80 Years' War|
The current Geuzen Medal is the successor of the ‘Beggars’ medals’ from the Eighty Years War. The Geuzen Resistance 1940-1945 takes its name from the ‘Beggars’ movement against Spanish rule in the sixteenth century.
Dutch noblemen resisted Spanish rule
When Charles V abdicated in 1555 and his son Philip II came to the throne, the provinces of the Netherlands were in great confusion. Poverty was rampant and the Reformation led by Luther and Calvin had produced a divergence of spiritual opinion. King Philip II, who ruled as a fiery Catholic from Spain, was determined to crush religious disobedience and sent his sister, Margaret of Parma, to the Low Countries to enforce his will. The autonomy of the provinces was taken away. The noble ‘representatives of the people’, who until then had always been in control, found this totally unacceptable.
'Just some beggars'
The Dutch noblemen sent in April 1566 a deputation with a petition to Margaret in Brussels. But she would not even see them and had Count De Barlaymont fob them off. This caused an uproar. When Margaret asked what was happening, the Count replied scornfully, 'Ce ne sont que des gueux' (‘Just some beggars’). This came to the attention of Hendrik van Brederode, the leader of the deputation, and during a meal on the way home he proposed a toast to his men: 'Vivent les Gueux!' (‘Long live the Beggars!’)
'Geuzen' became a honorary title
From then on the term of abuse was regarded as an honorary title. ‘Beggars’ medals’ were struck and were worn on a ribbon around the neck as a public token of resistance. The Beggars played an important part in the Eighty Years’ War, when the foundations of our democracy were being laid.
In 1648 the Eighty Years’ War came to an end and the Republic of the United Netherlands was recognised internationally as an independent nation.