Being the morning I came away, I went to see the Prince’s Court, an ancient, confused building, not much unlike the Hofft, at the Hague: there is here likewise a very large hall, where they vend all sorts of wares. Through this we passed by the chapel, which is indeed rarely arched, and in the middle of it was the hearse, or catafalque, of the late Archduchess, the wise and pious Clara Eugenia. Out of this we were conducted to the lodgings, tapestried with incomparable arras, and adorned with many excellent pieces of Rubens ((he [Rubens] was court painter to the Archduke and his wife)) old and young Breugel ((Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his father Pieter Bruegel the Elder – GS)), Titian, and Stenwick ((possibly one of the Dutch painters with the surname Steenwijk including Hendrik van Steenwijk I and II as well as Harmen Steenwijck -GS)), with stories of most of the late actions in the Netherlands.
By an accident we could not see the library. There is a fair terrace which looks to the vineyard, in which, on pedestals, are fixed the statues of all the Spanish kings of the house of Austria. The opposite walls are painted by Rubens, being an history of the late tumults in Belgia: in the last piece, the Archduchess shuts a great pair of gates upon Mars, who is coming out of hell, armed, and in a menacing posture; which, with that other of the Infanta taking leave of Don Philip IV., is a most incomparable table.
From hence, we walked into the park, which for being entirely within the walls of the city is particularly remarkable: nor is it less pleasant than if in the most solitary recesses; so naturally is it furnished with whatever may render it agreeable, melancholy ((Evelyn probably means “retired,” “suited to contemplation.” –AD)), and country-like. Here is a stately heronry, divers springs of water, artificial cascades, rocks, grots; one whereof is composed of the extravagant roots of trees, cunningly built and hung together with wires. In this park are both fallow and red deer.
From hence, we were led into the Menage, and out of that into a most sweet and delicious garden, where was another grot of more neat and costly materials, full of noble statues, and entertaining us with artificial music; but the hedge of water, in form of lattice-work, which the fountaineer caused to ascend out of the earth by degrees, exceedingly pleased and surprised me; for thus, with a pervious wall, or rather a palisade hedge of water, was the whole parterre environed.
There is likewise a fair aviary; and in the court next it are kept divers sorts of animals, rare and exotic fowl, as eagles, cranes, storks, bustards, pheasants of several kinds, and a duck having four wings. In another division of the same close are rabbits of an almost perfect yellow color.
There was no Court now in the palace; the Infante Cardinal, who was the Governor of Flanders, being dead but newly, and every one in deep mourning. ((Ferdinand of Spain, Governor of Flanders from 1633 to 1641, on the 9th November in which latter year he died at Brussels. He was the third son of Philip III., and brother of Philip IV. –AD))
At near eleven o’clock, I repaired to his Majesty’s agent, Sir Henry de Vic, who very courteously received me, and accommodated me with a coach and six horses, which carried me from Brussels to Ghent, where it was to meet my Lord of Arundel, Earl Marshal of England ((As already stated at p. 19, the Earl had brought Marie de Médiicis to the Continent. In February, 1642, he left England again for good, ostensibly acting as escort to Henrietta Maria and Princess Mary (see post, under August, 1645). –AD)), who had requested me when I was at Antwerp to send it for him, if I went not thither myself.
Thus taking leave of Brussels and a sad Court, yet full of gallant persons (for in this small city, the acquaintance being universal, ladies and gentlemen, I perceived had great diversions, and frequent meetings), I hastened toward Ghent. On the way, I met with divers little wagons, prettily contrived, and full of peddling merchandise, drawn by mastiff dogs, harnessed completely like so many coach horses; in some four, in others six, as in Brussels itself I had observed. In Antwerp I saw, as I remember, four dogs draw five lusty children in a chariot: the master commands them whither he pleases, crying his wares about the streets. After passing through Ouse, by six in the evening, I arrived at Ghent. This is a city of so great a circumference, that it is reported to be seven leagues round; but there is not half of it now built, much of it remaining in fields and desolate pastures even within the walls, which have strong gates toward the west, and two fair churches.
Here I beheld the palace wherein John of Gaunt ((In 1338-39 it had been the residence of Edward III., and thus became the birthplace of Queen Philippa’s son-AD)) and Charles V. were born ((John of Gaunt or Ghent was born in St Bavon Abbey -GS)); whose statue ((It was destroyed in 1792; and its site is now occupied by a bronze statue of Jacques van Artevelde, by P. Devigne-Quyo (1863) –AD)) stands in the market-place, upon a high pillar, with his sword drawn, to which (as I was told) the magistrates and burghers were wont to repair upon a certain day every year with ropes about their necks, in token of submission and penance for an old rebellion of theirs; but now the hemp is changed into a blue ribbon. Here is planted the basilisco, or great gun, so much talked of. The Lys and the Scheldt meeting in this vast city, divide it into twenty-six islands, which are united by many bridges, somewhat resembling Venice. This night I supped with the Abbot of Andoyne, a pleasant and courteous priest.
(Evelyn may have made an error with the dates between 6th – 8th October. He skips from the 5th to the 7th and then includes the 8th twice. It’s possible that this day refers to the 7thth October -GS)