William the Silent, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584

William the Silent, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584

William the Silent, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584

William the Silent, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 1533-1584

Excerpt

While the King of France unburdened his mind, the Prince of Orange had remained -- metaphorically speaking -- silent. He had not given himself away, not entirely out of discretion, but because the turmoil of his feelings had hardly yet settled down into any definite view. He was, in a sense, to remain silent for seven years longer, acting as the loyal servant of King Philip and hardly himself admitting that he might have to betray that loyalty in the end. He was, fortunately, good at hiding his feelings; sly, his enemies called him, 'sluw' in Dutch. Grandiosely rendered into Latin as 'taciturnus' it came back absurdly into all the languages of western Europe as 'silent'. The surname earned during these next years -- William the Silent -- could hardly have been more unsuited to this affable young man, yet it was not without truth, even in its mistranslated form, for these were the years of suppressed and divided feelings.

While William was recovering from the shock, the midsummer jousting in the Rue Sainte Antoine came to a sudden end. King Henry, stubbornly running a tilt although everyone else was tired out, was wounded in the eye by a splintered lance and died ten days later. His successor, Francis II, a child of sixteen, could hardly play the part his father had had in view. Alva's plan would be shelved.

Philip's marriage to the eldest French princess was solemnized in heavy gloom, while the Queen-Mother's tears dripped quietly on to her black bosom, and the Duke of Alva made a dismal proxy for the bridegroom. The bridegroom himself was busy in the Netherlands, planning his return to Spain, and thither in the late summer hastened the Prince of Orange, to receive the parting instructions of his master.

From every point of view, this summer of 1559 was full of foreboding to William. Up to this time he had had everything his own way: the old Emperor had petted and put him forward and, if he had incurred minor anxieties and some expense in the public service, he had been flatteringly selected for all the most honourable and responsible offices. He, for instance, had carried the Imperial crown to Charles's brother and successor, he had . . .

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