Battle of Heiligerlee

Battle Of Heiligerlee

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Battle of Heiligerlee

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The Battle of Heiligerlee (Heiligerlee, Groningen, 23 May 1568) was fought between Dutch rebels and the Spanish army of Friesland. This was the first Dutch victory during the Eighty Years' War.

The Groningen province of the Spanish Netherlands was invaded by an army consisting of 3,900 infantry led by Louis of Nassau and 200 cavalry led by Adolf of Nassau. Both were brothers of William I of Orange. The intention was to begin an armed uprising against the Spanish rulers of the Netherlands.

The Stadtholder of Friesland and also Duke of Aremberg, Johan de Ligne, had an army of 3,200 infantry and 20 cavalry.

Aremberg initially avoided confrontation, awaiting reinforcements. However on 23 May, Adolf's cavalry lured him to an ambush at the monastery of Heiligerlee. Louis' infantry, making up the bulk of the army, defeated the Spanish force which lost 1,500–2,000 men, while the invading force lost 50, including Adolf. The rebels captured seven cannons.

The invading force however, did not capture any cities and was soon defeated at the Battle of Jemmingen.

The death of Adolf of Nassau is mentioned in the Dutch national anthem (4th verse):

Graef Adolff is ghebleven, In Vriesland in den slaech,
"Count Adolf stayed behind, in Friesland, in the battle"



  • Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, (HarperCollins Publishers, 1993.
  • Laffin, John, Brassey's Dictionary of Battles,......
  • ...

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