27. Selections from the Diary of Master Wouter Jacobsz., Prior of Stein, September 1572-May 1578

1. The Massacre of St. Bartholomews

[3 Sept. 1572] … it was reported that the stadhouder [Boussu] had for certain received a letter telling how the Admiral of France [Coligny] had been murdered there by the King with some three thousand of his followers. This news made us all the gladder for we hoped that our enemies would be afflicted as a result. Our dear Lord is capable of all things and we may trust Him that He shall not allow those who are His to be completely oppressed. (2)

2. The Tyranny wrought by the Beggars

[4 Sept.1572] Lord, enlighten our minds lest we too fall into the error into which so many at this time have fallen, abandoning our faith for some outward advantage such as, for example, commerce. As long as people have been assured about their external freedom and their own welfare, they care not whether God’s temples are despoiled, the holy statues broken, whether God’s servants, the priests, religious and upright Catholics, are mocked, driven forth, plundered and miserably murdered, nor finally also whether the worship of God and the most holy sacraments are hindered, blasphemed and scandalously abused, being trodden underfoot and brought to nought as they please. Who shall not be appalled by such excessive blindness in times to come when he recalls this? They affirm their loyalty to the king, yet dishonour and contradict his edicts. They pretend to be captains and stadhouders of the king, yet they cause havoc throughout the King’s realm with their looting, murdering and burning.They wish to restore the ancient privileges and liberties of the province, yet they perpetrate a worse slavery and tyranny than ever before. These men are led to commit such reckless acts to protect their commerce, to rid themselves of the Spaniards and to evade the Tenth Penny. They abandon God for such reasons; they value such matters more highly than the excellent sacraments. They would rather suffer this than receive the assistance of the king’s soldiers against robbers and murderers. And what has happened? God has abandoned us. The grace conferred through the holy sacraments has been taken from us. Not only have we not gained that which we sought, but we have fallen into far worst straits. The commerce which previously continued has now been entirely driven forth. In place of the Spaniards, who were our friends and few in number and who would only have stayed with us for a short time, have come our mortal enemies to oppress us in such large numbers that we fear we shall not be delivered, or that others shall come in their stead. We now pay not just the Tenth Penny, but more than the second penny [i.e.more than half], for many a person has lost all his property as a result. Next the oppression and bondage, because these men came in order to have freedom, is evident whenever these troublemakers are found, both in the towns and in the countryside: everyone is compelled to remain at home and may not leave the town; it is forbidden to read or write letters to anyone on pain of corporal punishment; men must also keep watch day and night so often that the duty becomes excessively heavy and oppressive … (3-4)

3 Disturbances at Leiden and Delft

On the second of this month [October 1572] a letter reached Amsterdam from Leiden which told of another great tumult, this time on St. Bavo’s Eve [30 Sept.]. First the convent of the Witte Nonnen had been invaded for the second time. They had again caused destruction and perpetrated so much damage that those responsible for this excess had been imprisoned. But others came and broke open the prison and delivered these felons. Greatly enraged, they all then went destroying and smashing to pieces whatever they found in the Pieterskerk or Pancraskerk. All good men who got to hear of this were deeply grieved and they sighed and wept.

There also occurred at the same time no small disturbance in Delft because the count of Lumey, who had done so much damage in The Hague, looting the church of the Dominicans [Kloosterkerk] and the houses of good men, and who had eaten the whole country bare, made ready to enter Delft with his troops. The inhabitants of Delft objected and drew his attention to the agreement between themselves and the count, but others in the town wanted him to enter. As a result people were very afraid that there would be a riot among the commonalty. (21)

4 Hostility to Priests at Leiden

On the 14th of this month [October 1572] there came to us a canon from Leiden called Heer Jan, who had been born at Oudewater. He had just come from Leiden, not without great danger. He told us that he had left on account of the atrocities committed by the Beggars in Leiden. Of these the most extraordinary was the rumour that a commission had come from Lumey to the effect that priests and monks should be handed over and put to death. At the present time no priests were allowed to go about the streets. He also told us that they had already begun to investigate the monasteries on the grounds that they believed them to be guilty of treason, which they had hatched with the Spaniards. (35)

5 Persecution of Catholics at Gouda

On 4 November [1572] Sister Maria Jansdr. from the Magdalenen convent at Gouda reached Amsterdam …. the journey had taken four days. At this time it was intensely cold with keen frosts and high winds as if it were mid-winter so that it seemed as though our dear Lord wanted to assail us with every disaster at the time.

This nun brought us such a melancholic tale that it seemed our hearts would burst with grief. She told us of the havoc wrought in her convent, how on four or five occasions she had suffered when the Beggars had entered the house at night, carrying halberds and drawn knives with which they also threatened the inmates, calling them most shamefully whores of the sacraments and such like. She said that St. Margrietenconvent had indeed been burnt and that a nun there had been ill-used. She told us that St. Agnietenconvent now resembled an ordinary house open to the public, where people came and went as they pleased and that in the infirmary a nun had been violated. The good father confessor and the procurator of the house of the brethren of the common life had been murdered. And then she told how some of the brethren of the monastery Den Hem [near Schoonhoven] had been hanged, though the reports varied: according to some, the prior, to others, the sub-prior, along with the priest Cornelis Reyersz. and Keyser, a lay brother there. The aforesaid nun from Magdalenen told us of these and other atrocities. The reader may imagine how we were gripped with fear and sadness when we heard this. It is often said that the Christians who live under the Turks experience great sorrow, but they are not assailed like this; at least they can ameliorate or mitigate their plight by paying tribute and they may also keep their religion. Here no such mercy is shown. They take every penny. They oppress us. They take away our sacred vessels, which have been consecrated to the service of God in order to prevent the sacrifice of the mass. They stop us practising our religion and they break up all good assemblies to prevent it being re-organized. They mistreat in a godless and shameful way the holy virgins; they hound, torment, hang and murder regular and secular priests alike. They destroy, raze and burn the monasteries and other religious houses like demented beings. (48-49).

6 Master Wouter Explains the Sufferings of the Catholics

Why do you not protect your people and why do you not punish the wicked? But the good rules of the monasteries have been transgressed and the churches have been misused. Although we should have served God, we have gone instead in pursuit of evil pleasures. Those in the monasteries who should have been dead to the things of this world have served the flesh all the more. We have desecrated the churches, for we have used them as places for gossip, as markets and such like, where we indulge in vanities. Lord, it is true: we confess our error to you, our sins are manifold, we have transgressed your commandments. (51)

7 Insolence of the Beggars

On the same day [10 November] we saw the Beggars on De Volewijk marching on Amsterdam in groups. They also intimidated our men from afar, holding drawn daggers in their hands and shouting out: ‘”Come here you papist hirelings, bring us across you god guzzlers, tomorrow we shall come after you and then we shall see what you eat!’ That was what they said. But our men returned the insults, calling them temple thieves and desecrators of the sacraments, so that both sides gave as good as they got and they remained equally reckless. (56)

8 Lack of Respect for the King

[13 November 1572]. At this time the prince of Orange was in Holland. He travelled from town to town, which received him with great honour. He was given, so we were told, large sums of money and was received everywhere as though he were the true ruler of the country. And people here marvelled greatly on learning how little the King was feared and esteemed. The King, who was so powerful that even the Turk feared him, was thought to be impotent to punish such acts of rebellion. (59)

9 The Wicked Deeds of the Beggars Contradict their Claim to be Christians

[20 November 1572]. Then the rumour ran that the Beggars had held Ouderkerk to ransom for seven hundred rixdollars and to be sure of getting the money they had carried off three of the finest men in the village. What brutal rage: does not such cruelty surpass that of any beast? What drives you to such terrible mercilessness? Have these good people ever done you the slightest harm? Have they ever caused you the slightest grief? Our Christian law teaches us to comfort those that grieve, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and to give hospitality to strangers. Do you not claim to be an evangelical people? You are always shouting about the gospel and the right Word of God. Why do you not follow the gospel? You do not do as the Word of God teaches. (71)

10 Destruction in a Monastery at Beverwijk

On the same day [6 January 1573] I had a visit from the prior of Beverwijk who had been at Beverwijk only the day before. He told how badly his convent had been defaced and wrecked, both the church and the monastic buildings. In the church, he said, everything had been smashed altars, statues, organs and windows. In the monastic building so few of the wooden furnishings survived — that is the wainscotting, crossbeams, window frames, doors, benches and such like — that there was not enough wood left to cook a pot of meat. All the lead from the roofs, windows and elsewhere had been looted. Nor had any of the metalwork survived: even the wall brackets, the metal from the windows, the pins from the crossbeams ,the hinges from the doors and windows, all the ironwork had been removed. He had also been taken to a house where he found all the statues from his church chopped up for firewood. This good man told me these things and said that he had seen them. (124-25).

11 Hunger in Amsterdam

[11 January 1573]…as I came to the Dam I saw a great throng before a baker’s house, where my niece, the daughter of Ael Colinx, whose son was in Gouda, lived. The crowd had only gathered to buy bread. I heard one there say that he had stood for three hours before he could obtain any bread. Great misery was evident: some wept and others uttered strange lamentations, because everyone said there no more bread to be got here.You may imagine the misery endured by those who conceal their poverty. To their shame they are forced to ask favours to obtain loans; those without any money must eat on their own or with their young children, of whom the poor usually have most. (131)

12 Plight of Catholic Exiles in Amsterdam

[27 January 1573]. It was said here that in the rebel towns corn was abundant and that it was brought in from England. But [for us] the hard times remain: everything gets dearer by the day, a pound of ordinary cheese costs two stivers and a pound of butter four stivers and so on. The reader will have cause enough to marvel if he reflects on everything he has been told here at length and then also remembers the persistent frost which is still continuing, having begun on All Saints, the grievous discord and war, which bring even the rich to abject poverty and plunge the country into disarray to the ruin of all commerce and prosperity. O, you see so many anxious people in the streets, who are pining away. The good Catholics, who have left their towns because they would have no part in the godlessness perpetrated by the Beggars, are gripped by a melancholy, which cannot be adequately described. They had always been men of good repute, they were accustomed to prosperity and they never stayed anywhere against their will; if they travelled from home, they did so for pleasure. And now they find themselves in a quite different condition. They see clearly that they are little different from fugitives, banished from their towns, as if they were criminals and they have little prospect of returning to their own people in the short term. Then they have very little money from which to live and no means of obtaining more… Besides they realize they are not at home and that they live among strangers. They are deeply distressed because they lack the services of their family on whom they have always relied. Last of all, they find great difficulty before they are allowed to stay in the towns where they wish to settle, on account of the shortage of supplies and the multitude of such fugitives, who have departed from all the towns. Those with understanding may appreciate how these good people are assailed at this time by anxiety and fear. (158-59).

13 The Catholic Church Plundered by Both Sides

[29 January 1573]. We also learned to-day that the colonel of our King’s horse had summoned the priest of Uitgeest to come to him concerning the furnishings of his church, which had been stolen by the soldiers in the King’s army, because he had them. We suspect that the priest shall have to pay for these. The reader may perceive from this how little the holy Church is now respected. She is seen as something to be plundered, both by our own people, who only take what they can get, and the Beggars, whose chief purpose it is. (163)

14 Setbacks Suffered by Government Forces Before
Haarlem ascribed to the Sinful Condition of the People

[January 1573]. Different opinions and views were voiced about the obstacles in our path and why God Almighty had suffered us to be defeated now. Some attributed it to the pusillanimity of the military leaders, who quit the task [too] quickly. Others said that the valour of the Beggars surpassed that of our own soldiers, who could not oppose them since these had strengthened the town [of Haarlem] from within with ditches and sconces. But the most reputable pointed to the sins which God knew had been committed, and still were being committed, by the army as a whole, by the officers as well as by the soldiers, indeed by us all. Although we seemed to outward appearances to be respectable we nevertheless remained frail and in many ways quite unworthy and unbecoming. People would rashly announce in advance that Haarlem would be captured at such time, without thinking that God alone must grant the victory. It was reported widely that the leaders of the army gambled daily and led lewd lives. The soldiers went continually from one village to another, plundering not only the houses of the inhabitants and the belongings of the church, but also smashing the holy altars, and destroying the statues; indeed they did not scruple to treat the holy sacraments irreverently. Their way of life was such that it was greatly to be feared that the same had been an important reason for this wretched defeat. Keeping the law of the holy church and her ordinances meant absolutely nothing to them. They were given to gluttony and they mistreated those in their power so wretchedly that it was beyond comprehension. They respected no one: it mattered not whether they belonged to our side or to the enemy. They ravished virgins and other women, irrespective of their condition and they plundered those poor innocents, whom they surprised, so that those who had once been rich now had no means to supply their needs. We should also admit that on our account, too, our dear Lord appears to deny us his grace for we have been proud. We did not heed God’s wrath when it rose up against us so strongly. This is evident because we continued in our old ways without repentance, without changing our practices, as attached as ever to all manner of lewdness. We failed to see that the blame for all these troubles lay with ourselves. Instead we ascribed it to those in authority, to the duke of Alva and, after everyone else, to the lord of Berlaymont, because he had spoken so harshly and contemptuously of the Beggars and because they had so violently pressed on with the Tenth Penny and had relied too much on their own strength. (166-67)

15 Wouter Jacobsz. Reflects on a Satirical Coin Struck by the Beggars

[2/3 February 1573]. To-day we saw a daalder which had been struck by the Beggars. On one side appeared the form of a pope, which when inverted revealed the countenance of a devil.1 It bore the legend ‘Ecclesia perversa habet faciem diaboli’, meaning that when the Church is subverted and perverted, it takes on the appearance of the enemy or devil. This is quite true, but not in the way they [the Beggars] suppose. On the reverse was depicted a cardinal, who when turned upside down assumed the guise of a fool. This also carried an inscription, ‘Stultus adulano fit sapius’,2 which led me to reflect that contrary to their opinion, they had thereby paid tribute to the Cardinal [Granvelle] for the reason that the Cardinal, against whom they had perpetrated this wrong, was despised by them simply because he would not do their bidding and refused to flatter them. When they wrote scoffingly that a wise man grows wise by flattery, as the legend says, or a fool is looked upon as wise by fawning toadies, they unwittingly paid tribute to the Cardinal while making fools of themselves. They cannot deny that they are flatterers, accommodating themselves in every way to approve all opinions, no matter how absurd those advanced by the rebels are. (172-73)

16 The Suppression of Catholicism at Delft

[28 February 1573]. To-day we also chanced to meet by the Regulierspoort one Heynrick Jansz., a carpenter from Delft, who used sometimes to carry letters to and from the prior of Sion [in Delft]. He told us for sure that less than a week ago the prince [of Orange] had seized the property, revenues, estates and valuables belonging to the clergy without providing any means for their subsistence. The religious had petitioned for their livelihood, but had been fobbed off with words, to the effect that the matter would be considered and that they must submit another request for the same. He also said that more than fifteen hundred Catholics at Delft had come together to set their names to a petition asking the prince to open the Oude Kerk3 for them so that at Easter they might celebrate the feast and serve God. They lamented greatly that they had not been able to celebrate the two previous feasts of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin [15 August] and Christmas. But the petition of these good people was refused by the wicked who stirred up trouble so that they must live without religion, as though they dwelt in Turkey and among the infidels. (196).

17 The Plight of the Fugitive Priests

On Easter Sunday [22 March 1573] two priests died in Amsterdam, one of whom came from Medemblik and the other from the same neighbourhood. Both had been forced to go into exile on account of the troubles. They had all but perished from hardship since they had been cut off from their possessions and they could nowhere find hospitality. The parish priest from Medemblik could find no lodgings, though eventually he found accommodation in a niche on board a man-of-war. He was found dead in the cabin, without anyone being aware before that he was ill, though you could see that he was languishing from hunger and other privations. The reader can readily appreciate how dismayed the good people are at this time, for not only have the clergy suffered from the destruction of all their property and the priests been expelled, but these have also endured great and terrible dearths, as we have often noted already. (211).

18 The Religious Situation at Gouda

[31 March 1573]. We heard from Gouda that at Easter the good people had observed the feast, though they could not publicly take communion. During Holy Week the Beggars had attacked the Catholics in the church of the Collaciebroeders,4 where the priests sat to hear confession. They caused a great uproar besides carrying drawn swords, but the good Catholics resisted them and drove them from the church so that they caused no more disturbances during the feast. The communion, passion and the seven words [from the cross] were preached in the same church of the Collaciebroeders. The minister of the Beggars had no great following, on the contrary. On Easter Sunday he had a congregation of no more than seven or eight, although first two and then all the bells had been rung to draw in listeners. And the Beggars have therefore announced that they shall gather next time at the Franciscan friary in the belief that they would attract more people. (217)

19 Rebel Catholics

[1 April 1573]. We heard at this time many hard things that distressed us greatly so that we grew fearful that this tumult would not immediately cease. It was said of Gouda that though many people there were Catholics, they nevertheless plotted and acquiesced in the revolt against the Duke [of Alva], preferring to remain under the prince.(219).

20 The Religious Situation at Delft

[2 April 1573]. To-day I received another letter from his reverence, the prior of Sion, in which he wrote among other things that in Delft the Catholics had been permitted to celebrate Eastertide by the Prince and that they might practice their religion in the two hospitals [the Oude and Nieuwe Gasthuis], where they might preach, hold communion and also celebrate [mass]. This messenger told us that at Delft the Catholics far outnumbered the other party. It seemed from what he said that the [Catholic] community there was not afraid and that they thought they were sufficiently strong to stop this rebellion against the King. (219-20)

21 Anti-Catholic Riots at Delft

[27 April 1573] It was reported here [Amsterdam] that there had been another great rebellion or tumult at Delft. The churches which had been hitherto spared were now so severely damaged that the hearts of those who only heard tell of it sank. The poor Clares have been expelled and grievously afflicted. It was also said that other religious, and especially the Franciscans, were now also sorely harassed, being threatened with hanging or some other sort of murder; some of them were now in prison. (241).

22 The Arrogance of the Beggars at Haarlem

[2 May 1573]. Reports of what was said to have occurred at Haarlem were received with horror and amazement, and yet these were established as certain, to wit that people sang and called out from the walls most profanely:

Christ has risen,
Amsterdam is in our hands,
Amersfoort knows the cry,
At Utrecht they sing: long live the Beggars,
Kyrie eleison

We scarcely know what to think, when a town which is so closely besieged dares to defy so mighty a King as the King of Spain. We turn our eyes to almighty God in heaven, praying that He would finally withstand those whom He saw afflicting his people so pitiably and despising all good government, refusing to recognize any authority, as they have audaciously placed their trust in their own perverse wickedness. (245).

23 Fugitive Catholics at the Mercy of Wayside Robbers

[10 May 1573]. At this time the roads everywhere were so badly infested with rogues and robbers that no one could travel in safety. This was brought about by an edict published by the Beggars to the effect that all priests, both religious and others, should take an oath to the King, the Prince [of Orange] and the new reformed religion or depart from the towns within three days. Since many good gentlemen readily understood that many people would be shocked if they now lied and taught the christian religion differently from the way they had previously professed, they therefore preferred to go into exile and to roam through the country rather then take or consent to this [oath]. And because this exodus was well known to the wicked, these therefore took to the road to rob and plunder wherever they could take them by surprise. (249-50).

24 Escape of a Prominent Catholic From Gouda to Utrecht

[22 June 1573]. We learned here how Jan Hey Gerritsz. made his getaway from Gouda. He left in the early morning on board a dung-ship, wearing over his clothes a pair of breeches used by rustics and other strange garments. Once aboard the vessel, he concealed himself in the fo’c’sle. The ship, in which this good man sat in hiding, reached the Donkersluis,5 where it remained for five or six hours, until the passage was clear for it to break out of the town. In this way the ship shot the boom, not without considerable peril, but the wonderful Lord preserved him. When this ship reached the point where it was unloaded, some country people were hired, who did not know his identity. They brought him in a boat straight across the country and they landed near Utrecht, where his sons were to look after him. But he appeared so woebegone and tattered on account of his strange clothes that his own sons failed to recognize him, even though they passed close beside him many times. He travelled hence to Amersfoort, where he kept himself well hidden: he would turn away those who came seeking him, unless they could demonstrate that they indeed knew that he was there. All this arose out of concern for the mischief, which, it was feared, would befall the family, were it known that he had left the town. (267).

25 Journey of Master Wouter Jacobsz.to Haarlem

Since Haarlem had shortly before [13 July] been brought once more under the obedience of the King, I too travelled on 27 July 1573 to Haarlem in order to visit and speak with my fellow brother, who acted as spiritual adviser to the Zijl house, and his sisters, who belonged to the same convent of Zijl [Regular Tertiaries]. And as I travelled there I saw on the way how badly the countryside had been ravaged as a result of the earlier troubles in this present year. I found very few houses between Haarlem and Amsterdam, which had not been burnt and all the churches we saw along this route were either completely destroyed by fire or at least shockingly wrecked and broken down. In many places the land lay waste, without any animals. I also noticed on my journey, among the many dead animals, whose carcases lay scattered at intervals along the way, the naked corpse of a person, which had shrivelled up in the sun. It lay almost flat in the middle of the track, nearly in the ruts left by the carts, so that even the most impassive person would have been startled by what he saw. I was most astonished that no one had troubled to remove the corpse from the track or to cover it with some earth; instead the body lay there like the remains of some animal. (286).

26 Irreverent Conduct at Delft

[7 August 1573]. Master Cornelius Bol…told us how wretched conditions were in Delft with the demolition of the religious houses, especially the statues. Ropes were attached around their necks and the statues were then dragged along the streets. Many were set up out of derision on the sconces and the rest removed by ship to Dordrecht, where they were used as fuel to smelt metal for the casting of guns. (286).

27 Apostasy among the Religious

On 4 September [1573] I was informed that a monk from Den Donk [a house of Canons Regular near Schoonhoven] had arrived in Amsterdam, where he lodged at the convent of Maria Magdalena. He was the son of a priest from Utrecht and the youngest inmate of the same monastery. He had left his house as a deacon, but at his father’s behest, he had become a priest. He sought lodgings in one of the religious houses in Amsterdam, but could not find a place because of the very straitened circumstances of the religious houses, which were all full. He told strange things about his fellow brothers. He told us that the prior went about the country begging with a staff. Sir Cornelis from Nieuwpoort on Lek [opposite Schoonhoven] had preached among the Beggars, but he had since left and made his livelihood by rowing a boat with his father. According to him also, Sir Willem, having deserted his first wife, a lay sister from Gouda, had taken up with another nun from the same house. Furthermore, Sir Jan, having returned from Den Brielle, where he had forsaken his priesthood, had taken a wife and preached [in the Calvinist manner] and had come to Schoonhoven. All this was hard to hear for we saw in this the exceeding wrath and anger of the Lord: Almighty God would not suffer such terrible desolation to befall his people and his servants unless He had been provoked by us for certain good reasons, known particularly to Him. (300)

On 5 September [1573] the prior of Den Donk arrived in Amsterdam. He looked just like a beggar, clad in wretched clothes, which were threadbare and worn out. He wore a satchel under his coat and a strange little hat on his head, of the sort worn by the poorest sort. He appeared still less like monk, for he had no book of hours, or indeed any religious or priestly office. He told us how he had been captured by the Beggars and could not get away until he had revealed where their property, utensils and other things had been taken or hidden in Schoonhoven. For a long time he had dwelt among the country people by the monastery and scraped a living by begging. He was received with great love at Ter Lelie [a house of Canonesses Regular at Amsterdam], even though the same nunnery was so hard-pressed that they [the sisters] could not imagine how they could keep the wolf from the door. I heard the reverend mother, the prioress, frankly say, ‘My conscience compels me to receive this poor good man warmly, but I bewail the fact that we cannot do much for him. O, how sorely afflicted we are. Were we able to borrow some money at interest, we would not worry.’ These were her words and her grief showed that she meant it from the bottom of her heart. O God, what do you intend for all your servants? Look down at last and take pity upon us. (301).

28 Hostility to Spanish Troops in Amsterdam

[2 October 1573]. There also arose at this time in Amsterdam fresh difficulties because the count of Boussu [the legitimate stadhouder of Holland] proposed to the town that the soldiers, which had been drawn from the burghers and which had protected the town for a long time, should be discharged, and in their place some nine or ten companies of Spaniards should be taken on. The magistrates were much agitated and used every argument to oppose this plan. The commonalty was also much dismayed and they complained that all the hard times which they had endured in the past troubles and the steadfastness they had shown brought them no deliverance; for they were always beset more heavily. We were unable to discover for certain whether this plan would be adopted or not. (316).

29 The Despondency of the Catholic Fugitives
Contrasted with the Pride of the Beggars

[12 October 1573]. The stranger priests [those from outside Amsterdam] who had been expelled and the other good Catholic fugitives languished. They could even be seen in the churches and on the street with tears in their eyes, weeping in public because they found themselves now utterly forlorn, not knowing where to turn for consolation. On this account they were in danger of perishing from want, for in the course of their long wanderings, they had already exhausted everything they had been able to acquire. But the wicked rebels, who sought only to reduce the entire country to a waste land, were puffed up with pride. And moreover they reached new heights of perversity, for they despised the King’s soldiers, whom they referred to as ‘priest-ridden’. When the watermen of Amsterdam were bidden by the burgomasters to convey some of the King’s soldiers in their boats to St. Anthonisdijk [to the east of the town], they openly cried out: ‘We shall not take any more priests’ soldiers in our boats, only Beggars.’ (319)

30 Flight of Fugitive Monks and Priests in Amsterdam

On 16 October [1573] some regulars, obliged by the troubles to live as seculars and as fugitives, advertised their indigence and poverty and asked to be allowed to receive attendance fees for accompanying the dead to their place of burial. They also brazenly demanded the authority to celebrate masses [for the dead] for no other reason than to earn money for their needs. Such a remarkable humiliation as occurred here caused great astonishment, but it went on all the same, and had done so for a long time past. Other secular clergy, who had gone into exile or been ejected, also roamed through the churches, where they would beg to say masses for money just like the poor would importune the rich for alms. And these freely said that they would starve to death if they were not permitted to hold such services, since they depended entirely for their livelihood on what they earned from such masses; they knew of no other way of earning anything. Mark this well, good reader, and marvel at the miserable humiliation inflicted here on the priesthood, which deserves the greatest respect. (321)

31 Religious Houses at Gouda Put to Profane Use by the Beggars

On 21 October [1573] two more lay sisters [oblates] associated with the Poor Clares at Gouda arrived in Amsterdam. They told us they had left their house and town because God was not served there and the wicked ruled. They told us how the Beggars at Gouda acted as though they did not doubt but that they should bravely keep possession, paying no heed to anyone in their power. They arranged everything to suit themselves. They pulled down and converted the churches and religious houses as they pleased; nothing was sacred. The church of the Poor Clares housed Mennonites, who wove [cloth] there, and tavern-keepers had taken up residence in their monastic buildings. The Franciscan church had been turned into one or more farm-buildings; cattle were stalled in the choir, their troughs standing where the brethren had their choir-stalls. Our church had been made into a shipwright’s yard and a shed had been put up in our churchyard. All the religious houses were filled with people from the countryside and those whose houses outside the walls had been destroyed. But the priests could appear now in public with reasonable safety and sometimes they also attended the dead at the grave.

The aforesaid sisters also told us that the [Catholic] community was still fairly loyal. Most of those who attended the sermons of the Beggars were incomers and country people, who were especially infected with this heresy. (323-24)

32 Children’s Games

[29 October 1573]. To-day also…the schout of Amsterdam examined [the corpse of] child of around ten years old, who had lain dead in a ship from yesterday until now. The child met his death in the following way. The children [had] come together, dividing into two opposing sides. One was known as the ‘Cardinalists’ and the other the ‘Beggars’. Having divided in this way into hostile camps, they challenged and taunted one another to attack. Some children — known as the ‘cardinals’ — went on board a ship, while the ‘Beggars’ stayed on land. Then they attacked one another as if they had been soldiers. They assailed one another furiously, shouting ‘haer, haer’ and even pelted one another ferociously with stones. In the stone-throwing one of the boys was struck and many good people were greatly amazed and dismayed, when they perceived that there was no end to the turmoil, taking this as a sign that murder and disorder were still concealed in the hearts of men. (329)

33 An Undesirable Burgomaster of Leiden

On 17 November [1573] it was reported from Leiden that the magistrates there had been renewed at Martinmas [11 November]. Those appointed belonged for the most part to the opposing side, including as presiding burgomaster, a tanner of washed leather,6 as great a sedition-monger as one could find there. His father had been executed as an Anabaptist7 and he himself had long had to stay abroad on account of his unmannerly acts, which he had committed in quarrels and other occasions, as everyone knew who had not been deprived of their judgement by these troubles. (339)

34 Ordinances to Prevent the Betrayal of Amsterdam

On 6 [March 1574] certain ordinances were published at Amsterdam as a precaution against any act of treachery, from which it was supposed that the magistrate had wind of some sort of conspiracy. The schutters were forbidden to go anywhere during the day without their daggers, while in the evening no one was permitted to bear arms except the watch. The children were forbidden on pain of severe punishment to create any disturbance in the streets by shouting or in any other way after the lamps had been lit in the evening. No one, young or old, no matter who, could appear on the streets after the curfew clock had been rung, except the watch. (378)

35 Sympathy for the Beggars and for Orange

On 30 [March 1574] I returned from Utrecht to Amsterdam…On board the boat I discovered that most of the company there took the side of the Beggars. They spoke of nothing but the successes enjoyed by the enemy and they scoffed at the army, which would come from Spain. Moreover they boldly sang that song in praise of the prince [of Orange] that had been composed some time before in Holland to extol him [probably the Wilhelmus]. (389)

36 The Despondent Prophecies of a Woman

On 20 [May 1574] we heard of a woman from Amsterdam who had been in Rotterdam, Leiden, Alkmaar, Hoorn and Enkhuizen, how the Beggars in these places had kept her happy, boasting [to her] that they now enjoyed the true Word of God and that the Catholics were godless and idolatrous, which was the reason why they were now afflicted by God such great oppression at this time, with the downfall of everything, with death and many other [sufferings]. The Beggars for their part enjoyed abundance and exceptional prosperity in all things from the commerce and trade which flourished among them now. She said moreover that the inhabitants of Enkhuizen were neither concerned nor at all afraid of the King’s ships bound for Amsterdam and held the army in such contempt as to be of no account. They boasted that if the King’s fleet ever arrived, they would devour it for breakfast. The reader may judge whether these tidings do not recall that passage in scripture where we read of the spies sent out by Moses into the Promised Land. Apart from Joshua and Caleb these returned from Israel greatly dismayed and afflicted, because they only told about the might and power of that country and then of the stalwart inhabitants, who appeared to be sprung from a race of giants.In other words they wished to declare that the children of Israel had been deceived when they left Egypt, since they saw clearly enough that they could not conquer the Promised Land for the reasons already stated. But the spies discovered that by spreading dismay among the people in this way they incurred God’s wrath and they were put to shame, because the Lord revealed His marvellous power: despite these mischievous and alarming prophecies, He delivered his people gloriously and brought them into the Promised Land. The outcome of these troubles shall show what sort of prophetess this woman has been and for how long the Beggars hold that which they claim has been granted to them by God from on high. While we wait, we must be patient. (405)

37 The Suffering Endured by the Villagers

On 3 (June 1574) we saw many fires burning in Waterland (to the north of Amsterdam) and we heard of the terrible privations endured by the people there. The Beggars used to lie in ambush, in houses or in the long grass, for the King’s soldiers; when they caught any of them, they would slit their throats or murder them in some other way. Someone who had recently come from Waterland told us that he had indeed seen the rotting corpses of thirty stark naked men in a ditch, killed by the Beggars in the way I have already described. And the King’s soldiers, for their part, have sworn to one another that they will spare no one, but will put to the sword and kill any who should fall into their hands in those parts. The most remarkable account that the same informant also gave us concerned a countryman, who had been so (cruelly) surprised that it was distressing to consider. He had first been robbed of everything and then tortured to make him reveal the whereabouts of his money, which he had buried. Because he denied having any money and refused to tell them where it was hidden, the King’s soldiers seized the same man’s wife, whom they tortured and threatened to kill unless she did not show them where the money was.

This woman, finding herself in such a terrible predicament, gave in and agreed to show them where the money was hidden, provided they spared her life. When however she had shown them, the soldiers took the money, which amounted to a good three hundred gold crowns [ecu sol] and some silver daalders, from their hiding-place in the ground and showed it to the tortured man, to whom it belonged. They addressed him as follows: ‘Look churl upon the money you refused to give us, look hard, for it’s the last you’ll see of it.’ Having spoken to him in this brutal manner, they slit his throat and tossed his body on the track as though it were an animal carcass. May it please the Lord to have mercy on him. (410-11)

38 The Insolent Conditions Proposed by the Beggars for Peace

People also said here that the States of the rebel towns, which had met at Montfoort to reach an agreement with the King’s commissioners, had made known the conditions on which they would make peace, and that they wanted Beggar [Calvinist] churches in all the towns and villages of these Low Countries, where they might practice their religion. This was an astonishing piece of effrontery coming from such scoundrels. Though they deserved to be punished with the utmost severity for their arrogance, they nevertheless did not scruple to make such a demand, just as they had scorned the King and paid no heed to his ordinances or his military strength. This assuredly caused great distress to many sober-minded persons for they realized that further confusion lay in store for all the oppressed as a result, above all because of the anxiety that the King’s council would comply and this all the more so because all the Low Countries were inclined to the same rebellion as had occurred in these parts. (427)

39 Rumours about the Terms for Peace

On 25 (January 1575) the tidings about the peace, about which there had been many reports, changed a little. There was talk of a truce to last for a period of three months so that in the meantime all matters more fully resolved. It was said that such (a truce) had been published in the rebel towns on the condition that the service of holy mass might also again be permitted and tolerated. It is remarkable how, despite the many different falsehoods perpetrated on the community in various trials during the troubles, any comforting news proclaimed here by anyone is received with joy and believed. Surely the Lord does this in order to sustain his people so that they do not pine away from grief for the cruelty borne by the pious is greater than any man could bear without the special grace of God.

On 26 [January] we heard that Longolius [Leoninus] and the lord of St.Aldegonde [Marnix], who had been at Dordrecht as the commissioners for the deputies in the matter of the agreement, had left Dordrecht to negotiate with the Governor (Requesens) about some differences. It was openly said to-day that there was no doubt but that there would be peace and that the Beggars had been compelled to submit to the King because the counts and other great lords would become their enemies if they remained stubborn.

On 27 January there came another rumour to the effect that the Noorderland [North Holland above the IJ] held back from the agreement with the King, declaring that in any case they would not make peace unless they were first assured that Amsterdam would be excluded from trade in large ships for seven or eight years. They behave as though Amsterdam’s loyalty to the King and God had been a crime while their own rebellion deserved no punishment. (470-71)

40 Abomination of the Catholic Religion

On 1 February (1575) during a chance conversation mention was made of the reports about peace which were now very widespread. And one was asked whether he believed these troubles would be assuaged seeing that some said they would prefer to bring the Turks into the country than suffer the introduction of the papist religion. Such men said: ‘No, we shall no longer suffer the tyranny of monks and priests.’ The reader may appreciate from this how greatly the [Catholic] religion is now hated and he may pray God that he be spared from experiencing the like. (471-2)

41 Religion the Stumbling-Block to Peace

On 2 (April 1575) rumour had it that the peace was off and that the reason why the accord had not come about was religion, which the King above all else wanted and demanded that it be restored, but the Beggars would hear none of it. (485)

42 The Peace Negotiations Founder

On 11 April (1575) we saw again that many people looked greatly afflicted and cast-down. This was caused by the grievous tidings that now reached us. It was said that the Beggars were devoting all their efforts to the rebellion and that they paid scant heed to the King’s conditions for peace which his majesty had put forward. They wanted freedom in the matter of religion. They would not agree to the King keeping troops in any town. And they demanded that they be given command of the men-of-war as security for the terms they might obtain so that in the event of these not being carried out, they might defend themselves. We received this news to-day and groaned deeply, but we must have patience in this affair. (487)

43 Better a Holy War than a Wretched Peace

On 9 (May 1575) some men confidently put it about that the towns in South Holland [Dordrecht, Delft, Gouda and Rotterdam] had gratefully received the King’s proposals and had submitted themselves to his authority. Others said quite the opposite and gave as evidence for their opinion that they had seen some coins struck within the past two weeks in the rebel towns which carried the superscription: ‘Better a holy war than a miserable and uncertain peace’. (495)

44 Beggar Badges

On 4 August (1575) there were with us some who told us that it was true that many people in Delft went about with half moons in their hats to signify and also to declare that they would rather be Turks than return to the faith they had forsaken or place themselves under King’s authority. Likewise, we heard that many people at Flushing wore kerchiefs on their arms in the Turkish manner and spoke like desperate men, saying, ‘We know full well that we have behaved so wickedly that we cannot hope for any pardon’. (517)

45 A Conspiracy to Seize Amsterdam Discovered

On 19 (August 1575) we saw a great commotion in Amsterdam as soldiers and schutters assembled in arms. This occurred because certain Beggar soldiers had been discovered in the town, which they had entered in peat-boats, in groups of three of four at a time. They planned, so it was said, to betray the town by setting it alight and to murder the watch during the fire so that in this way they could open the gates to their mates, who lay in wait around the town, and to seize these. But the almighty God prevented this wicked scheme by his providence in the following way. These traitors had gathered together in an empty house on the Spui, their numbers gradually increasing, apparently for two or three days. A rural labourer had rented this house on the condition that he could keep some hay there and live there during the winter, but the woman who owned the house kept the freedom to hang her wet washing up in the attic. When therefore, as chance would have it, this woman arrived with her cloths, she found strangers in the house. What should she do? She let one person know and he told a baker. Surprised, these two men went to the house and entered. When they climbed up to the attic, they learned mischief was afoot. When the ruffians set upon them, they immediately shouted out, ‘Treason! Treason!’ and ‘The town has been betrayed!’. Whereupon the whole town was in commotion: the magistrates assembled and took measures to prevent the treason. The town-gates were closed. Thirteen of these traitors were captured at once. As there were suspicions that there might be others [in the town] or on their way, a search was made of all the empty houses and warehouses and an ordinance published that every burgher must report in full the names of any strangers lodging with them. Many boats were also sent with soldiers and others outside the town to search in certain places and to inspect the peat-boats en route for Amsterdam to see that there were no traitors on board. (520-21)

46 The Beggars seek the Protection of Foreign Princes

On 7 (November 1575) we heard that the Beggars had proposed to the Queen of England that she become their protector but she had rejected this proposal. And it was said that the young brother of the King of France had now been asked to become the overlord [opperheer] of the Beggars, but no further news had yet been heard. (538)

47 The Stark Choices Facing the Beggars

On 13 (December 1575) we heard that the lady of Assendelft, who come from The Hague to Amsterdam through Haarlem, let it be known how she had heard the prince [of Orange] say by word of mouth that he had told the Beggars, their comrades and supporters that they must choose one of three courses:- to wit, either to sue for peace or to raise large sums of money or to choose a more powerful lord than himself to protect them, adding that he did not feel able to continue the fighting as matters now stood. (545-6)

48 Anti-Catholic Measures at Delft

On 12 February (1576) we heard about certain edicts published in Delft which were clean contrary to the Catholic [religion]. According to these any couple who had come together, without being formally married in the Beggar [Calvinist] fashion, or who had been secretly married by a priest during these troubles should prepare to marry in accordance with their [Calvinist] ordinance or that they should appear at the town-hall to register themselves on pain of disgrace or being treated as though they were living together illegitimately as fornicators. Likewise, it was also laid down that those young children who had received emergency baptism and who continued in the hope of receiving leave that they might be baptised in the Catholic Church must now be baptised after their manner. And this was done for no other reason, as everyone believed, than to make known to all their fixed intention to so oppress the holy Church that its memory would be blotted out and also [to advertise] that they heeded neither the King nor any authority but they dared to do whatever they pleased. The good, oppressed people hoped that the almighty God would finally destroy their perverse arrogance. (558)

49 Hostility to Clergy even in Amsterdam

On 21 (April 1576) we saw in Amsterdam that people were actively conspiring to bring the town on to the side of the Beggars. But what was plotted in secret could not be kept concealed for God made sure (as good people realized) that they were compelled to give vent to the feelings they bore in their hearts so that the magistrates might be warned to keep a strict watch. It thus happened that some shouted out in the streets in an unmannerly way that it would be better for the burghers if all the priests were put to death. We also heard the children say out loud what they had heard their parents say at home: ‘As long as priests go abroad, the commonwealth will not prosper’. (569)

50 ‘Hope of Peace with the Beggars but on Bad Terms’

On 6 (July 1576) I spoke to someone who had come from Alkmaar. I was told that they [Beggars] had high hopes of obtaining a peace on condition that everyone should be left free in the matter of his faith but that the churches would be restored to the Catholics, provided the Beggars had leave to build churches for their religion and to do as they thought best. (581)

51 A Gloomy Conversation with a Burgomaster at Amsterdam

On 21 (August 1576) I talked with one of the burgomasters of Amsterdam. During the conversation he spoke as follows: ‘The town has never been in greater danger or more apprehensive since the first stone was laid at Amsterdam, for we do not know what the future holds in store for us. Many of our burghers have deserted. Our wealth is depleted: the most excellent have left and those who were reputed the richest have become the most wretched. Our soldiers demand money and the burghers do not have the means to make a contribution to the town. If we keep them, we only incite them to mutiny, for we cannot pay them. And if we let them go, they will become our enemies. For this reason the Thirty-Six [vroedschap] meet often and when we consult with one another about this matter, we frequently find ourselves at our wits’ end and we almost always leave in a state of greater melancholy, fearful of what shall become of us, especially when we consider how little progress has been made in bringing the rebels back to obedience and how much support the Beggars enjoy throughout almost all these Low Countries.’ Oh! the good man who spoke thus was so sad. He frankly said that many of the wealthiest men in this town would be satisfied and think themselves fortunate if their fears could be laid to rest, even if they were obliged to live henceforth on nothing but bread and water. Reader, ponder this and see in what distress the people lived here so that you may give thanks to God if you live in another time. (589-90)

52 A Nunnery at Amsterdam Abandons the Common Life

On 3 (October 1576) the Nieuwe Nonnen [Regular Tertiaries] abandoned the common life on account of the great difficulties they had experienced. They had to gain a livelihood by their own work, although they were bound to keep the ordinances of the Church and the enclosure. (599)

On 11 (October 1576) the Nieuwe Nonnen by reason of their great necessity sold their silver, two chalices, a pax brede, two jugs, a pair of scales and another small cup with a spoon for a total sum of 131 rijksdaalders and 8 stivers. By this means they reduced their debts somewhat.(601)

53 The Beggars Claim to be ‘Reformers’ of the Fatherland

On 6 October (1576) many people looked thoroughly dejected by reason of the singular and disconcerting rumours then circulating. The burden of these — as far as we could comprehend and as we were also bound to judge from all the circumstances — was that the States [States General] had reached an alliance and understanding with the Prince, so that it seemed they had together undertaken this beggar business [goserie]. According to some these mischief-makers had played a clever game. They perceived that the name of the Beggars had become very odious to men of discernment because of the boundless villainy these [the Beggars] had already perpetrated by persisting in this perversity, so it suited them to change this name into the name of the States, in the belief that they could more easily achieve their cunning purposes, the more so since they now claimed to be saviours [reformatoors] of the fatherland and protectors of the Catholic religion. (600)

54 Amsterdam and the Pacification of Ghent

(a) On 13 (November 1576) a letter from the secretary to the president [of the Council of State] reached Amsterdam from Brussels. It stated that on 18 October last the fifteen provinces had together reached an agreement; that the Prince on behalf of himself and his followers had submitted to the States the decision whether it would be expedient for the country to permit the Calvinists to remain or to expel them; that the fifteen provinces would maintain the Catholic religion purely and simply; that anyone who had left his province would receive his property back when he returned to the place he had left, insofar as he could recover it, but he should have to be patient where the same had been estranged or alienated for so long and until the States had duly regulated matters, on the understanding that he would receive a pension from the States for his needs as reason demanded. (610)

b) On 28 (November 1576) I received the articles on which the States had made an agreement and peace with the Beggars. These seemed to me to be entirely favourable to the Beggars and most detrimental to loyal Catholics, especially the religious, since they arranged to retain their property and to give them only a modest pension. (615)

(c) You heard at this time (5 December 1576) many burghers in Amsterdam speaking very ill because the agreement had not been accepted there. They [said] they would rather set fire to their property; that they would rather desert; that they would rather fight and peacefully join the side of the enemy than stand up assuredly for life and property. ‘Oh’, they would say, ‘who are we that we remain in misery when all the towns and villages now enjoy peace? We have nothing against them and we do not wish to have anything against them.’ As the burghers grumbled in this way, the magistrates found themselves in great perplexity, not knowing what to do for the best, for they knew that certain articles included in the peace had not been sanctioned by either the King or the law. They repeatedly gathered with the Thirty Six and often consulted, remaining together for long periods,but no one could perceive what policy they should adopt or what they should do. (618)

(d) On 7 (December 1576) the agreement and negotiations concerning the peace between the States and the Prince were published in Amsterdam by an usher [legal official]. We saw in this little cause for rejoicing although many had been longing for this same peace. We prayed to the almighty God that it would please him to grant this publication a more favourable outcome than that which any of us considered now awaited us. In the evening that day there was shooting, celebrations and flaming pitch barrels which signalled the joy felt by the burghers in Amsterdam on the publication of the peace. They took comfort from the opinion that they would now have some trade.

On 8 (December), which was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the parish priest of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam [Jacob Buyck] chastised the burghers for their bonfires and celebrations of the previous evening. He publicly declared in his sermon that those who had celebrated in this manner in honour of the published peace (which he termed a Beggar peace because of the harm it did to the [Catholic] religion) would henceforth burn in hell unless they did penance.

On 9 (December) I spoke to someone who had heard the sermon by the aforesaid priest on the previous day. He said it had not been preached as had been reported: in the broadcasting of the same many lies had been told. Throughout the world people did nothing but vilify, destroy and deceive one another for the sole reason of provoking disorder and rebellion in the community. The good priest had warned the congregation not to be too ebullient about the peace they had now obtained, but to remain in fear lest worse were to come and to pray to God that He would make all turn out for the best. (618-19)

(e) On 15 (December) Duncanus [Maarten Donck], the dean of The Hague [Hofkapel] and at present parish priest of the Nieuwe Kerk at Amsterdam, admonished from the pulpit during his sermon the strangers, that is the Catholics who had left behind their property, to walk wisely lest they fall into sin when they return to their dwelling-places, for these had been summoned back on pain of losing all their property. He told them that he had learned that anyone wishing to recover his property must take an oath: to live henceforth only in towns which recognize the Prince, to give approval to everything the Beggars had done so far; to suffer no mass to be held nor to suffer anyone to do anything, whether by word or deed, against their religion [Calvinist]. Having spoken thus, he encouraged them to stand fast under God in their religion and he affirmed that those are blessed who suffer the loss of their worldly goods for the sake of their faith for they may comfort themselves with the knowledge that as a result their heavenly possessions are assured. (620-21)

55 The Ugly Mood in Delft

On 11 (January 1577) I spoke with a professed nun from the convent of St.Anna in Delft. She had recently been in Delft and had since returned to Amsterdam. She told us how savagely the inhabitants of Delft behaved and that in the previous week they had cast down the Franciscan church which had remained standing until then. They had threatened to massacre the people of Amsterdam and to despoil and lay waste their churches and religious foundations. She also told us that wherever she had gone in Holland she had seen nothing but turmoil and she had the impression that the people respected neither the King nor anyone else and cared little about the peace or the agreement. It was also lamentable that she should have been in great fear of losing her life, indeed everyone had predicted that in order to return to Amsterdam, she would have to bear heavy expenses and charges. We also learned from her that at Delft it was widely reported that Brabant had declared Don John to be an enemy, contrary to the rumour which was going about here, according to which Don John was reconciled with the States [General] and had reached an accord. (629-30)

56 Amsterdam in an Isolated and Demoralized State

On 23 January (1577) we again heard reports which spread alarm and despondency among everyone. It was said that confusion reigned once more in Brussels, that the States [General] had parted from Don John in high dudgeon and that these same States had promised to assist one another to the uttermost with a new oath and that furthermore the burgomasters of Amsterdam, who had been sent to Brussels to treat with the States had been apprehended on the way. There were many who were completely dismayed by this rumour, predicting for sure the total ruin of the holy faith and the despoliation of the whole country. It was so wretched to behold that it cannot be properly recorded. One person would lament to another how oppressed he felt in his heart and would ask whether we would ever see a good peace in these parts. In short, everyone observed that the faith stood in greater peril at this time than at any other during these troubles. Never had Amsterdam been more threatened with ruin than at this moment, when reports were being prepared against this town. When the many strangers, who had previously fled to Amsterdam, saw and heard these things, they made ready their bags and baggage (as the common saying goes) in order to reach safety and to depart. Many of the burghers too, dismayed by all these threats against Amsterdam, made ready to leave with all their possessions, but the town gates were kept closed from morning to evening because the magistrates refused to allow the burghers to go. (634)

57 The Anti-Catholic Mood in Gouda

On 27 (January) I talked with someone who had recently come from Gouda. He told me that peace reigned there and that as no watch was kept at the gates, people might pass freely in or out. But the good Catholics remained as despondent as ever, if not more so, because they saw that the faith, which had been rejected, had not been restored, but was indeed more sorely oppressed than ever, since the walls and foundations of the religious houses, which had been spared until then, were destroyed. The people cried out that they had clearly got the better of their enemies and that they had bitten through the halter with which they had previously been threatened. When these learned that Don John was on his way to these provinces as governor, they shrugged it off, saying: ‘We presumed that the King’s brother would be sent to pacify these provinces. We hear that he is a papist. We therefore cannot vouch for him. And what can Don John do to us? Don John is dumb John. We don’t care a fig for him. He is a whore’s son and what can a whore’s son do? Let him try his damnedest.’ These and other similar boasts were heard at this time in Gouda in different places. May God Almighty grant that everything turns out for the best, though we fear it will not be so. (635)

58 Catholic Fears about a Religievrede in Haarlem

On the last (day of January) we learned for certain that the bishop of Haarlem had returned by agreement to Haarlem, that he would once more enjoy all the revenues from the abbey of Egmond and that on this account he had travelled to Alkmaar. Rumour had it that he had been to the Prince [of Orange] or to his council and that these had received him in a friendly manner. We were told about the agreement between the bishop and the prince to the effect that there should be peace provided there would henceforth be two churches in Haarlem, one for the Catholics and the other for the Calvinists. Some made excuses for the bishop, averring that he had protested against the Beggar church, which had been imposed against his wishes, but there was no certain news, though the rumour persisted that on the bishop’s arrival in Haarlem, St. Gangolf’s church would be purged of its statues and the altars there razed and that this had been done to satisfy the Calvinists so that they might henceforth freely practise their religion there. These tidings reached us to-day and we were much perturbed at what we heard, for they were astonishing and outlandish. We thought this heralded the total downfall of the faith, because we had now heard this of a bishop, whom we believed to be a convinced and sincere Catholic and we could moreover still not think or believe otherwise. We consoled ourselves however with the thought that this agreement was intended to serve some other good purpose which at present we could not fathom and we said to one another that the Calvinist church might perhaps have been tolerated so that thereby Catholics, who were entirely in the hands of the Calvinists, might take hope that they too might receive a church for the exercise of their good faith. (636-7)

59 Religievrede at Haarlem

On 13 (March) we received a letter from Haarlem to the effect that on the previous day his reverence the bishop, Mgr. Godefried van Mierlo, had returned and that a proclamation had been published, which did indeed give the Beggars leave to make ready a church for the exercise of their religion (as they called their heresy) and to take possession of it. This development caused alarm to many people since it contradicted the article in the Pacification which enjoined that the Catholic, Roman and apostolic faith, and the authority of the same, would everywhere be maintained. One also saw many pious people who were sorely afflicted by this news, but we must continue to endure it until it pleases the bountiful Lord to dispose otherwise. (649)

60 Insolence of the Beggars in Amsterdam

On 8 (April) we learned that the Beggars who had entered Amsterdam had behaved most insolently. They made no secret of their loathing for the consecrated holy sacrament by ridiculing the priest who took the same (since it was Eastertide) to the sick. They would stand in the middle of the street in order to obstruct the priest and when they were rebuked, they would refuse to move aside and show the holy sacrament any respect. They brazenly announced that they did not recognize God to be in it and they refused to bow their knees. One of these [Beggars] was struck on the face by the schout of the town and another was put in gaol, but he suffered no further punishment for the prisoner was set free again within three days. (655)

61 Animosity towards Amsterdam

On 22 April a woman arrived in Amsterdam from Alkmaar. She was married to a freeman. She told how the inhabitants of Alkmaar had reproached her for the damage which the envoys from Amsterdam did to the Prince [of Orange] and to their town [Alkmaar] because they had made it difficult for the town [Amsterdam] to reach an agreement with the Prince and his States on the terms he had already proposed to them concerning the satisfactie. Besides these said: ‘Kill your burgomasters in Amsterdam, stab them and be rid of them for it is clear that they are seducing, betraying and deceiving you; they shall bring ruin upon you. They do all this on the pretext of loyalty towards you all, meanwhile promising you so many good things.’ The Beggars were embittered because the burgomasters of Amsterdam had stubbornly defended their religion and privileges and on their account had protested to the Prince against the Prince’s demand concerning the wrong his excellency had done to them by seeking to hustle them into an agreement, which was contrary to the Pacification on the point of religion and the obedience properly due to the King. (658)

62 Master Wouter Visits Gouda and Leiden

(a) On 12 (June) I changed my habit and travelled to Gouda, which I succeeded in reaching safely by God’s grace. No one harmed me; indeed I was received with much affection even by those who are considered to be strong supporters of the Beggars. And I saw great desolation in the religious houses and churches, which were far the most part destroyed or sacked. The town looked like a veritable fishing-port on account of the freshwater fish, both tench and pike, hanging up to dry in the sun, which one saw there. These fish were caught in large quantities because the dykes had been neglected and the [water] ebbed and flowed all the time in the creeks. There I came across many good people, who were pining away with grief. They practised their religion by going early in the morning on feast-days to the churchyard to process about the church or enter the church in order to make their silent devotions in the choir-stalls, but they would not remain if the Calvinists did anything there. I found many religious, who had given themselves over to disorderly living, having entered into marriage, keeping bad company and being much disposed to heresy. But by God’s grace our brethren had conducted themselves so that no one could accuse them of having done anything dishonourable. After I had stayed in Gouda for a week, I travelled to Schoonhoven. On the way I saw many churches and houses, which have been abandoned, and most of these had been razed and burnt. I sailed on flat-bottomed boat across the fields and tracks as if I were [sailing] on the river IJssel. (669)

(b) On 24 (June) 8 there was a procession in Gouda, but everything was done quite contrary to the old customs in order to show that they [Beggars] were firmly opposed to everything which their forefathers had done. After midday the rhetoricians presented malicious plays deriding the Catholic faith. (670)

(c) On 2 (July) it was the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady and I went then to look round the whole town [of Leiden], but I could find no sign anywhere that it was a holy day. The tradesmen were all at work and the shops were everywhere open. Business was done and everyone behaved as though it were a working-day. All good government has been thus overturned by Calvin. (670)

63 The Protestants at Haarlem and Schoonhoven grow Bolder

On 27 (July) we again noticed some good people who had left Haarlem on account of their disgust with the state of affairs that seemed likely to occur there, for the minister of the Beggars had openly said from the pulpit that he could make no headway until only one religion was permitted, in other words (as everyone knew) that it would suit them [the Beggars] if the Catholics were driven forth. There were some who feared that it would soon come to pass that the bishop would be driven thence and expelled. Some of those who had left Haarlem arrived in Amsterdam with their belongings. And many departed again from Amsterdam because they feared that Amsterdam too would come to grief since they could not easily reach an agreement with the Prince [of Orange].

On 28 (July) there circulated in Amsterdam a rumour from Schoonhoven to the effect that the Beggars there had again begun to rage, meanwhile they preached their heresy in private houses and also incited the people against the priests and religious: indeed it was already reported that the Catholics had been driven out of the town by the Beggars. (673-74)

64 The Satisfactie [8 February] and the Alteratie [26 May 1578]

(a) On 13 (December) we heard how a few days ago some notable Amsterdammers had sought leave to speak with the magistrates. Among other matters they wanted to reach a complete agreement with the Prince on account of the great hardship endured by the common people. And they conferred with some of the magistracy [wet], but we have been unable to discover for certain what has been decided. Many were greatly saddened by these tidings for, as they rightly observed, little good would come of it. (690)

(b) Today (1 January 1578) many Catholics gathered together and appeared before their lordships in the town-hall. These openly declared that they had no intention of permitting the Beggars to enter here, for this would be contrary to the [Catholic] faith and the King and they roundly rebuked those because they heard that some of the Thirty-Six were irresolute and appeared to have an understanding with the Beggars. And one of these petitioners said that he and his wife and their seven children would rather be burnt on the Dam if they did not do their damnedest to keep the town safe from the violence of the Beggars. On 2 (January) the Thirty-Six started to enter into agreements with one another and they swore to remain loyal to the Catholic faith and the King; the captains of the schutterij and the soldiers also appeared before them and took a solemn oath that they would risk life and property for one another. (694)

(c) On 13 (February) we learned in Amsterdam that the restless spirits wanted nothing so much as to sow dissension among the community. They classified men in different ways, calling some ‘Catholics’, others ‘double Catholics’ and even ‘three- and fourfold’ Catholics. By this means they rendered these odious, calling them houders [?reactionaries] and alleging that they did not want peace, contrary of the interests of the common people. When the good people went about, they were also jeered, pointed out in the street and insulted: ‘Look, look there goes another of those double-Catholics: he’s a reactionary and opposed to peace!’ (703)

(d) On (February) a furious quarrel broke out in Amsterdam in the sacristy of the Nieuwekerk between a former burgomaster Zybrant Buyck and a chaplain from the same church. This was because the chaplain had spoken rather vehemently in his sermon against the policy now being pursued. Among other things Zybrant said that the chaplain should be run out of town with the dogs for speaking in this way. To which the chaplain retorted that Zybrant should be cut up in pieces and thrown over the town-hall in a basket because of his dealings [with the States of Holland]. (704)

(e) On 3 March we heard that those entering Amsterdam, of whom there were many, had been uttering dreadful threats: how they would cast down the churches in the town, plunder the monasteries and drive out the priests. We could also see that the religious ordinances in Amsterdam on fasting, for it was Lent, were flouted openly and rejected: eggs, meat, bacon, fresh poultry and such like, which were forbidden at this time, were now openly offered for sale to all and sundry. (707)

(f) On 14 March the following offensive graffito aimed against the clergy was discovered in the butts at Amsterdam: ‘Eat priests, shit monks and wipe your arse with canons.’ When people read this, there was a great rumpus because they wanted to punish [the culprits], but nothing came of it. (709)

(g) 21 (April). I learned early this morning that on the previous day children and in some places youths as well as unruly adults from other towns had caused a great commotion in Amsterdam by their habit of acting out in the streets the factions of Beggars and papists (as they were now called). They attacked one another as though they were enemies, with shouts of ‘Go to it, we shall run you through’. And they behaved as though they would crush their opponent so that it seemed at times as though they would attack one another with drawn swords. This caused dismay to many who were as a result afraid that it was a premonition of further hardship and misery, seeing how rebellion and disaster now loomed on all sides. (717)

(h) To-day (22 April) I was obliged to appear before the commissioners of the Prince [of Orange] where I had to swear before the vicar general that I would do nothing contrary to the Pacification of Ghent, the satisfactie of Amsterdam, the Prince or the communal peace. I protested that I would only abide by this until my departure from Amsterdam, which I certainly intended to expedite. (717)

(i) On May Day you saw in Amsterdam the soldiers especially celebrating. They erected may-poles, decked out with oranges and sulphur matches, which were intended as a bitter reproach against those who had shown so little affection for the Prince. You could also see that these soldiers carried new banners, prominently depicting the ‘Hollantschetuyn’.9 They now began to agitate to have a church for themselves and they threatened to raze the Catholic churches. (719)

On 3 (May) you were aware that the devotion [to the Catholic Church] of the inhabitants of Amsterdam had declined sharply. Though it was the feast of the Invention of the Cross [Inventio Crucis], it was hardly observed. The schout, who was devoted to the faith, went about the town and invited many, but the people paid no heed and went on, as a result, with their work all more conspicuously, opening up their houses and doing business on the pavement. Until they had seen the officer, they had worked more covertly: by so doing they showed that they would recognize no authority and wanted to set aside any kind of discipline and other good ordinances.

On 4 (May) we heard of nothing but disorder. It was alleged that four hundred people in Amsterdam had been threatened with expulsion from the town because they had refused to take an oath to the Prince. For their part these people vehemently replied that they would live and that they would rather fight tooth and nail than allow themselves to be expelled. The soldiers ran about the town like wild beasts and committed many wanton acts. Some could be heard uttering insults while at the same time displaying matches in their hands: ‘these are matches from the Prince’s stall. Must he go about with suchlike in the backwoods?’ This was intended as a gibe against all those who disliked the present government of the Prince. There was a great to-do about watering the may-poles, erected on May-day: this they did by dispensing great quantities of English beer, as if it were water and as if the may-poles needed to be watered! (719-20)

(j) To-day (11 May) the Calvinists preached for the first time outside the liberty of Amsterdam near Jacob Hannez [tenement] and large numbers of people went out to it. We heard that an ordinance for deacons, elders and such like had been made and that four children had also been baptised in the Beggar way; also that people had gone around during the sermon with bowls seeking alms on behalf of the poor among their own people. (721)

(k) On 26 (May) there was great dismay in Amsterdam because the Beggars took control to-day. This outrageous action began when the strangers, who had entered [the town] in large numbers, assembled as they had planned in the Dam at two o’clock. Two of their number were sent inside the town-hall to the magistrates, who had met there to dispense justice according to ancient custom. Arriving there the strangers’ envoys demanded of the burgomasters whether or not they would grant them the use of a church. The burgomasters replied that they could not do so without breaking their oath since the agreement [satisfactie] did not permit this. The envoys said: ‘We have held our services for long enough outside [the town] and we therefore want a church. We ask only whether or not you will give us satisfaction.’ Whereupon the burgomasters replied that if they wanted a church and took it, they [the authorities] would have to suffer it, but they would prefer, indeed they implored, them not to do this. Again the Beggars spoke: ‘We are only asking you to say once and for all whether or not you will grant us a church.’ The burgomasters had barely replied that they could not agree to this, when they were immediately seized by the Beggars and the entire magistracy as well as all the members of the corporation and many other good Catholics, were sooner or later arrested, some in the town-hall but many in their homes. As soon as this procedure had been carried out, the four companies [of soldiers] were seen, their colours flying prepared to support this outrage. The dismay and grief which overwhelmed the good burghers and inhabitants, especially the priests and religious, as a result cannot be properly described. The things the soldiers did here as they ran through the streets with drawn swords like wild beasts, yelling and shouting, ‘Alarm! Alarm!’ would have moved even the most hardhearted to tears. Once the Beggars had seized the Dam and the town-hall, they went off in different directions. Some were despatched to reinforce the watch at the gates and on the walls; others were ordered to occupy the streets and above all the religious houses and these men ran through the town with drawn swords in their hands. After they had taken control of the Dam, the gates, the walls and the religious houses, the entire second company hastened to the Franciscans, where they also caused mayhem. They smashed the altars in the church as well as the statues and all the vessels and they plundered the friary’s possessions, furnishings, books, ornaments, comestibles and such like. And the brethren were all treated miserably: after their arrest, they were driven through the town to the accompaniment of shouts and insults and thrown pell-mell into a ship. They looked so wretched (for most of their clothes had been torn from their backs) and so dejected: they had no desire to move out of the way or to look back once. In the ship the friars were accompanied by the priest of the Nieuwe Kerk, Mr. Maarten Donck, the vicar-general, a lay-brother from Blokker, Br. Meynert as well as the magistrates and the vroedschap and many good Catholics. These were conveyed out of the town and put ashore on the dyke whence each had to make his own way. This all took place at the same time and as a result everyone was very afraid, especially [those in] the religious houses, who were very anxious lest they too would presently be plundered. They made a thorough search for the priest of the Oude Kerk [Joost Buyck], but he had gone into hiding and could not be found. (725-26)

65 A Catholic Shrine Desecrated

On 29 May the tabernacle containing the Holy Sacrament in the Heilige Stede [Holy Place] with the furnishings of the altars and the statues there were destroyed in a great frenzy. It was said that the perverse people emptied their excrement in the place where the holy sacrament had previously been, by the fire where the ashes still lay, which had hitherto been venerated by everyone. This happened to-day to the great grief of many an honourable man and it was suffered by God, but for what reason, apart from our grievous sins, we do not know. (727)

66 The Feast of Corpus Christi desecrated at Haarlem

On the same day (29 May) a wretched tumult occurred in Haarlem aimed against the faith and the good Catholics. It was the feast of Corpus Christi and the good people had gone in large numbers to the church to hear mass. And see what happened. As the procession was on the point of leaving [the Bavokerk] and his reverence the bishop was preparing to receive the holy sacrament with the pyx from the priest who had celebrated the mass, Beggar soldiers entered the church like mad wolves with drawn swords in their hands, shouting and yelling meanwhile that they would smash it. Consequently the people were greatly afraid and dismayed and each sought to hide since none of them was armed and no one had expected this. Then these cruel soldiers ran through the church without meeting resistance from anyone and drew near to the altar, where the priest stood with the holy sacrament and where the bishop had been, though he had now gone into hiding. It makes one tremble to recall what they did. These wicked men attacked the priest like mad dogs and spitefully snatched from his hands the body of Our Lord as it lay in the monstrance, dashing it to the ground with utmost contempt and treading it underfoot. O God, how greatly you suffer at the hands of your creatures, but your judgements are righteous and unknown to us. Then they plundered the silver monstrance and all the other precious things in the church, chalices, pyxes and such like. They took the cloaks or gowns from the men in the church and the ladies’ hoods and the rings from their fingers, cutting many of the ladies’ fingers to remove the rings more quickly. Many a pregnant woman lost her child because of her great fear and dismay. It as, in short, so terrible that it could not have been worse or God would have passed judgement. As this has come to pass here and the same has been suffered by God, what shall happen in the future, what awaits us? O God, be gracious. (727)

Source: Dagboek van Broeder Wouter Jacobsz. , ed. I.H. van Eeghen (2 vols., Groningen, 1959-60).

1 For just such a coin see Geloof en satire anno 1600 , Rijksmuseum het Catherijneconvent Utrecht (Utrecht, 1981), pp. 31-32.
2 The fool grows wise with flattery.
3 One of the two parish churches in the town.
4 Brethren of the Common Life.
5 Sluicegate which separated the Gouwe from the IJssel.
6 Pieter Adriaensz. van der Werff. Forced to flee from Leiden after 1567, he took service with William of Orange, returning to Leiden in 1572. See documents 24 and 33.
7 Adriaan Laurensz. Vermeer, a tanner of washed leather, was executed at Haarlem in 1537 or 1538, L. Knappert, De opkomst van het protestantisme in eene Noord-Nederlandsche stad (Leiden, 1908) 167.
8 The feast of St. John. The apostle was the patron saint of Gouda.
9 The province of Holland was symbolically represented as a maiden in a garden [tuin] surrounded by a fence.