Security and Insecurity, Spies and Informers in Holland During the Guelders War (1506-1515)

James P. Ward


In 1471 Arnold duke of Guelders borrowed 300,000 gold guilders from Charles the Bold of Burgundy and pledged his duchy as security. Arnold failed to repay the loan. When he died in 1473 Charles the Bold foreclosed and assumed the title and rights to the duchy. First Arnold’s son, Adolf, attempted to recover Guelders by negotiation, and then his grandson, Charles of Guelders by military force. Their opponents were Charles the Bold’s heirs and successors:  Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg, his son Philip the Fair, and grandson emperor Charles V. After half a century of intermittent fighting, the matter was settled to Habsburg’s advantage, following the death (from natural causes) of Charles of Guelders in 1538.


Illustration: Der Postbode, from a woodcut by Hans Guldenmund

Illustration: Der PostboTe, from a woodcut by Hans Guldenmund

Many of the diets of the States of Holland from 1506 to 1515 were devoted to the question of how the frontiers of Holland with Guelders were to be defended. Articles describing the diets are published on this web site (see below). This most recent article describes ways and means by which the government of Holland and the Burgundian Low Countries and the magistrates of cities and towns sought to defend themselves from attacks by Charles of Guelders. The topics are: physical defence works like weapons, gates, walls, and towers; security measures to curb the movements of travellers and strangers; military intelligence, espionage and counter-espionage; and diplomacy with the help of open and of secret friends and allies.

Some conclusions are:

  1. the city magistrates of Holland used their considerable economic power to provide conventional defences like weapons and fortifications against Charles of Guelders’ attacks;
  2. travellers and strangers were required to be registered by innkeepers and church wardens on the grounds that they might be spies; conversely, the magistrates of Holland themselves employed spies locally. For example, their couriers were required in times of crisis and rumour to reconnoitre the enemy’s movements. At different social levels “secret friends” along the borders and in the enemy territories, Utrecht and Guelders, were paid sometimes large sums, sometimes small sums of money for information they provided about enemy plans and movements;
  3. diplomacy was a line of defence affecting and promoting both military security and Holland’s foreign trade and prosperity. Foreign powers like Denmark and the Baltic city states corresponded directly with the cities of Holland, and they with them.

READ MORE: Security and Insecurity During the Guelders War.pdf



Military Pay and Taxation in Early 16th Century Holland during the Guelders War

James P. Ward



Illustrations here show the Old Stock Exchange (Oude Beurs) at Antwerp, still partly existing, and a public notice provided by the Cornelis Floris Society which reads as follows:

In the 15th century a stock exchange was housed in the courtyard of a building called 'The Rhine'. The wooden structure of that 'Oude Beurs' (Old Stock Exchange) was renewed in 1515 with stone pillars. The “Pagadder” Tower from which ships on the River Schelde could be observed dates from the first half of the 16th century.

This article is based on early 16th century sources in the archives of Holland. It contains data on pay scales to different ranks of professional soldiers (landsknechts) in the Burgundian-Habsburg armies at the time of the Guelders War. The article also contains data on pay to civilians in Holland guarding towns and cities against attack by Guelders forces.

Costs of the war and the high level of taxation by extra-ordinary aides are described. Two monetary standards of payment, one in Philips Guilders and a 20 percent higher pay standard in Gold Guilders are revealed. This led on several occasions to discontent among soldiers on the lower rate, and to mutinies, several of which are described. As a result of their opposition to the many extra-ordinary aides needed to pay the soldiers, the cities of Holland in 1507 won for themselves the right to inspect the numbers of men engaged by the government at The Hague, and to audit the accounts of the extra-ordinary aides.

As the war intensified the government, with the cities of Holland as guarantors, borrowed increasingly large sums of money from merchant bankers in order to pay the soldiers it hired. By this arrangement the cities of Holland had to make legally binding agreements with the bankers, pledging their contributions to the extra-ordinary aides to pay the interest on those loans. Consequently, from 1512 onwards there was a transition to a system of long term public borrowing. In the early 16th century two merchant bankers from Antwerp were active in arranging loans in Holland; Hieronymus (Girolamo) Frescobaldi, and Balthazar Busin.


READ MORE: MilitaryPayandTaxation.pdf



Louise von Baden and Christoph von Schmid’s “Biblische Geschichte”

James P. Ward


The book which is shown in photographs below is believed on circumstantial evidence to have belonged to Princess Louise Amalia Stephanie (1811-1854), Princess of Baden, and subsequently to her brother-in-law William, 11th duke of Hamilton (1811-1863), whose wife was Maria Amalia Elisabeth Caroline (1817-1888), Princess of Baden, dowager duchess of Hamilton.

Click on the images for a large view

READ MORE: Louise von Baden and Christoph von Schmids Biblische Geschichte.pdf



The Government's use of hostage-taking (Gijzeling) in Early Sixteenth Century Holland to enforce extra-ordinary aides for the Guelders war

James P. Ward



The Tax Collectors
attrib. Reymerswaele



Suppliants in the office of two tax collectors

This article (here with its original title and with the references in the footnotes included in full at the end) was printed and published as J. P. Ward, "Hostage taking (Gijzeling) in Early Sixteenth Century Holland, and the Guelders War" in: L. Sicking and M. Damen (eds), Bourgondie voorbij. De Nederlanden 1250-1650. Liber alumnorum Wim Blockmans, Hilversum 2010; pp. 355-366.

Abstract: A major theme in the work of Wim Blockmans is his research into early institutions of popular representation in the Low Countries and in Europe generally. Chief among those institutions in the Low Countries from the late Middle Ages onward were the States General and the States of the individual provinces. Blockmans proposed a number of conditions necessary for popular institutions of representation to be successful, one of the most important of which was a willingness of partners to negotiate agreement. Consensus presupposes a state of law and order in which the interests, rights and privileges of the citizen and of the government are recognised and protected. Blockmans listed sanctions which lay authorities in the Low Countries in the late medieval and early modern period could impose in order to maintain law and order. Chief among them were corporal punishments, banishment, enforced pilgrimages, the pillory, and money fines.
The sanctions named did not exhaust the authorities' means to persuade or coerce its citizens to behave themselves in a civil manner, because a milder measure used was a form of hostage-taking or detention called gijzeling. The article consists of two parts. The first describes the procedure of gijzeling. The second part describes the use to which the government in Holland put gijzeling in the early sixteenth century during negotiations with city magistrates about the supply or aides. More exactly, the article describes the enforced consent to and payment of extra-ordinary aides for the Guelders war.
It is also proposed that the long delays caused by the legal processes were a factor in the introduction in 1512 of a newer method of raising money for the government by long term bankers' loans, where the interest on the loans was paid by the cities of Holland from the aides.

READ MORE: Ward, Gijzeling, Bourgondie voorbij.pdf



Keynesianism before Keynes?
Unemployed weavers and a proposal made at Leiden in 1523

James P. Ward



Dirc Ottensz, a burgomaster of Leiden ca. 1520



This note describes a proposal contained in anonymous letters to the magistrates of Leiden in 1523, urging them to create employment in the winter time for unemployed weavers. With the economic consequences of many years of war in the Low Countries, the proposal in 1523 marks a climax of social unrest in Leiden from 1521 to1523. In each of those years unemployed weavers demonstrated in public against the city magistrates.

READ MORE: KeynesLeiden.pdf



Military Drill and Words of Command. Queen Elizabeth II’s “Spin-wheel” and Emperor Maximilian I’s “Snail”

James P. Ward





Guards Band


British sovereigns celebrate their official birthdays with an Honours List , and traditionally with a military parade called The Trooping of the Colour which is held every year on the second Saturday in June. There the sovereign presents new Colours and takes the salute of the regiments of guards at  a march past on Horse Guards Parade in London. The parade with its ceremonial is shown on BBC television every year to millions of viewers worldwide. A detail is that at a certain point in the ceremony the massed bands of the guards are lined up, standing at attention on the parade ground, but as a result of earlier movements they are facing, as it were, “the wrong way”. The trombone players appear at the back, while the (bag)pipes and drums are at the front, the reverse of the normal order. But at a word of command the whole formation begins in slow marching time to make a massive turning movement which appears to be unique in the annals of military drill.            

At that point in the proceedings television commentators invariably remark on how complicated the movement is, and how its origins appear to be unknown. Military men who are present to give advice to the television people, and to add comment for the viewers, are also at a loss to explain the origins of the drill. A website dedicated to the Trooping of the Colour  affirms that “it is the responsibility of the Garrison Sergeant Major to ensure by rehearsals that it is executed correctly”, and moreover, “that it appears in no drill book or manual of ceremonial , but is passed down from memory to each new generation of bandsmen”. This appears therefore to be a prime example of oral history. It opens the way, moreover, for investigation into the origins of military drill movements in general, and especially this one called the “Spin-wheel” which is performed by the guards at the British sovereign’s official birthday parade.

READ MORE: spintwo.pdf



Participative government in Holland in the Early Sixteenth Century: Claude Carondelet’s report on dyking the Zijpe Estuary (1509)

James P. Ward



Emperor Maximilian I                Emperor Charles V



Regent Margaret                  Stadholder       
of Austria                   Jan van Egmond



In common with other modern states the Netherlands has institutions of government at several levels. At national level parliament and ministries have their centre at The Hague. Provincial and municipal bodies have their seats of local government in regional assemblies and city town halls. But in addition to these two the Netherlands has a third layer of government;  the waterschappen or regional water authorities whose board members (heemraden) nowadays  are elected by popular vote. The main duties of the waterschappen are to care for the quantity and quality of surface waters, for the maintenance of  coastal dunes, for drainage, dykes and embankments, and for related environmental questions.

One of the oldest such institutions still functioning is the Hoogheemraadschap of Rijnland, the district surrounding Leiden, with a history going back eight centuries and more. This article describes events which led to its suspension in 1510 for a brief period, and how the early Burgundian-Habsburg state, a centralizing power, recognized that limits were set to its powers of governing. Evidence presented here reveals some factors which were decisive for emerging popular representative bodies of government in the Low Countries, the most important factor being a tradition of problem solving through negotiation.


READ MORE: Participative government; LIAS (2004)




James P. Ward


    Jacob Cornelisz van Oostzanen

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the printer Doen Pietersz published a series of woodcuts by the artist Jacob Cornelisz of Oostzanen (1470-1533), depicting the counts and countesses of Holland from the tenth to the sixteenth century. Editions of this `Catalogus’ are known which are accompanied by anonymous texts in Latin and in French which provide short biographies of the persons depicted.
The series with texts in Latin is described here, and questions which are addressed are: who was their author, what were his sources, how accurate are the histories of the counts and countesses, and how are they to be evaluated as examples of early sixteenth century historiography. It is shown that Hadrianus Barlandus (1487-1539) was the author, and the so-called `Divisiekroniek’ of Cornelius Aurelius (c. 1460-1531) was probably his main source.


READ MORE: Barlandus. Humanistica Lovaniensia 2006



Boudewijn van Zwieten's legacy of the Horae canonicae
at St Peter's, Leiden 1443

James P. Ward


      Memorial Family Van Zwieten (detail)

`David seit, dat hi seven werf binnen den daghe den Heer lof geseit heeft'
(Dirc van Delf, Tafel van den Kersten Ghelove, Ch. XXX).
David said that he praised the Lord seven times daily.

From an early period in the history of the Church daily life in monasteries was regulated from hour to hour by the congregation reciting the Horae canonicae. This with other parts of the Divine Office consisted of reading and singing psalms, hymns, antiphons, versicles and responses, lessons and other passages appropriate to the day in the Church calendar. Indeed, the performance of the hours became one of the clergy's main duties. From the practice of observing the hours within the community, reciting the prayers in public gradually became obligatory on all clergy. The service of matins originally took place deep in the night, but when it was combined with or followed at a short interval by lauds, the earliest morning service, the number of Hours was reduced thereby in practice to seven, called in the Low Countries `de Zeven Getijden'; lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline. The services were interspersed throughout the day at fairly regular intervals of about three hours. Lauds and vespers, the morning and evening prayers, were the more important and hence more elaborate parts of the daily routine, and this remains so today.

Read more: Zwieten_van.pdf




Guillaume de Clugny, Guillaume de Bische and Jean Gros:
Mediators between Charles the Bold of Burgundy and the cities
of Holland (1460-1477)

James P. Ward



      Charles the Bold 


          Jean Gros III

Interest in corruption in the late medieval duchy of Burgundy and the related phenomenon of present-given which was intense from the 1950's onward has recently been revived and pursued with increased refinements in detail and analysis. The aim of the present paper is to highlight evidence from the archives of Haarlem and Leiden concerning the informal relations in Holland of three close associates of Charles of Burgundy in the years 1460-1477. A simple definition of the kind of informal relations studied is the giving and accepting of gifts and services between patrons and clients. The men were Guillaume de Bische, Guillaume de Clugny and Jean Gros. Bische and Clugny were united to Charles and to each other through the ties of work and longstanding personal relationships in the service of the prince. The third man, Jean Gros, was related personally to Clugny, first as his secretary, and later through his marriage with a member of Clugny's family. In addition, something else served as a kind of cement holding the three men together, for whenever Clugny and Gros appeared in Holland then Bische was not far away. All three appear to have been working in concert, forming a mini-network or cadre within the central authority. What it was that joined them is not easily definable, but it is hoped to show here that it existed in the network of their relationships, formal and informal, to the cities of Holland.

Read more: FRANCIA-Forschungen.pdf




A Selection of Letters (1507-1516) from the Guelders War

James P. Ward



Emperor Charles V 

     Charles of Guelders


The Burgundian-Habsburg claim to Guelders was based on arguments of legality, one of the results of which was a propaganda offensive in the form of letters and remonstrances to friend and foe. Maximilian, Philip and Charles V found allies in Henry VII and Henry VIII of England. Their toughest and longest lasting adversary for the mastery of Guelders, Charles of Egmond, styled duke of Guelders, obtained material help, money and men from successive kings of France, together with advice from his kinsman in Scotland, king James IV, who was allied to France. This internationalization of the Guelders' problem strengthened the hand of Charles of Guelders by giving him a semblance of legality. Without help from France he would otherwise have been unable to prolong the struggle for the several decades which he did.

Read more: LIAS-Sources-Documents.pdf

Letter to the magistrates of Dordrecht ordering ships to be commissioned for the Zuyderzee area, signed by Charles of Habsburg personally, and dated 5 April 1516. (click on letter image for full size image)




Prices of Weapons and Munitions in Early Sixteenth Century Holland
during the Guelders War

James P. Ward


The purpose of this article is both to present data on retail prices of individual weapons and munitions of war in the first decades of the sixteenth century in Holland, and to show how the magistrates there prepared to defend their cities against an aggressor by purchasing weapons to arm the citizens. Prices quoted here for strategic commodities of war in the early sixteenth century complement those given by Posthumus in his survey of prices for the later sixteenth century and beyond.

Read more: J-Europ-Econ-Hist.pdf




The Military Role of the Magistrates in Holland
during the Guelders War

James P. Ward


Sources in the city and state archives of Holland show that at the beginning of the sixteenth century the magistrates of Holland were proficient in military matters of defense. During the Guelders war, which lasted until 1543, they hired and paid soldiers, arranged billets for them, confronted mutinies, controlled local military dispositions and costs, purchased and distributed weapons to their burghers, had munitions manufactured for them locally, supervised drills, mustered men, and, within their cities, organized resistance to the Guelders enemy. Two generations later, at the time of the Dutch Revolt, the same skills were needed again to help defeat Philip II.

The publication in 1956 of Michael Roberts’ essay, “The Military Revolution”, inspired a spate of studies and monographs on the subject of warfare and of armies, their organization and weapons which continues to the present day.
These studies augment older studies of warfare and relate them to newer disciplines. With few exceptions, however, scholars have continued to give their attention mostly to what may be called the “bigger picture,” to armies recruited by emperors, princes, and generals. These reflect a bias in two directions. They describe mainly professional armies, and their time-frames start mainly in the second half of the sixteenth century.
In contrast to this, the level, scale and sophistication of military organization which was in the hands of city magistrates and aldermen in Holland in the early sixteenth century is less well known. The aim of this article is to show to what extent and by what means the magistrates, aldermen and burghers of Holland
fought a daring and persistent foe, Charles, duke of Guelders. The Guelders War is covered here in some detail from 1508 to 1517 from the perspective of the cities of Holland, with the emphasis not on armies, campaigns and battles, but on the efforts mainly of civilians to organize and defend themselves. The theater of war is limited by geography and time, but the sources reveal facts that are general, repetitive and structural with respect to “guerrilla” wars. As a corollary, it will be argued briefly that the magistrates of early sixteenth-century Holland served as a model for their successors in the latter half of the century, at the time of the Dutch Revolt against King Philip II.

Read more: Medieval-Military-History.pdf




King James IV,
Continental Diplomacy and the Guelders' War

James P. Ward


                       King James IV


In Western Europe the years 1506-1515 were marked by confrontations between Denmark and the Baltic city of Lübeck, between Lübeck and Holland, and between Holland and the Duke of Guelders. The background to these struggles includes (very briefly) the resistance offered to successive kings of Denmark by their rebellious subjects in Sweden, who in their bid for independence were aided and abetted by Lübeck; Lübeck's opposition to the incursions into the Baltic Sea area of merchants and shipping interests from the Low Countries (mainly from Amsterdam) who were sympathetic to Denmark; and the duke of Guelders' attempts to recover the duchy which had effectively been lost a generation earlier by his father and grandfather to Burgundian-Habsburg domination.

Read more: Scottish-Historical-Review.pdf




Jim Ward promoveert op Hollandse steden