22 September – On this day

The Battle of Zutphen was fought on this day in 1586, near the town of Zutphen, the Netherlands, during the Eighty Years’ War.

It was fought between forces of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, aided by the English, against the Spanish. In 1585, England signed theTreaty of Nonsuch with the States-General of the Netherlands and formally entered the war against Spain. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was appointed as the Governor-General of the Netherlands and sent there in command of an English army to support the Dutch rebels. When Alessandro Farnese, Prince of Parma and commander of the Spanish Army of Flanders, besieged the town of Rheinberg, Leicester, in turn, besieged the town of Zutphen, in the province of Gelderland and on the eastern bank of the river IJssel.

Zutphen was strategically important to Farnese, as it allowed his troops to levy war contributions in the rich Veluwe region. Therefore, he left some troops blockading Rheinberg and marched to relieve the town. He personally supplied Zutphen at first, but as the Anglo-Dutch siege continued, he assembled a large convoy whose delivery to the town he entrusted to the Marquis of Vasto. Leicester learned of this when a courier was intercepted. The English and Dutch prepared an ambush, in which many English knights and noblemen were involved. In the end, the Spanish succeeded in delivering the convoy safely to Zutphen after a hard-fought battle. The Spanish cavalry, composed mainly of Italian and Albanian soldiers, was defeated by the English cavalry under the Earl of Essex. The Spanish infantry, however, held its ground and delivered the convoy to Zutphen. From there, the Spanish troops forced the English to retreat.

Zutphen was secured for the Spanish, though in the following weeks the English managed to capture a major Spanish fort, Zutphen’s sconce, on the bank of the IJssel river opposite the town. Most of the English gains were negated when, a year later, the English governors of Deventer and Zutphen’s sconce defected to the Spanish ranks and handed over their places to Farnese.

Robert Dudley
Robert Dudley