Philip II (1527-1598), son of Charles V, was the ruler of Spain, Sicily, and the Netherlands during the Revolt of the Dutch. Philip believed religious unity would strengthen his kingdoms. Philip wanted to root out Protestantism where it occurred in his territories in the Netherlands. He engaged in aggressive prosecutions for heresy, reaching a total of 1300 during a five-year period in Flanders alone. Catholics were upset with this treatment as well as the Protestants. Philip’s daughter, Margaret, Duchess of Parma and appointed regent of the Netherland by her father, wrote to him saying that everybody was upset with this inquisition. Philip ended it in 1566, and after that the protestants began to get fearless. They began holding large religious meetings and showing up to them armed. Some radical Calvinist iconoclasts began attacking Catholic churches and destroying sacred images. Philip responded by sending in an army of 10,000 led by the Duke of Alba. The Duke imposed a ridiculous 10% sales tax, which outraged the population, Catholic and Protestant alike. Eventually, revolt broke out. William the Silent (1533-1584) was a Catholic in the Netherlands who came to lead this revolt against the king. Finally, the revolution ended in 1648 with seven of the Northern Provinces being granted their independence, and the Dutch republic was formed.
This chapter in history was important because it involved what some historians call the “demonstration effect”. The prosperity of the Dutch republic inspired other countries to follow in its footsteps, with its effective system of government that entailed religious toleration, secure economics and property rights, and intellectual freedom. The success of Dutch Republic demonstrated to other countries an effective way of doing things.