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The sacking and looting of Mechelen by Spanish troops, October 2, 1572

The Spanish Fury at Mechelen was an event in the Eighty Years' War on October 2, 1572 in which the city of Mechelen was conquered by the Spanish army and brutally sacked.


In spring and summer 1572 many cities in the Low Countries came under control of William of Orange, some actively supporting the rebels, other taking a more cautious attitude. Mechelen had opened its gates to the troops of William on August 31. William continued his advance towards Mons, but left a garrison in Mechelen under command of Bernard van Merode.
On September 21 William was forced by a large Spanish army under the Duke of Alba to withdraw to Holland. The Duke of Alba now wanted to retake all cities in the South and decided to set an example. He ordered his son Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo to punish Mechelen for tolerating a rebel garrison. Plundering this rich city would also calm his troops, which hadn't received any pay in a long time.

The sack of Mechelen

When Bernard de Merode heard that a much stronger Spanish force was approaching Mechelen, he and his men left the city. The mainly Catholic people of Mechelen welcomed the Spanish by singing psalms of penitence in a gesture of surrender. But despite this, Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo unleached his slaughtering, raping and pillaging troops during three days upon the city. Alba reported to King Philip II afterwards that "no nail was left in the wall".[1][2]


On the short term, the sack of Mechelen had the desired effect. All cities on Alba's path surrendered without resistance. The next example would be set in the Spanish Fury at Zutphen on November 15.

It is important to distinguish the so-called "Spanish Furies" in 1572 from the Spanish Fury at Antwerp in 1576, as these were explicitly ordered by the military commanders. The Sack of Antwerp was perpetrated by mutinous troops.


  1. Arnade (2008) p. 226–229.
  2. Elsen, Jean (February 2007). "De nood- en belegeringsmunten van de Nederlandse opstand tegen Filips II – Historisch kader" (in Dutch). Collection J.R. Lasser (New York). Nood- en belegeringsmunten, Deel II. Jean Elsen & ses Fils s.a., Brussels, Belgium. p. 4. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 

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