The House of Leuven shaping Brabant – 885 -1200

Roots in Lotharingia

After the Treaty of Verdun the pagus Bracbatensis became part of the Middle Kingdom, which later became Lotharingia. For more information over the historical developments in relation to Lotharingia. While the history of Leuven started as a part of Lotharingia, around the year 1000 the region started to become independent.

Leuven (Lovon) is first mentioned in 884, when it was concurred by the Vikings. The East Francia king Arnulf of Carinthia was finally able to conquer them, but the Normans didn’t leave until 892.


Town Hall Leuven


Situated in the Middle Kingdom (Lotharingia) the region continuously had to manoeuvre between the powerful neighbours in the eastern and western kingdoms of Francia. Furthermore the Reginar family of Hainault started to establish themselves as the local powerbrokers in the region.

After the death of East Francia (German) King Louis the Child,  Reginar I exhorted enough power to oppose the suzerainty of the new King Conrad over Lotharingia. Reginar switched alliance to Charles III the Simple king of West Francia (France). Reginar asked Charles to take possession of the symbolically very important cities of Aachen and Nijmegen. Strengthening his position in the region, Charles even married Frederuna a daughter of one of the Lotharingian noble families.

Charles acknowledges the power that now lay with the rulers not only of Hainault and Flanders but also of Burgundy and Aquitaine. Charles also agreed to allow the Norman chief Rollo, in exchange for his baptism, the land now known as Normandy.

When Reginar I died in 915, King Charles transferred the count’s title to his son(?) Gilbert and also awarded him with the title marquis.

Gilbert married Gerberge of Saxony the daughter of the German King Henry I the Fowler (and thus securing a link with mythical Carolingians). Most likely Gerberge brought with her as a wedding gift properties in Brussels and Leuven. This was an important event for the future of Brabant. Gilbert rebelled against the first Holy Roman Emperor Otto I and was killed in 939.

After the death of Gilbert Gerberge married the West  Francia king Louis ‘from Overseas’ .

However, Otto was a powerful ruler and rapidly took Lotharingia under his control. He gave the region if fief the Bishop Bruno of Cologne, who split the region in Lower and Upper Lotharingia (Lorraine).

Upon the death of Bishop in 965, Lower Lotharingia, whose margrave had died, was left vacant until 977. In that year Emperor Otto II appointed Charles as duke of Lower Lotharingia, Charles was the son of Louis IV of France and Gerberge of Saxony.

Their daughter also called Gerberge (of Lower Lotharingia) was given the title countess of Brussels.

Brussels on the river Zenne was founded somewhat later around 1000.

Lambert I of Leuven

Lambert, son of Reginar III Count of Hainault was the first one to claim the title of Count of Leuven. He married Gerberge of Lower Lotharingia.

After his death, on the advice of Gerard I, bishop of Cambrai, the new German King Henry II appointed, in 1012, Godfrey II of Verdun as the next duke of Lower Lotharingia he was seen as a strong military leader to defend the border with Francia. He was supported in that by his brothers Gothelo, margrave of Antwerp and Herman margrave of Ename (see Lotharingia).

He bypassed his brother-in-law Lambert I of Leuven. Lambert was severely disappointed and was more or less in a constant state of war with Godfrey II and Reginar V of Hainault. Godfrey killed Lambert at Florennes (Namur) on September 12, 1015.

There are strong indications that the early castle of Leuven stood where now the Great Beguines Court is. We visited this city within the city in 2005, a great place to wander around and marvel at the magnificent 17th century architecture. Lambert I founded the St Peter’s church, which we of course also visited.

As the name will be used extensively in this section it should be noted that in French speaking Brabant of those days the official name of Godfrey was Godefroi.

Leuven strengthening regional power

The disintegration of the Duchy of Lotharingia during the 11th and 12th century resulted in an ongoing struggle between the various fragmented territories namely, the County of Flanders the oldest ‘independent’ territory the Bishopric of Liège, the Duchies of Leuven, Limburg and Luxembourg, the counties of Hainault and of course what was left of the old Duchy of Lotharingia. All the territories in the northern part of the Low Countries were added to the Bishopric in Utrecht.  The reason why the Emperor endowed bishoprics with new territories was to weaken the dukes and counts. The bishops had no hereditary rights so the Emperor could wield significantly more power over these lands.

However, the disintegration of Lower Lotharingia brought with them devastated the area; the war lords put a lot of effort in wasting each other’s lands; this in turn led to severe famine and epidemics. Especially the St Anthony’s fire (ergotism) caused by a fungus in grains, resulting in internal bleedings and gangrene effecting toes and fingers; a severe epidemic struck Nijvel (Nivelle) in 1095 -especially of course the poor. This devastation has also been mentioned as a key reason why the First Crusade proportionally attracted such a large proportion from these regions; people eager to escape the local misery.

The County of Leuven was only first mentioned in 1003 and it possible that in the power vacuum Lambert simply gave himself the title of Count of Leuven. Lambert was a member of the powerful Reginars who where the rulers of the valley of the Meuse and they also had territories in the Ardennes. Through their military power, they rapidly became the ‘natural’ rulers of the region.

Counts of Leuven

Lambert I 1003 – 1015

Henry I 1015 – 1038

Otto 1038 – 1041

Lambert II 1041 – 1054, Balderik of Leuven

Henry II 1054 – 1079

Henry III 1079 – 1095

Godfrey VI 1095 – 1139 (also known as Godfrey I and Godfrey V)

Godfrey VII 1139–1142 (also known as Godfrey II and Godfrey VI)

Godfrey VIII 1142–1190 (also known as Godfrey III and Godfrey VII)

As we saw above Lambert was killed by Godfrey in yet another war in 1015. His son Henry I of Leuven succeeded him (1015-1038). He was killed by a knight who has had held captive in Leuven. He was succeeded by his son Otto I, who only reigned for three years. The county now went to his uncle Lambert II.

His other son Herman II became Count Palatine of Lotharingia (and in charge of the mark Ename/Brabant).

After the border conflicts of Ename Lambert II of Leuven founded the 2nd administrative centre in his Duchy in Brussels. He also founded here the chapter church of St Goedele  -1047 -on the place of the old cultus spot dedicated to St Michael. Shortly after this, a fortress was built on the hill ‘Koudenberg’. In 2005, we visited the very impressive (underground) ruins of this castle.

Hadewich van Oss

Duke Henry I of Brabant founded a 2nd chapter in 1226. One of the members of the Noble family van Oss is also linked to the St Goedele. The daughter of Willem van Oss, Lady Hadewich van Oss, who died in 1556, was married to Knight Philips Hinkaert, Lord of Lille, mayor of Brussels, chancellor of Philip I of Castile; he also was a churchwarden of St Goedele.

The Count Henry II of Leuven was most probably married to Adele the daughter of Count Everard of the Betuwe. It was most probably Adele, who brought in two properties in Orthen on the river Maas; a century later the city of s’ Hertogenbosch would be founded here.

Counts of Leuven and Landgraves of Brabant

The German Emperor Henry IV ‘invented’ a new way to pay the knights and local nobility for military services. For this he created the title of landgrave. He simply carved a region out of existing counties and duchies and put it directly under his overlordship, this than was given in fief to the new vassal.

Brabant is most probably the first of such landgraves in the German Empire. This area had only recently, but rapidly, come to the fore as an important boarder region.

This imperial fief was at that time alread assigned to Count Henry III of Leuven; more exactly after the death of the preceding Count Palatine Herman II (around 1085/1086).

Henry III was married to Gertrudis the daughter of Robert de Fries, count of Flanders. Their granddaughter Adelaide of Leuven’s daughter Beatrice (of Burgundy) became the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.

Henry III dies at a Tournament in Tournai and was succeeded by Godfrey I in 1085.

The title of Landgrave of Brabant was, at that time, for the first time mentioned in a document of the Abbey of Affligem (which was founded by Henry III).

Apart from Leuven this also included Brussels and Nijvel as well as the newly acquired areas at the Meuse. This was not a united territory but a patchy collection of properties. The landgrave was limited to the area between the rivers Dender and Zenne.

The table below lists the Dukes of Lower Lotharingia during the time that Brabant was carved out of the region and elevated to a landgraviate. They also had the titles of: Counts of Leuven and Brussels, and Markgraves of Antwerp.

Landgraves of Brabant – 1020 – 1190

1165 – 1235

Accession 1190

Adalbert Bishop of Liège

1166 – 1192

William of Leuven – lord of Perwez (2)

Duke Married to Children
Henry II of Leuven1020-1062-1078 Adela of Betuwe1023-1086
  • Henry III Count of Leuven
  • Adalbert bishop of Liège d.1128
  • Godfrey I of Lower Lotharingia
  • Ida of Leuven x Baldwin of Hainault (1084)
Henry III Count of Leuven, First landgrave of Brabantx – 1079 – 1085 Gertrude of Flandersc.1080 – 1117
  • Adelaide
  • Simon Duke of Lotharingia
  • Gertrude
Godfrey I – Duke of Lower Lotharingia 1106, Count of Leuven and Brussels, Markgrave of Antwerp 1106, landgrave of Brabantc.1060-1085-1139 Ida of Chiny –Namur (1099)c.1078 – 1117Clementia of Burgundy (1125)
  • Adeliza of Leuven x Henry I of England
  • Godfrey II of Leuven
  • Clarissa
  • Henry (monk)
  • Ida
  • Jocelin (from 2)
Godfrey II, the Brave Duke of Lower Lotharingia, Count of Leuven and Brussels, Markgrave of Antwerp, landgrave of Brabant1107- 1140 -1142 Lutgarde von Sulzbach (1139)Approx 1109 – 1163 Godfrey III
Godfrey III Duke of Lower Lotharingia, Count of Leuven and Brussels, Markgrave of Antwerp, landgrave of Brabant1142 – 1190 Margret of Limburg (1155)1135 – 1172Imagina von Looz (1180)d.1214 Henry I

House of Leuven takes control of Lower Lotharingia.

The story becomes rather complex here because of the various Godfrey’s from the various noble families are now intermingling and interaction with each other.

The Count of Leuven at this time is Godfrey I (1085 – 1139), while the Duke of Lower Lotharingia was Godfrey of Bouillon (1085-1100).

Godfrey of Bouillon

Godfrey of Bouillon was born around 1060 in either Boulogne-sur-Mer in France or Baisy, a city in the region of Brabant (part of present-day Belgium). Godfrey was the second son of Count Eustace II of Boulogne and Ida of Lorraine. It happened that Godfrey the Hunchback, his uncle on his mother’s side, died childless, naming his nephew, Godfrey of Bouillon, as his heir and next in line to his duchy of Lower Lorraine.

Godfrey was a loyal supporter of his Emperor Henry IV. But nevertheless the emperor didn’t ratify the title until 1087.

When Urban II called for a holy war against the Islamic forces, Godfrey took out loans on most of his lands, or sold them, to the bishop of Liège and the bishop of Verdun. With this money he gathered thousands of knights to fight in the Holy Land. In this he was joined by his older brother, Eustace, and his younger brother, Baldwin, who had no lands in Europe.

Godfrey of Bouillon did also receive the support for his crusade from some of the local lower nobility, the included Grutmannus from Brussels, Theobald from Nivelle and Count Werner from Graven as well as individuals from the Ardennes, Flanders, Hainault and Luxembourg.

Godfrey started in August 1096 at the head of an army from Lorraine. Godfrey and his troops were the second to arrive (after Hugh of Vermandois) in Constantinople.

Their first major victory, with Byzantine soldiers at their side, was at the city of Nicaea, close to Constantinople, which the Seljuk Turks had taken some years earlier. Godfrey and his knights of Lorraine played a minor role in the siege of Nicaea.

Godfrey continued to play a minor role in the battles against the Muslims until the Crusaders finally reached Jerusalem in 1099. In 1098 Godfrey took part in the capture of Antioch, which fell in June of that year after long and bitter fighting.

Godfrey’s younger brother, Baldwin, decided to stay in the north at the Crusader state he had established at Edessa.

It was in Jerusalem that the legend of Godfrey of Bouillon was born. The army reached the city in June 1099 and built wooden ladders to climb over the walls. The major attack took place on July 14 and 15, 1099. Godfrey and some of his knights were the first to get over the walls and enter the city. Once inside, the Crusaders went wild against the besieged, ultimately killing many in the city. Jews were also killed. It was an end to three years of fighting by the Crusaders, but they had finally done what they had set out to do in 1096—namely, to recapture the Holy Land.

Once the city was captured, some form of government had to be set up. On July 22, a council was held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Godfrey, who had become the more popular leader accepted the position as secular leader, but with an unknown or ill-defined title.

During his short reign of a year Godfrey had to defend the new Kingdom of Jerusalem against Fatimids of Egypt, who were defeated at the Battle of Ascalon in August. He also faced opposition from Dagobert of Pisa, the Byzantium Patriarch of Jerusalem.

In 1100 Godfrey was unable to directly expand his new territories through conquest. However, his impressive victory in 1099 and his subsequent campaigning in 1100 meant that he was able to force Acre, Ascalon, Arsuf, Jaffa, and Caesarea to become tributaries.

While he was besieging the city of Acre, Godfrey, the ruler of Jerusalem, was struck by an arrow, which killed him,” reports the Arab chronicler Ibn al-Qalanisi. Christian chronicles make no mention of this; instead, Albert of Aix and Ekkehard of Aura report that Godfrey contracted an illness in Caesarea in June, 1100. It was later believed that the emir of Caesarea had poisoned him, but there seems to be no basis for this rumour. It is also said that he died after eating a poisoned apple. He died in Jerusalem after suffering from a prolonged illness.

After his death his brother Baldwin was crowned as the first Latin king of Jerusalem on December 25, 1100.

After the death of Godfrey of Bouillon in 1100, the region in his homeland was again in a virtually state of civil war; this time over the succession of the duke of Lower Lotharingia.

After an earlier visit in the late 1970s we visited the impressive Bouillon castle again in 2009.

Godfrey of Bouillion 

Bouillon Castle


Godfrey I and II

In first instance the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV handed the title of Duke of Lower Lotharingia to his supporter Duke Henry I of Limburg, who at that time was waring with the Count Godfrey of Leuven (1095 – 1159).

However, the son of the emperor revolted against his father and he won that battle, now the tables turned for Limburg had sited with the old emperor. The new emperor Henry V offered on May 13, 1106, the title of Duke of Lower Lotharingia to Godfried I, Count of Leuven, who had fought on his side. To make it even more confusing, Godfrey I of Leuven now received the name of Godfrey V of Lower Lotharingia. At that stage also Antwerp became part of his possessions.

This of course significantly lifted the profile of Leuven within the region. This also brings the link back to the founder of this family the aforementioned Count Lambert, with family ties back via the Reginars to the Carolingians.

The title didn’t mean territorial possession, it was more a title that provided the duke with military power in the name of the emperor or king. Territorial possessions were acquired through marriage.

There is little known about Godfrey II (VI) who reigned from 1139 till his sudden death in 1142. His sister Adelize married the English King Henry in 1121. Upon the death of her husband she received the castle of Arundel, which we visited while living in England in 1971.

Another sister Ida married in 1128 Count Arnold of Cleve

Slowly but steadily the territory expanded and through privileges the dukes obtained more and more secular rights over ecclesiastical properties, which increased their power and their wealth.

  • Henry of Limburg never agreed that he was bypassed and he kept on using the title dukes of Lower Lotharingia. Ongoing rivalry ended, in any case temporarily, when Limburg was conquered at the Battle of Woeringen by the Duke of Brabant in 1288.

Crusader Godfrey III (VII) – putting Brabant on the map

Godfrey III (VI)  1142 – 1190 was still an infant at his succession (therefore called dux in cunis – duke in the cradle) of which a few Brabantine vassals sought to take advantage to get independent from Leuven (Wars of Grimbergen, 1141-1159). On 30 March 1147, Godfrey was present at the coronation of Henry Berengar, son of King Conrad III of Germany, in Aachen. When Conrad left on Crusade, the wars began anew in 1148. Peace was elusive until the election of Conrad’s successor, German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. By marriage to Margaret, daughter of Henry II of Limburg, Godfrey united two powerful and antagonistic houses in the region.

In 1159 he ended the war with the Berthout family, lords of Grimbergen, by burning their impressive motte (castle) at Grimbergen. In 1166, together with Philippe Count of Flanders and Mathieu Count of Boulogne he undertook a military campaign against Holland. In 1171, Godfrey was at war with Hainault, but was defeated. In 1179, he gave his son Henry in marriage to a niece of Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders.

Godfrey started to extend his powers from Leuven. He conquered the counties of Aarschot (before 1179), Geldenaken (1184) and Duras (1189), he also built the fortress of Nedelaer (near Vilvoorde). The ducal title was transmitted to his son during the Diet of Schwäbisch Hall (September 1190).

To indicate the importance of its expanded territory he, from 1183 onwards started to increasingly use the name of the old Carolingian pagus of Brabant as the name of his Duchy. This was no doubt also driven by the increased importance of some of the towns and cities that started to emerge and which through trade started to become of importance to the local rulers.

Between 1182 and 1184 Godfrey III went on a Jerusalem campaign. In the interim, Barbarossa granted his son Henry the title “Duke of Brabant”. Godfrey died in 1190, on 10 or 21 August.

The early landgraves of Brabant also started to support the Knight Templar, not with the same enthusiasm as the Counts of Flanders but significant privileges and rights. The first known domain  granted to the Knights was near Nijvel, but not surprisingly especially under Godfrey II support increased significantly. It is possible that as early as 1200 there was already a commandery of the Knights in Leuven. There was another one in Brake (Alphen) domains were was gifted for that purpose by the Lord of Breda in 1140 [3 . Krijgers voor God, Michel Nuyttens, 2007, p 151 and 158]

Because of the support that Godfrey had given Emperor Barbarossa during the defense of Jerusalem his son Henry was officially installed, by the Emperor, as the first Duke of Brabant in 1191.

While the name Brabant is slowly being used more frequently, the dukes still prefer to call themselves the dukes of Lotharingia. It is not until 1235 that both titles are used equally. During the 12th and 13th century the dukes conquered and subjected more and more local landowners and local church properties. The slowly formation of what eventually became Brabant was based on stamina.

To show the interactions with the other important families in Brabant it also worthwhile mentioning. two other sons of Godfrey VII.

Guillaume (William) son Godfrey (Lord of Perwez) was first married to Alix Lady van Grimbergen (she was the heir of her fathers properties and title) and later to Marie de Oudenaarde. Another son of Guilaume, Godfrey married to Felicitee de Trainet, Lady of Hoboken

Another of Henry’s sons Gobert became Dean at Utrecht cathedral and became also Dean at Antwerp, Dean at Nivelles and finally Archdeacon of Utrecht.

The disintegration of Lower Lotharingia -1190

The Duchy of Lower Lotharingia lost its authority at the Diet of Schwabisch Hall in 1190. The Duchy fragmented into separate duchies: Brabant, Limburg and Gelre (Gueldre). As well as several bishoprics, counties and imperial fiefs. The Duke of Brabant traditionally retained the honorary title of Duke of Lower Lotharingia.

Interesting for the history of Brabant is to note that at the beginning of the 12th century the House of Leuven became the ruling power over Lower Lotharingia. An expanding County of Leuven and an economic boom saw the arrival of important trading cities, these cities and surrounding areas rapidly saw an increase of their political value, this resulted first in the lifting of the landgrave of Brabant out of Lower Lotharingia and this landgrave within a century was elevated to Duchy. Being of greater importance than just the city and region of Leuven their rulers increasingly started to use the name Brabant as an indication of their territory. However, of equal importance to them was the ancient territory of Lotharingia with its links back into the Carolinian period and its legendary founder Charles the Great, which heritage lines were’ questionable’ traced back to ancient Troyes. So for at least another hundreds years Lower Lotharingia and Brabant were both used as names of their territory by the dukes.

The story of Brabant continue to have all the intrigues of a great story; secret and not so secret marriage arrangement, wars, family alliances and most important a European network of relationships between emperors, kings, dukes, counts, bishops and popes.

For the continuation of Brabant see: Duchy of Brabant


The Dijle vally was an attractive place where some early settlements developed from the Nervii (west of the river) and the Eburones (east of the river). After Julius Cesar massacred the Eburoni, the Tungri settled in their area. After the Romans left the area, the population declined.

The first missionaries arrived in the 8th century and they perhaps founded the first church (St Peter?). Leuven (Lovon) was first mentioned in 884, when it was concurred by the Vikings. The east Francia king Arnulf of Carinthia was finally able to conquer them, but the Normans didn’t leave until 892.

It at the same time from approx 870 was also a county. Count Godfry I (see above) made a start of developing the place into a city he replace the fortress from 884 to the island in the river, he also built the new St Peter Church and he started to stimulate trade. The city received a stone wall in 1150. Various privileges were received including the right to establish its own court of justice. Its position changed when in 1287 Brussels became the capital of the Duchy of Brabant, however Leuven remained the most important city till around 1300. By that time it had 20,000 inhabitants and a thriving wool industry.

The city started to decline after that time as Brussels and Antwerp started to take over the leading position. There were uprisings one of the most important one started in 1378. At that time a new city council was established where apart from the city nobility and the trades guilds also the new merchants participated. Conservatism cause severe hatred between the ruling families. This resulted in a general uprising against the city council as well as against the Duke.

This led to the siege of Leuven in 1381 by Duke Wenceslas. In the end however, the situation was settled in a peaceful way.

In the 15th century, the city attracted new industries (linen). A new St Peter’s church was built as well as the most splendid city hall.

On the request Duke John IV of Brabant, in 1425, Pope Marten V issued a papal bull  for the foundation of the first university in the Low Countries. Initially it started with the faculties: philosophy, civil law, canon law and medicine. Students were grouped in four nations: Brabant, Flanders, Holland and France.  Adriaan Florisz Boeyens, the later Pope Adrianus VI, was rector of the university from 1493 till 1500. Erasmus also lectured at the university.

Unfortunately at the end of the 15th century there followed a period of decline for the city and this continued into the next century with increased economic hardship, unemployment and several plaque attacks. Slow recovery followed in following centuries however it was not until 1800 before the city had again reached its population level of 1300.

Margrave of Antwerp

Possibly already in Roman times there might have been a border fortress. Legend has it that St. Amandus built here the first church (Peter and Paul) in 650. This property was in 693 (confirmed in 726) donated to Willibrord by the Frankish local lord Rauchingus and his wife Bebelina. See: Missionaries and Monasteries.

The first Frankish settlement (vicus) was established in Viersel. The city was sacked by the Norman in 836.

After the Treaty of Verdun in 843, Antwerp became part of East Francia. Ongoing warfare amongst the Carolingians saw in 894 the foundation of the Kingdom of Lotharingia.

Emperor Otto II built in 980 a new castrum (‘t Steen)  800 meters north of the old vicus. It was most likely also him who established the Margrave Antwerp that included the areas around Antwerp, Bergen op Zoon, Steenbergen and Breda. The other two margraves were that of Ename and Valenciennes.

Originally the territory only included the bank areas along the River Scheldt, perhaps the area of the old pagus Renensis (Rijen). After Ansfried, the last count of the Toxandria gau (questioned) became Bishop of Utrecht, in 994, also this territory was added to the margrave of Antwerp.

The new fortress also included the old  wharf and a new St Walpurgis (Walburgis) church; the patron saint of Antwerp.

The fortress provided the security to led to the development of trading place that rapidly established two markets outside the fortress, the Fish Market (Vismarkt) and the Grand Place (Grote Markt).

"t Steen Antwerpen

Lotharingia was in 950 partitioned in Lower and Upper Lotharingia, the Margraves mentioned above became part of the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia . Both Duchies remained part of what was becoming the Holy Roman Empire (formerly known as East Francia).

In 1008, under Margrave Gozelo I – a brother of Godfrey of Verdun- Duke of Lower Lotharingia and Herman of  Ename –  a castle was built most likely a further extension of the fortress.

The Count of Flanders captured the city in 1055.  However, with the increased importance of the Counts of Leuven the three margraves captured by Flanders were in the following decades brought back under the control of the Emperor. In 1076 Godfrey of Bouillon became the overlord of the region as the Duke of Lower Lotharingia and the Margrave of Antwerp.  Legend has it also that in 1096 he swore a promise in Antwerp to go on crusade.

Count Henry III  of Leuven received in 1085/86  the title of Landgrave of Brabant and he had thought that the Emperor would also have  grant him the Margravate of Antwerp. However this was granted to Henry I of Limburg.  However, after some skirmishes, as mentioned above,  the Counts of Leuven were granted the territory in 1106. One of the key objectives of the counts during the 12th century was to control as much territory as possible of the important and lucrative trading route between Cologne and Brugge.

In the 10th century the St Michael’s Abbey was built on the site of the old Peter and Paul church. The church of the Abbey was also the parish church till 1124, when the new famous and beautiful Our Lady Church was built on the site of the old vicus.

After the decline of Brugge, Antwerp became one of the first large market towns in Europe it controlled the money, art and printing markets above the Alps. Its port was 12 times larger (in tonnage) than the next largest European port, Venice. Its success was partly due because of the independence of the city. It was in Antwerp that the north European renaissance produced the first artworks not commissioned by the church but by its merchants, a tradition that would spread throughout what is now the Netherlands.

Barony of Breda

The city and its surroundings were slowly added to the Margave of Antwerp (see above). The first know Lords of Breda (Brunesheim) came from Tienen in Haspengouw (now part of Flanders). They arrived in the area between Antwerp and Breda around 1100, they became the Lords of Breda and Schoten. As the county also had the juridical rights of appeal, its Lord was also allowed to use the title of Baron.

When Lord Hendrik V Brunesheim died childless in 1268 his properties were inherited by his sister Isabella and her husband Arnoud van Leuven, Lord of Gaasbeek. When this couple also died childless the county was split in two. The western part (Bergen op Zoom ) went to the descendants of Isabella’s great-aunt Beatrix who was married to Arnold II of Westmaele. The eastern part (Breda) went to her other great-aunt Sophie who was married to Rasso VI of Gavere Lord of Liedekerke. Four generations of this family ruled Breda, in 1326 the county was sold to Duke Jan III of Brabant. In need of money, he in his turn leased the barony in 1339 to Jan I of Wassenaer-Polanen. In 1403 it came into the hands of the famous Nassau family via his wife Johanna of Polanen .In 1544 William of Orange became the new Lord.

The Barony was dissolved in 1795.

The margraves of Bergen op Zoom.

Originally part of the Barony of Breda and the larger Margrave of Antwerp. this strategic trading town on the Scheldt was granted city status probably in 1266. In 1287 the city and its surroundings became a lordship as it was separated from the lordship of Breda, under the nominal overlordship of the Duke of Brabant.

Amongst the first Lords of the County that started to form around the city was the family van Wezemale (Westmale, Wesemaal, Wezemaal). One of the members of this family, Arnold van Wezemaal. He was the Marshal of Brabant under Duke Jan I and was married to Alix of Brabant, the widow of Guillaume III of Auvergne.  Arnold became a Knight Templar in 1267, he most likely was also a member of the Commandery of the Knights in Leuven. He became an important adviser to the King of France and became one of the most influential diplomats in northern Europe. [1 . Krijgers voor God, Michel Nuyttens, 2007, p 152 and 164]

The importance of the county and the family is also evidence in a secret meeting that took place here  – most likely organised by Jan van Kuyc – in 1296 that led to the kidnapping and unfortunate murder of Floris V of Holland later that year. Present were the Lords van Aemstel, Heusden, van Woerden and van Velzen (see also: Holland) [2. H. Obreen, De eerste jaren na den dood van Floris V, 1915]

Duke John II of Brabant had an illegitimate son by his Maitresse Elisabeth Cortygin. He was legitimised in 1344 and received the lordship Glymes situated within the Duchy.

His grandson, John of Glymes married in 1416 Johanna of Boutersem. Her family had inherited the decayed city of Bergen op Zoom back in 1351.

John I became Lord of Bergen op Zoom in 1419. Overtime the Glymes more and more called themselves Lords of Bergen. The city revived under his son John II, who held the title from 1440 till 1494. He also was a illegitimate child and legitimised in 1476. He in turn was equally unfaithful and  a very fertile Lord (nicknamed: John with the big lips) and reared 50 children.

He was also a canon-major at the St Goedele chapter in Brussels, he received this function as one of the key advisers to the Burgundian Court. He was listed as having received two law degrees. Another canon-major was Maximilian of Bergen he was the  son of Dismas one of the other 50 children of Jan II. This also questions the religious status of the canons of the St Goedele.

One of his children, Charles  fought in the Battle of Nancy, where in 1477 the Burgundian Duke Charles the Bold died. He married  Margaretha van Zevenbergen – became in 1485 the military commander in Grave during the Gelre wars with Brabant.  His daughter Margaretha married the Stadtholder of Gelre and Friesland and Lord of Eindhoven, Philip van Egmont van Buren. Charles’ son Conelius became the Archbishop of Liège, he was a rather weak ruler and was replaced by Charles V.

The 15th and 16th centuries was the Golden Age of Bergen op Zoom. It had two of the most important international fairs of the Low Countries and many overseas trading houses were represented here.

John elevated the aforementioned Gertrude Church to a Canon Church and he also rebuilt the magnificent palace which what later became the Markiezenhof (the palace of the Margraves), which is still largely in its original 15th century state.

In 1533 The son of John II, John III became, in 1488,  a member of the illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece, making him one of the leading nobles within the Burgundian empire. The Chapter of the Order met in Bergen op Zoom in 1496. He was also one of the most influential advisers of Philip the Fair and later Maximillian of Austria.  He was married to Adriana de Brimeu, a daughter of the Count of Megen.

Jan III, together with his son Antonis he was, in 1531, elected as a member of twelve member State Council of Charles V.

It was under Antoon that in 1533 that the lordship was elevated to the rank of margravate (markies).

This elevation was due to the important role the Lords played first within Brabant, than within the Burgundian era and finally in the establishing of the Republic of the United Netherlands.

Charles stayed with Anthonis in September 1549, Maria of Hungary governess of the Low Countries had also stayed at the Markiezenhof (1540).

It was Antonis who was elevated to Margrave (Markies). His son John IV was also appointed as a Knight of the Golden Fleece. He received titles and properties in Hainault, Liege, Luxemburg, Namur and Cambrai.

Together with other nobles in what had became The 17 united Netherlands he chose the side of Willem of Orange in the Dutch was of independence (1568 – 1648). He volunteered together with the Baron of Montigny to travel to Spain and negotiate a better deal for the Protestants in the Netherlands. However Philips treated them as his prisoners and John died in Segovia, Spain on 21 May 1567.

His possessions were confiscated by Alva. As part of the liberated part of the Netherlands the Margrave was given to Willem of Orange in 1583.

In 2007 I visited Bergen op Zoom, the beautiful Markiezenhof, the Town Hall and the Gertrude Church where in 1989 the remains of John II and his wife were reburied and a small monument has been place to recognise the important role the Glymes family has played in the local and national history.

The Mayory of Den Bosch

Under Duke Henry I of Brabant, there was a town policy and town planning. Henry’s attention went out to those regions that lent themselves to the extension of his sovereignty and in some locations he used the creation of a new town as an instrument in the political organisation of the area. Among the towns to which the Duke gave city rights and trade privileges was ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Legend has it that he founded this city, which translate into forest of the duke, in 1185. The capital town of what is now North Brabant in the Netherlands.

Saint Jan Cathedral

In 1185 Henry I  also laid the foundations for the Saint Jan Cathedral (Saint John the Evangelist). The base of the current tower dates from 1220. The building of the current Gothic cathedral started in 1380, when the ‘Miraculous Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ was discovered. During that period the famous double section of  flying buttresses were constructed decorated with the 96 stone figures added to the buttresses which are inspired by the word of  Jheronimus Bosch. The construction was completed by approximately 1530 – shortly before the iconoclastic outbreak in 1566, which eventually led to the church falling into the hands of the Protestants from  1629 till 1810. In 1480 the Sacraments Chapel was added home of the Illustrious Confraternity of the Our Lady and the miraculous statue. Miraculous because the statue was discovered in a deplorable state it seemed to have been dumped in the past because it was so ugly, attempts were made to reinstate it but the statue was ridiculed because of its ugliness (hence her name the Black Madonna) . However, after a range of miracles the statue became the focus of pilgrimage and she rapidly became known at the Blessed Lady of Den Bosch, a title that she still holds up till today.

Later on when the city started to grow Mayors were appointed. This resulted in the Mayorie of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Tienen and Leuven. Some of the Mayories were split in smaller areas again this for example led to four regional areas in the Mayory of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, one of which became the Quarter of Maasland of which Oss became the principal town.

The History of Northwestern Europe (TOC)