Cecil blandly told the Spanish ambassador that he was investigating the question of who owned the money. In fact he was in touch with the bankers who had loaned Philip the money, persuading them to declare that the money would go to Elizabeth instead of to Philip. For years Alba and Philip tried to pry the money out of Cecil, naturally to no avail. Meanwhile the Spanish troops in the Netherlands went unpaid
(This is another installment from ‘ ‘Christ the King: Lord of History, by Anne W. Carroll. The Catholic Commentator is serializing the book with the permission of the publisher, Prow Books, Franciscan-Maryville Press, 1600 W. Park Ave., Libertyville, 111. 60048) When the full horror of this “Calvinist Fury’’ became clear to Philip, he called together his advisers of the Royal Council. One man dominated the deliberations: the Duke of Alba, tall, straight, harsh and outspoken, a deeply dedicated Catholic. The Calvinists, Alba argued, were indulging their greed for wealth by sacking the churches, but what was worse, they were committing blasphemy and sacrilege against God and His Church. Spain must take a firm, uncompromising stand, using whatever military force was necessary to put a stop to these outrages. Philip heeded this advice, putting Alba at the head of a Spanish army and sending it into the Low Countries to fight in the service of Christ the King. But Protestant troops from all over Europe poured into Holland, and Calvinists introduced the bloody practice of slaughtering disarmed prisoners. Alba was furious, believing that such barbaric practices must be harshly countered. He ordered the arrest and trial of men guilty of destroying churches, desecrating the Host, or leading rebellion against the rightful king, Philip 11. Two leaders of the rebels, Egmont and Hoorne, were executed in June, 1568; other men prominent in the Calvinist Fury and later atrocities were also executed or received lesser punishments. The Calvinists named these proceedings the Council of Blood, but the Calvinists had been the first to shed blood, and none was executed but those found guilty of the highest crimes. In November 1568 four Spanish ships sought refuge in Plymouth harbor from Huguenot pirates ranging the
English Channel. They contained an enormous quantity of Spanish money, borrowed by Philip in Genoa to pay Alba's army in the Netherlands. The Spanish ambassador asked that the ships either be escorted to Antwerp or the money shipped overland to Dover and thence to Antwerp. Cecil blandly told the Spanish ambassador that he was investigating the question of who owned the money. In fact he was in touch with the bankers who had loaned Philip the money, persuading them to declare that the money would go to Elizabeth instead of to Philip. For years Alba and Philip tried to pry the money out of Cecil, naturally to no avail. Meanwhile the Spanish troops in the Netherlands went unpaid, and some of them began to plunder the countryside, increasing Spain’s unpopularity in the Low Countries. Finally, to pay them, Philip was forced to increase taxes, which angered the rebels further; and a vicious circle began which ended eight years later in the “Spanish fury’’ at Antwerp when troops unpaid for a year and more ran wild in pillage, burning and massacre grimly reminiscent of the “Calvinist fury’’ in that same city that had
begun the war, except that no sacrilege was involved. Philip had still another heavy burden to bear. For many years he had only one son, Carlos, who was the successor to the throne. But Carlos was unbalanced. When the war in the Netherlands broke out, Carlos demanded command of the Spanish army. When he was refused, he attempted to murder the Spanish general, Alba. Later he let it be known that he hated his father and wished him dead. Finally, he devised a plot whereby he would flee to the Protestants in Germany. If they could have gained control of the heir to the Spanish throne, their position would have been so strengthened as to spell disaster for the Church. William Cecil may have been involved in this scheme. Deeply grieved, Philip was forced to put his son under house arrest. Carlos finally died in 1568. But in spite of all his problems, Philip ruled Spain wisely and justly. The people loved him, especially since he never favored the rich at the expense of the poor. Like his father he lived up to the ideals of a king of the Middle Ages. Victory Over the Turks While the monastery at El Escorial was being built, Philip woul'd often come to the little town to watch the building progress. On a hill overlooking the town was a rock formation in the shape of a chair. Here Philip would sit, looking down on the workmen and looking forward to the day when the monastery-palace would be completed. But even in this peaceful little town, Philip could not escape the crises afflicting his realm. One of the most worrisome was the Turks, on the march once again. Suleiman, the Turkish ruler, planned to conquer the island of Malta, where the Knights of St. John had taken refuge after their defeat at Rhodes. From there he would move to Sicily, Italy and Southern Europe. He had sworn to feed his horses at the high altar of St. Peter’s in Rome. Suleiman was pouring all the lavish wealth of his empire into this campaign. Philip meanwhile was trying to borrow money he never had enough - and build a fleet of ships from scratch to defend against the Turks. As the Turkish fleet approached Malta, Valette, the Grand Master of the Knights, ordered the Blessed Sacrament to be carried in procession, begging God for help in the coming battle. On May 25, 1565, the Turks began to batter away with theit artillery at the outlying castles on the island. The key became the castle of St. Elmo, which the Turks assaulted no less than six times in one day. But each time the Knights drove them back, though hundreds of Knights were killed. For a whole month St. Elmo’s held out. Then at last, their strength was spent. The Turks broke through the walls, torturing and slaughtering everyone there. Now the Turks attacked the main fortress and the rest of the
Knights. Valette sent urgent messages to Philip, pleading for help. Philip did everything he could, but could his ships get to Malta in time? By August 19, the Turks had opened three breaches in the walls. In the four-hour battle that followed, the white-haired Grand Master charged them, sword in hand. Even women fought on the walls, while children brought food and supplies and tended the wounded. The struggle went on, until ony 600 defenders remained. The walls were reduced to crumbled stone. The Christians were so short of ammunition that they were firing back the cannon balls shot by the Turks.