Holland and Zeeland


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.

Vlaardingen and Dordrecht were the first cities in what is now Holland.  Strongholds against the Vikings or built by the Vikings became the key centres in Zeeland: Souburg (south motte), Domburg (motte in the dunes to the north) and Middelburg (motte in the middle of the other two).

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 allowed for large scale agriculture activities in these new lands.  The land could now sustain a larger population and this also led to a major regional political shift with the the lands above the rivers becoming more important.

However, Holland became increasingly dependent on the sea, as the agriculture activities were severely hampered by a deterioration of the reclaimed lands and the increase in severe flooding. Agriculture, switched to dairy farming. With fewer people needed for farming many people started to move to the towns, at the same time diary farming led to surplus in butter and cheese, which became available for export.

The main cities however, were not port cities. Leiden, Haarlem, Delft and Gouda were inland cities with an increasing manufacturing focus . While initially beer production was the main focus, in order to provide the growing population with ‘liquid’. Cloth production rapidly became another important activity.

While Holland started to see remarkable growth during the 14th and 15th centuries it was dwarfed in wealth and political importance by Flanders and Brabant. A growing Holland had more effect on the other northern inland provinces than it had on the leading economies for Flanders and Brabant. They were mainly orientated to the south and the west. The IJssel cities however, were operating in the same market as Holland, towards the north and the east. These cities (and provinces) started to form closer alliances with the Hanse and with the German Empire. Their interests was rapidly reciprocated as the the Baltic cities were also affected by the increased importance of Holland. Soon there were full blown wars between Holland, the Hanse cities and even with Denmark.

While Holland had more ships, they were basically operating on a commodity level for bulk transport and fisheries, there was very little value-add and therefore there was no major merchant activity in its port cities. Nevertheless their maritime power in the region was rapidly increasing.

This in turn also led to internal conflicts, often concentrating around the power of the nobility and the power of the cities (See Hoekse en Kabeljouwse Twisten below). The warring parties often shifted with sometimes whole cities being one of the two camps. This intensified when Holland was integrated in the Burgundian Empire. Since 1425 Stadholders (provincial governors) were appointed as the representative of the Emperor in Holland and Zeeland. They were mostly appointed from among the nobility of Flanders and Brabant. The baljuws – the main judicial officers in the regional areas – were also appointed by the Emperor, they were mostly selected from the local ‘Kabeljouw’ fractions.

The major change for Holland happened at the end of the 16th century, during the Dutch Revolt, when the Spanish occupation forced many of the leading intelligentsia as well as most of the  merchants from Flanders and Brabant had to flee to the north, because of the religious persecution of the protestants.

County of Holland- Viking origin

After the Treaty of Verdun in 843 the Low Countries became part of Middle Francia; since 855 part of Lotharingia and than in 870 was incorporated in East Francia. The slow collapse of the Carolingians, assisted by the frequent Viking invasions, saw a demise of central power. The defense of the land was basically left alone to the local people and their strongmen started to take control over the land.

The land however, more or less stopped on the southern side of the main river system, apart from the dunes the rest of what is now Holland was either water or swamps. The Medieval Warmth conditions might have resulted in more plant growth that saw, from the year 1000 onwards,  the land rising from the sea. The territory of what is now  Holland and Utrecht would have had a population of not much more than 10,000 people.

Perhaps as early as 834 Danish Vikings arrived – invited by Lothar – the son on Emperor Louis the Pious – to assist him in his power struggles  with his rival brothers. According to the Dutch school history books it was in this year that they ransacked the Frisian capital Dorestad in the pagus (gouw)  of Teisterband for the first time.

The Vikings established strongholds on higher laying place such as in Walcheren, Wieringen and Elterberg.

Lothar and Louis made up in 839 and consequently the Viking raids stopped. After the death of Louis in 841, Lothar – now Emperor –  gave – for services provided to him  – Frisia (all of the current Low Countries above the major rivers)  in fief to the Viking warlord Rorik who originated from Jutland. He ruled the Low Countries with his brother Harald. Rorik ruled from Wieringen, while Harald was based in the island of Walcheren in  Zeeland, together they ruled Dorestad. After the death of Harold, Rorik became the sole ruler of the region and with the assistance of his nephew Godofrid (Godfry) Haraldson he reneged on the earlier feudal arrangements with the Emperor. There was very little the Emperor could do as the Empire had by now weakened considerably.

After the death of Rorik around 882 Godofrid received the Low Countries in fief.

During a battle with Emperor Charles the Fat – who had gathered a large army of Langobards, Bavarians, Alemans, Thuringians, Saxons and Frisian – near the Viking stronghold Asselt (near Roermond) Godofrid  was surrounded. However, he was still strong enough to force the Emperor to sign a treaty wherebyhe was made Count of Frisia in 882. The only condition was that he had to convert to Christendom. To force closer ties, and thus indirectly control Godofrid, a marriage was arranged between him and Gisela, the daughter of Lothar II, the king of Lotharingia. However he didn’t stop plundering and Gisela was called back to Worms, never to return to him again.


The Gerulfings (Wulfingen) were a Frisian noble family living in what was than called West Frisia.  When around 840 the are came under the control of the Danish Vikings he became a vassal of what would become the Danish Kings and later the Danish Counts of Frisia.

Gerulf  could have been a descendant of the famous Frisian King Radbod (see Frisia). He is seen as the first Count of the area which would later be named Holland.   Gerulf lived from approx 850 till 896.

In 885 the Viking Count  Godofrid of Frisia send his vassal Count Gerulf to the Emperor to negotiate compensation for the cancellation of the marriage and demanded a further extension of his land into the wine area near Koblenz. This time he went one step to far. With the help of Gerulf, the Emperor tricked Godofrid to come to a meeting with him near Spijk on the river Rhine. Gerulf together with nobles loyal to Charles the Fat – including Waldger- son of Gerulf – and Everhard Saxo (son of the Count of Hamaland)  killed Godofrid and with him out of the way, Charles able to rid his lands of the Danish Vikings. (see also Frisia)

Waldger was, in 889, rewarded by Arnulf King of East Francia with lands in Teiterbant (Tiel, Aalburg, Asch) and his brother Dirk  saw their ancestral  lands extended to neighbouring Kinhem (Kennemerland) along the River Rhine (now Old Rhine near Bennebroek).


Dirk I Count of Kinhim

There is very little know of  Dirk I, possibly the son of Gerulf  but there is also some evidence that Dirk could have been the foster son of Gerulf.

From around 921 he is the first one to be mentioned as the Count of this region (which at that time was  still called (West) Frisia). It is not until 1100 before the Counts start using the name Holland and it was not until Floris V, in the 13th century,  that we can start talking of  a County with some sort of central rule.

There are very early links between what would later become Holland,  Brabant and Flanders, the economic powerhouse of Northwest Europe at this time. It was in the Brabantine town of Bladel that Dirk in 922 received – from the West Frankish King Charles III the Simple – as a reward for his assistance in putting down a revolt from some of his vassals – lands at Egmond (which lay just north of his possessions of Kinhem) to found an Abby. The foundation took place from the St Bavo Abbey in Ghent. As we saw before there was a strong viking link between these two regions.

Abbey of Egmond

The initial wooden abbey of Egmond was – by his son Dirk II – extended into a stone building for the relicts of Adelbert; one of the 11 missionaries who came with Willibrord from Ireland. Adelbert was thought to have preached in the coastal region of the Low Countries.

There are indications that there was an older church here that through Willibrord had come under the ownership of Echternach. Dirk however, took over these rights when he founded the Abbey, an act disputed by Echternach. This conflict was eventually resolved 150 years later, in 1156. Under the than Count Dirk VI the rights were swapped against income of Echternach  possessions  in Schouwen and Vlaardingen.

At the abbey the nuns prayed regularly for the spiritual well-being of the Count and his family. The Abbey became one of the most important centres of learning in the Northern Low Countries and the main centre of pilgrimages in the northern Netherlands.

The Abbey became the burial place for the Counts of Holland. In 1573, during the Dutch Revolt, (Protestant) William of Orange ordered the destruction of the (Catholic) Abbey.  With the proceeds of the sale of the goods and properties belonging to the Abby William established the University of Leiden (See video clip: Leiden)

The foundations of the old Abbey have been excavated and restored.

Counts of Egmont/Egmond

The Lords of Egmond started off as ministeriales (unfree servants/serf-knights), the family held the office of a advocati (regents) at the Abbey of Egmond. The first known Lord Dodo II (around 1000).  The family rose to power under Jan I (1310-1369), he became one of the key leaders of Holland under Count Willem III and became Stadtholder of Holland (the representative of the Duke of Burgundy).

His grandson Jan II van Egmond (1385-1451) was maried to Maria van Arkel and became the regent of the Duchy of Gelre. His son  Arnoud (Arnold)  became the Duke of Gelre. His other son (Willem II) inherited Egmond and was appointed by the Duke of Burgundy as Stadtholder of Gelre. One of his daughters, Anna, was married to Count Bernard of Bentheim.

A son of Willem II, Frederik (1440-1521) became the Count of Buren and because of the victories he achieved for Maximilian of Austria became one of the most influential nobles.  His son Floris married Margaretha van Glymes-Bergen. Their son Maximilaan van Egmond married Françoise de Lannoy and their daughter Anna van Egmond van Buren (1533–1558) married William of Orange.

Willem II’ s  daughter Anna married the Count Bernard I of Bentheim.

Willem’s other son Jan III of Egmond was Stadholders of Holland , Zeeland and West-Friesland. He called for the assistance of Count Albert of Holland during uprising of the ‘brood en kaas people’.

His son Jan IV was knighted in the Order of the Golden Fleece. One of only three nobles from Holland, who were invited to join this prestigious Court establishment.

The son of Jan IV,  Lomoraal of Egmond (1522-1568) was the most famous of the family he was one of the Dutch nobles who in 1565 went to the Spanish King Philips II asking for a ‘compromis’ regarding the Inquisition. Together with the Count of Megen he also informed the Dutch  Governess Margaretha of Parma(an illegitimate daughter of Charles V) about their Request. Following the iconoclasm in 1566  Philip appointed Alva as the new Governor of the Netherlands. Alva asked Lamoraal and his secretary Jan van Casembroot, Count of Horne to come to Brussels for a meeting. Here however, he imprisoned them in Ghent, They were accused of treason and were without  trial executed in Brussels. This harnessed the Dutch and it became a  turning point in their Revolt against their Spanish overlords.

However, Lomoraal’s  son was accused of being involved in the murder of William of Orange, his possessions were sold to the States of Holland and that set in the decline of the family.

Dirk II

It is unknown when Dirk I died possibly in 939, he was succeeded by his son Dirk II, born 930. He was married to Hildegarde, possibly the daughter of Count Arnulf of Flanders.

There might have been another Dirk in between I and II but there is no historic information on such a person. This Count could possibly have been married to Gerberga van Hamaland (later Gelderland). Their (possible) son became Wichmann IV of Gent, one of the first nobles in what would later become Brabant.

Emperor Otto II confirmed the rights of Dirk II in 983, which apart from Kinhem also included lands in Maasland and Texel. He built a fortress in Vlaardingen, Maasland.

He also ventured into Flanders and occupied the fortress of Ghent from 965 till 988. He also conquered lands belonging to the Bishop of Utrecht near the city of Leiden.

It is also around this time – 950- that for the first time the name ‘Holtland’ appear, most likely meaning marsh land and situated around Leiden.


Aarnaut and Dirk III

Dirk II died in 988 and his son Arnulf (Aarnaut) took over the title. He was born in Ghent in 951 and in 988 he married Lutgardis of  Luxembourg. He was killed during a campaign against revolting Frisians .

Lutgardis was the regent for their son Dirk, who was born in 993.  During her reign as a regent for her son she secured the assistance of her brother-in-law the German Emperor Henry II. This allowed her, in 1005, to sign a pact with the Frisians that settled the peace again in her realm.

In that same year her son had come of age and became Count Dirk III. He married a Saxon princess named Othelindis.

However, despite the excellent relationships, Dirk was able to get the wrath of the Emperor by migrating Frisians to the newly established rather remote and isolated fortress of Vlaardingen. Here he used his men to levy tolls on passing ships to the towns of Utrecht and Tiel, through his vassal the Bishop of Utrecht, he claimed the sole rights for such tolls.  In 1018 the Emperor ordered his nephew to stop this practice, he refused. This became the start of the so called Holland -Stichtse (Bishopric) wars which would last for over 300 years. The Emperor tried to extend its power and control over the nobility by granting properties and privileges to the Bishop, who could easily be controlled because of the lack of heirs and under the Diploma Ottonianum he had the power to appoint these bishops. This drew fierce opposition from the Counts of Holland, Brabant and Gelre and led to ongoing conflicts between the Emperor and the Bishop on one sides and the counts either individual or combined on the other side.

Back to the start in 1018, the Emperor then send an army under the command of Godfrey II (The Peacemaker), Duke of Lower Lorraine to Vlaardingen in order to capture the lands  Dirk had promised to hand over to Bishop Adelbold of Utrecht. However, the mighty army was defeated by Dirk in the boggy environment of Maasland (Battle of the Merwede); Godfrey was made hostage. This significantly raised the profile of the Frisian Count within the Empire. He was allowed to keep his lands and levy tolls, after which Godfrey was released. He also was later on able to conquer more lands that belonged to the Bishop. After the death of Emperor Henry II, Dirk supported Conrad II as the succession as the new Emperor.

By around the year 1000 all of the territory above the main rivers – the full territory of Frisia  – would have had a population of around 35,000 people (roughly 35% of the total of the Low Countries).

Dirk IV, Floris I, Dirk V

Dirk died in 1039, his son Dirk IV continued the expansion wars of his father and took more of the lands away from the Bishop of Utrecht. This further enraged Emperor  Henry III who was one of the strongest the German Empire had seen and it was under his reign the territory reached its peak. In 1046 he send his armies to the rebellious region. Dirk had joined forces with Flanders, Hainaut and the emerging contender of the throne in Lotharingia, Godfrey II with the Beard.

The results of the campaign delivered mixed outcomes for the various players. In relation to Dirk’s possessions in Holland the Emperor scored a victory, but as soon as he and his army had left Dirk continued his guerrilla activities in Utrecht and even ventured into the Bishopric of Liège. The Emperor returned the following year and completely demolished the Count’s castle Rijnsburg at Vlaardingen. However, on the way back the Emperor army was severely diminished by the allied forces, which now all openly revolted against him.

Dirk of course had not made himself very popular amongst the Bishoprics and in 1049 was killed in a plot organised by the Bishops of Utrecht, Liège and Metz.

Dirk did childless and was succeeded by his brother Floris, he was born at the castle in Vlaardingen in 1030. He was killed in 1061, by Herman van Cuijk on the way back from yet another campaign this time in Zaltbommel.  His daughter Bertha married the King of France Philip I. After a regency of her mother Geertuida of Saxon Floris’ son Dirk succeeded him.

In 1076 Dirk V successfully campaigned against Bishop Willem of Utrecht and was also able to conquer the islands of South Holland. He died in 1091 and was succeeded by his son Floris II.

Floris II (The Fat) – first to bear the name Holland.

After he already had a daughter out of wedlock Floris II  married Gertrude, daughter of Thierry II Duke of Lorraine, she later changed her name to Petronilla (and was locally sometimes known as Petronilla of Saxon), half sister of the Duke Lothar (who became Emperor Lotharius II).

Floris added Leiden to his processions and started extensive peat winning activities at the river delta, this made him a rather rich person. This was further enhanced with an increase in shipping and his success of being able to collect tolls at the critical points along the shipping routes. ‘Fat’ could therefore relate to either his figure and/or his riches.

There are suggestions that, especially his wife, was a very pious lady; her name change had to do with that referring to St. Peter and as such the Holy See. This might have been a reason why he came to an arrangement with the Bishop of Utrecht, he interestingly accepted to be a vassal of the Bishop. This delivered him the title of Count of Holland. The couple also rebuilt many of the timber churches with tuff stone.

Dirk VI link with Bentheim

When Floris II died his successor Dirk was still too young and his mother took the regency for him. This also shows us another face of this lady, most probably under the instructions of her half-brother at that stage still the Duke Lothar, she from 1129 – 1131 supported a revolt from her other son Floris (the Black) against his brother Dirk, who was seen as a rather weak leader.

Floris wanted to marry Heilwig van Rode, a wealthy aunt of Herman van Cuijk. In anticipation of this marriage he pre-empted the occasion by forcefully taking various castles and properties belonging to her. Herman van Cuijk reconquered these properties, Bishop Andreas van Cuijk, because of the family relationship, also became involved in the conflict. This opportunity was also used by his vassals- for political reasons –  to revolt against Floris.

When Floris tried to again grab power later on that year his mother didn’t support this 2nd attempt, and Floris escaped to West Friesland where he was able to gather disgruntled people in this region to support his battle against his brother. However, the Emperor this time negotiated a settlement, but a year later during a battle against the van Cuijk’s,  Floris was killed near Utrecht.

Countess Petronilla again became a regent.

Around 1125 Dirk VI married Sophia van Rheineck who brought with her the County of Bentheim, just over the current the border with Germany, which also is linked in with the history of Wietmarschen and Ootmarsum. The couple had 9 children of which Floris (III) became his successor.

In 1139 Dirk took part in Crusade together with some of knights from Twente such as Lord Jacob van Saterslo (Saasveld) and the Lord of Grimbergen.

Floris III

Born in 1140, he married in 1162 Ada of Scotland – the sister of the King of Scotland, the legacy of this lady would, a century later, have far reaching consequences for the County. Again this was a fruitful marriage with 10 children.

Floris showed a strong allegiance to the Holy Emperor Barbarossa and he assisted him during campaigns in Italy. Together with the Counts of Flanders, Brabant, Gelre and Kleve he joined Barbarossa in 1190 on the Third Crusade, soon after the start, Barbarossa drowned and Floris III died not long after him probably either from exhaustion or from the plague in Antioch. Philip of Flanders died at the battle of Acre.

Because of his close relationship with the Emperor Floris was able to arrange that his brother Boudewijn II van Holland became Bishop of Utrecht (1178 – 1196). This significantly boosted the involvement of Holland in the political affairs of the Bishopric Utrecht.

Floris had three children Dirk  VII who succeeded him, Willem I, who married Aleid of Gelre and Margaretha who married Dirk V van Kleve. Family relationships that would remain important throughout the 13th century.

Dirk VII – defeated by Brabant

His son Dirk married Aleid of Kleve in 1186 and the couple had three girls. Always a good reason for a war of succession, this despite the fact that he had passed a law that allowed the title to be inherited by the female line of the family.

The importance of the Holy Roman Empire was also prevalent during his reign. He supported Henry VI in a battle against another contender of the empire Otto IV, who was supported by the pope. This resulted in some important gifts to Holland:

  • Hollandse Waard (previously part of Utrecht)
  • Toll levy rights on Flemish shippers at Geertvliet
  • Temporary regency of Utrecht (1196) – this allowed him to appoint his uncle Dirk as bishop.

After Henry died in 1197 he changed allegiance and supported Otto IV.

When, in 1191,  his younger brother Willem returned from the crusade where he had fought with his father, he seemed to have enough fighting power in him to pick a succession fight with his brother. As Dirk was at that time of the coup in Zeeland, his wife Aleid went after Willem with an army and through clever strategy she was able to outmanoeuvre him which opened the way for a truce between the two brothers, Willem received the county of Middle Friesland (modern day Groningen and Friesland).

Here Willem warred against Hendrik de Kraan and he demolished his castle. Hendrik was a vassal of the Bishop Boudwijn of Utrecht, who as we saw above was his uncle. His brother Count Dirk IV could not led this go unpunished and asked Hendrik to imprison his brother. Willem escaped and sought refuge with Duke Otto I of Gelre, another contender for the (Oversticht) processions of the bishop. But Dirk proved invincible and won the battle of the Grebbeberg where he defeated Otto.

One day enemies, the next day allies, that is a regular feature of these warring centuries. In 1202 Gelre asked Dirk’s support to attack Brabant and they sacked the newly established city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which had become a rival city of Dirk’s Geertruidenberg. However, the Brabantine fought back and at Heusden they were able to capture Dirk, who was only released after a huge ransom; he had to accept the Duke of Brabant as his overlord in the lands below the Hollands Diep as well as over South Holland. For the rest the Bishop of Utrecht remained his overlord.

Dirk died a broken man a year later and was succeeded by his daughter Ada.

Ada deposed by Willem I (The Madman)

In order to strengthen her position as heir, her mother organised even before the burial of her father to arrange a marriage between the 15 year old daughter and Count Louis II van Loon (Belgian Limburg). As foreshadowed above, her uncle Willem used the opportunity and refused to accept her legitimacy and pronounced himself Count of Holland, he was supported by the noblemen of Kennemerland. Gijsbrecht II van Amstel (see below), operating as a vassal of the Bishop of Utrecht assisted Louis and his wife to cross the rivers and moors to safely arrive in ‘friendly’ Utrecht.

During the burial of her father Ada was harassed by Willem, she took refuse in the fortress Leiden , however she was captured and exiled to the island of Texel and later to John Lackland in  England. Willem I became the new count.

Motte fortress of Leiden

The motte was constructed in the 11th century. It is located at the spot where two tributaries of the Rhine come together, the Leidse Rijn, and another river, now a canal.

From humble beginnings, the hill was raised during various periods of history up to 9 meters above the surrounding landscape in the 11th century. Ada van Holland used the keep as a residence until her father died in 1203 and she was captured by her uncle.] In the same year the previous stone building was rebuilt after an attack on the castle, with tuff stone, and after Ada’s removal, in 1204 it was attacked again and rebuilt with brick. (See video clip: Leiden)

In 1196, Willem had, in Staveren (Stavoren), married Aleid van Gelre when he was still Count of Frisia. Because of its important trading ties with Holland, Frisian Staveren was often an ally of Holland.


County of Loon and the Loonse Wars

Probably the name of villa (Avernas under a count named Rudolph) in Carolingian times, within the pagus of Haspengouw. Later on it was a county in what is now Belgium Limburg.

The first definitely known Count was named in 1016 as Giselbert and his brother Arnulf. They were probably sons of Count Otto from the Betuwe (pagus Teisterband) and Liutgard, daughter of Count Albert I of Namur, married Erlende de Jodoigne.

1040 the county of Loon appeared, with Emperor Henry III treating it as land held under fief by the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.

Some interesting links with the area were we are most interested in.

Gerard II (1171–1191), a son of Louis II,  married Adelaide, daughter of Count Henry I of Guelders. Their son Louis II (1191–1218) married Ada, daughter of Count Dirk VII of Holland.  After her father’s death in 1203, Ada inherited Holland. She waged war (Loonse War 1203-1206) against her uncle William I of Holland, to defend her inheritance of Holland.   Despite her marriage to Louis for extra protection, she was taken prisoner in Leiden and brought first to Texel and then to England..

Loonse War (1203 – 1205)

During the so called Loonse  war that followed this inheritance conflict, Louis received the support of the Count of Flanders and the Bishops of Utrecht and Liege and later on also from Duke Henry I Brabant, together they were able to oust Willem who had to retreat to Zeeland.

 From here he attacked Holland and Utrecht whereby also the lands of van Amstel were ravaged. Also the castle of Egmond was burnt down; Wouter van Egmond participated in this war on the side of his Lord the Count of Holland.

 The Duke of Brabant mediated the Treaty of Brugge in 1206; the County of Holland was formally split between Louis and Willem however, the defacto power landed in the hands of Willem. Perhaps because van Amstel made certain allegiance arrangement with Holland he received a restitution of 500 pounds. [1. De Heren van Amstel 1105-1378, Th.A.A.M. van Amstel, 1999]

 Louis got his wife back in 1207 but as a result of this had to, five years later, relinquish his rights on Holland and Willem took officially on the title of Count of Holland. It must have been around this time that Willem received his nickname the Madman because of his lust for war.

 Louis was poisoned in 1218.

His brother Hendrik succeeded him. His daughter Geertruda married Jan V van Arkel while his other daughter Isabelle most likely  married  Diederik van Renesse. He was the son of  Dirk I van Seyn who was married with the Lady of Voorne, Renesse en Haamstede. She was the daughter of  Dirk I van Holland.

A third brother, Arnold III (1218–1221) married Adelaide, daughter of Duke Henry I of Brabant. Between  1207 and1214 he replaced Ada as a hostage in England.

Arnold V van Loon supported Duke Jan I van Brabant during the Battle of Woeringen in 1288, he did not support his overlord Gwyde de Dampierre at the Battle of the Gulden Spurs in 1302.

After bitter succession battles the county was in 1366 annexed by the Prince-Bishopric.

Loonse Succession wars (1336 – 1366)

After Count Lodewijk IV died childless in 1336 the tilte was claimed by his cousin Diederik van Heinsberg. For this he had the support of Jan III van Brabant. The Chapter of the Sint-Lambrechts Cathedral in Liège who held the fief of Loon refused this appointment and they were supported by the Pope. The  Prince-Bishop of Liège Adolf van der Mark tried to annex Loon but he failed. Diederik became Count under the protection of Brabant.

 Godfried van Loon-Heinsberg, Diederik’s only son died in battle in 1342 . When Diederik died in 1361his succession was challenged by two cousins  Arnold van Rummen and  Godfried van Dalenbroek  on the one side and The  Prince-Bishop Engelbert III on the other side. The bispo occupied Loon and Godfried capitulated and sold his rights to his cousin Arnold. He was supported by Brabant and was able to expel the troops of the bishop

 However in 1363 Duchess Johanna of Brabant dropped her support for Arnold and the following year the bishop re-entered Loon and at the end of a two year long siege and battle the  County was formerly annexed by  the Prince-Bishopric.

In 1216 he joined the French in their war against England. This led  to the refusal of John Lackland to recognise Willem as a legitimate nobleman. In that same year the Pope excommunicated Willem

After the death of his first wife in 1218 Willem married, in 1220, Marie van Brabant the daughter of Henry I.

Fifth Crusade

Perhaps to reverse the ban Willem went again on a crusade; he joined the disastrous Fifth Crusade from 1215-1221 which, because of total papal incompetence, ended in utter disaster.

Together with the Frisian and the Flemish, Holland had contributed 300 ships to the crusade flotilla which left the Low Countries in May 1217, under the leadership of Willem. They finally arrived in the Holy Land nearly a year later. On their way they had first copped a severe storm which had scattered their boats along the coast in England. They also took the opportunity, while passing by, to liberated Lisbon from the remaining moors who still were holding on to a stronghold here. As a reward the King of Portugal offered the crusaders land in his country, which many took up and the crusading army was rapidly shrinking.

Willem behaved heroic and gathered a lot of glory. It is not sure if he was involved in the invention of the Hollanders and Frisians, who built a floating attack tower by tying two ships together afterwards, in good Dutch fashions,  fighting broke out about who actually had made the invention the Hollanders or the Frisians.

In 1219 the crusaders scored some great victories in Egypt this led the Sultan of Egypt to allow the crusaders the take the city of Jerusalem as well as most of the lost castles in the Holy Land and the Holy Cross. The fanatic representative of the pope, Pelagius, refused and ordered that Jerusalem had to be taken by force. This basically was the turning point in the history of the crusades as the church would never been able again to take control of Jerusalem. Most crusaders left  the Holy Land in anger, including Willem who took his remaining fighters back home, he travelled via Italy to inform Emperor Frederick II about the situation in Egypt.

For a range of reasons the Emperor never did send sufficient troops to follow the order of Pelagius. In the end the pope’s representative ordered the remaining crusaders to attack Cairo, despite warnings that this was impossible during the annual floods of the Nile, Pelagius however, claimed God’s help. When the water started to rise he deserted in a boot and left his army stranded, after which they also marched home.

Because of peat winning Holland became more and more prone to floods. As a result of this the Dukes of Holland and Brabant started large scale dyke building projects. Before he died in 1222 Willem had dyked the Hollandse Waard –positioned between Holland and Brabant with  major cities Dordrecht and Geertruidenberg – (however, most of the land here was still largely lost during the Elisabeth Flood in 1421).

Another side effect was that the cultivation on these previous peat lands became more and more difficult and Holland was forced to import grain from Prussia and the Baltic countries.

Floris IV killed at a tournament

As a 12 year old his son Floris IV succeeded under the regency of Boudewijn of Bentheim. He married before 1224 Machteld of Brabant the daughter of Duke Henry I. At the age of 12 she had already become a widow of Henry II, Count Palatine of the Rhine.

As we saw above her sister Marie was married to Floris father. They had thres children Willem II who succeeded him and Floris the Guardian (see Floris V) and Aleid who marries Jan van Avesnes (and thus the founder of the next branch of the Counts of Holland).

Under his reign he extended the Holland territories with the Land of Altena (Between the River Merwede and the dammed Bergsche Maas).

We are still in the age of knights and chivalry; we see glimpses of this through the history of the Counts. At the age of 24 Floris died in 1234 at one of the most important institutions of chivalry the tournament this one at Corbie in France.



Holy Roman Emperor Willem II Count of Holland and Zeeland

County of Holland

As Willem was only 7 when his father died in 1234,  his uncles the Bishops Willem and later Otto of Utrecht took over the regency of the County.

Interestingly after he had become the Count of Holland he, in 1247,  mortgaged Nijmegen to the Duke of Gelre, as the mortgage was never payed off, Nijmegen to this day is part of Gelderland. He was also the Count after whom ‘s-Gravenhage is named as he started to rebuilt his homestead (Haga) into a castle to be used as a more efficient administrative centre for his county.

It was also in that year that the Kennemers were pacified, at least on paper; hostilities with the West Frisian in general continued till 1289.

In 1248 Willem  established the Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland, the oldest Water Board of the Netherlands. It had the authority to operate on a regional level.

Now an interesting and for the Low Countries a unique event took place. Because of his reluctance to assist with the Fifth Crusade, Willem’s overlord, Emperor Frederick II was excommunicated. After this event  a power struggle evolved between the supporters of the pope and those of the emperor. After the Duke of Brabant had declined the offer to become the next King of the Roman Empire, he joined forces with Henry II, and the archbishop of Cologne, to support Willem II of Holland and the count was subsequently elected in 1247 as king of Germany. After a siege of five months, he took Aachen in 1248 from Frederick’s followers. Gijsbrecht II van Amstel was one of the vassals who fought with Willem.

Only then could he be crowned as king. He gained a certain amount of theoretical support from some of the German princes after his marriage in 1252 to Elizabeth, daughter of Otto the Child, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and granddaughter of Emperor Otto IV; but, although William lacked neither courage nor chivalrous qualities…his power never extended beyond the Rhine country. In 1256 he was killed at Hoogwoud in a battle with the West Frisians, when burdened by his and his horse’s heavy armour, he  fell through the ice.

Floris V

At the death of Willem Floris was 2 years old and his uncle Floris de Voogd “the guardian”  son of Count Floris IV and Matilda of Brabant became his regent and after his death in 1258, the regency went to a sister of his father, Aleid of Hainaut;  her husband Jan of Hainault had dids the previous year. She however, spend most of her regency in Zeeland where she did receive greater support of the nobility. It was here that Floris received his education from Jacob van Maerlant.

Jacob van Maerlant (ca 1235-1300)

This important Dutch writer lived in Damme and started his professional life as  a clerk at the Chapter of St Donaas in Brugge. Around 1260 he had moved the Maerlant, on the island of Voorne in Zeeland,  the old centre of what later became the city of  Brielle (Den Briel), here he became the sexton of the church of St Pieter.  The Count of Voorne (Zeeland) was the patron of this church. He was close to Aleid of Hainault and this most likely led to van Maerlant becoming the teacher of Floris V. In 1261 he wrote a Dutch  schoolbook based on a popular Latin schoolbook ‘Alexander’s Geesten’ , the story of Alexander the Great. This most certainly had its effect on Floris later life. He also wrote the book ‘Heimelijkheid der Heimelijkheden’ an introduction into the art of governing (influenced by the works of Aristotle). In 1270 he returned to Damme. Floris was proud of his achievements and assigned his former tutor  to write the complete history of the world starting from the Creation till 1250, named the Spieghel Historiael. Earlier he had ordered van Maerlant  to write the history of the Counts of Holland this is considered to be the first Dutch history book.

However, the Holland nobility remained divided along party lines and those opposed to Aleid asked Count Otto II of Gelre to dispose of her, which happened in 1263.  Zealander Lord Albert of Voorne and Willem van Brederode were sidetracked. The new key decision makers in Holland now were: Dirk van Teilingen, Simon van Haarlem and Gijsbrecht van Amstel.  When Floris became of age in 1266 these lords remained in charge of all major political and financial activities.  Prearranged by leading nobility of Holland and the powerful Gwyde van Dampierre, Count of Flanders,  Floris – at the age of 14  – married Gwyde’s daughter Beatrijs.

Regent Aleid remained influential during these turbulent years and she was able to increase the prominence of her family, the Avesnes. However, in 1277 Floris saw this increasingly as a threat to his own position and he exiled all of the Avesnes from Holland. Those Holland nobles who supported Avesnes were expelled from the Council of the Count. During his reign Floris continuously used the internal conflicts between the nobility to his personal advantage and partly because of that infighting, in the end, the nobility as a whole ended up with lesser influence. However, it can also be argued that also in the end this would cost him his life.

At the same time we see the upcoming power of the cities and its citizens (volc), while the nobility lost influence, the cities gained it. Here merchants, paid bureaucrats and bankers were in charge and this was not well received by the nobility. There was not a lot of respect amongst citizens for the nobility. By subduing the nobility Floris was able to maintain internal peace and this was well appreciated by the merchants and those depending on commerce and  trade.

In 1277  – Floris was now 19 years old  – he was knighted by the Duke of Brabant during a tournament in Den Bosch.  Two years later the young count established his own knighthood: The Sovereign Knighthood of St. Jacob. To increase the importance of this Order he built the Knights Hall (Ridderzaal) at his court in The Hague – still the political centre of the country. It was here that the accolade of the first 12 knights took place. This included a number of farmers who were also raised to the peerage. He therefore received the nickname ‘ Der Keerlen Gods’ – God’s own bloke.

He was able to position himself as a strong ruler and was able to gain power at the cost of the nobility. Most probably fuelled by the prestige his father had and the rich connections the family had been able to build up during that period, Floris was also arrogant and had great political ambitions, with hindsight he might have overreached especially in relation to his international ambitions, which at time were dominated by the conflict between France and England. On a national level however, he was able to strengthen the position of the Counts of Holland,  he brought more territories under his control and significantly increased his power base and extended the wealth base of his family.

Around 128o he built the Muiderslot (Castle of Muiden – see also video clip) at the estuary of river Vecht and the former Zuiderzee (now IJsselmeer – muiden means rivermouth). He gained command over an area that used to be part of the See of Utrecht. The River Vecht was the trade route to the city of Utrecht, one of the most important trade towns of that time. The castle was used to enforce a toll on the traders and housed the baillif (deputy) of the Count.

He extended his lands and by 1289  he had conquered the whole of West Friesland. The Frisians never recovered from this and have since been pushed back to where there still are in the current province of Friesland. During this campaign the village of Hoogwoud, where his father had died, was burned to the ground and all the inhabitants killed. He also built five new fortresses near Medemblik, Alkmaar and Wijdenes. These campaigns were organised through fyrds (heervaarten) aimed at – amongst others -also  to Boxmeer, Tiel, Schoorl and Rhenoy. The exact reasons of some of these fyrds are uncertain however they need to be seen within the context of the regional power struggles between Holland, Brabant and Gelre and often also involved Flanders. [2. Landsheerlijke macht en stedelijk prestige: heervaarten van Dordrecht 1284-1286. Jan van Herwaarden. Stedelijk veleden in veelvoud. 2011]

Under Floris V the Counts of Holland also became the leading overlords in the northern Low Countries. In 1291 he no longer only uses Holland in his title, but also Count of Zeeland and Lord of Friesland. Zeeland to make clear his position towards the Count of Flanders and  in relation to the Frisian title,  to impress the King of England (who greatly admired Frisian literature linked to wealth and power). However, this led to a range of conflicts with the Bishop of Utrecht, who claimed his historic Frisian rights.

The importance of Holland became clear as the King of England started to show interest in the Country. For that purpose England changed the wool staple port to Dordrecht. A quarter of a century later in 1325 – with 6,000 inhabitants – the city had become the largest  in Holland.

Floris and Beatrijs had nine or possibly eleven children, of whom only Jan (who died at fifteen) and Margaretha survived childhood – and even Margaretha seems to disappear from history after the death of Alfonso (see below). Floris’ children didn’t live long, and he had no legitimate grandchildren. Floris did, however, also father seven or so illegitimate children, of whom Witte van Haamstede is the best-known. Witte’s half-brother Count Jan granted him the lordship of Haamstede.

His son Jan was born sometime in 1284, through his mother Beatrijs , one of the many daughters of Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders he was a first cousin of Duke Jan II of Brabant. He was betrothed to King Edward I’s daughter Elizabeth shortly after his birth. At the same time, his sister Margaretha was betrothed to Edward I’s son Alfonso, who died shortly afterwards (August 1284).

Jan went for his education to the Court in London. As late as 1294, Floris had actively supported King Eduard I of England in his (Hundred Year) war with France and had send 1000 troops to assist Eduard at the Battle of Gascogne.

Trouble started when in 1296 Floris, after extensive lobbying, suddenly changed his allegiance from King Eduard I of England to the King of France, this was an understandable but strategic mistake.

The  seeds for this conflict were laid in 1294 when England signed a secret friendship treated with Flanders – mediated by Duke of Brabant –  amongst others things the treaty included that the English king would marry his crown price to Filippina the daughter of the Count of Flanders. Jan van Cuijk was appointed as the envoy of the King of England with the assignment to mediate between Holland and Flanders in relation to the overlord-ship of Zeeland, at that time troops from the Count of Flanders were defeated by Floris  in Zuid Beveland. England wanted to maintain friendship relations with both Flanders and Holland, however, Floris was not impressed by that arrangement. Brabant’s mediation in the friendship treaty was rewarded with the move of the English wool staple from Dordrecht to Mechelen.  The relation between Brabant and Holland had also deteriorated as Floris had reneged on a treaty signed with Flanders in 1290 for which Brabant was the guarantor. [3. Floris V, E.H.P. Cordfunke, 2011]

The preliminary negotiations that led to the  treat with France were held in Artois and led by by Jean d’Avenes Count of Hainaut, who was married to his aunt Aleid.In January 1296 Floris – rather hastily – went with a large part of his court to Paris to meet the King of France to work out the agreement between the two parties. As a result of his  Floris received significant personal financial rewards as well as the support of the France for its claim on  the overlordship of Zeeland  on the west side of the Scheldt (see below),

At the time of the switch of alliances Floris son Jan lived at the Court of Eduard and as a result of the switch in alliances he was now of course kept hostage at the English court while a very annoyed Eduard continued to plan to arrange the marriage between his daughter and Jan in order to recoup his influence in Holland.

The year 1296 was a turbulent year for Floris his beloved wife and very competent partner Beatrijs died (March) and also in that same year,  the succession conflict that had evolved after the death of the last King of Scotland a decade earlier  flared up again; Floris – through his  great grandmother Ada of Scotland – put himself up as one of the 13 claimants of the Scottish  title.

This clearly was too much for King Eduard who also was a claimant (and in the end did win this conflict)  and most likely it was at the end of January, most probably in Bergen op Zoom at the castle of Arnold van Wesemaal,  that a plot was planned and financed by the King of England to kidnap Floris and bring him to England.  This plan was finalised during a meeting in Cambrai in May that year. It was not too difficult to get local supporters for this plot, Gwyde of Flanders (the father of his deceased wife), Duke Jan of Brabant, the Bishop of Utrecht, and the lower nobility of Holland; Jan van Heusden, Gijsbrecht van Amstel, Herman VI van Woerden, Gerard van Velsen and of course Jan van Cuijk. They all had all felt the pressure of the ambitious Floris on their lands and were happy to assist. Jan I van Cuijk, the fist councillor of the Duke of Brabant, was probably the mastermind behind the operation. There was a real incentive for his involvement, as in the treaty with France it was stipulated that Floris would declare war on Jan van Cuijk (as well as on Walraven van Valkenburg), as key, paid, allies of the English king. There was also support for the plan amongst the nobility of Zeeland; at least those supporting the position of Flanders as the overlord of the region (possibly Jan van Renesse and Dirk van Brederode). [4. Floris V, E.H.P. Cordfunke, 2011]

Jan van Heusden was the first one – in February – to dismiss Floris as his overlord and instead accepted the Count of Kleve as his overlord. Jan van Cuijk followed in May. Despite of these signs Floris didn’t seem to be concerned or alarmed. Most people involved in the plot were linked to the van Amstel’s and the plot became therefore known under their name.

The opportunity for the kidnapping arrived in early June. Floris was the mediator for a dispute between Gijsbrecht van Amstel and Herman van Woerden on one side and Zweder van Zuylen ( Zuilen, Zuijlen), the bishop of Utrecht on the other side. The whole party of plotters was present at this event. Floris had even put 400 pounds of his money on the table as a payment of his two vassals for the bishop. Floris was able to successfully conclude the arrangements.  The negotiations were finalised with a sumptuous meal.  After the meal  the part went on a falcon hunting party, most probably on lands over which van Amstel had the hunting rights. [5. De Heren van Amstel 1105-1378, Th.A.A.M. van Amstel, 1999]  It was here that Floris was kidnapped in Utrecht, his capturers were Gijsbrecht van Amstel, Herman van Woerden and Gerard van Velsen (who had his castle Adrichem in Beverwijk), they took Floris to the Muiderslot (video clip), where they imprisoned him for five days. Legend has it that he was held in the cellar of the north tower of the castle. It has been suggested that the plan must have been to bring him from here to England, across the North Sea.

Floris  had significant support under his own people ( Der Keerlen Gods) and when the news reached them that he was captured they came to the rescue.

In the following turmoil, perhaps in panic or as a result of a stuff up Floris was killed by Gerard van Velsen. The travel chest that Floris had taken with him on his trip to Utrecht is still kept in the Muiderslot. The castle in its original form, of a rather low level fortress, was destroyed soon after the death of Floris and was rebuilt around 1370 and received more or less it present outline around 1450.

The plotters now fled to castle Kronenburg near Loenen, owned by Gijsbreacht van Amstel, who had by that time already fled to Brabant.

In the meantime, apart from the supporting farmers also Gijsbrecht van IJsselstein, Bishop Zweder van Zuylen and Loef van Kleve joined the pursuit of the plotters. Jan van Cuijk also arrived with a party of 600 soldiers. It is unclear who supported who. Jan van Cuijk obviously the plotters, Loef van Kleve for opportunistic purposes perhaps both. Gijsbert van IJsselstein was a cousin of Gijsbrecht van Amstel and had 4 years earlier ended his vassal relation with him, so that might explain his participation . Some of the plotters were imprisoned others were killed on the spot and those who were captured were ‘friendly’ forces were able to escape.

Gerard  van Velsen was brought to Dordrecht were he made a full statement. He was terribly tortured and eventually killed.

After the sudden death of Floris V, the City of Dordrecht provide Wolfert van Borselen with two ships to secure the secure the border with Zeeland against the Count of Flanders. Loef van Kleve – a brothger of  Count Dirk VII of Kleve arrived in Doirdrech and because of his family relationship with the House of Holland he took up the position of  the acting ruler. Together with Jan van Arkel and Hendrik van der Lek he addressed some of the pressing issues. They also informed Jan van Avesness and asked him to come to Dordrecht ASAP. They also reported this his son Jan II of Avesness was safe and well in the city, he immediately did send his brother Guy (the later bishop of Utrecht) to Dordrecht.  They also send a letter to the King of England with the request to send Floris son Jan to Holland. However, a situation like this in the 13th century was also an opportunity for others to become involved and Dirk van Kleve in Dordrecht to also put his claim in. He led the party that supported the King of England while on the other side the French-Hainault supporters wanted Jan van Avesnes to take over the leadership. They persuaded Dirk to leave the city and this prevented any further bloodshed.

Jan I of Holland

After the dust had settled Floris son took over as Jan I of Holland. Eduard was reluctant to send him home after the event. He first organised Jan’s  marriage with his daughter Elizabeth of England. He also was given two advisers (Jan III van Renesse and Wolfert I van Borselen)  hand picked by the King of England to accompany him to Holland.

In January 1297, Jan sailed to Ipswich, and married Elizabeth in the priory church on 18 January. Elizabeth was born in August 1282, so was a little older than Jan, almost fourteen and a half to his twelve. Elizabeth’s twelve-year-old brother Lord Edward attended the wedding, as did most of the English and Dutch nobility; Edward gave his new brother-in-law a gold cup as a wedding present. Jan returned to Holland ten days after the wedding, attended by his many Dutch nobles, but Elizabeth – like her sister Margaret in 1294 – decided to stay in England.

Elizabeth stayed at Windsor with her brother Edward for some time, and was at Langley when she received a message from Jan that he had reached Holland safely. On 23 August 1297, Elizabeth, with a magnificent trousseau, departed England with her father, who had with him a fleet of 500 vessels in readiness for his Flemish expedition. Apparently in no great rush to join her husband, Elizabeth stayed with her father until after Christmas 1297. She was now fifteen, Jan still only thirteen.

During Jan’s minority, Holland was ruled by a regent, Wolfert van Borselen. He was murdered in August 1299, perhaps on the orders of Jan’s kinsman, guardian and heir, Jan d’Avesnes, Count of Hainault, who took over control of the government.

Count Jan I, never very healthy, died in Haarlem on 10 November 1299, still only fifteen years old. Given his youth and ill health, it seems quite likely that his marriage to Elizabeth was never consummated. She returned to England and, three years later, married Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. As late as 1316, the year of Elizabeth’s death, Edward II was still chasing up his sister’s dower in Holland.

(Thanks to Kathryn Warner for her excellent blog on Edward II)


Dutch Nursery rhyme

There is a Dutch nursery rhyme that starts:  ‘In Den Haag daar woont een graaf – met zijn zoontje Jantje’. In The Hague there live a count with his little son John. The count concerned is Floris V, his son who succeeded him after his murder was only 12 years old at that time.

After a conflict with the city of Dordrecht Wolfert was murdered in 1299. Under the pressure of Dordrecht and other cities in Holland the regency was handed over to Jean I d’Avesnes Count of Hainaut (Henegouwen) who was married to Aleid the daughter of Floris IV. Two weeks later Jan I died aged 15 and Jean became as Jan II the next Count of Holland. This was challenged by the Emperor Albrecht II and to argue his case he travelled to Nijmegen where he had arranged a Reichstag. However, as soon as the Emperor saw the Holland’s army he turned around and didn’t come back.

With the death of Jan I the dynasty of the House of Holland (922 – 1299) came to an end.

The Counts of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault

Jean d’Avesnes (Jan II)

Jan was succeeded as Count of Holland by his father’s cousin Jean d’Avesnes, Count of Hainault, who was born in about 1247; he was the grandfather of Philippa of Hainault, wife of King Edward III. There were rumours that Jan I was poisoned on his cousin’s orders, but of course this is unprovable. With Jean II’s accession, the counties of Hainault and Holland were united.

From 1299 till 1345 Holland would be governed under a personal union with Hainaut. The next set of counts called themselves the Counts of Holland, Zeeland and Hainaut. As we saw above Aleid the daughter of Floris IV married Jan van Avesnes and their son Jan II (Jean d’Avesnes) becomes the first count of the new branch of the Counts of Holland and Hainault, as these two counties were now united in this one family.

Some of the other players in the drama around Floris V also played key roles elsewhere. Gwyde of Flanders was captured by the French King which in 1302 led to the famous revolt known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs. Jean d’Avesnes who fought with the French king against Flanders now was in conflict with the victor Gwyde who entered Hainaut and Zeeland in 1303.

Jean’s brother Gwyde d’Avesnes who had been made Bishop of Utrecht was also captured by the Flemish, supported by Jan II of Brabant large parts of Holland and Zeeland were now occupied by these forces. A year later however, the tables were turned and the power of Jean d’Avesnes was restored in both Holland and Zeeland.

Willem III

Jean’s son Willem III of Holland (Willem I of Henegouwen and Willem IV of Zealand) followed his father  up in 1304.  He was married to the powerful Johanna van Valois, she played a key role in the International affairs and corresponded amongst others with the King of England as well as the Pope. They both played a key rule in European history and Willem is therefore also known as the father-in- law of Europe.

  • He was instrumental in the election of King and later Emperor Louis V of Bavaria his daughter Margareta married the king in 1324.
  • He also assisted Edward III to obtain the throne of England and as a consequence one of his other daughters Philippa of Henegouwen married this king, he remained a key advisor to the king during the early part of the 100 year war against France.
  • His middle daughter Johanna married the Count of Gulik.

In 1322, he arranged the Treaty of Doornik that ended the feud between the Avesnes and Dampiere families. This resulted in him obtaining the sovereignty of Zeeland-Bewesterschelde (on the west side of the Scheldt). He abandoned his claims on Imperial-Flanders, a small strip in east Flanders (that included Doornik) and that was in fief of the Holy Roman Emperor, the rest of Flanders was a fiefdom of the king of France.

He also mediated in a Hanse dispute between the cities of Lübeck and Stavoren, where also Johanna played a role as arbiter. This issue dated back to a feud between the two city that started during a privateer event in 1289, an agreement was finally negotiated between 1330 and 1335. [6. Een vete tussen Staveren en Lubeck (1329-1335) – Stedelijk verleden in veelvoud. Hanno Brand, 2011]

It is also during this period that some significant political reforms stared to take place. This will have been prompted with the extension of the territory that occurred in 1299 when the Counties of Henegouwen, Holland and Zeeland were combined. The individual power structures needed to be facilitated. The Council of the Count started to become more permanent administration institution with increased legislative powers and permanent clerical staff. De ‘Gemene Raad’  was in charge of issues in relation to all of its citizens. A separate and  perhaps a more adhoc council was formed in case issues needed to be discussed that only involved the nobility (Raad van Mannen).

Interestingly Simon van Benthem, most likely a descendant from the above mentioned van Bentheim was the most influential member of the Council during this period (he died between 1327 and 1330). He was also the baljuw (sheriff) of Amstelland in the period after the van Amstels had fled to Oss (see below).

Within these Councils there were furthermore separate regional councils for Holland, Zeeland and Henegouwen, obvious in charge of their own local issues. Especially the Council of Zeeland demanded its own independence. As often happens with new developments it often is two steps forwards to be followed by one going backwards, the powers of the Council were reduced under Willem IV. It is rather obvious that the tensions that followed were part of the reason of the civil war that erupted between the various nobility fractions around 1350 (see below:  Hoekse en Kabeljouwse twisten). Further democratic developments would take place during the Bavarian/Burgundian period, especially after the Kiss of Delft in 1421 and full independence after the Dutch Revolt in the 16th century.

[x. De grafelijke Raad in Holland en Zeeland ten tijde van graaf Willem II (1304-13337), J.W.J. Burgers, 2009]

Willem IV

After his death his son Willem IV succeeded him (Willem II of Henegouwen). He supported his brother-in-law Edward II, who than launched his campaign against the king of France this heralded that start of the Hundred Year War in 1337 (see also: The Great Death).  He participated three times in the Teutonic Crusades to Lithuania and Prussia and also travelled to the Holly Land.

Willem IV died in the Battle of Staveren (Warns) which – in 1345 –  he led against the Frisians. This time Staveren had turned against Holland.

Margareta of Bavaria

His sister Margareta (who as mentioned above was married the Holy Roman Emperor) became the new Countess of Holland.

Hoekse en Kabeljouwse twisten – Hook and Cod disputes

The Low Countries had their own version of the Guelphs and Ghibellines conflict, which had its origin in the Investiture Controversies  and led to a range of political battles and even wars  between those supporting the church and those supporting the Emperor. In Italy it did set cities against each other and even groups with the cities.

For close to 150 years a similar civil war situation evolved in Holland after the last Count of Holland Zealand and Hainaut died in 1345. The Emperor appointed his sister Margaret of Bavaria as his successor. His other sister was married to the King Edward III of England and Margarethe decided to sell the Holland to the English. The city of Dordrecht however, doesn’t agree with this wants Margarteha’s son Willem to take over as Count Willem V. This led to an ongoing power struggle between mother and son, both supported by their own nobility followers.  Those supporting Willem V became known as the Cods (kabeljouwen) –  named after the scale alike Bavarian diamonds on the costume of Willem and also because this fish is a veracious eater and can thus grow and grow. The opposition was called Hooks (Hoeken) as they resembled the red cap of the other party and also as a hook is which what you can catch the cods.

The first of these battles, which started in 1349, were favourable for Willem V. Willem and Ewards agreed to a peace settlement and in 1354 Margareta abdicated after which Willem V became to sole ruler. (Willem III of Henegouwen).

Throughout the period as soon as there succession situation, the wars would fire up again, however, every time again  the two groups kept each other in balance. While on a city by city basis there were very distinct political communities overall the power within the Country  was seldom dominated for any length of period, by one of the groups.

Over time the Kabeljouwen became more linked to the vested interests (the ruling regime) and the Hoekse representing the opposition. The divide started to concentrated around supporters and opponents of Burgundy. In 1481 it became a distinctively anti Hapsburg conflict. Whole cities took side and often the origin of the conflict got totally lost in the various battles that evolved. Often the disputes resembled the pattern of noble feuds, at other times they took place on the level of the urban elite. Of course the division also became an ideal ‘lightening rod’ for a range of other issues simply to be misused for political gain.

Similar conflicts also erupted in Frisia (Schieringers and Vetkoper) and Gelre (Heeckerens en Bronckhorsten).

Jonker Frans War

For centuries this remained one of the most popular stories of the Hoekse en Kabeljouwse twisten. Born in 1465 Jonker Frans van Brederode was a key figure in this conflict.

In 1488 he was, in Hulst, appointed as the leader of the Hoeken. To highlight the intrigues around this civil war his half-brother Walraven van Brederode was one of the people who helped to elect him in this position, only to change sides for the Kabeljouwen some time later when the Hoeken didn’t agree with the appointment of Maximilian of Austria as the regent for his underage son Philip the Fair (who would later become Duke of Burgundy and as such also Count of Holland).

In November that year Frans took Rotterdam and from here he unsuccessfully campaigned in Schiedam, Delft, Gouda, Dordrecht and Schoonhoven. He was supported by Reynier van Broeckhusen a vassal of the Duke of Gelre. He did succeed in taking Woerden and Geertruidenberg.

His short reign ended a year later when his companions, including the Mayor of Rotterdam were tried  and beheaded in Delft. Frans was deadly wounded during the battle of Brouwershaven in 1490 and died soon after that.

This only helped his fame and status  in Rotterdam as this city had profited from the damages done to Delft and Gouda and was able to grew out to one of the most important cities in Holland.

This particular conflict officially ended after the Cheese and Bread Games (See: Popular Uprisings) in 1492 but the final ‘twisten’ only totally died down after Charles V took firm control over the region.

Willem V and Albrecht I

During a party in 1358 Willem V was said to have gone crazy (drunk?) and killed one of his knights. Willem’s brother Albrecht had him locked up in Le Quesnoy castle in Henegouwen where he died in 1389.

Albrecht was instrumental in the growth of Amsterdam, he provided the city with privileges that allowed them to operate very independently, which led to the enormous economic growth of the city. As Delft and Leiden didn’t give their permission he could not provide Den Haag with city privileges (it is still then largest village in the Netherlands). However, he did provide its citizens that allowed then place to grow. This initially happened directly around the Knights Hall (Ridderzaal).

The increased importance of Holland as an emerging regional power was on show during  a double wedding in Cambrai in 1385 which was already arranged by the Burgundian Duke Philip the Bold a decade earlier, between the male heirs of Burgundy-Flanders-Artois and Hainault-Holland-Zeealand with each others sisters. This peaceful arrangement brought the two leading powers in the Low Countries together an event that is still relevant today’s political and geographical situation in this part of Europe.

Double marriage of 1385

John the Fearless1371 – 1419Mother: Margaret de Male (Flanders)Father: Philip the Bold Margaret of Bavaria1363 – 1423Mother: Margareta of Brieg (Silesia)Father: Albert I of Bavaria Count of Holland-Zeeland and Hainault
Margaret of Burgundy1374 – 1441Mother: Margaret de Male (Flanders)Father: Philip the Bold William of Bavaria – Straubing1365 – 1417Mother: Margareta of Brieg (Silesia)Father: Albert I of Bavaria Count of Holland- Zeeland and Hainault

According to the abbot of Cambrai 20,000 spectators housed in 6.000 tents surrounded the city that saw its largest feast in 500 years, which lasted for a week. There were wild beasts, pageants, tournaments. The costs were enormous Albert’s cost equalled Holland’s total revenues for a full year; this resulted in a delay of the building of his capital in The Hague.

After the death of Albrecht’s wife Margareta van Brieg in 1386,  the affaire and death in 1392 of his young lover Aleida van Poelgeest  remained for centuries one of the most romanticised stories in the country. She was most probably a victim of the above mentioned ‘twisten’, however, others have argued that he murder was an accident as that it was aimed as one of Albrecht’s advisors (Willem Cuser) who was also killed in the attack. It was also suggested that his son Willem was implicated in the complot, he didn’t agree with his fathers handling of the ‘twisten’. Father and son reconciled in 1394.

As a punishment possessions of Hoeken were demolished and Delft (a Hoeken city) was ordered to dismantle its city walls. He ordered 1000 men from Delft to walk barefoot to Den Haag to ask for forgiveness, followed by 500 women wearing their most beautiful dress and lose hair to beg the Count for saving their men.

Albrecht undertook new campaigns to ‘finally’ settle the situation in Friesland. This also resulted in a split in the Hanse trading bond between the cities in Holland and those along the river IJssel. This also led to the broader split between the Hanse and Holland that started to occur after 1400.

Willem VI

When Willem VI (Willem IV of Henegouwen) took over the County in 1404, the County was still in severe debt as a result of the wedding and other extravaganza from his father. However, with the new links forged between Holland and Burgundy new economic opportunities arrived for  Holland. Willem immediately seized upon this by appointing the Amsterdam merchant Willem Eggert van Gendt as his treasurer who not only reversed this situation – which allowed Willem to buy all the heavily mortgaged lands and properties back, – but he also achieved in making Willem the richest and one of the most powerful vassal in the Holy Roman Empire.

Similar to the fact that Burgundy owed most of its wealth to Flanders, Bavaria owed most of its wealth to Holland-Zealand. At that time Bavaria also held the imperial crown of the Holly Roman Empire. Combining the two regions under Burgundy would soon make it the biggest economic powerhouse of the world.

Lords of Arkel

Legend has it that in 975 Heiman, possibly of Hungarian decent, was provided with feudal properties along the River Linge by Count Dirk II of Holland.

This became know as the Land of Arkel, the territory included Leerdam, Arkel, Heukelum, Asperen, Hagestein, Haastrecht and Gorinchem.

His descendants are taking on the name of Arkel. As loyal vassals they also followed the Counts of Holland on their crusades (the 1st and the 5th ones).

The height of their power occurred at the end of the 14th century. From their castle at Gorinchem they were able to dominate traffic on the River Merwede. Their wealth was also obvious through the regular loans they provided to the Counts of Holland. They also bought land from other landowners such as the Counts of Bentheim, who started to consolidate their properties close to their home.

However, their rise to power was not that well appreciated by the regional powers of Gelre, Holland and Utrecht.

This led to the Arkel wars (1401 – 1412 part of the Hoekse and Kabeljouwse twisten). A dispute started between Jan V of Arkel and Albrecht of Bavaria, Count of Holland. Since 1407, Jan was supported by Reinoud of Gelre but nevertheless lost the war. However, this relative unimportant war costed Holland 44,000 pounds, compare this with the county’s annual income of around 5-6000 pounds, so their win was at the same time a financial disaster.

He signed a peace treaty with the next Count, Willem IV of Holland in 1412.  The war ended the independence of the Lords of Arkel. Jan became a persona non grata and moved to Gelre under the protection of Reinoud. In 1411 Reinoud offers Jan of Arkel the castle of Oijen (near Oss). However, when he travelled outside Gelre he was captured and spent the rest of his life in captivity. The properties were awarded to the Lords of Egmond.

Through marriage arrangements Otto van Arkel became, in 1494, Lord of Ammerzoden and the owner of the castle.

Moated Castle AmmerzoyenOuter and Main Ward






The last descendant of the van Arkel family died in 1693.



Jocaba of Bavaria

William of Bavaria died in 1417 with his daughter Jacoba his only heiress. She married the following year John IV of Brabant. This increased the power of Burgundy is this combined region. However Jacoba’s uncle John of Bavaria, the elected bishop of Luik and brother of her father, challenged Jacoba’s succession right, because he was the oldest surviving male in the family.

Initially it looked like he would play along and was pivotal in arranging Jacoba’s marriage. Secretly however, he also promised Emperor Sigismund the fiefdom of this territory. At the same time the plan was for him to marry Elizabeth of Gorlitz, Anton of Brabant’s widow, and for these services he would receive the Duchy of Luxembourg in fief.

These intrigues resulted in a civil war that lasted for a decade and resulted in financial ruin for the at least until that time – still more or less independent territories.

John of Bavaria didn’t wait long and marched with his troops into the region subduing many cities under his control. With the assassination in France of John the Fearless of Burgundy in 1419 and the consequent power vacuum, he was able to increase his position in the region.

The rather weak John IV of Brabant signed several, for his Duchy unfavourable treaties, with John of Bavaria. However, his wife Jacoba didn’t agree with him and also the new Burgundian Duke Philip the Good became increasingly worried about this situation. In all of this the States of Brabant became an ally of Philip the Good and John IV was temporarily disposed of and his younger brother Philip of Sint-Pol became regent (Ruwaard) of Brabant. Together with Philip the Good, Jacoba of Bavaria tried to reconquer lost territories in Holland-Zeeland, from her uncle John of Bavaria. At the same time John IV of Brabant, unhappy with his disposal entered with his troops several cities in Brabant. However, he was made prisoner by the guilds of Brussels. John IV admitted his mistakes and was reinstated in 1421.

Slowly but steadily Burgundy regained control over the region, Brabant was secured in their camp and also John of Bavaria was forced to join Burgundy, as he was running out of money to continue his campaign.

In all of this turmoil Jacoba had to flee Brabant, went to England, married Humphrey of Gloucester and tried unsuccessfully to invade Hainault in 1424.

After the death of John of Bavaria in 1425, Holland and Zeeland went to John IV, who at least officially was still the legitimate husband of Jacoba.

However, all of these succession wars had costed John IV dearly and in 1425 he handed over the rights to Holland – Zeeland to Philips the Good. Jacoba violently opposed this which led to further warfare and enormous devastation throughout Holland. With the County close to bankrupcy, eventually this dispute was solved with the peace treaty known as the ‘Kiss of Delft’, signed in this city in 1428. Under the terms of the treaty Jacoba was recognised as the countess, however she was not allowed to marry without Philip’s consent; this virtually meant that she was handing over power to Philip. This happened when this remarkable woman died of tuberculosis in 1436.

In order to also get the support from the cities a range of conditions were presented to Philip and most were granted including better access to the markets in Flanders which included an improvement to the port of Sluis, the gateway to Bruges and beyond.

In the treaty we also for the first time come across the States of Holland and most likely this is the official start of this court it is uncertain if before that date it already operated separately from the Count’s Court. With the bankruptcy of their county and the changeover to the Burgundians they saw their direct influence weakened. Not much later the nobility also joined the States as a separate body. The Court of Holland was abandoned, while many of the 100 members of the court formed the household, it also included administration, finance and jurisdiction. The court with its many festivities and visitors also formed an important form of income for the city, As a result of the closure of the court, many of the nobility lost their positions, very few found a position at the Court in Brussels. Through the States the nobility tried to stand stronger in their dealings with their new ruler.

Growing towards political unity

In 1436 Philip  the Good also became the overlord of Holland, Zeeland and Henegouwen. (See: Dukes of Burgundy).

The variant Burgundian alliances would proof to be critical in the future developments of what would become the Netherlands, Some 140 years later, in 1548, the Burgundian Circle was formed under the Spanish Hapsburg emperor Charles V, and at that time 17 provinces were united in a semi-autonomous region built on the work of those earlier dukes of Burgundy.

However, this Burgundian ‘state’ never was the unity that it name stood for. There was a strong north-south divide.  The south  never wanted to see their taxes paid for activities in the north  at the same time the north resented the large number of southerners who were given prominent positions in their provinces. The Stadholders (provincial governors) were nearly always southerners.  It started to fall apart during the war of independence of the Netherlands which started in 1568. Five years later the Burgundian Circle was nothing more than a piece of paper, it had lasted for less than 30 years. It was revived after the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, but only survived for another 30 years when after the war of independence Belgium was split off 1830.

Looking back it easy to see that Holland started to become a powerful entity during the 15th century. It was at that time a modern state, its commercial and open nature allowed for innovation and strong competition and under its leadership the Republic of the United Provinces became  the most powerful nation on earth.

The Batavian myth

Coinciding with the rising of Holland and the increasing uneasiness with the Hapsburg rule, the Batavian Myth started to evolve. In an emerging humanist environment, secular history made a revival and the events surrounding the Batavian Revolt against the Romans in 69AC under the leadership of Claudius Civilis was hijacked by the Hollanders and placed within their territory and they started to see themselves as the descendants of the Batavians. With one or two exceptions all intellectuals in Holland agreed with this interpretation of the story, simply ignoring that the revolt most likely took place from the Betuwe in the province of Gelderland, closer to Nijmegen. The previous struggles between Holland and Gelre also gave them in their opinion the moral justification to claim ‘ownership’ of the Batavieren.

The story grew taller and taller and they saw the Dutch Revolt as a repeat of it, this time the brave Batavieren (Hollanders) fighting mighty Spain and winning. Throughout this period and the following Dutch Golden Age these stories intertwined and were glorified in art and in literature; it was an important element in the nation building that took place .

County of Zeeland

Until the 12th century the area was known as maritime loca (de zeelanden – the sea lands). There were three pagi:

  • Scaldis
  • Walachria
  • Bevelandia

In 841 Walachria together with  Kinhem and Dorestad were ruled by the Viking king Harald (see above). During this century three castles (mottes) were built more or less at the same time:

  • Souburg (south motte)
  • Domburg (motte in the dunes to the north)
  • Middelburg (motte in the middle of the other two)

Within a century we saw people starting to take up their residence within these fortifications.

The Treaty of Verdun saw the boarder between East Francia ( under the influence of the Holy Emperor) and the Middle Kingdom Lotharingia (mostly under the influence of the King of France -West Francia – and the Pope) cutting through this region.  Zeeland to the west (bewesten) of the Scheldt – Walcheren and the Bevelanden) and the are to the east (beoosten) the Scheldt – the various islands to the north. The Scheldt in this time was the Easter Scheldt (Oosterschelde) as the Wester Scheldt was still narrow and shallow.

In 1012 the Emperor gave the region to the west of the Scheldt to Count Baldwin of Flanders and this of course is disputed by the Count of Holland who had continued the reign over the lands since the Vikings had vacated the area and or became integrated with Holland.

Interestingly from a religious point of view Zeeland was part of the East Frankish church structure, but politically in was part of the West Frankish structure. Furthermore the sea-lands was an area with continuous shifting land areas. These multiple ‘dualism’s’ had a great influence on the county and its people.

There are a whole range of battles and expedition between Holland and Flanders namely in 1128, 1195, 1204, 1253 and 1295. In that year we arrive at the moment that Floris V got killed in the battles that started after that time a more permanent situation started to arrive for Zeeland.

Lords of Voorne

In the 13th century, one of the most important noble family in Zeeland was van Voorne (with their stronghold Oostvoorne, on the island of Voorne). They received a quarter of all income on the region east of the river Scheldt (beooster Schelde). The first know member of the family is known as Hogo III around 1100. He was married to Hadewich a basterd daughter of Count Floris II of Holland. His son Dirk I married a daughter Unarch van Nadelwick, Lord of  Naaldwijk and through this marriage Naaldwijk was added to Voorne.

Their son Dirk II maries Alverdis van Cuijk, the widow of Lord Hendrik van Cuijk, the relationship between these two families remained important. Dirk dies in 1228.

Their son Hendrik becomes an important courtier of Willem II Count of Holland. He married Mabelia van Cysoing.  Their son Albert follows his father after his death in 1259, he marries Ada van Teilingen (daughter of Dirk van Teilingen and Agnes van Bentheim). They had a daughter Mabelia who married Jan III van Arkel. Albert remaried in  1275 met Catharina van Durbuy, they had a son Gerard van Voorne who became the next Lord of Voorne. After Albert’s death Catharina married Wolfert van Borselen, Lord of Veere.

Aleid of Hainault, the regent of Floris V, stayed for long periods at the castle in Oostvoorne and Floris was educated here by Jacob van Maerlant.

In turn Gerard was educated at the court of Floris and was a witness in the kidnapping and murder of Floris V in 1296. The death of Gerard in 1337 also is the end of the Lords of Voorne.

A daughter of Hendrik, Hildegonde marries Costijn of Renesse after his death in 1270 she marries Willem van Teilingen (son of Dirk and Agnes), who had taken on the title Lord van Brederode after – between 1282 and 1292 –  he had built his own castle in Santpoort (Velsen).  Willem also had property in Amsteland and was part of the plot that lead to the murder of Floris V. Their son Jan III and his son Jan III of Renesse both played prominent roles in the history of Zeeland. One of Hildegonde’s daughters, Elisabeth van Brederode (his 1st wife) marries Herman VI van Woerden, who was a close ally of Gijsbrecht van Amstel, they both were involved in the murder of Floris V.


Jan III van Renesse and Wolfert I van Borselen

After the death of Floris in 1295, Jan III van Renesse and Wolfert I van Borselen gouverned Holland with the support of Edward I of England, on behalf of Floris infant son Jan. However, Jan van Rennesse and Wolfert led a party favoring Flanders as the overlord of Zeeland, against Holland.

Jan III  and Wolfert took up arms against Jan I of Holland,  however after the failure of Edward I’s invasion of Flanders Wolfert was, in 1299,  murdered by the citizens of Dordrecht. Jan III was exiled from Holland.

Jan van Renesse fought on the Flemish side at the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302), and supported the Flemish action against Holland and Zeeland, and managed to get as far as Utrecht, but had to flee the area after the defeat of the Flemings at Zierikzee. In 1304 he drowned while crossing the River Lek.

In order to heal the wounds between the Lords van Borselen and the Count of Holland, his son Wolfert II marries Aleid, the bastard daughter of the Count of Holland Jan II van Avenes.


As mentioned in the chapters on Holland, Count Floris V started to look for expansion in the direction of Zeeland which brought the local nobility as well as Flanders against him.  He tried to subdue the independen nobility of Zeeland by changing several of their privileges. There were two revolts against Floris in 1290 and 1292 , and he thus made another enemy who participated in the kidnapping and unfortunate murder of Floris in 1296.

As elsewhere in the counties and duchies infighting was one of the key reasons why over time they failed to maintain their independence. In the wars of 1290 and 1292, Floris V did get the support of some of the Zeeland nobility, namely Lord Wolphaart van Borselen, who later as reward for his support received the property that belonged to Gijsbrecht van Amstel who had to flee to Brabant after the death of Floris (see below).

In 1323 – the ongoing wars between Flanders and Holland  were concluded to the advantage of Holland. At the Treaty of Paris – a border was drawn through Zeeland dividing it between Flanders and Zeeland. However, the Count of Holland was unable to effectively rule over the Zeeland nobility, who largely remained independent.

Obvious these changes resulted in continuous claims by the various regional rulers. In 1421 the States of Zeeland are mentioned as a separate body from the States of Holland in that year Philips the Good was chairing the States as Ruwaard on behalf of Countess Jacoba of Holland.

While the County remained more or less independent it has never had its own Counts. The County’s overlords were:

  • The Counts of Flanders                                                                      1012 – 1167
  • Condominium of the Counts of Flanders and Holland          1167 – 1256
  • Counts of Holland                                                                                 1256 – 1572
  • States of Holland and West Frisia                                                    1571 – 1795

One of the first times Zeeland gets a mentioning as a separate entity in historic documents is in the early 12th century. The Abbey of Middleburg is mentioned in 1123; it was built around a Carolingian castle dating back to the 10th century. In the 12th century, this castle was in possession of the Counts of Holland (Frisia). In 1217 Middelburg received city privileges from Count Willem I.

A key centre of power was the Abbey of Middelburg, founded in 1127 by the Norbertines , they became the largest landholder in Zeeland and by the 16th century the Abbot had become the sole representative of the Church in the States of Zeeland.



How the Lords van Amstel ended up in Oss

Wardens under the Bishop of Utrecht

Another local family that gained prominence in the turbulent 11th century were the van Amstels. They are starting to appear as ministerialis (unfree servants) under the Bishop of Utrecht. The first known is Wolfgerus (ca 1075-1131) who is mentioned in 1105. He is linked to Werinon, the lands of one the old Frisian landlords, of whom St Liudgeris a descendent. Wolfger was appointed baliff of Amstelle by the Bishop.

As Lords of the region Amstelle (1126) Wolfger’s son Egbert  (ca 1105-1172) most probably established their stronghold in one of the very first Medieval settlements in the water rich region Oudekerk aan de Amstel. The foundations of this mansion are most probably situated under the current Jewish cemetery. As will be mentioned below in 1204, this building was destroyed by the revenging Kennemers. With Egbert we also see a first link with the van Cuijks. Egbert is – in 1131 – named as a witness in a document from Andries van Cuijk, bishop of Utrecht. He had two sons Gijsbrecht I (ca 1145-1188) and Hendrik.

Wolgerus other son Diederick – through marriage of Anna the daughter of  Lord Boudewijn van het Land van Aalst en Waas – became the Lord of Beveren (east Flanders-south Holland). It was able to operate as an independent territory till 1334 when it was subdued by Flanders. This family however, remained important and became very influential in Dordrecht; they only died out in 1772.

The family increased their influence and wealth and were able to transform themselves from unfree ministerialis into free knights. In the early 13th century Gijsbrecht II (1175 – 1230, son of Gijsbrecht I) was the first one who actually called himself van Amstel. The Lords of Amstel had by that time become more independent and were now vassals of the Bishop of Utrecht.  He was also a member of the Council of the Bishop.

During the Holland succession conflict after the death of Count Dirk VII of Holland he took the side of Ada van Holland who was in conflict with her uncle Count Willem I. This led to the above mentioned Loonse war where he fought on the side of Lodewijk II van Loon and Aleid van Kleef. They lost and he had to fled to England. The Kennemers were furious about Gijsbrecht role in this conflict and in his absence burned several of his properties include the castle in IJsselstein. After the following peace treaty things settled again and in consequent years he received properties from Count Willem I in Boskoop As well as properties from the Bishop in Muiden, Weesp and Diemen

In 1213 Gijsbrecht II is a witness when the bishop appoints a pastor in Ootmarsum. The Bishopric of Utrecht also controlled most of the nort-east of the Low Countries.

He was knighted around 1224.  In 1227 he also participate on the side of the bishop  in the disastrous Battle of Ane in 1227 where he was very severely wounded and died a few years later.

His son Gijsbrecht III (ca. 1200 – 1252) married around 1230 Bertha (Beerta) van Oegstgeest, she produced his successor Gijsbrecht IV and  Arnoud , the founder of the House of IJsselstein.  He married around 1240 for the second time with Aleid van Cuijk, the daughter of Lord Albert van Cuijk. This was an important pre feudal noble family and the marriage significantly increased the standing of the van Amstels.

Either based on shifting behaviour of the van Amstels or the bullying tactics of the Counts of Holland, the van Amstels started to drift towards the camp of the Hollanders. In 1247 Gijsbrecht campaigned with Count Willem II of Holland  that saw them taking Aachen. Willem was consequently crowned Holy Roman Emperor.

After a revolt against the autocratic Welfish Bishop Hendrik van Vianden, led by Gijsbrecht) and supported by Holland, Gijsbrecht and Herman V van Woerden were arrested by the Bishop. On June 16, 1252 they were tied to a horse and dressed in a penitential garment were dragged through Utrecht. However under the pressure of the Emperor Willem II of Holland the Bishop was forced to release his prisoners. However, both Gijsbert and Herman died that same year. This could give credence to the perceived order that they should be dragged around till death.

Arend (Arnoud) of Amstel, a son of Gijsbrecht III, built a new castle at IJsselstein in c.1279. His son, Gijsbert van IJsselstein, then founded the city of IJsselstein and the St. Nicolaaskerk church, where he is buried in an ornate tomb.

In the following decades they started to reclaim peat land in an area what is now Amstelveen (veen = peat). Between 1264 and 1275  his sons Gijsbrecht IV and Willem van Amstel were involved in water works that involved the building a dam in the river Amstel and this was the start of Amsterdam. It is possible that close to this new dam the van Amstel’s built a second castle, of which some foundations might have been recovered.


Caught between Utrecht and Holland

Their rise of power didn’t sit well by both the Counts of Holland and the Bishops of Utrecht. It was Holland that started to become the predominant leader in their region and in particular under Willem II and Floris V the rights and prominence of the lower nobility as well as that of the Bishop were undermined. Aggressive campaigns especially  from Floris V saw the van Amstel family in the firing line.

The van Amstels however stayed opportunistic, always on the look out to improve their own position as small buffer state between the two larger powers. Under Gijsbrecht IV (ca 1230-1303) they were able to obtain a nearly total independent position with rights to both  lower and the higher jurisdiction. His brother Willem was elected as the provost of the Chapter of St John in Utrecht. His other brother Arend was the Lord of IJsselstein. He had two sons Arend van Benschop and and Gijsbrecht van IJsselstein.

His sister Elisabeth married his buddy Herman VI van Woerden (his second marriage) and their daughter Hildegonde married Gerard van Velzen, the person who in the turmoil of 1296 actually killed Floris and who was subsequently massacred by the local farmers.

Gijsbrecht married a daughter of Jan I van der Lede, Lord of Arkel (see above).  They had a  son Jan – his successor – and a daughter Elisabeth, in 1289  she entered the monastery of the Norbertine Nuns (Wittevrouwen) in Utrecht and as a dowry Gijsbrecht had given the monastery the income of the tithes of Bodegraven. [7. Floris V, E.H.P. Cordfunke, 2011]

After the disastrous events with his father, Gijsbrecht IV also comes in conflict with the Bishop but in 1257 also he is defeated and have to except humiliating conditions and a loss of rights. At  the peace treaty of Bodegraven in 1261, between the Counts of Flanders and Gelre, Gijsbrechts rights were confirmed again. His fortunes are changing and he makes a lot of money from his properties. At the becoming of age of Floris V in 1266 he becomes a member of the Council of the Count.

The next conflict that involved Holland and Utrecht in wich Gijsbrecht played a leading role started in 1268 and lasted till 1275. During this period, in 1273,  Gijsbrecht  and Herman van Woerden were involved in a peasant revolt of the Kennemers against Floris V, which they were able to turn  into an attack on Bishop Jan van Nassau, they even took Utrecht and established an independent authority. This time it suited Floris to assist the bishop against van Amstel.   They refused to participate in the deal brokered by Floris and  during the campaign that followed against them  Gijsbrecht IV and his ally Herman van Woerden were defeated by Floris ally Jan van Renesse (see below). Gijsbrecht and his brother Arend were made prisoners and Herman van Woerden fled from Holland.

However, in 1282 they were free again, had sworn allegiance to Floris and all seemed happy again . Gijsbrecht received – as a sweetener – a knighthood from Floris. He also received the castle of Vreeland in fief from the bishop. Herman van Woerden received the castle of Montfoort in fief. The castle of Ter Horst was given to Jan van Cuijk another ally in this revolt.

Both Gijsbrecht and Herman received a position in the Council of the Count, by 1291 Gijsbrecht had become the most important councillor to Floris.


The murder of Floris V

However, the animosity amongst the nobles against the ongoing reduction in their power and privileges kept growing and a group of disgruntled nobles  gathered around the van Amstels.

Furthermore, as detailed above, the conflict with England as a result of Floris’ change of  alliances  mad it become an international issue. The animosity created because of his conflicts with the nobility led to the kidnapping and murder of the Count in 1296.  As mentioned above Gijsbrecht van Amstel and Jan van Cuijk were most likely the leaders of the plot.  Others that participated – not mentioned above – but all part of the van Amstel clan included Willem of Teilingen (see below) and Arend (van Amstel) van Benschop.

As a result of the bungled kidnap attempt Gijsbrecht IV and his son Jan I were banned from Holland and fled to ‘s-Hertogenbosch. In 1297 the tried to restore their position, however the nobles of Holland refused this. This was followed up with an armed assault on Holland, for this they received, surpise, surprise the support of the Bishop of Utrecht. However it was of a too small scale to have any effect and the bishop got killed in the conflict.

As per a document issued on 17 October 1299 Gijsbrecht IV van Amstel and his heirs were expelled from the feudal warden systems of both the County of Holland and the Bishopric of Utrecht. The income of the properties of Van Amstel and Van Woerden were handed over by Floris son Jan I to Wolphaart van Borselen (see below), who had manoeuvred himself in the position of the  power broker in Holland. However, his intrigues didn’t paid off as he was violently killed two years later. Eventually the properties ended up in the hands Count of Holland, further highlighting the shift in power away from Utrecht [8. J.W Verkaik, De moord of Floris V, 1996].

Trying to recoup their properties

Further support was thought by Gijsbrecht and Jan and a coalition was formed with Flanders, Renesse, Utrecht, van Cuijk and van Woerden against Holland. However, while they had some early successes this didn’t even last a year and Jan van Amstel who had occupied Utrecht had to flee the city after the Holland army opened the attack.

Gijsbrecht IV  died in 1303.

A second attempt to recover their properties was undertaken in 1303 when a large army of 5000 men – just back from their successful Battle of the Gulden Spurs – gathered headed by the Count of Flanders, the Duke of Brabant and the Bishop of Utrecht  rather easily captured Holland and Zeeland. Jan van Amstel was one of the participants and took part in the capturing of Amsterdam and was able to independently rule the city for one year .

However the following year Jean d’Avesnes Count of Hainault who had become the heir of the County of Holland was able to equally easily recapture his territories and Jan had to flee Amsterdam, this time forever. In the play Gijsbrecht Van Amstel, Jan has (perhaps unintendedly) been replaced by Gijsbrecht.

It is likely that during these battles, Willem one of the sons of Jan van Cuijk got killed, probably in Zeeland. Interestingly, as we will see during the next stage of the history of the Van Amstels, Willem was married to Sophia Gimnich, Lady van Hoogstraten and Wortel, her family also  held properties in Oijen and Teefelen in the County of Megen.

Gijsbrecht van Amstel the stage play

The life of Gijsbrecht van Amstel is the subject of one of the most significant and famous piece of Dutch literature, a drama based on the Greek classics written bij Joost van den Vondel in 1637 for the opening of the new Stadsschouwburg (city theatre) . The drama was performed every New Years Day at the Amsterdam Schouwburg between 1639 and 1968.

It depicts the attack on Amsterdam in 1304 when the hero Gijsbrecht (this actually was Jan I) tries to recapture the city, where he is seen as a liberator. His opponents are the Lord Willem of Egmond (taking revenge for the murder of Floris V). Floris is also depicted as a villain in the play. Through a trick, based on treason, Willem smuggles soldiers hidden in a ship into Amsterdam and burned the city down. Gijsbrecht has to flee. In the end he farewells Amsterdam and indicates it will receive a new ruler.

This meant the end of the ambitions of the van Amstels to retrieve their properties in Holland, they did have a few other possessions in Utrecht and in Tiel (in the pagus Teisterbant) but this was not sufficient to maintain their life styles as noblemen.


Settling in Oss

Peer support arrived for the van Amstels from the family of the grandmother of Gijsbrecht who was a descendent of the Lords van Cuijk. The link most probably has something to do with the division of Teisterband (see above) which occurred during the 13th century. The pagus was split up between the Lords van Cuijk, Duke of Gelre end the Bishop of Utrecht. Furthermore, Jan I van Cuijk was also involved in the plot that led to the murder of Floris V. After the split ofTeisterband the centre of their power moved from the Betuwe to Cuijk, but they had property and rights all over Northeast Brabant.

Jan van Cuijk was able to also get the support of Lord Jan II van Megen and Duke Jan II of Brabant. Gijsbert and Jan van Amstel were allowed to settle in Brabant and as such were protected against the outlaw that was proclaimed on them by the Count of Holland.

The Lords van Cuijk also handed to Jan I van Amstel income rights of properties they owned in Rosmalen, Teeffelen, Oijen, Oss and Herpen.

Shortly after 1304 he had himself also acquired properties from Lambert Damen, father-in-law of Jan Scilwart, bailiff in Oss. These most probably are the properties ‘Lievendaal’ and ‘Dappaertshofstat’.

There still is a street Amsteleind, most probably it is here that they had their farm ’Buxhove op Amstel’, this is very close to an area known as Frankenbeemd. It was here on the Vranckenbeemde according to documents from 1383 that the Van Amstels had their lands as well as in Scadewyc (Schadewijk , a farming community 2kms to the east of Oss). Perhaps Buxhove was on the Vranckenbeemde? According to the Bossche Protocols, in 1419 the farm was owned by ‘Jan son of the late Jan son of the late Lord Gerrit (=Gijsbrecht) van Amstel, knight’.

There is also a charter mentioning that Jan I was in charge of the management of Tonghelaerebroek ( Tongelaar Mill). Interestingly Floris V held, shortly before this time, certain rights over this property (an open houses – 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.

Count Willem III of Holland did send, in 1321, a delegation of his Council to Amstelland to arrange summary justice (zoenregeling) for those who wanted to come back from exile. But it  the van Amstels  either didn’t take up the offer or were excluded from this arrangement.

By 1330, the Van Amstels  had on their own accord acquired properties in Oss, Heeswijk and Dinther. Fifty years later they had to sell these properties, perhaps because of the economic downturn during that period  –  massive agriculture failures were followed by famine, and later  the plague.

Jan’s wife is unknown but it is estimated that they had 5 or 6 children (Jan II van Amstel+ 1321,Willem, Gerard?, Henric, Elisabeth and Jutta. Jan died in 1345. He survived his eldest son Jan II and it was his other son Willem who succeeded him.

Consolidation of the van Amstel’s

Jan III and his son Willem also took part in the Brabantine succession war in 1356/57. Louis de Male Count of Flanders was married with Margaretha van Brabant daughter of Jan III of Brabant. After his death in 1355 his eldest daughter Johanna became Duchess of Brabant she was married to Wenceslaus of Luxembourg. Louis de Male was unhappy with this succession and stared a war and defeated Johanna’s husband Wenceslaus at the Battle of Scheut. As a result the cities of Mechelen, Antwerp, Leuven and Brussels were occupied by Louis. At the Treaty of Aat Johanna and Wenceslaus were recognised as the Duchess and Duke of Brabant Louis received only some  rights to Mechelen and Antwerp

Jan III van Amstel participated in this war and lost 4 horses, for which he claimed 422 ecus. This indicates that he at time still provided vassal services to his overlord the Duke of Brabant.

It could perhaps be concluded that by selling property elsewhere Jan III  consolidated his properties in Oss. His last known transactions took place between 1389 and 1395 and included property in Oss at the Calvercamp and Ter Werden. In 1391 his daughter Johanna received land at he Vranckebeemd. Jan must have died before 1408 as at that time his son in law Gerard die Yoede buys a house on the Heuvel for his daughters Belia and Johanna in that document it indicates that in the meantime both Jan III and his daughter Johanna had died.

Elisabeth Lady van Oije

Elisabeth – most probably a daughter of Jan I – married around 1320 Diddericssoen van Masen from Oijen. His father Didderick was a squire of Didderick van Meerheim, Lord of Boxtel and Oijen. He accompanied his Lord who was kidnapped by Lord Willem van Druten and was takene to  Duke Erward van Gelre where he had to submit his castle in Oijen to the Duke.

It is most likely that Didderick and Didderickssoen managed the Manor of Oijen

Dirk van Meerheim was married to Maria van Cuijk and this relationship could have played a key  factor in the marriage arrangement between Didderickssoen and Elisabeth van Amstel.

Oijen had originally been  a dominion of the St Servaas chapter in Maastricht (villa Oya; at least since the 8th century). Interestingly Dirk also received  the Manor (heerlijkheid) of Achel, which had also belonged to the St Servaas chapter.

During the 13th and 14th centuries it became a critical defence fortress in the far northeast corner of the Duchy of Brabant. Since the battle of Woeringen in 1288 where Jan I of Brabant defeated his opponents, including the Duke of Gelre, the atmosphere between the two regional powers had become tense.

In 1361 the castle went to Maria van Brabant who was married to Reinoud van Gelre. At her death in 1399 the castle went to Gelre, which led to severe problems for Oss.

In 1371 Herman Wijnric van Masen – high-bailiff at ‘s Hertogenbosch and brother of Didderick  fought on the side of the Duke of Brabant  at the battle of Baeswijlen. He later on received compensations for the losses he occurred during that battle. His father Wijnric had in 1315 been the bailiff of the Maasland Quarter (Oss).

In a document from 1360 Elisabeth, posthumous, is mentioned as Lady van Oye.

Video clip Castle of Oijen.

Lord Willem van Amstel moves to Kleve.

Lord Willem van Amstel was knighted by the Duke of Brabant in 1354 or 1355 and took over the various family properties. He is mentioned in a document dated 1354 where he is a vassal-witness for the Duke van Kleef. In that document, properties in Uden (in the County of Herpen) that the Duke had given in fief to Jan van Valkenburg were handed over to his son Walraven, Lord of Herpen.

As Lord van Amstel he is mentioned in various official documents from that period.

Around 1360 Willem moves to Moyland in the Land van Kleef. In the meantime he had married Margriet Hagedoorn who lived on Moyland. Willem died in 1378, without surviving male heirs

Two of Willem’s brothers Gerard and Henric were canons, Gerard probably at a church close to Oss, Theo van Amstel suggests that this might have been at Alem as this is one of closest places that had a Charterhouse connected to its church [9. De Heren van Amstel 1105-1378, Th.A.A.M. van Amstel, 1999].

Willem died in 1468.

Male decedents after Jan III include: his sons Jan IV and Nicolaas and his brother.

Several members of the family became schouts (bailiffs) of Oss and they became important defenders of the city during the many sieges by the Dukes of Gelre.

The van Amstels also married into the family of the Knights of Oss. Willem van Oss (1345-approx 1403) was married to Margriet van Oss (questioned) and Isabella the daughter of Lord  Hugo van Amstel married the bastard son of the Dean of the St Peter in Leuven, Alard van Oss, also named Alaart; who was the Receiver of Taxes for the Duke of Brabant.

In 1466, an intriguing promise was made by the schepenen of Oss that reads as follow. If Dirck van Oss, or one of his children, or one of the children of Willem Hermanszoon van Oss, receives damage to body or good, caused by or because of Gijsbrecht van Amstel, Dirck will receive an amount of 100 Arnhem guilders.

The above mentioned Willem van Amstel was married to Elisabeth van Oss (daughter from Herman van Oss and Catheleijne Artsdr. Van Rotselaer).

However, it looks like that slowly but surely the status of the van Amstel’s changed from nobility to large farmers.

There are still many van Amstels living in and around Oss.

Amsteleindse Hoeve Oss

The History of Northwestern Europe (TOC)