Battle of Heiligerlee (1568)

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Battle of Heiligerlee (1568)
Part of the Eighty Years' War
Date23 May 1568
Result Dutch rebel victory [1]
Dutch Rebels Spanish Friesland
Commanders and leaders
Louis of Nassau
Adolf of Nassau   [2]
Johan de Ligne   [3]
3,900 infantry
200 cavalry
3,200 infantry
20 cavalry
Casualties and losses
50 dead or wounded 1,500 – 2,000 dead, wounded or captured

The Battle of Heiligerlee (Heiligerlee, Groningen, 23 May 1568) [4] was fought between Dutch rebels and the Spanish army of Friesland. This was the first Dutch victory during the Eighty Years' War.

The Groningen province of the Spanish Netherlands was invaded by an army consisting of 3,900 infantry led by Louis of Nassau and 200 cavalry led by Adolf of Nassau. Both were brothers of William I of Orange. The intention was to begin an armed uprising against the Spanish rulers of the Netherlands.

The Stadtholder of Friesland and also Duke of Aremberg, Johan de Ligne, had an army of 3,200 infantry and 20 cavalry.

Aremberg initially avoided confrontation, awaiting reinforcements from the Count of Meghem. However, on 23 May, Adolf's cavalry lured him to an ambush at the monastery of Heiligerlee. Louis' infantry, making up the bulk of the army, defeated the Spanish force which lost 1,500–2,000 men, while the invading force lost 50, including Adolf. The rebels captured seven cannons.

The invading force however, did not capture any cities and was soon defeated at the Battle of Jemmingen.

The death of Adolf of Nassau is mentioned in the Dutch national anthem (4th verse):

Graef Adolff is ghebleven, In Vriesland in den slaech,
"Count Adolf stayed behind, in Friesland, in the battle"


  1. Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupuy, Harper Encyclopedia of Military History , (HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 528.
  2. Menzel, Wolfgang, The history of Germany: from the earliest period to 1842, Vol.2, (George Bell & sons, 1908), 293.
  3. Laffin, John, Brassey's Dictionary of Battles, (Barnes & Noble Inc., 1995), 194.
  4. Laffin, 194.

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Coordinates: 53°9′N7°1′E / 53.150°N 7.017°E / 53.150; 7.017