EGMONT (Egmond), LAMORAL, Count of, prince of Gavre (1522-1568), was born in Hainaut in 1522. He was the younger of the two sons of John IV., count of Egmont, by his wife Françoise of Luxemburg, princess of Gavre. On the death of his elder brother Charles, about 1541, he succeeded to his titles and estates. In this year he served his apprenticeship as a soldier in the expedition of the emperor Charles V. to Algiers, distinguishing himself in the command of a body of cavalry. In 1544 he married Sabina, sister of the elector palatine Frederick III., and the wedding was celebrated at Spires with great pomp in the presence of the emperor and his brother Ferdinand, afterwards emperor. Created knight of the Golden Fleece in 1546, he accompanied Philip of Spain in his tour through the Netherland towns, and in 1554 he went to England at the head of a special embassy to ask the hand of Mary of England for Philip, and was afterwards present at the wedding ceremony at Winchester. In the summer of 1557 Egmont was appointed commander of the Flemish cavalry in the war between Spain and France; and it was by his vehement persuasion that the battle of St Quentin was fought. The victory was determined by the brilliant charge that he led against the French. The reputation which he won at St Quentin was raised still higher in 1558, when he encountered the French army under de Thermes at Gravelines, on its march homewards after the invasion of Flanders, totally defeated it, and took Marshal de Thermes prisoner. The battle was fought against the advice of the duke of Alva, and the victory made Alva Egmont's enemy. But the count now became the idol of his countrymen, who looked upon him as the saviour of Flanders from the devastations of the French. He was nominated by Philip stadtholder of Flanders and Artois. At the conclusion of the war by the treaty of Cateau Cambrésis, Egmont was one of the four hostages selected by the king of France as pledges for its execution.
The attempt made by King Philip to convert the Netherlands into a Spanish dependency and to govern it by Spanish ministers excited the resentment of Egmont and other leading members of the Netherlands aristocracy. Between him and Cardinal Granvella, the all-powerful minister of the regent Margaret of Parma, there was no love lost. As a member of the council of state Egmont joined the prince of Orange in a vigorous protest addressed to Philip (1561) against the autocratic proceedings of the minister; and two years later he again protested in conjunction with the prince of Orange and Count Horn. In the spring of 1564 Granvella left the Netherlands, and the malcontent nobles once more took their places in the council of state. The resolve, however, of Philip to enforce the decrees of the council of Trent throughout the Netherlands once more aroused their resentment. Although himself a good Catholic, Egmont had no wish to see the Spanish Inquisition established in his native country. Orange, Egmont and others were convinced that the enforcement of the decrees in the Netherlands was impossible, and, in January 1665, Egmont accepted a special mission to Spain to make known to Philip the state of affairs and the disposition of the people. At Madrid the king gave him an ostentatiously cordial reception, and all the courtiers vied with one another in lavishing professions of respect upon him. They knew his vain and somewhat unstable character, and hoped to win him over without conceding anything to the wishes of the Netherlanders. The king gave him plenty of flatteries and promises, but steadily evaded any serious discussion of the object of his mission, and Egmont finally returned home without having accomplished anything. At the same time Philip sent further instructions to the regent to abate nothing of the severity of the persecution.
Egmont was naturally indignant at the treatment he had received, while the terrors of the Inquisition were steadily rousing the people to a state of frenzied excitement. In 1566 a confederacy of the lesser nobility was formed (Les Gueux) whose principles were set out in a document known as the Compromise. From this league Egmont held aloof; he declined to take any step savouring of actual disloyalty to his sovereign. He withdrew to his government of Flanders, and as stadtholder took active measures for the persecution of heretics. But in the eyes of Philip he had long been a marked man. The Spanish king had temporized only until the moment arrived when he could crush opposition by force. In the summer of 1567 the duke of Alva was despatched to the Netherlands at the head of an army of veterans to supersede the regent Margaret and restore order in the discontented provinces. Orange fled to Germany after having vainly warned Egmont and Horn of the dangers that threatened them. Alva was at pains to lull their suspicions, and then suddenly seized them both and threw them in the castle of Ghent. Their trial was a farce, for their fate had already been determined before Alva left Spain. After some months of imprisonment they were removed to Brussels, where sentence was pronounced upon them (June 4) by the infamous Council of Blood erected by Alva. They were condemned to death for high treason. It was in vain that the most earnest intercessions were made in behalf of Egmont by the emperor Maximilian, by the knights of the order of the Golden Fleece, by the states of Brabant, and by several of the German princes. Vain, too, was the pathetic pleading of his wife, who with her eleven children was reduced to want, and had taken refuge in a convent. Egmont was beheaded at Brussels in the square before the town hall on the day after his sentence had been publicly pronounced (June 5, 1568). He met his fate with calm resignation; and in the storm of terror and exasperation to which this tragedy gave rise Egmont's failings were forgotten, and he and his fellow-victim to Spanish tyranny were glorified in the popular imagination as martyrs of Flemish freedom. From this memorable event, which Goethe made the theme of his play Egmont (1788), is usually dated the beginning of the famous revolt of the Netherlands. In 1865 a monument to Counts Egmont and Horn, by Fraiken, was erected on the spot where they were beheaded.
Bibliography. - T. Juste, Le Comte d'Egmont et le comte de Hornes (Brussels, 1862), Les Pays-Bas sous Philippe II, 1555-1565 (2 vols., Brussels, 1855); J. L. Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1555-1584 (3 vols., London, 1856); J. P. Blok, History of the People of the Netherlands (tr. from Dutch), vol. iii. (New York, 1900); R. Fruin, Het voorspel van den tastigjarigen oorlag (Amsterdam, 1866); E. Marx, Studien zur Geschichte des niederländischen Aufstandes (Leipzig, 1902).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)