On this date in 1568, two Flemish nobles were beheaded at Brussels’ Grand Place for treason to the Spanish crown that then ruled the Low Countries.
Lamoral, Count of Egmont and Philip de Montmorency, Count of Hoorn had a beef with the introduction of the Inquisition into the Netherlands by Egmont’s cousin, King Philip II, and got to hanging around with dubious characters like William of Orange.
Unluckily for this day’s duo, William didn’t teach them to read the writing on the wall.
Let this long-expired generation counsel posterity to find itself elsewhere when one’s door is darkened by a man known as “the Iron Duke”. William had the wit to get out of town. Egmont and Hoorn hung around, depending on their (professedly) clean consciences.
The beheadings were widely protested both locally and abroad, and festered as a grievance against the empire — a grievance that, as the nascent conflict evolved into a revolution that would detach the Netherlands from Spain, elevated these distinctly non-revolutionary wealthy nobles into freethinking martyrs of independence.
Two centuries later, Goethe put the story on the stage with his play Egmont (original German | English translation), a production for which Beethoven subsequently composed gorgeous orchestral companion pieces.
Here’s the lovely, lovely Ludwig Van’s beloved (including by Goethe himself) Overture to Egmont, Op. 84: