Grijzestad 1663

The Battle of Grijzestad, by Abraham van Neyt (1694)

The Brunanter Civil War was a a series of armed conflicts that occurred in Brunant from February to June of 1663. It was a war between royalist supporters of King Willem II and rebel supporters of his nephew, Karl Van Draak.


Since the 16th century the king of Brunant had been an autocratic monarch. The Estates General, which was a more-or-less democratic institution, had been dissolved by Willem II in 1658. Since then, there were increased protests against the king's heavy-handed rule, partly inspired by the civil war in England. The constitutionalist rebels, needing a strong leader, selected Karl Van Draak, the king's nephew, to be their leader.


Battle of Sint-MarkstadEdit

On February 16 1663, 170 townspeople and rebels broke into the arsenal at Sint-Markstad, harrassed the 12 soldiers on guard and took the weapons for themselves. This was the start of the fighting portion of the war. The followng day, the king sent an force of 800 men to recover the town. Mayor Nicolaes Haas organized the defence, where 214 men and 31 women took arms against the king. The battle was a massacre, and royalist troops killed 185 armed citizens, and 68 unarmed ones. After this the king believed all resistance against him had ended. In reality, Van Draak was planning another raid on the arsenal at Nieuw Helmond.

Battle of HelmondEdit

Outside the Fort of Helmond (2 March), 1000 royalist troops mustered, mostly from Nieuw Helmond and Roodstad, to meet a force of about 550 militiamen, led by German Count Bernhard von Reiber. Despite their bravery, the royalists won a crushing defeat over Von Reiber, mostly due to the actions of the Veldwachter.

Battle of GrunbeckEdit

Now Van Draak was running low on supplies and led a third attempt to capture an arsenal, this time the one in Grunbeck (18 March). 790 troops, including a few royalist deserters managed to encircle and defeat the royalist defenders, capturing 900 men while only losing 120. Upon this loss the king and his court abandoned the capital and left for Donderstad. Van Draak now began to chase him and moved his forces to rejoin v. Reiber. Following this battle, the vast majority of Veldwachter deserted the king to join Van Draak.

Siege of Groenveld CastleEdit

The siege of Groenveld Castle (13 April-17 May) proved to be the pivotal point of the war. Van Draak had captured 14 cannons at Grunbeck and put them to use against the castle. The guns pounded the castle but parts still held and the soldiers inside would not surrender. Disease spread amongst the defenders and they knew they could not hold out indefinately. When an opening was made into the wall, 450 Veldwachter poured in and decimated the defenders while only receiving 30 men in losses.

Battle of BosterbeckEdit

At Bosterbeck field (7 April), both armies fought for control of the royalist capital, Donderstad. Upon hearing news of his army's defeat at Groenveld and the arrival of the rebels at Donderstad, the king left for Brunant. 1300 Royalist troops were sent out to combat the 1500 rebels. With fog rolling over the lad, there was confusion within both sides, but especially within royalist ranks as they were fired at from all sides. They soon broke ranks, and in 49 minutes had retreated and surrendered. Afterwards, Van Draak and Von Reiber, with the bulk of the army, returned to Grijzestad but 500 men (under Anders Hofmann) were sent to engage the royalists at Brunant.

Battle of BrunantEdit

When they met at Brunant, both sides were weary form the fighting. The king and the bulk of his army had already left. For seven hours, both sides led repeated assaults, but were dead even. A strategic retreat by the rebels led many royalists to give chase and break their ranks and eventually were defeated, at the cost of 300 rebel dead and 99 wounded.

Battle of GrijzestadEdit

After his recent defeats the king, looking to reverse his fortune, decided to launch an attack on the rebel-held capital, Grijzestad. At Grijzestad (the largest battle of the war) 2900 royalist troops met 1280 rebel soldiers. Strategic use of cannons by the rebels, combined with the death of King Willem helped to cause royalist disorder, and after a disorganized retreat many surrendered or were killed.


After his momentous victory at Grijzestad, Van Draak marched on to Donderstad where royalists were setting up a new government, with Willem's daughter Maria Amalia having been proclaimed queen. He removed her and her descendants from the throne and was proclaimed king at Grijzestad Cathedral. Afterwards Van Draak signed the Bill of Rights, which is a cornerstone of the national laws and constitution, and which began the transition to democracy.

In popular cultureEdit

A variety of films and plays have been done on the civil war, most recently the 2003 miniseries 1663.

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