Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Hidden Flemings in (New) Netherlands' History

A few years back, the Flemish diplomat Axel Buyse, stationed in the Netherlands, gave a superb talk to his hosts on the extensive Flemish origins of the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ “Golden Century”[i]. He pointed out that it was no accident that the onset of Dutch greatness corresponded so closely with the subjugation of Flanders and Brabant by Spanish armies in the late 16th century.[ii] For it was the exodus of wealthy and accomplished Flemings and Brabanders to the (“liberated”) United Provinces of the (northern) Netherlands that largely made the Dutch Golden Century possible[iii].

Dutch historians of course know this. Among the pre-eminent scholars who have written in delightful detail on this subject are the pioneering Dr. J. Briels (in multiple publications including Zuidnederlanders in de Republiek, 1570-1630 – Sint Niklaas: Danthe, 1985) and the more recent (and encyclopedic) Professor Gustaaf Asaert in his indispensable (and very readable) 1585: De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2002).

Sadly, historians of Dutch-American history broadly and of the New Netherlands period (1614-1664) more specifically, either ignore or obscure the origins of their Flemish forefathers
[iv]. In some cases it would be fair to state that the author in question was simply ignorant of the relevant historiography. Unfortunately, in a recent work on New Netherland pictured above and titled Kiliaen Van Rensselaer (1588-1643): Designing a New World, (Hilversum, The Netherlands: Verloren, 2010), by Professor Janny Venema, one cannot make an allowance for ignorance.

“How uncharitable!” Some might shout (and likely will). But I believe I am on solid ground here. Primarily, because Dr.Venema lists the works of both Dr. Briels and Dr. Asaert in the bibliography of this, her most recent book.

Of course to me this is an egregious albeit typical Flemish-lite/Dutch-centric bias. As a rebuttal to not only Dr. Venema but all Dutch-centric historians, I will attempt here to show that, by omission, our Dutch friends do neither themselves nor others a service by neglecting the contributions of Flanders.
[vi] Given the fact that I do have a day job (and it has nothing to do with Flemish history), I will limit my detailed critique in this post only to pages19-26 of her Chapter 1: “Images of Hasselt”. Readers can peruse this chapter online here: .

How “Dutch” Was the Dutch Revolt?
Dr. Venema’s first chapter (“Images of Hasselt” pp.19-26) starts with a discussion of Charles V
[vii], Phillip II[viii], and the Eighty Years’ War (Tachtigjarige Oorlog ). She acknowledges that the beeldenstorm (‘iconoclastic fury’) that started the war we know as the “Dutch Revolt” began in Flanders, but does not mention where (it was in Steenvoorde)[ix]. Its origins in Flanders may seem inconsequential to those of us four centuries later on the opposite side of the pond, but it is no different than (for Americans) recognizing that the spark of the American War of Independence began at Lexington and Concord.[x] The birthplace of a revolution or movement reflects not only the latent sentiments of the people of a region but also deeply influences the subsequent path such movements take.[xi]

One of the central figures in the story of the “Dutch” Revolt is the Count of Flanders, King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (1500-1558). Dr. Venema makes no mention of Charles V’s birthplace being near Ghent.[xii] This is important because it influenced how Charles was sentimentally attached to Flanders but also was loved by and successful in ruling the people of the Low Countries. Dr. Venema’s slant suggests that Charles V (pictured below at his height of power) was a Spanish ruler, when in fact contemporary Spaniards viewed Charles V as unquestionably Flemish. So much so that it led the Spaniards to revolt against him (1520-1521) in what became known as the ­Revolt of the Comuneros .[xiii]

Of course the Flemings (including his ‘hometown’ of Ghent) also rose in revolt against Charles V (in 1539-1540).[xiv] But subsequently, and despite the pervasive spread of first Lutheran (from 1519) then Anabaptist (from the 1520s) and finally Calvinist (from the 1550s) beliefs throughout the Low Countries, this very Catholic and Holy Roman Emperor Charles managed to maintain a relatively tranquil hold over an increasingly Protestant Netherlands – north and south.[xv]

Dr. Venema does mention (p. 21) that the Eighty Years’ War (Tachtigjarige Oorlog) began when the Duke of Alva marched into the Netherlands with 10,000 Italian and Spanish troops in 1567. What she fails to highlight is that it was into Flanders that the Spanish “Army of Flanders”[xvi] began its process of ‘pacification’. This is of course what led to the frenzied exodus of people, overwhelmingly from what is called the “Westkwartier” of traditional West Flanders.[xvii] It was these people who made up the unsettled waves of immigrants that ran from first Flanders to England or Germany and then ultimately the northern Netherlands and sometimes onward to New Netherlands.[xviii]

To offer further proper context, Dr. Venema cites the victories of the “Dutch” rebels but fails to recognize that these were not Hollanders but instead “South Netherlanders” who led the “Dutch” Revolt. These “Dutch” rebels were famously called “geuzen” (beggars - symbol of which is above), a title that was given to them in Flanders and as the result of a Flemings’ insouciance.[xix] Even the titular head of the “Beggars” as the rebels were called, the Prince of Orange –despite his birth and properties – called Flanders (actually Brussels, then as now the capital of Flanders) home. Ironically, the Spanish-led Catholic “Army of Flanders”, fighting against the rebels had few Flemings in its ranks. It was comprised overwhelmingly of Spanish, Italian, Walloon and German mercenaries[xx]. For the Flemings, then, their strongest allegiance – at least for the first decades of the Eighty Years’ War – was to the “Beggars”/”geuzen”.

This so-called “Dutch Revolt”, as it is now best known in English-speaking circles, almost came to an abrupt halt by the early 1570s with the success of the Duke of Alva’s legionnaires in subduing the seething Protestant strongholds of Flanders. What saved the Revolt from sputtering out completely was the doggedness of the Flemish diaspora, primarily resident in England. Dr. Venema points out (pp.22-23) that the watergeuzen “Sea Beggars” seizure of the town of Briel in April 1572 breathed new life into the resistance. What she neglects to mention is that this assault was overwhelmingly a Flemish enterprise. The Flemish diaspora, based primarily in coastal England, financed the effort and offered a source of ready recruits.[xxi] The young men who captured Briel had essentially operated a piratical Protestant fleet (much like today’s Somali version), preying on merchant shipping in the English Channel (see below).

These piratical “Sea Beggars” were led by the Flemish commanders (born in Brussels) Loedewijk van Boisot and his close confederate Willem van der Marck, Lord of Lumey[xxii] The watergeuzen then, managed to establish the first permanent haven for the “Dutch” Revolt in the Low Countries. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this success and the flow of Flemish Protestant men and money in enabling the “Dutch” Revolt to survive.

Much like insurrections today that are clandestinely aided by another state, the Dutch Revolt was made possible by the assistance – tacit and otherwise – that Queen Elizabeth gave to their activities. English aid while critical happened primarily because the English and Flemish shared a common enemy: Spain. However, it did not hurt that key Flemish émigrés surrounded Queen Elizabeth and made their cause hers.

Queen Elizabeth’s chief spy and diplomat to the “Dutch” was a half-English, half-Flemish son of a martyred Protestant by the name of Daniel Rogers.[xxiii] Likely born in Antwerp, through his mother’s side Rogers was a first cousin to the renowned geographer Ortelius[xxiv]. Interestingly and also through his mother’s side he was a first-cousin to the long-serving (1582-1611) so-called “Dutch” Consul at London, Antwerp native Emanuel Van Meteren.[xxv] Another Fleming, charged with caring for Sir Dudley, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite and the senior Englishman in the Netherlands, was Adolf van Meetkercke, a native of Brugge and a Greek scholar resident in Leiden.[xxvi] Still others occupied nearly every tier of lesser positions both on the front lines in the Netherlands and in England.

Nor were these the only Flemings in key, “Dutch” leadership positions. The spymaster and confidant for the Prince of Orange was a cousin of Meetkercke’s: Philip Marnix van Sint Aldegonde (pictured in the above engraving by Jacob De Gheyn - of whom more later). Marnix ran the spies who enabled the Flemish-led troops to win key battles (such as lifting the Siege of Leiden in 1574 which led to the founding of the University of Leiden[xxvii] in 1575). Marnix also was the author of a key propaganda pamphlet and of the world’s oldest national anthem: “Het Wilhelmus”, which of course the Kingdom of the Netherlands now claims as its own.[xxviii] Still later, in 1583-1585, Marnix was the Mayor (burgemeester) of the most important city in Europe, the Calvinist city-state of Antwerp (until its capture by the Spanish in 1585).[xxix]

Closer to Queen Elizabeth’s person (and her daily activities) were her butler and her seamstress – both Flemish natives of Brussels.[xxx] Elizabeth’s language tutor as well was a Fleming. Elizabeth herself, exhibited some Flemish traits – not least among these her polyglot skills (she spoke Flemish, French, and Italian fluently).[xxxi] Nor should this be surprising: Elizabeth I herself, through her mother Anne Boleyn, was of Flemish origin.[xxxii]

While virtually all European nationalities and religions (including Catholics) fought for the United Provinces against Spain,[xxxiii] naturally ethnicity and language (as well as religious affiliation) played some role in tilting one toward (or away from) the Revolt. The French-speaking parts of the Southern Netherlands, separated by language and custom from the Dutch-speaking areas, tended to side with their fellow Romance-language speakers (the Spanish).[xxxiv] Certainly there were substantial numbers of Walloon Protestants who joined the Revolt. Still, percentage wise they were in the minority among the “Southern Netherlanders” in the Dutch Republic. As noted historian of the Dutch Revolt, Professor Geoffrey Parker, has pointed out, “a large number of Walloon nobles had succumbed to Spanish bribes.”[xxxv]

While not exclusive, the Dutch-speakers of the Southern Netherlands then remained as the dominant contingent in the Dutch Revolt. As Dr. Venema mentions (p.23), following their success at Den Brielle, representative political and military stakeholders summoned a meeting at Dordrecht (aka Dort) in 1572. There they elected William of Orange their leader. What Dr. Venema fails to point out is that the leading political representative (dispatched by the Prince of Orange) was Philip Marnix, the Fleming. The primary military representative was Willem Van der Marck a Flemish native of the Bishopric of Liege.[xxxvi] It was thus a concave at Dort, led by Flemings that appointed William, Prince of Orange as the leader of the Dutch Revolt in 1572.

Dr. Venema’s overview in her opening chapter touches on the political as well as the military developments. Unfortunately, her recounting of the Dutch Revolt’s political turning points (p.23) appears a bit disjointed.[xxxvii] One very significant development she neglects to mention at all is the Pacification of Ghent (a famous allegory print pictured above).[xxxviii] This is a critical omission. As one legal historian recently remarked: “The Pacification of Ghent was a crucial moment in the Revolt of the Netherlands against Spain.”[xxxix] It was significant first because all the provinces (Dutch and French speaking) united against the Spanish-led rulers. It also served as the basis for legal recognition of religious tolerance. This of course was one of the moral justifications of the Dutch Republic (at least in the eyes of historians). However, the idea of toleration and freedom of religion was the culmination of a long series of developments unique to Flanders broadly and Ghent more precisely.[xl]

Be that as it may, Dr. Venema places greater emphasis on the Act of Abjuration (p.23 - the text pictured above) – if only because she actually mentions this versus the cold shoulder she gives to the Pacification of Ghent ). But here again we have an important milestone in the development of the Dutch Republic without credit due. The Act of Abjuration (Plakaat van Verlating in Dutch) is as important to Americans as it is to the Dutch and Flemish. Not only is it the Netherlands’ equivalent of the American Declaration of Independence, but The Act of Abjuration it was also one of the reference points (and perhaps the primary template) used by Thomas Jefferson in drafting the American Declaration of Independence .[xli] As you might expect, given my emphasis of this here, the primary author (and at least half of the four committee members) was Flemish.[xlii]

After having succeeded the Prince of Orange as the “Royalist” Stadthouder of Holland and Zealand from 1567-1573 (in other words fighting against the Seabeggars when they took Briel), Antwerp native Maximilian of Hennin became the new Commander in Chief of the Rebel armies.

The Prince of Orange was assassinated in 1584 (July 22nd) by a Frenchman. The act shocked and demoralized those fighting against Spain and as such was an inflection point in the Dutch Revolt (perhaps much like JFK’s 1963 assassination impacted a generation of Americans). Dr. Venema uses a famous print of the time by Baudartius to illustrate the act (on page 22). What Dr. Venema does not make clear is that Baudartius was important in his own right and important to the story of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, the “Dutch” Revolt and the History of New Netherland.

As the source Dr. Venema cites clearly (albeit in Latin) states (”Scriptore Wilhelmo Baudartio Deinsiano Flandro”), Willem Baudaerts/Baudartius was from Deinze in Flanders. As a boy in Sandwich, England, he most certainly knew men that had sailed from Sandwich to join the attack on Den Brielle in 1572. As a Biblical scholar[xliii], he was one of the handful of scholars selected to undertake the official state-sponsored translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Dutch (the Statenvertaling).

Like Petrus Plancius, another Fleming (from Dranouter, near Ieper in West Flanders) Baudartius was also vehemently anti-Spanish and believed that it was a God-given duty to strike the Spaniards wherever one might be able. For that reason he not only drafted a strong polemic against the 12 year truce with Spain (1609-1621) in 1610, but also republished Emanuel Van Meteren’s Histoire (which included the first printed account of Henry Hudson’s “discovery” of the Hudson River Valley) in 1614, after Van Meteren’s death.[xliv] This keen interest in the New World found an outlet in his daughter’s son, Willem Beeckman, who arrived in the 1650s to New Netherland. Beeckman later became New York City’s longest serving mayor.[xlv]

Besides the use of Baudartius’ print, Dr. Venema also inserts an illustration (on page 25) from a military manual from the period. This manual, created by the Antwerp native Jacob de Gheyn[xlvi], was called Wapenhandelingen van Roers[xlvii]. This manual (the illustration above being one of the 42 stances for loading a musket) is relevant for several reasons. The military exercises described in the manual (step-by-step procedures for loading and firing efficiently and in ranks the musket) reflected the military innovations that gave the "Dutch" victory on the battlefield. These tactics mimicked Roman legions’ massed javelin throwing, but applied it to massed musketry. The ‘discovery’ (rediscovery?) of this approach was by the Flemish (and Catholic) scholar (and dean of Leiden University), Justus Lipsius.[xlviii] in his De Militia Romana, published in 1595.

As is the irony in so many wars fought in the name of God, the Dutch Revolt was yet one more where both sides (Spanish Catholics and Dutch-speaking Protestants) believed that the Almighty firmly endorsed their own position (and implicitly condemned the other). Religion of course was a key component of not only the raison d’etre for its birth but also for the continued existence of the Dutch Republic. The right religion for those close to the movers and shakers of the Dutch Republic was the Dutch Reformed Church, which was Calvinist in outlook but allied (and in communion with) the English (Anglican) and Scottish (Presbyterian) state churches. With very few exceptions, advancement in the Dutch world required at least perfunctory (and often, aggressively participatory) involvement with the Dutch Reformed Church.

The leading proponent of the strict, unyielding Calvinist outlook for the Dutch Reformed Church that ended triumphant after decades of struggle was Franciscus Gomarus (pictured below, and of whom Dr. Venema references later in her book, but of course without reference to his Flemish roots), a native of Brugge, West Flanders. Gomarus was claimed as an ally by the American Pilgrim Fathers (which to me is unlikely, and a subject for a future post) and was the leader of the school of thought called the Counter Remonstrants.

The Counter Remonstrants believed in war to the death against Spain, the reclamation of Flanders and Brabant back from the Spanish, and the predestined salvation of the “Select” members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Overwhelmingly they were the “war party” and were in many of the positions of influence in government and the Church. Like their leader, they were largely “Southern Netherlanders” – overwhelmingly of whom were the Flemish. In short, financed by Flemish émigrés, led by Flemish military and political leaders, while inspired and justified by Flemish theologians, the “Dutch” Revolt, appears to have been heavily Flemish.

Virtually all of this refutation of the popular characterization of the Dutch Revolt as some kind of native-born, autonomous rising by the indigenous population of Holland, as often portrayed by our Dutch friends to the north, is available to Dutch scholars in their own language. So there is no excuse for its omission by historians of the Netherlands. Of course, this same admonition applies to historians of a part of the Dutch Republic’s overseas holdings, New Netherland. And this post is really directed to them.

Permit me then, Gentle Reader, to close with a reminder again of the Flemish claim to this period in history, courtesy of the pre-eminent historian on the Dutch Revolt in every language, Professor Geoffrey Parker:

“Between 1540 and 1630, perhaps 175,000 South Netherlanders left their homes, 150,000 of them eventually finding refuge in the Dutch Republic. Many were people of the greatest distinction in their chosen fields: 300 Calvinist ministers, as well as many elders and deacons, came to parishes in the North from Flanders and Brabant; 375 Dutch artists, including Hals, Cuyp, van Ostade and van der Velde, also came from the South, as did the dramatists Vondel and Barlaeus, the architect Lieven de Key, and over 400 school and university teachers. Finally, of 364 known publishers and bookdealers active in the Republic before 1630, two-thirds were southern exiles. Their influence on the language, culture and religion of the North Netherlands would be hard to overstate.”[xlix]

At some point in the future – which at this point is long with unfinished posts – I will include a more detailed examination of the other Flemings surrounding Kiliaen Van Rensselaer.

[i] Axel Buyse’s talk, delivered March 13, 2006, was titled “Flemings and Brabanders in the Land of Rembrandt” and can be accessed here:
[ii] My thanks to Jan Offner of Flanders Investment Trade for initially referring his colleague’s excellent essay to me. But I owe Jan a deeper thanks also because while the content is not his, the original inspiration of this blog is. It is Jan who challenged me to chronicle the Flemish Contribution to America – and to do so with proper citations. Note that there are some Anglo-Saxon historians, pre-eminent among which is Jonathan Irving Israel in his Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585-1740, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) 2002 reprint, pp.5-6, who believe that the causation between the fall of Antwerp in 1585 and the rise of the Dutch Republic are not directly connected. However, it is curious how virtually all date the trajectory of the Dutch Republic’s rise from 1585 (as does Dr. Israel), the year that Antwerp fell to the Spanish troops under the Duke of Parma. Which of course implies causation. See especially p. 30: “The Fall of Antwerp in 1585 was undeniably a crucial event in economic as well as in political and religious history. But the fall of Antwerp, and the closing of the Scheldt to maritime traffic, do not, as is so often assumed, in themselves explain the subsequent transference of Antwerp’s entrepot role to Holland and Zealand. Control over Europe's rich trades did not simply migrate from the South to the North Netherlands in this straightforward way, however alluring such a notion might be. What actually transpired was much more complex.”
[iii] “Sixteenth-century Holland was, compared with Flanders and Brabant, a small town community.” Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609, (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), 1966 reprint, p.275. Professor Geyl’s work is excellent for those native English speakers who wish to see Flemings properly credited for their role in the Dutch Revolt. Note: Dr. Geyl was thoroughly Dutch, born at Dordrecht and schooled at the University of Leiden . For those who can read Dutch and secure a copy of it, his broader, 2 volume work, Geschiednis van de Nederlandse Stam, (Amsterdam, 1949) is to me still an excellent resource.
[iv] For a sharp argument about how today’s Netherlanders are of Flemish origin, see the excellent (in Dutch) argument (“Warrom een Hollander een (halve) Vlaming is”) here:
[v] In fairness to Dr. Venema, the rest of her book actually incorporates quite a bit of reference to the “Southern Netherlanders”. However, even there she either ignores the Flemish origins of critical figures – such as Petrus Plancius’ Dranouter, West Flanders origins or Franciscus Gomarus’ Brugge, West Flanders origins – or where she contradicts authorities like Professor Asaert in saying Gerard Thiebault was a Frenchman (p. 145) when in fact he was a native of Antwerp. (Asaert, pp. 141, 179). Unfortunately, Dr. Venema's book is marred with periodic unnecessary typos - such as spelling "London" as "Londen" (p.321).
[vi] Inevitably there might be some who will wag a finger in my direction because of this post and whisper that I am anti-Dutch. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the fact that my favorite foreign national anthem is Het Wilhelmus – and not just because it was written by the Fleming Phillip Marnix – I have a deep belief that we are, like other ethnicities, artificially separated by military truces (e.g. the Germans, the Koreans, etc.). Once a Flemish Republic is declared - thankfully even more likely given the current political paralysis in Belgium – we should seek closer ties with the Netherlands. Incidentally, I have no animosity toward Dr. Venema herself (or any of the other Dutch historians). I simply wish that they would give credit where credit is due. In this case it means to the Flemings and Brabanders who brought their moveable wealth, talents, and connections to the Dutch Republic.
[vii] Charles V’s life is chronicled in English by several historians, none who truly explore his Flemish upbringing. Still, if I were to pick one book to use as a starting point, Harald Kleinschmidt, Charles V: The World Emperor, (Glouccestershire: Sutton Publishing, 2004).
[viii] The authoritative biography on Phillip II in English (and several other languages as well) remains Geoffrey Parker, Philip II, (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1978). The good Dr. Parker ( ) recently released a revised version in Spanish.
[ix] See, for example, Herman Kaptein, De Beeldenstorm, (Verloren, 2002), p.42 Online reference downloaded January 29, 2011 . Professor Kaptein clearly states that the Iconclasm (Beeldenstorm) of statuary destruction that started the “Dutch” Revolt began in “the Flemish village” (“het Vlaamse dorp”) Steenvoorde.
[x] Those who began the iconoclasm were radicalized not only by their religious inclinations (uncompromising Calvinism) but also because, like political refugees the world over, they had been dispossessed of their livelihood and homes. “It is no coincidence that one of those who began the image-breaking in August 1566 was Jacob de Buzere, minister of the Dutch [language] church at Sandwich [England], and after the collapse of the Revolt in the spring of 1567 resistance was continued by a band of marauders recruited in Norwich and Sandwich, who carried out a series of brutal attacks in Flanders.” Andrew Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp. 252-253. Kindly note that this and other studies of the so-called “Dutch” Protestant churches in England at this time carry overwhelming proof that the Low Countries’ origin of the “Dutch” in England was overwhelmingly Flemish and that they actively gave their money and men to the cause of the “Dutch” Revolt. For example, in referring to the so-called “Dutch” church at Sandwich, the authoritative historian on that community declared that: “With very few exceptions they [Dutch-speaking exiles in Sandwich] were all natives from East and West Flanders or Brabant...They came from localities such as Antwerp, Axel, Bethune, Bruges, Deinze, Ghent, Hulst, Izegem, Kortrijk, Moorsele, Ostend, Oudenaarde, Pamel, Roeselare, Ronse, Turnhout, Wervik, the Westkwartier of Flanders.” Marcel Backhouse, The Flemish and Walloon Communities at Sandwich during the Reign of Elizabeth I (1561-1603), (Brussel: Paleis der Academien, 1995), p. 18.
[xi] Luckily for us in this day and age, the primary source material for the “Dutch” Revolt is available online and in translation. For those interested, the url is here:
[xii] There has been a great deal of scholarly debate recently about where Charles Quint was actually born. Natives of Ghent will often show you the “house where Charles Quint was born” (as a kind Ms. Brigitte Dhondt did for me and my father in 2007). A statue exists there to commemorate the occasion. However, one recent writer declared Eeklo to be his birthplace while another (also using heretofore undiscovered primary resources) argues that it was near Eeklo but actually on the road, while in transit, that Charles V was born (my thanks to Mr. Hugo Baeckeland for this reference). The key point however is that Charles V was supremely Flemish in not only birth but outlook. This makes him the first global leader of Flemish origin. Please see Marc Van Hulle, “Keizer Karel was een Eeklonaar”, in Het Nieuwesblad, 31 October, 2006, downloaded February 6, 2011 and This point of history that came to me courtesy of (separately) Professor Matthias Storme and amateur historian Hugo Baeckeland of Eeklo.
[xiii] That revolt was in part directed against the Flemish courtiers around Charles V, especially Willem II van Croy the Lord of Temse and Aarschot .The only English language full treatment of the Comunero Revolt I am aware of is the polemic by Henry Latimer Seaver, The Great Revolt in Castile: A Study of the Comunero Movement of 1520-1521, (New York: Octagon Books, 1966). Seaver’s account is marred by chapter titles such as “The Flemish Pillage” and references to “the rapacities of the Flemish courtiers” [p.47].
[xiv] The Ghent Revolt of 1539-1540 ended in the expected subjugation of Ghent, but given the offence, a relatively mild (in terms of blood debt) price paid by the Gentenaars. But it also lead to the nickname for Gentenaars as "de stroopers" (for the noose that they were required to wear around their necks in supplication to Charles V). The only English work on this I am aware of is the G.P.R. James, Mary Burgundy, or The Revolt of Ghent (1833), 2 Vols. Whatever you are tempted to do, do NOT buy the reprints of this book floating around. It is chock full of inaccuracies (example: “Hainaut” is rendered “Hainnut”) and improbable dialogue. If one must, then download it for free from Google books. On the issue of Ghent’s history as an independent state, see Professor Wim Blockman’s “De Tweekoppige Draak: Het Gentse Stadsbestuur Tussen Vorst en Onderdanen, 14de-16de Eeuw”.Sourced online here:
[xv] Curiously, Dr. Venema does not even mention (in her bibliography) the premier works on the Reformation in the Low Countries in English. First and foremost (and by a Leiden Ph.D. graduate no less): Alastair Duke, Reformation and Revolt in the Low Countries, (London: Hambledon & London, 2003). For the Anabaptist side of the story in Flanders, please see A. L. E. Verheyden, Anabaptism in Flanders, 1530-1650, (Sottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1961). For the Calvinist bit, please see Guido Marnef, “The Changing Face of Calvinism in Antwerp, 1550-1585”, in Andrew Pettegree, Alastair Duke, and Gillian Lewis, eds., Calvinism in Europe, 1540-1620, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp.143-159. Lastly but hardly least, is the excellent (and supremely relevant) work by Peter Arnade, Beggars, Iconoclasts, & Civic Patriots: The Political Culture of the Dutch Revolt, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008).
[xvi] See Geoffrey Parker, The Dutch Revolt, (New York: Penguin, 1979) for the seminal work on this subject in English. Dr. Parker, while not highlighting the Flemish contribution, is acutely conscious of it.
[xvii] The Westkwartier ( ) is that part of West Flanders called the Westhoek with that part of Flanders seized by French “Sun King” Louis XIV in 1679 ( ).
[xviii] Consider, for example, the Ten Eyck and Boel families. They are often labeled either Dutch or German. But in fact, the family were originally long term residents of Antwerp who fled the city after its fall (1585) and settled for a time in Cologne (1588? To 1620s?) before moving then to Amsterdam (citizens by 1645) and finally New Netherland (in 1651). SeeGwenn F. Epperson, New Netherland Roots, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994), especially Appendix C “The Ten Eyck-Boel European Connection”, pp. 125-129.
[xix] According to Professor Geyl, it was the Flemish nobleman Dolhaim who was first charged with organizing the Flemish Protestant pirates as a real fighting force in 1569. See Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609, (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), 1966 reprint, pp.113-114. The appellation was intended as a derogatory comment by the Walloon nobleman Berlaymont. See Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609, (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), 1966 reprint, pp.87-88. Curiously, Professor Geyl says that at the time the term had deeper meaning: a reference to the Wild Beggars” of West Flanders. Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609, (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), 1966 reprint, p.113. for the story of the origin of the term.
[xx] See Geoffrey Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road, 1567-1659: The Logistics of Spanish Victory and Defeat in the Low Countries’ Wars, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 1987 Reprint, Appendix B, “Organization of the Army of Flanders”, (b) Muster of the Army of Flanders, 24 March 1601, p. 276. The Army of Flanders at this time comprised roughly 6,000 Spaniards, 1200 Italians, nearly 9,000 Germans, 4,700 Walloons, and 1,700 “Burgundians” [??]. A roster of the “Dutch” troops under arms at this time (or, for example, in the Siege of Ostende) shows a very high percentage of Flemings in the line (as well as in command).
[xxi] See especially, D.J.B. Trim, “Protestant Refugees in Elizabethan England and Confessional Conflict in France and the Netherlands, 1562-c.1610”, in Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton, eds., From Strangers to Citizens: The Integration of Immigrant Communities in Britain, Ireland and Colonial America, 1550-1750, (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2001), pp. 68-79.
[xxii] In an earlier post here I chronicled the extensive Flemish contributions to the siege and successful capture of Briel as well as the lifting of the Siege of Leiden. It was an annual celebration of the latter event which the Pilgrims copied and made their own. Culminating in the Fall American holiday now known as Thanksgiving Day.
[xxiii] Amazingly to me, no biography exists on Daniel Rogers, but swathes of his life have been obliquely chronicled. The best English source that I am aware of is J. A. Van Dorsten, Poets, Patrons and Professors: Sir Philip Sidney, Daniel Rogers and the Leiden Humanists, (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 1962), pp. 9-75.
[xxiv] Curiously, this trio of first cousins – Emanuel Van Meteren, Daniel Rogers and Abraham Ortelius – while close, occupied varied posts on the religious spectrum. Van Meteren, while an important elder and figure in the Dutch Church in London (and also the French and Italian Calvinist churches there) was viewed as orthodox (in a Reformed sense) by the religious establishment in the Netherlands (such as Petrus Plancius, It is unclear what Daniel Rogers’ specific church affiliation was, but it is unlikely that it deviated much from the now required Church of England allegiance (given his proximity to the Queen). Meanwhile, Abraham Ortelius, nominally a Catholic, is reputed to have shared with Van Meteren a certain affinity for the “Family of Love”, a sect abhorred by Calvinists, Anglicans and Catholics alike. Please see the footnotes in my earlier posting here: On a slightly different note, “Abraham Ortelius, maker of the first atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Theatre of the World, was one of the most prominent citizens of Antwerp at the time that this city was the trading centre of Europe and indeed the world, in the second half of the sixteenth century.” Marcel P.R. van den Broecke, Ortelius Atlas maps: An Illustrated Guide, (Tuurdijk: HES Publishers, 1996), p. 9. As far as I am aware of, this is the most complete source for Ortelius and his work in English.
[xxv] Please see my earlier post on Van Meteren here: . The only full biography on Van Meteren is W.D. Verduyn, Emanuel Van Meteren, (‘s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1926). As far as I am aware, despite his immense contributions and influence, no full biography on Van Meteren in English exists.
[xxvi] As far as I know, no biography exists of the interesting Van Meetkercke. But Professor Asaert comments [p. 297] that "Een van de trouwste adviseurs en medestanders van de landvoogd was de Vlaming Adolf van Meetkercke." [Dr. Asaert means trusted by the Earl of Leicester at Leiden]. Note also that [p.295 Asaert] "In een kielzogbevonden zich al meteen een aantal Vlamingen die eerst in Engeland een toevlucht hadden gevonden maar die nu het land blijk gaf van minder tolerantie tegenover vreemdelingen de oversteek naar Noord-Nederland waagden." See Gustaaf Asaert, 1585: De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2002). For a look at Professor Van Meetkercke’s scholarly treatise, see the online scans posted here:
[xxvii] As Dr. Briel has demonstrated, Leiden itself was more than 50% Flemish when the Pilgrims resided there. Dr. J. Briels, Zuid-Nederlanders in de Republiek 1572-1630: Een Demografische en Cultuurhistorische Studie, (Sint-Niklaas: Danthe, 1985), “Table XXI: Immigratie in de Noordelijke Nederlanden-Samenvatting”, p. 214. Several other cities, such as Haarlem and Middelburg, also had more than 50% non natives in 1622. As such, the Flemish dominated virtually every aspect of Leiden’s university town’s existence. Professor Asaert states: "In Leiden namen vooral Vlamingen de plaatsen in van e uitgestoten remonstraten en katholieken. In de kerkenraden hadden Brabanders en Vlamingen zoals gezegd al een grote invloed verworven....In Leiden, met een gemengd calvinistisch-remonstratse kerkenraad, vroeg de magistraat in 1615 aan Episcopius, de bekende remontstrantse hoogelaar, of hij voortaan 's zondags regelmatig aan de predikdienst wilde meewerken. 'Neen,' antwoordde de arminiaan, 'ik wil niet onderworpen zijn aan de censuur van de Vlamingen in de kerkenraad.'” Gustaaf Asaert, 1585: De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2002), p.294.
[xxviii] Marnix is yet another “Flemish Father” of the Dutch Revolt, neglected by historians. Perhaps it is in part because he presided over the fall of Antwerp in 1585. But his “Bijenkorf” was the polemic that helped articulate the rebels position and helped to justify their actions in the eyes of the people and that of foreign powers. It was translated into multiple languages and served to rally not only Flemings and Dutchmen but the English and other Protestant standard bearers as well. See the text of De Bijenkorf der H. Roomsche Kerk (1569) here
[xxix] As the Belgicist (and therefore, hardly a friend of Flanders) historian Henri Pirenne declared about Antwerp at this point in history: “Throughout the sixteenth century the Low Countries formed no more than its [Antwerp’s] suburbs.” Leon Voet, Antwerp, The Golden Age: The Rise and Glory of the Metropolis in the Sixteenth Century, (Antwerp: Mercatorsfonds, 1973), p.7.
[xxx] The introduction of the carriage to England was by Willem Boonen, who was also England’s first coachman – a role that thanks to books and movies appears to be a quintessentially English occupation. See John J. Murray, Flanders and England: The Influence of the Low Countries on Tudor-Stuart England, (Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1985), p. 156. Also, for a broader (albeit superficial) survey of the many contacts between the English and the Flemish see my posting of a speech by Professor Murray here: . “Mrs. Dingham van der Plasse, the daughter of a Flemish knight, introduced the art [of starching] into England; for the fee of five pounds sterling she was prepared to instruct English gentlewomen in the approved methods of getting up linen, and so greatly was her teaching prized that she soon amassed a considerable estate.” See W. Cunningham, Alien Immigrants to England, 2nd ed., (London: Frank Cass & Co., 1969), p.148 .
[xxxi] For Elizabeth’s fluency in Flemish please see .
[xxxii] See my earlier post here for details on Queen Elizabeth I’s Flemish origins.
[xxxiii] An online list of the known nationalities of soldiers fighting for the United Provinces in the ranks shows not only Dutch, Flemish, English, French and Walloons, but also Spaniards, Italians, Germans and others. The online excel sheet tally is part of the “Vlaanderen” subsection of the Dutch online genealogical website. A List of all known and registered Flemings emigrating to the Netherlands before 1800 can be found here:
This is reflected in the nationalities of those resident in New Netherland. My own simple tally included Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, Flemish, French, Italian, German, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Walloon and even Moroccans and Angolans (as well, of course, of Native Americans). Although my own work produced that range, the two scholarly monographs I am aware of on this subject cite a smaller range of nationalities. See for example, “Representative Pioneer Settlers of New Netherland” in The New York Genalogical and Biographical Journal, Volume 35 (January, 1934), pp.2-12. This gives only Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, German, Norwegian, and Walloon. Also, Oliver A. Rink, “The People of New Netherland: Notes on Non-English Immigration to New York in the Seventeenth Century” New York History, January, 1981, pp. 4-42 (which really delves into the professions, not so much the ethnicities of New Netherland’s population), and David Steven Cohen, “How Dutch Were the Dutch of New Netherland”, in New York History, January, 1981,pp. 43-60 (which attempts to determine the ethnicities of the inhabitants through the known backgrounds of West India Company military stationed in New Netherland). For the record, the second article claims only slightly more than 3% (31 individuals) of the known military were Flemish. For the record, my atlly of known individuals with distinct Flemish ethnicity in New Netherland at this time is more than 100.
[xxxiv] “The Spanish party [meaning government at Brussels and their Walloon collaborators] felt that nothing but fear of the garrisons kept the people in check, and every precaution had been taken. In all the most exposed towns [to attack by the Dutch-speaking rebels] – Thienen [Tirlemont], Leuven, Brussels, Mechlin [Mechelen] – [the Spanish Duke of] Alva had placed reliable governors, Walloon noblemen every one of them …all with Walloon troops.” Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609, (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), 1966 reprint, p.107
[xxxv] Geoffrey Parker, Spain and the Netherlands, 1559-1659: Ten Studies, (Glasgow: Fontana Collins, 1979), p.35
[xxxvi] For the record, even I recognize that not all good things come out of Flanders. Lumey was an excellent example of that. While a leader of the band that captured den Briel in 1572, “The Brill, under Lumey, became a veritable den of robbers.” Lumey tortured and massacred priests, robbed churches, and essentially acted more like a servant of Satan than of a Christian movement. After his arrest (January, 1573) and expulsion (1574) from the ranks of the “Beggars”, Lumey relocated to Germany – and returned to Roman Catholicism! See Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609, (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), 1966 reprint, pp. 126-129.
[xxxvii] For some reason, Professor Venema does not include in her biography Martin Van Gelderen. The Political Thought of the Dutch Revolt,1555-1590, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). A quick review of this book might have helped add some coherence to this background section of her book.
[xxxviii] See Pieter Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-1609, (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), 1966 reprint, pp. 145-160 for a concise yet fair discussion of the Pacification of Ghent.
[xxxix] R.C. Van Caenegem, Law, History, the Low Countries, and Europe (London: Hambledon Press,1994), p.114.
[xl] “The idea of the rule of law was already present in Flemish cities in the twelfth century….When count William Clito came to power in Flanders in 1127, he guaranteed the inhabitants of his cities a right judgement of the cities’ aldermen against every man and against himself [the count]. The prince is already [at this time then] subject to the laws. The 1127 city charters were not mere words. On 16 February 1128, Ivan, Lord of Aalst, acted as the spokesman of the city of Ghent before the count. Ivan rebuked the court [sic] for not respecting the privileges he had given the burghers of Ghent and other cities. To settle the matter, he proposed [that] a special court should convene, in which the Peers of Flanders and representatives of the clergy and the people would sit to judge over the count. If this court should find the count unworthy of the countship, he would have to give it up. The count did not agree to this and Ivan and Ghent rose in revolt.”
“William was killed in the civil war that ensued and a new count came to power. The background of the conflict was the opinion of Ghent and other cities that there was a contractual relationship between the count and the citizens. They recognized him as their lord and he, in turn, recognized their privileges. If the count no longer respected his part of the deal by acting against the rights of citizens, they had a right to break their contract and to fight him. This contractual conception of the relationship between ruler and subjects returns in the city charters granted by William’s successor. Thereafter the counts managed to suppress it, but it reappeared at regular times in Flemish history. In 1191 the first article of a charter for the city of Ghent stated that the citizens were only subject to the count as long as he wanted to treat them justly and reasonably….The 1581 Act of Abjuration is reminiscent of Ivan of Aalst. By his failure to respect the rights of his subjects, Philip II of Spain had lost his right to rule the Netherlands.” See Hubert Bocken & Walter de Bondt, Introduction to Belgian Law, (Kluwer 2000) p.20, IV. “Belgium’s contribution to Law” My thanks to Professor Matthias Storme for this reference.
[xli] See Barbara Wolff (1998-06-29). “Was The Declaration of Independence Inspired by the Dutch?”, Accessed February 6, 2011. The implications of the Flemish interest in the rule of law and the rights of individuals against the arbitrariness of the State go back centuries. The tie between the Flemish struggle for independence for their rights in 1302 and the U.S.’ own struggle in 1776 is nicely overviewed here by the impressive polymath Dr. Paul Belien: For a quick overview of the Act of Abjuration, its authors and its importance, the Wikipedia summary is sufficient:
[xlii] The author was Jan van Asseliers, a native of Antwerp and the secretary for the Council of State (Raad van State) as well as the pension – see “The committee of four who advised on the drafting was composed of four members – Andries Hessels, greffier (secretary) of the States of Brabant; Jacques Tayaert, pensionary of the city of Ghent; Jacob Valcke, pensionary of the city of Ter Goes (now Goes); and Pieter van Dieven (also known as Petrus Divaeus), pensionary of the city of Mechelen – was charged with drafting what was to become the Act of Abjuration. The Act prohibited the use of the name and seal of Philip in all legal matters, and of his name or arms in minting coins. It gave authority to the Councils of the provinces to henceforth issue the commissions of magistrates. The Act relieved all magistrates of their previous oaths of allegiance to Philip, and prescribed a new oath of allegiance to the States of the province in which they served, according to a form prescribed by the States-General. The actual draft seems to have been written by the audiencier of the States-General, Jan van Asseliers.”
A Dutch/English translation can be found here: .
[xliii] Again, amazing to me, there is no dedicated biography on Baudartius. That said, some of Baudartius’ works can be downloaded here:
[xliv] Please see my earlier post to see scanned copies of Emanuel Van Meteren’s central work as well as the specific entries dealing with Henry Hudson’s famous landfall here:
[xlv] George Herbert Walker Bush (41st U.S. president ) and George W. Bush (43rd) are among two of the descendants of Willem Beeckman – and in turn, of course, of Willem Baudaert/Baudartius. See and especially Eddy Lefevre, “Amerikaanse president George W. Bush heft Deinse roots,” in het Nieuwsblad, February 7, 2008, downloaded February 6, 2011 .
[xlvi] The Wikipedia description of De Gheyn ( ) does not reflect his true importance. For that I would recommend Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution: Millitary Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). p. 20.
[xlvii] A copy of the manual and its importance is explained here: .
[xlviii] Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p.20. The Wikipedia bio here gives one a sense of Lipsius’ importance to the age and the Dutch Revolt.
[xlix] Geoffrey Parker, "New Light on an Old Theme: Spain and the Netherlands 1550-1650." European History Quarterly 1985 15(2): 219-236; p. 226

Copyright 2011 by David Baeckelandt. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without my express, written consent.


  1. "Credit where credit is due", indeed.
    A very pertinent refutation of popular historiography - and impressive endnotes.
    Hats off.

    (This reaction is late because I didn't know about this post until now. For some reason the RSS-feeds were not refreshed..)

  2. Thank you Leo! One of these days I hope we can break bread. Until then my friend!

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  4. Very interesting.
    I read 1585,the Fall of Antwerp some years ago.
    And traveling extensively through the Hudson Valley twice in 2010 and 2012, I looked -with that knowledge in mind- at what I saw of what is left of the Low Lands heritage in the valleys adjacent to the Hudson Valley.
    It is the flemish and walloon names of the owners of farms in the land between the Swarte Kill en de Esopus Creek and elsewhere. It is the way many of the farms are built, more Flemish and Northern France like.
    And what to think of County names like Ghent, and of all places Kortright.
    One of maybe the second most importand family name in the region (next to van Rensselaer) is the name van Hasbrouck (close to where the revolt against the Spaniards started).
    Not to mention the most famous names in all of the Golden Age Immigrants to New Netherland, the Rapalje family.
    There are more distitinctively Flemish names for example in the the US census of 1790.
    Regards Leo Schreuders

  5. Very interesting.
    Having read 1585, and traveled extensively through the Hudson Valley in 2010 and 2012 I saw distinctive Flemish features in the way farms were built in names of two counties like Ghent, Kortright. In the name of maybe the second most important family in the region, the Hasbroucks close to Steenvoorde), also the Rapalje family. In the 1790 US census clearly Flemish names are there.
    Leo Schreuders

  6. Very interesting.
    Having read 1585 and traveld the Hudson Valley extensively, I found definite Felmish features. County names of Ghent and Kortright. The name of maybe second most influential family: Hasbrouck. The way farms were built.
    Regards Leo Schreuders

  7. Thanks very much for your kind comments. I very much like your blog on the Dutchness of New Netherland. Please let me know when you are in New York again - it would be a pleasure to break bread with you. - David Baeckelandt

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