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ByOK tional opulence was totally neglected1. Charles, after employing arguments,'entreaties, and promises, but withlS3^ out success, in order to overcome their obstinacy, disThc ancient missed the assembly with great indignation. From that tioni of the Periotl neither the nobles nor the prelates have been called cortcs sub- to these assemblies, on pretence that such as pny no part of the public taxes should not claim any vote in laying them on. None have been admitted to the cortes but the procurators or representatives of eighteen cities. These, to the number of thirty-six, being two from each community, form an assembly whieh bears no resemblance either in power, or dignity, or independence, to the ancient cortes, and are absolutely at the devotion of the court in all their determinations". Thus the imprudent zeal with which the Castilian nobles had supported the regal prerogative, in opposition to the claims of the commons, during the commotions in the year one thousand five hundred and twenty-one, proved at last fatal to their own body. By enabling Charles to depress one of the orders in the state they destroyed that balance to which the constitution owed its security, and put it in his power, or in that of his successors, to humble the other, and to strip it gradually of its most valuable privileges. The Spa- At that time, however, the Spanish grandees still posS'e««""' 8essed extraordinary power as well as privileges, which jKwseraed they exercised and defended with an haughtiness peculiar lr'|c8.pr'v' to themselves. Of this the emperor himself had a mortifying proof during the meeting of the cortes at Toledo. As he was returning one day from a tournament, accompanied by most of the nobility, one of the Serjeants of the court, out of officious zeal to clear the way for the emperor, struck the duke of Infantado's horse with his batton, which that haughty grandee resenting, drew his sword, beat and wounded the officer. Charles, provoked at such an insolent deed in his presence, immediately or
* ' Sandov. Hist. vol. ii, 269.
dered Ronquilto, the judge of the court, to arrest the Book duke: llonqnillo advanced to execute his charge, when tlie constable of Castile interposing, checked him, claimed IJ3'" the right of jurisdiction over a grandee as a privilege of iiis office, and conducted Infantado to his own apartment. All the nobles present were so pleased with the boldness of the constable in asserting the rights of their order, that, deserting the emperor, they attended him to his house with infinite applauses, and Charles returned to the palace unaccompanied by any person but the cardinal Tavera. The emperor, how sensible soever of the affront, saw the danger of irritatirg a jealous and high-spirited order of men, whom the slightest appearance of offence might drive to the most unwarrantable extremities. For that reason, instead of straining at any ill-timed exertion of his prerogative, he prudently connived at the arrogance of a body too potent for him to controul, and sent next morning to the duke of Infantado, offering to inflict what punishment he pleased on the person who had affronted him. The duke considering this as a full reparation to his honour, instantly forgave the officer; bestowing on him, besides, a considerable present, as a compensation for his wound. Thus the affair was entirely forgottenx; nor would it have deserved to be mentioned, if it were not a striking example of the high and independent spirit of the Spanish nobles in that age, as well as an instance of the emperor's dexterity in accommodating his conduct to the circumstances in which he was placed. Charles was far from discovering the same condescen- insurrcc.
sion or lenity towards the citizens of Ghent, who not long"nn « .... . ... ... Ghent.
after broke out into open rebellion against his government.
An event which happened in the year one thousand five hundred and thirty-six gave occasion to this rash insurrection, so fatal to that flourishing city. At that time the 'jueen-dowager of Hungary, governess of the Netherlands, having received orders from her brother to invade France * Sanduv. ii, 274. Ferreras, ix, 818. Miniana, 113.
Book with all the forces which she could raise, she assembled the states of the United Provinces, and obtained from tsi9' them a subsidy of twelve hundred thousand florins to defray the expence of that undertaking. Of this sum the county of Flanders was obliged to pay a third part as its Preten- proportion. But the citizens of Ghent, the most consideration!. "aDle c'tv m tnat country, averse to a war with France, with which they carried on an extensive and gainful commerce, refused to pay their quota, and contended, that, in consequence of stipulations between them and the ancestors of their present sovereign the emperor, no tax could be levied upon them, unless they had given their express consent to the imposition of it. The governess, on the other hand, maintained that, as the subsidy of twelve hundred thousand florins had been granted by the States of Flanders, of which their representatives were members, they were bound, of course, to conform to what was enacted by them, as it is the first principle in society on which the tranquillity and order of government depend, that the inclinations of the minority must be over-ruled by the judgment and decision of the superior number. Proceed- The citizens of Ghent, however, were not willing to reings agains: |inquish a privilege of such high importance as that which they claimed. Having been accustomed, under the government of the house of Burgundy, to enjoy extensive immunities, and to be treated with much indulgence, they disdained to sacrifice to the delegated power of a regent, those rights and liberties which they had often and successfully asserted against their greatest princes. The queen, though she endeavoured at first to sooth them, and to reconcile them to their duty by various concessions, was at last so much irritated by the obstinacy with which they adhered to their claim, that she ordered all the citizens of Ghent, on whom she could lay hold in any part of the Netherlands, to be arrested. But this rash action made an impression very different from what she expected, on men whose minds were agitated with all the violent passions which indignation at oppression, and zeal for liberty, inspire. Less affected with the danger of their Book friends and companions, than irritated at the governess, % they openly despised her authority, and sent deputies to '539the other towns of Flanders, conjuring them not to abandon their country at such a juncture, but to concur with them in vindicating its rights against the encroachments of a woman, who either did not know, or did not regard their immunities. All but a few inconsiderable towns declined entering into any confederacy against the governess; they joined, however, in petitioning her to put off the term for payment of the tax so long, that they might have it in their power to send some of their number into Spain, in order to lay their title to exemption before their sovereign. This she granted with some difficulty. But Charles received their commissioners with an haughtiness to which they were not accustomed from their ancient princes; and, enjoining them to yield the same respectful obedience to his sister which they owed to him in person, remitted the examination of their claim to the council of Malines. This court, which is properly a standing committee of the parliament or states of the country, and which possesses the supreme jurisdiction in all matters, civil as well as criminal1, pronounced the claim of the citizens of Ghent to be ill-founded, and appointed them forthwith to pay their proportion of the tax.
Enraged at this decision, which they considered asThtytakc notoriously unjust, and rendered desperate on seeing their a"TM»t"nil rights betrayed by that very court which was hound to&ubmitto protect them, the people of Ghent ran to arms in a tu-i'^ance• multuary manner; drove such of the nobility as resided among them out of the city; secured several of the emperor's officers; put one of them to the torture, whom they accused of having stolen or destroyed the record that contained a ratification of the privileges of exemption from taxes which they pleaded; chose a council to which' they committed the direction of their affairs; gave orders
J Descrittione di tutti Paeu Baisi cli Lud. Cuicciardini, Ant. 1571, foL p. 53.
Book for repairing and adding to their fortifications; and opeS» ^l' Ay erected the standard of rebellion against their so?e
*539- reign*. Sensible, however, of their inability to support what their zeal had prompted them to undertake, and desirous of securing a protector against the formidable forces by which they might expect soon to be attacked, they sent some of their number to Francis, offering not only to acknowledge him as their sovereign, and to put him in immediate possession of Ghent, but to assist him with all their forces in recovering those provinces in the Netherlands which had anciently belonged to the crown of France, and had been so lately reunited to it by the decree of the parliament of Paris. This unexpected proposition coming from persons who had it in their power to have performed instantly one part of what they undertook, and who could contribute so effectually towards the execution of the whole, opened great as well as alluring prospects to Francis's ambition. The counties of Flanders and Artois were of greater value than the duchy of Milan, which he had so long laboured to acquire with passionate but fruitless desire; their situation with respect to France rendered it more easy to conquer or to defend them; and they might he formed into a separate principality for the duke of Orleans, no less suitable to his dignity than that which his father aimed at obtaining. To this the Flemings, who were acquainted with the French manners and government, would not have been averse; and his own subjects, weary of their destructive expeditions into Italy, would have turned their arms towards this quarter with Francn de- more g°°d will, and with greater vigour. Several consicimn their derations, nevertheless, prevented Francis from laying hold of this opportunity, the most favourable in appearance which had ever presented itself, of extending his own dominions, or distressing the emperor. From the time of their interview at Aigues-Mortes Charles hud continued
• Mcmoires siu ]i Revolte de Gantois en 1539, par Jean d'HoIlandtr. ecrit en 1547. A Ja Haye, 174T. P. Heuter. Rer. Au.tr. lib. xi, p. «Si Sandov, Hlstwr. torn, ii, p. ?82.