Gueux

A nickname used during the revolt of the Low Countries against Spanish rule. As revolt neared (1566), a group of nobles including William of Orange and Henry of Brederode presented a list of grievances to the Spanish regent, Mary of Parma; one of her advisers jeered at the petitioners as ces gueux (“those beggars”). Brederode adopted the name proudly, and it soon was widely used for the rebels. It was applied more particularly to the “Sea Beggars,” hit-and-run sea raiders, to whom Orange granted letters of marque (1569). Bitterly anti-Catholic (cf. their motto, “Sooner the Turk than the Pope”), they gained a reputation for desperate courage and cold-blooded plundering. When refused refuge in English ports, they took the port of Brill in Zeeland from the Spanish; it was thus the first “liberated” territory. As the revolt proceeded, the Sea Beggars were gradually merged into the growing rebel fleet.