Siege of Neuss

Last updated
Siege of Neuss
Part of the Burgundian Wars
Belagerung von Neuss 1474-1475 - Conradius Pfettisheim.jpg
The Siege of Neuss, from Geschichte Peter Hagenbachs und der Burgunderkriege (1477) by Konrad Pfettisheim  [ de ]
Date29 July 1474 – 27 June 1475
Result Siege abandoned after relief by Imperial forces.
Arms of the Duke of Burgundy since 1430.svg
Burgundian State
DEU Koeln COA.svg
Imperial City of Cologne a
Commanders and leaders
Arms of the Duke of Burgundy since 1430.svg
Charles the Bold,
Duke of Burgundy
DEU Koeln COA.svg
Herman of Hesse,
Administrator of Cologne
a: Cologne had been effectively independent of the Archbishopric-Electorate since the Battle of Worringen in 1288, but did not become de jure independent until granted Imperial immediacy in the aftermath of this siege.

The Siege of Neuss, from 1474–75, [1] was linked to the Cologne Diocesan Feud and part of the Burgundian Wars. The siege, led by Charles the Bold against the Imperial City of Neuss, was unsuccessful. Charles was compelled by the approach of a powerful Imperial army to raise the siege.



Under Charles's father, Philip the Good, the Burgundy had allied itself to the cause of the newly-elected Archbishop of Cologne, Ruprecht. Ruprecht proved immensely unpopular, and by 1471 several major towns in the archbishopric, as well as the Kölners themselves, were on the verge of revolt. Attempts by the Emperor Frederick III to mediate the conflict failed, and in 1474 Charles the Bold signed a treaty with Ruprecht which stipulated that Charles would subdue the rebels and serve as Ruprecht's lifelong protector in return for 200,000 florins a year. To secure his western border, Charles concluded a treaty with Louis XI of France and then prepared to march into the Rhine valley; contemporaries suspected his real motive was the eventual reconquest of all of Alsace.

The siege

Charles's route towards Cologne led him past Neuss, one of the centers of resistance against Ruprecht. Fearing the threat Neuss would pose to his exposed rear if left uninvested, Charles prepared to lay siege to the city, and the investment began on 29 July 1474. The Neussers, though they had had only a short time to prepare, laid in enough provisions to last until Christmas. They were led by Hermann, Landgrave of Hesse, and had the support of many nearby towns and cities.

Charles's army set up siege lines to the North and West of the city; the South and East were guarded by the rivers Krur and Rhine, respectively. Two large islands lay in the Rhine, however, and Charles decided to capture them, reasoning that he would then control passage along the Rhine (and thus prevent the city from being resupplied) and the water supply to the city's moat. Several assaults in early and mid-August eventually captured the islands, though with heavy losses; soon thereafter a bridge to one of the islands collapsed, drowning many of Charles' Italian soldiers. The Burgundians were also harried by hostile peasants.

In September Charles's Italians and English archers launched a 3,000-strong attack on one of Neuss' gates, which was repulsed. The next night, Kölners floated a fire-boat down the Rhine to destroy Charles' pontoon bridges, but the Burgundian river-fleet diverted it successfully. Shortly thereafter Charles' English archers, upset by the arrears of pay, began to cause trouble, and as Charles tried to calm them they opened fire. Charles was unharmed, but a rumor spread that the English had killed him, and enraged Burgundians began to slaughter the English until Charles presented himself to his army. Throughout the siege he worked tirelessly to keep up morale and to prosecute the siege, and it was a common belief that he slept fully armored for only a few hours a night.

The Neussers, bolstered by Hermann's Hessian troops and the support of Kölners, who skirmished with the Burgundians and smuggled provisions into the city while disguised as Italians, held out resolutely. Charles' men captured a German trying to swim the Rhine with a message that declared that Emperor Frederick was approaching with a huge army, and Charles redoubled his efforts, to no avail.

By May, Frederick was on the move, his army slowed by drunken brawls between soldiers from different regions of the Empire and by the need to recapture other cities from the Burgundians. But by the end of May he had arrived, and the Burgundians, after signing a provisional treaty, began to dismantle their siege works. At first, Burgundians, Imperials, and Kölners fraternized, but soon the Germans began to harass the Burgundians (the Kölners stole five Burgundian ships loaded with cannon), precipitating a sudden and violent assault on the unsuspecting Germans. Sporadic fighting continued until the papal legate present at the siege threatened to excommunicate both Charles and Frederick unless they ended the fighting; this threat, probably an idle one, enabled the two monarchs to conclude hostilities without losing face. The siege was finally terminated on 27 June 1475. [2]

The failure of the siege of Neuss was attributed by the inhabitants of the city to the intervention of their patron saint, Quirinus of Neuss. [3]

In Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle, the Siege of Neuss has the title character's mercenary company involved in a skirmish with Charles the Bold's forces.

Related Research Articles

War of the Polish Succession War in Europe 1734–1738

The War of the Polish Succession was a major European conflict sparked by a Polish civil war over the succession to Augustus II of Poland, which the other European powers widened in pursuit of their own national interests. France and Spain, the two Bourbon powers, attempted to test the power of the Austrian Habsburgs in western Europe, as did the Kingdom of Prussia, whilst Saxony and Russia mobilized to support the eventual Polish victor. The fighting in Poland resulted in the accession of Augustus III, who in addition to Russia and Saxony, was politically supported by the Habsburgs.

Worms, Germany Place in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, situated on the Upper Rhine about 60 kilometres (40 mi) south-southwest of Frankfurt-am-Main. It had approximately 82,000 inhabitants as of 2015.

Charles the Bold 15th-century Duke of Burgundy

Charles, nicknamed the Bold, was the fifteenth-century Duke of Burgundy from 1467 to 1477.

Franco-Dutch War International conflict

The Franco-Dutch War, often just the Dutch War, was a conflict that lasted from 1672 to 1678 between the Dutch Republic and France, each supported by allies. France had the support of England and Sweden, while the Dutch were supported by Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and Denmark.

Neuss Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Neuss is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located on the west bank of the Rhine opposite Düsseldorf. Neuss is the largest city within the Rhein-Kreis Neuss district. It is primarily known for its historic Roman sites, as well as the annual Neusser Bürger-Schützenfest. Neuss and Trier share the title of "Germany's oldest city"; and in 1984 Neuss celebrated the 2000th anniversary of its founding in 16 BCE.

Burgundian Wars conflict between the Dukes of Burgundy and the Old Swiss Confederacy, 1474–77

The Burgundian Wars (1474–1477) were a conflict between the Burgundian State and the Old Swiss Confederacy and its allies. Open war broke out in 1474, and in the following years the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, was defeated three times on the battlefield and killed in the Battle of Nancy in 1477. The Duchy of Burgundy and several other Burgundian lands then became part of France, while the Burgundian Netherlands and the Franche-Comté were inherited by Charles's daughter Mary of Burgundy, and eventually passed to the House of Habsburg upon her death because of her marriage to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Battle of Morat Swiss victory in the Burgundian Wars, 22 June 1476

The Battle of Morat was a battle in the Burgundian Wars (1474–77) that was fought on 22 June 1476 between Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy, and a Swiss Confederate army at Morat/Murten, about 30 kilometres from Bern. The result was a crushing defeat for the Burgundians at the hands of the Swiss.

Swabian War War between the Old Swiss Confederacy and the House of Habsburg; Swiss victory

The Swabian War of 1499 was the last major armed conflict between the Old Swiss Confederacy and the House of Habsburg. What had begun as a local conflict over the control of the Val Müstair and the Umbrail Pass in the Grisons soon got out of hand when both parties called upon their allies for help; the Habsburgs demanding the support of the Swabian League, and the Federation of the Three Leagues of the Grisons turning to the Swiss Eidgenossenschaft. Hostilities quickly spread from the Grisons through the Rhine valley to Lake Constance and even to the Sundgau in southern Alsace, the westernmost part of Habsburg Further Austria.

Burgundian Circle imperial circle of the Holy Roman Empire

The Burgundian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1512 and significantly enlarged in 1548. In addition to the Free County of Burgundy, the Burgundian Circle roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e., the areas now known as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg and adjacent parts in the French administrative region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

Siege of Compiègne Was Joan of Arcs final military action.

The Siege of Compiègne (1430) was Joan of Arc's final military action. Her career as a leader ended with her capture by the Burgundians during a skirmish outside the town on 23 May 1430. Although this was otherwise a minor siege, both politically and militarily, the loss of France's most charismatic and successful commander was an important event of the Hundred Years' War.

Hundred Years War (1415–1453) third part of the Hundred Years War

The Lancastrian War was the third and final phase of the Anglo-French Hundred Years' War. It lasted from 1415, when King Henry V of England invaded Normandy, to 1453, when the English lost Bordeaux. It followed a long period of peace from the end of the Caroline War in 1389. The phase was named after the House of Lancaster, the ruling house of the Kingdom of England, to which Henry V belonged.

House of Valois-Burgundy noble family

The House of Valois-Burgundy, or the Younger House of Burgundy, was a noble French family deriving from the royal House of Valois. It is distinct from the Capetian House of Burgundy, descendants of King Robert II of France, though both houses stem from the Capetian dynasty. They ruled the Duchy of Burgundy from 1363 to 1482 and later came to rule vast lands including Artois, Flanders, Luxembourg, Hainault, the county palatine of Burgundy (Franche-Comté), and other lands through marriage, forming what is now known as the Burgundian State.

Destruction of Neuss

The Destruction of Neuss occurred in July 1586, during the Cologne War. Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma's troops surrounded the city of Neuss, an important Protestant garrison in the Electorate of Cologne. After the city refused to capitulate, Parma's army reduced the city to rubble through a combination of artillery fire, destructive house to house fighting, and plundering; during the battle, a fire started that destroyed most of the rest of the city. In total, approximately 3000 civilians died, out of a population of approximately 4500, and the entire garrison was killed.

Ruprecht of the Palatinate (Archbishop of Cologne) Archbishop of Cologne

Ruprecht of the Palatinate was the Archbishop and Prince Elector of Cologne from 1463 to 1480.

Hermann IV of Hesse Archbishop-Elector of Cologne from 1480 to 1508 and Prince-Bishop of Paderborn from 1498 to 1508

Hermann IV of Hesse (1450–1508) was the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne from 1480 to 1508 and the Prince-Bishop of Paderborn from 1498 to 1508.

Hermann of Baden-Baden Imperial field marshal and president of the Hofkriegsrat

Margrave (Prince) Hermann of Baden-Baden was a general and diplomat in the imperial service. He was Field Marshal, president of the Hofkriegsrat, and the representative of the Emperor in the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg.

Siege of Venlo (1586) 1586

The Siege of Venlo of 1586, also known as the Capture of Venlo, was a Spanish victory that took place on June 28, 1586, at the city of Venlo, in the southeastern of Low Countries, near the German border, between the Spanish forces commanded by Governor-General Don Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma, and the Dutch garrison of Venlo, supported by relief troops under Maarten Schenck van Nydeggen and Sir Roger Williams, during the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604). After two failed attempts to relieve the city, the siege ended on June 28, 1586, with the capitulation and the withdrawal of the Dutch garrison.

Cologne Diocesan Feud

The Cologne Diocesan Feud, also called the Neuss War or Burgundian War, was a conflict, which began in 1473, between the Archbishop of Cologne, Ruprecht of the Palatinate and the Landstände of his archbishopric that began in 1473. As a result of the involvement of Charles the Bold of Burgundy and, eventually, the Holy Roman Empire the matter at times assumed a European dimension. It finally ended when Ruprecht died in 1480.

Battle of Kempen battle of the thirty years war

The Battle of Kempen was a battle during the Thirty Years' War in Kempen, Westphalia on 17 May 1643. It resulted in the victory of a French-Weimar-Hessian army under the French Comte de Guébriant and the Hessian Generalleutnant Kaspar Graf von Eberstein against the Imperial Army under General Guillaume de Lamboy, who was captured.

Burgundian State Historical government in what is now France and the Netherlands

The Burgundian State, is a concept coined by historians to describe the vast complex of territories also referred to as Valois Burgundy that developed in the Late Middle Ages under the rule of the dukes of Burgundy from the French House of Valois, composed of French and imperial fiefs. This territorial construction outlasted the properly 'Burgundian' dynasty and the loss of the Duchy of Burgundy itself. As such, it must not be confused with this sole fief.


  1. Die Belagerung Ahrweilers 1474 — Episode aus der Kölner Stiftsfehde
  2. Pat McGill, Armand Pacou, and Rod Erskine Riddel,The Burgundian Army of Charles the Bold: The Ordonnance Companies and their Captains( Lincoln: Freezywater Publications, 2001), 8–15.
  3. Richard Vaughan, Charles the Bold, London, Boydell, 2002, 312–35.