Thursday 26 November 2020

The Low Countries 1411 - 1478

Interest in the Low Countries of the 15th century came as a result of my researching the Holy Roman Empire with a final goal of developing a campaign game, similar to one made for the Merovingian period. The Low Countries of the period encompassed modern day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, parts of Northern France and some German lands bordering Limburg. For most of the century these were the sovereign domains of three dynastic families, Luxembourg, Hapsburg and Wittelsbach.

Broadly speaking, the House of Luxembourg held Limbourg, Luxembourg and Brabant, which reached as far south to France and the House of Wittelsbach, the counties of Holland, Hainaut, Zeeland and Friesland by the first half of the 15th century slowly losing territory from dynastic marriages to Burgundy. Following the death of Charles, the Bold, the House of Habsburg asserted its sovereignty over Burgundian territories gaining all by the first quarter of the 16th century. During the 15th century, the Low Countries experience of economic and social growth among its urban centres followed a similar path to that experienced in Northern Italy and Northern Germany, but its town councils asserting more power than other parts of Europe. This was a time when trade and prosperity generated a relative period of peace. Yet, it was not without its disagreements.

There were few major battles in the Low Countries during this time, but in its place were an abundant number of skirmishes, sieges and plunder raids such as the one which devastated the Hague in 1528. High taxation, trade and customs barriers and succession disputes often led to conflicts between the duchies and counties of the Low Countries (see link below) and fortunately, many are documented in Dutch or the Frisian language. My research continues, but from what has been done I will pass on a few observations.

The DBA list

The sub-list IV/57c (1411-1478) for the Low Countries gives a large number of pikemen supported by billmen, crossbow, handgunners and artillery with a home terrain of arable. Designing a historical scenario, one may wish to consider adding a few optional troop types and include a second home terrain.


An arable home terrain suits the Low Countries, yet as one passes north of the Maas and Rhine rivers, littoral would seem a better fit. The Maas River empties into the North Sea passing the islands of Zeeland; the Amstel, Eem and Ijssel Rivers empty into the Zuiderzee whose shoreline touches the counties of Holland, Friesland, the Duchy of Gelderland and the Bishopric of Utrecht. More importantly, the cities of Deventer, Groningen, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Zutphen, and Zwolle were a part of the Hanseatic League, all with harbours on the coast or inland. Lakes, bogs and marsh were common enough to be present on the game board and with and for the modeller, most castles or fortified manor houses did have moats.

List review

In the link below you have long list of internal conflicts, yet what is surprising, 57c is not listed as an enemy of itself. This is well the case with the Italian Condotta and the Medieval German, likewise, 57c should also be listed as an ally to reflect mutual assistance among counties and duchies.

While north of the Maas and Rhine River is not cavalry country, ducal retinues (3Kn/4Bd) or mercenary cavalry (Cv) would not be out of place on the battlefield, albeit in small numbers. At the Battle of Brustem (1467) 500 cavalry were present on the side of Liege when they faced a Burgundian host.

At times, guild infantry was less than enthusiastic to take to the field and in their place, mercenaries were hired from Flanders or Brabant. This can be listed as a separate entry for a portion of guild pikemen (4Pk or 7Hd).  

Main holdings:

House of Luxembourg

Limbourg, Luxembourg, Brabant, Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia. They also provided two Holy Roman Emperors (1355-1378, 1368-1437)), one King of Bohemia (1346-1378), one King of the Romans (1346-1378),

House of Wittelsbach

Bavarian, the Palatinate, Brandenburg, the counties of Holland, Hainaut, Zeeland and Friesland, provided one Holy Roman Emperor (1328-1347), one King of the Romans (1400-1410), one King of Hungary (1305–1309) and one King of Denmark and Norway (1440–1448).

House of Hapsburg

Principle holdings included Austria, Steiermark, Carinthia, Krain, Tirol, Sundgau and Breisgau adding later Burgundy following the death of Charles the Bold. 

Two finely painted armies of the Low Countries. 

Low Countries (Ghent) DBA Fanaticus (paddy649) 

Low Countries DBA Fanaticus (goragrad)

War in theNetherlands in the Middle Ages (Wiki)

List of Castles in the Netherlands (Wiki)

Map: Muir's Historical Atlas - Medieval and Modern, London 1911, Internet Medieval Sourcebook, Paul Halsall

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