Siege of Sluis (1587)

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Siege of Sluis (1587)
Part of the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604)
Sluis 1586 1.JPG
Engraving of the Siege of Sluis of 1587 by Frans Hogenberg.
Collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
Date12 June – 4 August 1587
Result Spanish victory[1][2]
 United Provinces
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of England Earl of Leicester
Kingdom of England Roger Williams
Spain Duke of Parma
Casualties and losses
700 killed and 400 wounded[3] 92 killed and 243 wounded[3]

The Siege of Sluis of 1587 took place between 12 June and 4 August 1587, as part of the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604).[1][2] Its capture by the Spanish formed a significant advance towards the Enterprise of England.

Objectives and investment[edit]

June 1587 saw Don Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma (Spanish: Alejandro Farnesio), Governor-General of the Spanish Netherlands, and commander-in-chief of the Army of Flanders, set his sights on the two remaining rebel ports in Flanders, Ostend, and Sluis. The latter had once been a strategic deep-water port, and was still (despite silting) a key to the inland waterways of the Flanders coast, and thus to any potential invasion of Britain.[4] After an initial sortie against Ostend, Parma invested Sluis on 12 June 1587, but not in time to prevent a body of four companies of English foot-soldiers reaching the town from Ostend under the command of Sir Roger Williams.[5] On 24 June, the bombardment of the town began.

Relief efforts and surrender[edit]

A relief effort was organised by a fleet of English and Dutch troops under Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Governor-General of the United Provinces.[2][6][7] Leicester landed a force of 4000 foot, 400 horse at Ostend, to cut Parma’s communications, but called his men back to the fleet before coming to grips with any Spaniards; while a sea-borne attempt to force the channel and relieve the town was similarly aborted: Garrett Mattingly concluded that “The chief effect of this fortnight of imbecile manoeuvres was on the morale of the beleaguered garrison”.[8] On 4 August, after of 13 days of constant fighting around the walls, the garrison surrendered with full honours of war.[9]


The loss of the English-held port of Sluis revealed the inability of Leicester to assert his authority over the Dutch allies, who failed to cooperate successfully in relieving the town,[10] and led to recriminations between the governor-general and the States of Holland.[6][11]

In the following months, the Earl of Leicester launched a series of unsuccessful attacks against the Spaniards.[12] In September 1587, Leicester attempts to capture Leiden, but failed,[12] and his plans to capture Enkhuizen and Hoorn, two important ports of West Friesland, also failed.[13] Notable English soldiers under Leicester's command were Sir Thomas Baskerville and Sir Francis Vere.[13] on 16 December 1587, Leicester returned to England,[13] where the privy council tried in vain to hold him to account for his failures, protected as he was by the favour of the Queen.[14]

By contrast, Parma had gained a strategic prize that enabled him to move barges by inland waterways from the Scheldt to Dunkirk, preparatory to the coming of the Spanish Armada.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Parker/Martin p.126
  2. ^ a b c Van Nimwegen p.153
  3. ^ a b Vázquez, p. 307
  4. ^ G Mattingly, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (Penguin [1959]) p. 148-50
  5. ^ G Mattingly, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (Penguin [1959]) p. 149-51
  6. ^ a b Parker p. 126
  7. ^ To replenish the companies of Englishmen, he brought with him 3,000 fresh troops on the Queen's payroll, and 1,500 for units on the payroll of the States General. Tracy. Insubordinations, sedition, and mutiny, 1587–1588
  8. ^ G Mattingly, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (Penguin [1959]) p. 157-9
  9. ^ Parker/Martin p. 126–127
  10. ^ Wilson p. 291–294
  11. ^ The surrender of Sluis (5 August) was but another occasion for mutual recriminations between the Governor-General and the States of Holland. Tracy. Insubordinations, sedition, and mutiny, 1587–1588
  12. ^ a b The Eighty Years War 1568–1648
  13. ^ a b c Olaf Van Nimwegen p. 153
  14. ^ N Williams, Elizabeth I, Queen of England (London 1971) p. 294
  15. ^ G Mattingly, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (Penguin [1959]) p. 189


  • Martin, Colin./Parker, Geoffrey. The Spanish Armada: Revised Edition. Published 1989 by Penguin Books. ISBN 1-901341-14-3
  • C. Duffy. Siege Warfare: The Fortress in the Early Modern World 1494–1660. Volumen 1. London. ISBN 0-7100-8871-X
  • Tracy, James. The Founding of the Dutch Republic: War, Finance, and Politics in Holland 1572–1588. Oxford University Press. First published 2008.
  • Wilson, Derek (1981). Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester 1533–1588. Hamish Hamilton ISBN 0-241-10149-2
  • Van Nimwegen, Olaf. The Dutch Army and the Military Revolutions 1588–1688. First published 2010. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. ISBN 978-1-84383-575-2
  • Hammer, P.E.J. (1999). The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585–1597. Cambridge University Press. Great Britain. ISBN 0-521-01941-9.

Further reading[edit]

  • L van der Essen, Alexandre Farnese Vol 3 (Brussels 1937)

External links[edit]