The Siege of Haarlem

Elka Schrijver describes the dramatic and bloody events of a sixteenth century siege of the Dutch city by a Habsburg army of Philip II.

The siege of Haarlem is one of many epics of the Eighty Years’ War whose memory is still kept very much alive in Holland.

At the time, the course of the siege was followed with great anxiety or hope by the governments of most European countries, and particularly in London, since the outcome of the rebellion in the fifteen counties would change the balance of power in Europe.

Although the town eventually surrendered to the Spaniards, its defence from October 1572 to July 1573 represented eight months of heroic endurance upon diminishing rations and lack of ammunition.

The town’s stubborn resistance gave the Prince of Orange eight months’ grace to equip and organize his forces, and the other cities in the Country of Holland a breathing space in which to strengthen their walls and gates and prepare for their turn to be besieged.

Alkmaar, for instance, known to posterity as the town where victory began, certainly owed part of this victory to the eight months during which Haarlem held out against the Spanish forces.

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