In 1587, Maurice of Nassau (son of William of Orange) was made Captain General of the Dutch rebel army in the Spanish Netherlands. With its navy shattered by the destruction of the Armada, an enfeebled, and soon bankrupt, Spain suffered reverse after reverse at Maurice’s hands, its unpaid troops frequently resorting to mutiny. A string of towns fell to the Dutch, including Bergen-op-Zoom (1588) and Breda (1590) and the Dutch control of Zeeland and the estuary of the River Scheldt allowed them to blockade the Spanish main port of supply, Antwerp. Spain’s troubles were compounded when the Protestant king of France, Henry of Navarre, declared war against them in 1595. A period of stalemate then ensued. The Dutch, controlling the seas, were enjoying increasing commercial prosperity through their burgeoning trading empire, evidenced by the formation of the Dutch East India Company (1602), while Spain was both distracted and exhausted.
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