Depiction of the capture of Den Briel. Jan Luyken, 1679
The Capture of Brielle by the Sea Beggars, or Watergeuzen, on 1 April 1572 marked a turning point in the uprising of the Low Countries against Spain in the Eighty Years' War. Militarily the success was minor, as Brielle was not being defended at the time. It did, however, provide the first foothold on land for the rebels at a time when the rebellion was all but crushed, and it offered the sign for a new revolt throughout the Netherlands. Over the next years the decision of the northern provinces to join the rebels would form the beginning of the Dutch Republic.
The Sea Beggars were led by William van der Marck, Lord of Lumey, and by two of his captains, Willem Bloys van Treslong and Lenaert Jansz de Graeff. After they were expelled from England by Elizabeth I, they needed a place to shelter their 25 ships. As they sailed towards Brill, they were surprised to find out that the Spanish garrison had left in order to deal with trouble in Utrecht. On the evening of April 1, the 600 men sacked the undefended port. As they were preparing to leave, one of the men said there was no reason they should leave where they were.
Dutch students are taught a short rhyme to remember this event:
- "Op 1 april verloor Alva zijn bril"
In English, this translates into "On April 1st, Alva lost his glasses". The pun arises from the fact that the name of the town ('Brielle' or 'Den Briel') sounds like 'bril', which is Dutch for 'glasses'.
- Elliott, John Huxtable (2000). Europe Divided, 1559-1598 (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-21780-0.
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