Visit Leiden – a hidden gem in The Netherlands
When visiting the Netherlands, you should definitely see Leiden, a hidden gem. A place full of stories. One tale concerns the key role of Leiden during the Dutch War of Independence. In this article this story will be told.
Every year, on the third of October, Leiden celebrates its liberation from Spanish oppression. On that day the city becomes one big mass of celebrating people. But what’s the reason behind this major celebration? On October 3, 1574, William of Orange, together with the sea beggars, ships crewed by rebels, freed Leiden from Spanish forces. This became one of the important events in the 80 years of war with Spain, which led to Dutch independence (1568-1648).
The hunger almost caused them to surrender the city. Luckily they didn’t!
During the war Dutch rebels were trying to free the Netherlands from Spanish occupation. The war had a religious cause. The Spanish King, Philip II, moved heaven and earth to suppress the growing popularity of Calvinism in the Netherlands, sending the Duke of Alva with his troops to the region. In the beginning it seemed as if the Dutch rebels, led by William of Orange, were losing ground. In 1573 the Duke of Alva made a first attempt to occupy the city of Leiden, but he failed. And despite many warnings from William of Orange, the city authorities ignored the continuing Spanish threat. On the night of May 25th the Spanish army led by Francisco de Valdez returned to resume occupation. The “Leienaren” (as we call Leiden citizens), bravely resisted his attempts, but the resulting siege quickly led to hunger and despair. Famine almost caused them to surrender the city. Luckily they didn’t!
The Netherlands is well known for water. William of Orange used this typical ‘Dutch’ phenomenon to advantage to defeat the Spanish forces. He breached the dikes, that normally held back the water. The whole area around the city was flooded forcing the Spanish forces to flee. In this way, after a long siege, the city was finally liberated by the forces of William of Orange. This liberation marked a turning point in Dutch history. Later, many other cities were freed from the Spanish threat.
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