Today In History: The Battle Of Oosterweel Marks The Onset Of The Eight Years’ War (1567)

Relief of Leiden after the siege, 1574. Public Domain

The Battle of Oosterweel erupted on this day in 1567, marking the onset of the Eight Years’ War. The Eight Years’ War involved the Seventeen Provinces that unified to rally against the political and religious denomination being imposed on them by Philip II of Spain.  

The initial battle broke out in the village of Oosterweel, located north of Antwerp, Belgium. One of Philip’s armies defeated a group of radical Calvinist militia rebels. The professional Spanish military took nearly 1,000 of the Protestants as prisoners and executed them. There were many political ramifications for Antwerp’s leader and overseer, William the Silent. He wanted to be loyal to his people, yet was bound by oath to serve at the pleasure of Philip II.

Philip II of Spain berating William the Silent. Public Domain

William realized it was no longer his wish to support Spanish persecution of the Dutch Protestants, and he joined his people by leading the uprising. His leadership skills and political competence boosted the rebellion, allying it with a number of other persuasive and powerful members serving on the Dutch Council of State, included Philip de Montmorency and Lamoral.

For the few years, things were uncertain for the Dutch army. The army was overshadowed by disarray caused by a lack of funding and support, both of which hindered their ability to make any real progress in fighting the Spanish forces. In April of 1572, things turned around as a result of the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars) taking the city of Brielle. That success inspired other Dutch cities to follow suit; soon the rebels had possession over most of Holland.