General and Flemish politician, born in La Hamaide (Hainaut, Belgium today) in 1522 and died in Brussels in 1568. He/She was one of the main leaders of the opposition against the centralist policy of the Government of Felipe II in the Netherlands. Although at the time critical of the outbreak of the rebellion Dutch stood on the side of the Spanish monarchy, was a victim of repression directed by the Duke of Alba by order of Felipe II, who wished to put an end to any hint of national resistance, and he/she died executed on the eve of the outbreak of the Dutch revolution.
He was born in a family of Flemish aristocracy. He/She possessed enormous agricultural manors in the Netherlands and was Lord of the Principality of Gaver and the town of Armentières. Already in his youth was distinguished by his ability as a military tactician and its value in the campaigns of Carlos I (V of Germany) in Flanders and in the North of France. After the ascent to the throne of Felipe II, it served loyally to the new monarch, the Flemish armies in dream victories of Saint-Quentin (1557) and Gravelines (1558) against France. These triumphs developed him in one of the most prominent military leaders in the service of Felipe II. In payment to their loyalty and recognition of his services in the field of battle, the King granted him the post of Stadholder (captain general) of the provinces of Brabant and Artois, and appointed him a member of the Council of State presided over Margaret of Parma, Governor of the Netherlands and half-sister of Felipe II.
However, since 1559 Egmont joined the aristocratic opposition, led by Guillermo I, Prince of Orange, demanded respect for Flemish freedoms, their centralist, authoritarian and contrarreformista policy of the hated Cardinal Granvelle, Lieutenant of Felipe II in the Council of State of the Netherlands and Parma Margarita private counselor. Egmont led the opposition claim to monarchy of recruiting troops in the Netherlands to fight, outside its territory, the French Protestant Huguenots, against Carlos IX of France had asked for help to Felipe II. The noble party demanded relentlessly, through Egmont and Guillermo de Orange, cessation of Granvelle, whose decisions invariably prevailed on the Council of State of Flanders. July 23, 1561, Egmont signed a letter, written by the Prince of Orange, in which the Flemish nobility complained before the King by inefficiencies which had been reduced the Council and against the authoritarianism of Granvelle. Under the pressure of the Flemish political strata, Felipe II ordered the departure of Flanders of the cardinal on March 13, 1564.
However, the progress of Granvelle did not mean a substantial change in the policy of Felipe II with respect to the Netherlands, symbolized by the introduction of the Papal Inquisition that same year against the Calvinist "heresy". In 1565, Egmont, as a member of the moderate wing of the aristocratic party, was appointed to submit to the King a list of grievances and demands. With this purpose he/she travelled to Madrid and met repeatedly with the King, he/she explained the reasons that had led to the revolt in the making of the Flemish nobility. He/She protested against the monopolization of government charges for foreigners in the Flemish political bodies and demanded the end of the persecution of Protestants and Calvinists. He/She failed to convince a Felipe II willing to impose its law to blood and fire.
On his return to Flanders burst called "riots of August" against Spanish domination, prelude to the revolution that flowered soon after. The revolt, led by Guillermo de Orange, started in Armentières, Lordship of Egmont, and soon spread to all provinces. Egmont dissociated itself from the insurrectional movement, like much of the Catholic nobility, which feared antisenorial and Calvinistic bias that was acquiring the revolt. In order to prove his loyalty to Felipe II, ordered apply in the territories under his Government decrees against the Protestant "heretics", which had demanded the King of summarily. And, in 1567, he/she renewed his oath of loyalty to the King before the Governor Margarita de Parma.
However, all their efforts in order to conciliate the Spanish monarchy were invalidated by the determination of Felipe II of ending any indication of nationalist opposition to his Government. In 1567 King sent Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, to Flanders to lead the crackdown on unruly part nobility. Egmont was warned by the Prince of Orange of the danger that was if he/she remained in Flanders, Alba's reach. But, relying on his old friendship with the King, he/she decided to remain in the country, as well as Felipe de Montmorency, count of Horn, who, despite his involvement in the defense of Flemish freedoms, had also taken the realist party at the time of the rebellion.
Egmont and Montmorency were arrested by order of Alba and judged by the Court of Tumults, the legal instrument created to suppress the rebellion and known popularly as "Blood Court". They were sentenced to death for treason, despite the intercession of the Emperor Fernando de Austria, uncle of Felipe II, and protests and threats of the Flemish nobility. In June 1568 were beheaded at Brussels, becoming the first two martyrs of the long struggle against Spanish domination in the Netherlands.
His tragic fall and the treason of the King that led him to death served as source of inspiration J.W. Goethe for his drama Egmont, written in 1788 and music by L. van Beethoven in 1810.
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