The Deadly Plots Thicken

May 23, 2019

Don Juan of Austria

The solemn festivity which the magistrates were accustomed to hold in the Hôtel de Ville, a banquet, always presided over by the Governor-General, was about to take place. D. John received several warnings not to attend it, as something was being contrived against his person; but he, even more afraid of showing that he distrusted the magistrates, came to occupy his place, accompanied by eighty musketeers of his guard, who had orders that, happen what might, they were to wound nobody. Half-way through the banquet a crowd of seditious people attacked the Hôtel de Ville, intending to enter by force, uttering insults and threats against the Austrian. The musketeers drove them back without wounding any, but many of them were hurt. D. John retired with those who remained uninjured, leaving the magistrates to deal with the guilty ones, but they overlooked this and let them go free, to show D. John that they did not consider an affront to his person worth punishing.

Hôtel de Ville, Brüssel

Then it came to D. John’s knowledge that the Baron of Hesse and Count de Lalaing, with two other great lords, confirmed heretics, had assembled one night in the house of another noble, and had arranged with the English ambassador and more than 500 neighbours to take D. John at the first opportunity and to kill him if he resisted. They thought that the procession of the Holy Sacrament, called in Brussels the “Miracle,” might afford a good one. It took place on the 3rd of July and was always presided over by the Governor-General.  D. John did not wish to break with the States, who were consenting to all this, and preferred to avoid the danger by going to Mechlin on the pretence of settling the pay of the German troops, who were asking for their money, which was in arrears. But his friends did not think him safe there and so they told him; because the conspirators, furious at their prey having escaped them, armed the militia and took the road to Luxemburg, which was a quiet place where D. John and Alexander Farnese could take refuge, and to which the Spanish troops could return.

Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), also called Queen Margot, was wife of Henry IV of France and Queen of France and Navarre.

With great patience D. John thought it wise still to dissimulate, and found another plausible excuse for leaving Mechlin and not returning to Brussels and getting nearer to a strong and safe place. He went to Namur, very quietly and calmly, to receive the Queen of Navarre, Margaret of Valois, who was passing in order to take the waters of Spa at Liége. This lady was the celebrated Queen Margot, first wife of Henry IV of France, then at the summit of her vaunted beauty and in the waxing period of her coquetry, which at last degenerated, as it generally does, into shameless and complete dissoluteness.

Rev. Fr. Luis Coloma, The Story of Don John of Austria, trans. Lady Moreton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1912), Book IV, Ch. XVI, Pgs. 377-378.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 677



Previous post:

Next post: