Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The people of the Netherlands are unhappy in the state of their homeland. Philip II of Spain is tightening his absolute control of the Lowlands, particularly in religious matters, for Philip is the main instrument of the Inquisition. A new regent is appointed to administer his rule. The populace hoped the office would go to Count Egmont, who, after his defeat of the French at Gravelines, has become a national hero. Besides, although Egmont is a Catholic, he treats Protestants with kindness, and he even goes to Madrid to plead with Philip to lessen the strictures of Catholic repression.
The king, however, gives the office to Margaret, his half sister. She, like Philip, tolerates no dissent from the established church, yet by firmness and tact she pacifies the burghers who stubbornly resist any laws but their own. She even manages to conciliate Egmont and William of Orange, so that outwardly at least there is harmony among the nobility.
Margaret summons Machiavel, her secretary, to hear his account of new uprisings. He tells her how throughout Flanders mobs are breaking into cathedrals and despoiling the monuments of the hated foreign religion. He counsels Margaret to be firm but not cruel toward the Protestants. Margaret tells him that her efforts toward conciliation will mean little, for it is rumored that the cruel duke of Alva is on his way to assume control of the provinces. Machiavel reminds her that as regent she will hold the final...
(The entire section is 1267 words.)
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