Low Countries – River Lands


In pre-historic as well as in historic times till approx 1000BCE most of the land north of the main rivers of what is now Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Friesland and large parts of Groningen was waterlogged and marshy land, very thinly populated and the land was marginal. People settled on the higher grounds in the dunes along the North Sea and on the higher sand hills along the rivers. In the north farmers built terpen ( man made mounds) and tended sheep on the marshy lands. Many people here supplemented their livelihood with fishing and hunting.

In the Middle Ages the key towns north of the rivers were: Utrecht, Dorestad, Tiel, Kampen, Deventer, Zwolle and Zutphen. Situated on the boarder of this region was also Nijmegen, the oldest city of the Netherlands founded by the Romans.  Not far from here is Cuijk anther town founded by the Romans.

Vlaardingen and Dordrecht were the first cities in what is now Holland.

Major changes to the region started to occur from the 13th century onwards when dike construction and large scale land reclamation started all the way from the Scheldt in the east  to the Ems in the north west. This also led to a major political shift with the development of the lands above the rivers.

This section covers these River Lands, where – after the collapse of the Carolingian Empire – early regional state forming  took place.

The pagus of Teisterbant

In the pre-history chapters we come across Swifterbant, Teisterbant might be related to this and could be a Celtic word meaning situated to the left, with Swifterbant meaning ‘situated to the right’ (of the river bend).

This was one of the most powerful pagi in the Early Middle Ages, well before Brabant, Holland and Gelre came into existence. Cities such as Dorestad and Tiel were among the most important towns of north-western Europe.

Teisterbant became a Carolingian pagi with most probably Tiel as its capital. It included: Vianen, Buren, Culemborg, Batenburg and at its earlier stage also Arkel, Heusden and Altena; its largest part being the Betuwe, which has strong historic links to the Roman period and the Germanic tribe of the Batavi. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the region was ruled by the Frisian Gerulfingen family with counts such as Waldger and Radbod. The origins of the motte castle of Batenburg are dating back to around 327 and is therefore one of the oldest castles in the Low Countries.

After the Treaty of Verdun Teisterband became part of the Middle Kingdom and later Lower Lotharingia – wedged between  powerful East and West Francia.

There are not many rulers known of the old pagus, the best known is  Waldger who is mentioned as Count of Teisterband at the end of the 9th and early 10th century. He was a son of the West Frisian Count Gerulf (the ancestors of the House of Holland). According the the Chronicles of Tiel (written down in the 16th century) he lived (or had property) in Avezaath, not far from Tiel.

Waldger played a key role in ridding the lands of the Vikings. Especially an event that started with a battle against the Vikings in 882, which in the end in 895 led to the murder of the last  the last Viking Count of Frisia Godofrid. He was rewarded for this death with privileges and powerful functions. Building on his success he  tried to establish a separate county around Tiel.

Waldger  was a supporter of the West Francia King Charles the Simple – who was in constant war with the rulers of East Francia and required the assistance of the nobility in Lotharingia in order to stay in power.

In exchange for his services to Charles, Waldger was able to increase his powers in the river lands of the Low Countries. He also tried to get the Bishop back to Utrecht, who at that time resided in Deventer,  under the protection of East Francia. During these negotiations the Bishop was put under pressure by the Count of Hamaland – who supported East Francia – to stay in Deventer. This led to the killing of Everhard Saxo, the son of the Count of Hamaland, by Waldger.

Waldger  married Alberda, which could have been the widow of Reinier I of Hainault who had died in ca 915, he was the most powerful nobleman in Lotharinghia   If that is the case, this would have added significantly to his political position [1. Noormannen in het Rivierland, Luit van der Tuuk, Omniboek, 2009, p69]

While he is mentioned as the Count of Teisterband, there is very little evidence of his actual power in the region, it could well be that he simply was a prefect of the king – a title regularly used in the 10th and 11th centuries; it is more likely more of an administrative function, apart from Teisterband he also represented the pagus Nifterlake (near Utrecht), where he had considerable property near Muiden. His father Gerulf is already mentioned as a property owner in Tiel (Teole as it was called) in 889.

Waldger and his wife Alberada founded the St Walburg Church and Munster of Tiel. Possibly built on land that he had received from Charles the Simple. He is known to have been an admirer of St Walburg and several churches and monasteries founded in West Francia during his reign are dedicated to this saint. So in recognition of Charles, Waldger might have named the church he founded after this saint as well. It is most likely that he at that time also received some of the  relics of Saint Walburga. The Munster (or Minster) was not a monastery, however, it first had nuns and later canons.  In later years it also had a chapter school.


She was an Anglo-Saxon nun, born in Wessex around 710 who worked and preached with Boniface as a missionary in north-western Europe since 748. She became an Abbess of Heidenheim in Bavaria. She was canonised in 870 and books  about her  miracles were published  during Charles the Simple lifetime. She is among other the patron saint of shipper, which of course was in particular relevant the important to the people of the river port of Tiel.

In 923 Charles was taken prisoner and Lotharingia was now in the hands of Henry I of East Francia. It looks like Waldger survived the political change as a witness in a charter of Henry in 928.

However his son Radbod (named after the Bishop of Utrecht of the time) was disgraced by Henry’s successor Otto I. There was an unsuccessful revolt of the nobility of Lotharingia in 938/939, it is not known if Radbod played a role in this but anyway all of his possessions were confiscated and in 950 handed over to the Bishop of Utrecht.

The importance of Tiel is also highlighted by a visit to the town by Emperor Otto II in 977, on his way to Nijmegen.  Dorestad had never received such high visitors – he issued two charters during this visit. Interestingly this means that Tiel was big enough and had enough accommodation to host the Emperor, who most certainly will not have traveled alone.

In 993 Count Ansfert is mentioned who becomes the Bishop in Utrecht and in 1000 Unroch is mentioned as the Count of Tesiterband, but the military affairs were in the hands of Godschalk a noble from Westphalia – who already was mentioned in this position 968.

During the 11th century Lower Lotharingia totally disintegrated and the Roman Holy Emperor used that situation in 1026  to gave the pagus of Teisterbant in fief to the Bishop of Utrecht. This led to an enormous complex range of arrangements between half a dozen ancient nobility families and dozens of new knights and lords that grew out of their administrative and military systems.

By the end of the 10th century we already had  seen the following – so called ancient nobility – listed as owners of parts of Teisterbant [2. Memoriale Adelboldi. Oorkondenboek van Holland and Zeeland tot 1299. A.C.F. Koch 1970] and [3. Transitie en continuïteit: de bezitsverhoudingen en de plattelandseconomie. B. J. P. van Bavel, p150].

  • The Duke of Brabant had a stronghold in Tiel (stone building) and had a range of feudal rights in neighbouring region.
  • The Count of Gelre has property and allodial and  feudal rights in the Bommelerwaard and Tielerwaard (the fertile river plains).
  • Count of Kleve owns the town of Woudrichem with allodial title rights in this area. Some  parts had already became part of the City of Kleve in the 8th century when Count Dietrich of Hamaland – also known of Dietrich of Kleve married the heiress of Teisterbant, Countess Ida.
  • The Lord of Cuijk (Kuyc) also had allodial rights in: Enspijk, Beesd, Geldermalsen, Buurmalsen, Tricht, Paveien, Meteren and Zenewijnen
  • The Counts of Bentheim had similar rights in: Malden, Wadenooyen, Meteren, Tricht and Deil.

With the marriage of Dietrich (Diederik) with Ida of Teisterband the pagus ended to be an independent territory.

While some parts of the former pagus  became indeed effectively part of the Bishopric of Utrecht other parts remained contested by the above mentioned rulers. In particular the wars between the Dukes of Brabant and Gelre would have long lasting effects for the region. In 1200 the Duke of Brabant had imprisoned the Duke of Gelre in Tiel and two years later Count Dirk II of Holland liberated him and in the battle demolished the castle  here. Claims from both sides would haunt the are for centuries. One and a half century later the Duke of Brabant rebuild the castle for his own purposes, by that time the Bishop of Utrecht had given all of his  properties in Tiel in fief to the Duke of Brabant. By this time however, the trading function of Tiel had shrunk considerably to that of just having a regional function only, the importance of the town by that time was strategic.

Another developments that affected the region also dates back to  around 1200 in relation to Count  Henry II of Leuven who most probably was  married to Adele the daughter of Count Everard of the Betuwe. It was most probably Adele, who brought in two properties in Orthen on the river Meuse; a century later the city of s’ Hertogenbosch would be founded here by the Duke of Brabant, increasing his control over this part of a disintegrating Lower Lotharingia.

Further to the west the same uncertainties led to similar troubles in relation to the over-lordship of Altena and Heusden who became the playing balls between Brabant and Holland.

Another ongoing battle followed the transformation of the Counts of Frisia when they became Counts of Holland. The latter became the powerful secular  rulers in the Low Countries above the rivers Rijn and Maas and in this process they also extended their direct and indirect control over what happened in the Bishopric of Utrecht.

County of Batenburg

Batenburg (12 kms north of Oss on the other side of the River Maas) has long been an independent territory on the boarder between Brabant and Gelre; their history however, dates back to well before that time. There is archaeological evidence the site of the current castle ruins was also the site were the first motte castle was built around 327, this makes it one of the oldest in northern Europe.

The first known Lords of Batenburg are Gerard and Albretto van Batenburg, they are mentioned in a charter from 1087. Gerard’s daughter Johanna married Willem I of Bronckhorst and this dynasty rules Batenburg till 1641. In 1349 the town received its city privileges from the German Emperor, most likely the town had already received similar rights around the year 1000. Interestingly the county was strong enough that it could maintain its independence from Gelre and Brabant on which boarder it was situated, they remained a fief of the Empire until 1775.

Nevertheless they did suffer during the Gelre wars and from 1597 till 1525 it was occupied by Gelre. Also during the Dutch Revolt Batenburg was occupied, this time by the Spaniards.

From 1349 till the end of the Bronckhorst reign they issued their own coins. After the death of Maximillean van Bronchorst the castle and county came into the hands – via his daughter – of the van Horne’s. In 1701 it changed hands again when Isabelle Justina van Horne married Count Ernst van Bentheim-Steinfurt.

All of these families play prominent roles in the history of the region as we can see in the chapters of County of Altena, Cuijk, County of BentheimGelre, those not linked are covered below).

Lords van Bronckhorst

Originally a motte castle from the 10th century, Bronckhorst was strategically situated on the River IJssel, within the former County of Zutphen, now in the Achterhoek (“rear-corner”) a region in the eastern-most part of Gelderland.

They were one of the four important Bannerlords (ancient nobility) of the County,

The Brockhorsten were also involved in feudal conflict with the Heeckerens in one of the Gelre succession wars. Eduard van Gelre was supported by Gijsbert V van Bronckhorst (1328-1356). Around 1530 Joost van Bronckhorst-Borculo was raised to the title of count by Emperor Charles V. The title only applied to the family not to its territory. In 1535 Willem from Bronckhorst bought the depilated castle of Wijchen from the heirs of their late owners the Lords van Dalem.

County of Altena

The Land of Altena lies on a river island in the estuary of the rivers Rhine and Meuse. It is enclosed by the rivers Boven (Upper) Merwede (north), Afgedamde (dammed) Maas (east) and Oude (Old)Maasje/Bergse Maas (south) and by the regions De Biesbosch (west) and the (former) Land of Heusden (southeast). It contains the municipalities of Werkendam (the largest town of the island) and Woudrichem (the historical centre of the island and which village Almkerk contains the site of the former castle of Altena), which dates back to the 9th century.

In the 12th century Dirk II of Altena together with his son Boudewijn joins Count Floris III of Holland in a crusade, Boudewijn dies without a heir and in 1230 his sister Heilwig married  Willem I van Horne and he becomes the next Lord of Altena.

Large parts of the county were low laying wet lands and in 1264 Willem provides these parts in fief to the Cistercians who started large scale reclamation projects. This land is still known as Munnikenland (monk land).

In 1589 the county is appropriated by Holland but in 1815 it became part of the province of Noord Brabant.

Lords of Horne

Horne (also Horn, Hoorn or Hoorne) was a tiny county in Gelre (now part of Limburg).

It takes its name from the village Horn, west of Roermond. In 1366 together with the neighbouring County of Loon they were integrated prince-bishopric of Liège

The first Count of Horne, Jacob I, received his title from the German Emperor on 1450, shortly after that he residence was moved from Horn to Weert

The son of Willem I, Willem II  married in 1270 Agnes van Perwijs. She was the grand-daughter of Willem Godfriedszn van Leuven Lord van Perwijs en Ruisbroek (Vlaams-Brabant) the son of Godfried III of Leuven.

He participated in the 8th crusade as well as in the Battle of Woeringen in 1288 and the Battle of the Gulden Spurs in Kortrijk in 1302. In1304 he fell together with his son Engelbert van Horne at the Battle of  Zierikzee.

Their son Gerard I was in 1318 the host of a meeting of nobles negotiating in a conflict between the Count of Holland and the Duke of Brabant in relation to the ownership of the Land of Heusden. At this meeting  Dirk of Cleve declared that had held this land in fief from the Duke of Brabant.

His son Willem V van Horne (1305-1343) was an important diplomat and played a key role in the commission of inquiry – together with the Duke of Brabant and Count of Flanders –  in relation to an acquisition that Count Reinoud II of Gelre had plans to poison the King of France and his Counsel as well as the Duke of Normandy. They found Reinoud not guilty.

His successor Gerard, the son out his first marriage with Oda van Putten en Strijen, died in 1345 during the Battle of Stavoren. A son out his second marriage with Elizabeth of Cleve was Dirk Loef who built – in 1361 – the still existing Castle Loevestein on one of the reclaimed areas in the north of his county. He often acted as a robber baron and fell in disgrace. The County went to his sister but eventually his son was able to reclaim it. Dirk Loef’s grandson,  Jan van Horne was the marshal of Brabant en great chamberlain of the Burgundian Dukes John the Fearless and  Philip the Good. He was knighted in 1420.

His son Philip also held high positions at the Burgundian courts of Charles the Bald, Maximilian I and Maria of Burgundy. He married in 1450 Jeanne de Lannoy.

The link to Jan van Horne goes via Jacob II and Jacob III. (the link between Jacob II and Philip is unclear).He  had several marriages which remained childless at his death he granted the Land of Altena to Philip a son of one of his wives who had previous been married to Jozeph Montmorency Nivelles.

After the execution of Philip de Montmorency, the last count of Horne, who at the start of the Dutch Revolt in 1568 was, together with his friend Count Lamoraal van Egmont beheaded by the Spaniard occupation at the market square in Brussels,  the county of Horne was united again with the bishopric of Liège in a  personal union.

The van Horne’s continued to play a key role in Dutch history.

County of Heusden

The County of Heusden is a classical example  of feudal complexity, originally most probably part of Teisterbant. After the split, the towns and properties in the upper part of the region had as their overlord by the Count of Gelre, the lower properties fell under the Count of Kleve, while the Duke of Brabant was the overlord of the whole region, however the city itself remained independent under its own Lord.

This situation became even more complicated when also the Count of Holland became involved.  This started when after an attack on the city of Cologne in 1268, Dirk van Heuden was captuerd and his brother Jan II was killed.  Two years later Count Floris V of Holland was able to negotiate a peace treaty that led to the release of Dirk and his promise to not pursue a blood feud.

By this time however, Holland had become a major power in the region and when the pressure increased Lord Jan III of Heusden had – in 1290 – to accept Count Floris V of Holland as his overlord. This certainly was the key reason why Jan III also was involved in the plot to kidnap Floris nine years later. He was the first one after Floris had signed a treaty with the king of France to dismiss Floris as his overlord and instead accepted the Count of Kleve as his overlord. Interestingly there were also direct family ties with some of the other plotters namely Herman van Woerden and Gerard van Velsen – via Jan III’s mother side of the family. [4. Floris V, E.H.P. Cordfunke, 2011]

Furthermore within the county there were also two important clerical landowners. Below the Old River Maas (oude Maas) the St John’s Church of Liège was the main property owner, above the river is was the Abbey of St Truiden. The latter had an important Deanery in Aalburg from where its properties were managed. In 1150 Emperor Conrad III claimed the overlordship’s of all monasteries in his Empire and as a consequence of that the Deanery of Aalburg was given in fief to the Duke of Brabant, Holland claimed older rights to the property, but had to accept the overlordship of Brabant. In turn the Count of Holland had given the guardianship of his rights to the Deanery to the Count of Bentheim.

This of course was an ideal situation for ongoing conflicts, intrigues and wars. Especially when these overlords started to war with each other, which in our region happened frequently between Brabant, Gelre and  Holland, often dragging in even the larger powers such as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the Kings of France and England

County of Kuyc (Cuijk)

Cuijk (Ceuclum) was already known in Roman times, where they had a bridge over the river Maas. Keukja was the Celtic description of this place, meaning river bend. After the departure of the Romans the river flats most likely kept a local population going.

Ceuclum on Peutinger Map
Ceuclum on Peutinger Map

After the Treaty of Verdun the area became part of what would become the Holy Roman Empire.

In the 9th century, another ancient noble family that rose from ashes of  Carolingian Teisterbant pagus was Van Kuyc. This family can trace their roots back to Ehrenfried van Bliesgau (870 – 904) they held properties in Teisterbant (Geldermalsen and Meteren). Bliesgau itself was situated in modern day Saarland in Germany. They also most likely through marriage or exchange had received properties in the same are from the Counts of Bentheim. Most of these properties (along the river Linge) ended up in the hands of the van Arkel family. The van Kuycs held the territory in fief for the German Emperor.

Between 1050 and 1400 the family played a key role in the history of the Low Countries, where the dominated the region along the river Maas, from Oijen in the west to Cuijk in the east – an area that became increasingly wedged between Gelre and Brabant. However, they were never able to rise to the top of power and by 1400 the family had lost all of their once extensive properties.

14th century St Victor church Neerloon

The center of their power shifted southwards when they received the Land of Cuijk in as well as the castle of Cuijk in fief possibly from Emperor Hendrik IV, this included the following towns and villages: Oeffelt, Boxmeer, St Anthonis, Vierlingsbeek, Maashees, Overloon, Beugen, Cuijk, Wanroy, Mill, Escharen, Grave en Neerloon. They were powerful enough to rule their region within their own right, independent from their overlord.

As such they also were able to become important power brokers in relation to the developments of the emerging new regional powers Utrecht and Holland. Their rise to power can also be seen in the various marriage arrangements.

However, eventually the rise of those two regional powers also resulted in the demise of the van Kuyc family.

The first know Lord of Cuijk was Herman van Malsen (1040 – 1080) – Malsen is perhaps Geldermalsen.  He also received the title of Viscount of Utrecht, this as we will see later also resulted in the influence of the Lords of Kuyc in the appointments of the Bishops of Utrecht. He was involved in the murder of the Count Floris I of Holland (1061). Most probably it was him who received in fief – perhaps for his assistance in the actions against Holland – from  the Roman Emperor Henry IV, the Land of Cuijk.

It was under Herman that we receive more visibility of this family. They rapidly extended their influence across East Brabant and also held properties in Neerloon, Rosmalen, Haren (near Megen) and Oss.

Herman married in 1067 Irmgard the daughter of Albert II, Count of Namen/Namur. His second marriage was with Ida van Boulogne, through her mother’s family (Ida of Lorraine) the van Kuyc’s were linked to the Dukes of Lotharingia, the ancestors of Charlemagne. This was one of the most thought after claims of any European nobility. Through this family link the van Cuijk also became related to the emerging Dukes of Brabant.

Herman and Ida had four children:
·         Hendrik I (ca 1070 – 1108) he married ca 1100 to Alveradis van Hochstaden
·         Andries (ca 1070 – 1139) he became Bishop Andreas of Utrecht
·         Godfried van Kuyc van Malsen (ca 1070 – 1134)
·         Heilwig  (ca 1075 –  after 1128) married in 1096 Arnold I van Rode(1060 – 1119) a nephew of the legendary crusader Godfried of Bouillon (See: Emergence of Lotharingia). It was most likely Arnold’s  second marriage.

Andreas was the first Bishop of Utrecht who was not appointed by the Holy Roman Emperor, but by the clergy of Utrecht. This made him also the Overlord of Egbert van Amstel. In 1129 he founded the Norbetine Abbey Mariënweerd near Beesd- financed by the widow of Hendrik I, in the allodial heartland of the family. Legend has it that this was a peace offering for the death of Floris I. Instigated by Petronilla von Saxen, widow of Floris II, Count of Holland, Andreas also founded in 1133 an abbey for noble ladies at Rijnsburg near Egmond.

Hendrik and Alveradis had three children:

  • Herman II Hendriksz van Kuyc (1103 – 1170) he married Otto Chiney’s daughter in 1125
  • Godfried I van Kuyc (1100- 1167)
  • Aleidis, Lady of Osning, she married in 1120 Arnold II of Rode – son of  the powerful regional ruler Arnold I –  (1090 – 1125) – Rode = St Oedenrode.

After the death of Hendrik, Alverdis marries Dirk van Voorne, a relationship that remained important in later times.

We also come across Wolfger van Amstel (see: Lords of Amstel) together with Godfried van Kuyc and Dirk IV Count of Holland, in 1126  they were witnesses in a conflict regarding property in the Betuwe. A year later Godfried van Amstel is a witness in a matter concerning Bishop Andreas van Kuyc [5. De Heren van Amstel 1105 – 1378 Th.A.A.M van Amstel 1999, p44]. The van Amstels were wardens (minesterialen)  of the Bishop of Utrecht. Egmond van Amstel also became involved in a serious conflict between the Lords of Kuyc and the Counts of Holland.

During this conflict between brothers Count Dirk VI and Floris the Black of Holland, (see also Holland). Floris the Black wanted to marry the well to do Helwig van Rode (nee Kuyc), at that stage the widow Arnold I van Rode.  of Herman II as her male regent refused this. However, with this prospect in mind and defiant of Herman,   Floris went on a rampage in the Land of Cuijk plundering the goods that he claimed were part of his bride to be. During this upheaval also the wooden church of Cuijk standing next to the castle was burnt down Herman undid the usurpation and Floris than turned to Herman’s properties.

Bishop Andreas van Kuyc, because of the family relationship, also became involved in the conflict. This was used by his vassals- for political reasons –  to revolt against him. The conflict further escalated and ended in 1133, in the murder of Floris in Abstede (near a monastery in Utrecht) by Hendrik and Godfried.

Most likely also for political reasons – perhaps because he no longer had the power to appoint bishops – the Emperor Lothair III supported the case of Floris and he mounted  a punitive expedition against the brothers, they were consequently extradited and their caste in Cuijk destroyed. This ended the leading position of the van Cuijks and started a period of slow decline that ended around 1400.

However, there were first  still good times ahead. After the death of the Emperor in 1137 however, they could  return and built a new castle this time on a sand hill on the river Maas in Grave – 20 kms north of Cuijk, -and this became the new capital of the Land of Cuijk.

Map Land van Cuijk, Land van Ravenstein, Maaslandt, Peelland and Kempenland
Map Land van Cuijk, Land van Ravenstein, Maaslandt, Peelland and Kempenland

The town was founded by Herman II around 1140. The town started to take off after the castle was build. The Lord of Cuijk was from now on also known as the Duke of Grave; it received its city privileges from Jan I van Cuijk in 1279. Grave is still in dialect known as de Graaf (the duke), however the name most probably is more related to the moat (gracht).

The castle of Grave
The castle of Grave

The city flourished under Jan van Cuijk he founded a chapter at the St Elisabeth church of Grave. There are some interesting family links between St Elisabeth and the Duke of Brabant, the Lords van Cuijk and the House of Nassau. For more info see: Duchy of Brabant. Jan also established in 1290 the St Catherine Hospital (Gasthuis) this remained in operation till 1970! He also arranged toll freedom for the citizens in both Holland and Zeeland.

Grave played a key role in the wars between Brabant and Gelre, than again during the 80 year old war between the emerging Dutch Republic and Spain, and than between the Republic and France, Habsburg and or England. The city was often right in the middle of these war theatres.
In 1435 Grave, under Arnoud van Egmond, Count of Gelre it became part of this Country. From 1568 till 1602 it was occupied by the Spaniards. Arnoud is buried in the St Elizabeth church.
French troops destroyed took the city 1672. When it was finally liberated by the Prince of Orange in 1674 large parts of the city were destroyed. This included the caste, which was never rebuilt however, the site is still very visible as an earth wall was put over the remnants which become a city defence wall, locally know as the Kat (cat) bastion.
As a garrison city it was amongst the first to have official military barracks. It remained a garrison city till 2000. In 1786 the number of inhabitants was 1730 but the number of military was 5 times higher. Despite this the city was taken by the troops of Napoleon in 1794.
My great grandfather from my mothers side Herman Velthuis was a conscript here around 1870, in the barracks known as Noorderblok which in its origin dated back to 1675. Hundred year later I was a conscript in the new barracks which were built just outside the old city. I visited the city (again) in 2009.

Herman II and his wife had two children:

  • Hendrick II
  • Albert (1140 -1200)

Hendrick II van Kuyc (1140 – 1204) was married to Sophia van Rhenen, niece of Godfried van Rhenen, Bishop of Utrecht. Hendrick was also viscount (burggraaf) of Leiden.

Sophia was the heir to the Land of Herpen (near Oss) which was added on to the Land of Kuyc (and this later became the Land of Ravenstein).

Hendrik participated in the 3rd crusade, which was largely abandoned after its leader Emperor Barbarossa drowned  shortly after the start.

Hendrik II and Sophia had four children:

  • Lutgardis (1162 – after 1217). She married Godfried II van Breda.
  • Alveradis (1165 – after 1226. She married Dirk van Voorne in 1197.
  • Lutgard van Perk – Vilvoorde, She married Godevaert van Breda en Scoten.
  • Albert van Kuyc

Their son Albert van Kuyc (1160- 1233) was married to a daughter van Meerheim. He was Lord of Cuijk, Grave, Herpen, Escharen, Asten and Merum (Roermond) plus viscount of Leiden.

The couple had several children:

  • Hendrick III,
  • Rutger,
  • Willem
  • Aleidis married Gijsbrecht III van Aemstel (see below). And after his death in 1233 the various properties were dived over his children.

Willem received Escharen and Rutger (Rogier 1200-1267) received Herpen. Around 1230 Ruther marries Maria van Diest (Antwerp). His daughter Aleid van Kuyc (Herpen) was married to Lodewijk II van Leefdael (Levedale) whose lands were in Tielen, Flanders. And to provide a full picture of the extensive family relations, Lodewijk’s son Rutger (Rogier), Lord van Peyrke and van Oerscot, was married to Agnes van Kleef. [6.  Reeks 39, Van Leefdael tussenreeks:  http://www.kareldegrote.nl/Reeks38_Van_Leefdael_Tussenreeks.html]

It is interesting to follow the various relationships that existed between the various families. Rogier van Leefdael was viscount of Brussels and also Lord of Oirschot, Perk, Hilvarenbeek and Eckart. He was born around 1270 and in 1306 he is mentioned as a bailiff of the Duke of Brabant, he is also mentioned a s a knight and is involved in many of the charters signed by the Duke, including personal ones such marriage arrangements. There are several charters signed by Rogier as well as by Otto van Kuyc, both seen as the most important councillors to the Duke –  Otto is mentioned first, this shows also something about the ranking order within the Duchy at that time.

Rogier dies in 1333 and was buried in the St Gudele church in Brussels. While his son followed in his father’s footsteps thee fortunes of the family turned sour, both his widow Agnes and son Jan had to pay of debts and loans and for that had to sell many of its rights and properties. In of these arrangements Otto van Kuyc had to arbiter a dispute between Jan van Leefdael and Jan van Amstel.

Rogier’s daughter Catherina married Gijsbert van Bronckhorst, knight and Lord of Bronckhorst and Batenburg, in 1344.  She died in 1361.  Going forwards this family would also branch into Overijssel and Twente (family ties with the Lords of Goor and Saesveld).

Hendrick III, inherited the Land of Cuijk and he was first married to daughter of Van Perweis. In his 2nd marriage Hendrick III was married to Elizabeth heiress of the Lord Willem van Boxtel. The County of Boxtel was now owned by the Lords van Kuyc. Hendrick’s son Willem became Lord of Boxtel.

Under Hendrick III’s other son Jan I van Kuyc the family reached the summit of its power.

Jan I van Kuyc (Lord from 1254 – 1308)

Around 1260 Jan married Jutta van Nassau this also provided the family with strong ties to the Holy Roman Emperor of that period Adolf van Nassau. Jutta was also the cousin of Margaretha van Holland who was the wife of Dirk III of Kleve. Jan was also the first councillor to the Duke of Brabant [7. Reeks 39, Van Leedael tussenreeks: http://www.kareldegrote.nl/Reeks38_Van_Leefdael_Tussenreeks.html]

The pivitol position of Jan van Cuijk in the interregional and international politics of the 13th century made him one of the most powerful nobles in the Low Country, however squeezed between Brabant, Gelre and Holland this also became the downfal of the family.

In 1282 Floris V of Holland  had forced Jan to accept him as his overlord and to offer him access to his castle Tongelaar in Mill (in the town where my wife Louise was born) he had to establish this as an ‘open house’ allowing Floris to station troops here at will to monitor activities here and/or to undertake activities from here.

There was another dispute between Floris V and Jan van Cuijk in relation to toll on the river Maas at Lith, which Jan van Cuijk held in fief. In order to enforce his viewpoints it is possible that Floris undertook a fyrd (heervaart) to Boxmeer in 1285 . It looks like the threat of the fyrd was enough to get Jan to agreed to mediation that led to arrangements signed off in June that year. Perhaps also the participation of Jan in a fyrd to Tiel which took place in 1286 was part of this outcome. The expedition was organised from Dordrecht and during that same mission most likely also the Gelre castle in Rhenoy was conquered by Floris.  [8. Landsheerlijke macht en stedelijk prestige: heervaarten van Dordrecht 1284-1286. Jan van Herwaarden. Stedelijk verleden in veelvoud. 2011]  Count Reinoud I of Gelre than tried and capture Tiel , but with the assistance of the Ciut of Holland and the Duke of Brabant, Reinoud was defeated in the battle of Driel in 1286.

Obviously this further annoyed Gelre and they started to look more closely at Cuijk and the families possessions in the Betuwe, if he could control them he would have full control over the Maas region, an important trading route with lucrative tolls. Count Reinoud I of Gelre attacks Grave around 1284, but was defeated. Nevertheless he was able to take control over the Betuwe.

The mediation between Floris and Jan also possibly included the arrangement that Floris would give the castle Tongelaar back to Jan in fief.


This castle started as a motte back in the 9th century. In the middle of rather inaccessible wetlands and forests. In the 13th century the fortress was the property of the Lords van Cuijk. Who briefly, from 1281 till 1296, had to provide access to it (open house) to Floris V, Count of Holland. A new castle was built during the 15th century which, in the 18th century,  was further rebuild in the style of a Limburg farmhouse, with buildings on all sides around a square in the middle. The current gate is still from the 15th century. In 1445 the castle was in the hands of Cornelis van Merwijck, Lord of Tongelaar. There are archival documents that could indicate that this family had obtained the property through marriage arrangements between the van Donck family and one of the daughters of the Van Cuijk family. A daughter from the van Donck family later married into the van Merwick family.

There is a charter mentioning that Jan I van Amstel in the early 14th century had been granted the management of Tonghelaerebroek (Mill) by Jan van Cuijk. Jan van Amstel and his father Gijsbrecht van Amstel were at that time both living in exile in Oss, after the murder of Floris V. They had received the protection of the Duke and Brabant and Lord Jan van Cuijk.

Interestingly Floris V held, shortly before this time, certain rights over this property (an open house – what allowed them to station his troops there). The land reclamation that took place here resulted in it receiving the name Hollanderbroek, probably because the land was developed according the latest drainage techniques introduced by Floris V.

As a strong ally of the King of England, Jan was – since 1295 – the diplomat of the King on the continent, the main middleman between the King and the Duke of Brabant and the Count of Flanders. In 1296 Count Floris V switched alliances from England to France and under that agreement King Philip of France allowed Floris to fight Jan van Cuijk and Walram van Woerden, Lord of Herpen and a family member because of their alliance with England.

Once Floris had switched alliances to France, Jan send a messenger to Floris notifying him that he had annulled the fief bond.

The next step was that Jan, as an ally of the King of  England either plotted a plan or was involved in the plotting that lead to the kidnapping and the unfortunate and gruesome murder of Count Floris V of Holland and he was also instrumental in the escape of some of the other plotters – Gijsbrecht and Jan van Amstel – to Brabant, where they were able, thanks to their intervention, to settle in Oss.

Two years later Jan I took part in the famous Battle of Woeringen (see: Brabant), where the Duke of Brabant triumphed over the Bishop of Cologne and the Count of Gelre. Interestingly Jan was also a vassal of the bishop, when he was later questioned by the bishop his excuse was that the soldiers of the bishop had stolen a load of wine from him [9. Het Geslacht van Cuijk, Ger Graat, 2008, 15]

A few years later the 70 year old went to yet another battle. Together with 50 troops he supported, in 1302, the side of Flanders at the famous Battle of the Golden Spurs (see Guldensporenslag). However, apparently he arrived when the battle was over.

Two years later he went to battle in Maastricht to assist the Duke against those from Liege. It was here that his oldest son Hendrik was killed.

He is also mentioned in one of the most well known pieces of Dutch literature, Gijsbrecht van Amstel, written by Joost van den Vondel. Here is is said that he assisted Gijsbrecht during the defence of Amsterdam. As mentioned above there were strong ties between the tow families. See also: How the Lords van Aemstel ended up in Oss

In 1305 in yet another battle, Jan suffered a rare defeat, again in aid of the Duke he went towards Den Bosch but his troops were defeated by the Guilds of that town just outside the capital of Brabant at Hintham. However, he saved the day through skillful diplomacy – as the leader of the peace negotiations – he arranged  to the release of his troops and a reinstatement of the rights of the Duke by the citizens of Den Bosch.  [10. Het Geslacht van Cuijk, Ger Graat, 2008, 15]

Of course inconceivable to Jan I at the time of his death in 1308, Gelre would before the end of that century take full control over his beloved lands. How he died is uncertain, some chronicles mentioned that he died in a battle between Flanders and France but at that time there was not such a battle. Others suggest he perhaps died at the castle of one of his allies in Dalhem, Belgium. For certain, he didn’t die in the Land of Cuijk, however, was with great ceremony, he was brought to here and he was buried  in the St Elisabeth Church in Grave.

As indicated above Jan has made significant donations in Grave to the benefit of his subject. It is also likely that he has been involved in the foundation of the St Agatha Monastery by the Crosiers of the Order of the Holy Cross (Kruisheren)  in Kuyckbrockele (now St Agatha). See videoclip.

With Jan’s son Hedrik died in Maastricht it was his son who as Jan II took over the reigns of the county. He died childless and in this way hit uncle Otto ( a son of Jan I) became the next Lord.

Otto van Cuijk

Otto was Lord of Cuijk, Merum, Neerloon, Mierlo and though three marriages also of Zelem and Heverlee. He also held senior positions in the Duchy of Brabant and was until 1350 a member of the Council of Brabant. He was even mentioned as the highest advisor to the Duke. In 1338 he reprents the Duke at the Reichstag at Koblenz.

He also was a diplomat and in 1307 he negotiated on behalf of the Duke with the city of Mechelen. He travelled to France, Namur, Gelre, England and Holland to arrange marriages, contracts, business deals, financial and military affairs and truce. King Edward III had made him a permanent advisor and ambassador of his court. When Count (later Duke) Reinoud II of Gelre married the sister of the English King it was Otto who represented both England and Gelre in the formulation of the marriage contract. This shows the complex relationships that existed in the Middle Ages. But all of this international work had a negative effect on the Land of Cuijk, slowly but surely it was loosing its independent postion between the rising regional powers.

For example, because of increased hostilities between Brabant and Gelre, Grave had become an even more strategic position for Brabant. As a result and, because Otto – thanks to his high profile work – was in permanent need of money he, in 1323, handed over Grave, for 5000 pounds,  to the Duke of Brabant to receive it back from him in fief. This was a reason for Emperor Louis of Bavaria to confirm his rights over the Land of Cuijk.

At the same time he was happy to lend King Edward a hand in his 100 year war with France and amongst others he participated in the Battle of Crecy in1346.

Otto died in 1350 without leaving a male heir behind. [11. Het Geslacht van Cuijk, Ger Graat, 2008, 21]

Jan III, Jan IV and Jan V

Another grandson of Jan I van Cuijk became the next Lord. He als was Lord of Hoogstrate, Asten (half of it), Mierlo and Nieuwkuijc. However, he also inherited the debt of his uncle and most probably for that reason he sells the Land of Cuijk and the fief of Grave to Jan van Wytvliet, an illegitimate son of Duke John II of Brabant. However, as Jan never received his payment he took, in 1356, Grave back by force. Jan van Wytvliet dies in the battle. As punishment the Emperor took back the Land of Cuijk and gave it in fief to the Duke of Brabant. Jan III did receive it back in fief, but his power and reputation were severely damaged.

Months before his death in 1357 he also sells his lands at  Mierlo.

His son Jan IV follows him Lord of Cuijk, Hoogstraten, Asten (half) and Nieuwkuijc. However, he was no longer seen as a knignh and was refered to a Page. He was murdered in Cleve in 1363.

At that time his son had not come to age yet and a family member, linked to his grandmother,  Diederik van Horne. In 1371, he donated the above mentioned St Agatha monastery, which was founded by Jan I around 1300, to the Crosiers. There are no known heirs of Jan, who died in 1382

Wenemar van Cuijk and Jan VI

After the death of Jan V there is a succession argument between his nephew Jan VI of Hoogstraten and his uncle Wenemar van Cuijk. It was Wenemar he won the battle and became the next Lord. He was married to Aleyd de Cocq van Opijnen in Gelre and he has also properties in Gelre. This increased the involvement of the Duke of Gelre and Cuijk became the target of the next battle between Gelre and Brabant (Gelre Wars). Gelre’s influence is further boosted when Wenemar’s son Jan marries the 5 year old bastard daughter of the Duke of Gelre. As a result Wenemar allows Gelre to station its troops in Grave. This enrages Brabant who laid siege to Grave in 1386. This only ends two years later after the King of France (an ally of Gelre) negotiates peace, Grave returns to Brabant. Wenemar and his son Jan,  in return, receive it back in fief.

Wenemar dies in 1390 and his son Jan becomes the next Lord.However, he dies four yeras later, aged 34 without any children from his 15 year old wife/ His sister Johanna inherits the Land of Cuijk. It was cleverly arranged that in that same year she should marry Willem a bastard son of Reinoud van Gelre. After yet another bloody war between Gelre and Brabant that lasted from 1387 till 1399 Brabant had to accept the Grave was given in fied to Willem. This city now was under permanent control of Gelre. In name Johanna was still the Lady of the Land of Cuijk. This ended in 1400 when the marriage was annulled and the Land of Cuijk was now fully controlled by Gelre. [12. Het Geslacht van Cuijk, Ger Graat, 2008, 22-25]

Links with other families

During the height of their power the Lords of Cuijk had widespread family ties with the other nobility in the region.

Above mentioned Rogier van Leefdaal was also a Councillor of the Duke van Brabant and often worked closely with his nephew Otto van Kuyc. Rogier became Balliff of ‘s Hertogenbosch and eventually lord of the caste  in Brussels, where he died in 1333.

Jan I ‘s other son Willem had a daughter who probably married Jan II van Megen (1290 – 1347). The Lords of Megen (see below) where also the Lords of Heeswijk and Dinther. Walraven van Bentheim  married Agnes van Megen a daughter of Count Dirk van Megen, Through this marriage Heeswijk and Dinther passed on to the van Bentheim family.

The in Holland outlawed van Aemstels, who received the support of the Duke of Brabant and the Lords of Kuyc, also had income from properties in Heeswijk and Dinther.

Richold van Heeswijk most likely fought in the Battle of Woeringen (1288) on the side of the Duke of Brabant.

There were also strong family links (through marriage) with several members of the van Arkel family a powerful vassal of the Count of Holland. Around 1345 Elizabeth of Cuijk married Gerrit van Asperene, Lord of Tull and ‘t Waal and around 1400 Catherina van Cuijk marries Herbaren van Heukelom, Lord of Acquoy.

This brought allodial properties from the Lords of Cuijk along the river Linge into the hands of the van Arkel family.

There is also evidence that properties from the van Cuijk family in that same area had also been sold (?) to the Counts of Bentheim perhaps already as early as before 1200. It could well be that those properties later on also ended up in the hands of the van Arkels [13. Transitie en continuïteit: de bezitsverhoudingen en de plattelandseconomie. B. J. P. van Bavel, p150].

Furthermore the van Cuijks  supplied bishops to both Utrecht (Andreas 1128-1139) and Liege (Albert II 1195 -1200). They also supplied deans, Jan was the dean of St Servaas in Maastricht (1303-1326) and his older brother was dean at St Peters in Leuven (1296 – 1326).

Lords and Counts of Megen

County of Megen

Megen just 5 kms north of Oss is situated on the river Maas and its history might go back to Roman times (magus could mean place or field). Perhaps growing from a pagus the county of Megen evolved. Meginum is mentioned for the first time in 721 and also included the villages of Haren, Macharen and Teeffelen. Around 800, the place had already a castle a monastery and 44 houses, with an estimated population of 390 people. There are also indications that Macharen had a castle, a document from 1182 refers to it. The counts also had property elsewhere – in the 12th century Heeswijk-Dinther became part of Megen – after it had been held in fief by the Lords of Kuyc. In later years Megen itself became a minor part of  some of its future counts.

It is for the first time  mentioned as a county in 1145, when Count Alardus (Alard) was the local ruler. Until that time it’s believed that also Megen was part of the County of Kuyc. The Monastery of Haren is built on what was the Mansion of Kuyc [14.  Geschiedenis van Oss, Jan Cunen, 1932, p23].

A Dirk van Megen and a Willem van Megen are also known in the 12th and 13th century.

Walraven van Bentheim  married Agnes van Megen a daughter of Count Dirk van Megen, Through this marriage the Lordship of Heeswijk  passed on to the van Bentheim family.

In 1214 the Count of Megen granted the Knights Templar his allodium in Rixel.

The last descendant of the original van Megen family was Count Willem II (mentioned in 1253).  After his death the County came into the hands of Jan Dicbier ( a son of the Lord of Mierlo), most likely was married to another daughter of Count Dirk. [15. De Geschiedenis van het Graafschap Megen, Gerard Ulijn, 1984]

The first Count van Megen from the Dicbier family was called Jan I. He was first mentioned in 1285. His son Aert was also a magistrate (schepen) in Den Bosch. His son was Jan II van Megen.

While part of Brabant, the county was under regular attack from Gelre during the 14th and 15th centuries. The son of Jan II, Willem provided the township its city privileges in 1357. Like the privileges of Oss also those of Megen refer to a tough population where fighting was a permanent feature.

In 1335 Willem van Megen took procession of the above mentioned properties the Lords of Kuyc held in Haren, which led to a long-lasting dispute.

According to the Bossche Protocollen, another Count Willem (died before 1358) was succeeded by his widow Heylwich and after he came to age  his son Count Jan III, who in 1381 is mentioned as the schout (bailiff) in Den Bosch. In 1387 he is also mentioned as the Lord of Haps, most likely through his marriage to Armgard (who calls herself Lady of Megen and Haps.  Willem also had a daughter Theodorica who was married to Henrik Dicbier, Lord of Mierlo. These were two different branches of the Dicbier family, one ruled over Mierlo, the other one over Megen.

Jan III became in 1372 a signature to the famous Charter van Kortenberg. His son who took over in 1417 became Jan IV and around 1438 Jan V took over, followed by Jan VI in 1485. The latter was also mentioned as the Lord of Mierlo

He, held on to Mierlo but sold the County of Megen in 1469 to Guy (Guido)  de Brimeu, he was also Lord of Humbercourt, with rich possessions in the northern French region of the Somme. He was brought up at the court of Charles the Reckless (Karel de Stoute) and a close adviser to him. He also was Lord of Wesemale, held the title of Baron and Marshal of Brabant and Stadholder of Liege, and later on also Stadholder of Gelre,  he also was a Knight of the prestigious Golden Fleece. His military successes made him also financial rich, which allowed him to buy the County of Megen. He appointed  stewards to look after  the County of Megen. He only made his first visit to Megen in 1474. After the sudden death of Charles the Reckless in 1477, Guy possible became involved in high treason, support the French King to claim entitlements of the Burgundian Empire as a consequence he was, most likely unlawfully,  beheaded by the people of Gent.

After his death, his wife Antoinette de Rambures takes over the management of the County of Megen followed by their son Adriaan, who died childless  in 1542 after which his brother Eustache becomes the next count, he dies in 1548, leaving the family in great debt.

It was in particular during this period  that Megen suffered from the Gelre wars. It was plundered and ransacked in 15o7, 1512 and 1528.

Next in line is Karel de Brimeu – the best known Count of Megen  who took his position in 1549. After the final conquest of Gelre he became a colonel in the army of Charles V in charge of 15 companies of Gelre foot soldiers that previously had served under Maarten van Rossum. In 1556 he also became a Knight of the Golden Fleece as well as Stadholder (provincial governor) of Limburg. In 1558 he became captain-general of Hainault and in 1560 Stadholder of Gelre. During the Dutch Revolt he initially choose the side of Willem of Orange, but changed sides and took up the fight against the rebels.  He also assisted the Spaish King Philip II in his quest to fight the Reformation, the Governess Margaretha of Austria send Karel to Hedel, a hotbed of the Reformation and which at that time resorted under Gelre, to expel the pastor as he refused to administer the sacraments. However, the pastor kept on coming back and Karel was unable to permanently  expel him.

Karel died childless in 1572.

Statue of Charles de Brimeu (1572) in Megen

Megen now was inherited by the daughters of Karel’s brother Georg, first by Adrienne and after her death by her sister Marie., this all happened in the same year 1572. After her wedding in Megen, Marie didn’t visit Megen again. After the death of her husband she married, in 1580, Charles de Croÿ, son of the Prince of Chimay. However, a few years later she divorsed him. Marie died in 1605.

Megen again suffered greatly during the Dutch Revolt, it was plundered and/or occupied in 1574 (Battle of the Mookerheide), 1581 and 1583.

1581 was disastrous year, on the night of Epiphany the castle burned down because of carelessness of the Spanish garrison. An attack from the Dutch Republic, a few month later, destroyed the St Antonius chapel. Spanish troops returned in July and sacked the rest of the town. Later on also the mills and the church were burned down.

After the Dutch Revolt, Megen maintained its independence and became a catholic enclave and refuge for people who came as far as from Amsterdam. In 1689 for example some 11,000 people received their Confirmation here; Megen itself had at that time less than 1,000 inhabitants. It was also during this period that a Latin School was established in Megen, the only one in the region, again it attracted students from far afield in the protestant lands in the Northern Netherlands. The school remained in operation till 1967.

Succession troubles started after the death of Countess Marie and it was not until 1610 that finally the Court of Brabant decided that Frans Hendrik de Croÿ could claim the title of Count of Megen. In 1665 Count Albert Frans de Croÿ  sold the county to the Counts of Vehlen, who in turn sold it in 1697 to the Lords of Ravenstein (the Dukes of Neuburg). Also their ownership lasted for long and in 1728 it was sold to one of the ministers Baron von Schall to Bell.

The county ceased to exist after the French Revolution by an official resolution made on 23rd January 1798.

Video clip Megen

County of Herpen (later Ravenstein)

County of Ravenstein
10th century St Vincentius Madelgarius church Velp, Grave. Part of Land van Herpen.

In the early history, Herpen was the home of Alard van Herpen, a medieval lord. The region was then called “Herpina” or “Het land van Herpen” (Land of Herpen), Uden, Volkel and Boekel were also part of the County of Herpen, what would later be known as the Land of Ravenstein. It was wedged between the river Maas in the north and the large swamp area of the Peel in the south.  Herpen was a central hub, but with the coming of river trade in a later stage, the city of Ravenstein became due to its location at the Maas the main trading hub.

In 1179 Dirk van Rhenen was the local Lord in Herpen, he was a brother of Bishop Godfried van Rhenen. Dirk’s only heir his daughter Sophia van Herpen was married to Hendrik II van Kuyc and after the death of his wife Hendrik put Herpen under suzerainty of the Duke of Brabant.

While they resided in their castle of Grave the Lords of Kuyc now also had a castle in Herpen.

The great-granddaughter of Rutger van Kuyc/Rutger I van Herpen was married to Jan I van Valkenburg, Lord of Born and Sittard. Under the reign of his son Walraven the centre of the county moved to Ravenstein, where he built himself a castle. The city received its privileges in 1380 as a direct result of a defence centre needed during the Gelre wars. The County also included: Demen, Dennenburg, Deursen, Herpen, Huiseling, Langel, Reek, Schaijk and Velp. Several of these communities have a long history dating back, pre-historic archaeological evidence show occupation evidence from Bronze and Iron Ages on the higher laying areas in what was a river delta. In several of these places larger villages started appeared in the 10th century and some of the churches still have remnants of these early building activities.

A sister of Rutger, Lady Maria was married with Dirk van Haren (mentioned in the Bossche Protocollen in  1384), as son of Dirk, grandson of Hem Dirk.

Walraven was succeeded by his half brother Reinoud and he was followed by his nephew Simon von Salm, a son of his sister Philippa van Valkenburg. Phillipa had handed the County of Valkenburg over to the Duke of Brabant. In 1371 the Lords of Valkenburg fought with the Duke of Brabant at the battle of Beaswijler against Gelre. They lost that battle and a Henrick van Kuyc died in this battle.

This branch of the family died out in 1397 and the County went to the  Reinoud’s wife, Elisabeth of Cleve (Daughter of Adolf II of Mark and Margaretha of Cleve). She died childless and her brother Adolf IV of Cleve,  in a war with his uncle Willem III of Berg, became the heir of Ravenstein. Under this House, Ravenstein did rise in importance. Adolf was married to Maria of Burgundy, the daughter of John the Fearless. While his eldest son John became the heir of the Duchy Cleve, his younger son Adolf IV inherited the Land of Ravenstein. He also had castles in Wijnendale (near Brugge) and Edinge (in Hainault). In 1470 he marries Anna of Burgundy, an illegitimate daughter of Philip the Good. She took on the name Lady of Ravenstein, she became the Governess of Margaretha of Burgundy and raised the later Charles V at Margaretha’s court in Mechelen. Anna also established a city palace in Brussels under the name ‘Ravenstein’.

Anna had been married to Adriaan van Borssele one of the most influential nobles in Zeeland. After his death Anna inherited significant properties on Walcheren, which made her a wealthy lady. Together with Adriaan, Anna also played a key role in improving the dyke infrastructure on Walcheren. On reclaimed land they founded the villages of Sommelsdijk and Bruinisse.

In 1456 Adolf  had also become a member of the prestigious Knighthood of the Golden Fleece. He was the commander of the Burgundian Army and was the Stadholder-General of the Netherlands from 1475-1477. In 1478 as the highest ranking member of the Order he knights Maximilian of Austria. However, when Maximilian ruthlessly started to suppress the Flemish cities, he turned against the ruler and supports the rebel cities. He dies in 1492.

His heir  Philip of Ravenstein  (the son of his first marriage with Beatrice of Portugal )  becomes the most important official at Maximilian’s Court. But similar to the situation his father became involved in he also rejected Maximilian’s ruthless reign and also supported the cities. He dies in Edinge in 1528. Philip was married to Francisca of Lxembourg daughter of Peter of Luxembourg (Count of St Pol) and Margaretha of Savoy (Italian monarchy). She became the heir of the title ‘van Ravenstein’. After Philip’s death, the title was supposed to go to his nephew Adolf, however he died before that time and  there is an indication that the title ‘van Ravenstein’ went to Francisca’s sister Marie de Luxembourg (Duchess of Vendôme)   [16. The Emperor Charles V, Karl Brandi, 1939, p279]

Gerhard Veltwyk

Born in a Jewish family, in Ravenstein around 1505 he converted to Christianity and became one of the most learned people of his time. He was a scholar in both the Hebrew and Syrian (Old Testament texts) literature and translated these into Latin.

In 1540 he was asked to become an advisor of Emperor Charles V. He participated in the religious ‘goodwill’ discussions which took place in Worms and the following year at the Diet in Regensburg. Later on he became an ambassador for the Emperor in Hungary, he travelled with King Ferdinand to Vienna and Prague. He also went on foreign missions to Venice, Ragusa, Constantinople and Turkey.  A few years later he was deployed for a range of diplomatic services thought-out the German States; including the Netherlands. In 1549 he was appointed treasurer of the Golden Fleece. The last five years of his life were spending advising the Netherlands Government, he died as the President of the Council in Brussels in 1555.

Until 1609 the county remained part of the Duchy of Kleef.

Video clip Ravenstein

The History of Northwestern Europe (TOC)