From 1572, Spanish armies, initially under the Duke of Alba, conducted a ruthless suppression of Dutch rebels. The revolt had been provoked by autocratic rule, high taxation and the suppression of the Protestant religion. In 1576, in the Pacification of Ghent, the rebels, previously divided, agreed a common front. However, in 1579, the new Spanish governor, Alexander of Parma, managed to persuade the southern provinces to defect and form the pro-Spanish League of Arras, leaving the northern Union of Utrecht to fight on alone. Parma proceeded to capture a succession of rebel strongholds, forcing their leader, William of Orange, to call on French support under the duke of Anjou. But the French decamped in 1583, after their troops were massacred in the streets of Antwerp, which Parma then besieged and captured. By the end of the 1580s, the rebels were facing defeat. But in 1589 their nemesis, Parma, was summoned to France to offer support to French Catholics, following the assassination of King Henry III.
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