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Recently fellow blogger and wargame enthusiast Stéphane Thion asked for my help. Stéphane is editor of LRT Éditions and the author of La bataille d’Avein 20 mai 1635 as well as French Armies of the Thirty Years’ War which I will soon review on this blog. Stéphane was preparing a magazine article on the battle of Nieuwpoort (1600) and wanted to know whether any Dutch flags of the battle had been preserved.

Ridderzaal, drawing from 1760

Dozens of Spanish colours were captured that day. They were all displayed in the Ridderzaal (Knights’ Hall) of the Binnenhof (‘Inner Court’) of the States General (Dutch parliament). On a 1760 drawing they can be seen suspended from the purlins. The French removed them after they invaded in 1795 and never handed them back, which is still a bloody casus belli if you ask me.

But what about the Dutch colours? A round of emails, digital archive visits and phone calls to experts revealed that none of them has been preserved. What was preserved however is part of a regimental flag so shredded that it wasn’t thrown in with the Ridderzaal lot, although it was initially attributed to the Spaniards along with the rest. However, it had been known all along that some of the catch in the Ridderzaal consisted of States’ flags that had been recaptured from the Spaniards. Research in the 1980’s has revealed that the fragment in question was probably part of one of the colours flown by Sir William Edmond’s Scottish cavalry regiment which fought on the Dutch side as part of the so-called Scots Brigade.

Fragment of Scottish Nieuwpoort ensign, possibly of the Stuart company. Source: Dutch Legermuseum in Delft

In James Ferguson’s lists of Scottish regiments in Dutch service [1] we find the following:

The regiment had been founded in 1595 as ‘Regiment Schotten Murray’ [3]. Experts now believe the shredded ensign may have belonged to the company led by Captain Stuart. In 1600 these Scots, then led by Murray’s successor Colonel Edmond, took part in the premature attack on the Leffingher dike on the eve of the battle. Prince Maurice wasn’t aware that Archduke Albrecht’s entire army was marching toward him. Reassured by faulty intelligence that he would only face part of it, he sent Count Ernst Casimir with 19 cornets of Scottish and Zeelander horse and two field guns to the Leffingher dike as a diversion, in order to gain time and properly organise his own troops in the Nieuwpoort dunes.

Battle of Leffingher dike, engraving by Floris Baltasar van Berckenrode, 1600. Source: Rijksprentenkabinet. Click to enlarge.

Albrecht’s battle-hardened avant-garde simpy pushed the Zeelanders aside and slaughtered the fleeing Scots in the dunes and even in the water. Eyewitness Anthonis Duyck (1560-1629) has described the gruesome scene [2].

Daer bleven doot van de Schotten wel 600 mannen ende daironder 7 capiteinen, de outste ende beste van ‘t regiment, als Stuart, Barclay, André Murray, Kilpatrick, Michel, Niesbet ende Strachan, met meest alle de lieutenanten, vendrechs ende officiers vande compagniën; alle heur vendelen werden verlooren ende de ontcommen haddden heur geweer afgewurpen…

Six hundred dead, among them seven of the oldest and finest captains: Stuart, Barclay, André Murray, Kilpatrick, Michel, Niesbet and Strachan, and almost all their lieutenants and company officers. All their ensigns were captured.

Apparently only Sir William Edmond’s was recaptured. Today it resides in the safe of the Army Museum in Delft. The brown patches could be mud or discoloration, but they could just as well be blood, reminding us of a Scottish sacrifice for the Dutch liberties.

[1] James Ferguson, Papers illustrating the History of the Scots Brigade in the Service of the United Netherlands 1572-1782, 1899

[2] Anthonis Duyck, Journaal, 1591-1602, 1862-66

[3] http://www.DutchRegiments.org, Infanterie Regiment 595a