This is the essay for the 4th week of the Tom Woods Homeschool Western Civilization 2 course. In this blog post, I will be discussing four things:
1. The Revolt of the Comuneros.
2. The Dutch revolt.
3. The French Wars of Religion.
4. The religious policy of Elizabeth I.
Charles V became the king of Spain in 1516 and he stayed so until 1556 when he stepped down. Charles wasn’t born in Spain, he was born in a part of the low countries that is in modern-day Belgium. When Charles came to the throne, he didn’t speak Spanish, which provincial assemblies in Spain called the Cortes, disapproved of. However, the problem was even worse than that as Charles brought people from the low countries to serve as officials in Spain. This was too much for the Cortes and they demanded that he learn to speak Spanish, live in Spain and that he stopped appointing foreign people to Spanish positions.
In 1519 Charles is elected the next Holy Roman Emperor, he asks the Cortes for the funds necessary to attend the coronation, but they refuse. Charles manages to make it to the coronation anyway and he leaves his officials to rule over Spain. During Charles’s absence, a revolt starts in Spain where towns join into a league together. This league consists of towns that want to be self-governed and don’t want intervention from the Spanish royalty. The revolt was not ended by the Spanish officials left behind in Spain, as they didn’t have enough power to do so. It was instead ended by the Spanish nobility who were eventually convinced by the royalty that the revolt was also a threat to them. The result of the revolts is that when Charles returns to Spain, everyone is exhausted beside him and he is able to exercise absolute control over Spain.
Philip II was the son of Charles V and he was king of Spain from 1556 to 1598. Philip believed in the absolute power of the king. He also believed that a strong monarchy, like his own, needed religious uniformity. This meant that everyone had to be Catholic. There were few Protestants in the low countries, but Philip wanted them gone and over the course of 5 years he prosecuted 1300 Protestants in the region of Flanders alone. The Catholics weren’t fond of the Protestants, but they were even less fond of the ludicrous amount of prosecutions Philip was doing. In 1566 Philip stopped his prosecutions because Margaret, Duchess of Parma told him to do so. Protestants came out of hiding and started vandalizing Catholic churches as retaliation. Philip’s reaction to this was to send a 10 000 troop army to the low countries to take out the Protestants. This was too much for even the Catholics to handle and a revolt was started by a man called William of Orange.
The English started helping the rebellion in the 1580s and in 1648 seven northern provinces were granted independence. The Dutch Republic that was established had no king, but it did have secure property rights, religious toleration, rule of law, and intellectual freedom. These aspects resulted in economic prosperity for the Dutch. This prosperity led to the demonstration effect on other countries policies. The demonstration effect is when an individual does something because what someone else did was successful.
In the French Wars of Religion, there were three contending parties. One was the Catholics, but especially militant Catholics, which believed that Catholicism should be the only religion that is tolerated in France. They formed a group called the Catholic League, which pushed their ideals. The second group was the Protestants, or as they were called during the time in France, the Huguenots. The third and last party were the Politiques. They wanted religious toleration between the two sides and were mostly Catholics, but also some Protestants.
By 1572 the war had been going on for 10 years. Catherine de Medici, who was King Charles XI mother, feared that the Huguenots would capture her and Charles. This was because the Duke of Guise had sent an assassin to kill the Huguenot leader Coligny, which failed. Catherine pressured Charles into killing multiple prominent Huguenot leaders. She goes so far that she breaks Charles and he says that all Huguenots should be killed. This starts the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre on the 24th of August and lasts multiple days. During the massacre, Coligny is killed, including up to 10 000 people. The Edict of Nantes declares religious toleration between both sides and is enacted in 1598 by Henry IV.
At the start of Elizabeth, I rule of England in 1558, people weren’t sure whether she was a Catholic or Protestant, or if she believed in any religion at all. This was because, during the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary I, she abided by the Catholic rules, but when Edward VI was in power she abided by the Protestant rules. This conundrum was solved when it was found out that Elizabeth liked some aspects of Catholicism such as the Catholic mass because it was very elaborate. The one thing she despised was the supremacy of the Pope over the Church because she believed that the person in power should have control over the Church. This belief was first set up by her father Henry. If you want to find out how that happened, then you can read my previous blog post on the English Reformation.
At first Elizabeth’s plan was to please Catholics and Protestants by keeping the ritual of the mass and having the ruler have supremacy over the Church. Elizabeth would over time become stricter and stricter against Catholics. In 1559 the Act of Uniformity would be published which banned mass and required everyone to attend the Anglican Church on Sundays. There would be fines established for not attending the Anglican Church, however, over 50 000 people paid the fine rather than attend the Anglican Church. In 1581 Elizabeth was notified of this issue and her solution was to make the fines extraordinarily expensive and search people’s houses to make sure they didn’t possess any Catholic theological literature. People would be persecuted for converting people to Catholicism and eventually you would also be persecuted if you converted to Catholicism.