The Iconoclastic Fury, or Beeldenstorm in Dutch, was a short period of rioting and vandalism that took place in August 1566 and was one of the first periods of violence of The Dutch Revolt. Historical opinion differs between those who believe that the Iconoclasm was conducted by a small (around 300) group of hardcore extremists or whether it was a popular religious uprising led by the Calvinist hedge preachers.

Regardless of the causes for the Fury it proved the trigger event in The Dutch Revolt. The Netherlands situation was already volatile and the Calvinist rampages pushed both Margaret of Parma, the Governor General, and then Philip II over the edge. Philip sent the Duke of Alva to restore order to the Netherlands following reports from Margaret of Parma that the entire Netherlands was in revolt.

Calvinist preachers had begun to emerge out of the hiding following the success of the Compromise of the Nobility in achieving concessions on religious tolerance. Large open air meetings had been held and had attracted a reasonable amount of public interest, more likely because of curiosity and novelty rather than theological interest. The preachers played on the already tense situation resulting from the closure of the Baltic due to a trade war with England and severe food shortages. It is at this point that historical accounts vary but it is clear that the preachers stirred up the crowds and encouraged them to enter Catholic churches and destroy pictures, statues, ornaments, vestments and any other decoration. In all approximately 400 churches were destroyed.

While this may seem like mindless vandalism, and to many who took part it probably was, there is a clear reason behind. Calvinism, and many other Protestant faiths, state that images of any kind and decoration of churches are an offence to God. The true Calvinists believed they were doing their religious duty. Indeed once these churches were ransacked many were taken over and used as centres for Calvinist worship so there was more to the Fury than simple vandalism. As Martyn Rady points out the Iconoclasm was the first step in claiming the churches for Calvinism and thus the establishment of Calvinism in the Netherlands.

Unsurprisingly Margaret of Parma was deeply alarmed by these events and she attempted to rally the Grandees and Confederates to support her. The Confederates saw the Fury as an opportunity to gain more concessions from the weak Margaret of Parma and the Grandees were alarmed by their lack of control of the situation. On 23rd August the "Accord" was signed with the Confederates and Grandees offering support in return for complete freedom to practise Protestantism. However the situation was completely out of control and the Confederates were unable to put an end to the preaching and rioting and their alliance dissolved.

The Fury died down by the end of September and Margaret of Parma felt confidant in outlawing Protestantism again. But the Confederates were by now regrouping into a military alliance and were willing to attack Parma to gain the concessions again. The Grandees however were not willing to support this use of violence, nor did they want the lesser nobles of the Confederation usurping their rightful positions and power. With this end in mind the Grandees mobilised troops against the Confederation and successfully defeated them by May 1567. Ironically William of Orange's last act before leaving the Netherlands was to defeat a Confederation army.

Unfortunately for the Grandees and for the Netherlands Margaret of Parma had already written to Philip II claiming that the entire Netherlands was in Calvinist revolt and that 200,000 were armed and mutinous. Philip, duly alarmed by this, decided to send the Duke of Alva to restore order and so despite the fact that upon Alva's arrival the Netherlands was entirely peaceful he was still under instructions to pacify the states and this he did. Pacification without an uprising can lead to resentment and Alva's actions certainly did that.

In all the Fury was the trigger event of 1566 uprising of The Dutch Revolt but any uprising was over by May 1567. Margaret of Parma's foolish over statement of what was a minor problem caused the sending of Alva and this condemns her otherwise good record to failure. - "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
"Philip II" - Geoffrey Woodward, Longman 1993

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