Eighty Years' War

Orfeas Katsoulis | Dec 7, 2022

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The Eighty Years' War was a battle in the Netherlands that began in 1568 and ended in 1648. The war raged in one of the richest European territories, the Habsburg or Spanish Netherlands, and was directed against a world power: the Spanish Empire led by King Philip II, lord of the Netherlands, and his successors Philip III and Philip IV. The first phase of the war can be characterized as a rebellion, a civil war, and is known as the Dutch Revolt. From 1588, after 20 years, the character changed to a regular war.

Initially, the Low Countries or the Seventeen Provinces marched together against the Spanish ruler. After 1576, the Northern and Southern Netherlands grew apart, as the Reformation was more successful in the North than in the South. The advance from the south of the king's army (further called "Spanish army") led to the Fall of Antwerp in 1585 that marked the separation of north and south. After Antwerp, the Spanish army continued until it controlled large parts of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands formed in 1588. Around 1590, the tide turned in favor of the Republic and the north and east returned to State hands. A truce, the Twelve Year Truce, was signed in 1609, although the war continued indirectly as Germany's Thirty Years' War. After the resumption, the war played out mainly in the south of the Republic. Tired, the warring parties signed the Peace of Münster in 1648.

The Low Countries, roughly modern-day Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, in the early sixteenth century consisted of a collection of principalities already largely united under the House of Burgundy. There were persistent antagonisms between the gatekeepers and guilds in the prosperous cities and the nobility in the countryside, and between cities themselves. There was hardly any cohesion between these countries, each with their own ancient privileges and institutions, despite some Burgundian attempts to bring some line into the administration of the Netherlands. Emperor Charles V managed during the sixteenth century, with the exception of the principality of Liege, to add, through inheritance, marriage and conquest, the extended county of Gelre, diocese of Utrecht including Overijssel, Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen. The inhabitants of these lands did not feel any attachment to other lands in this collection. They identified primarily with their own city or region and at most with their own region. Charles V was head of the most powerful empire and in addition to being lord of the Dutch principalities, he was also emperor of the Roman Empire and king of Spain and all its colonies.

The sovereign wanted to turn these disjointed Dutch principalities, also called Seventeen Provinces, into a strong state that would be centrally governed. Because the provinces had a long tradition of autonomy, they all had different customs, privileges and legislation. To create more coherence in administrative and judicial matters, a process was underway to curtail certain powers of the provinces and centralize them. This, as in the Burgundian period, again led to fierce protests from the representative institutions of cities and states in the provinces.

Another desire of the lord of the land was to impose taxes in order to deploy resources elsewhere in his vast empire and fight wars. The imposition of taxes could not be done independently by the lord since the granting of money was also a privilege of the nations. When money was granted, the countries often made all sorts of demands about how it was to be spent. These demands could in turn hinder the process of more centralization. Due to costly wars and increasing bureaucracy, the sovereign was in need of more and more money, but he had not yet been able to establish a centrally imposed tax. In 1531 Charles V installed in Brussels the Collateral Councils, including the Council of State as the most important, which would continue to exist more or less in this form as the main governing bodies of the Habsburg Netherlands until 1788.

Although Catholicism was the only permitted religion, the ideas of the Reformation found a rapid and massive following in the Low Countries and differed greatly in this respect from the Reformation elsewhere in Western and Central Europe. The Reformation in the Netherlands was preceded by the Modern Devotion, a religious and educational movement within the Church that originated in the IJssel region at the end of the fourteenth century and paved the way for humanism, which a century later spread from Italy through the trading towns along the IJssel into the Seventeen Provinces. During the earliest period of the Reformation, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the most far-reaching effects were already visible: spread of the Protestant mentality and undermining of the established Church. However, the lord of the land did not tolerate any deviation in the unity idea and Protestants were persecuted everywhere for this reason. Nevertheless, the Reformation spread more rapidly after 1550, but persecution also increased. The unrest grew when an economic decline developed from 1540 onwards due to wars and taxes.

In October 1555, Charles V abdicated and the vast empire he left behind was divided between his son Philip II and his brother Ferdinand. Spain, the New World and the Netherlands went to Philip; Ferdinand received the Austrian lands and the imperial crown. After marrying Mary I of England in June 1554, Philip came to the Netherlands from England in September 1555.

In the 1520s, a new Christian religious movement flourished in the Southern Netherlands, anabaptism (Anabaptists). Especially in the West Quarter of the county of Flanders, this belief gained a growing foothold, in part because a proletariat had emerged (mainly in the towns of Hondschote, Armentiers, Valencine and Ypres). Because of the uncertain political (War of the League of Cognac, 1526-1530) and religious upheavals of those days, the supply of wool from England had dried up, leaving the cloth industry in the doldrums. The absence of the guild structure as it existed in cities such as Bruges and Ghent led to discontent among the proletariat. Anabaptist social ideas such as the redistribution of goods appealed to many. As repression of Anabaptists increased, they fled to Antwerp, England and Friesland beginning in 1530. Repression increased after Anabaptists expelled the bishop in Münster in 1534.

Then, in the south, the popularity of a new Protestant movement that had come over from France, Calvinism, began to increase. The repression now focused on this movement, which appeared mainly from 1540 onwards around Tournai, Valencine and Mons, followed later by Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp. From 1540 Protestants also fled to Germany to escape religious persecution. The government in the Netherlands subsequently issued increasingly severe edicts, and in 1546 the Inquisition was expanded and reorganized. Many Anabaptist societies were eliminated as a result. In 1550, Charles V proclaimed the Blood Pledge against the heretics.

The harsh treatment of Protestants, increasing centralization, bureaucratization, economic decline among parts of the population and the Spanish state bankruptcy declaration of 1557 caused growing discontent in the Seventeen Provinces. Economic malaise in the second half of the sixteenth century and aversion to Catholicism caused Calvinism to grow. Philip II responded by having these "heretics" dealt with even more harshly. According to the best estimates, the number of executions for religious reasons in the Netherlands in the period 1523-1566 was between 1,000 and 1,500.

After the conclusion of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis between kingdom of France and Spain, Philip returned to Spain for good in August 1559 and appointed his half-sister Margaret of Parma as governess of the Netherlands. The governess was advised by a few confidants, including Cardinal Granvelle. The normally influential high nobles from the Council of State, such as Orange and Egmont, saw their power curtailed. They were dissatisfied with the policy pursued because it caused much unrest in the provinces. Granvelle was held responsible for this policy and in 1561 the high nobles united to remove the cardinal - which succeeded in 1564. Now that they thought they had their influence back, they wanted to work for a different policy. Egmont left for Spain to explain the wishes orally, but Philip would not deviate from the decisions made.

The winter of 1564-1565 was extremely cold and the following summer brought a grain misharvest that led to speculation, sharply rising prices and the famine winter of 1565-1566. This increased tensions in the Low Countries.

In addition to the high nobles, the low nobles, which included followers of Calvinism, were also dissatisfied. They united in the League of Noblemen in 1566 and by means of a petition of the Noblemen, signed by a few hundred noblemen and led by Hendrik van Brederode and presented to the governess on April 5, they pleaded for the abolition of persecution of Calvinists. On that occasion, counselor Charles of Berlaymont is said to have said to Margaret the famous words N'ayez pas peur Madame, ce ne sont que des gueux ("Do not be afraid Madame, they are only beggars"), whereupon the nobles adopted this as an honorific name and began to wear Beggars' medals and beggars' caps. Margaret suspended persecution, awaiting a response from Philip. Calvinists, who had previously met in secret, now began to manifest themselves openly. The genie was out of the bottle and would not go back in. Polarization increased and hedge preaching degenerated into the Iconoclasm in August.

Traditionally, the Battle of Heiligerlee on May 23, 1568, is seen as the starting point of the Rebellion, but actually from 1566 several events had already taken place such as the Battle of Oosterweel on March 13, 1567, which can also be seen as the starting point. From 1588, the character of a revolt had changed to a regular war.

Iconoclasm and first acts of violence

Discontent among Calvinists erupted with the Iconoclasm. The violence began on August 10, 1566 in West Flanders by poor textile workers urged on by Calvinist preachers. In large parts of the Netherlands, this was followed by destruction of churches and monasteries by itinerant groups. The vandalism was directed against the wealth of the Catholic Church and the worship of images. Images of saints, altars and monstrances were particularly targeted. The wave of violence spread through Flanders, Artesia and Brabant to Holland and Zeeland and Utrecht.

William of Orange and his supporters, including the high nobles Egmont and Horne condemned the violence. They envisioned moderate policies and freedom of conscience in the Seventeen Provinces. The moderate Catholics' support for the idea of freedom of conscience was compromised by the iconoclasm. Orange and his allies promised Margaret of Parma to restore peace in exchange for allowing Protestantism in areas where it was prevalent before the Iconoclasm. Margaret had no option but to agree. Hendrik van Brederode, earlier spokesman for the Oath of Nobles, sought support for an armed revolt in the north but was unsuccessful.

Margaret, supported by Orange's opponents in the Council of State, Mansveld, Aerschot, Berlaymont and Megen, in the meantime had an army raised to fight the Protestants in the Walloon provinces. In late 1566, the Hainaut city of Valenciennes was besieged by the government army. A Beggars army sought to come to the cities aid, but was defeated devastatingly at Battle of Oosterweel on March 13, 1567. The Calvinist stronghold of Tournai had already fallen in early January, and Valencine fell ten days after the battle. Calm had been restored and there could no longer be any question of religious freedom.

Egmont and Horne took Margaret's oath of allegiance. Orange, Brederode and other leading nobles anticipated that they would be seen as rebels, and to avoid severe action, they fled to Germany. For a while it seemed as if the rebellion was over.

Oppression under Alva

Philip II was shocked and hurt when he heard of the Iconoclasm. Now that the war with the Turks had calmed down, he saw an opportunity to put order in the Netherlands. The hard line had to be taken. The one to carry this out was the Duke of Alva who was nicknamed the Iron Duke because of his brutal reputation. With a 10,000-strong army from Lombardy, he arrived in Brussels after two months on August 22, 1567. Immediately he established the Council of Berberies, charged with prosecuting and punishing those involved in the disturbances of the previous two years. Under Alva's rule, 8950 persons were arrested and sentenced. Van Egmont and Horne were sentenced to death by the council for high treason for not acting hard enough and were executed as were 1,100 others. Since they were knights of the order of the golden fleece, for which separate jurisdiction applied, this conviction was illegal in their eyes and led to a hardening.

Orange was also sentenced to death, in absentia because he was in Germany. However, his possessions were confiscated and his eldest son Philip William of Orange was kidnapped and sent to Spain by Alva. Afraid of being arrested, an estimated 60,000 people left the Low Countries.

Margaret resigned as governess and was succeeded by Alva. The duke was very unpopular. He was not seen as a legitimate head of government but as the commander of an occupying army. He alienated the Dutch from Philip II by his measures. With the Raad van Beroerten, new centrally imposed taxes, such as the Tenth Penny, and new dioceses, Alva tried to get a better grip but at the same time created a lot of resistance.

With the beheading of Egmont and Horne -Brederode had died suddenly before that - Orange had become the undisputed leader of the revolt. Orange wanted to engage in armed resistance because he believed in religious freedom for the Dutch and on a personal level because his honor as a high nobleman had been compromised. He devised a risky plan by which, with the help of other nobles, he invaded the Netherlands from three sides in 1568, Orange's first invasion. In the north, this resulted in a victory with the Battle of Heiligerlee, but then in a crushing defeat at Jemmingen. In the south, the army of the French Protestants, the Huguenots had already been prematurely defeated, and in the middle, the insurgents lost the Battle of Dalheim.

Despite the defeats, Orange still decided to invade Brabant with a sizeable army, but as Alva meed a confrontation, Orange's army had to be disbanded due to lack of money. The invasion had become a failure. Orange's finances were exhausted and the hoped-for popular uprising did not materialize.

Rebellion gains foothold

The breakthrough would come from unexpected quarters. The Water Beggars were a collection of exiles made up of lowly nobles, sailors, fishermen, merchants and artisans who had fled Alva in 1567 and fled to England and western Germany. From those places, they sailed to sea and hijacked ships to earn a living and damage Spain. In doing so, they regularly exceeded their bounds with piracy by also attacking neutral ships. In addition, they held raids on the Dutch coast.

After the failed invasion of 1568, Orange again wanted to invade the Netherlands from several sides in the summer of 1572, Orange's second invasion. The Water Beggars were asked to provide a distraction. A water-beggars' fleet led by Willem van der Marck stranded near Den Briel on April 1, 1572. The Spanish garrison had been called away from the city because Alva needed men to secure the French border. This allowed the city to be easily taken. The capture was a fluke and unexpected since Orange was not yet ready with his armies. Unintentionally, Den Briel, isolated between waterways, became the fulcrum for the Sea Beggars. The stadholder Bossu tried to expel the Sea Beggars but failed because the area was flooded.

From Den Briel, Vlissingen and then Veere and Zierikzee were then won over to the rebellion. In the north, Enkhuizen defected to the insurgents, becoming the nerve center of operations in North Holland. Four months after Den Briel, most cities in Holland and Zeeland, often under duress or threat, sided with the rebellion. With this, the major waterways such as the Maas, Rhine, Scheldt and Zuiderzee were controlled by the Beggars. The Sea Beggars took advantage of discontent in the cities against Spanish rule. Where the rebels took power, Catholicism was banned and Calvinism became the public church.

Orange and his brother Louis of Nassau also now had to act sooner due to the sudden capture of Den Briel. They invaded the Netherlands in three different places. Louis invaded Hainaut in the south and captured Bergen, and in Valenciennes the Calvinists seized power. Willem van den Bergh captured Zutphen in Gelderland after which most cities in Gelderland, Overijssel, Utrecht and Friesland also joined the insurgents.

The raids forced Alva to keep his armies in the south despite the plight of the north. Mons was given priority and was first besieged by Alva's son Don Frederick. When a French Huguenot army came to the rescue, it was defeated by Don Frederick (Battle of Saint-Ghislain July 17, 1572). Further help from the Huguenots was not to be expected after Bartholomew's Night (Aug. 24, 1572), in which all Protestant leaders were killed. Orange therefore set sail for Bergen himself with an army in the hope that Alva would lift the siege. During the march through Brabant, cities such as Mechelen, Diest, Oudenaarde, Dendermonde, Leuven and Tienen joined the revolt. Alva did not budge, however, and in September 1572, Bergen surrendered. Now Alva had his hands free to deal with the insurgents.

Alva's punitive expedition

Several cities in the Netherlands had sided with the insurgents. To restore order and punish the rebellious cities, Alva decided to proceed with a punitive expedition against the rebellious cities, led by Alva's son Don Frederik. The first city was Mechelen, which was taken without a battle in early October. The Spanish soldiers had permission to brutally loot and massacre Mechelen. This caused such terror that other rebellious cities in Flanders and Brabant gave up their resistance. At a stroke, authority was restored in these regions. Next it was Zutphen's turn. This city was taken on November 16 and also plundered. Again, other cities in Gelderland, Overijssel and Friesland stopped their resistance.

Don Frederik's army pushed on to Naarden in Holland which was taken on December 1 and ruthlessly plundered. Virtually the entire population was murdered. Only this time the desired result for Alva was not achieved. The Revolt had deeper roots in Holland and Zeeland because here there was more time to initiate Protestantization and change of institutions. Many exiles had by now returned, Catholic churches ascended to the Protestants and midterms purged. Surrendering to Don Frederik was no longer an option. Alva's and Don Frederik's next target became Haarlem. In an attempt to seal off the city, the Battle of the Haarlemmermeer took place during the siege, which the royal faithful won. After seven months, Haarlem was forced to surrender in July 1573 due to lack of food. Looting was prevented against payment, but nevertheless part of the garrison and the magistrate were killed. Amsterdam was still royalist, and with Haarlem in its hands, Holland was split in two. The Spanish army then pushed on to the northern town of Alkmaar. The siege of this failed due to inundations around the city. Spain also suffered a decisive defeat on the water with the battle of the Zuiderzee. This was an attempt by Spain to break the blockade around Amsterdam.

In Zeeland, Alva was on the defensive and the battle was concentrated on Goes and Middelburg. The siege of Goes in October 1572 by the Beggars failed; Middelburg also held out. In an attempt to dislodge the besiegers, a fleet of King's ships was deployed but was defeated at the Battle of Reimerswaal. Once again it was demonstrated that the insurgents were superior on the water. After twenty months, Middelburg was taken in February 1574 and then the Battle of Lillo was won. The Westerschelde was now in the hands of the insurgents, giving them control of the main sea routes in the Netherlands. The royalist fleet had been virtually eliminated after the lost naval battles.

Dutch historian Johannes Gijsius published a book in 1616 about the horrors during the Spanish occupation.

Battle for isolated Holland and Zeeland

After Don Frederick's punitive expedition, the revolt raged only in Zeeland and Holland. Philip II became increasingly aware that Alva's hard line was counterproductive in the Netherlands. In addition, the battle against the Turks flared up again so that the already tight finances had to be divided between two fronts. Therefore, he appointed Requesens as the new governor of the Netherlands. He was a diplomat and administrator and was tasked with a more moderate policy.

Although Spain could not get a grip on the insurgents on water, the Spanish army on land still proved supreme. Still under Alva, the Siege of Leiden had been struck since October 1573. The fate of the Rebellion depended on this city. If Leiden fell then The Hague and Delft might also be untenable. To come to the city's aid, Louis and Hendrik of Nassau had entered the Netherlands with an army in 1574. The Spanish army raised the siege of Leiden to counter the invasion. At Mookerheide the two armies clashed, in which the rebel army suffered a heavy defeat and the brothers of William of Orange were also killed. After the battle, the siege of Leiden was resumed in May 1574. In August 1574, when food in the city was depleted and the situation became critical, William of Orange and the States of Holland decided to flood the land around Leiden. This allowed the city to be reached by boats and forced the Spanish army to retreat.

After this failed siege, in May 1575 the new stadholder of Holland, Gilles of Berlaymont, attempted to attack the North Quarter, but this was also stopped by inundations. The attack was now focused on the area between Holland and Utrecht, succeeding in capturing Oudewater and Schoonhoven. The advance stopped at Woerden which was also unsuccessful due to inundations. In Zeeland, the Spanish army did achieve an important victory with the capture of Zierikzee after a nine-month siege. Nevertheless, Spain failed to block the connections between Holland and Zeeland and Oranje's fleet remained the most powerful on the water.

Financing the war was a problem for both camps, only for Spain the situation was even more dire. The States General that Requesens had convened in 1574 pushed for peace rather than financial support. In 1575, peace talks were held in Breda between insurgents and Requesens but came to nothing because it proved impossible to reach an agreement on religion and on the future form of government. The unexpected death of Requesens in March 1576 caused problems for the Spaniards. While waiting for a successor, Philip II placed supreme government in the hands of the Council of State.

Immediately after the capture of Zierikzee, the Spanish soldiers demanded the remainder of their pay. This, in fact, had not been paid in full for two years. However, Philip II had reduced the money shipments to the Netherlands due to the bankruptcy of Castile in 1575, making it impossible for the government in Brussels to meet the demand. The consequences were catastrophic. Royal troops left the just-conquered Zierikzee, went on a mutiny, and captured and plundered Aalst, from where they undertook further plundering expeditions in wealthy and royalist Brabant and Flanders.

Pacification of Ghent

In previous years, the battleground had been limited to Holland and Zeeland. Now that the Spanish troops were mutinying this changed dramatically and all provinces were threatened, primarily Flanders and Brabant. After the abrupt death of Requesens on March 4, 1576, the Council of State had taken over the administration of the country for the time being. It was pressured by the States of Brabant to convene the States General so that a peace could be negotiated with the rebellious provinces of Holland and Zeeland. When the Council of State did not comply in accordance with the will of the king, a small coup took place in Brussels and members of the Council were imprisoned. With that, the revolt extended de facto to the southern regions. A States General was convened and sent a deputation to Ghent to conduct peace negotiations with the two rebellious provinces. They began on Oct. 19 and were concluded on Oct. 28. The agreements were hastily ratified on Nov. 8 following the Spanish Furie of Nov. 4 at Antwerp. With the Pacification of Ghent, peace came so the Spanish troops could leave and the Dutch provinces formed an alliance (the Union of Brussels). The religious question remained a problem but would later be resolved in the States General.

In the meantime, mutinous Spanish troops had plundered Maastricht (Spanish Furie (Maastricht)) and Antwerp. An estimated 8,000 people died in the Spanish Furie of Antwerp, which lasted three days. After this looting, even the greatest supporters of Philip II were convinced that the Spanish troops had to leave.

Philip II sent his half-brother Don Juan of Austria to the Netherlands as the new governor. Upon arrival, he had initially declared his adherence to the Pacification of Ghent through the Eternal Edict. Spanish troops left for Italy in March and April 1577 as agreed. In return, the States General had agreed not to meet again without the governor's summons and to ban Calvinism. For William of Orange and the States of Zeeland and Holland, this was unacceptable and they refused to recognize Don Juan as governor. Don Juan felt threatened and took the citadel of Namur with remaining German troops. This was clearly against the instruction of the States General and they themselves appointed 19-year-old Matthias of Austria, a brother-in-law of Philip II, as the new governor. The provinces formed a General Union with Matthias as governor and William of Orange as his lieutenant. With this act, the entire Netherlands with the exception of Luxembourg rebelled against the king.

Philip II had no intention of accepting this political upheaval and ordered Don Juan to reconquer the Netherlands with the returned Spanish troops. The king's finances had improved since 1577 and a truce had been concluded with the Ottomans. The first success against the troops of the States General was achieved by Don Juan at Battle of Gembloers on Jan. 31, 1578. The advance continued with the capture of Leuven, Tienen, Aerschot and Diest. Soon Spain had restored power in the southeastern Netherlands.

Unions of Utrecht and Atrecht

William of Orange tried to maintain unity among the provinces in the General Union but faced an impossible task. The religious freedom he advocated was not granted to Catholics by radical Calvinists. Where they seized power, the vroedschap was purged of Catholics, Catholic churches were closed and the clergy banished. In Antwerp, Brussels and Mechelen where the Calvinists obtained church buildings in 1578, Catholicism was banned within three years. Ghent, where radical Calvinists had taken the lead, became a bastion of intolerance with the Ghent Republic. Even in Holland and Zeeland, Catholic churches were closed in cities that joined William of Orange, such as the alternation of Amsterdam, and satisfactions were not observed. For moderate Catholics, this was a real shock. They saw that religious peace in this way threatened Catholicism. Ultimately, this was disastrous for cooperation between the provinces. The willingness to contribute financially to the common defense was small and it was therefore not possible for the States General to set up a powerful military apparatus.

Fearful of the radical elements of the Revolt, the southern Walloon provinces of Artois, Hainaut and West Flanders and the malcontents, disgruntled Catholic nobles, rejoined Spain through the Union of Atrecht on January 6, 1579.

Alexander Farnese, later Duke of Parma, had succeeded Don Juan as governor after Don Juan died of the plague on Oct. 1, 1578. He would prove himself a skilled general and diplomat. Under the threat of Spanish troops moving ever further north, and the General Union unable to counter it, a military alliance the Union of Utrecht was formed in the north on Jan. 23, 1579. Parma laid siege to Maastricht on March 10, 1579, capturing it after 111 days.

That same year, the German Emperor Rudolf II, the elder brother of compatriot Matthias, organized a peace conference in Cologne between Philip II and the States General. The talks lasted from May to December 1579 but a compromise was out of reach. For the moderates, the breakdown was a major setback and there seemed to be no way out. A choice had to be made between the king or the Calvinists.

In March 1580, Georges of Lalaing, Count of Rennenberg and stadholder of Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel and Lingen defected to the side of Philip II. Rennenberg was the only remaining Catholic noble who still supported the Revolt. He could no longer reconcile himself with the practice of repeatedly banning Catholic worship in cities where Calvinists seized power. Rennenberg's transition led to a strong anti-Catholic reaction in his regions and strengthened the position of Protestants. The move was a strategic blow to the rebels as much of the northeast now fell into royal hands. An army of the States General besieged Groningen but had to lift it after the lost Battle of Hardenberg. After this, Rennenberg took Delfzijl and made an attempt to capture Steenwijk.

Parma's advance in the south

While in the northeast Rennenberg provided much threat to the rebellious regions, in the south Parma also gained more and more territory. Maastricht was followed by the skirmish of 's-Hertogenbosch and the capture of Courtrai. Regular money dispatches from Spain enabled him to maintain a strong force. In addition, he conducted a moderate action so that besieged cities were more likely to abandon the battle.

William of Orange realized that the revolt could not be won without a strong ally. At his suggestion, the States General offered the younger brother of the French king, the Duke of Anjou, sovereignty over the Netherlands in exchange for military support. Hopes were pinned on France because of the traditional enmity between the house of Habsburg and house of Valois. Anjou proved available and willing, and with him the treaty of Plessis-lès-Tours was concluded in January 1581. In July 1581, Philip II was renounced as sovereign with the Pledge of Abandonment. The position of governor Matthias had become irrelevant and he left the Netherlands. The arrival of Anjou became a failure. Anjou did depose the city of Cambrai in August 1581, which had been besieged by Parma since 1580. An open war between France and Spain hoped for by Orange did not materialize because of the refusal of the French king Henry III to declare war on Philip II.

In the north, where Rennenberg had died, the leadership of the Spanish army was continued by Francisco Verdugo. He won the Battle of Noordhorn and captured Steenwijk in 1582. Meanwhile, in the south, Breda and Tournai passed into Spanish hands in 1581, and a year later it was the turn of Lier, Oudenaarde and Ninove.

Anjou put nothing in return. His power was limited and that frustrated him. In mid-January 1583, he made a violent grab for power by violently occupying several cities in Flanders and Brabant. In Antwerp, the population revolted and chased the French out of the city, the French Furie. With this, his position in the Netherlands had become untenable and he went back to France.

On July 10, 1584, William of Orange, the leader of the revolt, was assassinated in Delft after being outlawed by Philip II in 1580.

Parma controlled the provinces of Luxembourg, Limburg, Namur, Hainaut, Artesia and West Flanders. His next targets were the provinces of Brabant and Flanders. A direct attack on the major cities in those provinces would be too great a burden for his army. Therefore, he decided to isolate the major cities by occupying surrounding towns, countryside and land and waterways first. After that, it would be easier to capture the major cities. First, the Flemish coastal cities of Dunkirk, Nieuwpoort, Menen, Veurne, Diksmuide and Sint-Winoksbergen were rapidly taken in July and August 1583. Cities along the Scheldt such as Sas van Gent, Axel, Hulst, Eeklo and Rupelmonde followed in October. Parma's plan worked as major Flemish cities of Ghent, Ypres and Bruges could be taken the following year. With this, Flanders was almost completely in Spanish hands. That same year, 1584, Parma also laid siege to Brussels and Antwerp. Antwerp was completely cut off from the outside world with the construction of a huge ship bridge. After a one-year siege, the city had to capitulate on August 17, 1585. Brussels had been taken before that. The fall of Antwerp, seventeen years after the beginning of the revolt, had major economic and social consequences, and the event is also seen as the final schism between the Northern and Southern Netherlands.

English intervention

By 1585, the territory of the generality had shrunk almost to the territory of the Union of Utrecht. Only Holland, Zeeland, Friesland and Utrecht were still completely in Dutch hands. The situation was extremely dire for the insurgents. No help could be expected from France. The States General offered sovereignty to French King Henry III, but he refused, not wanting to risk war with Spain. Therefore, a delegation went to the English Queen Elizabeth I for support. She did not want to accept sovereignty. However, she did decide to support the insurgents with the Treaty of Nonsuch by providing military assistance to contain Spain's strength. As a result, the Netherlands became a protectorate of England.

Elizabeth's support was not optional. In return, the rebellious provinces had to accept her confidant Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester as governor general. His arrival in January 1586 immediately led to a clash with the main province of Holland. Leicester's plans clashed with the interests of Holland, where Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was the most influential figure as country lawyer. Even before Leicester's arrival, Holland appointed the eighteen-year-old son of William of Orange, Maurice of Nassau, as stadholder of Holland and captain general over the troops paid by Holland. Leicester's position was weak.

Parma continued his advance with successful captures of Nijmegen, Grave, Venlo, and Sluis. Leicester could only counter this with Doesburg in 1586. Leicester suffered further setbacks when Deventer and an entrenchment near Zutphen where English soldiers were stationed allowed themselves to be bribed by Parma. It was now possible for him to cross the IJssel and enter the Veluwe. The betrayal led to popular anger and great distrust toward the English. Leicester staged a coup, but it failed. His position had become untenable and he left for England in December 1587.

With Leicester's departure in 1587, leadership returned to the States General. They decided no longer to offer sovereignty to a foreign sovereign supported by the constitutional argument the Vrancken deduction. On April 12, 1588, the States General released the officials from their oath of allegiance to Leicester and administered a new oath to the States General. The same day, the States General issued to the Council of State the instruction of April 12, 1588, transferring sovereignty from Leicester to the Council. With this, the independent Republic of the United Netherlands was a fact.

Philip II saw in the English queen's support of the rebels a reason to attack England. He had a huge fleet of warships and transport ships built in Spain. With this fleet, an invading army of Parma was to be moved across the Channel to England. The surprised English would soon be defeated and then the battle against the Dutch could continue. However, the English and Dutch found out about the plan and made preparations. When the Spanish Armada reached southern England on July 29, 1588, it was met by English and Dutch ships. The cumbersome Spanish ships, plagued by storms along the way, stood no chance against the faster English and Dutch attackers. The Armada was defeated and the invasion had failed. The Spanish Siege of Bergen op Zoom (1588) also ended on Nov. 13, 1588, with a State English Relief.

With the Republic of the Seven United Provinces becoming independent, the Eighty Years' War entered a new phase. No longer was it a revolt against the legal authority, the Spanish crown, as in the first two decades. Gradually the struggle degenerated into a regular war between two states, the Republic against the reconquered Netherlands governed from Brussels and Madrid.

Northern Netherlands counterattack

The Frisian stadholder William Louis traveled to The Hague twice in 1589, both times to plead with the States General to expand the State army and switch from defensive to offensive warfare. The States were initially wary, uncertain whether Farnese was really concentrating his efforts on France and would not suddenly turn around and surprise the rebels. Only after Maurice captured an important city with the Turfship of Breda on March 4, 1590, to which Farnese did not respond, did this encourage the States to support offensive military operations for the 1591 campaign season.

In 1589 Parma managed to take Geertruidenberg because the mutinous garrison allowed itself to be bribed. He pushed on to Zaltbommel but failed to capture this city due to a mutiny by his own troops. Parma did not have time to resolve this and deliver the final blow to the Republic. The plan changed and he was sent to France by Philip II.

In France, the Huguenot War had broken out again. The war was between King Henry of Navarre and the French Catholics united in the Catholic League. The previous French king Henry III had died childless and had appointed his brother-in-law the Protestant Henry of Navarre as heir to the throne. For Philip II, a Protestant France was too great a threat to Catholicism in Europe. Philip II therefore supported the League. This was more important to him than fighting the rebellious Dutch. He therefore ordered the Duke of Parma to focus on France. As a result, the battle in the north had to be abandoned because fighting on two fronts was financially unfeasible. After three incursions into France, Parma was wounded and died in 1592. He was succeeded by Ernst of Austria who also died a year later. Another problem arose when Spain could no longer pay off the high loans and went bankrupt.

For the Republic, this greatly improved the situation. The period that followed was called by historian Fruin the Ten Years. The Dutch Revolt developed from virtually hopeless in 1588 to virtually won in 1598. Besides Spanish interference in the French Huguenot wars, this development was also due to the political prowess of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the military prowess of Maurice of Nassau, later Prince of Orange.

The State army was reformed by Maurice and his cousin William Louis of Nassau. It was divided into smaller units making it more agile. A system of intelligible orders was also introduced and strict discipline was enforced. With these and other reforms, the army was for a long time the military school of Europe.

The opportunity arose to wage an offensive war instead of a defensive war. The capture of Breda in 1590 through a ruse with a peat ship, convinced in its own strength. Plans were prepared and finances increased for waging an offensive war. The Republic was surrounded with cities to the east, north and south that were in Spanish hands. Each region was eager to see nearby cities captured. Van Oldenbarnevelt managed to convince all to put aside their own interests and first conquer the cities in Gelderland and Overijssel, because they posed the greatest threat to the heart of the Republic. Then it would be possible to strike out in the north and in the south. So it happened, and the young republic achieved a series of military successes in response.

In 1591, Maurice began a campaign in the east of the country. He conquered successively Zutphen, Deventer, Delfzijl, Hulst and Nijmegen. In 1592, Steenwijk and Coevorden were recaptured in the north. The capture of Geertruidenberg in Brabant followed in 1593, and in 1594 the "reduction" of the entire province of Groningen took place.

Albrecht of Austria arrived in the Netherlands in 1596 as the new governor and shortly after his arrival captured Calais and Hulst. England and France entered into an alliance in 1596 partly because of the Spanish capture of Calais. Because of its short distance from England, the Spanish capture was seen as a gun to England's chest. The Republic was asked to join and thus the Triple Alliance was formed. In practice, little changed after the alliance was formed. Each side continued to follow its own strategy.

So when Albrecht went to France in 1597 to besiege Amiens, the Dutch saw an opportunity for another campaign instead of coming to France's aid. In the east, Rijnberk, Meurs, Grol (now Groenlo), Bredevoort, Enschede, Ootmarsum, Oldenzaal and Lingen were taken.

Maurice's victories meant an enormous boost for the Republic. The territory of the Union of Utrecht was back in State hands with which, so to speak, the Garden of the Republic was closed.

Stalemate and negotiations

In the period from 1599 to 1604, the Republic tried to continue the offensive war, but failed to break the strength of the Spanish king. Financially exhausted, France and Spain concluded the Peace of Vervins in 1598. This allowed Spain to return its full focus to the Republic. As seventy-year-old Philip II felt his own end approaching, he stipulated in 1598 that his daughter Isabella marry Albrecht to rule the Netherlands together as "sovereign princes. He did not live to see the conclusion of the marriage. On Sept. 13 of the same year, Philip II died and was succeeded by his not very capable son Philip III.

Spain put military and economic pressure on the Republic to make them accept a peace proposal. With a large army, Francesco de Mendoza captured Rijnberk and Doetinchem. Maurice had a much smaller army but was able to prevent a further advance through skillful maneuvering. Economically, trade between the Iberian Peninsula and the Dutch was prohibited. Despite pressure from the Spanish army, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and Maurice did not trust Spain's intentions and did not accept the peace offer. Again in 1599, Spain launched a major attack. Mendoza invaded Bommelerwaard and laid siege to Zaltbommel. Again, Maurice had a much smaller army at his disposal, but was nevertheless able to successfully defend the city. The siege was broken and shortly afterwards the Spanish army again faced mutiny.

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt wanted to take advantage of mutinies in the Spanish army. Corsairs were active from the Flemish coastal towns of Nieuwpoort and Dunkirk, causing great damage to the Dutch merchant fleet and fisheries. In a daring plan, Maurice was sent with the army deep into enemy territory to attack these cities. However, Albrecht was able to subdue the mutiny in time and rushed to Nieuwpoort where he surprised Maurice. The Battle of Nieuwpoort that followed could only just be won by Maurice. The victory was a turning point in the war now that it had been proven that the State army could hold its own against the Spanish army. After the battle, the Dutch army withdrew.

Albrecht began the Siege of Ostend in 1601, which would become one of Europe's bloodiest and longest-lasting sieges. In an attempt to lure the Spanish army away from Ostend, Maurice besieged other cities. Between 1601 and 1604 he captured Rijnberk, Grave, Aardenberg and Sluis, and twice he made an unsuccessful attempt to capture 's-Hertogenbosch. Albrecht made little progress despite huge expenditures in money and human lives. In 1603, in exchange for funding the siege, command of the troops was transferred to Ambrogio Spinola. Spinola, a Genoese banker, proved to be a military talent and gained control of Ostend in 1604. The new English king James I made peace with Spain, causing the Republic to lose its last ally.

The following year, Spinola and his fortified army rocketed through the defensive belt of the Republic during his Spinola's campaign. That year Oldenzaal and Lingen were captured. Because of the speed, Spinola was one step ahead of the Dutch every time. Spinola's terrain gains forced Maurice to deploy more and more men in garrisons, leaving fewer men for the field army. A year later in 1606, Lochem, Groenlo and Rijnberk fell. Lochem could be recaptured afterwards but the recapture of Groenlo failed. A stalemate ensued as both sides were financially exhausted. In 1607 a truce was agreed upon so that in the meantime a peace could be negotiated.

At sea, however, the Republic still had little to fear from Spain. Almost simultaneously with the conclusion of the temporary truce, on April 25, 1607, Dutch warships led by Jacob van Heemskerck destroyed a Spanish fleet still partially under construction in the port of Cadiz. This naval battle is known as the Battle of Gibraltar. Another gain was the repeal of the trade boycott Spain had imposed against Dutch merchant ships. Spain proved too dependent on Dutch trade. Finally, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) was founded in part to harm the Spanish in the East Indies as well.

No agreement on a final peace could be reached during the talks. However, a truce was decided on April 9, 1609 in Antwerp, which would eventually last twelve years.

Twelve-Year Truce

After the conclusion of the armistice, the army and fleet on both sides were drastically reduced to ease the financial burden. Peace between the Republic and Spain was maintained for 12 years despite conflicts at home and abroad.

One such conflict was the Gulik-Cleve Succession War. In 1609, Johan William, the last duke of Gulik, Cleve and Berg, died. Several German princes laid claim to the inheritance, of which Wolfgang William paltsgrave of Neuburg and Johan Sigismund elector of Brandenburg were the most important. Because the lands involved were close to the Dutch eastern border, it was a conflict of European importance. The emperor had Gulik occupied, but this was too great a threat to the Republic. Together with France, Maurice then expelled the imperials from Gulik. The battle flared up again in 1614 and Maurice reinforced Gulik and occupied Rees with a state army. Unexpectedly, Spinola also advanced with a Spanish army and captured Aachen and Wezel. Both generals then occupied several cities without confronting each other. Thus, the truce was not harmed. With the Treaty of Xanten, the conflict was finally resolved and the territories of Cleve and Mark fell to the Elector and Gulik and Berg to the Palatine Count. Both the Republic and Spain were also allowed to keep garrisons in the cities they conquered as forward posts for the defense of their own territories.

The Republic was a de facto recognized independent power after the truce was concluded. Within the Republic during this Treves, as the truce was also called, new religious and political divisions arose, the Truce Disputes. Followers of the cleric Jacobus Arminius, the Remonstrants, clashed with the followers of Francis Gomarus, the Counter-Remonstrants. In addition to a religious disagreement, the conflict was primarily political. The Remonstrants were more republican than the Counter-Remonstrants, who saw more in a strong position of the House of Orange. In addition, the Remonstrants had been in favor of the truce and the Counter-Remonstrants against it. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt sided with the Remonstrants and Maurice sided with the Counter-Remonstrants. The conflict escalated with Maurice and his army staging a coup. Van Oldenbarnevelt was arrested and convicted of high treason. On May 13, 1619, he was beheaded at the Binnenhof in The Hague, and in addition to being the military leader, Maurice was now the undisputed political leader of the Republic.

Meanwhile, war had broken out in Germany after Protestant nobles in Bohemia deposed the king from the House of Habsburg in 1618. The deposed king Ferdinand II, also two years later the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, enlisted the help of the Spanish king Philip III. The Protestant nobles in turn enlisted the help of other German Protestant princes offered the Frederick V Elector of the Palatinate the crown of Bohemia. The Republic became involved in the war because of the alliance it had with the German Protestants. Thus, a local battle degenerated into a European war that would be known as the Thirty Years' War. Frederick V was defeated by Ferdinand in 1620 and went into exile in The Hague.

For the Southern Netherlands, under the rule of the Archduchess Isabella and her consort Albrecht, years of relative peace and prosperity generally dawned. During this period, the arts flourished and the position of the Roman Catholic Church was strengthened.

The Republic on the defensive

On April 9, 1621, the truce between the Republic and Spain expired, and immediately fighting resumed. In Spain, 16-year-old Philip IV had succeeded his late father on March 31. He and his new advisor Olivares saw the truce as a humiliation for Spain and wanted to restore Spanish grandeur by engaging in offensive combat. Maurice, who had been practically in charge of the Republic since the fall of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, was, like the majority in the States General, in favor of continuing the war. After the truce ended, Albrecht of Austria died on July 13. Isabella succeeded him as sovereign of the Southern Netherlands, but because their marriage had remained childless, power fell to Spain.

Spain increased money shipments to the Southern Netherlands to 900,000 guilders per month. Not only did the Republic have to be fought on land, it also had to be thwarted on water since the Republic had much to lose economically there. The Spanish fleet was expanded, privateers operating out of Dunkirk were supported, and a trade embargo was imposed. Indeed, these tactics caused the Republic to be forced onto the defensive. The Republic in turn had the Flemish coast blocked with State warships, imposed high tariffs for trading with the enemy, and the West India Company (WIC) was established to hinder Spain in the Atlantic area. The Republic had no money to raise an expensive field army and thus the initiative was given to Spinola.

After the truce ended, Spinola concentrated on the German territories, some of whose cities had already been occupied since the Twelve Year Truce. In February 1622, Gulik was captured, with Maurice unable to unseat the city because passages had been occupied in advance. The following year, Maurice expected an attack to the east or north. Unexpectedly, Spinola swiftly struck the Siege of Bergen op Zoom in Brabant. It turned out to be a failure. The losses were great, and when Maurice arrived with an army, the siege had to be lifted.

In 1623, the army of the Republic's Protestant allies was defeated by the Imperial army at Stadtlohn.

In August 1624, Spinola laid siege to Breda. It was a daring undertaking because it was already late in the season. Spinola expected to take the city before winter, but this was a miscalculation: it would be until June 1625 before he took Breda. The siege was a drain on the Spanish treasury and had cost many lives. The price paid was disproportionate to what was achieved. A strong city was now in his hands, but the Republic had not been forced to the negotiating table. Already during the Siege of Breda, Philip IV decided to change the strategy. The army was downsized and on land a cheaper defensive war was switched. At sea, however, offensive war was maintained. Maurice had died in April 1625 and he was succeeded by his half-brother Frederick Henry.

The Republic again on the counterattack

Spain turned to a defensive land war and the German Kaiser had his hands full due to a Danish invasion during the Thirty Years' War. This gave the Republic the opportunity to go on the offensive. It was made possible in part by treaties with France, the Grant Treaty of 1624 (financial support from France), and with England, the Treaty of Southampton of 1625, which involved them in the war with Spain.

Frederick Henry and his nephew Ernst Casimir, who had succeeded his late brother Willem Lodewijk in 1620, decided in 1626 to conquer Oldenzaal so that Twente could no longer be brandished. In the following year, Groenlo was conquered. Spain could no longer meet its payment obligations that year and became bankrupt.

Spinola left for Madrid in 1628 to plead for more money to continue the offensive or for a peace with Republic while the situation was still reasonably favorable. Philip IV and Olivares rejected both options and wanted to wait until the emperor also attacked the Republic so that Spain's negotiating position would be stronger. However, it did not come to that. Imperial troops under Tilly, occupied East Friesland on the border with the Republic after driving out the Danish king Christian IV. But an imperial invasion did not materialize due to changing priorities and financial problems.

After Spinola's departure, there were problems in the supreme command of the Spanish army over succession and the army lacked effectiveness due to lack of money. Spain had fallen out with France in 1628 in the Mantuan War of Succession in northern Italy for which men and money had to be freed. To make matters worse, the privateer Piet Hein captured a Spanish Silver Fleet in the Bay of Matanzas in the name of the Republic. The conquest provided money and enthusiasm in the Republic for a major undertaking.

That major undertaking became the Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch in 1629. In an attempt to lure the State troops away from 's-Hertogenbosch, the Spanish king received help from the emperor who provided an army led by Ernesto Montecuccoli. The royal and imperial army crossed the river IJssel, invaded the Veluwe and took Amersfoort. The invasion caused panic among the population but the Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch was not lifted. Instead, the State army was hastily expanded so that garrisons of threatened cities could be reinforced. Finally, the Republic was freed from this thorny position by the sudden capture of Wesel after which the royal and imperial army withdrew. 's-Hertogenbosch came into State hands not much later. In the south there were great concerns about the strength of the Republic and the weakness of the Spanish army. While Spain seemed supreme after Breda in 1625, in 1629 the roles were reversed.

A year later, nothing was done from either side. In 1631, the Republic assembled a large field army for an invasion of Flanders. However, this was withdrawn due to a counteraction by the Southern Netherlands. Brussels itself had prepared a surprise attack. A fleet in conjunction with a field army invaded the Republic. The invasion resulted in the Battle of the Slaak, which was won with great difficulty by the States.

Frederick Henry and the States General planned another major attack in 1632. Initially, the plan focused on Antwerp. However, this changed due to sudden developments. Hendrik van den Bergh, a cousin of Frederick Henry in Spanish service, was so dissatisfied with Spanish authority that he wanted to defect to the Republic. As stadholder of Upper Gelre, he could ensure a smooth passage along the Meuse River. In addition, the Spanish Army of Flanders had been weakened because troops had been sent to the Lower Palatinate in Germany to help the emperor against the Swedish king Gustaaf Adolf. Orange's campaign along the Meuse that followed resulted in the capture of the cities of Roermond and Venlo. The withdrawn royal army from the Palatinate and an imperial army led by Pappenheim that came to the rescue could not prevent Maastricht from being taken as well.

After the dramatic campaign for Brussels, peace talks were begun with the Republic without consulting Madrid. However, the negotiations came to nothing. That same year, Isabella died. Until the arrival of Philip IV's brother, the cardinal-infant Don Ferdinand, Francisco de Moncada, Marquis of Aytona became the interim governor. He made an attempt to take the recently lost Rhineland and Maastricht but without success.

On Nov. 4, 1634, after the Battle of Nördlingen in Germany, the new governor Don Ferdinand arrived in the Spanish Netherlands with an army. Don Ferdinand would again engage in offensive combat. Not only against the north and south, but also in the east to keep the connections with the emperor open. His task was to restore Spain's power and reputation after the dramatic years between 1629 and 1633. The goal was to capture key cities so that a truce with favorable terms could be concluded. If that succeeded, capacity could be freed for fighting in Germany, and the overseas conflict, especially in Brazil, would cease.

Two-front war

The Habsburgs' opponents had been defeated by Spanish and Imperial troops at the Battle of Nördlingen. Fearful of the growing power of the Habsburgs, the French prime minister Cardinal de Richelieu concluded a treaty of subsidy with the Republic to keep them at war. An alliance treaty between the Republic and France followed a year later, directly involving France in a war with Spain. Spain was forced to fight a two-front war. It was agreed to divide the Southern Netherlands between the two parties should the population not revolt. France herself also became involved in the Thirty Years' War.

In 1635, a joint campaign was undertaken by the Republic and France. The two armies were joined at Maastricht to create a force of 50,000 men. The goal was to march to Brussels to settle the war in one fell swoop. Tienen was taken and plundered. Supply was a major problem for the army that was deep in enemy territory. In addition, the French army was poorly paid and poorly disciplined. Because of these problems and the news that relief troops from the Empire under Ottavio Piccolomini were on their way, the Siege of Louvain had to be broken up. To make matters worse for the Republic, the all-important Schenkenschans in Gelderland was overrun by Spanish soldiers. The successful Spanish campaign was completed with the capture of nearby cities, Kleef, Goch, Kalkar, Kranenburg and Gennep that secured connections to Schenkenschans and to Valkenburg and Limburg that isolated Maastricht. Philip IV and Olivares were enthusiastic about the result achieved and convinced that with Schenkenschans in their hands the war could be waged in the heart of the Republic. The cardinal-infant was ordered to preserve the entrenchment at all costs. Frederick Henry, aware of the danger, rushed to the entrenchment and blockaded it all winter. In April 1636, it was recaptured after heavy bombardment.

Peace negotiations took place again in 1636, but again without result. The Republic did not undertake a campaign that year due to disagreements over army size. Spanish and Imperial troops went on the attack in France and Corbie near Amiens, causing panic in Paris.

To get cooperation from the States of Holland, it was decided to attack Dunkirk in 1637. This could count on support because the royal fleet operating from here was still causing great damage among Dutch merchantmen and fishermen. Unfavorable winds caused a delay that removed the surprise effect and allowed the Spaniards to assemble a large force in time near Antwerp. The march to Dunkirk was canceled and the alternative became the Siege of Breda which was captured after two and a half months. Spain wanted to invade France in 1637 but had to send the army to the border with the Republic due to the threat from the Republic. Don Ferdinand failed to capture Breda while that siege was going on, so he moved to the Meuse Valley to take the cities of Venlo and Roermond. He did not capture Maastricht, but the line on the State eastern border was broken. The French took advantage of the Spanish troop concentration to the north and managed to capture the towns of Landrecies, Maubeuge and Damvillers from the south.

An invasion of Flanders by State troops had a chance of success only if Antwerp was taken. It was impossible for Spain to wage an offensive war against both the Republic and France at the same time. The importance of Brabant and Flanders was greater for Spain than the more southern provinces of Hainaut and Artois, so the former provinces were given more protection. The strategy proved successful. In June 1638, the Republic made an attempt to capture Antwerp. Frederick Henry advanced with the main force through Brabant toward the city. William of Nassau-Siegen's army unit would approach and encircle the city from the Flemish side. However, Spanish troops managed to break through his lines and defeat the army crushingly at the Battle of Kallo, breaking the siege of Antwerp. During the same period, France struck the siege of Saint Omaars, which was abandoned after Piccolomini's arrival. After the defeat at Kallo, an unsuccessful attempt was made to capture Geldern. For the Republic, it had become apparent that as long as the Spanish army was not called away for a major French invasion, it was very difficult to mount a siege against Antwerp, Bruges or Ghent.

France deployed two armies in 1639 to make up for the previous year's blamage. For the Republic, this gave hope of also conquering something after a disappointing year. The plan was to take Hulst. However, when the State troops were ready at Bergen op Zoom to sail to Flanders, the Cardinal-Infant had also gathered a strong army in Flanders. Frederick Henry made another attempt to lure this army away but failed. The French army also had little success. The first army was defeated at Thionville by Piccolomini. The second successfully captured Hesdin .

Spain and England had made peace in 1630, and since then troop movements by sea were relatively safe for Spain. Between 1631 and 1637, over 16,000 soldiers had arrived in the Netherlands by sea. By 1639, a new large fleet of troops and warships was on its way to defeat the Dutch fleet and land fresh troops. It came to an encounter between the State fleet led by Maarten Tromp and this "second Spanish Armada," during the Sea Battle of Duins, which Tromp won. Three quarters of the troops nevertheless managed to reach the Spanish Netherlands from England, but it was clear to Spain that the route by sea could no longer be used to supply troops. In addition, the overland route was also no longer passable since the cutting off of the Spanish road with the French capture of Breisach in 1638. The Spanish Netherlands were on their own for the time being. There were noises in the Republic to downsize the field army after the two disappointing years, but the new situation in the Spanish Netherlands gave another reason to postpone downsizing.

In 1640, the Republic invaded Flanders and explored the possibility of taking Bruges. When that seemed impossible, another unsuccessful attempt was made to capture Hulst. Hendrik Casimir, the Frisian stadholder, was killed in the process. France struck the Siege of Atrecht (Arras). Spain intended to lay siege to Maastricht but was unable to do so due to the withdrawal of Piccolomini's imperial troops from the Spanish Netherlands and the invasions of the Republic and France. Stopping the State invasion was given priority, allowing Arras to be taken by the French after a month.

In addition to the loss of Arras, Spain faced a number of other catastrophes in 1640. These included a revolt in Catalonia supported by France, the loss of Turin in Italy to France, and most disastrously, the revolt of Portugal. These setbacks caused enormous reputational damage and brought much optimism to Spain's opponents. Despite the problems in the Iberian Peninsula, the funds Madrid sent to Brussels were not reduced during the 1640-1642 period. A large army in the Spanish Netherlands also forced France to maintain a large army in the north. The focus of the Spanish army shifted to France.

Last acts of war and peace talks

The seriously ill Don Ferdinand, who died in November 1641, was replaced on an interim basis by Don Francisco de Melo. The rebellions of Catalonia and Portugal were now prioritized so less money came from Madrid for the Spanish Netherlands. Frederick Henry took Gennep that year. After taking Gennep, Frederick Henry moved with the army into North Flanders but the Spanish positions proved too strong for an attack on Hulst or Bruges. Meanwhile, the French had invaded Artesia and taken Ariën, Lens, La Bassée and Bapaume. Melo was able to prevent Lille and Douai from falling into French hands and was able to retake Ariën in December.

In 1642, De Melo undid large parts of the French territorial gains and won major victories such as the Battle of Honnecourt and the capture of La Bassée. At Honnecourt, a French army had been defeated devastatingly so there could be no more French-State invasion. Frederick Henry decided that year to switch to a defensive strategy. An offer to negotiate peace was rejected by Frederick Henry.

Cardinal De Richelieu had died in December 1642, and the health of French King Louis XIII was also weak. Because Spain was involved in too many conflicts, Olivares again pushed for peace with the Republic and France. There had long been a debate in the Republic between a faction that wanted the war to continue and a faction that desired peace. The peace faction grew larger as the years passed, costs increased and great successes failed to materialize. In 1643, under his pressure, a troop reduction was effected. The interim governor De Melo learned of this and therefore prepared an attack on France because the reduction meant he did not have to fear a State attack. De Melo thus wanted to increase the pressure on France to agree to a peace now that the king was dying. However, after his initial successes against the French the year before, Francisco de Melo was devastatingly defeated at the Battle of Rocroi on May 16, 1643.

Rocroi was a turning point in the war. The bulk of the experienced soldiers from the Spanish army had been captured or killed so it was no longer possible to invade France from the Spanish Netherlands after 1643. The good reputation of the Spanish army was in tatters and it was clear that Spain was very weakened militarily by the problems with the rebellions of the kingdom of Portugal and Catalonia. After the battle, France continued its offensive and successfully besieged Thionville. Frederick Henry tried to take advantage of the problems in the Spanish army. When he moved to Hulst, however, he was again confronted by the bulk of the remaining Spanish army after which Orange left again with the army.

The following year another State attack on Antwerp was planned. Again De Melo had placed a large force of 10,000 to 12,000 men in the vicinity of the city so that Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent were covered. France, meanwhile, was besieging Grevelingen. Frederick Henry saw his chance to lay siege to Sas van Gent. After the capture of Grevelingen by the French, De Melo came with an army of relief but to no avail. Sas van Gent was taken but Frederick Henry was by no means satisfied because his goal was Antwerp. On Sept. 20, 1644, De Melo was succeeded by Manuel de Castel Rodrigo.

Still Frederick Henry wanted to take Antwerp. To that end, Frederick Henry had managed to increase the field army to 30,000 men in 1645. However, when he was told that the Spanish army had greater cavalry than himself, Frederick Henry decided not to lay siege to Antwerp. The French, meanwhile, moved forward to capture some cities such as Armentiers, Menen and Mardijk. When a French army came to Frederick Henry's aid, he was able to lay siege to Hulst. The situation looked bleak for the preservation of the Southern Netherlands. Madrid knew that peace had to be made to keep Antwerp. Fighting a two-front war was no longer possible.

The French conquests were also watched with suspicion in the Republic. This increased the willingness in the Republic to hold peace talks that would begin in 1646. In a final attempt to take Antwerp, the army was again expanded and received reinforcements from France. Due to Spanish efforts, the Siege of Antwerp failed. This allowed the French to capture some cities in the south without much resistance, including Dunkirk with State fleet support and Courtrai. Frederick Henry made a final attempt to capture a city but Venlo proved unfeasible. Frederick Henry died in 1647 after his health had been deteriorating for some time. He was succeeded by his son William II. Governor of the Southern Netherlands became Archduke Leopold of Austria.

Many attempts had been made in the past to conclude a peace between Spain and the Republic. Always it failed on two points: the sovereignty that Spain did not want to give up and the position of the Catholics that Spain wanted secured in the Republic. Because of the dire situation, Spain no longer wanted to hold on to these positions so tightly. A peace with the Republic had to come at any cost. Therefore, Spain was willing to make major concessions.

In 1644, a great peace congress had begun in the Westphalian cities of Münster and Osnabruck to end the Thirty Years' War between Sweden, France, Spain and the Emperor. It was the first major peace congress in Western European history. The alliance with France also allowed the Republic to join the talks. The Republic joined them in 1646, and after several weeks of deliberations with the Spanish ambassadors, a first agreement had already been reached, a 20-year truce. Under the treaty of alliance with France, the Republic was not allowed to make a peace with Spain independently. However, the French made high demands for a peace. Spain's indulgence in the State's demands and its distrust of the French led to many discussions in the Republic, both in government colleges and in the streets about how to deal with this. It was decided to include the French in a peace, but should they make unreasonable demands, the Republic would make a separate peace.

The second round of negotiations sought a peace whose preliminary terms were signed on Jan. 8, 1647. No agreement could be reached with France because they kept coming up with new demands. The States then decided to make peace with Spain outside of France. On January 30, 1648, the final peace text was drawn up. It was sent to The Hague and Madrid for signature. On May 15, the peace was solemnly sworn.

It was agreed that the sovereignty of the Republic was recognized by Spain, the Scheldt was "closed" and Flemish seaports were taxed with high import tariffs, conquests of the WIC and VOC in the Indies were respected, the Meierij of 's-Hertogenbosch belonged to the Republic and no concessions were made in favor of Catholics in the Republic.

The Thirty Years' War was settled that same year in October. The Franco-Spanish War was not ended until the peace of the Pyrenees in 1659.

Religious intolerance and the misery caused by the war led to migratory flows in the Netherlands, including that of Protestants toward the Republic of the Seven United Provinces (already in the years 1578-1588 when it did not formally exist), but also toward the other surrounding countries. Conversely, Catholics headed south.

The greatest movement to the north (especially Holland) occurred in the years 1583-1585 during the recapture by the government army of the major Flemish and Brabant cities (Ypres, Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Mechelen and especially Antwerp). Thanks to the influx of these mostly wealthy and

While the Dutch "Golden Age" dawned in the north, of which many expatriate southerners were the foundation, the south experienced a Golden Age of Antwerp. For example, between 1611 and 1627, the Rubens House was built in Antwerp, by renovating a partially destroyed house from 1550.

The massive influx of refugees, which caused a major demographic shift in the Republic, brought social tensions in addition to economic, cultural and scientific enrichment.

Various historians assessed the Revolt differently. The first of them was P.C. Hooft with his work De Nederlandsche Historiën (1642-1647), which described the Revolt from 1555 to 1587. He attempted to write impartially by also consulting Spanish sources.

In the seventeenth century, the writings of contemporaries dominated the image of the Eighty Years' War. Chroniqueurs such as Bor and Van Meeteren, Hooft and De Groot, Aitzema and Baudartius were able to tell first-hand accounts. In the eighteenth century, collecting sources from the time of the Eighty Years' War became more important. In particular, Jan Wagenaar's mid-eighteenth-century compilation became a standard work for the time and, as a result, the contemporary writers faded more into the background.

In the nineteenth century, the Eighty Years' War was again extensively studied. Until then, it was mainly referred to as The Revolt or The Dutch Revolt. The name Revolt refers mainly to the first phase of the Eighty Years' War, when the Republic did not yet exist. In a 2004 study, historian Arie van Deursen speaks of The Revolt of 1572-1584. However, Robert Fruin noted as early as 1861 that historians tend to describe only this early period in detail until the assassination of William of Orange in 1584, while this was by no means the turning point of the war, which came only in 1588 with the founding of the Republic and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and after the Ten Years thereafter only the Revolt (at least for the North) was virtually won.

According to Reformed antirevolutionary Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, the Revolt was about how through God's guidance the Dutch people under the house of Orange-Nassau were able to gain their freedom. This emerged most clearly in his Handbook of the History of the Fatherland (1846).

Influenced by Ranke's historicism and Mills's liberalism, Fruin, who was the first to hold the chair of patriotic history at Leiden University, pursued a scientific approach to the Revolt, in contrast to the purely narrative history that had been common until then. Fruin focused primarily on two periods: Ten Years of the Eighty Years' War (1857) covering 1588-1598 and The Prelude to the Eighty Years' War (1859) covering 1555-1568. In his work, at first, some state affiliation is noticeable, later, by contrast, orangism.

The also liberal Reinier Cornelis Bakhuizen van den Brink made an important contribution to research by setting up the National Archives. In 1857, he translated The Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856) by American Puritan historian John Lothrop Motley.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Belgians Louis-Prosper Gachard and Joseph Kervyn de Lettenhove also conducted thorough source research on the Eighty Years' War, especially in Brussels and Spanish archives.

The Catholic response to Protestant and liberal historiography came from Willem Jan Frans Nuyens, who argued that Catholics could also be good patriots and many of them also fought with the Spaniards during the Revolt. Nuyens' work Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Beroerten in de XVIe eeuw (Amsterdam, 1865-70, 8 volumes) was important for (re)discovering the role of Dutch Catholics in the Revolt and thus in the Dutch state and contributed to their emancipation.

The social democrat Pieter Geijl brought an innovative view of the Revolt in the early twentieth century, arguing that it went against the logical course of history, in which eventually every people should be able to establish their own state, while this did not hold true for part of what Geijl saw as the Dutch tribe, namely the Southern or Flemish. Geijl believed that the Republic should have fought on to also conquer the Dutch-speaking regions of later Belgium, which had been lost in the years 1579-1585(-1604), so that a Diet people's state could have been established. He argued in the Great Netherland thought (1925, 1930) to restore the Flemish-Dutch unity lost during the Revolt. To do so, history had to be rewritten in the Greater Netherlands sense, and Geijl attempted to do so in his work History of the Dutch Tribe (1939-1962), in which, however, he got no further than the year 1798.


  1. Eighty Years' War
  2. Tachtigjarige Oorlog
  3. ^ Portugal was part of a dynastic union with Spain until 1640. Portugal and the Netherlands battled for control of Portugal's overseas territories.
  4. ^ The war ended with the Peace of Münster, signed on 30 January 1648, ratified by the States General on 15 May 1648.[1]
  5. ^ There is disagreement about name and periodisation of the war, see Historiography of the Eighty Years' War § Name and periodisation.
  6. Deursen, A. Th. (2006): De last van veel geluk. Geschiedenis van Nederland 1555-1702, blz. 13-14
  7. Blom, J.C.H. en Lamberts, E. (2013): Geschiedenis van de Nederlanden, blz. 95-98
  8. Blom, J.C.H. en Lamberts, E. (2013): Geschiedenis van de Nederlanden, blz. 95-96, 104
  9. Israel, J.I. (2001): De Republiek, blz. 39
  10. Israel, J.I. (2001): De Republiek, blz. 81
  11. Pour simplifier : en détail, il devient roi de Castille et roi d'Aragon.
  12. Quilliet 1994, p. 89.
  13. Quilliet 1994, p. 85.
  14. Quilliet 1994, p. 88.
  15. Quilliet 1994, p. 93.
  16. ^ In unione personale con l'Inghilterra dal 1603
  17. ^ Sino al 1640 in unione personale con la Spagna
  18. ^ (EN) M. Clodfelter, Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492–2015, 4th ed, p. 17.
  19. ^ Clodfelter, 2017, p.17

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