Secundum Fidem et Religionem: Philibert van Serooskerke (1537-1579) Een Zeeuw in dienst van de Spaanse koning

Adriaan Willem Gerrit van Riemsdijk

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis - Research and graduation internal

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Philibert van Serooskerke (1537-1579), viscount of Zealand, steward of Zealand West of the Scheldt and governor of Bergen op Zoom was the chief administrator in Zealand for Philip II, king of Spain and lord of the Habsburg-Burgundian Netherlands. On the basis of a biographical study in historical context, this dissertation aims to bridge the gap between what is known about the motives of the Dutch Revolt’s initiators, and the contrasting attitude of a high-ranking civil servant who remains loyal to his sovereign and to the central administration of the Low Countries. The lord of Serooskerke is not a generally known figure in the political history of the early decades of the Dutch Revolt or Eighty Years’ War. European historiography of that era generally focuses on emperors and popes, queens and kings, admirals and field-marshals, statesmen and stadtholders. It describes the events caused by their schemes and ambitions, rivalry, relations, failures and successes in response to the spirit of the age. With reference to the Dutch Revolt, much has been written about the prominent vassals of Philip II, the grand seigneurs who rose against him and took the lead in the rebellion in its early phase: Hendrick van Brederode; the counts of Egmont, Horne, Montigny, Hoogstraten; the marquess of Bergen; and – last but not least – the prince of Orange, the king’s stadtholder or locum tenens in the provinces of Holland and Zealand. Particularly with regard to these two provinces, the motives and considerations of civil administrators were far less a subject of historical review, notwithstanding their crucial role. The administrators in charge were forced to choose between allegiance to their superior – the rebellious prince – and loyalty to their overlord the Spanish king, sovereign count of Holland and Zealand. Philibert van Serooskerke is a perfect example, because of his rank as viscount of Zealand and his functions of royal counsellor, steward, grand bailiff and supreme dike-reeve in Zealand West-of-Scheldt. His obligations are to keep law and order in this most important district of the province, covering more than half of its territory. It is his duty to supervise jurisdiction, prevent religious strife, and protect the king’s subjects from war, plunder and exploitation. He facilitates commerce and industry. In the case of Zealand in particular this means: keeping the waterways safe for international transport and trade. Access to the great European port of Antwerp must remain open, and reversely ‘nuestra salida al océano’ as the Spanish governor-general in Brussels frases it, has to be reconquered when blocked by rebellious forces. In addition, dike maintenance to safeguard the islands from storm surges and floods is an almost unbearable responsibility in times of war. Raising the money to finance the province’s obligations to its constituency on the one hand, and on the other to cover the growing needs of the central government, is not a very popular duty of a royal steward. During the last two years of his tenure, it may have appeared to him that siding with the king of Spain and remaining with the Roman faith had become contradictory to the interests and future welfare of his descendants. Nevertheless, he persisted in his task, secundum fidem et religionem, until this was no longer possible in 1578 because of his discharge from office by the States of Zealand then in power, acting in usurpation of the king’s rights. Philibert van Serooskerke passed away a year later, an exile in Antwerp and a devout Roman Catholic.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Smalbrugge, Matthias, Supervisor
  • van Veen, MGK, Supervisor
Award date10 Nov 2021
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2021


  • Philibert van Serooskerke, Faith, Loyalty, Dutch Revolt, Philips II, Zeeland, Nobility


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