Siege of Breda (1624)

The Siege of Breda of 1624–25 occurred during the Eighty Years' War. The siege resulted in Breda, a Dutch fortified city, falling into the control of the Army of Flanders.

Following the orders of Ambrogio Spinola, Philip IV's army laid siege to Breda in August 1624. The siege was contrary to the wishes of Philip IV's government because of the already excessive burdens of the concurrent Eighty and Thirty Years' wars. The strategically located city was heavily fortified and strongly defended by a large and well prepared garrison of 7,000 men, that the Dutch were confident would hold out long enough to wear down besiegers while awaiting a relief force to disrupt the siege. Yet despite the Spanish government's opposition to major sieges in the Low Countries and the obstacles confronting any attack on such a strongly fortified and defended city, Spinola launched his Breda campaign, rapidly blocking the city's defences and driving off a Dutch relief army under the leadership of Maurice of Nassau that had attempted to cut off the Spanish army's access to supplies. In February 1625, a second relief force, consisting of 7,000 English troops under the leadership of Horace Vere and Ernst von Mansfeld, was also driven off by Spinola. After a costly eleven-month siege, Justin of Nassau surrendered Breda on 2 June 1625. Only 3,500 Dutchmen[1] and fewer than 600 Englishmen had survived the siege.[2]

The Siege of Breda is considered Spinola's greatest success and one of Spain's last major victories in the Eighty Years' War. The siege was part of a plan to isolate the Republic from its hinterland, and co-ordinated with Olivare's naval war spearheaded by the Dunkirkers, to economically choke the Dutch Republic. Although political infighting hindered Spinola's freedom of movement, Spain's efforts in the Netherlands continued thereafter. The siege of 1624 captured the attention of European princes and, along with other battles like White Mountain (1620), played a part in the Spanish army regaining the formidable reputation it had held throughout the previous century.

In the latter stages of the combined Eighty and Thirty Years' wars that had greatly strained Spanish resources, Breda was lost to the Dutch under Frederick Henry after a four-month siege. In the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty and Eighty Years' wars, it was ceded to the Dutch Republic.

Siege of Breda
Part of the Eighty Years' War, Anglo-Spanish War and the Thirty Years' War
Velázquez - de Breda o Las Lanzas (Museo del Prado, 1634-35)

The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez. Oil on canvas, 1635.
Date28 August 1624 – 5 June 1625
Breda (present-day the Netherlands)
Result Spanish victory[1][2]
Dutch Republic United Provinces
England England
Commanders and leaders
Dutch Republic Maurice of Nassau
Dutch Republic Justin of Nassau
England Horace Vere[3]
England Ernst von Mansfeld[4]
Spain Ambrogio Spinola
Spain Carlos Coloma
7000 (Dutch garrison)
7000 (Dutch relief force)
7000 (English relief force)
Casualties and losses
10,000 dead, wounded or captured[1][2] 3,000 dead, wounded or captured
Siege of Breda 1624 - Obsidio Bredaem per Ambriosium Spinolam (anno 1624)
Map of the siege of Breda by Spinola. J.Blaeu.


There were several motives for Spinola's siege of Breda. Because the Dutch regularly used the town as a base for raiding Spanish Brabant, the parts of Brabant under royal rule would be better protected if the city were conquered. In addition, neighbouring towns occupied by the States, such as Bergen op Zoom, would be easier to conquer with a foothold in Breda.[5]

In 1590, Breda was captured from the Spanish using the stratagem with the peat boat. The conquest of a well-defended city like Breda would erase this disgrace. More importantly, Spinola personally felt that the failure of the Siege of Bergen-op-Zoom (1622) was a blot on his reputation.

Furthermore, Spain wanted to have a strong position in potential peace negotiations. The conquest of Breda would enable Spain to put forward stronger demands concerning religious freedom for Catholics in the Republic and lifting the blockade of the Scheldt.


Vesting Breda

Breda was one of the strongest cities in the defence of the Republic between the States of Holland and royal Brabant. The city was strategically located on a navigable river, Mark, and near several roads.[6][7]

Henry III of Nassau, Lord of Breda from 1509 to 1538, had been commissioned by Charles V to travel through Europe. In Italy, he came into contact with modern defences. Thus, in 1531 he inspired the construction of the late medieval style walls of Breda. These were later replaced by modern fortifications.[8] In 1587 and 1622, the defences were further expanded and updated.

The Breda fortress consisted of a very high earthen thoroughfare with 15 bastions and a moat. The 55-to-117-metre-wide (180 to 384 ft) canal[9] was five feet deep and was provided with water from Mark.[10] Access to the city was made possible by four brick gates. Crescent ravelins were applied in the ditches. Hornwork was placed on the gates and at the monastery. Stakewall were built to complicate assault by horsemen and foot soldiers and simultaneously prevent desertion.[11] The fortifications were in excellent condition and served as a state of the art example of fortification.[9]

La infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia en el sitio de Breda (Museo del Prado)
Painting of the Siege of Breda

Around Breda, forests formed an obstacle for the cavalry and artillery of any besieging army and the high water level of the Mark posed challenges to attacking infantry. The rivers Mark and Aa and other streams also hampered besiegers. By using an inundation sluice near the Ginnekense gate, the area south of Breda could be put underwater if opened. The north side had a lock near Terheijden that functioned.[12]

Because the States of Holland and West Friesland knew that the Spanish army might attempt to conquer Breda, they left the city with enough food, supplies, and weapons for an eight-month siege. The city council refused to store more food than was necessary for a nine-month siege. Nobody knew what tactics the Spanish army would apply. Therefore, the possibility of a direct assault was also considered. To prevent this, a State army was stationed near Breda with the aim of disrupting any direct assault on the city.[13]

Garrison in Breda

The garrison in Breda consisted of 17 companies in peacetime, each of which consisted of 65 men and 5 cavalry squadrons of 70 riders each. When it was probable that the city would become besieged, the squadrons were supplemented by another 30 riders each; the infantry was supplemented with 28 companies of 135 men. To save food, three squadrons were sent to Geertruidenberg shortly before a siege. The castle held approximately 100 civilians out of the 5,200 soldiers. The male inhabitants of Breda between 20 and 70 years, about 1,800 men, were armed to support the soldiers.[14]

The governor of the city was Justin of Nassau, an illegitimate son of William I, Prince of Orange. His deputy was Dyrcx Cornelis van Oosterhout, but his role was insignificant during the siege.[15]

In addition to the soldiers, others stayed in the city. Ordinary citizens, farmers, spouses and children of soldiers, came to the town to seek protection against the Spanish army. The soldiers' wives were responsible for cooking and washing for the soldiers and caring for the sick and wounded. The total number of inhabitants in the city is estimated at 13,111. They are believed to have been housed in about 1,200 homes.[16]

Spanish Army

Conflicting and incomplete data does not allow for an accurate calculation of the size of the Spanish army. On 30 September the number was probably around 40,000 soldiers and on about 2 May 1625, approximately 80,000 soldiers. 25,000 were encamped along the supply corridor, another 25,000 men were used for the containment of the city, and 30,000 served as general reserves.[17]

According to the text on the map by Blaeu, “[This was] so large an army, as had not been seen in the Netherlands in living memory.”

Percent Nationality Function
38% South Dutch Infantry
24% German Infantry
10% Italian Infantry
9% Spanish Riders
9% Spanish Infantry
5% French Infantry
5% British and Irish Infantry

The composition of the Spanish army was diverse, as shown in the table above. The army consisted primarily of infantry, with a small number of riders. Members of the infantry were equipped with either a rapier and a five-metre-long (16 ft) pike, or a rapier with a musket; members of the cavalry were equipped with either a lances and two pistols, or a musket and two pistols.[18][19]

The infantry was mainly used for the lines to raise and to guard and defend against an army and State terror against sorties from the city. In the supply corridor, the foot soldiers deployed to protect the convoys. The cavalry was more mobile than the infantry and was therefore mainly used to inspect the area and to protect convoys.[19]

The cannons could fire 10 shots per hour and were operated by gunners. The exact number of the Spanish guns is not precisely known, but there were certainly more than 30.[20] Sappers engaged in building bridges, maintaining roads, and other activities.

The commander of the Spanish army was Ambrogio Spinola, 1st Marquis of the Balbases, a known military strategist from Italy. His deputies were the regimental commanders Hendrik, count van den Bergh, who was also commander of the supply corridor, and John VIII, Count of Nassau-Siegen. Spinola was the commander of the reserve forces until 31 October when he was succeed by Carlos Coloma.

Because of the vastness of Breda, Spinola had his troops divided into four compartments. The four subjects with commanders were:

  1. Ginneken in the south under the command of the Spaniard Francisco Medina
  2. Teteringen in the east under the command of the Burgundian Claude Rye, baron of Balacon
  3. Carthage in the west under the command of the German Ernst, Count of Isenburg
  4. Terheijden in the north, divided into two sectors: Hartel Bergen under the command of Paolo Baglione and Terheijden village under the command of Carlo Roma, both Italians.

In modern literature

The siege of 1624–1625 is the subject of the 1998 novel El sol de Breda (The Sun Over Breda) by the Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte, as part of the Captain Alatriste series. The events of the siege – including both the gruelling fighting with the Dutch and the infighting among the Spanish, including a major mutiny by unpaid Spanish troops – are depicted from the point of view of a boy serving with the Spanish forces. The realistic depiction of war and soldiers' daily life seems influenced by the writer's own long experience as a war correspondent.

The siege appears in the film Alatriste adapted from the novel series.


  1. ^ a b c Duffy, p. 101
  2. ^ a b c Manning, p. 107
  3. ^ Vere, Horace
  4. ^ Gualdo Priorato, Galeazzo: Vite, et azzioni di personaggi militari, e politici. Vienna: Thurnmayer, 1674, p. 367
  5. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. B4
  6. ^ Israel, p. 539
  7. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A17
  8. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A20
  9. ^ a b G. G. van der Hoeven: Geschiedenis der vesting Breda, op Google books Uitgever: Schiedam : Interbook International, [1974]
  10. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A21
  11. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A28
  12. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A29
  13. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A67
  14. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A41
  15. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A40
  16. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A43
  17. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A54
  18. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A46
  19. ^ a b Rooze and Eimermann, p. A47
  20. ^ Rooze and Eimermann, p. A48


  • Duffy, Christopher (1996). Siege Warfare: The fortress in the early modern world, 1494–1660. New York, USA: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-14649-4.
  • Manning, por Roger Burrow (2006). An apprenticeship in arms: the origins of the British Army 1585–1702. London, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-926149-9.
  • Rooze, J. P. M.; Eimermann, C. W. A. M. (2005). De belegering van Breda door Spinola 1624–1625 Alphen aan den Rijn: Canaletto/Repro-Holland. ISBN 9064698201.
  • Israel, J. I. (2008). De Republiek / druk 6: 1477–1806 Uitgeverij Van Wijnen. ISBN 9051943377.

External links

Ambrogio Spinola, 1st Marquess of Balbases

Ambrogio Spinola Doria, 1st Marquess of The Balbases, GE, KOGF, KOS (Genoa, 1569 – Castelnuovo Scrivia, 25 September 1630) was an Italian condottiero and nobleman of the Republic of Genoa, who served for the Spanish crown and won a number of important battles. He is often called "Ambrosio" by Spanish speaking people and is considered one of the greatest military commanders of his time and in the history of the Spanish army. His military achievements earned him the title of Marquess of Balbases in the Spanish peerage, as well as the Order of the Golden Fleece and Order of Santiago.

Capture of Breda (1590)

The Capture of Breda or the Siege of Breda was a short battle during the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo–Spanish War during which a Dutch and English army led by Maurice of Nassau captured the heavily protected city of Breda. Using a clever tactic reminiscent of the Trojan horse a small assault force hid in a peat barge, entered the city of Breda, and proceeded to take it over resulting in a minimum number of casualties. It was the turning point of the war as the forces under Maurice were able to take the offensive.

Claude de Rye, Baron of Valançon

Claude de Rye de la Palud, Baron of Valançon (c. 1576 – 24 March 1648) was a general officer of artillery in Flanders, in the service of Spain.

The second son of Philibert de Rye (1540–1597), count of Varax and of

La Roche-Saint-Hippolyte, baron of Balançon and of Romange, lord of Vuillefans, by his marriage to Claudine de Tournon-Roussillon, lady of Vassoulieu, Valançon was probably born at Bouligneux, Bresse.

Serving in a Burgundian regiment under the orders of his elder brother Christophe, he took part in the siege of Ostende (1601–1604) where he lost a leg on 26 July 1601. Thereafter he wore a wooden leg.

On 24 July 1602 his regiment was converted into a Tercio, and he succeeded his brother as "maestre de campo", thus becoming, although with interruptions, the commander of that unit for the next 23 years.

In 1620 he participated in the invasion of the Palatinate and on 14 November 1620 took part in the defence of Alzey, where his Burgundian Tercio managed to repel every enemy attack until it was relieved by Count Hendrik van den Berg, a cavalry general in the Army of the Palatinate. Valançon was also present at the Battle of Fleurus (29 August 1622), the siege of Bergen op Zoom, and the siege of Breda (1624–25), of which city he became governor until 1631.

That same year he was nominated Captain-General and Grand Master of Artillery in the Army of Flanders, replacing Hendrik van den Berg, who was now General of the Cavalry.

In 1635 Valançon ravaged the French regions of Artois and Picardy, commanding Croatian troops. In 1636, with 2,000 horse and 10,000 foot soldiers, he repelled a Dutch force sent to storm Juliers and Cleves, thereafter relieving Schenck, besieged by the Dutch.

Valançon kept his position in the Army until 1638, when he became a member of the War Council in Brussels. In 1645 he was designated to the post of Captain-General of Namur, living the last three years of his life in the castle of Namur, where he died in 1648.

Henry Gage (soldier)

Sir Henry Gage (29 August 1597 – 11 January 1645) was a Royalist officer in the English Civil War.

Herman Hugo

Herman Hugo (9 May 1588 – 11 September 1629) was a Jesuit priest, writer and military chaplain. His Pia desideria, a spiritual emblem book published in Antwerp in 1624, was "the most popular religious emblem book of the seventeenth century". It went through 42 Latin editions and was widely translated up to the 18th century.

Johann Philipp Kratz von Scharffenstein

Johann Philipp Kratz von Scharffenstein (1585 – 26 July 1635) was a German nobleman and field marshal, who fought during the course of the Thirty Years' War. He served with distinction in forces of both the Catholic League and Holy Roman Empire. His poor relationship with the Imperial generalissimo Albrecht von Wallenstein frustrated his plan of becoming the supreme commander of the League's forces. Embittered by this he defected to Sweden, where he attained the rank of field marshal. He was captured at the Battle of Nördlingen (1634) and executed for treason a year later.

List of battles of the Eighty Years' War

List of battles of the Eighty Years' War:

Battle of Oosterweel: March 13, 1567

Battle of Rheindalen: April 23, 1568

Battle of Heiligerlee: May 23, 1568

Battle of Jemmingen: July 21, 1568

Battle of Jodoigne: October 20, 1568

Capture of Brielle: April 1, 1572

Siege of Haarlem: 1572–1573

Battle of Flushing: April 17, 1573

Battle of Borsele: April 22, 1573

Battle on the Zuiderzee: October 11, 1573

Siege of Alkmaar: 1573

Siege of Leiden: 1573–1574

Battle of Reimerswaal: January 29, 1574

Battle of Mookerheyde: April 14, 1574

Battle of Gembloux: January 31, 1578

Siege of Maastricht: 1579

Battle of Punta Delgada: July 26, 1582

Siege of Antwerp: 1584–1585

Battle of Boksum: January 17, 1586

Battle of Zutphen: September 22, 1586

Battle of Gravelines: July 29, 1588

Capture of Breda: 1590

Battle of Turnhout: January 24, 1597

Siege of Groenlo (1597): 1597

Siege of Bredevoort (1597): 1597

Battle of Nieuwpoort: July 2, 1600

Siege of Ostend: 1601–1604

Battle of Sluys: May 26, 1603

Siege of Groenlo (1606): 1606

Battle of Gibraltar: April 25, 1607

Battle of Playa-Honda: April 15, 1617

Battle of Gibraltar (1621): August 6, 1621

1st Siege of Breda: 1624–1625

Siege of Groenlo (1627): 1627

Battle in the Bay of Matanzas: September 7–8, 1628

Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch: 1629

Capture of Maastricht: 1632

2nd Siege of Breda: 1637

Battle of Kallo: June 20, 1638

Battle of the Downs: October 31, 1639

Siege of Hulst: 1645

Battle of Puerto de Cavite: June 10, 1647

List of sieges

A siege is a prolonged military assault and blockade on a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition. A chronological list of sieges follows.

Siege of Breda

Siege of Breda or Capture of Breda may refer to:

Siege of Breda (1577) by States-General troops

Capture of Breda (1581) by Claudius of Berlaymont, Lord of Castle Haultepenne (no real siege, but an urban fight, also known as "The Haultepenne Fury")

Capture of Breda (1590) by Maurice of Orange (no real siege, but an urban fight)

Siege of Breda (1624) by Ambrogio Spinola (painted by Velázquez in The Surrender of Breda)

Siege of Breda (1637) by Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange

Siege of Breda (1813) by François Roguet and Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes

Siege of Groenlo (1627)

For other sieges of the town see Siege of Groenlo.The Siege of Grol in 1627 was a battle between the Army of the Dutch Republic commanded by Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and the Spanish controlled fortified city of Grol (now known as Groenlo), during the Eighty Years War and the Anglo–Spanish War in 1627. The Spanish army led by Hendrik van den Bergh came to relieve Grol, but it came too late. The siege lasted from 20 July until 19 August 1627, resulting in the surrender of the city to the army of the United Provinces.During the siege, a-16 kilometer-long circumvallation line was made around Grol in order to prevent the enemy from leaving and to prevent liberation of the city from the outside. Ambrosio Spinola had used a similar technique during the Siege of Breda (1624), and after the successful siege of Grol Frederic-Henry would later use it in other sieges in the Netherlands, such as at the Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch. The success at Grol provided the first serious victory on land for the Republic after the Twelve Years' Truce.

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