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Period 5 Time of explorers and reformers

The uprising and the emergence of an independent Dutch state

The Pope is very powerful. But back in history, his power was much greater. Did you know that the Netherlands had to fight its way free from the Catholics?

In this era of explorers and reformers, many Dutch monarchs had turned against Catholicism. They had become Calvinists. The Netherlands were still Spanish territory in the 16th century. The Spanish King Philip II was in charge here. But his power was severely limited by the rebellious people. Because even a part of the people had chosen Calvinism.

Philip II was Catholic and wanted his people to be Catholic. Religion has often been a means of power in history. A monarch chose a particular religion because it allowed him to exercise more power. In the middle ages, the Pope and the Emperor had always been the most powerful people in Europe. This was mainly because there was one religion. All the people were Catholic and had to believe and do what the Pope said. Times had changed. People started to think and see how the power game worked. They didn't want to be part of this anymore. The Dutch princes rebelled. They did this by becoming a Calvinist.

The Calvinists, however, were persecuted. Many were killed. As a result, 200 Dutch nobles wrote a letter of plea in 1565 asking them to stop the prosecutions. They took these to the guardians in the hope that their request would be interrogated. It took a while for the letter to arrive at the Spanish king. In the meantime, no one was prosecuted and many fled Calvinists came back to the Netherlands. But unfortunately, the king decided to continue the persecutions. He called the nobles geuzen. This meant 'shabby'. The Dutch nobles were thus just laughed at. But this didn't stop them. They started using their name as a name of honor and rebelled.

This uprising began in 1566 and lasted for about 80 years. He was led by William of Orange. Willem van Oranje was important to Dutch history. He founded the Union of Utrecht. This was an agreement between a number of Dutch regions. They agreed that together they would drive the Spaniards out of the country. Spain plagued the Netherlands with high taxes and raids. In 1572, Naarden and Mechelen were murdered. The Spanish general Alva wanted to scare the geuzen, but it had the opposite effect. The Dutch noblemen fought even harder to drive out the Spanish army. William of Orange conquered den Briel on 1 April 1572. And he called on many other Dutch cities to resist.

Cities now had to choose between William of Orange and Spain. Many cities chose William of Orange. This was followed by the Spanish general Alva's battle with the Dutch cities. But in 1573 he had to withdraw. He suffered a big defeat at Alkmaar. However, it was still until 1590 that the Dutch noblemen were winning. They suffered a serious loss in 1984. Then William of Orange was murdered in the Prinsenhof by Balthazar Gerards. The Dutch noblemen were distraught. But William of Orange was succeeded by his son Maurits van Nassau.  However, it was not until 1648 that peace was signed. This happened in Munster. We call this the peace of Munster.