Battle of Oosterweel

The Battle of Oosterweel took place on 13 March 1567 near the village of Oosterweel [nl], near Antwerp, in present-day Belgium, and is traditionally seen as the beginning of the Eighty Years' War.[a] A Spanish mercenary army surprised a band of rebels and killed or captured almost all of them.

Battle of Oosterweel
Part of the Eighty Years' War
Bor-Nederlantsche-Oorloghen 9145.tif
Battle of Oosterweel
From Pieter Bor's Nederlantsche Oorloghen
Date13 March 1567
Location51°14′37″N 4°23′07″E / 51.2436°N 4.3853°E / 51.2436; 4.3853Coordinates: 51°14′37″N 4°23′07″E / 51.2436°N 4.3853°E / 51.2436; 4.3853
Result Spanish victory
Dutch rebels Spain Spain
Commanders and leaders
Jean Marnix  Philip de Lannoy,
Seigneur De Beauvoir
2,500 800[1]
Casualties and losses
"Almost the entire force killed or captured" Unknown
Battle of Oosterweel is located in Belgium
Oosterweel in present-day Belgium


Beginning in 1566, Protestant mobs in the provincial states of the Netherlands began destroying Catholic art and images (the Beeldenstorm) to protest the taxes, restrictions on religion, and harsh rule of Philip II of Spain, sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. In March 1567, under the leadership of a young nobleman, Jean Marnix, rebels gathered and built a fortified compound at Oosterweel, approximately one mile from Antwerp.[2]


Attempting to deal with the gathering of the rebels, Margaret of Parma, the Spanish governor of the Habsburg Netherlands, employed a mercenary army to confront the rebels. The army was provided in large part by the loyalist Count Egmont and led by Philip de Lannoy, Seigneur De Beauvoir, who served as the commander of the governor's bodyguards.[1][3][4]

On 12 March the Spanish mercenary army prepared for the battle in secret. The troop of eight hundred men was split into small groups and quietly placed for deployment. Helmets, bucklers, arquebuses, corselets, spears, standards and drums were distributed silently. Before daybreak on 13 March the soldiers were advised that they would advance on the rebels with banners furled and no drumbeat. Once the enemy was in sight, the soldiers were told that they should fire upon the rebels in volleys.[3]

When the battle started, the rebels were caught completely by surprise. Although Jean Marnix exhibited bravery, most of the rebels were panic-stricken and shot wildly. The Spanish mercenaries easily broke into the rebel encampment, killing hundreds of the rebels and causing hundreds more to flee. With the battle won, the Spanish mercenaries preceded to hunt down and kill those rebels who had fled, including Jean Marnix who was sliced to pieces.[1][4][5] Hardly any rebels escaped the slaughter, those that were taken prisoner were later executed.[6]

In the nearby city of Antwerp, William the Silent, the burgrave of the city, attempted to block those Protestants of Antwerp that desired to go to the aid of the rebels as he said that he was bound by oath to support Philip II. Those citizens that defied him to go to the aid of the rebels quickly retreated for the most part when they saw the dominance and ferocity of the Spanish mercenaries.[1][7]


The slaughter caused Calvinists to immediately cease the open defiance of Spanish authority. Calvinist worship all throughout the Netherlands was affected, and many dissidents including William the Silent fled to other countries.[4]

In literatureEdit

The battle and its aftermath are depicted in Cecelia Holland's novel The Sea Beggars—seen through the eyes of an idealistic young Calvinist from Antwerp who tries to join the rebels but arrives too late.[citation needed]



  1. ^ The Dutch typically view Louis of Nassau's surprise victory at Heiligerlee in 1568 as the first true battle of the Eighty Years' War.


  1. ^ a b c d Spohnholz (2017), p. 26/>.
  2. ^ Motley (1855), pp. 60–61.
  3. ^ a b Motley (1855), p. 61.
  4. ^ a b c Parker (2014), p. 151.
  5. ^ Motley (1855), p. 62.
  6. ^ Motley (1855), p. 65.
  7. ^ Motley (1855), pp. 63–65.


  • Motley, John Lothrop (1855). The Rise of the Dutch Republic: A History, Volume 2. New York: Harper & Brothers. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  • Parker, Geoffrey (2014). Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300210446. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  • Spohnholz, Jesse (2017). The Convent of Wesel: The Event that Never was and the Invention of Tradition. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108140881. Retrieved 17 February 2020.

External linksEdit