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By England's Aid or the Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604)   By: (1832-1902)

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By England's Aid or The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585 1604) by G. A. Henty This etext was produced by Martin Robb (



In my preface to By Pike and Dyke I promised in a future story to deal with the closing events of the War of Independence in Holland. The period over which that war extended was so long, and the incidents were so numerous and varied, that it was impossible to include the whole within the limit of a single book. The former volume brought the story of the struggle down to the death of the Prince of Orange and the capture of Antwerp; the present gives the second phase of the war, when England, who had long unofficially assisted Holland, threw herself openly into the struggle, and by her aid mainly contributed to the successful issue of the war. In the first part of the struggle the scene lay wholly among the low lands and cities of Holland and Zeeland, and the war was strictly a defensive one, waged against overpowering odds. After England threw herself into the strife it assumed far wider proportions, and the independence of the Netherlands was mainly secured by the defeat and destruction of the great Armada, by the capture of Cadiz and the fatal blow thereby struck at the mercantile prosperity of Spain, and by the defeat of the Holy League by Henry of Navarre, aided by English soldiers and English gold. For the facts connected with the doings of Sir Francis Vere and the British contingent in Holland, I have depended much upon the excellent work by Mr. Clement Markham entitled the Fighting Veres. In this full justice is done to the great English general and his followers, and it is conclusively shown that some statements to the disparagement of Sir Francis Vere by Mr. Motley are founded upon a misconception of the facts. Sir Francis Vere was, in the general opinion of the time, one of the greatest commanders of the age, and more, perhaps, than any other man with the exception of the Prince of Orange contributed to the successful issue of the struggle of Holland to throw off the yoke of Spain.

Yours sincerely,




"And we beseech Thee, 0 Lord, to give help and succour to Thy servants the people of Holland, and to deliver them from the cruelties and persecutions of their wicked oppressors; and grant Thy blessing, we pray Thee, upon the arms of our soldiers now embarking to aid them in their extremity."

These were the words with which the Rev. John Vickars, rector of Hedingham, concluded the family prayers on the morning of December 6th, 1585.

For twenty years the first portion of this prayer had been repeated daily by him, as it had been in tens of thousands of English households; for since the people of the Netherlands first rose against the Spanish yoke the hearts of the Protestants of England had beat warmly in their cause, and they had by turns been moved to admiration at the indomitable courage with which the Dutch struggled for independence against the might of the greatest power in Europe, and to horror and indignation at the pitiless cruelty and wholesale massacres by which the Spaniards had striven to stamp out resistance.

From the first the people of England would gladly have joined in the fray, and made common cause with their co religionists; but the queen and her counsellors had been restrained by weighty considerations from embarking in such a struggle. At the commencement of the war the power of Spain overshadowed all Europe. Her infantry were regarded as irresistible. Italy and Germany were virtually her dependencies, and England was but a petty power beside her. Since Agincourt was fought we had taken but little part in wars on the Continent. The feudal system was extinct; we had neither army nor military system; and the only Englishmen with the slightest experience of war were those who had gone abroad to seek their fortunes, and had fought in the armies of one or other of the continental powers... Continue reading book >>

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