The Dutch Rebel States had gotten help from the English
in their fight against their Lord,
Felipe II, the King of Spain.
Now England was also at war with him.
Queen Elizabeth I of England had sent her favorite,
Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, over to help the Dutch rebels.
But the Earl wasn't helpful,
and he was unhappy that he had to obey the States-General,
the self-declared temporary sovereign of the country.
The Dutch didn't trust Leicester
and appointed the shrewd Lawyer Johan van Oldenbarnevelt
as the Attorney General.
The Council of State elevated the eighteen-year-old
Count Moritz von Nassau, the second son of Willem of Orange,
and made him the Prince's de facto heir.
And the States-General gave him the Stadtholderates of Holland and Zeeland.
However, Queen Elizabeth wasn't playing nice.
She wasn't sending the troops nor the money she had promised
because she was secretly negotiating a peace treaty with King Felipe.
She didn't realize the peace talks were fake.
The Spanish King used them as a distraction
to hide "the Great Enterprise":
Felipe's planned invasion of England.
In the meantime, Felipe's Governor-General for the Netherlands,
the ever-charming and very effective Alessandro Farnese,
the Duke of Parma, recovered huge chunks of Rebel territory.
The States knew something had to be done if they wanted to keep their land.
More money. More troops.
More leadership from Leicester.
But Queen Elizabeth needed the Earl's help
concerning an issue with her rival Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots,
and she recalled him.
So, what was going on with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots?
Let me bring you up to speed.
Mary became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old in 1542.
After her husband, Franois II, the King of France, died,
she moved back to Scotland as the Queen of Scots.
But neither the Roman Catholics nor the Protestants trusted the 19-year old.
Queen Elizabeth feared that Mary was after the English throne
because she had a claim via her grandmother,
the sister of Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father.
Mary strengthened her claim on the English throne
by marrying her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley,
who also had a claim.
They had a son, James,
who, besides being the heir to Scotland,
now held a double claim to the English throne.
When Darnley died after an explosion in 1567,
rumors were flying that he was murdered.
Mary was a suspect,
but James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell,
was considered the culprit.
He was never convicted because there was no evidence.
Bothwell abducted Mary
and married her in a Protestant ceremony.
Probably by force.
The Protestants didn't trust it,
took up arms, imprisoned Mary,
and forced her to hand the Scottish crown
to her one-year-old son, James.
Mary escaped from her prison and ran to England.
She hoped to get Elizabeth's support to regain her throne.
The English Queen imprisoned her instead
and put her on trial for Lord Darnley's murder.
Elizabeth declared Mary not guilty, and not not guilty either,
and kept her on lock-down.
King Felipe vowed to break Mary out
and put her on the English throne.
He wanted to get rid of the Protestant Elizabeth.
Because of the King's threats,
Elizabeth's advisors put spies in Queen Mary's household.
They uncovered various plots by both Spain and France
to make her Queen of England
but it was the Babington Plot that ultimately did her in.
In a coded letter, Mary had apparently ordered
the assassination of Elizabeth once she was broken out of prison.
At her trial in October 1586, Mary swore the letter was a forgery.
However, when pressured, her secretaries claimed
that the letter was mostly true.
Mary should be executed for high treason, but Elizabeth was torn.
If she killed her, France and Spain would take up arms.
The English Queen became restless,
wandering around the palace, muttering:
"Aut fer, aut feri; ne feriare, feri."
Either endure or strike; strike lest thou be stricken.
She then ordered her 'sweet Robin,' the Earl of Leicester,
to drop everything, leave the Netherlands,
and come home to help her with the decision.
On the 31st of October, 1586,
the Earl of Leicester announced to the members of the States-General
that he had to bounce.
Not because of the awful way the Dutch had treated him,
which they had, but to help Elizabeth deal with Queen Mary's sentencing.
Leicester despised Oldenbarnevelt,
a man very much beneath his station.
The Attorney-General seemed to control the States-General,
and by extension, him.
The Earl wanted to neutralize the nuisance.
Since the commoner leaned heavily on Maurits' high rank,
Leicester decided to pry the young man from the Lawyer's evil clutches.
The Earl asked Maurits to join him on his trip to England.
The Queen really, really wanted to meet him.
The Count was flattered
but didn't want to leave the army nor his states behind.
Maurits said he needed to ask Oldenbarnevelt for advice.
Leicester was like: no!
Don't ask him!
You're old enough to make up your own mind!
The Earl went from pleading, to threatening,
to begging the Stadtholder to join him.
The request was discussed in the States-General,
and Maurits now worried that they might actually send him over
to improve the international relations.
But then there was Oldenbarnevelt, who was like:
have you all gone completely mad!
The English would try to convert Maurits to their politics
and their Anglican faith.
And if they failed to turn him, they would keep him there,
just like the Spanish King had locked up Filips Willem,
the Prince of Orange's firstborn son.
Or worse, they could just kill him.
The States decided.
They weren't going to lose another one of Willem's sons to a foreign country.
Leicester went home alone,
furious that his plans were once again foiled by the wily Oldenbarnevelt.
Before he left, the Earl put a bunch of restrictions in place
concerning the government and trade.
This "Act of Restriction" basically made the country
impossible to govern during his absence.
When Leicester departed in December, he gave Maurits a warning.
The Count should be wary of Oldenbarnevelt.
The shrewd lawyer was only using him to get more power.
Once Maurits was no longer useful to his goals,
the man would stop at nothing to bring him and his house down.
Maurits didn't believe him.
The Earl of Leicester left Sir William Stanley in charge
of the Deventer Garrison of 1200 Irishmen.
The city of Zutphen was still under siege by the States,
but its captured Fort had been handed to Rowland York.
Stanley was a Roman Catholic
who had even fought on General Alba's side,
and York was constantly switching teams.
The States worried that these men could betray them,
but Leicester told them:
Don't be silly. Everything will be just fine.
After the Frenchman Marchant handed over
the strategically located Castle of Wouw to Parma for 16,000 florins,
Stanley figured: I can do that.
He handed over Deventer to the Spanish for a large sum of money.
Then York figured, I can do that!
He handed over the Fort in his care to the Spanish for a large sum of money.
Parma gleefully wrote to Felipe:
"Thus, Fort Zutphen, about which there have been so many fisticuffs,
and Deventer [...] which has cost the English so much blood and money
[...] are now your Majesty's."
The Dutch would never trust their besties again!
After the initial shock of the betrayal had worn off,
no city wanted an English Garrison inside their walls,
and English soldiers were despised.
Oldenbarnevelt moved immediately.
The States-General put a price on Stanley's head.
He fled to Spain, returning to the Netherlands later as Parma's Commander.
York took up residence in the now Spanish Deventer
but he suddenly died a year later after a banquet.
He was perhaps poisoned, but no one cared enough to investigate.
Next, Oldenbarnevelt argued
that the Rebels needed a competent army leader
to stop the English from handing over more cities.
Unfortunately, its current leader,
Lieutenant-General Philipp von Hohenlohe, was too much of a drunk.
So, Oldenbarnevelt volunteered nineteen-year-old Count Maurits.
Sure enough, he was made Captain-General
of the armies of Holland and Zeeland.
All soldiers in the States' employ now had to swear an oath to him.
But who would listen to a kid who had only just started growing a beard?
Easy, Count Maurits had to clearly outrank the Earl.
He had to present himself as the Prince of Orange
to supersede the Earl of Leicester.
And so it was done.
The Rebel government granted Maurits
the title of Natural-Born Prince of Orange.
Though, throughout his life,
the Stadtholder consistently introduced himself as the Count of Nassau.
He pretty much only used the Prince title
when he needed to assert power and dominance with the International rulers.
Not everyone was willing to take a pledge
to the new Captain-General, though, and cities were still being sold.
The States-General had sent Maarten Schenk to defend Rheinberg.
He had left Scottish Colonel Aristotle Patton in charge of Gelder,
the capital of Gelderland.
But Patton hated Leicester and Schenk.
Later that summer, the Colonel struck a deal with Parma
and handed over the city for 36.000 florins.
Parma realized every foreign-held town
in the Rebel Netherlands was up for grabs.
And it was a lot cheaper to buy cities than it was to besiege them.
Meanwhile, in England, the Earl of Leicester tried to convince Elizabeth
that Queen Mary's execution was necessary
for the safety of herself, her throne, and the country.
Queen Elizabeth didn't want to be blamed for her death,
but she soon realized there was "no other way."
Elizabeth finally signed Mary's death warrant and,
according to her advisors, she became impossible to deal with.
She was angry at everyone:
the French King involved in the plot,
the Spanish King involved in another plot...
and the Dutch.
She fumed that those Rebels had only made Leicester Governor-General
to blame him for all the bad things that were happening over there.
And - by the way - Elizabeth was very offended
that the Dutch thought she was secretly negotiating peace with Spain.
She was, but maybe she should just drop them for not trusting her.
The Dutch envoys very skillfully talked her off the ledge.
But then, a letter arrived from the Netherlands
written by Johan van Oldenbarnevelt about the betrayal of Stanley and York.
He ripped both her and Leicester a new one!
The Earl had put the country in great danger.
He had to come back at once to deal with it.
Elizabeth and Leicester behaved like little children
and refused to answer him.
She was dealing with a bunch of nobodies, anyway.
As God-appointed Queen,
she was under no obligation to answer to them.
See why they had to make Maurits a Prince, now?
Four days after Oldenbarnevelt's scathing letter arrived,
Mary Stuart was executed at Fotheringay Castle.
Her murder outraged the Roman Catholics in Europe.
Parma wrote to Felipe:
"Your Majesty will hear of the disastrous, lamentable,
and pitiful end of the poor Queen of Scots
[...] She will be placed among the many martyrs
whose blood had been shed in the Kingdom of England
[...] I believe firmly that this cruel deed will be the concluding crime
of the many which that Englishwoman had committed,
and that our Lord will be pleased that she shall,
at last, receive the chastisement
which she has these many long years deserved,
and which has been reserved until now,
for her greater ruin and confusion."
In her will, the Scottish Queen had handed her claim
to the English throne to King Felipe.
He vowed to avenge her death.
In July, the King got Pope Sixtus the V's permission
to remove Elizabeth and place whomever he wanted on the English throne.
Fortunately, his Armada was nearly ready.
But unfortunately, Felipe was about to suffer a stunning setback.
English Naval commander Sir Francis Drake
had been busy sacking and destroying Spanish-held cities
in Spain, Africa, and the Americas.
The Sea-King got command of a fleet,
and Elizabeth sent him on a new mission.
He had to inspect the rumored Spanish preparations
for the invasion of England, seize the supplies,
attack whatever fleet he found, and plunder the ports.
After Drake left, the Queen feared his actions
might seriously jeopardize her peace negotiations with Felipe.
She needed deniability and wrote an order:
"Don't... Please... Stop... Come back..."
But the small ship carrying the orders for Drake
to stand down didn't reach his super-fast fleet in time.
The English ships sailed into Cdiz on April 19, 1587,
and destroyed ten thousand tons of shipping goods
right under the noses of a dozen massive Spanish ships.
Horseshoes, saddles, timber, wine, oil, figs, raisins, biscuits, flour.
Everything was dumped in the harbor.
150 transport ships were set on fire.
Then Drake sailed to Lisbon,
destroying any enemy vessel he encountered,
no matter how small.
There, he captured and wrecked a hundred more ships,
taking the cargo they could carry and destroying the rest.
Next, El Draque - as the Spanish called the pirate -
blocked all traffic between Felipe's
American and East-Indian fleets for a month.
The losses were a disaster for Felipe.
He had to postpone the invasion of England for over a year.
All the stress caused the King to physically crash.
Drake was well aware that even though he had
"singed the King's beard,"
he had not dealt a serious enough blow to Felipe's invasion force.
El Draque warned the English government to prepare for battle.
"Prepare in England strongly, and mostly by sea.
Stop him now and stop him forever."
No one listened.
The rebellious Netherlands was in a bad state.
Leicester had not really left anyone in charge,
and the country was devolving into chaos and anarchy.
And there were no signs the Earl would ever come back.
In April, Queen Elizabeth sent Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst,
to the Netherlands to sort things out
with impossible and contradictory orders.
Buckhurst had to fight a war without an army,
raise an army without pay,
and make the Netherlands, who had been betrayed by the English,
love the Queen and Leicester again.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth was still not paying a dime into the war chest.
Still, Buckhurst, with amazing diplomatic skill,
managed to calm everyone down.
But now, Parma, who, according to the Queen,
couldn't lay siege on anything,
laid siege on Sluis in Flanders.
Parma wanted the town because its harbor had room for 500 ships.
That would come in real handy for the "Great Enterprise of England."
With Sluis in trouble, it was necessary
to get a rebel army in the field, pronto.
Oldenbarnevelt got the States-General
to make Count Maurits Admiral
and Captain-General of all the States Armies and Navies.
They also made him Governor-General until Leicester returned.
Then the Lawyer had them repeal Leicester's 'Act of Restriction.'
All the limitations and controls that the Earl
had put on the government were removed.
The rebel country became governable again.
Sluis was held by military Governor Arnold van Groenevelt, a Dutch noble.
He had some super-experienced officers,
but his force wasn't large enough.
He did get some reinforcements from Flushing,
the cautionary town held by the English.
Among the English sent over were the Welshman Roger Williams
- the guy who had chased Balthazar Grard
after he shot and killed Willem of Orange -
and Francis Vere.
These combined Garrisons totaled 1600 people,
not enough to defend the two and a half miles of walls.
Let alone the bastions and other defensive works.
But they didn't sit moping around
and began attacking the besiegers relentlessly.
During one sortie, Vere and one hundred men
held eight Tercio companies at bay with pikes
and forced them from their trenches.
They took a lot of prisoners.
The Spanish bravely fought mud, water, fire, and a fearless enemy.
The garrison of the city was equally courageous
and could rely on citizens for help.
A group of women even built a crucial redoubt
between the Fort and the rampart.
The men admiringly called it Fort Venus.
The garrison kept on fighting, retaking ditches,
and killing many Spanish.
But the Royal troops kept getting closer.
The Spanish dug tunnels leading to the many wine cellars of the city
and put mines in them.
Everyone in Sluis feared that soon an explosion would swallow the town whole.
Eight days long, the troops fought each other
in the cellars with pike, pistol, and dagger.
But they were with too few,
and Groenevelt wrote desperate letters
to both Leicester and the States-General for more support.
Williams complained that Generals Maurits and Hohenlohe
were missing in action.
"Must Holland and Zeeland lose their countries and towns
to make them experts of war?"
Why didn't the rebels act?
Sluis was not that important to them.
They controlled the river upstream.
Even if Parma got the harbor, he had no access to the sea.
There was no point in saving it either.
Sluis would probably become another English cautionary town.
Or the English would sell it to Parma.
Or they would use it as a bargaining chip
in the Queen's peace negotiations with Spain.
Because yeah, we know that's what she's doing!
So, why bother?
Maurits and Hohenlohe did help, though.
They plundered their way through Brabant
to try to lure Parma away from Sluis
or, at the very least, weaken him.
They got Parma so riled up
that he sent Claude de Berlaymont, Lord of Haultepenne,
with a large part of the siege army after them.
But Haultepenne was defeated and killed
during one of the many violent encounters.
He was 37 years old.
Maurits and Hohenlohe took Fort Engel,
near 's-Hertogenbosch and threatened that city.
Yet, they never moved directly on Sluis, and the siege held.
The English were now convinced more than ever
that an Englishman should be in charge of the army and the country
and not a kid and a drunk.
Then, quite unexpectedly - blind-siding even the Leicesterians -
the Earl of Leicester announced his return.
Oldenbarnevelt rolled up his sleeves.
Bring it on, bucko!
Leicester arrived on July 6th,
with a few extra soldiers and a bit of cash.
The Earl had come back to the Netherlands
because he believed that he could make the States-General his bitch.
The Leicesterians had been telling him
that the Netherlands was ready for him to become the absolute ruler.
This wasn't true, and the States' constitutions prohibited it,
but Leicester believed it.
With his arrival, Leicester's English enemies,
like Buckhurst and John Norreys, raced back to England.
They got an unpleasant 'welcome back' at their Queen's court.
How dare they speak ill of her wonderful Robby-wobby?
Turns out, Leicester had been lying to his Queen
about how awful these men were.
He did admit to this later, though,
and the men were restored in their honor.
Meanwhile, the Earl traveled to Dordrecht
and demanded that the States-General
and the Council of State came out to meet him there.
No one went.
Only Count Maurits showed up, as a matter of ceremony,
and - now being Prince and all -
forced Leicester to bow to him instead of the other way around.
Leicester was humiliated and - surprise, surprise - furious.
The Prince told the Earl that they had to relieve Sluis immediately
because Parma was already building a ship bridge,
just like he had done at Antwerp.
Once it was finished, the town was finished.
Parma's bridge to block off Sluis from everyone was nearly completed,
but the city wouldn't surrender.
Leicester and Maurits planned to save the city
with a fleet-and-ground troops combo.
The Count teamed up with his half-brother -
Willem of Orange's 28-year-old illegitimate son
- Admiral Justinus of Nassau.
But they waited for Leicester's orders to be confirmed by the States-General.
On July 10, 1587, the Spanish entered the ditches
of the Sluis fort in three different places.
Roger Williams wrote:
"We were forced to quit the Fort
leaving nothing behind us but bare earth.
But here we do remain resolutely to be buried
rather than to be dishonoured."
Then the bridge was finished, and the harbor was blocked.
Leicester now ordered the construction of fire ships to destroy it.
But they couldn't be sent out. The tide wasn't right.
Another eight days passed.
Sluis citizens were practically living on the ramparts day and night.
Only 700 of the 1600 Garrison remained in action.
Those in the town sent a message to the States Army
that they couldn't hold out any longer.
The Spanish had made a substantial breach in the wall,
large enough to fit a horse and its rider.
The city would surrender in a day if nothing was done.
But all those in the town, soldiers and citizens,
agreed that unless they got a favorable deal from Parma,
they would burn Sluis to the ground.
And then, en masse, they would charge at Parma's troops
to fight their way through or die trying,
taking as many Spanish soldiers as they could with them.
The messenger drowned,
and Parma intercepted the letter.
He was now aware of the besieged's plans.
At last, Leicester made an effort to break the siege.
He took four thousand men to seize Blankenberge
to cut Parma off from the sea completely.
Parma had said that if Blankenberge was captured,
he would be forced to leave.
Once that place was in Leicester's hands,
Maurits and Justinus could force entry into Sluis harbor.
But Leicester didn't follow through.
He did take some forts near Blankenberge,
and Parma did send a few troops his way,
planning to follow himself later.
But the moment the Spanish vanguard came into view,
Leicester freaked out,
thinking it was the entire army.
He ran, an unforgivable act for a General.
The town's fate was sealed.
Their gunpowder would last no more than two hours.
With three significant breaches in the walls,
the citizens surrendered.
On August 5, 1587, Parma - aware of their kamikaze plans -
gave them a generous deal to hand over the city intact.
The garrison left with full honors of war.
Parma congratulated them
and gave the English commanders high praise for a job well done in person.
The citizens who didn't want to become Roman Catholic
were given plenty of time time to leave.
Leicester's reputation was completely shot.
He blamed the loss of the Sluis on everyone but himself,
and his officers agreed with him.
Queen Elizabeth was distraught to hear
that the port opposite England was lost.
While she blamed the Netherlands, she also blamed Leicester.
Holland also blamed Oldenbarnevelt.
The States-General had made a decision to act,
but too late.
Queen Elizabeth was still negotiating a secret peace with Parma
and wrote him frank and truthful letters.
He didn't believe a word she said.
But the Governor-General had to keep the negotiations going
so Felipe could finish the preparations for the invasion.
Parma would concede on one point
and then make a fuss about another, and on and on it went.
And that fleet Felipe was building in Portugal and Spain?
Parma swore it was intended for missions to the Netherlands and Africa.
The English weren't stupid, but they were trusting.
They believed that King Felipe and Parma
were such good Christians that they were telling the Queen the truth.
But these two men believed that all was fair in love and war.
And treacherous diplomacy against the enemy was how the war was won.
Only the Queen's Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham,
didn't believe Parma.
He was ignored.
Finally, Felipe had recovered enough
from the breakdown he'd suffered
after Drake's sacking of Cdiz and Lisbon.
The sixty-year-old King once again sat writing at his desk,
day and night,
crippled with gout, his grey hair turning white,
working extremely hard toward that 'Great Enterprise.'
The King had no chief advisors anymore
and only consulted with his private secretaries.
Felipe became more and more reclusive and secretive
while the web of his schemes multiplied and widened.
The Ottomans were occupied in Persia.
Germany was too weak to move.
The Swiss cantons wouldn't act against the King,
and they wouldn't allow its allies to do anything either.
The War of the Three Henrys in France,
the internal feuds in Scotland,
and the rebellion in Ireland,
all organized and paid for by Felipe, continued.
The Netherlands had been reduced to chaos
because the English were seeking peace
and ignoring their duties to the Rebels.
And England, worried about the invasion,
was desperate for a peace that Felipe would never ever give.
The fleet led by Alvaro de Bazn, the Marquess of Santa Cruz,
was finally ready.
The Masterplan was abandoned for a more disastrous plan.
It was late in the year, but Felipe believed
God would give good weather as it was God's cause.
After Santa Cruz told Parma that he was approaching,
the Admiral had to sail straight to the Canal
and go for anchor at Margate.
After ensuring that his crossing was secured
by the Armada somewhere on the Thames,
Parma had to embark his troops in the Netherlands and set sail.
The Spanish would make landfall between Dover and Margate.
Though the area was populated,
they were wealthy people who lived comfortable lives.
These guys weren't going to take up arms to defend themselves.
The Spanish would march on London,
which was easy to take because it wasn't fortified.
Sure, there would be some fights along the way,
but everything could be left
"in the hands of God who governs all things,
and from whose bounty and mercy it was to be hoped
that He would favor a cause so eminently holy, just and His own."
But Felipe was unclear about how this would work.
Should the Armada first move in on Flemish harbors
to get rid of the Dutch and English fleets that blocked Parma's way out?
Their heavy ships would risk stranding on the shallows!
Should the Fleet go straight to the Thames?
But how could Parma pass the Dutch and English patrols then?
Instead, Felipe got impatient
and sent flattering, joyous, and sometimes threatening letters.
The King told his commanders to stop complaining.
He'd given them everything they wanted.
They should move!
Both Parma and Santa Cruz sent letters back,
telling the King that the orders weren't reasonable.
But Felipe didn't listen to the experienced commanders.
First of all, the King had an unshakable faith in God's support.
It was His mission. He would make it work.
But he was also looking at the really big picture.
He worried that if they delayed any longer,
there could be peace in France, and the Ottomans could be done in Persia.
And then there were the staggering costs of a delay.
Every day the Armada didn't sail
cost 30,000 ducats.
Another 15,000 for Parma's army.
The King switched his plans up a lot,
unable to make up his mind.
He seriously considered a landing in Scotland,
a surprise attack on the Isle of Wight,
a sudden solo mission from Parma on the coast of Kent,
as well as an amphibian attack from Lisbon to Algiers or Larache,
instead of England.
For every proposal, enemy spies discovered a counter-proposal,
and no one knew what was happening.
In the meantime, Spymaster Walsingham
was aware of every single detail of Felipe's plans.
He knew the exact number of men, vessels, horses, saddles,
spurs, lances, barrels of beer and tons of biscuits.
He knew what the new uniforms of Royal troops looked like.
How much velvet and satin had been used and in which colors,
how many feathers, diamonds, and pearls they wore,
down to the amount of the silver and gold embroidery on their uniforms.
I mean, the guy knew Every. Single. Thing.
Except, he couldn't convince Elizabeth
nor William Cecil, the Baron of Burghley, about these facts.
They believed that Felipe was too old
and Spain too weak for such a large enterprise.
And the staggering numbers just sounded made up.
That Enterprise thing had to be fake.
In August 1587, Leicester was finally ordered
to formally tell the States about the Anglo-Spanish peace negotiations.
Nothing the States didn't already know.
In September, Leicester sent envoys to ask the States of Holland
whether they still had the money for military operations.
If not, then continuing the war was ridiculous,
and there should be peace.
Oldenbarnevelt realized he had struck gold.
He had the unsuspecting envoys put their request in writing.
Now the Attorney-General had physical proof
of what he had been warning the States-General of for months.
Leicester, the great war hero, the defender of the faith,
had no intention to wage war
and wasn't prepared to protect the religion.
He just wanted to deliver the country into Spain's hands!
And just like that,
Oldenbarnevelt destroyed the Earl's credibility, power, and authority.
The Earl swore vengeance.
Leicester thought of a plan, a cunning plan.
He was going to kidnap Maurits and Oldenbarnevelt
and take them with him to England.
Or, if he failed,
Leicester was not above killing them.
On September 12, in the dead of night,
friends of Oldenbarnevelt entered his bedroom in the Hague.
They told him that there was a plot afoot
to harm Prince Maurits and himself.
An armed force was already underway to execute Leicester's orders
before the dawn of the day.
That morning, Leicester did indeed arrive in The Hague
with a considerable military force.
But Oldenbarnevelt was in Delft,
and Maurits was on his way to Zeeland
to kinda, sorta plan the siege of Antwerp.
A few weeks later, the States-General disappeared as well.
They had also moved to Delft,
worried about what Leicester might do to them.
Leicester swore up and down he hadn't been planning anything untoward.
Then he received a message from the States-General.
If his Excellency would be so kind as to frak off.
Well, rather, they gave him permission to leave the country.
Queen Elizabeth had recalled him.
Her sweet Robin had lost all authority and support;
he was useless to her there.
In Delft, a few reverends showed up in a States-General meeting
to express concern about their behavior towards Leicester.
Oldenbarnevelt told them off.
The reverends should mind their own business.
The men got scared of the intimidating Lawyer.
He could have them for breakfast.
In December, Leicester returned to England.
He swore he'd never set foot on Dutch soil again.
The Earl never did.
Leicester still hadn't officially given up his command of the army.
But he was replaced by Commander Peregrin Bertie,
Baron of Willoughby de Eresby,
a man who was nice and all but in no way fit for this job.
He said so himself.
The old-fashioned man was shocked to discover
that the highest-ranking rebel in the country wasn't in charge.
Not Count Maurits of Nassau,
but Johan of Oldenbarnevelt called the shots.
And the Attorney-General appeared to rule the States-General
with an iron rod.
Let's check in with the rebel Stadtholder for Friesland,
Willem Lodewijk of Nassau
or Wilhelm Ludwig von Nassau, as his father called him.
The Count was Maurits' cousin,
a son of Count Johann of Nassau,
the younger brother of Prince Willem of Orange.
He was everyone's favorite son-in-law.
Willem Lodewijk was very close to Maurits,
even though he was seven years his senior.
They had been raised together like brothers
and shared a love for all things military.
As you may remember, the Count sustained a severe leg injury
during the siege of Coevorden.
He'd become a cripple and walked with a stick
or, as he preferred, pretty much stayed on his horse.
Sometime around 1581, Willem Lodewijk fell in love with Anna of Nassau.
Maurits' older sister, his cousin.
According to Maurits,
Prince Willem had apparently given the couple his blessing.
However, Willem Lodewijk's own dad didn't like it one bit.
Not only were they full cousins,
but she also had no possessions after her broke-ass father died.
Willem Lodewijk told his father
that he had prayed to God
to put out the fires of their love
if the marriage was forbidden or damaging.
God didn't put out any fires,
and Willem Lodewijk's love was steadfast.
The clergy consented, and the wedding was on.
Willem Lodewijk married Anna on November 25, 1587
Her sister Emilia had come from Germany
but arrived two days late for the wedding.
She never returned to her uncle in Germany
and stayed with her sister in Friesland.
Sadly, Anna had a miscarriage when she was seven months pregnant.
She never quite recovered.
The Countess suffered tremendous pains
but was going stir-crazy lying in bed half the time.
She demanded her husband to take her to the coast,
so she could see the sea.
Willem Lodewijk reluctantly agreed.
When the couple arrived at Harlingen,
Anna collapsed while walking up the stairs to their lodging.
She passed out.
When Anna woke up, she immediately went to the beach,
where she sat for two hours.
After this short holiday,
Willem Lodewijk had to return to Leeuwarden
to tend to his duties as Stadtholder.
He split up the trip home into two parts to make it easier on his wife.
However, during their stopover in Franeker,
Anna passed away.
She was 24 years old.
Willem Lodewijk never remarried out of continued affection for her.
Emilia now went to live at her brother's court,
the Stadtholder's quarters in The Hague.
She kinda became Maurits' Lady of the House,
arranging the household, receiving guests,
organizing banquets, and the like.
All the while, the States-General kept trying to marry Count Maurits off
to one high-born lady after another.
He refused to even consider any of them:
there's a war going on!
Ain't nobody got time for that!
In December 1587, King Felipe became terribly ill
and was out for the count for a month.
His eyes were watery, and his hands and feet were weak.
Since he wanted to oversee every aspect of the operation,
the Enterprise got delayed for months.
In the new year, he recovered
and acted more rationally to save the Armada
and the Enterprise it was assembled for.
In January 1588, Felipe heard Santa Cruz was very ill
and deeply depressed.
From his sickbed, the Marquess had been trying to command
a miserable set of un-seaworthy ships,
and discouraged and disillusioned troops.
Santa Cruz had to be replaced.
Felipe told 37-year-old
Don Alonso Prez de Guzmn El Bueno y de Ziga-Sotomayor,
the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
Santa Cruz died three days later, aged 61.
Medina Sidonia knew how bad the situation was in Lisbon
and tried to get out from under it.
He had bad health, lack of money, lack of experience.
Felipe was like: why so modest?
You kept your cool when Drake was sacking Lisbon!
Medina Sidonia again begged the King not to give him command.
The plan, as it stood, was doomed to fail.
Santa Cruz and Parma had been telling the King this.
If only Felipe could see the situation in the harbors in person...
The King's secretaries told Medina Sidonia
they didn't dare show this letter to the King.
He had to trust God
or else be considered ungrateful, egotistical, and cowardly.
Medina Sidonia finally took command
and asked the lower but more experienced officers for advice.
Together, they managed to get the Armada up and running in two months.
They went from 104 ships to 130.
And from 10.000 men to 19.000
because the Duke made sure the ill
were getting treatment in hospitals he built.
The Earl of Leicester's ship had barely left the harbor
when Oldenbarnevelt released a bunch of copies of a text
he had written a year earlier with Franois Vranck, pensionary of Gouda.
In the 'Deductie of Corte Vertonighe,' they
explained why the States were a proper Republic already
and didn't need foreigners to rule them.
It was the Dutch Merchant Republic's Magna Carta.
It didn't go over well.
Most States protested this obviously Holland adventure.
More than a few States didn't care for Hollanders,
even though they paid two-thirds of the war costs
while no Spanish forces were in their State.
We're all in this together, the Hollanders kept saying.
As time moved on, more and more states leaders worried
that with every victory Oldenbarnevelt scored against England,
they were one step closer to losing the Queen's support
and the subsequent destruction of the country.
But Oldenbarnevelt's plan for a Republic
brought the country on the verge of civil war.
Some States started to wonder:
maybe they should give peace a chance after all?
Even Holland started warming to the idea:
money was running out,
and the Rebels were losing too many cities.
The Attorney-General traveled all over the Netherlands to make his case.
Slowly but surely, he got everyone to realize
that peace with Spain meant
they'd switch from a thriving commonwealth,
with freedom of religion, constitutional liberty,
to provincial oppression, the inquisition,
and the King's absolute rule.
All the members of the Council of State,
albeit under protest, agreed with Oldenbarnevelt.
Besides, Maurits was a Prince, a kind of a sovereign.
Sort of. Ish.
So, now everyone's on board? No.
Now the Church leaders started preaching for peace in their sermons.
They didn't trust Oldenbarnevelt
and called him a 'devourer of preachers.'
Oldenbarnevelt couldn't do a thing, but Maurits could.
The Count met with the Reverends.
Maurits started the meeting by saying:
"My house has shed much of its blood for this war,"
pointing out that his father and three of his uncles had already died.
Did they really believe it was God's will
to end the war and have peace?
If so, were they then willing to concede
that their own religion was false,
and would they quietly return to the Roman Catholic Church...
and become priests?
Well, if you put it that way.
No. Of course not!
Okay, got it.
Stop preaching for peace, then!
The Reverends conceded but give Maurits a warning.
Don't trust Oldenbarnevelt.
Think of how he got rid of Leicester.
He could do the same to your Excellency if it suited him!
Maurits didn't believe them.
Leicester was a traitor.
Oldenbarnevelt had done the right thing.
So, eventually, everyone got on board with Oldenbarnevelt's plans
for the Netherlands to become a proper Republic.
Except for the Leicesterians, of course.
They continued to refuse to obey the States-General
and still waited for instructions from the Earl of Leicester in England,
which never came.
One of these Leicesterians was Commander Dietrich Sonoy in Medemblik.
The old Sea-Beggar Commander.
He was so far up England's butt
that some people even thought he was English.
He was German, like Maurits.
His garrison hadn't been paid by Elizabeth,
and his troops mutinied.
A frustrated Oldenbarnevelt sent Maurits to sort it all out.
Sonoy laughed the Stadtholder away.
The Count was nothing more than a creature of Oldenbarnevelt,
and he refused to obey him.
Maurits wrote an angry letter to Elizabeth
and laid siege on the city.
Elizabeth wrote to Maurits that he had no business telling her off.
"Prince" Maurits fired back that it was entirely his business;
Medemblik was his family's property.
Order Sonoy to stand down.
In March 1588, Elizabeth had sent commissioners
to the Spanish-held Netherlands
to finalize the peace talks with Parma.
Then the Envoys heard that this Great Invasion was pending
and questioned Parma about it.
The Governor-General feigned shock:
that's a lie!
The Duke sweetly assured them
that his King would never dare such a thing
because England was strong and Spain was so, so weak.
The Envoys believed him.
Give the guy an Oscar already.
Three months went by,
and Parma gave the commissioners the endless run-around.
King Felipe was well-pleased.
He told Parma:
"Keep the negotiations alive till my Armada appears,
and then carry out my determination,
replant the Catholic religion on the soil of England."
Finally, on April 1, 1588, Leicester's letter of resignation
as Governor-General and leader of the armed forces arrived.
That same day, the Duke of Medina Sidonia received orders
from Felipe to set sail.
He had to go to the Downs and wait for Parma and his army.
But the only instructions he got
were how to prevent sinful and immoral behavior on the ships.
Queen Elizabeth finally realized it could go down
when Pope Sixtus V re-issued Pope Pius' papal bull Regnans in Excelsis.
Condemning Elizabeth and her followers
and giving Parma and Felipe official permission
to attack the country and replace the Queen.
Suddenly, Elizabeth desperately needed the massive Rebel fleet to help her.
The Dutch graciously offered her their services.
Count Maurits was given full authority to head for Zeeland
to prepare the fleet for England's assistance.
Vice-Admiral Cornelis Symonsz. Loncque took a small fleet
to assist Vice-Admiral Lord Henry Seymour's North Sea Fleet.
The rest of the Rebel fleet would prevent Parma from setting sail
from any port anywhere in the Netherlands.
Elizabeth dropped all the Leicesterians,
stopped fighting the Dutch regents,
and paid her troops to prevent more mutinies.
She also ordered Dietrich Sonoy,
and all other mutinous troops in cities like
Heusden, Naarden, Arnemuiden, and Geertruidenberg to stand down.
At last, at the end of April, Maurits could enter Medemblik.
On April 17th, Elizabeth sent English ships into the Channel,
but she still hoped to negotiate a truce.
If the Spanish fleet made landfall, she was in trouble.
The Earl of Leicester was at Tilbury
with about 4000 soldiers to defend Dover.
They were in no way organized, supplied, or even fed.
The English population was ready to fight the invaders, though.
They weren't interested in peace with Spain.
But those in charge still couldn't quite believe
the Spanish were actually going to try to invade.
King Felipe had assembled a fleet of 134 ships:
galleons, galleys, galleasses, urcas, zabras, and more.
The enormous galleons were the worst war machines
ever to set sail upon the oceans.
They had one disadvantage, though.
They were top-heavy and would be difficult to handle in violent storms.
The fleet was divided into 10 squadrons with 30.000 people on board.
Nearly twenty thousand soldiers.
Over eight thousand sailors.
Over two thousand galley slaves.
Two thousand volunteer Nobles and their attendants.
And another few hundred monks and priests,
but also doctors, surgeons, lawmen, and hangmen.
They had 3165 cannons.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia had orders to sail from Lisbon to the Strait
and wait there for Parma to join him
with his 17.000 men from Dunkirk, Nieuwpoort, and Sluis.
The Governor-General would then take over chief command
of the entire operation.
In the meantime, Felipe ordered Henri de Lorraine, Duke of Guise,
to prevent French King Henri III from messing things up.
On May 11, 1588, Guise entered Paris in disguise.
When the Parisians recognized him,
they started shouting, "Long Live Guise!"
It scared King Henri senseless.
He doubled the guards and placed armed men all over the city.
The Parisians expected another Saint Bartholemew's Day Massacre
and now barricaded the streets.
It became known as the Day of the Barricades,
but there was no massacre.
The King of France sat crying all day in his palace.
The next day, he fled to Blois.
Felipe, who had funded the whole drama now unfolding in France,
kept assuring King Henri that he loved him dearly
and knew nothing whatever of any plots against him.
And that colossal fleet sailing past France?
That was only intended to rid the high seas of those rotten English Pirates.
Could any Spanish ship set adrift
enter the safety of the French harbors, pretty please?
They were allies, right? Right?
The King of France believed the King of Spain's every word.
At the same time, Felipe gave instructions to Guise
to dethrone and kill the King.
Can we get another Oscar for Felipe, please?
I mean, come on.
At the end of May 1588, the Armada under Medina Sidonia
set sail for the Straight.
It quickly became clear that the soldiers weren't as trained
as they should be
And the government officials on board had no clue what they were doing.
Medina Sidonia was banging his head
against the mast of his flagship, the So Martinho.
By June 20, the fleet had made so little progress
that the Armada was running low on supplies.
Supplies that had already been rotting when the fleet set sail.
Medina Sidonia decided to go to La Corua to restock.
Then, a severe storm blew the entire fleet out of formation.
Ships had to seek cover all over the Spanish coast and be repaired.
This disaster broke Medina Sidonia.
He begged Felipe to stop!
But the King refused to back down.
The English had no allies, and their forces were inferior.
And with the wind in the back, they could cross the channel in a week.
I have dedicated this mission to God.
Now man up and do your part!
Medina Sidonia had also written a letter to Parma
to ask his navigators familiar with the English coast
which harbor would be best to take cover
as he waited for the Governor-General.
This was a plan B and a smart one.
But Felipe forbade it.
Medina Sidonia was not allowed to stop at any harbor underway. Ever.
The Armada set sail again a month later,
minus a few ships that were too severely damaged.
Still, there were 130 ships in the fleet.
In England, they thought the threat was gone.
Even the ever-skeptical Walsingham now believed
that the fleet had fallen apart because of the storm.
The English government sent orders
to Admiral Charles Howard, the Earl of Nottingham,
aboard the Ark Royal to disarm the four largest English vessels
and send them to dock.
The Armada wouldn't come this year.
Howard had better intel, defied the orders,
and rushed to get 60 of the best English ships out to sea instead.
The fleet included Vice-Admiral Francis Drake's Revenge
Vice-Admiral Martin Frobisher's Triumph
and Sir John Hawkins' Victory.
Because the English still used the Julian Calendar,
I'll put the English date top left,
the Gregorian Calendar date top right.
Eight days after the Armada left her ports, on Friday, July 29, 1588,
the Spanish saw England.
And the English saw the Armada appear on the horizon.
The Spanish fleet, sailing in half-moon formation off the coast of Plymouth,
was shockingly massive.
The two points of the half-moon were 7 miles apart!
The English troops at Tilbury were not ready by any stretch of the imagination.
It was up to the navy to save the day.
Nine o'clock on Sunday morning, July 31,
the fleets came face to face.
In Spain, Felipe was praying his hiney off.
The English fleet, consisting of 67 mostly small merchant vessels,
was upwind and had the advantage.
Their light and maneuverable ships started stalking the rear of the Armada
shooting at will at the fleet and then quickly disappearing again.
After this first small fight, the Spanish realized
their tall ships weren't doing them any favors.
Their huge vessels made for an easy target,
while their soldiers were too high up to get a good aim
at the smaller English ships below,
mostly shooting over their enemy's heads.
On Monday, Medina Sidonia told his rearguard
to get real close to the English ships
so they could grapple and board them.
The English followed the Spanish but never engaged.
The Duke sent increasingly desperate letters to Parma
for more bullets and gunpowder.
He should also send him pilots familiar with the French and Belgian coasts.
The fleet needed to know where to hide in case of stormy weather.
And by the way, was he already preparing to leave?
A five o'clock on Tuesday morning, August 2,
the wind shifted, giving the Armada the weather-gage.
They attacked the English fleet.
It was a long, powerful, but confused battle.
The Spanish could not get close and board the English ships,
and neither party was a particularly good shot.
At the end of the day, the English ran out of gunpowder,
and they retreated fast.
The Spanish had also lost a lot of ammo.
They sent another message to Parma for supplies.
Where was he?
Well, none of the couriers to tell Parma
that Medina Sidonia had arrived could reach him.
Parma had no clue where the Armada was.
The Spanish continued on to Calais, pursued by the English.
Two days later, both fleets were off the Isle of Wight.
Vice-Admiral Martin Frobisher's Triumph attacked Medina Sidiona's ship,
but several Spanish Galleons moved in to save their flagship.
The English fell back, but the Triumph, caught in a lee,
was dead in the water.
Thirty Armada vessels were on him like a pack of wolves.
Frobisher was in serious trouble
but managed to keep a close-range battle going.
The Lord-Admiral Howard took a bunch of ships
and bore down in the middle of the Spanish rearguard.
It was the fiercest conflict yet.
The moment Frobisher had fought himself free,
the English fleet vanished.
On Saturday afternoon, the Armada arrived at Calais,
its rendezvous point with Parma.
The Spanish and the English dropped anchor.
On Sunday, the English decided to use a special trick
because they'd lose in straight combat.
They would send in fireships.
It would take too long to get them from the shore, so they made their own.
Aboard the Armada, the soldiers grew impatient:
victory and spoils of the London Fury were so close!
They had twice the tonnage, four times the artillery,
and three times the number of men.
Impatience turned to fury
when Commander-in-Chief Parma was still missing in action.
Was the Italian plotting his own conquest of England?
Was the Duke in league with the English Queen
to get a good deal for himself?
The Spanish waited and waited,
but nothing showed up on the horizon.
Then, at night, they heard something in the water.
In Flanders, Parma had finally received the message that Armada had arrived.
He embarked his troops,
but there was no way the Duke could get out to sea.
Count Maurits' large fleet had locked him in entirely.
All rivers, streams, and creeks
were swarming with rebel ships great and small.
The weather wasn't helping either.
It was hopeless.
He couldn't set sail.
Meanwhile, at Calais, the English had launched eight fire ships,
and they were headed straight for the Armada.
There was instant panic and utter confusion in the Spanish Fleet.
They cut all cables holding the fleet together
and scrambled to get out of the way.
But some ships got hopelessly tangled up with each other
while two vessels were already on fire.
That Monday morning, the Spanish fleet had drifted into the North Sea
when an ominous wind started to blow.
The English gave chase and, at 9 AM,
found the Armada sailing in the half-moon formation off Gravelines.
Medina Sidonia was ready to do battle.
But the English had both the weather-gage
and the tide was in their favor.
An hour later, the English fleet attacked the Spanish flagships.
The battle lasted six long hours.
The Spanish once again couldn't get a good line of sight,
while the English kept themselves in musket range
and did a lot of damage to the larger ships.
At five PM, sixteen of the Armada's best ships were destroyed,
and five thousand soldiers were killed.
No English ship was destroyed,
and they lost only 100 men.
Admiral Howard said:
"Their force is wonderful, great, and strong,
but we pluck their feathers little by little."
Medina Sidonia, cursing Parma to hell and back
for leaving them in the lurch,
wanted to continue fighting,
despite most of his ships being severely damaged.
But the tide and the wind worked against him.
The Duke sounded the retreat and sailed North.
Those who were unable to follow were left to their fate.
others were captured and stripped for parts,
others still were sunk.
The English were out of cannonballs, bullets, and gunpowder
but still pursued the fleeing Armada as a bluff.
Meanwhile, Admiral Justinus of Nassau had arrived in Dover with forty ships.
He told the English that he had sent 50 more after the Armada.
The Admiral also let them know
that Parma was too scared to leave the Netherlands.
Still, Justinus had left 25 ships before Sluis
to keep him from trying anything.
For now, the tides wouldn't allow the Duke to set sail.
The following day, Medina Sidonia ordered the fleet to drop anchor
and wait for the English to catch up.
The English stopped and refused to engage.
The Spanish fleet had come dangerously close to the sandbanks of Zeeland,
and the North West wind was pushing them on them.
They needed the wind to change to save them.
And just as the first ships were about to run aground,
the wind changed to South West, and the fleet went out to open sea.
In the evening, the English split up their fleet.
One part would give chase,
and the other would go to protect the Thames if Parma suddenly showed up.
The English hunted the Armada for three days without ammo or food.
In the Netherlands, Parma embarked his troops again
but now heard of the Spanish Fleet's defeat.
And he did not set sail.
Medina Sidonia had abandoned the English mission.
Should he surrender or seek refuge and supplies in Scotland or Norway?
But really, he just wanted to go back to Spain.
The English went ashore for water and provision.
Only two small ships continued after the Armada.
Damaged, leaking, and lacking a good Commander,
the Armada fleet suffered through violent storms.
They hit disaster after disaster.
The coasts of Norway and Scotland
and eventually Ireland were littered with Spanish wrecks.
At the end of August, Felipe had found out
that the Armada had not met up with the Flemish fleet,
but he kept sending orders.
Then, a French messenger delivered the news
of the fleet's defeat and the Armada's northern escape.
The King angrily scribbled down:
"I hope that God hasn't allowed such injustice
because everything is done in His service."
Felipe now ordered Medina Sidonia to land in Scotland,
ally himself with the Scottish nobles,
and remain there for the winter.
A plan B.
He was that desperate now.
He didn't know it yet, but it was over.
Rebel Admiral Loncque's fleet hadn't caught up with the English in time,
so the victory over the Armada was English,
not Dutch-English as Oldenbarnevelt had hoped.
However, the Anglo-Dutch relations were more robust than ever,
and Oldenbarnevelt's international prestige rose tremendously.
In the meantime, the English Queen had received some sad news.
The Earl of Leicester had been under the weather for a while.
Still, he unexpectedly passed away a month after the initial Armada attack,
on September 4, 1588.
He was 56 years old.
It may have been malaria or stomach cancer.
Elizabeth was overwhelmed with grief
and locked herself in her apartment
until Lord Burghley had the door broken down a few days later.
The Queen kept the letter her Sweet Robin had sent her
six days before his death in her bedside treasure box.
She wrote "his last letter" on the outside.
It was still there when she died 15 years later.
It took King Felipe months to know what had happened to his fleet.
There was so much fake news floating around
among the debris of the Armada
that it was impossible to know what was going on.
Medina Sidonia reached Santander in October.
But it wasn't until November 10th that Felipe found out all the details
about the fleet's defeat and disaster.
"Soon, we will find ourselves in a position
where we wished we were never born.
And if God doesn't send us a miracle
(and that is what I hope to get from Him),
I hope to die and go to Him before this happens
- and that is what I pray for,
to not see so much bad luck and shame."
The Enterprise of England had cost the lives of 15.000 men,
including most of the experienced sea officers,
nearly half of the King's ships and weapons.
10 million ducats down the drain.
Many Spanish families were affected,
but Felipe forbade anyone from wearing mourning clothes
to keep the spirits up.
Anyone who made fun of the Armada was hanged.
It was said:
"Men could neither cry nor laugh in Spain."
The monks and priests at El Escorial palace believed
that God's ways are mysterious and secret.
But this immense defeat at the hands of such infidels
could only mean that they had done something
to deserve this punishment.
Just as 13th-century King Louis IX of France, Saint Louis,
had told his son in a letter with instructions on how Kings should rule:
If God gives you any adversity, know that you deserved it,
for you've loved Him but little, served Him but little,
and have done many things contrary to His will.
He also said that a King had to be grateful for any misfortunes.
It was God's way of allowing him to correct his mistakes.
Felipe thought about his sins
and promptly ordered the courts to charge his old secretary Antonio Prez
with the murder of Juan de Escobedo, Don Juan's secretary.
The King also asked for an investigation into his own actions
concerning the death of Escobedo.
Felipe was ultimately cleared, naturally.
But Prez was not.
The King's former secretary eventually escaped prison
and fled to Aragon, where Castilian judges had no jurisdiction.
The King then said he was just going to have to build another fleet or two.
Felipe poured out his wrath on poor Parma.
Their relationship took a severe hit.
The Duke was furious that he alone was blamed for the disaster.
Had he not warned Felipe and Medina Sidonia
that using the heavy vessels that were so vulnerable
to bad weather was dumb?
Hadn't he told them repeatedly
it was smartest to sail to England from Flushing instead?
That without Flushing in Spanish hands,
the Dutch could block his exits?
But at the very least,
why hadn't the Armada cleared the way
so he could have sailed from the Netherlands!
How was any of that his fault?
TL;DL Felipe's invasion plans had failed because of bad weather,
his own mismanagement,
and because the defensive naval efforts
of the English and their Dutch allies had been too effective.
Alessandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma, was down on his luck.
He was lingering in and out of illness
because that was what Felipe's Governor-Generals
seemed to do in the Netherlands.
Though, there were rumors that Felipe had ordered someone
to poison Parma out of spite.
After the Armada's defeat, Parma turned his army around
and marched through Brabant.
He was going to take Bergen op Zoom before winter set in.
On September 17, Parma sent a regiment
of 800 pikemen and 3000 musketeers ahead
to capture the island and city of Tholen.
But Count Maurits had organized its defenses too well.
The Zeeland troops led by Commander Georg Eberhard, Count of Solms,
killed nearly 400 Royal soldiers.
Parma then laid siege on Bergen op Zoom.
It was no longer a vital city
but one of only two towns in Brabant still in Dutch hands.
The English troops of Bergen op Zoom were led
by Garrison Commander Thomas Morgan and Lord Willoughby.
During the siege, Maurits, the Marquis of Bergen op Zoom,
risked his own life by crossing the river
to encourage the people to hold on.
Parma kept finding his Spanish spies mysteriously floating down the river.
Because Count Maurits kept killing them.
The Duke launched three assaults.
These attacks were followed by three devastating and spectacular sorties
from the cavalry commanders Paulus and Marcelis, the Bacx brothers.
On October 6, 1588, an English Lieutenant William Grimstone
and a camp suttler, Robert Redhead, arrived at Parma's camp.
They said they were deserters.
They had a letter from two Spanish prisoners
offering them money to let Parma's troops
into the heavily fortified North Gate.
Parma wasn't surprised by their betrayal;
so many Englishmen had gone before them.
The two deserters would take one of Parma's regiments
and smuggle the soldiers into the city using a secret path.
The Duke made them swear on the Bible
that they were not playing him.
The duo declared they were legit.
Parma then selected one hundred musketeers for the mission.
Maestre de Campo of the Lombardy Tercios Don Sancho Martnez de Leyva
traitor William Stanley,
and Malcontent Leader Emanuel Filibert de Lalaing
would follow them with two thousand men.
It was a wild autumnal night,
moonless, pitch-dark with a storm of wind and rain.
The whole place around Bergen op Zoom had pretty much been flooded.
The defenders had breached the dikes in every direction.
The two deserters were tied up and led by two soldiers.
They had orders to kill the two men if their behavior ever became suspicious.
But both Grimstone and Redhead remained cheerful.
They were clearly out to betray their fellow countrymen.
And so off they went, battling the wind and wading chest-high
through the water toward the city.
They finally reached the gate where the portcullis was raised.
Just as the traitors had promised.
The first fifteen musketeers rushed into the town.
Then Willoughby cut the cords of the portcullis with his own sword
and trapped the expedition's leaders.
They were all put to the sword as their men pounded on the now-closed gate.
Grimstone and Redhead were immediately freed by their buddies.
Their betrayal had been a successful and convincing ruse.
The men outside the gate kept pounding to try to get inside
and help their fellow countrymen.
The gate opened again, and the city's garrison,
led by Sir Francis Vere, butchered them on the spot.
The rest of the Spanish soldiers were hunted into the waves.
Then it got worse.
The tide rose and washed the soldiers away.
300 men drowned trying to get back to camp.
Parma was horrified when he realized that he had been tricked.
Maurits arrived with a relief force of 600 Scots and Dutch the next day.
This force, combined with the garrison
immediately launched another attack and pushed the Spanish farther back.
The situation had become unsustainable.
Parma raised the siege.
On November 12, 1588, the Duke set fire to the camp
and left at night.
But still, he was chased by the English,
who captured more prisoners and supplies.
It was the first significant defeat for Parma.
In December, a young Nobleman, Cornelis Pinssen van der Aa,
betrayed Wageningen to the Spanish by bribing a few guards.
The Rebel Stadtholder Adolf van Nieuwenaar
threatened to blow up the Bergse Gate unless the Spanish left.
Pinssen van der Aa was arrested, tried for treason,
sentenced to death but eventually released.
Later that month, General Peter Ernst von Mansfeld
seized Rebel Fort Wachtendonk
after blasting the place with a lot of firepower.
Maarten Schenck was unable to prevent its loss.
Meanwhile, King Henri of France was an unhappy camper.
He had basically lost his crown to Henri of Guise.
And gone were his fun-filled days of parties,
teaching parrots to talk, or his lapdogs to dance.
He called together the Etats-Generaux in Blois
to get their support to act against Guise.
They refused to back him,
and the King felt he had only one option left.
The Duke of Guise was ordered to come to Chteau de Blois to talk.
When he arrived, the Duke was told
the King wanted to see him in his private room.
This oughtta be good!
When he walked in, Guise saw the King sitting on the bed.
But Henri was not alone.
The King's Guardsman, the Forty-Five, were there as well.
They murdered the Duke while King Henri watched.
Guise's brother, Cardinal Louis II, was killed the next day.
And to avoid the "you killed my father, prepare to die" issue,
the King imprisoned Guise's son, Charles.
But the Duke of Guise had been immensely popular in France,
and the citizens turned on Henri for the cold-blooded murders.
Parliament even filed criminal charges against the King.
The King of France fled to the King of Navarre for his own protection.
The two Henri's decided to team up
and together take back Paris.
When the King of Spain heard about the murders,
he was fuming with rage.
Felipe had now lost his trusted agent of chaos.
He ordered Parma to march on France at once
and avenge his 'Mucio.'
The English and the Dutch could wait.
He wanted the head of the Prince of Sodom
- Henri de Valois - on a spike.
Henri's mother, Catherine de' Medici, died a week later.
She was 69.
She had been shocked at her son's cruelty,
even though six months earlier she had called him a coward.
Make up your mind, woman.
It seemed there was no King in France.
Instead, King Felipe reigned in Paris,
where Protestants burnt at the stakes again.
While the English in Medemblik, Heusden, Naarden,
Arnemuiden and other towns
had stopped their mutiny after Queen Elizabeth ordered them to,
those in Geertruidenberg had not.
The city was also Maurits' family's property
because the Nassaus had a lot of properties,
and he summoned the garrison to surrender.
The soldiers swore allegiance to the English Queen
and refused to accept Maurits as their Captain-General.
Funnily enough, save for their Commander Sir John Wingfield,
none of them were English.
Willoughby tried to appease his brother-in-law Wingfield,
but he only made it worse.
Now rumors were swirling that the garrison was negotiating with Parma.
So, Oldenbarnevelt decided to have Maurits lay a siege on the city.
But he didn't talk to the Council of State
or the States-General about the plans.
It was a risk.
If the rebels failed, the city might fall into Spanish hands
because the English could simply sell it to Parma.
If they succeeded, the Queen of England might be furious
and retaliate by ditching the Dutch.
It would have been cheaper just to pay the men their wages,
but Count Maurits' honor was at stake.
The Stadtholder sent Wingfield a letter
ordering him to surrender in such strong words
that Wingfield challenged Maurits to a duel.
An actual duel.
Wingfield would rather die than acknowledge Maurits as his leader.
Maurits ignored the request
and started unleashing the cannons on the city.
But, because of heavy rainfall,
it was hard to get the earthworks properly underway.
And when Karl von Mansfeld, son of
approached with a far superior Spanish force,
Maurits had no choice but to leave.
The city was lost when the garrison accepted Parma's terms.
The road to Dordrecht, and the heart of Holland, lay wide open.
The gamble hadn't paid off.
The States-General declared the entire Garrison outlaws.
They were labeled Berg-Verkopers, Berg-Sellers,
and their names were added to a list: Wingfield's on top.
If caught, they should be put to the sword immediately,
no questions asked.
And one could collect a reward.
However, Wingfield had managed to make a deal with the Spanish
for a safe departure to England.
The Queen didn't like what the States had decreed.
Willoughby claimed that Wingfield couldn't read French
and shouldn't be held responsible for the replies he had sent.
The English seemed to think that these men had loyally served their Queen.
But how the loss of Geertruidenberg
was going to help anyone but the Spanish,
no one knows.
Meanwhile, Marc de Rye de la Palud, Marquis de Varambon
was the King's new Stadtholder of Gelderland
after Haultepenne's death.
He had something to prove,
so he decided to grab Castle Bleijenbeek,
which belonged to Maarten Schenck.
He took it after a two-month siege.
On August 1, 1589, King Henri the III of France
and King Henri III of Navarre were camped out with their armies
at Saint-Cloud, preparing the siege of Paris.
Jacques Clment, a young Dominican friar,
arrived with important documents to personally deliver to King Henri.
The one of France.
They led him to the King's tent,
where the monk handed over the papers
and told Henri he had a secret message.
The King waved his attendants away
and allowed Clment to whisper in his ear.
The monk pulled a knife and drove it into Henri's gut.
Clment was killed on the spot by the guards,
and his body was later drawn and quartered.
At first, the King's wound didn't seem fatal.
But he told all the officers around him that if he didn't survive,
they had to accept Henri of Navarre as their new King.
The following morning King Henri III of France died.
He was 37.
The assembled army dissolved quickly,
and the proposed attack on Paris was postponed.
Parisians rejoiced at the news of the King's death.
God's will had been done.
King Henri of Navarre was to succeed the King as Henri IV of France.
The first of the House of Bourbon.
But Henri was Protestant,
and the King of Spain wasn't about to let a heretic
seize the throne of France.
Let the battle for the French crown begin!
Let's check in with Filips Willem, the Count of Buren, for a sec.
Willem of Orange's heir was imprisoned at the Castle of Arevalo
by his Godfather, King Felipe,
for his own good and the salvation of his soul.
But really, he'd been a hostage in an attempt to keep his father in line.
But his father had been dead for four years.
It was time he got control over his inheritance,
aka Willem's properties now in Spanish hands.
The inhabitants of these places said that if he didn't claim them,
they would find someone else to protect them,
a rebel perhaps.
His half-brother was already taking care of Willem's properties
in the rebel territories on his behalf.
Filips Willem's Governor, Wiltperg, told King Felipe
to release the Count to save these places for the Crown.
As the head of the family, Filips Willem could also turn
his brothers and sisters away from their godless path.
And he could use his many connections in Holland and Zeeland
to help turn the war in the King's favor.
Free Filips Willem!
King Felipe asked Parma what he thought about it.
The Duke didn't feel he could trust his advice to paper
and sent a special agent to the King with his recommendation.
Meanwhile, Filips Willem asked the King's son,
conveniently also called Felipe,
to intervene on behalf of a Lord.
He had suffered so long without being guilty.
Please, ask your father if I can write him myself?
The King's son's plea worked, and Filips Willem wrote his letter.
He told the King that he was miserable
because he hadn't received any answer to his plea from six years ago.
He had been held against his will and the will of others for 12 years now.
He hadn't known a day of happiness in years.
Filips Willem was always surrounded by bodyguards,
and his bedroom was locked with seven keys.
The Count had little physical exercise.
He was unable to tend to the personal business of his estates.
After his arrest, they had taken away his paper and ink.
He wasn't even allowed to talk to the King of any of his ministers.
The poor living conditions threatened his health, even his life.
The whole Fort was old and badly maintained.
One wall in his room was so humid
that anything Filips Willem hung on it rotted away in days.
The Count humbly begged the King to please consider this misery
and show some mercy, any mercy, at last.
Once he was released, he would gladly do the King's bidding
as his loyal servant and vassal.
At last, Felipe granted his godson some mercy.
His living conditions improved,
and the Count was given more money
so he could buy a little something-something
for himself once in a while.
Parma must have given the King one hell of a recommendation
for him to finally concede a little.
He probably needed Filips Willem to help him.
The war wasn't exactly going well,
and the Duke was running out of ideas.
They had to ensure the young man's loyalty,
and listen to his pleas,
so Filips Willem could do 'mucho' damage
once he returned to the Netherlands.
Count Maurits's little army aimlessly moved about the country.
He had attempted and failed to take the cities of Nijmegen,
Geertruidenberg, and Dunkirk by surprise.
He continued to roam around, offering assistance to whoever needed it.
All the while showing blatant disregard for his personal safety.
It got so bad that the States-General decided to send
a representative to sort Maurits out.
He shouldn't just put himself in harm's way.
The country was at stake here.
Maurits just laughed and laughed.
He couldn't care less and did what he wanted.
Now Parma had hoped that he could take Arnhem
and then push through to Utrecht
and liberate the Catholics who had contacted him for help.
Unfortunately, he became ill again.
He to go Spa to recover.
Karl von Mansfeld took over temporary command.
He wanted to push toward Heusden.
Gelderland's Royal Stadtholder Varambon went to Rheinberg.
And in the north, Parma's Frisian stadtholder Francisco Verdugo
had to give Willem Lodewijk, the Rebel Stadtholder of Friesland,
a run for his money.
Meanwhile, Schenck had been trying to seize Nijmegen for years now.
In fact, Verdugo called him the city's enemy number one.
Schenck's attempt in 1588 had failed
because the water level of the Waal river was too high,
and he couldn't land his men.
A year later, Schenck tried again with a simple plan.
He and 300 men would leave the Schenckenschans
in the middle of the night, quietly approach the city,
and enter Nijmegen via homes on the Waal quay.
On August 10, 1589, all went according to plan.
The men pulled the bars from the windows with a hoist.
But then everything went wrong.
For one, there was a lot more resistance than they expected.
The attackers panicked and raced for the boats.
Schenck managed to get in one,
but that boat got overcrowded and capsized.
Schenck's heavy armor pulled him under,
and he drowned in the Waal.
A few fishermen discovered his body the next day,
and the city government ordered it drawn and quartered.
His body parts were hung from a chain at the city gate.
Later they pickled the body parts and stored them in boxes.
With Schenck no longer around to defend Rheinberg,
that city fell to the Spanish a few months later, in January 1590.
Meanwhile, Karl von Mansfeld had laid siege on Heusden in the summer of 1589.
Count Maurits wanted to add soldiers to the garrison
before the city was surrounded.
The Spanish were closing in, and he only had 1500 men.
Despite the States-General warning him to take a break,
the Count put himself at the head of his troops.
But then Mansfeld's men mutinied
and refused to cross the Meuse until they were paid.
Maurits used the time-out to build three forts in the Tielerwaard.
In October, Mansfeld raised the siege and fell back to Grave.
Up north, Willem Lodewijk fought the Spanish at Zoutkamp,
a strategic place controling the State of Groningen's access to the sea.
They surrendered the place five days later on October 20, 1589.
Two days earlier, Adolf van Nieuwenaar,
the Rebel Stadtholder of Utrecht, Gelderland, and Overijssel,
had died in his basement in a freak accident.
He was testing some newly invented fireworks for military purposes.
The Stadtholderates of these three States became vacant.
Guess who got them?
Count Maurits. Of course.
Courtesy of Oldenbarnevelt. Of course
Now Maurits was Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht,
Gelderland and Overijssel
and Captain-General of each of their armies.
With Willem Lodewijk in charge of Friesland,
the whole country gradually fell back into the Nassaus' hands.
Well, not exactly.
Because the States-General was the ultimate governing body,
and it was ruled by Oldenbarnevelt.
Meanwhile, Willem Lodewijk pleaded with that very States-General
to start an offensive war.
Defensive wars never got anyone any land.
In a defensive war, you only risked losing what you already had.
His request was denied twice.
Maurits was at the Tielerwaard with no more than 1300 men.
He begged other commanders for more soldiers, but he got none.
Then a turf skipper from Leur, Adriaan van Bergen,
met with Maurits at Herwerden in secret.
Van Bergen was the chief supplier of turf
for the Spanish Garrison in Breda.
Bricks of turf, or peat, were used as fuel to heat up houses.
The guards never really checked his shipments anymore,
and van Bergen claimed he could smuggle in soldiers
for a surprise attack.
A trojan horse in the shape of a ship.
Maurits liked the idea,
not only because Breda had an important strategic position
but it was another one of his family's possessions.
The castle was Nassau Castle.
The Count figured they could try next summer.
But Oldenbarnevelt was impatient and wanted to get moving.
Taking Breda like this would be spectacular
because the castle was considered nigh impregnable.
The venture would also be cheap.
They needed a Commander for this mission,
a man with balls of steel.
Maurits suggested his cousin Count Philipp von Nassau,
to raise his and his family's profile,
but Oldenbarnevelt preferred someone less reckless.
Charles de Hraugire, a man who had been loyal to Leicester,
could use some rehabilitation.
He had the balls, the wherewithal,
and the desire for the restoration of his honor.
An ideal combo.
Only a few trusted men were let in on the plan.
68 carefully selected soldiers would enter the ship
and be covered by the blocks of peat.
Once inside the castle's harbor,
they would sneak out at midnight and take control of the place.
A support army led by Maurits would follow right behind them.
All they had to do was wait for the peat order from the Spanish Garrison.
But the winter had been quite mild,
and the request didn't come until mid-February 1590.
On February 25, at eleven o'clock, on a cold Sunday night,
67 soldiers and their Commander stood at the Zwartsebergse Ferry,
ready to board the ship.
The skipper and his boat were nowhere to be seen.
Had he chickened out?
Or betrayed them?
After waiting half the night, the soldiers left.
On their way back, they ran into the skipper.
He had simply overslept.
24 hours later, van Bergen's two nephews showed up.
Van Bergen himself had bowed out.
The soldiers hid in the bowels of the ship
while turf was stacked up on top of them.
The skippers and a few aids remained on deck.
And then things went wrong.
The wind turned East, the tide came up, and it started to freeze.
There was too much ice in the river and not enough water,
and the ship, with its extra heavy load,
was about to get stranded.
Under the cover of darkness the boat moved to De Warande dock,
only a few miles removed from Breda.
The men were stuck at the pier, trapped inside,
for three days without food or drink.
Freezing their butts off and catching colds.
But none of them complained or wanted to leave.
A courier warned Maurits, who was already on his way
with his army, to hold up.
Four days later, on Thursday morning, the Count realized frostbitten soldiers
would be useless in combat.
He ordered the men to leave the ship
and head for Fort Noordam to recover.
That night, however, the wind changed,
and at 11 PM, they were on their way again.
It still took another two days to get where they were going.
At three 'o clock on Saturday afternoon,
the ship passed through the last sluice.
There was no way back.
There were going to take Nassau castle and Breda
or die trying.