October 17, 2021
The Siege of Leiden was the siege of Leiden by the Spanish army during the first phase of the Eighty Years' War, the Dutch Revolt. The siege took place from October 30, 1573 to October 3, 1574, with a two-month break in the spring of 1574. The siege ended with the liberation of the city. In 1573, the Dutch Revolt had been crushed almost throughout the Netherlands by the Spanish governor Alva. The resistance only survived in parts of Holland and Zeeland. In October 1573, Leiden became Alva's next target. General Francisco de Valdez was ordered to carry out the siege. Valdez closed Leiden off from the outside world with fortresses and redoubts with the intention of forcing the city to surrender by starvation. William of Orange asked his brother Lodewijk van Nassau to carry out a diversionary maneuver in the east of the Netherlands to lure the Spanish army away from Leiden. Fearful that their supply would be cut, the Spaniards lifted the siege and moved east. A battle ensued at Mook in April 1574 in which the army of Louis of Nassau was crushed to death. Shortly afterwards, the Spaniards resumed the siege of Leiden. In the months that followed, food shortages arose in the city and the population gradually threatened to starve. If Leiden had fallen, Delft would also have become untenable and the revolt might have been smothered. In an act of desperation, the States of Holland agreed to Orange's proposal to flood a large part of the south of Holland in order to drive out the Spanish troops. After breaching the dikes, a fleet of armed flat-bottomed boats manned with beggars and mercenaries moved through the water towards the encircled city. In the night of 2 to 3 October, the Spanish army left the last redoubt at Leiden. The next day the beggars sailed into the city in boats and distributed food to the hungry population. To commemorate the siege and relief, Leidens Ontzet is celebrated every year on 3 October.