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Battle of Steenbergen (1583)
Part of the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604)
DateJune 17, 1583
LocationSteenbergen, Duchy of Brabant
(present-day the Netherlands)
Result Decisive Spanish victory[1][2]
France anjou.svg Francis of Anjou
 Kingdom of England
Dutch Republic United Provinces
Commanders and leaders
France anjou.svg Baron de Biron  (WIA)
Kingdom of England John Norreys
Spain Alexander Farnese
Casualties and losses
At least 3,200 casualties[3] 400 dead or wounded[3][4]

The Battle of Steenbergen, also known as the Capture of Steenbergen of 1583, took place on June 17, 1583, at Steenbergen, Duchy of Brabant, Spanish Netherlands (present-day North Brabant, the Netherlands), and was an important victory of the Spanish Army of Flanders led by Don Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma (Spanish: Alejandro Farnesio), Governor-General of the Spanish Netherlands, over the French, English, and Dutch forces led by the French Marshal Armand de Gontaut, Baron de Biron, and the English commander Sir John Norreys, during the Eighty Years' War, the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604), and in the context of the French Wars of Religion.[1][2] The victory of the Spaniards ended the Treaty of Plessis-les-Tours, and Francis, Duke of Anjou (French: François de France), left the Netherlands in late June.[5][6]


Panoramic view of Steenbergen. Unknown artist.

After the failure of the combined army of Dutch, French and English soldiers led by Marshal Armand de Gontaut, Baron de Biron, put in charge in the army by Prince William of Orange (Dutch: Willem van Oranje), to relieve the city of Eindhoven,[7] the French commander moved his army to the north of Roosendaal, between Breda and Bergen op Zoom, and after several days of siege, captured the castle of Wouw on 10 May.[5][8] Meanwhile, the Prince of Parma, with the city of Eindhoven insured, continued his advance across North Brabant.[8] Farnese moved with part of his army to Namur, while the rest of the Spanish troops, commanded by General Karl von Mansfeld, captured the towns of Turnhout and Hoogstraten, defeating the small Dutch garrisons,[3] and finally, the city of Diest on May 27.[9]

From his base at Namur, the Prince of Parma advanced to capture the town of Herentals, but the siege was finally abandoned, and Parma continued to advance to confront the forces of Marshal Biron located near Roosendaal.[5] With the news of the Spanish advance, Biron moved his army to the outsides of Steenbergen, between the same town and Bergen op Zoom, and on June 17, with the arrival of the forces of Parma the battle began.[3][10]

Battle and capture of Steenbergen

Governor-General Don Alexander Farnese by Otto van Veen.

Despite their numerical superiority, the combined forces led by Biron and Sir John Norreys, who commanded the English infantry[11] along with the Welsh Captain Roger Williams,[12] the just officer who put some order in defending the Spanish attack, were literally swept away by the Spanish cavalry, and then by the infantry,[3] suffering heavy losses, thanks also to the bombardment success of the guns of Don Hernando de Acosta, Lieutenant-General of the artillery of the Army of Flanders, who had a very important role in the battle.[3][7] The forces of Biron and Norreys suffered at least 3,200 casualties, and almost all the baggage, barrels of gunpowder, 36 flags and 3 banners captured.[3] On the Spanish side the casualties were 400 dead or wounded.[7] The French Marshal himself, who tried to repel the attack of the Spaniards, he fell from his horse and broke his leg.[13]

French Marshal Armand de Gontaut, Baron de Biron, by Thierry Bellange.

The combined army, that was virtually destroyed, retreated in disarray to the fortress of Bergen op Zoom and other towns controlled by the Dutch rebels, and the Spanish troops took with little opposition Steenbergen.[3][13] A few days later, the lack of pay, and the differences between the French soldiers (mostly Catholics), and the Dutch and English Protestant troops (even the differences between the Dutch and English commanders), ended with hundreds of desertions among Biron's troops.[14][15]


Prince William of Orange by Michiel Jansz. van Mierevelt.

The result of the battle was an overwhelming Spanish victory, not only in terms of casualties in favour to the Spaniards, also in terms of immediate strategic consequences.[10] The position of Francis, Duke of Anjou, became impossible to hold with the States-General of the Netherlands, and he eventually left the Low Countries in late June.[5][6] The defeat and the end of the Treaty of Plessis-les-Tours was a severe blow to the Dutch Protestants and discredited William of Orange, his main supporter.[6] Moreover, the Spanish progress was unstoppable, and the Prince of Parma moved to Dunkirk, city blocked by the forces of the Spanish commander Don Cristóbal de Mondragón.[16] On July 16, the bombardment began, and a few days later, the city surrendered to the Spaniards, along with Nieuwpoort on July 23.[8][16]

The Spanish army continued its advance, and after the possibility of put under siege the port city of Ostend, the plan was abandoned, and the bulk of the army advanced to Diksmuide, that capitulated on 1 August.[17] Meanwhile, a Spanish detachment also captured Veurne and Menen.[17]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mack P. Holt p.190
  2. 2.0 2.1 James Tracy. The Founding of the Dutch Republic: War, Finance, and Politics in Holland 1572–1588
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Biography of Don Hernando de Acosta by Juan L. Sánchez.
  4. Jan Wagenaar. Vaderlandsche Historie. Volume 7 p.488
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Holt p.191
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Mack P. Holt p.192
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Holt p.190
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Tracy. The Founding of the Dutch Republic
  9. Graham Darby p.20
  10. 10.0 10.1 D. J. B. Trim p.253
  11. Knight, Charles Raleigh: Historical records of The Buffs, East Kent Regiment (3rd Foot) formerly designated the Holland Regiment and Prince George of Denmark's Regiment. Vol I. London, Gale & Polden, 1905, p. 19
  12. Nolan p.47
  13. 13.0 13.1 Jan Wagenaar. Vaderlandsche Historie. Volume 7 p.489
  14. Kamen, Henry (2005) p.140
  15. Mack P. Holt p.191
  16. 16.0 16.1 Jeremy Black p.110
  17. 17.0 17.1 Biography of Don Hernando de Acosta by Juan L. Sánchez


  • Black, Jeremy. European Warfare 1494-1660. Routledge Publishing 2002. ISBN 978-0-415-27531-6
  • Nolan, John S. (1997). Sir John Norreys and the Elizabethan Military World. Exter: University of Exeter Press. ISBN 08-59-89548-3
  • D. J. B. Trim. The chivalric ethos and the development of military professionalism. Brill 2003. The Netherlands. ISBN 90-04-12095-5
  • Kamen, Henry. Spain, 1469-1714: A Society Of Conflict. Pearson Education Limited. United Kingdom (2005). ISBN 0-582-78464-6
  • Darby, Graham. The Origins and Development of the Dutch Revolt. First published 2001. London. ISBN 0-203-42397-6
  • Tracy, J.D. (2008). The Founding of the Dutch Republic: War, Finance, and Politics in Holland 1572–1588. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920911-8
  • Mack P. Holt. The Duke of Anjou and the Politique Struggle During the Wars of Religion. First published 1986. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-32232-4

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