Philips of Marnix, Lord of Saint-Aldegonde

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Philips of Marnix,
Lord of Saint-Aldegonde
Lord of Saint-Aldegonde, portrait by Jacques de Gheyn II
Lord Mayor of Antwerp
In office
Lord of Saint-Aldegonde
In office
Preceded by Jacob of Marnix
Personal details
Spouse(s) Philippotte, Lady of Belle de Bailleul

Philips of Marnix, Lord of Saint-Aldegonde, Lord of West-Souburg (Dutch: Filips van Marnix, heer van Sint-Aldegonde, heer van West-Souburg, French: Philippe de Marnix, seigneur de Sainte-Aldegonde; 7 March/20 July 1540 – 15 December 1598) was a Flemish and Dutch writer and statesman, and the probable author of the text of the Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus.

Biography - career

Marnix of St. Aldegonde was born at Brussels, the son of Jacob of Marnix. He studied theology under John Calvin and Theodore Beza at Geneva. Returning to the Netherlands in 1560, he threw himself into the cause of the Reformation, taking an active part in the compromise of the nobles in 1565 and the assembly of Sint-Truiden. He issued a pamphlet in justification of the iconoclastic movement Beeldenstorm which devastated many churches in Flanders in 1566, and on the Duke of Alba's arrival next year had to flee the country.

After spending some time in Friesland and in the Electorate of the Palatinate he was in 1570 taken into the service of William, prince of Orange, and in 1572 was sent as his representative to the first meeting of the States-General assembled at Dordrecht. In 1573 he was taken prisoner by the Spaniards at Maaslandsluys, but was exchanged in the following year. He was sent as the representative of the insurgent provinces to Paris and London, where he attempted in vain to secure the effective assistance of Queen, Elizabeth I of England.

In 1578 he was at the Diet of Worms, where he made an eloquent, but fruitless, appeal for aid to the German princes. Equally vain were his efforts in the same year to persuade the magistrates of Ghent to cease persecuting the Catholics in the city. He took a conspicuous part in arranging the Union of Utrecht. In 1583 was chosen burgomaster of Antwerp. In 1585 he surrendered the city, after the months' siege of Antwerp, to the Spaniards. Attacked by the English and by his own countrymen for this act, he retired from public affairs and, save for a mission to Paris in 1590, lived henceforth in Leiden or on his estate in Zeeland, where he worked at a translation of the Bible.

His daughter Elizabeth married Sir Charles Morgan (c.1569-c.1643), fourth son of Edward Morgan of Wales and spouse Frances Leigh. He died at Leiden on 15 December 1598.

Literary work

St. Aldegonde, or Marnix (by which name he is very commonly known), is celebrated for his share in the great development of Dutch literature which followed the classical period represented by such writers as the poet and historian Pieter Hooft. Of his works, the best known is the Roman Bee-hive (De roomsche byen-korf), published in 1569 during his exile in Friesland, a bitter satire on the faith and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This was translated, or adapted, in French, German and English (by George Gilpin).[1] He also wrote an educational treatise dedicated to John, Count of Nassau. As a poet, St. Aldegonde is mainly known through his metrical translation of the Psalms (1580/1591); and, the Dutch national anthem Wilhelmus van Nassouwe is also ascribed to him. His complete works, edited by Lacroix and Quinet, were published at Brussels in 7 volumes (1855–1859), and his religious and theological writings, edited by Van Toorenenbergen, at The Hague, in 4 volumes (1871–1891).

Marnix wrote one of the earliest Bible translations into Dutch.

Less known to the general public is his work as a cryptographer. St. Aldegonde is considered to be the first Dutch cryptographer (cfr. The Codebreakers). For Stadholder William the Silent, he deciphered secret messages that were intercepted from the Spaniards. His interest in cryptography possibly shows in the Wilhelmus, where the first letters of the couplets form the name Willem van Nassov, i.e. William 'the Silent' of Nassau, the Prince of Orange, but such acrostics - and far more intricate poetic devices - were a common feature of the Rederijker school in the Lowlands.

There is a marble sculpture of him by Paul de Vigne in Brussels.

Marnix could speak Spanish, and this influenced his writing style.[2]

See also


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  2. «Sans doute l'Espagne ne fut représentée dans notre pays que par un petit nombre de fonctionnaires groupés dans le grand centre administratif qu'était Bruxelles et les organismes centraux indigènes, comme les organismes provinciaux et locaux, continuèrent-ils ainsi que par le passé à être gérés par des nationaux et à employer les langues nationales; cependant, à partir du gouvernement de Marguerite de Parme et surtout à l'arrivée du duc d'Albe, l'espagnol fut mis à l'honneur à la Cour et devint plus familier aux grands seigneurs et aux hauts fonctionnaires. Quel effet ce bilinguisme plus ou moins parfait pouvait-il exercer sur le français, il est permis d'en juger par l'apparition de mots espagnols dans le correspondances comme celle de Granvelle, et mieux encore par la prose de Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde. Contrairement à la plupart des écrivains français de la Renaissance, celui-ci était un excellent connaisseur de l'espagnol, et notamment dans le Tableau des différends de la Religion, des mots et des expressions espagnoles viennent souvent émailler de façon pittoresque ou narquoise le contexte français; pareils traits seraient inexplicables s'ils n'étaient pas destinés à des lecteurs ayant au moins la connaissance de quelques rudiments d'espagnol. A la Cour, des troupes de comédiens espagnols venaient donner des représentations» —Herbillon, Jules. Éléments espagnols en wallon et dans le français des anciens Pays-Bas, 23–24. Mémoires de la Commission royale de toponymie et de dialectologie. Section wallonne 10. Liège: Michiels, 1961.

Sources and references

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  • Media related to Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. at Wikimedia Commons
  • Edgar Quinet, Marnix de St Aldegonde (Paris, 1854)
  • Théodore Juste, Vie de Marnix (The Hague, 1858); Frédéricq, Marnix en zijnenederlandsche geschriften (Ghent, 1882)
  • Tjalma, Philips van Marnix, heer van Sint-Aldegonde (Amsterdam, 1896)
  • 'On the Education of Youth', trans. Robert de Rycke in 'History of Education Quarterly', Summer 1970)