Sebastian Vrancx: The battle of Lekkerbeetje (1600)

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A painting from the Flemish artist Sebastian Vrancx (1573-1647). The plate shows a curious incident which took place during the Dutch war of Independence (also called the 80-years war, 1568-1648): the battle of Lekkerbeetje - also called 'the last chivalric European battle between two knights'. The Dutch town of Geertruidenberg was taken by the Dutch army already in 1573 from the Spanish army. However the Dutch garrison left the town after receiving a bribe from the Spanish. The men who deserted were called 'bergverkopers' (translated ('berg-sellers'). One of these men was Gerard Abrahams van Houwelingen, also called 'LekkerBeetje'. LekkerBeetje deserted to the Spanish side and was appointed lieutenant of Anthonie Schets van Grobbendonck, the military governor of Den Bosch. LekkerBeetje was send with a group of cavalry to the town of Diest were they patrolled the area. during one of these patrols LekkerBeetje managed to capture a group of French cavalry in Dutch service under the command of Jacques de Visé. The captured de Visé asked his superior Pierre de Bréauté to arrange money for his ransom (a common practice as armies in the 16th/17th century couldn't use prisoners-of-war). De Visé got the money but also received a note from de Bréauté in which de Visé was ridiculed by his superior for allowing him to be captured. De Bréauté claimed that '1 of his soldiers were equal to 2 soldiers of the enemy and that he dared to fight 40 Spanish soldiers with 20 of his own'. LekkerBeetje also read the letter and challenged De Bréauté to a duel to put his boast to the test. After an extensive correspondence between De Bréauté on one side and Anthonie Schets van Grobbendonck + LekkerBeetje on the other side an arrangement was made for a place and a time for this duel: The duel was to take place on 5 February 1600, near the town of Den Bosch (at the 'Vughtse Heide'. Each commander was allowed to take 20 cuirassiers, armed with 1 sword and 2 pistols, with him. De Bréauté originally wanted to duel Grobbendonck but he refused so LekkerBeetje took his place. Both sides appeared on the arranged spot, watched by the people of Den Bosch. Trumpeters from both sides checked if the commanders and the soldiers adhered to the agreements. LekkerBeetje and his brother Antonie were killed almost instantly at the start of the fight by a bullet and two horses of De Bréauté were shot underneath him. In the end 14 French and 4 Spanish soldiers were killed. De Bréauté survived the fight but he was killed by the people of Den Bosch, in revenge for the death of the Abrahams brothers. LekkerBeetje and the killed Spanish soldiers were burried with much pomp in the Dominicans church in Den Bosch however when the Dutch army took Den Bosch finally in 1629 these tombs were removed. The higher militairy command on both sides considered duels such as these pointless and forbade these from taking place. A small memorial to this fight was erected in 2000 at the Vughtse Heide. Painting from 1600.

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