Twelve Years' Truce
Twelve Years' Truce was the name given to the cessation of
hostilities between the Habsburg rulers of
Spain and the Southern
Netherlands and the
Dutch Republic as agreed in
Antwerp on 9 April
1609 (coinciding with the Royal Decree of Expulsion of the
Moriscos). It was a watershed in the Eighty Years' War, marking the
point from which the independence of the United Provinces received
formal recognition by outside powers. For
Spain the Truce was seen as
a humiliating defeat as they were forced to make several sacrifices
but they scarcely got anything in return. For the time of its
duration however the Truce allowed King Philip III and his favorite
minister the Duke of Lerma to disengage from the conflict in the Low
Countries and devote their energies to the internal problems of the
Spanish Monarchy. The Archdukes Albert and Isabella used the years of
the Truce to consolidate Habsburg rule and to implement the
Counter-Reformation in the territories under their sovereignty.
4.1 Developments in the Dutch Republic
Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants
4.2 Developments in the Spanish Monarchy
4.3 Developments in the Archducal Netherlands
5 Resumption of hostilities
Stadtholder Maurice of Nassau by school of Michiel Jansz. van
Ambrogio Spinola, marquis of Los Balbases, by Peter Paul Rubens.
The war in the Low Countries reached a stalemate in the 1590s. After
the fall of
Antwerp in 1585, Spain's Philip II ordered Alexander
Farnese to direct his military actions first towards the failed
campaign of the Spanish Armada, then against
France to prevent the
succession of Henry IV, a Protestant. In the following years the Army
of Flanders was entirely on the defensive. Unable to sustain the cost
of a war on three fronts, Philip II was forced to declare a suspension
of payments in 1596. Spain's predicament was adroitly used by
Stadtholder Maurice. In a series of campaigns, the Republic's army
Breda in 1590, took Deventer,
following year and captured Groningen in 1594. By that stage the Army
of Flanders had lost almost all its strategic positions north of the
After the accession of Philip III in
Spain and of the Archdukes Albert
and Isabella in the Habsburg Netherlands in 1598, the Army of Flanders
tried to regain the offensive against the Dutch Republic. While it met
with a tactical defeat in the
Battle of Nieuwpoort
Battle of Nieuwpoort on 2 July 1600, it
did succeed in its strategic goal to repel the Dutch invasion of
Flanders. The lengthy
Siege of Ostend
Siege of Ostend (1601-1604) amply demonstrated
the balance of power. Both sides poured enormous resources into the
besieging or defending a town that was reduced to rubble. Ambrogio
Spinola, who had succeeded Archduke Albert as commander in the field,
eventually captured the town on 22 September 1604, but only at the
price of accepting the loss of Sluis.
Meanwhile, Habsburg diplomacy had managed to disengage from two
fronts. In 1598 Henry IV and Philip II had ended the Franco-Spanish
War with the Peace of Vervins. Six years later, James I, Philip III
and the Archdukes concluded the
Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604)
Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) with
the Treaty of London. Together, these treaties allowed the Habsburgs
to concentrate their resources on the war against the Dutch in the
hope of a knock out blow. The following year, Spinola seized the
initiative, bringing the war north of the great rivers for the first
time since 1594. Suddenly the
Dutch Republic had the enemy threatening
its heartland. By 1606, the Spanish army had captured Oldenzaal,
Groenlo despite the efforts of Maurice of
Nassau. They did not, however, keep the Republic's allies from
continuing their material support. Moreover, Habsburg successes in the
Low Countries came at a heavy price. The Spanish did not deliver their
knock out blow they had hoped for. Furthermore in 1605 the Dutch
East India Company made serious inroads into the Portuguese spice
trade, by setting up bases in the Moluccas. These advances signaled
a serious threat that the conflict might spread further in the Spanish
overseas empire. On 9 November 1607 Philip III announced a suspension
of payments. The balance of power had led to a balance of exhaustion.
After decades of war, both sides were finally prepared to open
Stadtholder Count William Louis by Michiel Jansz. van
Father Jan Neyen by Peter Paul Rubens.
The two opposing sides started putting out discrete overtures early in
the campaign season of 1606. The contacts were intensified when Albert
instructed Father Jan Neyen in March 1607 to seek out the
preliminaries that would have to be met for formal negotiations.
Raised a Protestant, Neyen had converted to Catholicism and joined the
Franciscan Order. The move did not however seem to have cost him his
longstanding access to
Stadtholder Maurits, a fact that made him a
valuable intermediary. Under the guise of visiting his mother in the
United Provinces, Neyen travelled between
Brussels and The Hague. The
States-General of the Republic insisted on a preliminary recognition
of their independence, to which Albert consented, be it with
On 12 April 1607 the United Provinces and the Habsburg Netherlands
agreed to a ceasefire, valid for eight months and taking effect on 4
May. The ceasefire was later extended to include operations at sea.
Even then it was difficult to obtain the assent of Philip III. The
king was appalled by Albert's readiness to concede on the point of
independence. Only the desperate situation of Spain's finances
compelled him to ratify the agreement. The ceasefire would be
prolonged several times to allow for the negotiations that would
eventually lead to the signing of the Twelve Years' Truce.
The peace conference opened in
The Hague on 7 February 1608. The
negotiations took place in the Binnenhof, in a room that has since
been known as the Trêveszaal. As
Stadtholder Maurits declined to take
part in the conference, the leadership of the delegation of the
Republic was given to his cousin William Louis of Nassau, the
Stadtholder of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe. The chief negotiator
on the Dutch side was the influential Land's Advocate of Holland,
Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. The delegation of the Habsburg Netherlands
was led by Ambrogio Spinola. Its leading participant was the
Chief-President Jean Richardot. They were assisted by Neyen, the
Secretary of State and War, Don Juan de Mancicidor, and the Audiencier
Louis Verreycken. There was no separate delegation for the King of
Spain. The delegates of the Archdukes were empowered to negotiate on
President Pierre Jeannin, a posthumous engraving by Jacques Lubin.
A number of princes sent delegations to the conference. The French
team of mediators was led by the experienced negotiator and president
of the Parliament of Burgundy, Pierre Jeannin. The English delegation
was headed by the ambassador in
The Hague and future Secretary of
State Ralph Winwood. King
Christian IV of Denmark
Christian IV of Denmark sent his future
Chancellor Jacob Ulfeldt. Other mediators represented the Palatinate,
Brandenburg, Ansbach and Hesse-Kassel. The Elector of Cologne and the
Jülich and Cleves sent observers. Most of these delegates
left as the conference dragged out, with only the French and English
mediators staying on until the end.
The conference failed to come to an agreement on the terms of a peace
treaty and it broke up on 25 August. The parties were unable to
compromise in matters of colonial trade and religion. To safeguard the
Spanish Empire, the Habsburgs demanded that the Dutch would cease all
navigation south of the Equator. It was a price that the mercantile
United Provinces refused to pay. The demand inspired
Hugo Grotius to
publish his famous
Mare Liberum in defense of the Dutch refusal.
The United Provinces likewise rejected the Habsburg demand that the
Catholics in the Republic would be given freedom of religion as an
interference in their domestic affairs. In spite of these setbacks,
the French and English mediators nevertheless succeeded to convince
the two sides to settle for a lengthy truce. It would preserve the
peace, while remaining silent on all contentious subjects. After
considering longer and shorter periods, the term of the Truce was set
for twelve years.
Formal talks were resumed on 28 March 1609 at the
Antwerp City Hall.
On 9 April the two delegations set their signatures to the text.
The ratification process proved difficult. In the Republic, towns such
Delft feared that the Truce would diminish their
trade. The States of
Zeeland resented the loss of income from
privateering and insisted on maintaining the blockade of the
Scheldt. Philip III had his own reasons to relent. It took several
missions from the Archducal Court before he was prepared to ratify the
treaty on 7 July 1609.
The publication of the
Twelve Years' Truce
Twelve Years' Truce at
Antwerp City Hall, by
The Habsburgs agreed to treat the United Provinces like an independent
state for the duration of the Truce. The wording of the article was
ambiguous. The Dutch version of the agreement stated more or less that
the independence of the Republic had been recognized. The French text
suggested that the Republic would be treated as if it were
All hostilities would cease for twelve years. The two parties would
exercise their sovereignty in the territories that they controlled on
the date on the agreement. Their armies would no longer levy
contributions in enemy territory, all hostages would be set free.
Privateering would be stopped, with both parties repressing acts of
piracy against the other. Trade would resume between the former
belligerents. Dutch tradesmen or mariners would be given the same
Spain and the Archducal Netherlands as enjoyed by
Englishmen under the Treaty of London. This meant that they could not
be prosecuted for their beliefs, unless they gave offense to the local
population. For their part, the Dutch agreed to end the blockade of
the Flemish coast, but refused to allow free navigation on the
Exiles from the
Southern Netherlands were allowed to return, but would
have to conform to Catholicism. Estates that had been seized during
the war would be restituted or their value would be compensated. A
number of aristocratic families stood to gain from this article, with
Stadtholder Maurits and his siblings foremost among them. The
practicalities of the restitution were agreed upon in a separate
treaty dated 7 January 1610.
The agreement was silent on the trade with the Indies. It did not
endorse the Spanish claim to exclusive rights of navigation, nor did
it back the Dutch thesis that it could trade or settle wherever there
was no previous occupation by either the Spanish or the Portuguese.
The Truce did not alleviate the situation of Catholics in the Republic
or of Protestants in the Habsburg Netherlands. Although they were not
actively persecuted, they could not profess their religion in public
and remained excluded from public office.
Developments in the Dutch Republic
Arms adopted by the
Dutch Republic to mark the recognition of their
sovereignty after the Twelve Years' Truce.
The immediate result for the Republic was that it was now officially
recognised by other European states as a sovereign nation. To mark
the recognition of the independence of the United Provinces, the
States-General added a closed crown with two arches to their arms.
Soon after the Truce, the Dutch emissaries in Paris and London were
accorded full ambassadorial status. The Republic established
diplomatic ties with the Republic of Venice, the Moroccan sultans and
the Ottoman Empire. A network of consuls was set up in the main ports.
On 17 June 1609
France and England had signed a treaty, guaranteeing
the independence of the Republic. To protect their interests in the
Baltic, the United Provinces signed a defensive pact with the
Hanseatic League in 1614 that was designed to protect them against
Plan of Batavia in 1627.
The Truce did not halt Dutch colonial expansion. The United East India
Company established its presence on the island of Solor, founded
the town of Batavia on the island of
Java and gained a foothold on the
Coromandel Coast in Pulicat. In the New World, the Republic encouraged
the colonization of New Netherland. The Dutch merchant navy
expanded rapidly, asserting itself on new routes, particularly in the
The official embargo on trade with the Americas had ended, but the
colonists now imposed their own "unofficial" one, limiting Dutch trade
Caracas and the Amazon region. Temporary setbacks in the Indies
caused the price of VOC shares on the
Amsterdam Stock Exchange to fall
from a high of 200 in 1608 to 132 after the Truce started. The Zeeland
transit traffic to the
Southern Netherlands declined sharply. On the
other hand, the lifting of the Dutch blockade of
Antwerp and the
Flemish coast helped revive the trade in Flemish textile products,
just as the Flemish textile industry experienced a revival itself.
In the Republic, ports profited from the expansion of trade. Brewing
towns such as
Delft or textile producing centers like
Leiden and Gouda
on the other hand, suffered from the competition of goods produced
with cheaper wages in the Habsburg Netherlands.
Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants
Johan van Oldenbarnevelt
Johan van Oldenbarnevelt by Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt.
During the Truce, two factions emerged in the Dutch Republic. The
divisions separating them were religious as well as political. The
unity of the
Dutch Reformed Church
Dutch Reformed Church was threatened by a controversy
that found its origins in the opposing views of
Jacobus Arminius and
Franciscus Gomarus on predestination.
Arminius' less rigid views appealed to the well-to-do merchants of
Holland. They were also popular among the regents dominating the
political life of that province, because they offered the prospect of
an inclusive church controlled by the state. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt
Hugo Grotius were among the principal supporters.
The strict interpretations of Gomarus stood for a church of the elect,
independent of outside control. They appealed to the industrious
strata of the manufacturing towns as well as to exiles from the
Southern Netherlands who were excluded from political power, adding an
element of social conflict to the controversy.
In many towns congregations split between
Remonstrants seeking to
moderate the Belgic Confession, and Counter-
Remonstrants who were
strict Calvinists, insisting on its rigid interpretation. On 23
Stadtholder Maurice of Orange openly sided with the
Counter-Remonstrants. Maurice and many of the counter-Remonstrants
had mixed feelings about the truce. Maurice was opposed to some of the
measures of the truce and wanted full independence for the Dutch
Republic. He favoured continuing the war until a total Spanish defeat
that led to an unquestionable freedom for the Republic.
In an attempt to force the issue, Remonstrant regents used their sway
over local authorities to organize militias with the "Sharp
Resolution" of 4 August 1617, which authorised city governments to
raise mercenary armies, the so-called waardgelders, outside the
federal army or civic militias, to maintain public order. This drew an
immediate protest from Maurice and from the other provinces on
constitutional grounds. They asserted that the Union of Utrecht
prohibited the raising of troops by individual cities without consent
from the States General. Even more threatening to the federal
supremacy had been the provision in the Sharp Resolution that asserted
that units in the federal army paid for the account of Holland owed
their primary allegiance to that province. This was a restatement of
Holland's old constitutional position that the provinces were
supremely sovereign, and the Union no more than a confederation of
sovereign provinces. Maurice, and the other provinces (except
Utrecht), now claimed that the States General possessed an overriding
sovereignty in matters of common defence and foreign policy
Maurice now mobilised the support of the five provinces opposing
Holland and Utrecht for a States General resolution disbanding the
waardgelders. This was voted through on 9 July 1618, with five votes
to two, Holland and Utrecht opposing. Van Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius,
in desperation, now overplayed their hand: appealing to the
requirement for unanimity in the Union treaty, they sent a delegation
to the federal troops in Utrecht (that were supposed to disarm the
waardgelders in that city) with instructions that their first
allegiance was to the province that paid them, and that they were to
ignore instructions by the stadtholder in case of conflict. This
intervention was construed by their opponents as treason. Prince
Maurice now brought up additional federal troops to Utrecht and
started to disarm the waardgelders there on 31 July 1618. There was no
resistance. The political opposition to his actions imploded as van
Oldenbarnevelt's Utrecht ally, Gilles van Ledenberg, advocaat of the
Utrecht States, fled to Holland
On 29 August 1618 Maurice had Oldenbarnevelt and other leaders of the
Remonstrants arrested and then proceeded to purge the Holland
ridderschap and the vroedschappen of a number of cities that had
been governed by Remonstrant regents up to then. He replaced the old
regents with adherents of the Counter-Remonstrant faction, often
nouveau riche merchants that had little experience in government
affairs. These purges constituted a political revolution and ensured
that his Orangist regime would be securely in charge of the Republic
for the next 32 years. Henceforth the stadtholder, not the Advocate of
Holland, would direct the affairs of the Republic, mainly through his
parliamentary managers in the Holland ridderschap. The Holland
leadership was emasculated by making sure that the position of Grand
Pensionary would henceforth be filled by Orangists.
Oldenbarnevelt and three others were tried and executed. Others, such
as Grotius, were imprisoned in Castle Loevestein. Meanwhile, the Synod
of Dort upheld the strict interpretation of predestination and
Arminianism heretical. Arminian theologians such as Johannes
Wtenbogaert went into exile, where they set up a separate Remonstrant
Developments in the Spanish Monarchy
Spain the truce was seen as a major humiliation - she had suffered
a political, military and ideological defeat and the affront to its
prestige was immense. The agreement was not prestigious for
the Spaniards as the Dutch emerged as the most favoured party.
Spanish councillors opposed renewing the truce in order to preserve
Spain's reputation as a great power and renew the war. The terms of
the 1609 truce that the Spanish found objectionable not only included
the virtual recognition of Dutch independence but also the closure of
Scheldt to traffic in and out of Antwerp, and the acceptance
of Dutch commercial operations in the Spanish and Portuguese colonial
maritime lanes. A defeat for
Spain was essentially a defeat for
Castile, for it was Castile which provided the policy and the
maintenance of the empire.
For the time of its duration however the Truce allowed Philip along
with the Duke of Lerma to disengage from the conflict in the Low
Countries and devote their energies to the internal problems of the
Spanish Monarchy. Philip also longed to expunge the truce through a
vigorous resumption of war.
Developments in the Archducal Netherlands
The Archducal Netherlands benefited from the Truce. Agriculture was at
last allowed to recover from the devastation of war. The archducal
regime encouraged the reclaiming of land that had been inundated in
the course of the hostilities and sponsored the impoldering of the
Moeren, a marshy area that is presently astride the Belgian–French
border. The recovery of agriculture led in turn to a modest increase
of the population after decades of demographic losses. Repairing the
damage to churches and other buildings helped to boost demand.
Industry and in particular the luxury trades likewise underwent a
recovery. Other sectors, such as textiles and breweries, benefited
from relatively lower wages in comparison to the Dutch Republic.
International trade was however hampered by the closure of the river
Scheldt. The archducal regime had plans to bypass the blockade with a
system of canals linking Ostend via Bruges to the
Scheldt in Ghent and
joining the Meuse to the Rhine between
Venlo and Rheinberg. In order
to combat urban poverty, the government supported the creation of a
network of Monti di Pietà based on the Italian model.
Meanwhile, the archducal regime ensured the triumph of the Counter
Reformation in the Habsburg Netherlands. Most Protestants had by that
stage left the Southern Netherlands. Under the terms of legislation
passed shortly after the Truce, the remaining Protestant presence was
tolerated, provided they did not worship in public. Engaging in
religious debates was also forbidden by law. The resolutions of the
Third Provincial Council of Mechelen of 1607 were likewise given
official sanction. Through such measures and by the appointment of a
generation of able and committed bishops, Albert and Isabella laid the
foundation of the Catholic confessionalisation of the population.
Resumption of hostilities
More than once it looked as if the Truce was about to collapse. The
succession crisis over the duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg resulted in
severe tensions during the siege of
Jülich of 1610 and the
confrontations that led to the
Treaty of Xanten in 1614.
Petrus Peckius the Younger
Petrus Peckius the Younger led a failed attempt at renewing the truce
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^ a b Goodman p. 15
^ a b Anderson p. 4
^ Parker (1977).
^ a b Allen (2000).
^ Israel (1995), pp. 399–405
^ Israel (1982) pp. 5-9.
^ Van Eysinga (1959) pp. 79-83.
^ Van Eysinga (1959) pp. 83-84.
^ Allen (2000) pp. 169-202.
^ Groenveld (2009) pp. 41-42.
^ Van Eysinga (1959) pp. 97-100.
^ Borschberg (2011) pp. 78-81.
^ Groenveld (2009) pp. 41-52
^ Allen (2000) pp. 202-233.
^ Israel (1982) pp. 35-42.
^ Allen (2000) pp. 229-230.
^ Groenveld (2009) pp. 59-66.
^ Israel (1995), pp. 405–6
^ http://www.hubert-herald.nl/INHOUD.htm (in Dutch, consulted 29 April
^ Israel (1998) pp. 405-406; Groenveld (2009) pp. 103-111.
^ Borschberg (2011) p. 311n142.
^ Israel (1982) pp. 66-69.
^ Israel (1995), pp. 409–10, 437
^ Israel (1982) pp. 56-59.
^ a b c d e Van Deursen (1974).
^ Anderson p. 6
^ This was a Dutch bastardization of the German word "Warte Gelt", or
"retainer", and at the time was a general Dutch designation for
^ Israel (1995), pp. 438–43
^ He had succeeded his half-brother Philip William as Prince of
Orange, after the latter's death in February 1618
^ Israel (1995), pp. 443–8
^ College of Nobles; this was the co-opting college that represented
the Holland nobles in the States, with one vote.
^ van Oldenbarnevelt's title of Advocate was now abolished and
replaced with this new title.
^ Israel (1995), pp. 448–56, 458
^ Perez 135
^ a b Lynch, John (1969).
Spain Under the Habsburgs:
America, 1598-1700 Volume 2 of
Spain Under the Habsburgs. B.
Blackwell. p. 42.
^ Lim pp. 77
^ Lindquist, Thea L (2001). The Politics of Diplomacy: The Palatinate
and Anglo-Imperial Relations in the Thirty Years' War. University of
Wisconsin. pp. 98–99.
^ Anderson (1999) pp. 4