Military Wiki
Siege of Steenwijk (1580–1581)
Part of the Eighty Years' War & Anglo–Spanish War
De vergeefse belegering van Steenwijk door Graaf van Rennenberg (Lalaing) in 1580-81 (Jan Luyken).jpg
The failed Spanish siege of Steenwijk under Count Rennenberg in 1580/1581 by Jan Luyken
DateOctober 18, 1580 – February 23, 1581
(present-day Netherlands)
Result Anglo-Dutch victory[1][2]
Dutch Republic Dutch Rebels
Kingdom of England England
Commanders and leaders
Dutch Republic Johan van den Kornputand
Kingdom of England John Norreys
Spain George van Lalaing
1,200 (by December) 6,000 infantry,
1,200 cavalry[3]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Heavy

The Siege of Steenwijk took place from October 18, 1580 – February 23, 1581 during the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo–Spanish War between a besieging Spanish force under turncoat George van Lalaing against a States garrison at Steenwijk under Johan van den Kornputand. An English and States force under John Norreys successfully relieved the town and the Spanish subsequently lifted the siege in February leaving the Dutch and English victorious.[1]


From March 1577 the Spanish had bought a contingent of soldiers from Wallonia to maintain their rule. The States of Overijssel however knew that payment of wages was overdue as a result this occupation force in March 1580 chose the side of the insurgents, despite the offers and pleas from the Count of Renneberg.[3]

The Overijssel States had ensured the presence of a company of soldiers led by Captain Olthof. In October, a second company led by Johan van den Kornput arrived at Steenwijk. Van den Berg in 1578 being ahead of Kornput had yet to still provide assistance to the siege of Deventer, after which the city could be forced to surrender and came into States' hands.[4]


The day after the arrival of Van den Kornput in Steenwijk, on October 18, 1580, the Spanish under George Lalang, Count of Renneberg, with an army of over 6,000 soldiers and another 1200 riders laid siege to Steenwijk. The inhabitants of Steenwijk could not use the crop fields because they were too dry and the water in the rivers were too low.[3]

The bombardment in November that year destroyed about seventy houses and formed a true test for the city residents and a small defense force of only 600 soldiers. It took until December before help came from the English and States soldiers led by the English captain John Norreys.[5] With fresh supplies this relief albeit temporary was the turning point.[2]

As the siege took place in the winter, the besiegers and besieged suffered severely from the cold weather. The city canal and Vledder Aa both froze over several times causing problems such as soldiers and guns falling through the ice. The decisive moment of the siege came when Norreys and his men launched a surprise sally on January 24 which broke up many of the Spanish siege guns and inflicted casualties and capturing numerous equipment and men – total losses for the Spanish were nearly 400 men (most of whom were captured).[5] More was to come when Norreys got Steenwijk supplied by a ruse; engaging Rennenberg's men in a skirmish line which enabled a hundred men with food and clothing to supply the garrison.[3]

On February 23, 1581 the situation for the besieged was desperate with many falling ill due to exposure and soon Count Renneberg, himself succumbed. Eventually seeing the impossibility of gaining ground, sitting out the winter months and supplies running low on ammunition, Rennenburg gave up the siege and his men retreated.[1][3]


Steenwijk had persisted during the four-month siege due to the decisive action by captain Johan van den Kornput and the relief by Captain Norreys as well as having fought off the threat of disease.[3] The Spanish force would suffer another defeat at Kollum when they were pursued and defeated by Norry's troops in July of the same year leading to the death of Count of Renneberg.[1] He was buried in the Martini Church in Groningen.

The Spaniards would return however crossing the Al in November 1582. Led by Juan Baptista van Taxis the city was soon overcome, in which the remaining Protestants fled the city. Steenwijk was a Spanish stronghold, with only fifty of the original inhabitants. Only Zeeland, Utrecht and Friesland were not in Spanish hands.[2] In a short time the Spaniards did much to make major improvements and the army was expanded to over 1,000 men consisting of Spaniards, Italians, Walloons and Burgundians led by Anthonie de Coquele.[4]

On May 28, 1592 Prince Maurice and William Louis with his reconquest of much of the States, amassed an army of 8,000 men and closed all roads to and from Steenwijk which again had to undergo a siege. On July 5, 1592 after a fierce battle that lasted 44 days, the Spaniards surrendered. Steenwijk in this time though was almost entirely ruined. It was not until 1597, after a failed attack by the Spanish under Count Frederik van den Bergh; the Council of State, saw the resources available for reconstruction of the defenses as well as the city itself.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Jacques p. 969
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Tracy pg 83–84
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Nolan pg. 43–44
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Buisman, Jan (1998). Duizend jaar weer, wind en water in de Lage Landen. Deel 4: 1575–1675 Duizend jaar weer, wind en water in de Lage Landen. Deel 4: 1575–1675. Franeker: Van Wijnen. ISBN 90-5194-143-9. Duizend jaar weer, wind en water in de Lage Landen. Deel 4: 1575–1675.  (Dutch)
  5. 5.0 5.1 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. 17


  • Davies, Charles Maurice (1841). History of Holland, from the beginning of the tenth to the end of the eighteenth century. 1. London, UK: J.W. Parker. 
  • Fissel, Mark Charles (2001). English warfare, 1511–1642; Warfare and history. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-21481-0. 
  • Jaques, Tony (2006). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A Guide to 8500 Battles from Antiquity Through the Twenty-first Century. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-33536-5. 
  • Motley, John Lothrop. The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Entire 1566–74. 
  • Nolan, John S. (1997). Sir John Norreys and the Elizabethan Military World. Liverpool University Press – Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and Studies. ISBN 978-0-85989-548-4. 
  • Schuurman, L.N. (1835). De belegering van Steenwijk, door de Spanjaarden, in 1580. Tijl.  (Dutch)
  • Tracy, James (2008). The Founding of the Dutch Republic:War, Finance, and Politics in Holland, 1572–1588. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-160728-8. 

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