French Fury

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French Fury
Part of the Eighty Years' War
Queen Elizabeth I Feeds the Dutch Cow.png
In this satirical Flemish painting from three years after the Antwerp fiasco, c. 1586, the cow representing the Dutch provinces is shown defecating on the hands of the Duke of Anjou, who is holding its tail. (Other figures are Philip II of Spain, vainly trying to ride the cow, drawing blood with his spurs; Elizabeth I of England is feeding it while William of Orange holds it steady by the horns.)
Date17 January 1583
Antwerp (present-day Belgium)
Result Decisive Antwerpian victory
 France Antwerpians
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of France Francis, Duke of Anjou
Casualties and losses
1,500+ dead or wounded

The "French Fury" was a failed attempt by Francis, Duke of Anjou, to conquer the city of Antwerp by surprise on 17 January 1583.


During the Eighty Years' War the States-General had asked in 1581 the Duke to become head of state of the Seventeen Provinces, to obtain French support in expelling the Spanish troops.

Anjou did not have much influence in the Netherlands, and attempted to seize more power. He decided to try to occupy Antwerp, the largest city of the Seventeen Provinces, by surprise. Antwerp had already been comprehensively sacked by Spanish troops in the "Spanish Fury" of 1576.

Unfortunately for Anjou his plan was discovered. The inhabitants, still traumatised by the Spanish plunder seven years earlier, were determined to prevent another occupation by foreign troops by all means possible.

Attempted coup[edit]

On 17 January 1583, in an attempt to fool the citizens of Antwerp, Anjou asked to be permitted to enter the city in order to honour them with a Royal Entry. As soon as Anjou's troopers entered the city, the gates of Antwerp were slammed shut behind them. Having lost the advantage of surprise, the small French army found itself hopelessly trapped within the city as it was bombarded from windows and rooftops with stones, rocks, logs and even heavy chains. The city's experienced garrison then opened up with deadly, point-blank fire on the troops. Only a few Frenchmen, including the Duke of Anjou, escaped. Over 1,500 troops perished, many of them hacked to death by the enraged citizens of Antwerp. One contemporary account is by Jean Bodin, an adviser to Anjou who likewise escaped the slaughter.


The position of Anjou after this attack became untenable and he left the country in June 1583. His departure also discredited William the Silent, who had always supported Anjou.

The city was eventually conquered by the Spanish under Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma after the Siege of Antwerp (1584-1585).


  • George Edmundson, "The 'French Fury' at Antwerp (1583)", in Cambridge Modern History, edited by A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero and Stanley Leathes, vol. 3 (Cambridge, 1907), p. 256.
  • Louis Prosper Gachard, ed., "Lettre de Jean Bodin sur l'entreprise du duc d'Anjou contre la ville d'Anvers", Compte rendu des séances de la Commission Royale d'histoire ou recueil de ses bulletins, 2nd series, 12 (1859), pp. 458–463.

Coordinates: 51°13′N 4°24′E / 51.217°N 4.400°E / 51.217; 4.400