Military Wiki
Siege of Zutphen (1591)
Part of the Eighty Years' War & the Anglo–Spanish War
Capture of Zutphen by Maurice of Orange in 1591 - Verovering van Zutphen door Prins Maurits in 1591 (Johannes Janssonius, 1663).jpg
The Capture of Zutphen in 1591 - print by Jan Janssonius
Date19 to 30 May 1591
LocationZutphen, Guelders
(present-day the Netherlands)
Result Dutch & English victory[1][2]
 Dutch Republic
England England
Commanders and leaders
Dutch Republic Maurice of Orange
England Francis Vere
Spain Unknown
9000 soldiers
1,600 cavalry
1,000 (Spanish and Walloons)[3]
Casualties and losses
Light Heavy
Most captured

The Siege of Zutphen was an eleven day siege of the city of Zutphen by States and English troops led by Maurice of Nassau, during the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo–Spanish War. The siege began on 19 May 1591 after a clever ruse by the besiegers, the city was then subjected to short a siege after which the Spanish garrison surrendered eleven days later.[1][4]


Maurice of Nassau

Zutphen was a Hanseatic city on the east bank of the River IJssel and had a turbulent period. In 1572 with resurgence of the Dutch rebellion against Philip II of Spain, Zutphen was first conquered by State troops led by Willem IV van den Bergh. The city was later recaptured by the Spaniards led by Don Frederick, and the population was punished and then slaughtered for the surrender earlier that year.[5]

In 1586 the English under the Earl of Leicester took Zutphen's important outlying sconce but not long after English officer turncoat Rowland York treacherously handed the sconce over to the Spaniards leaving Zutphen in their complete control.[5] Yorke subsequently died there of smallpox a year later although he may have been poisoned by the Spanish in case of double treachery.[6] As a consequence the nearby town of Deventer soon followed, handed over to the Spaniards by the treacherous William Stanley.[7]

In 1590 Maurice had taken Breda using a similar tactic to the Trojan horse and was thus able to use the place as a base for further operations. The States army could then launch an offensive at three points; to the South, to the East and to the North. Maurice chose the East with the towns along the River Ijssel heading towards Nijmegen.[4]

By the beginning of 1591 Maurice's first goal was to take back Zutphen. With the parallel waterways he could then move the troops and artillery as quickly as possible and also to deny the Spanish of bringing reinforcements to the besieged towns.[2] The garrison of Zutphen itself consisted of nearly 1,000 Spaniards and Walloons, and on the west bank of the river lay the important sconce.[3]


Siege of Zutphen in 1591 by Bartholomeus Dolendo - The English are attacking the sconce at top of picture

With 100 ships Maurice's army consisted of 9000 soldiers and 1600 horsemen which marched to Zutphen.[8] The rapid march in five days meant that Maurice could then prepare his artillery for the siege of which were on the ships; a far easier transportation rather than over untransportable boggy muddy ground.[9]

In order to take Zutphen, the sconce had to be taken across the river which controlled the main bridge to the town. Once this had been taken the town could be besieged proper once all the heavy guns from the barges had disembarked.[3]

Maurice hoped to use another ruse as daring as the one he had used at Breda with the peat barge. Francis Vere in charge of the English troops wanted the 'dirt' removed from the 1587 treachery and thus wanted to lead the assault.[10] Vere got his wish and Maurice ordered him to take the sconce on the Veluwe opposite Zutphen by sending no more than a dozen men and disguise them as farmers, some even dressed as women.[3] It was hoped that the Spanish would think they were refugees escaping from the States army and would let them in. Once the sconce was captured Zutphen would have no hope of holding out and would rely on a long awaited Spanish relief effort.[11]

Vere led the English troops to Doesburg and set the plan in motion. The disguised soldiers ran towards the fort having been 'pursued' by a fake cavalry charge. The garrison opened the gates and subsequently let them in; the English then went as far as selling them butter, cheese and eggs to the guards.[12] When the order was given the English cut down the guard quickly enough to allow the Dutch cavalry to rush in, followed by the rest of the troops as they had been hidden by a large mound on the left.[10] Soon the States English force then overpowered the Spanish and turning the guns on Zutphen.[3]

After this successful strategy Marice then began the siege proper after easily crossing the now secured bridge and were further reinforced by Count William Louis' Frisian companies. The Dutch gunners then bought thirty artillery pieces up to three points in case the garrison tried to retake the town and then opened up a heavy bombardment.[3] Not long after this the Spanish garrison soon saw that any further resistance was now useless and surrendered to the besiegers.[10][11]


The town which had so eluded the Dutch was now firmly in their hands and the Spanish had lost an important town.[4] The terms of the surrender were light, the garrison were allowed to march away, the citizens of what was left were allowed three days to either depart or swear obedience to the States General.[3] Once achieved Maurice established a strong garrison in Zutphen and then marched north with his army, his artillery and munitions being sent down the Issel in barges.[3]

Maurice's first major campaign had been a success and the strategic town of Coevorden was his next target, but first he decided to move on Deventer and after a short siege captured the city.[1] He then went on to Delfzijl and Hulst before targeting Groningen the following year and would give Utrecht and Holland itself a significant bufferzone.[2][4]

Vere was nicknamed 'the fox' after his successful ruse employed during the siege; he dug up Rowland Yorke by having his body hanged and gibbeted as a reminder of the treachery.[11] Zutphen would remain in Dutch hands for the rest of the war.

See also

  • Battle of Zutphen
  • List of Stadtholders of the Low Countries
  • List of Governors of the Spanish Netherlands


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Watson, Robert (1839). The History Of The Reign Of Philip The Second, King Of Spain. Lyon Public Library: Tegg. pp. 473–74. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 MacCaffrey pg 259
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Motley pg 104-06
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 van Nimwegen pg. 155
  5. 5.0 5.1 Motley, p. 60
  6. Bertie, Five Generations of a Loyal House, p. 120; but cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581–90, p. 466, where he is said to have died of the smallpox.
  7. Randall, pp. 790–791
  8. J Buisman, A.F.V. van Engelen (1998): Duizend jaar weer, wind en water in de Lage Landen. Deel 4: 1575-1675 Franeker: Van Wijnen ISBN 9051941439 (Dutch)
  9. J. Hoffenaar, Joep van Hoof, Jaap de Moor (2002): Vuur in beweging: 325 jaar veldartillerie, 1677-2002 Uitgeverij Boom. ISBN 9053527354 (Dutch)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Tupper, Arthur (1837). Historical Records of the British Army (Infantry), Issue 3. Great Britain. Adjutant-General's Office: University of Michigan. pp. 48–49. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Robinson pg. 97
  12. Davies, C.M. (1842). History of Holland, from the Beginning of the Tenth to the End of the Eighteenth Century, Volume 2. Parker. 


  • Henty, G. A. (2004). By England's Aid: Or the Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604). Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 9781419111372. 
  • Honan, Park (2005). Christopher Marlowe:Poet & Spy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191622793. 
  • MacCaffrey, Wallace T. (1994). Elizabeth I: War and Politics, 1588-1603. Princeton University: Princeton Paperbacks. ISBN 9780691036519. 
  • Markham, C. R. (2007). The Fighting Veres: Lives Of Sir Francis Vere And Sir Horace Vere. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1432549053. 
  • Motley, John Lothrop (2006). The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Entire 1566–74. Hard Press. ISBN 978-1406952162. 
  • van Nimwegen, Olaf (2010). The Dutch Army and the Military Revolutions, 1588-1688 Volume 31 of Warfare in History Series. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 9781843835752. 
  • Randall, David (2011). "Netherlands Expedition". Encyclopaedia of Tudor England. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 790–791. ISBN 9781598842982. 
  • Robinson, Paul (2006). Military Honour and the Conduct of War: From Ancient Greece to Iraq. Cass Military Studies, Routledge. ISBN 9780203969632. 
  • Rowse, A. L. (2006). Expansion of Elizabethan England. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0299188245. 

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).