chapter  2
Alva's Throne – making sense of the revolt of the Netherlands
WithHenk van Nierop
Pages 19

In the nineteenth century Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, the anti-revolutionary politician, archivist and editor of sources looked on the revolt as a divinely led struggle against popery. For the anonymous artist who devised the engraving Alva's Throne it was quite clear. The centre of the picture is taken up by the duke of Alva. Liberal historians like Johannes van Vloten and Robert Fruin interpreted that freedom as national independence, the freedom of the nation of the northern Netherlands from Spanish oppression. Philip II and his ministers saw the Netherlands provinces as a political entity under the authority of the prince, although princely absolutism should be tempered by custom and equity. In this scheme the inferior powers such as the nobility and the town corporations had a part to play, but their authority derived from the princes’ power. In modern European parlance, one might say that the Netherlands constituted a two or more speed state.