjoyed a considerable circulation and Dutch as well as French manuscript texts survive and the Dutch historian Pieter Bor quotes from a printed version. The ‘Advice’ cannot be precisely dated, though its recommendations clearly reflect the circumstances in the aftermath of the Troubles of 1566-1567. It first came to attention in the autumn of 1567. Sir Thomas Gresham sent a copy of certain ‘Articles of Instruction’, translated from Spanish into French’ to Cecil on 16 October 1567. Some of the ideas had been around for some time, for example the proposal to transform the Low Countries into a kingdom. The ‘Copy of the Secret Articles’ must have been drafted after 1598 for its refers to Philip II ‘of glorious memory’. It is appended here because it clearly derives from the ‘Advice’, despite its claim to be the ‘Secret Articles’ which Philip II gave his captain-general.

Text : In the name of God Amen

This is a memorial and summary of thirteen heads and articles which are apt and should be put into effect on account of the misfortune and distress in this country at the present time. These shall certainly ensure the maintenance of, and obedience to,our holy mother the Church and the Catholic faith, the greatness, authority and safety of the King and, above all, the prosperity and the increase of the reputation and commonweal of all the provinces of Germania inferior or Low Germany.

1. First and foremost the King should incorporate all the countries and provinces of these Low Countries in a kingdom and have himself crowned as king absolute [roy absolut] of the same, giving it the name and title of the kingdom of Low Germany or Germania inferior. He should make the town of Brussels a metropolis and the chief residence or city of the same kingdom, as Paris is of France or London of England.2

2. His Majesty should make for the whole realm a fixed and universal law for the preservation and peace of our Catholic religion. This law should be made faithfully with the consent of all the peoples and provinces of the said realm. Of course the said general law should on no account be referred to as the term ‘Spanish Inquisition’, notwithstanding that the institution is in itself and by its origin holy and honourable.

3. The King should arrange for the election of a certain number of bishops, men who are fit and persons of good repute and sound doctrine. These shall be required to reside permanently in those places and provinces to which they have been appointed and where their presence is required. Nothing is more likely to move the common people to disobedience and arrogance than the absence and neglect of a diligent and vigilant shepherd and bishop from their midst, as we know by experience now and in the unhappy past.

4. The King should abolish and abrogate in all towns and cities of the said realm that custom of consultation known as the Broad Council [den Breeden Raedt]. All the disorders and popular disturbances, which have recently occurred, may be attributed to the instability and mutability of this kind of consultation. I am thinking chiefly of the towns of Antwerp, Amsterdam and Valenciennes, for they behaved so arrogantly and presumptuously in these councils that they dared, contrary to all reason, to lay down and prescribe the law to their King and Prince, as we have recently witnessed.

5. The King should appoint and establish a new office in every town, large or small, in the said realm, to wit, a prudent and worthy person, who out of respect for his office and commission shall be known as the King’s captain or lieutenant. By virtue of his office he shall always have the right to enter and to attend, without let or hindrance, all the councils and meetings, including the senate of the magistrates of that city and the assemblies of the burghers. The presence of a royal commissioner shall ensure that great and small men alike shall always be careful not to say or do anything contrary to the wishes and authority of the King.

6. His Majesty should cause to have erected and built in certain suitable places, whose loyalty is under suspicion, some well-fortified and well-furnished castles and citadels, to wit, in towns which deserve to be punished for their reckless and insolent conduct in order that these provinces may be spared from rebellious assemblies in future. Nothing inclines a seditious people to submit more readily to the judgement and give of the prince than the presence of troops in their midst, weapons at the ready, to bring to heel those who practice turmoil and disorder.

7. The King should seize and remove the arms and ordnance from all towns and cities in the heart of this realm (an exception being made for towns and forts on the frontier). All these said weapons and military stores should be put under close guard in the said citadels and fortresses, which His Majesty shall build in the centre of the realm so that, in time of need, the said weapons and munitions can easily be distributed and employed, as required and as the King wishes. For there is nothing more likely to bring an unbridled people to obedience and tranquillity than the sight of their King, fully armed and equipped, and the people well-clothed yet unarmed. For it is a common maxim that when a people considers itself poor, and is at the same time amply provided with arms, it always seeks to change its condition; where, however, the people is prosperous and well-endowed with prosperity, yet lacking any arms, it wishes to continue and to remain in that state.

8. The King should have constructed and built some sort of armoury, to wit a special and well-fortified place, where the King’s weapons and ordnance may be kept, after the example of similar armouries at Venice, Constantinople, Lisbon and Paris, which contribute in no small way to the strength and power of these realms. This fortress or arsenal should be set up and built at Mechelen, since this town lies at the centre of the country. From here the said ordnance and weapons may be conveniently distributed throughout the country, wherever they are required, by sea, land or river. This same storehouse for arms or fortress may be located for the time being in the Grand Béguinage in the same town. With only moderate expenditure this can be transformed into the strongest place in Christendom, since it is surrounded by water and marshland. In this way the King may be assured of three benefits, to wit an impregnable stronghold in the heart of the realm, a supply of munitions and arms sufficient for a royal host of forty to fifty thousand men in the field and, finally, he may be assured that since his subjects in the centre of the said country shall always be unarmed, they shall be less quick, or able, to rebel against their prince. It is well known that the people of this country prefer to be well-dressed and to live in comfort rather than to be equipped and armed for military campaigns. If His Majesty wanted to proceed in this way, the religious could easily leave and be accommodated in other religious houses in the surrounding towns. In this way the King might have a convenient place and the béguines properly provided with accommodation.

9. His Majesty should set up and equip a naval force in this country, consisting of some twenty to thirty vessels or ships, large, medium-size and small. The costs of these should be found always, in peace time as well as in wartime, from the proceeds of seaborne commerce. To wit, from levies on the loading and unloading of cargoes, licences, passports, the fisheries and from maritime concerns, after the example of all other rulers, kings and princes with a seaboard, who maintain such a naval force for the security, protection and defence of their country. Such a fleet can assuredly be more conveniently set up and maintained in this country than in any other country in Christendom on account of the great volume of business, which exceeds that of any other country in the world. For I tell you and I can prove it by experience that the losses suffered by His Majesty’s subjects through the piracy and plundering at sea of the English in only seven years exceed the costs of maintaining such a fleet for a long time, indeed they would almost pay for the conquest of the kingdom of England. Yet at present there is no remedy nor any hope of recovering the goods and possessions thus lost and stolen. This has only happened because we lack a fleet such as other princes and rulers maintain. No matter how strong a king may be on land, if he is powerless at sea, he cannot properly describe himself as a puissant prince. If he and his subjects shall be held in contempt by neighbouring countries and they shall lose more of their possessions at one stroke at sea then they shall acquire in their lifetime on land.

10. His Majesty should garrison the castles and fortresses, which he shall build in the heart of the realm with foreigners, chiefly Spaniards, Italians, Burgundians and Germans. A foreigner in royal service in the midst of the country is more reliable, loyal and useful than a native, for experience always teaches that the men of this country are more given to commerce than to warfare.

11. The King should inspect and renew all the privileges throughout the realm. He should decree and publish one uniform law, privilege, religion and custom which shall be applied and observed everywhere; also a single uniform system of weights, measures and coinage for the whole country. The disposition of the inhabitants of those countries which enjoy a single uniform system of weights, measures and coinage tends to be more conformable and loyal, and above all more peaceable and obedient to the king and his laws.

12. The King should grant and establish in all provinces and countries, indeed in all the individual towns of the realm, certain freedoms and liberties for the increase and protection of commerce, trade and business. Experience teaches indeed that the sinew and foundation of the prosperity and wealth of this realm or commonweal lies in, and depends on, the influx and confluence of people from almost every part of Europe, who trade and carry on business there, by both land and sea, on account of the favourable situation of the country, the wit and intelligence of the inhabitants, who are more devoted to business and commerce, whether by land or sea, than any other race in the world.

13. The King should grant a royal and general pardon to all the people for their past folly, ignorance, rebellion and errors; he should recall those who on that account have gone into hiding or fled abroad; finally he should deal in a measured way with the authors and leaders of these past rebellions and disturbances, provided that his justice inclines more to clemency than to severity, as becomes the wisdom of kings and as corresponds with Caesar’s maxim that the prowess and strength of a magnaminous prince consists in pardoning a people out of love rather than in chastising them severely. It benefits a prince, no matter how great, that he endeavour to demonstrate his virtue and substance. Although he may have gained power by the use of violence, he should thereafter rule his people with goodness and mercy. I would conclude by saying that above all else in this world justice and piety make a prince great and valiant.

Source : From Papiers d’état du cardinal de Granvelle , ed. C.Weiss (Paris,) 676-82. An almost identical version in Archives ou correspondance inédite de la maison d’Orange-Nassau , Supplement, ed.J.T. Bodel Nijenhuis (Leiden, 1847) 73*-79*. For the texts circulating in October and November see Calendar of State Papers Foreign , no 1769; cf. 1764 and Relations politiques V, 38-41. A Dutch translation may be found in P. Bor, Oorsprongk begin ende vervolgh , I, pp. 250-51. An inferior Dutch text in the Gemeente archief,Groningen (Register Feith, 1568, no.78) bears the date 2 March 1568.
1 Weiss has plausibly suggested Granvelle and this view has found favour with M.van Durme, Antoon Perronet, Bisschop van Atrecht, Kardinal van Granvelle (Brussels, 1953)  273-80. Another French version is to be found in the Algemeen Rijksarchief Brussels (Manuscrits divers no.3852) and A.L.E. Verheyden has suggested that the author was Luis del Rio, Le Conseil des Troubles (1981). The genuine instructions of Alva are dated 31 January 1567 and bear no resemblace to the memorandum of advice.
2 When the Netherlands rebels presented their case before the German Diet in 1570, they referred at length to this proposal to turn the Low Countries into a kingdom. ‘Therefore they long most earnestly travailed with Charles the Emperor, and with Philip his son, that the whole country might be reduced into one body, and made subject to one form of laws and jurisdiction, and brought to the name and title of a kingdom, and that, abrogating the power of the popular magistrates and laws, it might be governed with new laws by discretion as the Kingdoms of Sicily and Naples be, that have been acquired by conquest. Wherein, when they saw that they laboured in vain, both because the states of all the towns most stiffly withstood it, and perhaps also for that the Emperor himself began to smell their sinister purposes, they deferred the matter to a more commodious season, and this yet by the way with their importunate slanderous cavilling they obtained, that afterwards he would never in any wise suffer the solemn parliaments or general assemblies of all the estates to be kept as it had been in his progenitor’s times …’. From A Defence and True Declaration (1571) in The Dutch Revolt ed. M. van Gelderen, pp. 20-21. Orig. Libellus supplex imperatoriae maiestati (1570).


Copy of the secret articles which His Majesty King Philip II of glorious memry gave to the Duke of Alva when he was sent as Governor and Captain-General of the Netherlands in the Years 1566

1. That all the states be made into a single kingdom, with Brussels as the capital as Paris is of France.

2. That one law should be established concerning religion and that on no account should the Inquisition be known by that name,since it is odious to the people.

3. That castles should be built in the regions where there have been rebellions.

4. That the population should be disarmed.

5. That all weapons, munitions and ordnance be taken out of the control of the towns and placed in royal arsenals, as is done at Lisbon.

6. That there should be no general councils, or Breeden Raet [broad councils] as they are known, because laws are passed in such bodies against their princes.

7. That a single system of coinage be used, which shall be of equal value and weight throughout the country.

8. That a list of six persons should be drawn up from among those who lead exemplary lives to give an edifying example to the rest of the people.

9. That thirty warships be armed to patrol the waterways in peace and war, supervising the vessels which come and go and collecting dues from these for their upkeep.

10. That extensive privileges and liberties be accorded to foreigners in order to increase trade.

11. That a resident be appointed by the Governor to attend all courts and the meetings of the states.

12. Finally, that a general pardon should be proclaimed and that sentences should be moderate to encourage the inhabitants to return to their country, in imitation of Julius Caesar, who conquered by clemency rather than by severity.

Source : From A.L.E.Verheyden, Le Conseil des Troubles (Brussels, 1961), p.508. The Spanish original is in the Algemeen Rijksarchief, Brussels (Conseil privé espagnol). Translated from the Spanish by Mr.T. Hawkins, graduate in History at Southampton in June 1971.