Political Consolidation and Rising Tensions
These timelines are a work in progress and compilation of multiple academic sources.
† These forty-eight works have been deemed of such importance by the Digital Library for Dutch Literature (DBNL) to be included in its Basisbibliotheek of key Dutch-language texts from the cultural history of the Low Countries.
Key Events, 1548-1559
1548: The Dutch-language Leuvense bijbel (“Louvain Bible”) is translated from the Vulgate by Augustinian monk Nicolaes van Winghe then published by Bartholomew van Grave. It is received enthusiastically by the Catholic community and will be republished eight times over the next twenty years. †
1548: Matthijs de Castelein completes his influential work De const van rhetoriken (The Art of Rhetoric) to codify his beliefs and techniques on poetry and written verse. Informed by the culture of the chambers of rhetoric, its 1555 publication would influence generations of poets to come. †
1548: Hieronymus Cock and his wife Volcxken Diericx found the publishing house Aux quatre vents or In de Vier Winden (the “House of the Four Winds”), which would go on to be seminal in spreading Italian Renaissance art and ideals throughout northern Europe.
26 June 1548: The Transaction of Augsburg is signed at the Imperial Diet, creating the “Seventeen Provinces” of the Burgundian Circle by the addition of Guelders and Utrecht and the granting the circle near-complete autonomy from the Empire in exchange for annual financial tribute (equal to twice that paid by an imperial elector).
1549: Jan de Pottre, a merchant from Brussels, begins writing a diary which he would continue through his death in 1601. His writings will reveal a contemporary perspective of the upheaval and turmoil that would come. †
4 November 1549: Charles V completes negotiations with the States General to issue the Pragmatic Sanction. The edict makes the Seventeen Provinces “forever one and indivisible” by streamlining and centralizing their law of succession. Now, a single person would inherit all the provinces, were would in turn pledging “allegiance to their lord and future Prince, Don Philip, Prince of Spain.”
6 December 1550: Polyglot, artist, and court painter to Charles V, Pieter Coecke van Aelst dies (along with two of his children in what may have been an outbreak of disease). Not only was he a gifted artist in several mediums, but his translations of ancient Roman and Italian Renaissance architectural texts helped move Northern European architecture away from the medieval Gothic style.
1550: Joos Lambrecht, a printer and type punchcutter, writes his Nederlandsche Spellijnghe, the first Dutch-language spelling treatise. Though a landmark work in the evolution of the Dutch language, its innovative recommendations for spelling, letter use, and accent characters has limited influence among contemporary spraakkonstenaars struggling with codifying the rules of a modern, standard Dutch language.
c. 1550 – 1560: Protestants begin fleeing the Low Countries in large numbers and consolidate around refugee churches and communities in Emden, London, and the Rhineland (Wesel and other towns). Here in exile, their identity and theology as Calvinists would be reinforced.
29 April 1550: Charles V issues the Bloedplakkaat (“Edict of Blood”), which affirms the death penalty for Protestant heretics – even the penitent – and requires new residents to have a parish priest certify their Catholic orthodoxy. It becomes the cornerstone of future anti-heresy laws in the Low Countries.
1552 – 1554: Pieter Bruegel the Elder travels to Italy following his admission to the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp. Though he does not incorporate much of the Italian Renaissance or Mannerist art seen in his travels, it is this period he develops the unprecedented ability to observe and depict real life that would become his hallmark.
January – February 1552: Several storms force high water through the dikes and destroy towns and villages across Zeeland, including Hinkelenoord, Oud-Bath, and Stuivezand.
1555-1560: Small, secretive communities of Reformed (i.e. Calvinist) Protestants began worshipping together in larger numbers across the Low Countries. The first of these churches “under the cross” arise in Antwerp and then began to spread to other cities and large towns. Calvinists quickly overtake Lutherans and Anabaptists as the largest rival to the Catholic Church in the Low Countries.
1555: The Peace of Augsburg between Catholic Charles V and the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League settles the first generation of Reformation unrest and war making official and permeant establishment of both Catholicism and Lutheranism in the Holy Roman Empire – based on the faith of the local ruler. As the Seventeen Provinces were the personal domain of Charles V directly, this meant they would remain Catholic (as suited the population, which was still overwhelming so, as well).
October 1555 Emperor Charles V, a Burgundian who spoke Flemish, abdicates and the Hapsburg Empire is divided, with Spain and the Netherlands passing to Charles’s son Phillip II.
1555 Phillip II appoints William of Orange, one of Charles V’s favorites as provincial governor (“Stadthouder”) of Holland, Utrecht and Zeeland. The Count of Egmont was appointed Stadthouder of Flanders and Artois.
1556 – 1559: Three hard, lean years for the people of the Low Countries. The plague breaks out once again, and along with it, poor harvests cause grain and food prices to rise.
1557, Ambrosius Zeebout, Tvoyage van Mher Joos van Ghistele †
1557 – 1559: Soldiers and Low Countries nobility such as the Count of Egmont participate in the allied Habsburg & English war against France.
c. 1558: Pieter Bruegel begins painting in addition to ink drawing and engraving. During this time be begins signing his work “P. BRVEGEL” instead of the earlier “brueghel.”
1558 William of Orange persuades the States-General to grant Phillip II a 9 year subsidy in exchange for the granting of liberties and removal of 3,000 Spanish mercenaries.
2 – 3 April 1559: The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis is signed, ending the Habsburg-Valois War and easing travel across western Europe.
12 May 1559: Pope Paul IV issues the Super Universas, a papal bull reorganizing the Catholic church structure of the Low Countries by creating three new archdioceses (Mechlin, Cambrai, and Utrecht) along provincial lines. Originally planned by Charles V, this attempt at centralization proved to be wildly unpopular on the ground, as local clergy saw it directly threatening their incomes and authority and the regional nobility took umbrage at not being consulted.
12 May 1559: The University of Douai is also established in the same papal bull. Located in the southern Low Countries, Doaui was a town free of both printers and Protestant heretics, so a good location for a university to train up French-speaking priests and patricians.
7 August 1559 Phillip II departs the Low Countries, never to return. In his absence, he appoints his half-sister Margaret of Parma as landvoogdes (i.e. governor of all the Seventeen Provinces) with Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle, William the Prince of Orange, and the Counts of Egmont and Horn as members of her Council of State. Orange and Egmont are also appointed stadhouders (provincial governors and representatives of the king) in various provinces.
1560 – 1567
1560 – 1562: The reorganization and jurisdiction of the region’s Catholic churches continues to much local controversy and dispute. Granvelle is made archbishop of Mechelen and primate over all the church in the Low Countries. He soon becomes a focus of ire.
c. 1560: Calvinists first began holding hagepreken (open-air services) in the fields outside of southern Walloon towns and the Westkwartier of Flanders, and are thereby outside the jurisdiction of town magistrates. Some of the more extreme hold psalm-singing demonstrations (known as chanteries), call for the end of the Inquisition, and even mob prisons to liberate fellow Calvinists who had been arrested.
1561, Eduard de Dene, Eduard de Dene. Testament rhetoricael †
1561: Spanish troops depart Netherlands
1561 Belgic Confession
1561: Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert publishes De dolinghe van Ulyss, a Dutch translation of the first twelve books of Homer’s Odyssey. It is one of the first great works of Renaissance poetry in the Dutch vernacular.
1562, anoniem, Het Offer des Heeren †
1562, Anthonis de Roovere, Rethoricale wercken †
c. 1563: The three grandees on the Council of State, Orange, Egmont, and Horn, began to foster plans to remove Granvelle, who they view as the sinister force behind Philip II’s moves to introduce the Inquisition and limit the traditional power of the high nobility in regional government.
1563 – 1570: The Nordic Seven Years War between Sweden and an alliance of Denmark and the rich Hanse city of Lübeck hampers imports of grain from the Baltic through the Sound, leading to further famine and political instability.
11 – 13 March 1564: Orange, Egmont, and Horn threaten to resign from the Council of State unless Granvelle is dismissed. The provincial States of Brabant add to that threat by refusing to collect taxes until he is gone. Two days later, the archbishop departs the Low Countries for Burgundy.
1562: Joos Lambrecht publishes the second edition of his Naembouck, a Dutch-to-French dictionary which proves to have a seminal influence. †
1563 Clergyman and psalmist Pieter Datheen translates the Heidelberg Catechism into Dutch.
1563-1564, Willem van Haecht, Dwerc der Apostelen †
31 December 1564: In a shocking speech to the Council of State, William of Orange speaks out directly against Philip II and his religious policies in favor of religious tolerance.
1565: Widespread harvest failures lead to 1565 being called the “Hunger Year.” Restlessness among the population increases.
1565, Lucas de Heere, Den hof en boomgaerd der poësien †
ca. 1565-1574, Godevaert van Haecht, De kroniek van Godevaert van Haecht over de troebelen van 1565 tot 1574 te Antwerpen en elders †
Spring 1565: Egmont travels to treat with Philip II in Madrid on a host of issues relating to the Low Countries, but most pressingly, the harshness of the placards against heresy. Egmont returns without being given a clear or immediate answer.
July – November 1565: Margret of Parma writes her half-brother, King Philip II, requesting the Inquisition be relaxed and mercy shown to certain Anabaptists arrested for heresy. In the “letters from the Segovia woods” dated to October which arrive a month later, Philip responds and denies all her requests.
November 1565: William of Orange, Egmont, and Horn all resign from the Council of State over the simmering issues of heresy laws and government consolidation.
1566, Petrus Datheen, De Psalmen Davids, ende ander lofsanghen †
Spring 1566 – Spring 1567: The wonderjaar, so named in retrospect for all the changes that were to happen over those twelve months.
5 April 1566: At the head of 400 armed noblemen, Louis of Nassau and Count Brederode, with 400 of their fellow nobles presented the Compromise of Breda to Margaret of Parma requesting suspension of the Edict of Blood and Inquisition. According to the legend, an advisor leans over to Margaret to allay her fears of so many armed men – and to dismiss them in turn – and says “These are only gueux (“beggars”); they are nothing to worry about.” The epithet stuck, but turned from pejorative into a mark of pride.
Spring – Fall 1566: In the wake of the Compromise of Nobles, Margaret of Parma sends two members of the Council of State to Spain with the petition. Philip II remains intransigent and unrelenting in his July reply via more letters from the Segovia Woods. However, in the intervening time, Margaret has already agreed to the Compromise and allowed Protestant worship to continue where it is already taking place… but that was not enough to quell the unrest that was already beginning.
June 1566: Calvinists convene the Synod of Antwerp. It leads to mass, armed gatherings across Flanders, Brabant, Zeeland, Valenciennes, and Holland.
August – October 1566: Poor, starving, and restless textile workers, instigated by Calvinist clergymen and local nobility, plunder and deface Catholic places of worship in the beeldenstorm (iconoclastic fury) across the southern Low Countries Many Catholics who had sympathized with the criticisms against Phillip II or the plight of the Calvinists now return to obedience to the Spanish governess.
August 1566-January 1567: Calvinists seize control of Tournai and Valenciennes in the wake of the beeldenstorm. Both cities are besieged by Egmont, and the ringleaders are executed.
2 September 1566: William of Orange negotiates agreement allowing for public Protestant worship inside cities, and not simply in the fields outside of towns or hidden in secret.
1567 The higher nobility in the Netherlands is but a group of about ten families. Lamoraal (Count of Egmond), Philip de Montmorency (Count of Hoorne), and William of Nassau (Prince of Orange) demand freedom of religion. If they don’t receive it, they will rise in revolt against the king.
13 March 1567 Battle of Oosterweel. Calvinist rebel “Beggar” army (geuzen leger) defeated.
22 August 1567 Duke of Alba arrives in Brussels with an army of 9,000 to quell unrest in preparation of Phillip II’s personal intervention in the crisis.
9 September 1567: To better address the deepening political and religious unrest in the Seventeen Provinces, the Duke of Alba institutes a special court under his personal control. Is formal name was the Raad van Beroerten (“Council of Troubles”), but it would become better known as the Bloedraad (“Council of Blood”).
9 September 1567 Arrest of Egmont, general, former companion to Alba and Phillip II, and his fellow Protestant sympathizer, Horn.
Relieved of his functions as Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, William of Orange flees from the countryside to Dillenburg, the castle of his family in the German countship of Nassau.
30 December 1567 Margaret of Parma resigns and departs Brussels
1567-68 Approximately 60 thousand flee the Netherlands for neighboring German states and England