Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Flemish Contribution to America's Thanksgiving

The "Deliverance" of Leiden by the Flemish-led Sea Beggars, October 3, 1574.

  Thanksgiving is arguably the most American of holidays. Those of us with a secular bent look at it as not only a chance to feast on turkey and the fixings, but to reconnect with family. Those of us with a Christian bent fall to our knees in thanks to God for all that we have been blessed with. Regardless of emphasis, it is one holiday that transcends nearly every division in American society.[i] 

Although it needs no retelling, the story goes that after a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims, in early October, invited 90 of the Wampanoag Indians nearby to join them for a three day feast of Thanksgiving to God. We are taught that the holiday was spontaneous, an outpouring in a sense of the religious fervor the Pilgrims[ii] felt and a mark of the goodwill between Native Americans and the Europeans. [iii] 

Whether religious or not, all Americans are taught from childhood that the holiday is a direct legacy of the Pilgrims’ survival of their first year in America. Since approximately 35 million of the 330 million Americans have an ancestor who was at this event[iv], it stands to reason that this remains the prevailing view of the origins of our holiday. 
Over the past several years, historians have deduced that the Pilgrims adopted not only the language but also the habits and cultural influences picked up from their 11 year stay at Leiden, in the Netherlands. Leiden (or, as the Anglo-Saxon community spelled it, Leyden) was where in fact half of their church (and their beloved pastor, John Robinson) remained after 1620. The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving feast, in fact, had remarkable echoes and similarities to the celebration instituted in Leiden after the repulse of a Spanish siege in the year 1574.[v] 
One of today’s premier historians of the Pilgrims at Leiden is convinced that the connection between Leiden and the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving is direct:

“Inspired by Leiden's 3 October thanksgiving for the lifting of the siege of the city in 1574, the Pilgrims' festivity included prayers, feasting, military exercises, and games. In the nineteenth century the 1621 event served in the promotion of the American national holiday and became known as ‘the first thanksgiving’.”[vi]

As regular readers may suspect, the Flemings[vii] contributed to this event. The holiday we now celebrate as Thanksgiving in America owes a debt, then, to Flanders.

A romantic depiction of the mayor of Leiden offering his arms as food to the starving inhabitants of Leiden during the siege by the Spanish in the Fall of 1574
Leiden: A Flemish City 
To uncover the origins of Thanksgiving it is important that we understand the events in Leiden itself. The city of Leiden was a modest place until the mid-16th century. However, its importance to us – in our never-ending search for understanding of the Flemish contribution to the discovery and settlement of America – is central. 

To begin with, the bulk of the Pilgrims settling at Massachusetts in 1620 and a group of the settlers for Nieuw Nederland – the stretch of territory from Delaware to Manhattan to Albany – in 1624 had all lived in Leiden. Some of them even became citizens of the city (a difficult task). After in many cases more than a decade of living in Leiden they were thoroughly familiar with Leiden itself. The transplanting of Leiden’s customs to the New World, then, was a natural outcome of their absorption of customs and traditions picked up at Leiden. 

As the fighting worsened between the Sea Beggars and the Spanish, the influx of Flemings into Leiden in the early 1570s became so large that by 1575 the locals were a minority of the population. Within 10 years (1586) refugees from the Southern Netherlands (including Flemings and Walloons) made up more than 85% of the population.[viii] Thus a municipal population that had been 10,000 in 1574 and perhaps 12,000 in 1581, had doubled to 20,000 by 1600.[ix] By 1622, the year after the first Thanksgiving, the city had nearly doubled again, to 44,745 souls, of which 30,000 (67%) were non-native.[x] 

Overwhelmingly, Leiden was a cosmopolitan place where Flemings constituted the largest ethnic bloc. As such, they literally and figuratively surrounded the Pilgrims in Leiden.

A modern picture of the University of Leiden, with many buildings unchanged since the Siege of 1574.

 Not all of these Flemish immigrants arrived directly from the South. Many that might superficially be labeled as English immigrants to Leiden, were in fact Anglo-Flemings. They  and their children had lived in England but retained strong ties with Flanders. For example, in 1596 a group of Flemings were warmly received at Leiden, having moved en masse from Norwich where they had attended the "Dutch" Church at St. Andrews.[xi] This church, incidentally, was the same church that John Browne, founder of the Separatists (as the Pilgrims’ branch of Christianity was then known) and his close friend John Robinson, pastor and head of the church the Pilgrims lived in and worshiped when they were in Norwich.[xii] St. Andrews in Norwich is also where the core group of the congregation came from in 1604. This congregation became the nucleus of the Separatist Pilgrims by 1608 (when they left England for Holland).[xiii]

The Flemings in Leiden not only arrived on their own impetus but were actively enticed by the City Fathers.[xiv] The Leiden municipality actively offered incentives for textile workers – especially those with knowledge of the New Draperies, an advanced method of creating woolen textiles that required specialized knowledge and were the hot products in Europe due to their lightness and durability.[xv] The influx of Flemings solidly turned Leiden, as one Flemish historian puts it, into a “Textile City”.[xvi] 

Peter Paul Rubens - here on the far left - painted himself, his brother (next to him) Jan Wowerius (far right) and the famous Justus Lipsius, Flemish "Rector Magnificus" of Leiden in the 1615 painting "The Four Philosophers". 

However, by the time the Pilgrims arrived in Leiden in 1609, Leiden had firmly acquired another status: that as the sole university town of the Dutch Republic. Since the whole of the Netherlands (what we would consider Benelux and northern bits of France) only had two universities (Leuven and Douai) before the addition of Leiden in 1575 this was quite an honor. More importantly, this was the first university open to all faiths.[xvii] Since an infrastructure for higher learning simply did not exist in the North, virtually all university teaching staff were non-native. And the overwhelming majority of these were in fact Flemings – including the head of the university, Justus Lipsius, a Catholic.[xviii]

But all of these developments – and the link of Flemings with the Pilgrims – was in the future. The story of how Leiden came to be the birthplace of our Thanksgiving as well as a university town that the Pilgrims chose to settle in is directly tied up with the origins of Thanksgiving. 

A romanticized painting of the Sea Beggars in action in the North Sea 
The Sea Beggars
Recall that by 1570 the Duke of Alva’s hardened veterans had subdued much of the Netherlands and compelled obedience to a Catholic regime under the rule of Spain. The Revolt by the Dutch speakers appeared all but over. Yet the quartering upon the local population of the oppressive Spanish, Italian and Walloon troops cost money that Spain did not always supply. The Duke of Alva sought to resolve this and imposed a tax to pay for these troops – called a “tenth penny” – in violation of the enshrined privileges of the Low Countries[xix]. Only the States General – the parliament for the Netherlands north and south – could vote for taxes. The Dutch-speaking cities – both Catholic and Protestant – naturally rose up against this taxation without representation.

An overhead map of the Deliverance of Leiden October 3, 1574. The importance that this action played in the success of the Dutch Revolt and its historiography cannot be overstated. Likewise, its role as the genesis of the Pilgrims' concept of Thanksgiving brought to America.

Earlier, the Dutch-speakers' land-based military attempts to defeat the Spaniards with armies raised in France and Germany had failed miserably. These motley assortments were crushed. The Prince of Orange, around whom the resistance had coalesced, was forced to retreat back to the safety of his German possessions. The one real sanctuary for the Dutch-speaking freedom fighters was in England, amongst the Flemish émigré communities in the coastal towns of southeastern England. It is from here that money was raised by the émigré Flemish Protestant church congregations.[xx]
 Funded by the industriousness of Flemish textile workers – weavers, fullers, dyers, and others – they not only supported their families and built their churches, but armed their sons and sent them into the fight.[xxi] Often, this meant literally, in boats launched directly from the coast of England, to raid and disrupt the Spanish occupiers in Flanders, Brabant and Holland.[xxii] 

Willem Van Der Marck, Lord of Lummen (aka "Lumey") and another Flemish commander of the Sea Beggars, as depicted in a contemporary print, after the victory of Den Brielle.
The hit and run raids launched from England’s shores by the Flemish refugees did not go unchallenged by the Spanish government. Phillip II’s ambassador to England made it clear that continued permission, let alone active official encouragement, by Queen Elizabeth and her councilors of the actions of the Flemish militant émigrés, would be considered an act of war. Unwilling to risk a direct confrontation, Elizabeth expelled the armed mariners from England’s shores in March, 1572.

Led by Flemish admirals, the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars) sailed forth. At the top of the list of commanders was Dolhain, Adriaen van Bergues (originally from Sint-Winnoksbergen, now known as Bergues, near Dunkirk). Dolhain had created the Sea Beggars in 1570. More famous perhaps was Willem van der Marck – better known as “Lumey”, a reference to the fact that he was Lord of Lummen, a town in the province of Limburg – and Loedewijk van Boisot of Brussels. But all three, as well as numerous captains below them and the rank and file – were from the region that today we call Flanders.[xxiii]

A colorful print of the time showing the Sea Beggars capturing Den Brielle.

In a bold move that many considered an important psychological turning point in the Dutch Revolt, under the command of van der Marck, the Sea Beggars captured the coastal town of Den Brielle, on April 1, 1572. The unexpected success at Den Brielle inspired the people of Vlissingen (known as Flushing in English) to rise up. At least a fifth of Flushing were Flemings, a steadily percentage that increased steadily over subsequent years[xxiv] . These Dutch-speakers expelled the Walloon garrison and declared for the Prince of Orange on April 6th. Hastily reinforced by a detachment from the victors of Den Brielle, the Flemings of Flushing gave the “Dutch Revolt” a firm foothold in the Netherlands. In a short time and one by one, other cities – including Leiden[xxv]– also expelled their Spanish, Italian and Walloon garrisons and declared themselves loyal to Prince William of Orange.

Following a convocation of the States General in July (1572)[xxvi], Prince William of Orange, represented by his spymaster and ambassador, the Brusselaar, Philip Marnix, Lord of St.-Aldegonde, was invested with the position of Stadtholder. The Dutch Revolt now had, thanks in large part to the leadership of the Flemish, a victory, distinct territory, and a sovereign ruler. By 1574, they also had a national anthem – known today as the oldest national anthem in the world – also due to the Fleming, Marnix.[xxvii] It is no accident that all of these factors came together in that same year, 1574, that gave us the first true Thanksgiving, in the “Dutch” city of Leiden.

A contemporary print showing the stages of the Spanish Siege of Leiden, May - October, 1574. 

The Siege of Leiden
Prompted by victories at Haarlem and elsewhere, the fearsome Spanish
 terciosmarched onward. By May 1574 they had surrounded the south Hollands town of Leiden. The trench fighting, cannon bombardments, and sorties by both sides, presaged more modern siege warfare. By October, the population, decimated by a third through disease and fighting, was ready to capitulate. A defeat would have been a disaster. It would have weakened the resolve of all the Dutch-speaking people for independence, and perhaps caused foreign assistance to dry up, as it had in 1572 when Queen Elizabeth expelled the Sea Beggars. 

Loedewijk van Boisot, the Flemish Admiral of the Sea Beggars who broke the Spanish Siege of Leiden in 1574 and inspired an official celebration of thanksgiving by the townsfolk of Leiden.

The Sea Beggars themselves, under the command of their Brussels-born Admiral, Loedewijk van Boisot, assembled a riverine flotilla for the relief of the city. Against heavy resistance they made steady progress against the Spaniards. However, the Sea Beggars found it difficult to breach the outer ring of Spanish defenses. Even worse, while fighting towards Leiden, Admiral Boisot received word that the city was ready to capitulate to the Spaniards [xxviii]
 The people were starving and any determined assault by the Spanish would likely overwhelm the city's defenders. Such was the precariousness of the situation that if Leiden fell, the Revolt itself might falter.[xxix]

Fortunately, the Dutch had a spy in the Spanish camp. She was none other than the young wife of the Spanish commander. Magdalena Moons, the daughter of an Antwerpenaar, had married the Spanish general, Francisco Valdez.[xxx] Secretly contacted by the Sea Beggars, she agreed to convince her husband to delay his final assault on Leiden by one day. Employing seductive persuasion, Magdalena was successful. General Valdez postponed the preparations for a storming of the city’s walls for 24 hours.[xxxi]

Magdalena Moons and her husband the Spanish commander at Leiden, shortly after their marriage in Antwerp. It was thanks to this daughter of Antwerp that the Spanish delayed a final assault, permitting the Flemish-led Sea Beggars to surprise the Spanish and break the Siege of Leiden. 

The Sea Beggars under their Flemish Admiral took advantage of this temporary respite to renew their attack. The suddenness and fury of their assault took the Spaniards and Walloons by surprise. The Spanish troops and their Walloon auxiliaries fled in such haste that boiling black pots of stew – called hutsepot – were still simmering when the Sea Beggars overran the Spanish camp. The reception of the Sea Beggars in Leiden was ecstatic, even though the defenders were terribly gaunt, many near death. The city authorities viewed their survival as a sign of Divine favor and declared a day of Thanksgiving. The date, October 3rd, became enshrined in Leiden history and culture as a day of feasting and of giving thanks to God for their miraculous deliverance.[xxxii]

The people of Leiden celebrating their deliverance by the Flemish-led Sea Beggars, October 3, 1574

Leiden University
Needless to say, the clamor to hear the exploits of the "Deliverance" resulted in a book, a ‘bestseller’ by the standards of its time[xxxiii], about the heroic defense of Leiden. This bestseller was printed, of course, by a Fleming (from Antwerp).[xxxiv] Much of the focus of the book – by Jan Dousa – was on the heroic efforts of his military poet-friend (and later Secretary of the town), Jan Van Hout. Van Hout's example featured prominently in the retelling at each commemoration of the Siege of Leiden. 

As a reward for the city’s stout defense, in December, 1574, Prince William of Orange granted the city a choice of either relief from taxation or the privilege of establishing a university. After consultation, the city magistrates, chose the establishment of a university. The University of Leiden was established February 8, 1575.

The University of Leiden in 1613. Just a short distance away the English Separatists (who became the American Pilgrims) lived in Leiden for a dozen years. Leiden's university is where the pastor of the Separatists' church, John Robinson, studied theology under the Fleming from Gent Johannes Polyander. 

Leiden became the first university in the Northern Netherlands – and the first Protestant university dedicated to a humanist education. Leuven, north of Brussels, and Douai, further south, emphasized an officially Catholic Low Countries education. Leiden University was to both influence and be influenced by the city. Leiden University attracted Catholics and Protestants from all around Europe.[xxxv]
 With the city, the university became a symbol of Leiden’s successful resistance to political and religious intolerance. For, despite its strong association with Protestantism (and especially Calvinism), the university was (as the best today are as well) agnostic to the beliefs of its teaching staff.

Prince William of Orange ("The Silent") in a 1555 painting. Raised in Brussels and heavily surrounded by numerous Flemish advisors, it was for Orange and freedom that the Dutch-speakers fought against Spain.
For starters, the primate of the university was Justus Lipsius, a Catholic Fleming [xxxvi]
 who was appointed a professor of history. Nor was Lipsius alone. The university staff were overwhelmingly Flemings. A partial list of Flemish instructors at Leiden includes Franciscus Raphelengius (son-in-law of the printer Christoffel Plantin of Antwerp), Lambertus Barlaeus, Daniel Heinsius, Bonaventura Vulcanius, Antonius Walaeus, A. Damman, Arnoldus Geulincx, Antonius Thysius, Johan Bollius, Jeremias Bastingius, Petrus Bertius, Dominicus Baudius, Joost van Meenen, Franciscus Gomarus, and Johannes II Polyander van Kerckhoven.[xxxvii] Since at its largest during those first forty years, the student body never even reached 300 students at any one time, the impact and involvement of the faculty with students was close and personal.[xxxviii] 

The University of Leiden library about the same time (1614) as John Robinson, pastor of the Separatists, was a student there. This became the largest library in Protestant Europe, and Leiden its most important university. But at the time the Pilgrims were in Leiden, annual enrollment was less than 300 students. 
The Arminian riots of 1618 in Leiden. Sparked by the disputes between the Fleming (from Brugge) Gromarus and the Dutchman Arminius, these disturbances were one of the factors that compelled the Pilgrims to leave for America in 1620.

These happy circumstances continued until 1618-1620. During those years purges swept through the Dutch Republic and Leiden. Legions of professors lost their positions, [xxxix]
 the Separatists lost their printing press and financial patron[xl], and even the supreme political leader of the Dutch Republic, Johannes Oldenbarnevelt (who had served in the Sea Beggars during the relief of Leiden), lost his life.[xli]These sweeping purges convinced many that it was time to move on. The congregation of slightly more than 100, of mainly English Separatists, under the leadership of Pastor John Robinson, was among those that left Leiden in partial response to the anti-Arminian purges. The Pilgrims left the city of their 11 year sojourn with few possessions. But they moved onto the New World with strengthened faith, deepened Dutch, and strong traditions forged in Leiden. 

The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving
On March 1, 1586, exactly 14 years to the day after Queen Elizabeth expelled the Flemish-led Sea Beggars from England, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite courtier and her designate as Governor General over the Netherlands in their struggle against Spain, arrived in Leiden. The chief delegate for the Dutch government was Adolf van Meetkercke. A native of Brugge [xlii], Van Meetkercke had served as the former President of the Council of Flanders.[xliii] As Queen Elizabeth's representatives approached, Van Meetkercke met the Earl of Leicester with a sweeping bow that was so low it drew the scorn of his compatriots.[xliv] The importance of the deliverance of Leiden, that the Earl and his entourage were conducted to a pageant play that commemorated the Siege of Leiden in 1574. 

Among the Earl of Leicester’s entourage was the English diplomat William Davison as Ambassador to the States General of the Netherlands. Assisting Davison as assistant was a young William Brewster. This same William Brewster later became both a spiritual and later the surrogate father to William Bradford (Governor of the Pilgrims at Plymouth and author of the most comprehensive account of the Pilgrim’s journey). Brewster at Leiden acted as the author, chief propagandist and publisher of the Pilgrim’s Press at Leiden as well as an Elder of the Separatists’ Church at Leiden.

Jan Van Hout, a hero of the Siege of Leiden (whose story was printed by the Fleming Verschout) and the Town Secretary who granted permission to the Pilgrims to settle in Leiden, shortly before his death in 1609. It was likely the early connection between him and Pilgrim Elder William Brewster at the 1586 pageant celebrating the lifting of the Siege of Leiden that led the Pilgrims to relocate to Leiden. 

One of the heroes of the siege, Jan Van Hout, was an author, a poet, a classicist and a close friend of the head of the university[xlv], Justus Lipsius.[xlvi]  Van Hout also acted as Town Secretary. He held that position up until his death in 1609. One of Van Hout's final acts was to grant official permission to John Robinson and his church of 100 Separatists).[xlvii]

While it is possible that Van Hout may not have remembered Brewster – whom he first met on March 1, 1586 – it seems unlikely that the Pilgrims would have officially requested permission (which was unnecessary) to settle in Leiden unless they hoped that by doing so to gain some advantage for their congregation. Since Brewster was not just a member of Robinson’s congregation, but also an Elder of the Church and a close confidant of William Bradford (the Governor of the colony when it reached the New World) it seems unlikely to me that this was accidental. Certainly it must have been a factor in their considerations during the year (1608) they observed an increasingly disruptive environment among their co-religionists in Amsterdam.[xlviii]

During their
 eleven year stay in Leiden, the Pilgrims lived directly across the street from the center of October 3rd Thanksgiving celebrations: Pieterskerk (St. Peter’s Church).[xlix] Every October 3rd municipal authorities passed out free herring and white bread (to commemorate the first rations received from the Sea Beggars that day on 1574). Since twenty-one Pilgrim families lived surrounding the garden outside the church, ample members of the congregation over the eleven years had a chance to observe the celebrations and absorb their meaning.[l] The Pilgrim’s Separatist congregation met twice on Sunday and once on Thursday evenings – always at Robinson’s home across from Pieterskerk.[li] 

 Pieterskerk, where the annual Thanksgiving for the Deliverance of Leiden was celebrated every October 3rd. It was in the homes directly around the square of Pieterskerk where the 21 families of the Separatist church lived. John Robinson's home where the Pilgrims worshipped 3x/week - was also immediately outside Pieterskerk. From the Pieterskerk to Leiden University was a short walk. 

If they had not imbibed an understanding of the Leiden Thanksgiving celebrations from daily, close proximity to Pieterskerk, nor from initial and historical personal contact with one of the central characters of the city’s defense, Jan Van Hout, the Pilgrims certainly would have learned of it through their involvement with Leiden University. The University was only a short walk (less than 5 minutes away) from Pieterskerk. Moreover, Pastor John Robinson was a student (and protégé of the Flemish Professor Johannes Polyander) at the university. William Brewster too, while not officially a teacher at the University, taught University students English as a side job.[lii]

The Flemish influence on the Pilgrims during their stay in Leiden was pervasive. Not only were the majority of the population around the Pilgrims at Leiden refugee Flemings, but the central formative cultural experience that melded a common consciousness for the city and university was defined by these same Flemish emigres. The holiday of Thanksgiving here in America, while today quite different from the celebration the Pilgrim Fathers witnessed annually while in Leiden during their 11 year stay, is unquestionably tied into that event. The Flemish influence, then, on the Pilgrim’s celebration of the first Thanksgiving in America, was direct and immediate, and a legacy that we who share a Flemish heritage, can point to with pride as one of our contributions to the settlement of America.

Norman Rockwell's depiction of an American Thanksgiving dinner, while vastly different than the custom brought over from Leiden by the Pilgrims in 1620, looks like this today for many American families.


[i] Thanksgiving does not of course resonate well in Native American circles. In fact, the holiday itself – infused as it is by our 19th century predecessors with romantic Victorian notions that imply a Divine blessing to the subsequent European occupation of the continent – is a painful reminder to the remnants of the Wampanoag, Pequot, and other tribes of the loss of political and cultural independence. See Nathanial Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, (New York: Penguin, 2006), pp. 354-356. Incidentally, recent articles suggest that vegetarians are not enthusiastic. See Scott Bolohan, Page Four Columnist, “Thanksgiving? I’ll Take a Pass”, Chicago Tribune’s Redeye, Wednesday, November 25, 2009.
[ii] Please see Jeremy Dupertius Bangs, ‘Pilgrim Fathers (act. 1620)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, Oxford University Press, May 2007 [, accessed 
5 April 2009] at for an excellent definition of exactly who the Pilgrim Fathers were. However, Dupertius’ numbers for the Flemings are dramatically understated. See Dr. J. Briels, Zuid-Nederlanders in de Republiek 1572-1630: Een Demografische en Cultuurhistorische Studie, (Sint-Niklaas: Danthe, 1985). 
[iii]Intentionally I use the term “European” instead of “English”. The colonists may have been predominantly English, but not exclusively so. There was at least one Fleming and one Walloon in the mix. A fact I hope to further elaborate upon in a later post. 
[iv] The 35 million number is found in Nathanial Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, (New York: Penguin, 2006), p. 355. The 311 million is an estimate (see John Grimond, “Counting Heads” in The Economist: The World in 2010 , November, 2009, p. 46). 
[v] Jeremy Dupertius Bangs in “Thanksgiving Day – A Dutch Contribution to American Culture?” in New England Ancestors (Holiday 2000). Wade Cox, ed., “The Dutch Connection of the Pilgrim Fathers”, in Christian Churches of God, #264, 1998, p.4 ( and makes a connection between the first Thanksgiving and the Dutch Dankdag voor Gewas which I think is erroneous. But his connection between the Pilgrim Fathers and Annabaptism imported by Flemings is dead-on, albeit underdeveloped (details on why will be in a future blog posting). The official website for the Dutch festival can be found here: 
[vi]Jeremy Dupertius Bangs, ‘Pilgrim Fathers (act. 1620)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, May 2007 [, accessed 
5 April 2009] at 
 Technically, I should state that it is the contribution of Flemings, Brabanders, and Limburgers. But since this is a modern audience my definition is all those Dutch speakers in modern day Belgium and northern France. 
[viii] Dr. J. Briels, Zuid-Nederlanders in de Republiek 1572-1630: Een Demografische en Cultuurhistorische Studie, (Sint-Niklaas: Danthe, 1985), pp. 125-134. An unlabelled table on p.134 has the percentages I refer to. 
[ix] Per Paul Paul Hoftijzer, quoting a contemporary writing in 1588: “voor eenighe jaeren geheel dedepopuleert synde ...tegenwoordich voor de meesten part ... bewoont by vremdelingen, uyt Brabant, Vlaenderen ende andere quartieren verdreven” (having been depopulated for some years … is currently inhabited for the most part … by foreigners driven from Brabant, Flanders,and other regions).” Paul Hoftijzer, “Leiden Miracle”, p.82 online here 
 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. This has prompted Gusaaf Asaert, in De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), p.156, to call Haarlem (for example) “een half-Vlaamse stad”. 
[xi] "Ondertussen hield ook de inwijking vanuit Engeland aan: nog in 1596 werden Vlamingen uit Norwich door de stad 'lief-flick, minnelick ende in der vruntschappe...ontfangen...ende met het borgerschap vereert.'" Quote from a Leiden magistrate found in Dr. J. Briels, Zuid-Nederlanders in de Republiek 1572-1630: Een Demografische en Cultuurhistorische Studie, (Sint-Niklaas: Danthe, 1985) p.127. My thanks to Ms. Siska Moens of Brussel, Mr. Luc Van Braekel ( ), and Mr. Frans Vandenbosch (author of more than 30 books) for assisting me with the translation of this archaic excerpt. [xii] See Stephen S. Slaughter, “The Dutch Church at Norwich”,Congregational Historical Society, April 21, 1933, pp. 31-48, 81-96. Especially see pp. 31-32 for the connection between the “Dutch” [clearly Flemish] Church, the influx of Annabaptist theological concepts, and the direct connection between those thoughts brought over by the Flemish on Robert Browne and John Robinson. For a fascinating suggestion of an admittedly tentative link between the same Dutch Church at Norwich and Thomas Helwys, founder of the Baptist movement, see Ernest A. Kent, “Notes on the Blackfriars’ Hasll or Dutch Church, Norwich”, Norfolk Archaeology, 22 (1924–6), pp. 86–108. See especially p. 89 showing the burial tablet for Nicolai Helwys. 
[xiii] Timothy George, John Robinson and the English Separatist Tradition, (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1982), p.79. 
[xiv] Dr. J. Briels, De Zuidnederlandse Immigratie, 1572-1630, (Haarlem: Fibula van Dishoeck, 1978), p. 38. 
[xv] My preference for anyone looking to understand the textile industry in Flanders and its connection to the wider world during this period is to begin with the University of Toronto’s John Munro. Munro’s impressive output nicely weaves [sorry] the whole together. See for example, his “Wool and Wool-Based Textiles in the West European Economy, c.800 - 1500: Innovations and Traditions in Textile Products, Technology, and Industrial Organisation.” 24 November 2000, Working Paper no. 5 UT-ECIPA-MUNRO-00-05. On-line version: . Although riven through with a Belgicist viewpoint which minimizes the Flemish contribution, the standard work on the “New Draperies” probably still is Pirenne, Henri : "Une crise industrielle au XVIème siècle. La draperie urbaine et la "nouvelle draperie" en Flandre" in Bulletin de l'Académie 
Royale de Belgique, Classe des Lettres, n°5, 1905. [xvi] Gustaaf Asaert, De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), p.146 
[xvii]Gustaaf Asaert, De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), pp.148-149. 
[xviii] Gustaaf Asaert, De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), pp.188-192 
[xix] Much could be and has been written about the privileges of both the towns and the guilds of the Low Countries in general and specifically of Flanders. Those privileges were granted to keep the guilds happy. The guilds came together in response to control quality and pricing by artisans in each locality. Nearly all these guilds rose with the expansion of the textile industry in Flanders from the 1100s on. See translations of the agreements between the guilds and the local rulers. [xx] Queen Elizabeth’s policy toward both the refugees on her soil and their support of the Dutch Revolt was inconsistent – but at times strongly encouraged. See Andrew Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p.268.
[xxi] For a good review of the Flemish émigrés in England and their contribution to the war effort at this critical juncture – and the only coherent discussion I have seen – see D.J.B. Trim, “Protestant Refugees in Elizabethan England and Confessional Conflict in France and the Netherlands, 1562-c.1610”, pp.69-73, in Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton, eds., From Strangers to Citizens: The Integration of Immigrant Communities in Britain, Ireland and Colonial America, 1570-1750, (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2001), pp.68-79. Unfortunately, this four-page bit by Professor Trim is merely a sketch. A full book could be written on this subject. I have not been able to find any monograph on this subject but would love to see one. 
[xxii] The return of Flemish Protestants to Flanders in 1566 was just such a raid. 
[xxiii] Gustaaf Asaert,De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), pp.211-214. Note that nearly the entire upper cadre of watergeuzen leaders at this time were from Flanders and Brabant. Ghislain de Fiennes, Lord of Lumbres, had originally organized the Sea Beggars in 1570. The liaison between Prince William of Orange and the Sea Beggars was Louis de Boischot’s brother Charles (also born in Brussel). Even the captains of the various ships – such as Antoon Utenhove from Ieper and Antoon van de Rijne from Oudenaarde. 
[xxiv]Dr. J. Briels, Zuid-Nederlanders in de Republiek 1572-1630: Een Demografische en Cultuurhistorische Studie, (Sint-Niklaas: Danthe, 1985), p. 192. 
[xxv] See the translation of real documents related to this and other aspects of the Dutch Revolt here: 
[xxvi] See the translation of the address for this first convocation here: [xxvii] Phillips Marnix is credited with authoring Het Wilhelmus, the Dutch national anthem, which was first written down in 1574. See . [xxviii] See a translation here: Note that contrary to many popular histories, the mayor of the town (Pieter van der Werff) appears to have been ready to surrender. 
[xxix] “The siege of Leiden, if not quite the longest – that of Middleburg was longer – was the costliest, hardest fought, and most decisive, as well as the most epic of the great sieges of the Revolt…had Leiden fallen, The Hague and Delft would have been untenable and the Revolt as a whole might well have collapsed.” Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall: 1477-1806, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 181. Like many Dutch-centric historians, Israel completely ignores the contribution of Flemings to the Republic and the Revolt. 
[xxx] Recent technical advances in lithography made it possible to confirm that Moons was not the lover but the wife of Francisco Valdez. See . 
[xxxi] Admittedly, most of my information here is culled from 
 See the Dutch language site here: 
[xxxiii]See Paul Hoftijzer, “Leiden Miracle”, p.84 online here 
[xxxiv] The name of the Antwerpenaar printer was Andrew Verschout. See Paul Hoftijzer, “Leiden Miracle”, p.84 online here [xxxv] Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall: 1477-1806, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998),p.572. Here as throughout his book, like many other Dutch-centric historians, Israel completely ignores the contribution of Flemings to the Republic and the Revolt. 
[xxxvi] Technically Lipsius was a Brabander, born in Overijse, where the central market place is now named after him: . The university was officially established February 8, 1575.
[xxxvii] This list was culled from Gustaaf Asaert, De Val van Antwerpen en de Uittocht van Vlamingen en Brabanders, (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), pp.188-189. 
[xxxviii] Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall: 1477-1806, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.572. 
[xxxix] Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall: 1477-1806, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp.577-578. 
[xl] See Rendel Harris and Stephen K. Jones, The Pilgrim Press:A bibliographical & historical memorial of the books printed at Leyden by the Pilgrim Fathers, (Cambridge: Feffer & Sons, 1922) found online here: 
[xli] Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall: 1477-1806, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 485-491. Israel’s account is rich with analysis but poor on dates and chronology. For reference on dates,[xlii] Adolf van Meetkercke, a classical scholar, was a native of Brugge, according to a title on his book. See Adolphi Mekerchi Brugensis De veteri et recta pronuntiatione linguae Graecae commentarius Van Meetkercke was also a good friend of the Antwerpenaar cartographer Abraham Ortelius, as evidenced by the poem he penned on the title page of Ortelius’ Atlas (ironically, dedicated to Phillip II in 1570). See . As such, this implies contact with Emanuel Van Meteren (Ortelius’ close friend and cousin based in London) and Petrus Plancius. Adolf’s son Edward later became a professor of Hebrew at Oxford. See Ole Peter Grell, Calvinist Exiles in Tudor and Stuart England, (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), p. 237. All four of Van Meetkercke’s sons joined and officered in the English army in the Netherlands in the 1580s-1590s.Baldwin, Adolf’s second son, was knighted by Sir Francis Drake at Cadiz in 1596 for his heroism against the Spaniards. See D.J.B. Trim, “Protestant Refugees in Elizabethan England and Confessional Conflict in France and the Netherlands, 1562-c.1610”, pp.72-73, in Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton, eds., From Strangers to Citizens: The Integration of Immigrant Communities in Britain, Ireland and Colonial America, 1570-1750, (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2001), pp.68-79. The Van Meetkerckes were not only co-religionists but friends of Emanuel Van Meteren, historian and the Antwerp-born “Dutch” Consul in London. 
[xliii] See A.G.H. Bachrach, Sir Constantine Huygens and Britain: 1596-1687 – A Pattern of Cultural Exchange, (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 1962), pp. 150-151. Van Meetkercke was an early supporter of William of Orange and ended up becoming a very close friend of the Earl of Leicester but when he was disgraced, fled to London. Like many Flemish immigrants to England, one of his sons served with conspicuous bravery in the English navy well and was knighted. 
[xliv] The author of this critique was Frans van Dusseldorp, a Dutch Catholic with strongly pro-Spanish sentiments who eventually was ordained a priest. Although he died in obscurity, his “Annales” offer a different perspective of Dutch history during this time. For my reference to the original statement seeJ.A. Van Dorsten, Poets Patrons and Professors: Sir Philip Sidney Daniel Rogers and the Leiden Humanists, (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 1962), p.115. For a discussion of the Annales in Dutch, please see Robert Fruin’s Verspreide Geschriften, Volume 7, p.237. The out-of-print book is accessible online here: . An excellent book review that includes a description of Dusseldorpius (as he was more generally known) in English by George Edmundson in the English Historical Review (1895: pp. 579-582) is accessible here:,+%22leicester%22&source=bl&ots=duNO93aMB_&sig=kLzUlirDstDWQOmtqjRHFlHktKo&hl=en&ei=-F8RS46dApS6MMql8DM&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22Frans%20van%20Dusseldorp%22%2C%20%22leicester%22&f=false[xlv]The correct term was actually “rector magnificus”. See Paul Hoftijzer, “Leiden Miracle”, p.89 online here 
[xlvi] “In the 1580s Lipsius was the intellectual glory of Leiden and all Holland.” Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall: 1477-1806, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.575. 
[xlvii] John Robinson’s request to move his church congregation of 100 from Amsterdam to Leiden is dated February 12, 1609. See a copy of the text here [xlviii] John Robinson appears to have tired of the scandals, the sniping, and the dogmatic lack of charity in the Separatist Amsterdam Church. See Frederick James Powicke, Henry Barrow, Separatist, 1550-1593 and The Exiled Church of Amsterdam, 1593-1622, (London: James Clarke & Co., 1900), pp.278-279. 
[xlix] B. N. Leverland and J. D. Bangs, The Pilgrims in Leiden, 1609-1620, (Leiden: Leiden Pilgrim Documents Center of the Municipal Archives, no date). No page numbers in this brief text. 
[l] B. N. Leverland and J. D. Bangs, The Pilgrims in Leiden, 1609-1620, (Leiden: Leiden Pilgrim Documents Center of the Municipal Archives, no date). No page numbers in this brief text. 
[li] B. N. Leverland and J. D. Bangs, The Pilgrims in Leiden, 1609-1620, (Leiden: Leiden Pilgrim Documents Center of the Municipal Archives, no date). No page numbers in this brief text. Please also note that not only was Professor Polyander close to John Robinson he also apparently knew William Brewster well, since he has provided the preface for Proverbia on January 11, 1617 - one of the twenty books Brewster printed on the Pilgrim's Press at Leiden. See Rendell Harris and The Pilgrims' Press, (Cambridge: Heffner & Sons, 1922), p.48. Polyander (born in Gent) was also the professor - and "the chief preacher of the city' who reputedly asked John Robinson to publicly debate against the Arminian Episcopus in 1618. See William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, (New York: McGraw Hill: 1981), Francis Murphy, ed., pp.21-22. 
[lii] B. N. Leverland and J. D. Bangs, The Pilgrims in Leiden, 1609-1620, (Leiden: Leiden Pilgrim Documents Center of the Municipal Archives, no date). No page numbers in this brief text. 

An abridged version of this article appears in the Gazette van Detroit, November, 2013 edition. This article was originally published here in the Flemish American blog ( as “The Flemish Influence on the Pilgrims – Part 5: The Flemish Influence on the American Holiday of Thanksgiving”. Copyright 2009 and 2012 by David Baeckelandt. All rights reserved. No reproduction in any form allowed without my express, written permission.