Monday, October 21, 2013

The horrifying Duke of Alba and April Fools Day in the Netherlands

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Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel (1507-1582), the third Duke of Alba, was one of the best generals who worked to Charles I and Philip II's orders. He participated in the conquest of Tunis and in the Battle of Mühlberg as well.  He was also in charge of the government of several parts of the Hispanic Monarchy, such as the Duchy of Milan, Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Portugal. But his role in the Low Countries was so authoritarian that he was known as the "Iron Duke" and his decisions contributed to the origin of the Black Legend of the Hispanic Monarchy. even at present he is considered to be as the Bogeyman in the Netherlands.

Philip II sent the Duke of Alba to the Low Countries in 1567  to re-establish public order after the Storm of the Images. The Duke created the Council of Troubles to punish the ringleaders of the religious protests. But the actions of this council were so drastic that people called it the Council of Blood: around 12,000 people were prosecuted and 1,000 of them were executed. This policy and the tax increase (10% tax on all sales) to supply the troops led to a general revolt in the Low Countries. The local nobles formed an army and started fighting against Alba. On the 1st April 1572 the Dutch rebels got their first importany victory against Alba's troops, when they seized the city of Brielle. This victory is taught to the Dutch children with a rhyming phrase: “Op 1 april verloor Alva zijn bril”, which means "On April 1, Alba lost his glasses" ("Brielle" sounds very similar to "bril", glasses, in Dutch). The 1st of April is April Fools' Day in the Netherlands. So the Dutch have a double commemoration on that day. 

File:´t Veroveren van Den Briel, op den eersten april des jaars 1572 (Jan Luyken, 1679).jpg

Capture of Brielle

Since then, the Duke of Alba´s name has been used to frighten the Dutch children and even at present he is considered to be as the Bogeyman in the Netherlands. His name is used to scare children or to threaten them when they don´t want to do something, such as eating the soup or going to bed early. They tell them: The Duke of Alba is coming!


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