Holland, which should be distinguished from the Netherlands, was the area of fenland lying between the Waal, the old Meuse or Maas and the Merwe which until the eleventh century was simply called Frisia or Friesland.

The origins of Holland

The origins of the county of Holland lie in a line of obscure counts of West Frisia who appeared in the late ninth century in possession of the land between Swithardeshage and Kinhem and who later extended their rule over the whole territory that lay between from the right bank of the river Maas/Meuse and the river Vlie, and began to assert their independence from the duchy of Lower Lorraine, the nominal masters of the Low Countries at the time.

The first of these counts to have any claim to the title of count of Holland was one Dirk III, who founded Dordrecht about the year 1015 and won a famous victory over Godfrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine at the battle of Vlaardingen in 1018. Dirk III and his successors Dirk IV and Floris I appear to have spent most of their time fighting against the Bishop of Utrecht as well as arguing with their southern Flemish neighbours over ownership of the Friesland islands.

The last of these counts named Floris was killed, despite being victorious at the battle of Nederbemert in 1061. His son Dirk V was only a child at the time and so the Bishop of Utrecht took the opportunity to occupy the disputed territory, an occupation confirmed by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in 1064. (These confirmatory charters of 1064 being the first reference to the existence of Holland.) Dirk together with his mother were reduced to holding a few of the islands east of the Scheldt.

In 1063 Floris' widow Gertrude of Saxony married Robert the Frisian, the second son of Baldwin V Count of Flanders, who became his stepson's guardian. Efforts were made to recover Holland from the Bishop of Utrecht but the revolt was crushed by an army led by Godfrey the Hunchback, Duke of Lower Lorraine. Godfrey was however assassinated on the 26th February 1076 and the Bishop of Utrecht died on the 17th April of the following year. With the support of Robert the Frisian, Dirk V was able to take advantage of these changed circumstances and was able to compel the new Bishop of Utrecht into surrendering his claim lands in dispute.

By this means Dirk V becomes the first undoubted Count of Holland, with the title comes hollandensis first appearing on seal of Dirk V dated 1083, after which these Frisian counts became definitively known as counts of Holland ruling over the land between the Texel and the Maas.

The House of Holland

Dirk V died in 1091 and was succeeded by his son Floris II known as Floris the Fat, whose reign of thirty-one years proved to be an oasis of peace and prosperity. Much of this was as a result of his marriage to Petronilla of Saxony whose half-brother Lothaire of Saxony succeeded Henry V as Holy Roman Emperor in 1125 and so brought the Counts of Holland into a closer relationship with the empire and won them recognition as respectable vassals of the emperor.

Dirk VI was succeeded in 1157 by Floris III who became a devoted adherent and friend of Frederick Barbarossa, and accompanied the emperor on the third Crusade, which is where Floris died in 1190 at Antioch. His son, Dirk VII spent his time in disputes with Flanders and dealing with a rebellion by his brother William, and although he was reasonably successful in these endeavours in 1202 he was defeated and imprisoned by the Duke of Brabant. Dirk VII died shortly afterwards in 1204, leaving as his only issue a seventeen year old daughter named Ada. Dirks' widow Alida, rapidly married her daughter to Louis Count of Loon, but Dirk's brother William challenged his niece's succession and in the ensuing struggle Ada fled to England leaving William in charge. In 1206 William concluded a treaty with Louis of Loon in 1206, becoming undisputed count.

William later supported the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV in his dispute with Philip Augustus of France and fought with the emperor at the battle of Bouvines in 1214, and was taken prisoner after that defeat. As a result William appears to have become reconciled with the French king, as two years later he accompanied Louis of France, the eldest son of Philip Augustus, on his invasion of England in 1216. William later took part in the Fourth Crusade and was present at the capture of Damietta in 1219. He died shortly after his return from the Holy Land in 1222 and was succeeded by his son Floris IV, who was murdered in 1235 at a tournament held at Corbie in Picardy


Floris IV left a young son named William II and a brother named Otto, the Bishop of Utrecht, who acted as regent until William came of age. William turned out to be one of the most successful of the early counts as he was elected as King of the Romans in 1247, and crowned at Aachen in the following year. He was however killed in 1256 before he was due to crowned as Holy Roman Emperor.

There followed another minority as Floris V was only two years old on his fathers death, but on coming of age Floris proved reasonable succesful and acquired control of the Amstelland and is regarded as the founder of Amsterdam having granted that town its first charter in 1275. This Floris was murdered by a group of disaffected nobles at Muiden castle on the 27th June 1296. He left as his successor a son named John I, who was married to Eleanor, daughter of Edward I. As John was only fifteen years old and regarded as feeble in both body and mind, authority was assumed by his uncle and guardian John of Avesnes, the Count of Hainault. This arrangement was challenged by one Wolfert van Borselen until 1299 when van Borselen was killed. A few months later John I himself died with his uncle John of Avesnes soon recognized as his successor.

House of Avesnes

John of Avesnes, who took the title of John II, was the son of another John of Avesnes, Count of Hainault, and Alida, sister of John I of Holland who in 1301 he faced the traditional attack by the Bishop of Utrecht who invaded Amstelland. This time around the bishop was defeated and killed and John made use of the opportunity to get his brother Guy elected as bishop in his place. John II died in 1304 and was succeeded by his son William III known as William the Good who was responsible for settling the long running border dispute with Flanders in 1323. William married Jeanne of Valois, a niece of the French king whilst two of his daughters similarly made good dynastic marriages. One daughter Margaret married the Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Bavarian in 1323 with his third daughter, Philippa of Hainault married to Edward III of England in 1328. (This latter marriage being as a result of bargain struck by William with Edward's mother Isabella of France in return for his support for her invasion of England in 1327.)

He was followed by his son, William IV in 1337 who was naturally a supporter of his brother-in-law, Edward III in the matter of his wars with the French, but was killed in battle against the Frisians in 1345 leaving the succession somewhat in doubt. His oldest sister, the Empress Margaret (wife of Louis the Bavarian) settled the matter by coming in person and was duly recognized as countess in both Holland and Hainault, and appointed her second son William of Bavaria to take charge of the government. In 1349 Margaret was persuaded to abdicate, and her son William became count under the title of William V.

Thereafter two rival parties emerged known respectively as the Kahbeljauws (the Cods, the supporters of William) and the Hoeks (the Hooks, the party of disaffected nobles), who began a struggle for control of the county. Such was the level of disorder that by 1350 Margaret felt obliged to return to Holland to take personal charge of affairs once more. William resisted his mother's attempts to remove him from power and she initially made some progress in this regard due to the support of Edward III. However William succeeded in persuading Edward to change sides in 1351 (William married Matilda daughter of Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster) so that by 1354 Margaret was forced to reach an accomodation with her son; he being recognized as count of Holland and Zeeland, she of Hainault.

This arrangement lasted for two years until Margaret died in 1356 leaving William in charge of both Holland and Hainault, but by the end of 1357 it was clear that William had gone insane. Therefore in 1358 his younger brother Albert of Bavaria was appointed as Ruward or Regent, a position that he held until 1389 when, following the death of William, Albert was recognised as count of both Holland and Hainault. Albert died in 1404, and was succeeded by his son William VI who died in May 1417 leaving an only child, a daughter, named Jacoba (also known as Jacquette or Jacqueline)

The House of Wittelsbach

Jacoba was first married to John of France heir to the throne of France but he had died about a month prior to William, which left the seventeen year old as both a widow and heiress to Holland and Hainault. Although she was recognised as countess her position was challenged by her uncle John of Bavaria who believed that he should succeed as the nearest male heir. Another of her uncles, John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy then married her off to a cousin John IV, Duke of Brabant on the understanding that they would be co-rulers of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault. However as soon as this John of Brabant acquired his right of co-rulership he surrendered it to John of Bavaria for a period of twelve years.

Disappointed in her husband, in 1420 Jacoba fled to England declaring that her marriage to John of Brabant was invalid and in 1422 married Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Unlike his predecessor, Humphrey was interested in ruling his wife's inheritance, assumed the title of Count of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault and invaded Holland, but with little success. However his brother John, Duke of Bedford (who was effectively in charge of England during the minority of Henry VI) was more interested in pursuing the war against France. The pursuit of that objective was dependent on the English alliance with Burgundy, and therefore John was opposed to his brother's Dutch adventure as it threatened Burgundian interests in the region. Humphrey was therefore persuaded to abandon Jacoba. (Their marriage was annulled by the Pope in 1428.)

In the meantime John of Bavaria had been poisoned in 1425 at which point, John of Brabant promptly ceded his rights once more, only this time to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. This led to a civil war between the supporters of Jacoba and Philip (in the middle of which John of Brabant died) which continued until 1428 when Jacoba finally gave way.

By the Treaty of Delft of 1428 Jacoba was nominally recognised as Countess whilst Philip the Good was left in effective charge, also becoming her nominated heir should she fail to have any children. In 1432 Jacoba secretly married Francis of Borselen and organised a revolt against Burgundian rule. The revolt failed, Borselen was captured and Jacoba was forced to renounce her rights over the counties of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault. She retired to Bavaria where she died childless three years later in 1436 leaving Philip the Good of Burgundy as the unquestioned Count of Holland.

In such confused circumstances any one of John of Bavaria, John of Brabant, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, or Philip the Good may or may not be listed as a Count of Flanders during the years 1417 to 1433. The list below is restricted to showing Jacoba as Countess throughout that period, together with John of Bavaria and Philip the Good as being the two gentleman who were actually in charge.

Holland after Jacoba

Holland remained part of Burgundy with successive Dukes of Burgundy also becoming Counts of Holland until 1482, when Mary of Burgundy married Maximillian, Archduke of Austria and it passed into the hands of the Habsburg family. It remained part of the Habsburg Austrian empire until 1555, when under the division of the inheritance of Charles V, Holland together with the other former Burgundian possessions in the low countries were allotted to Philip II of Spain.

In 1568 the spread of Protestant doctrines within Holland fermented the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule. William the Silent emerged as the leader of this revolt and in 1580 he adopted the title of count of Holland and Zeeland and a year later was responsible for the Act of Abjuration of 24th July 1581, effectively the Dutch declaration of independence. William was assassinated in 1584 after which the title of count of Holland was never revived.






As co-rulers with Jacoba




Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.