The Spanish Fury, also known as the Sack of Antwerp
or the Antwerp Fury
, occurred in early November 1576
. It was one of the bloodiest massacres of the Dutch Revolt
, an impressive title in an 89 year war, and has been compared to the Sack of Rome
, 1527. Mutinying Spanish troops rampaged through the city which was one of the most prominent cultural and economic centres of Early Modern Europe
The problem started with Philip II's bankruptcy in September 1575. His large veteran army in the Netherlands thus went unpaid. In addition Spain's Governor General of the Netherlands, Don Luis de Requesens y Zuñiga, had died in March 1576 and so the army was both leaderless and unpaid. These well trained and experienced soldiers were not happy with this state of affairs so they began to plunder the countryside and take what food, money and goods tehy wanted by force.
This culminated in November when the Antwerp garrison mutinied and defected to the bandits and together they stormed the city. The battle was swift and victory total. Protestant historians, such as J.A. Wylie, talk of heroic resistance to the troops but in truth the ill equipped and unprepared inhabitants were cut down with ease by the Spanish soldiers.
Upon gaining control of the city they raped, plundered and sacked Antwerp in a scandalous display of barbarism. 7000 of a population of around 80,000 were killed, men, women and children victimised equally by the blooded troops. Over one third of the town was burnt down and the soldiers searched the town for anything valuable torturing those who they believed were holding back from them. The thuggery continued for three days until an amalgamation of the States of the Netherlands were able to put together an army (under the Pacification of Ghent) and defeat them.
However the damage had already been done. Antwerp went from being the richest city in Europe in 1540s to run down town by 1609 and the Twelve Year Truce. Admittedly a large amount of this economic damage was done by the rebel blockade of the Scheldt, the river by which trade brought Antwerp's wealth, but the Spanish Fury was a huge blow to Antwerp and to Spanish control in the Netherlands.
While the Fury itself was not responsible for the Pacification of Ghent the preceding mutinies and banditry was certainly the major factor in the its signing. The Fury was easily ended by the united armies of the Netherlands but it also gave impetus to anti-Spanish feeling already existing in the Netherlands and enable to the Pacification to survive for longer than it may otherwise have done.
http://whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/History.Protestant.v3.b18.html - "The History of Protestantism" Volume Three, Book 18 - James A Wylie
My own notes made in class
"The Netherlands: Revolt and Independence, 1550-1650" - Martyn Rady, Arnold 1987
"Years of Renewal: European History 1470-1600" - Edited by John Lotherington, Hodder and Stoughton, 1991
"The Dutch Revolt, 1559-1648" - Peter Limm, Longman 1989