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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Origins of the Dutch Revolt, Part One

In the mid-16th century the Spanish Netherlands were governed by a Burgundian, the Flemish speaking Charles V, who abdicated in 1555. Charles was succeeded by the cold-hearted, war-mongering King Phillip II of Spain, in is capacity as Lord of the Netherlands

In 1572 relations between Queen Elizabeth I of England and King Phillip II of Spain were in tatters.  Fearing Spanish reprisals she banned the Sea Beggars, William of Orange’s rebel navy, from England's sea ports. With nowhere to go, the Sea Beggars were forced back home to the Netherlands, and on April 1st, 1572 they re-took the city of Brielle from the Spanish. This was a slap in the face for King Phillip’s army in the Netherlands, which was led by the vengeful Duke of Alva.

Despite the humiliation at Brielle, Spain was in full stride across the Netherlands. Amsterdam, like so many other cities in the country, was Spanish held. In 1572, unlike today, the Netherlands were divided by waterways, effectively separating city from city. From the citizens' viewpoint in little cities like Haarlem, Amsterdam (ten miles west), might well have felt like it was part of another country altogether. 

The spread of Calvinism across the Netherlands was a constant torment to staunch Spanish Catholics like Phillip of Spain; Calvinism was his obstacle, Dutch land and its wealth his objective. 

Alva  had the strategic city of Haarlem firmly in his sights, but first he had to conquer the smaller towns and cities like Mechelen, Zutphen and Naarden.



The Spanish in the Netherlands

The Duke of Alva

The Sea Beggars re-take Brielle

The Sea Beggars re-take Brielle

William of Orange

King Phillip II of Spain


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