This Friday's day-long historicial commemoration in Madrid of the Tercios of Flanders, held with the support of the Madrid city council, has led to tension with the municipal government of Antwerp, one of the Flemish cities in which the Tercios, sixteenth century Spanish army units, ran riot. The mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, has sent a strongly worded letter of protest to his Madrid counterpart, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, complaining of this "glorification of the 'Spanish fury'". "It's disrespectful," he asserted.
"Those soldiers were feared throughout Europe in the sixteenth century. The armed forces were one of the pillars on which Spain based its power. In Madrid, one of the city's central squares is being converted into a simulated camp of the Tercios, recreating the scene," says De Weber in the letter, according to the Belgian newspaper Knack (link in Flemish).
The Flemish mayor recalls in his letter that the sacking of Antwerp took place in early November 1576. "Thousands of men in the service of the Spanish army sacked, raped and set fire to the city, during the period that would later be known as Spain's Golden Century. According to tradition, the episode killed about 10,000 people, though modern historians speak of hundreds of deaths."
The "Spanish fury" - the name given to these episodes of pillage and murder - represented, says De Wever, "a turning point in the already bloody Eighty Years' War", fought between the Spanish empire and its colonial subjects in what are today Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The mayor of Antwerp adds that he respects the history of Spain and also the freedom of expression, but emphasizes that "the glorification of this past shows a complete lack of the most basic respect." "In memory of the countless victims, we condemn it," he adds.
According to Knack, the Madrid city council has so far not responded to the letter from its Antwerp counterpart.