7.2. History in Documents. Chronology


Thus, in order to be fruitful, science must be pure. That is to say, the man of science must put aside all thoughts of personal advantage, of "practical" results, and concentrate exclusively on the task of discovering the facts and coordinating them in an intelligible theory.

Aldous Huxley, Man and Reality (1942)


Those who take the trouble to browse through archives, will be  be rewarded.

A young aristocrat appears in the fifteen seventies somewhere in the no-man’s land between being pro France, pro Spain, pro Netherlands. It would appear that the young man can't decide on one particular country, so he plays on all of them. When we catch a glimpse of him, he’s like a shooting star, no sooner espied than engulfed by the darkness: a fickle head *, a dazzling figure, a politically dramatic juggler of ever changing masks. The young Will o' the wisp is non other than Shake-speare. In those days he went by the name of  Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxenford - or Comte d'Auxford or Conde d'Oxfort.

At first it would appear that he sympathises with his uncle, the Catholic Duke of Norfolk who was later executed for high treason, but after the Saint Bartholomew's day massacre, his solidarity lies with his protestant father-in-law Lord Burghley. He befriended the soldier poet George Gascoigne who fought in the Netherlands against the Spaniards. He tentatively supported Lord Burghley in his endeavours to sell English warships to Spain (probably a ruse). Without obtaining the obligatory royal permission he set out for Haarlem where, as we can only guess, he wanted to secure the release of his friend George Gascoigne from a Spanish prison. He fell into the hands of robbing Sea beggars or Watergeuzen on his way home from Italy. He offered his services to the French King Henri III, as a diplomat - and supported Queen Elizabeth's “French Wedding” which was probably a ruse (that came to light after years of non comital, veiled promises). When he felt that he had been betrayed by his Catholic friends (Lord Howard and Sir Arundell), he denounced their pro-Spanish activities to the Queen. An extramarital affair with one of Elizabeth's maids of honour earned him a first class three month stay in the Tower of London.

Whosoever wishes to reach a fair judgement of Oxford's dealings in this turbulent period, must first read all of the available documents.

*  On May 11, 1573, young Gilbert Talbot wrote to his father (the Earl of Shrewsbury) from the Elizabethan royal court that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, twenty-three, had “lately grown into great credit, for the Queen’s Majesty delighteth more in his personage and his dancing and his valiantness than any other,” adding, “If it were not for his fickle head he would pass any of them shortly.”


CHRONOLOGY 1572 – 1574.


March  1572

Sea Beggars (watergeuzen) ejected from England.


April, 1

The Spanish garrison of Brill (Den Briel) called away to reinforce the French border. Planning initially to conduct a raid with 600 Walloon, Dutch, Scots and English Sea Beggars, Count Lumley de la Marck occupies the town.



Gascoigne leaves England in April, 1572 with one of the first bands of gentlemen adventurers under the command of Captain Thomas Morgan.



With the taking of Brill, the improvement in the political fortunes of the Prince of Orange and the funds provided by Sea beggar activity, large number of mercenaries from Scotland, France and England go into Dutch service. Veere, Vlissingen (Flushing), Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Alkmaar, Haarlem and most of the towns of Walcheren Island join the revolt and all proclaim William of Orange Stadhouder.


7 April 1572 (-February 1574)


 Siege of Middleburg by Sea Beggars and Rebels.


June, 6

Colonel Thomas Morgan is appointed in April 1572 captain of the first band of English volunteers that serve in the Low Countries under William of Orange. He lands with his company, three hundred strong, at Flushing on 6 June.



Sir Humphrey Gilbert arrives with 1500 English mercenaries (10 companies).

Based on Flushing from July to November 1572, Gilbert occupies substantial Spanish forces without, himself, showing outstanding military qualities. Edward Chester links up with Gilbert and campaigns with the rest of the regiment.

Jerome van T’seraerts (= Jerome de't Zeraerts) appointed Governor of Flushing by Prince of Orange.

George Gascoigne is one of a little force that for seven days protects the small unwalled town of Aardenburg, four miles from Sluys, and savs it from attack.




On August, 24 St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of the Huguenot’s in Paris during Henri of Navarre’s wedding to Princess Marguerite of Valois, sister to Charles IX, the King of France.

Siege was laid to Goes on the twenty-sixth of August, 1572, by Jerome van T’seraerts.


October, 1

Mechelen sacked for three days by unpaid Spanish soldiers as an example to towns that support William of Orange.


October 1572

The English mercenaries fail to take Goes.

The long, fruitless siege had discouraged the English, and they determined to return home. Sir William Morgan came to Flushing to urge the English to remain. He was unsuccessful in his efforts, and all the English left Flushing and returned home. George Gascoigne was one of this band of gentlemen adventurers, and he too returned to England at this time.


November, 1

Zutphen sacked by Spanish soldiers.



The long, fruitless siege had discouraged the English, and they determined to return home. Sir William Morgan came to Flushing to urge the English to remain. Thomas Morgan returns home with Sir Humphrey Gilbert and the rest, only to return to Holland in spring 1573 with 600 soldiers. George Gascoigne is one of this band of gentlemen adventurers, and he too returns to England at this time.


4 December 1572 - 12 July 1573

Siege of Haarlem. City defended by a garrison of 3,000 Scots, French, Germans and Walloons, 600 armed citizens of the city and a regiment of 300 women. Walter Morgan Wolf remains in the Netherlands over the winter of 1572/73, taking part in the efforts to save Haarlem.


March 19, 1573

George Gascoigne, together with Rowland York and William Herle, returns to Holland on March 19, 1573. They have a narrow escape when their drunken Dutch pilot runs their boat on the coast: twenty lads are drowned.


April 17, 1573

The naval Battle of Flushing (Vlissingen) was fought. The Dutch fleet initially left Flushing, but returned when the Spanish fleet was hit by the city's cannons. Five Spanish ships were seized, but the Spaniards managed to reach the cities of Middelburg and Arnemuiden.



Queen Elizabeth I and Duke of Alba agree not to support rebels in each others countries. Mercenaries and equipment still flow from England to rebels.


July, 13

Surrender of Haarlem. The citizens are allowed to buy themselves and the city free for 240,000 guilders, but the whole garrison (which included many English, French Huguenots and Germans) are executed with the exception of the Germans.


August, 5

At Flushing English volunteers, including George Gascoigne, help in the capture of Fort Ramykins (= Fort Rammekens), and in the great sea-fight, when the Zeeland ships attack the Spanish fleet from Antwerp, with supplies for Middelburg.


August, 21

Beginning of the siege of Alkmaar. The burghers hold off the Spanish with boiling tar and burning branches from their renewed city walls.


August, 31

An army of 1.200 Flemings, French, Scots and English under Colonel de Poyet capture Gertruidenberg. De Poyet ordered Walter Morgan Wolf and a Frenchman Captain Malion with eighteen hand-picked troops, including four Dutchmen who had lived and worked in the city to scale the ramparts of the city and to open the Breda Gate. This was the key to the city.



Colonel Thomas Morgan's regiment and several Scots companies are engaged in repulsing the attack of a detached Spanish division on Delft and other places between Rotterdam and Leiden.



After the Battle of Delft in October 1573, fought by a small Anglo-Dutch force under Thomas Morgan and an attacking Spanish force under Francisco de Valdez, the Spanish were repelled and forced to retreat. Captain Edward Chester highly distinguishes himself at the head of two hundred English men-at-arms, for which he is promoted by the Prince of Orange to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.


October, 8 

On September 23, William the Silent orders the dikes surrounding Alkmaar to be breached, thereby flooding the polders in which the Spanish troops are camped. This forces the Spanish commander, Don Fadrique, the son of the hated Alva himself, to retreat and the last Spanish soldiers leave Alkmaar on October 8. That is a turning point in the Eighty Years' War.



Ralph Lane first offers five or six Royal warships to Antonio de Guaras, the provisional ambassador of Spain in London.


October, 10

Battle of Zuider Zee between the Sea Beggars under Cornelis Dirckszoon, and the Spanish. Sea beggar victory with most of Spanish fleet, including the flagship “Inquisition” run aground.


October, 14

Colonel Chester is to quit the service of William of Orange but afterwards he and the Prince form a new alliance. Chester returns to England  to recruit new troops for the fight against the Spaniards.



The Duke of Alba returns to Spain. Don Luis Requesens is appointed to the position of Great Commander.


January 1574

Thomas Morgan returns to England early in January 1574, being mustered before her majesty near to St. James's.


January, 15-18

Oxford intervenes in the negotiations of the agent provocateur Ralph Lane: he offers Antonio Guaras six warships for a fee of 6000 pounds. Lord Burghley hears about the talks with Guaras and calls his son-in-law to reason.


January, 29

The naval Battle off Walcheren, fought between a Dutch rebel Sea Beggar fleet (which included English and Scottish troops) under Lodewijk van Boisot and a Spanish fleet under Julián Romero. - Captain Edward Chester and Captain George Gascoigne are commanding the English mercenaries. The Spanish fleet fails in attempt to relieve the siege of Middleburg.


February, 20

The Spanish garrison of Middleburg under the command of Cristobal de Mondragon surrenders. Spanish soldiers given safe conduct to Spanish held territory.



Elizabeth I and Don Luis Requesens agree on expulsion of each others rebels for their respective countries.


April, 14

Spanish victory at Mook over a force attempting to relieve siege of Leiden. Louis of Nassau, Henry of Nassau and Duke Christopher son of the Elector Palatine killed.


26 May- October

Second siege of Leiden. The garrison consists of five companies of Burgher Guard.


May, 28-29

The 500 English defenders of Fort Valkenburg near Leiden, commanded by Edward Chester and George Gascoigne, retreat in the face of  the Spanish attackers, who, with their 3000 soldiers, have them outnumbered. The British request to enter the town of Leiden. When they are rejected, they surrender to the Spaniards. The English soldiers are permitted to return to England with the exception of the captains, who are kept as hostages. George Gascoigne is imprisoned  in Haarlem, 20 miles from Leiden.


July, 1-28

Together with Lord Edward Seymour, Oxford leaves for Flanders. In the middle of July he reaches (Zalt)Bommel, where, acting on direct orders from the Queen, Thomas Bedingfield accompanies him back to England.


August, 3

The outer dikes along the Meuse and Yssel river are broken so as to make it impossible for the infantry to attack Leiden’s ramparts.



After his release in the end of September, George Gascoigne returns to England.


October, 3

Water levels rise permitting Sea Beggar ships to approach and eliminate Spanish positions around the city of Leiden. Spanish forces flee as the city is relieved.





Roger Williams, The actions of the Lowe Countries. [ed. 1618]

George Gascoigne, The Fruites of War [Posies, 1576]

A Tragicall Historie of the Troubles and Civile Warres of the lowe Countries, otherwise called Flanders. … Translated out of French into Englishe, by T.S[tocker]. gent. (London: 1583)

Emanuel van Meteren, A true discourse historicall of the succeeding governours in the Netherlands : London 1602.

Jan Wagenaar, Allgemeine Geschichte der Vereinigten Niederlande, von den ältesten bis auf gegenwärtige Zeiten, Dritter Teil. Leipzig 1758

Luc[as] Jean Joseph van der Vynckt, Geschichte der Vereinigten Niederlande von ihrem Ursprunge im Jahr 1560 an. Zürich 1793

John Lothrop Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, vol. I-III,  New York 1856

J. M. B. C. Kervijn de Lettenhove, Les Huguenots et les Gueux (6 vols) Bruges 1883-1885.

Henry Morley, English Writers, An Attempt towards A History of English Literature. Vol. VIII, From Surrey to Spenser. London 1892 (pp. 261-283)

Felix E. Schelling, The Life and Writings of George Gascoigne. Philology Literature and Archaeology, vol II, No.4. Boston 1893.

Robert Fruin, The Siege and Relief of Leyden in 1574 (1927)

Charles T. Prouty, Gascoigne in the Low Countries and the Publication of ‘A Hundreth sundrie Flowres’. The Review of English Studies, Vol. 12, No. 46 (Apr., 1936), pp. 139-146.

Charles Wilson, Queen Elizabeth and the revolt of the Netherlands, 1970

Caldecott-Baird, Duncan. ed. The Expedition in Holland 1572-1574: The Revolt of the Netherlands: the Early Struggle for Independence. from the manuscript by Walter Morgan [Wolff] (London 1976)

Anna E. C. Simoni, 'Walter Morgan Wolff: An Elizabethan Soldier and His Maps', Quaerendo 26 (1996): 58-76.

Trim, David J. B., Fighting Jacobʼs Wars. The Employment of English and Welsh Mercenaries in the European Wars of Religion: France and the Netherlands, 1562-1610. (Diss. London 2002)

Arnade, Peter J (2008). Beggars, Iconoclasts, and Civic Patriots: The Political Culture of the Dutch Revolt. Cornell University Press.

Tracy, James (2008). The Founding of the Dutch Republic: War, Finance, and Politics in Holland, 1572-1588. Oxford.

Rory Rapple, Martial Power and Elizabethan Political Culture: Military Men in England and Ireland, 1558-1594. Cambridge 2009.

Trim, David,  The Huguenots: History and Memory in Transnational Context. Brill Academic Publishers (2011).