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Geuzen

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Geuzen was a name assumed by the confederacy of Calvinist Dutch nobles and other malcontents, who from 1566 opposed Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 rule in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. The most successful group of them operated at sea, and so were called Watergeuzen (French: Gueux de mer, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

: Sea Beggars). In the Eighty Years' War, the Capture of Brielle
Capture of Brielle
The Capture of Brielle by the Sea Beggars, or Watergeuzen, on 1 April 1572 marked a turning point in the uprising of the Low Countries against Spain in the Eighty Years' War. Militarily the success was minor, as Brielle was not being defended at the time...

 by the Watergeuzen in 1572 provided the first foothold on land for the rebels, who would conquer the northern Netherlands
Seventeen Provinces
The Seventeen Provinces were a personal union of states in the Low Countries in the 15th century and 16th century, roughly covering the current Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, a good part of the North of France , and a small part of Western Germany.The Seventeen Provinces were originally held by...

 and establish an independent Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

. They can be considered either as privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

s or pirates, depending on the circumstances or motivations.

Origin of the name


The leaders of the nobles, who signed a solemn league known as the Compromise of Nobles
Compromise of Nobles
The Compromise'of Nobles was a covenant of members of the lesser nobility in the Habsburg Netherlands who came together to submit a petition to the Regent Margaret of Parma on 5 April 1566, with the objective of obtaining a moderation of the placards against heresy in the Netherlands...

, by which they bound themselves to assist in defending the rights and liberties of the Netherlands against the civil and religious despotism of Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 were Louis, Count of Nassau
Louis of Nassau
Louis of Nassau was the third son of William, Count of Nassau and Juliana of Stolberg, and the younger brother of Prince William of Orange Nassau....

, and Henry, Count of Bréderode
Henry, Count of Bréderode
Henry , Lord of Bréderode was born at Brussels. He was a member of the dutch noble family Van Brederode and an important member during the Eighty years war...

. On April 5, 1566 permission was obtained for the confederates to present a petition of grievances, called the Request, to the regent, Margaret, Duchess of Parma
Margaret of Parma
Margaret, Duchess of Parma , Governor of the Netherlands from 1559 to 1567 and from 1578 to 1582, was the illegitimate daughter of Charles V and Johanna Maria van der Gheynst...

. About 250 nobles marched to the palace accompanied by Louis of Nassau and Bréderode. The regent was at first alarmed at the appearance of so large a body, but one of her councillors, Berlaymont
Charles de Berlaymont
Charles de Berlaymont was a noble who sided with the Spanish during the Eighty years war, and was a member of the Council of Troubles. He was the son of Michiel de Berlaymont and Maria de Berault. He was lord of Floyon and Haultpenne, and baron of Hierges...

, was heard to exclaim, "What, madam, is your highness afraid of these beggars (ces gueux)?"
The appellation was not forgotten. At a great feast held by some 300 confederates at the Hotel Culemburg three days later, Bréderode in a speech declared that if need be they were all ready to become beggars in their country's cause. The name became henceforward a party title. The patriot party adopted the emblems of beggarhood, the wallet and the bowl, as trinkets to be worn on their hats or their girdles, and a medal
Geuzen medals
Geuzen medals or Beggar’s medals Geuzen medals or Beggar’s medals Geuzen medals or Beggar’s medals (also Sea Beggars medals were coined during the early days of the Dutch Revolt and the first half of the Eighty Years' War in the 16th century. During that period, a lot of medals, tokens and jetons...

 was struck having on one side the head of Philip II, on the other two clasped hands with the motto Fidèle au roy, jusqu'à porter la besace ("Loyal to the King, till carrying the beggar's pouch"). The original league of Beggars was short-lived, crushed by Alva
Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba
Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel, 3rd Duke of Alba was a Spanish general and governor of the Spanish Netherlands , nicknamed "the Iron Duke" in the Low Countries because of his harsh and cruel rule there and his role in the execution of his political opponents and the massacre of several...

, but its principles survived and were to be ultimately triumphant.

In the Dutch language
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 the word geuzennaam is used for linguistic reappropriation: a pejorative term used with pride by the people called that way.

Sea Beggars



In 1569 William of Orange, who had now openly placed himself at the head of the party of revolt, granted letters of marque to a number of vessels manned by crews of desperadoes drawn from all nationalities. Eighteen ships received letters of marque, which were equipped by Louis of Nassau
Louis of Nassau
Louis of Nassau was the third son of William, Count of Nassau and Juliana of Stolberg, and the younger brother of Prince William of Orange Nassau....

 in the French Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 port of La Rochelle
La Rochelle
La Rochelle is a city in western France and a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department.The city is connected to the Île de Ré by a bridge completed on 19 May 1988...

, which they continued to use as a base. By the end of 1569, already 84 Sea Beggars ships were in action.


These fierce privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

s under the command of a succession of daring and reckless leaders, the best-known of whom is William de la Marck, Lord of Lumey, were called "Sea Beggars", "Gueux de mer" in French, or "Watergeuzen" in Dutch. At first they were content to merely plunder both by sea and land, and carrying their booty to the English ports where they were able to refit and replenish their stores.

However, in 1572, Queen Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 abruptly refused to admit the Sea Beggars to her harbours. No longer having refuge, they made a desperate attack
Capture of Brielle
The Capture of Brielle by the Sea Beggars, or Watergeuzen, on 1 April 1572 marked a turning point in the uprising of the Low Countries against Spain in the Eighty Years' War. Militarily the success was minor, as Brielle was not being defended at the time...

 upon Brielle
Brielle
Brielle , also called Den Briel is a town and municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland, on the north side of the island of Voorne-Putten, at the mouth of the New Maas. The municipality covers an area of 31.12 km² of which 3.63 km² is water...

, which they seized by surprise in the absence of the Spanish garrison on April 1, 1572. Encouraged by this surprising success, they now sailed to Flushing
Flushing, Netherlands
Vlissingen is a municipality and a city in the southwestern Netherlands on the former island of Walcheren. With its strategic location between the Scheldt river and the North Sea, Vlissingen has been an important harbour for centuries. It was granted city rights in 1315. In the 17th century...

, which was also taken by a coup de main
Coup de main
A coup de main is a swift attack that relies on speed and surprise to accomplish its objectives in a single blow. The United States Department of Defense defines it as:The literal translation from French means a stroke or blow of the hand...

. The capture of these two towns prompted several nearby towns to declare for revolt, starting a chain reaction that resulted in the majority of Holland joining in a general revolt of the Netherlands, and is regarded as the real beginning of Dutch independence.

In 1573 the Sea Beggars defeated a Spanish squadron under the command of Admiral Bossu
Maximilien de Hénin-Liétard
Maximilien de Hénin-Liétard, Count of Boussu was a soldier and statesman from the Habsburg Netherlands. During the Eighty Years' War he was the royalist stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht from 1567 until he was made a prisoner of war during the Battle on the Zuiderzee in 1573...

 off the port of Hoorn
Hoorn
-Cities :* Purmerend * Enkhuizen * Alkmaar * Amsterdam * Lelystad * Den Helder * Leeuwarden -Towns :* Edam...

 in the Battle on the Zuiderzee
Battle on the Zuiderzee
The Battle on the Zuiderzee was a naval battle during the Eighty Years' War in which a Dutch fleet destroyed a larger and better-equipped Spanish fleet on the Zuiderzee.-Prelude:...

. Mixing with the native population, they quickly sparked rebellions against "the Iron Duke
Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba
Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel, 3rd Duke of Alba was a Spanish general and governor of the Spanish Netherlands , nicknamed "the Iron Duke" in the Low Countries because of his harsh and cruel rule there and his role in the execution of his political opponents and the massacre of several...

" in town after town and spread the resistance southward.

Some of the forefathers of the great Dutch naval heroes began their naval careers as Sea Beggars, such as Evert Heindricxzen, the grandfather of Cornelis Evertsen the Elder
Cornelis Evertsen the Elder
Cornelis Evertsen the Elder was a Dutch admiral.Cornelis Evertsen the Elder was the son of Johan Evertsen and Maayken Jans; grandson of Evert Heindricxsen, a Watergeus, both commanders of men-of-war of the navy of Zealand....

. Many Geuzen medals
Geuzen medals
Geuzen medals or Beggar’s medals Geuzen medals or Beggar’s medals Geuzen medals or Beggar’s medals (also Sea Beggars medals were coined during the early days of the Dutch Revolt and the first half of the Eighty Years' War in the 16th century. During that period, a lot of medals, tokens and jetons...

 were awarded.

Geuzen symbolics and the Ottoman Empire



The Sea Beggars used symbolics associated with the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. William I of Orange sought Ottoman assistance against the Spanish king Philip II
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

.
The "Geuzen" were expressing their anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic sentiments. They considered the Turks to be less threatening than the Spaniards. During the years between 1579 and 1582, representatives from Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Paşa travelled several times from Istanbul to Antwerp.

The slogan Liever Turks dan Paaps seems to have been largely rhetorical however, and their beggars medals in the form of a half moon were symbolically meant. The Dutch hardly contemplated life under the Sultan at all. Moreover, there was no direct contact between the Geuzen and the Turkish authorities. Ultimately, the Turks were infidels, and the heresy of Islam alone disqualified them from assuming a more central (or consistent) role in the rebels' program of propaganda.