The siege of Alkmaar

The 1573 siege of Alkmaar depicted

By The Regional Archive Alkmaar

The 1573 siege of Alkmaar depicted

Soldiers from Alkmaar (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The Spanish threaten the gate!  

With the help of an album filled with drawings made by Alexander Ver Heull in 1837, and a few other images, we show the events concerning the Siege of Alkmaar, in the period between June and October 1573.

fortification works, July 1573 (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The citizens of Alkmaar started to enhance the city’s defences at the beginning of July, pressured by the Spanish advance.

Soldiers of the Prince of Orange enter Alkmaar (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

July 16th. Spanish-minded citizens of Alkmaar had hidden the key to the city gate. That is why the city gate had to be broken open to allow the soldiers of the Prince of Orange to enter.

Alva's army (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

August 21st. The Spanish troops arrive under the command of Don Frederic. They were scourged by a heavy thunderstorm at the sluice of Koedijk (Koedijkersluis), one of Alkmaars neighbouring villages.

Spanish ladies (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The Spanish campement. Painter Ver Huell has pictured the situation somewhat more idyllic than is realistic.

Spanish negotiators (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

August 24th. Spanish negotiators are standing in front of Alkmaar’s city walls. They were informed that Alkmaar would not speak, let alone negotiate, with the Spanish.

An alarm in the night (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The threat of a Spanish attack caused a lot of upheavel amongst the citizens. In the night of the 28th of August, the city’s alarms where sounded. The Spanish were testing Alkmaar’s defences.

The deathbed of Jan Arentsz (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

A few hours after the alarm sounded the elderly Reformed minister Jan Arentsz. passed away.

Statue of Van der Meij (2018) by Regionaal Archief AlkmaarThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

Maerten Pietersz van der Mey

September 2nd. On this day, city carpenter Maerten Pietersz van der Mey alledgedly left Alkmaar with a secret message for Diederik Sonoy, who was named governor of the North quarter (Noorderkwartier) by William of Orange. Sonoy was stationed in Schagen. In the message the Alkmaar city council requested Sonoy to breach the (sea) dikes, in order to get the Spanish to give op their siege. The message was hidden in a long pole. This vaulting pole, or Dutch dyke pole, was used to leap over ditches and small canals. On the picture you can see the statue of Van der Mey, which is placed next to the Great Church (Grote Kerk) of Alkmaar. 

Second note front (1573) by UnknownThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

One of the two surviving messages that were sent from Alkmaar during the siege. The messages are called ‘polsstokbriefjes’ in Dutch, which translates to ‘vaulting pole notes’.

Second note back (1573) by UnknownThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

Archivist and historian Harry de Raad of the Alkmaar Regional Archive (Regionaal Archief Alkmaar) speaks in Dutch about the ‘polsstokbriefjes’.

Diederik Sonoy (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

Diederik Sonoy

Diederik Sonoy was born in 1529 in Kalkar (Germany). He served emperor Karel V en king Filips II. He was later appointed by Willem of Orange as the governor of a part of Holland and supported the rebellion against Spain. He was the one in the town of Schagen to whom Maerten Pietersz van der Mey alledgedly brought the ‘polsstokbriesjes'. 

The death of Jacob Paulet (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

On September 8th Fleming Jacob Paulet, who resided in Alkmaar during the siege, was killed. As he looked at two Spaniards from Alkmaar’s city walls, he was hit in the head by a Spanish bullet.

A girl saved (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

September 16th. A young girl flees the Spanish army camp. She was saved by three men in a small boat. The Spanish pursuers where shot at from the walls.

The most dangerous day in the siege of Alkmaar (1850) by L. van LeerThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

September 18th. The most fearful day (de bangste dag). The Spanish assault on Alkmaar started. Governor Cabeliau (whose leg was bandaged) came to encourage Alkmaar’s defenders, despite his own wounds.

Coat of arms of Jacob Cabeliau (1879) by R.E.J. RoeterinkThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The family crest of Jacob Cabeliau. This is a design painting for a stained-glass window, made in 1879 for the town hall of Alkmaar.

The siege of Alkmaar seen from the south (1580) by Pieter Adriaensz CluytThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The siege seen from the south

Depicted here is the
siege of Almaar by the Spanish, at the South side of the city. At the front
left the army camp of the Spanish can be seen. This probably is the same camp
that was layed out at Nieuwpoort, also at the South side of that city. In one
of the Spanish army tents a meal is served. Left of that tent Don Frederic is
portrayed on a horse. 

Spanish commander Don Frederic.

The bridge crossing to one of Alkmaars city gates, the Kennemerpoort, has been demolished to slow down the enemy attack.

Farmers were forced to work for the Spanish.

The siege of Alkmaar seen from the north (1580) by Pieter Adriaensz CluytThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The siege seen from the north

On this panel we see
Alkmaar from the North, where the Spanish are storming the city port called the
Friese Poort. Before
that, they had seized two fortified areas – the so called ‘runmolens’ and
‘tonnenschansen’[LB1] . At the front left a banner of Spanish
soldiers is about to attack; a soldier is busy to aim his canon from behind an
entrenchment and watch tower. Diagonally behind him two monks are blessing the
soldiers. At the left three wheels can be seen of an ‘overtoom’ or incline – a
contraption which could move ships. Next to it three canons on chassis, that
are made ready for operation by Spanisch soldiers in the shelter of the
entranchment.

Strengthened positions at the flour mill of the Frieseweg.

Attack on the breach of the Friese Poort. The attackers do not need a storm bridge, because the moat is filled with debris from the shot city gate.

At the ‘overtoom’ (the contraption to move ships) over the dyke at Oudorp, the Ouddorperdijk, Spanish artillery was aimed at the Red Tower – the ‘Rode Toren’.

Attack on the Friese Poort, the city gate (1870) by C.L. van KesterenThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The grand attack

The grand attack
commenced September 18th 1573 at Alkmaar’s North side. Heavy fighting broke out
at the stronghold of the Friese Poort. 

At the first Spanish attack wave some of the enemy soldiers scaled the citty walls, with the Spanish flag. The defenders of Alkmaar immediatley beat them down.

The Spanish supplied reinforcements each time the attackers got tired or defeated.

The siege (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The Spanish soldiers attack the city walls in great numbers.

Challeging the Spanish on the city walls (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

According to the tales, the people of Alkmaar stood on the walls to challenge the Spanish.

The siege of Alkmaar (1603) by UnknownThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

An explanation of this painting on the siege of Alkmaar by Christi Klinkert, curator of the city museum of Alkmaar – the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar.

Egbert Diert dies (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

September 20th. As Egbert Diert, bearer of the city standard, tried to take aim he was shot in the head by a Spaniard.

Alkmaar and surroundings during the siege of 1573 (1703) by UnknownThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The siege of Alkmaar seen from the north. Left in the foreground you can see the village of Oudorp with the Spanish army camp.

Spanish soldiers refuse to attack the city (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

September 20th. The storm bridge the Spanish wanted to place to reach the city wall was not ready. Therefore, the Spanish soldiers refused to attack. Many of the recalcitrants were stabbed to death.

Two farmers are sent out (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

September 24th. Two farmers were send to Diederik Sonoy to get help. They did not get far on account of Spanish patrolling guards, and returned to the city.

De Waal is hanged (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

An imprisoned Spaniard, in the clothing of a renegade Flemish spy, was hanged. This was done to clarify to the enemy how spies were dealt with. The real spy was not hung, because he was needed alive.

Cannons are being dragged off (1872) by Alexander Ver HuellThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

The end of September. The Spanish cease the firing and cary of the canons. This proved difficult because of the boggy grounds. Which was caused by the breaching of the (sea) dikes.

The wet road had to be repaired with tree stumps and straw.

October 8th. The Spaniards are leaving! Victory started at Alkmaar!

The Alkmaar city coat of arms (1860) by UnknownThe Regional Archive Alkmaar

October 8th 1573: Victory!

Credits: Story

The images are from the album created by Alexander Ver Huell in 1873 and other items from the collection of the Regionaal Archief Alkmaar. The paintings are from the collection of the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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