Breda is a municipality and a
city in the southern part as Province of North Brabant (Noord-Brabant) of
Netherlands. The name Breda derived from brede Aa ('broad Aa') and refers to
the place where the rivers Mark and Aa come together. (Another, less
plausible hypothesis states that it is a mutation of brede wal ('broad
fortified city, it was of strategic military and political significance.
Although a direct Fiefdom of the Holy Roman Emperor, the city obtained a
municipal charter; the acquisition of Breda, through marriage, by the House
of Nassau ensured that Breda would be at the centre of political and social
life in the Low Countries. Breda is part of the Brabantse Stedenrij.
In the 11th
century, Breda was a direct fief of the Holy Roman Emperor, its earliest
known lord being Henry of Brunesheim (1080–1125). The city of Breda obtained
a municipal charter in 1252. After that Breda had the rights to build
fortifications. The city constructed brick walls and Roman-style gates.
In 1327, Adelheid of Gaveren sold Breda to Duke Johannes III of Brabant. In
1350, the fief was resold to Johannes II of Wassenaar (d. 1377). In 1403,
the heiress of his line, Johanna of Polanen (1392–1445), married Engelbert I
of Nassau (1370–1442; his sarcophagus is in the Grote Kerk in Breda).
Through her, the city came into the possession of the House of Nassau, where
it remained until 1795, passing to William I of Orange (1533–1584),
stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht and leader of the Dutch revolt.
Thus, the baron of Breda was also Count of Nassau in the Holy Roman Empire,
Prince of Orange, and stadtholder of the Dutch Republic (from 1572–1650,
1672–1702, 1747–1795). Breda remained part of the barony of Breda until it
was captured by French revolutionary forces in 1795.
The acquisition of the city by the House of Orange-Nassau marked its
emergence as a residentiestad (residence city). The presence of the
Orange-Nassau family attracted other nobles, who built palatial residences
in the old quarters of the city. The most impressive one, built by the
Italian architect Thomas Vincidor de Bologna for the first Dutch prince, was
the first renaissance-style palace built north of the Alps. In the 15th
century the city's physical, economic and strategic importance expanded
rapidly. A great church was built in Brabantine Gothic style with a gallant
97-metre-high (318 ft) tower, called Grote Kerk (main church) or also Onze
Lieve Vrouwe Kerk (Church of Our Lady). In 1534 Henry III of Nassau-Breda
rebuilt the modest medieval fortifications in impressive style.
In 1534 a fire destroyed over nine tenths of the city, close to 1300 houses,
churches, and chapels, and the town hall. Only 150 houses and the main
church remained. In July 1581, during the Eighty Years' War, Breda was
captured in a surprise attack and siege by Spanish troops then under the
command of Claudius van Barlaymont, whose sobriquet was Haultpenne. Although
the city had surrendered upon the condition that it would not be plundered,
the troops vented their fury upon the inhabitants. In the resulting mayhem,
known as Haultpenne's Fury, over 500 citizens were killed. In March 1590,
Breda fell back into the hands of the Dutch and Maurice of Nassau, when a 68
men hand-picked force, concealed under the turf of a peat-boat, had
contrived to enter the city in a daring plan devised by Adriaen van Bergen
(Siege of Breda (1590)). Around 1610 the construction of the Spanish Gate or
"Spandjaardsgat" was started as a remembrance to that successful action.
After a ten-month siege in 1624–1625, the city again surrendered to the
Spaniards, now led by Spinola; the event was immortalized by Diego
Velázquez. In the Siege of Breda of 1637 the city was recaptured by
Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, after a four-month siege, and in 1648 it
was finally ceded to the Dutch Republic by the Treaty of Westphalia. In
1646, Frederick Henry founded the Orange College of Breda, modelled on
Saumur, Geneva, and Oxford, intending it to train young men of good family
for the army and the civil service.
The exiled Stuart Charles II of England resided in Breda during most of his
exile during the Cromwellian Commonwealth and Protectorate, thanks to the
proximity of Charles's sister Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange,
the widow of Prince William II of Orange (died 1650). Based mostly on
suggestions by the Parliamentarian General George Monck, Charles II's
Declaration of Breda (1660) made known his conditions for accepting the
crown of England, which in the event he was to regain a few months later in
The Treaty of Breda was signed in the city on 31 July 1667, bringing to an
end the Second Anglo-Dutch War in which the Dutch faced the same Charles II
who had been their guest. Between 1746 and 1748 it was the site of the
Congress of Breda, a series of talks between Britain and France aimed at
bringing an end to the War of the Austrian Succession, which ultimately led
to the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
During the Second World War, the city was under German occupation for over
four years. During Operation Pheasant Breda was liberated following a
successful outflanking manoeuvre planned and performed by forces of 1st
Polish Armoured Division of General Maczek on 29 October 1944. Each year
during Liberation Day festivities, Breda is visited by a large Polish
contingent and the city of Breda reserves a special portion of the
festivities for the fallen Polish soldiers. A museum and a monument honoring
Maczek and the Polish 1st Armoured Division stands in the city center.
General Maczek and many soldiers of his division are buried in the nearby
Polish military cemetery.
Breda was the site of one of the first panopticon prison establishments,
Koepelgevangenis. This prison housed the only German war criminals ever to
be imprisoned in the Netherlands for their war crimes during the Second
World War. Known as the Breda Four, or "Vier von Breda", they were Willy
Paul Franz Lages, who was released in 1966 due to serious illness, Joseph
Johann Kotälla, who died in prison in 1979, and Ferdinand aus der Fünten and
Franz Fischer, who were both released in 1989 and died later the same year.
This copper coin 1 Pistolet commemorates the 150th
anniversary (1828-1978) of Military Academy in Breda.