Gueux (gö) [key] [Fr., = beggars], 16th-century Dutch revolutionary party. In 1566 more than 2,000 Dutch and Flemish nobles and burghers (both Protestants and Roman Catholics) signed a document—the so-called Compromise of Breda—by which they bound themselves in solemn oath to resist the curtailment of liberties imposed by the Spanish government in the Netherlands. The document was drafted chiefly by Philip van Marnix. Its radical tone displeased the great nobles; on the advice of William the Silent the original wording was considerably toned down when, in the same year, a petition on behalf of the signers of the compromise was presented to the Spanish regent, Margaret of Parma. Margaret's adviser, Barlaymont, referred to the petitioners as "these beggars," whereupon the revolutionary party adopted both the sobriquet and the insignia of beggars. The "Beggars of the Sea" (Fr. Gueux de la mer ) were crews of patriotic privateers first chartered in 1569 by William the Silent to harass Spanish shipping. Their most notable action was the raising of the siege of Leiden (1574). Their activity marked the beginning of Dutch sea power.
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