Country: Holland / Netherlands
Starting Point: October 1399
Game Version: MiscMods 0.78 DW. After 1417, changed to Death and Taxes 3.4
AAR Style: Narrative / Textbook
Table of Contents
Prologue (1399 - 1416)
The Reign of William VI (October 1399 - August 1401) [this post]
Jacqueline's Childhood (September 1401 - June 1416)
Jacqueline von Wittlesbach, The Red Lioness of Holland (1416 - ?)
The Regency Council (June 1416 - August 1416)
The Declaration (September 1416 - October 1416)
The Gambit (November 1416 - December 1416)
The Price of Peace (January 1417 - April 1417)
A Second Try (April 1417 - November 1420)
A Tempting Proposal (November 1420)
God's Glorious Standard (November 1420)
Grief and Negotiations (November 1420 - June 1421)
The Netherlands Unification War (June 1421 - June 1425)
The Outrage (March 1427)
The Northern Trade War (April 1427 - January 1430)
Bonus Bios #1: Emperor Sigsimund
Mothers and Daughters (1430 - 1433)
Strange Men From Strange Lands (1434 - 1435)
The Second Partition of Burgundy (1436 - 1437)
The political situation in Holland had been dominated since 1350 by an intermittent conflict between two factions of the nobility, the Hooks and the Cods. When Empress Margaret of Bavaria inherited Holland in 1345, she sent her son William to rule in her name. William arrived with many new ideas and was determined to implement them. Five years later, the conservative Hooks had become dissatisfied with William's leadership, and requested that Margaret come to Holland to reign personally. The more progressive Cods had benefited from William's reign and backed him against his mother. Although the Hooks and their English allies were defeated by William in 1351 at the Battle of Vlaardingen, the conflict had already taken on a life of its own in the form of dozens of petty acts of retribution between the lower nobility and the feud lasted far beyond its root causes.
William V's rule did not last long, however, and he was declared insane in 1358. William's younger brother, the twenty two year old Albert I of Hainaut was appointed regent of Holland, thus joining Holland and Hainaut under a single ruler. Albert concentrated most of his attention on his home territories of Hainaut, leaving Holland's nobility to their own devices. Despite the ongoing low grade conflict between the Hooks and Cods, Albert's unobtrusive reign was prosperous if unremarkable for Holland.
This general state of affairs lasted until 1392, when Albert grew infatuated with a young Hollander woman named Aleid van Poelgeest he met during one of his visits, and took her as a mistress. Aleid was a Cod, and she developed significant political influence with her lover. The balance of power that had been maintained for forty years was suddenly badly upset in the Cod's favor. Desperate, the Hooks conspired with members of Albert's own household to murder the twenty two year old Aleid. They succeeded, but when the identity of the conspirators became known, Albert went into a violent rage. He marched with his army, conquering castle after castle, determined to bring the Hooks responsible to justice.
When the dust had settled, Albert returned to Hainaut, disgusted with Holland and its intrigue, and in 1394 he appointed his 29 year old son William VI to administer Holland in his name. Relations between son and father had never been very good, and if Albert had intended this move as a way of smoothing things over with his son, it would prove to be a gross miscalculation.
William VI is pictured here, age 35.
With Holland as his base of power, William VI consolidated his own strength around his Cod allies and plotted. Like his namesake uncle, he had many novel ideas, and used them to liberalize trade even further. He broke up certain guilds when he believed increased competition would profit the state, and formed others in formerly free trades. Complaints from the Hooks that had survived Albert's wrath grew loud enough that Albert sent a series of increasingly demanding letters to his son, all of which William ignored. By early 1399, it had become clear that Albert intended to soon revoke his son's authority in Holland. William was determined to strike first.
By coincidence, in October 1399, all of Western Europe exploded into war. The most recent truce in the Hundred Years War ended when Henry of Bolingbroke ascended to the English throne. The French, believing Henry had no intention of respecting the truce, launched an attack against all of the English possessions on the continent. At the same time, King Philippe the Bold of Burgundy tried to press his claim against Liege, and found himself embroiled in a conflict with a large number of smaller German states, including those to the east of Holland, Brabant and Gelre. Surrounded by chaos, William knew there would be no better time to escape his father's thumb.
After securing permission from the Burgundians, William told the army to march south, and only once they approached the city of Mons, capital of Hainaut and seat of his father, did he explain his purpose to his men. In a grand speech within sight of Mons, he told them that for too long, Holland had been ruled from afar, and that on this day, they would declare their independence. It was a bold and unexpected move, and a questionable one, not least because William himself was the son of a German and a Pole, and not in the least Dutch. But as the army dithered, a few well placed bribes put down the last dissent within the army's commanders, and the Hollander troops that ostensibly owed allegiance to Albert were now all too happy to work for his son. The unsuspecting Germanic troops still loyal to Albert were bivouacked outside the city walls, and William's Hollander troops descended upon them and slaughtered them.
What remained of Albert's personal army escaped into the city, and the gates were closed mere seconds before William's troops could. Distraught, William began a siege of Hainaut. Messengers quickly brought word of outraged declarations of war by both Brittany and, most distressingly, the Holy Roman Emperor himself. William knew he had to take the city and end the war before Bohemia's forces could be brought to bear, otherwise he would quickly find himself dead or worse.
While generally lost in the chaos of that bloody year, William VI's betrayal of his father still managed to filter into the ears of many nobles around Europe, shocking all. William was seen as a betrayer and an illegitimate usurper, something that would hinder his diplomatic efforts for years to come. Still, offers of alliance came flooding in from various German states. Knowing what little help they would be against the might of Bohemia and fearing getting dragged into other conflicts, they were all politely rebuffed.
The siege moved slowly. William had no true siege equipment, and his Hollander troops had little experience making them. His men pillaged the countryside for food to survive the winter as the century turned. By 1400, word had reached him of the less dangerous of his opponents having landed two thousand men on the shores of Holland.
With his men agitated to go defend their homeland, the newly proclaimed Count William of Holland had no choice but to leave a token force to prevent his father from resupplying and march home.
Though victorious on the field, his enemies managed to retreat their army in good order. He pursued them into Burgundy, only to find that they had boarded transports and had outflanked him, now besieging Amsterdam itself. He gave chase again, defeating the army from Brittany a second time, but he was unable to make the battle decisive, and they withdrew with light casualties.
William's army spent the Christmas of 1401 at home in Amsterdam, with more than a year having passed since his initial declaration of war. Unable to vigorously siege his father's castle in Mons while defending Holland at the same time, and receiving reports of the Bohemian Emperor's approach, William's mood was gloomy. By early February, with the Emperor's armies closing, the army was unhappily preparing to abandon their homeland and march back to Hainaut, and William visited his wife for what he believed would be the last time.
William had been married to his wife, Margaret of Burgundy, daughter of Philippe the Bold, for nearly sixteen years, yet they had produced no children together. History does not record exactly why. There are reports of bad blood between the couple in some accounts, even rumors that Margaret used various herbal methods to prevent herself from conceiving, supposedly as retaliation for William's womanizing. Other contemporary writers dismiss these rumors as falsehoods. Regardless of the truth of things, we do know that Margaret became with child during the last weeks of William's visit home, and that the couple's relationship was a positive one thereafter.
When scouts reported the Bohemian army only miles away, William's forces managed to escape southward through friendly Brabant, and William returned to his siege of Hainaut. The next nine months would be a race of sieges.
The Bohemians had overwhelming numbers on their side, and had brought large numbers of 'ribaudekin', or primitive cannons. Though not particularly effective, the terrible noise they caused, bombarding the city day in and day out, was a powerful intimidation factor. Margaret calmly and bravely led the city of Amsterdam during the siege. Hollander ships controlled the sea, ensuring that food would not be a problem, but Bohemia had no need to starve them out. Over the months, the Bohemians tried to breach Amsterdam's walls seven times, and though their own casualties were horrific, each assault was barely repelled by Amsterdam's increasingly exhausted defenders. Heedless of her own safety, an increasingly pregnant Margaret made daily rounds of the walls, taking the time to meet, talk and pray with the shrinking number of defenders. All accounts agree that her leadership was invaluable during the siege.
The layout of the city of Amsterdam
In August, isolated and unaware of William's troubles at home, Albert I agreed to a parlay with his son. In a stroke of diplomatic genius, William secured a treaty with his father, granting William's reign in Holland legitimacy. Albert, who had feared William desired the throne of Hainaut as well, believed he was getting off easy. That belief was quickly shattered once the siege was lifted and he discovered the truth of William's dire situation. Albert was utterly enraged by his son's duplicity, but the treaty was signed, and a victorious William rode hard home, presenting it, ink still fresh, to an incredulous Emperor Vaclav von Luxemburg of Bohemia.
In the last days of the siege, on August 16th 1401, Margaret gave birth to a daughter that she and her husband named Jacqueline. One historical account tells us a story of how the chamber where Margaret lay as she gave birth was struck by a cannon blast, even as the babe was pulled from her. New mother, midwife and newborn alike were peppered with fragments of glass from the window. Though probably apocryphal, the tale serves mainly to name Jacqueline as a child born in violence, foreshadowing the fascinating life Jacqueline, the Red Lioness of Holland, would lead.
Without casus belli, the Emperor had no choice but to lift his siege and head home. William entered Amsterdam victorious and a new father, and for the immediate moment, all was well.