William Baillie Soldier
In 1625, Prins Maurits died suddenly, which shattered William Baillie’s up and coming world. He was deeply saddened by the event and the loss of the man he so respected and one who inspired his men to excel. But his brother, the youthful Frederick Hendrik then became Stadthouder and a new rising star took to the firmament. In his new boss Baillie saw a winner, a man with vision and the commitment to build a lasting nation state. A man worth serving, one who’s family had paid dearly in blood for the cause of liberty. In William Baillie’s/my mind, I see in him echoes of the Black Prince, the ultimate mercenary soldier and statesman. Frederik Hendrik was such a man and his time was now! Maurits had secured the solid foundation, of the Dutch Republic with his efficient military machine, now his younger brother would build a glorious structure of state upon it and William Baillie would be part of it.
It is this love that fired up William Baillie in his service to the political leaders of his adopted country. An overwhelmingly strong bond of loyalty, love and honour in the service of freedom for Frederik Hendrik, Stadthouder and his crusade against the Holy Roman Catholic Empire, for he intends to expand the borders of the fledgling Republic State and thereby secure its people’s future. He does this with blinding efficiency in 1629 when he marches on s’Hertogenbosch the capital of the northern most quarter of the Dukedom of Brabant, which stretches all the way to Brussels.
Then as now a seat of power and government, the Arch Duchess Isabella holds the reigns of power in the name of the Hapsburg Austro-Spanish Empire. In William Baillie’s mind as in mine now this is a Holy crusade against the evils and corruption of Rome. His hatred of Rome is unleashed with devastating effect and the epic text book siege of s’Hertogenbosch of 1629 begins. There is nothing a soldier likes more than to get paid for a siege. Sitting on one’s haunches drinking ale and listening to the relentless pounding of the large cannon as they batter mercilessly away at the city walls - excellent work if you can find it!
Frederik Hendrik had not made the mistake of his brother and had bought some 100+ cannon to make short work of the stout defences of the city of s’Hertogenbosch (Bois le Duc in French) the Wood of the Duke often shortened to simply Den Bosch. Surrounded by marsh the city was pounded, it was a pleasant warm summer and the troops waited in no undue hurry for the order to storm the city. Fredrik Hendrick’s own motto of zweet spaart bloed (Sweat spares blood) summed up the proceedings perfectly and was illustrated in a famous engraving of the time entitled, Die Waecht, Die Wint (Those that wait, win!) by Claes Janszoon Visscher.
William Baillie had good reason to take care for he had recently married. Upon returning to visit his adopted family in the spring of 1628, William’s eye was caught and his breath taken away by the fair haired young daughter of Adriaan, whom he first remembered vaguely as but a child of 7, when he first arrived. Now this elegant young woman had glided into the room and William could hardily believe his eyes was this the little Anneke that he remembered all those years ago? The effect was instant. He was a successful soldier and now a Colonel of a Dutch Infantry Regiment about to engage in an epic siege and she was a fair ornament of her sex, clever witty and intelligent. But her most stunning feature in his eyes was her long radiant blonde hair, which shone in the morning sun. Not that Holland and Vlissingen got much sun, but when it did - POW!
No written record exists of her name as Scottish historians’ decline to record the names of foreign nationals in genealogical records, but I can remember and my memory has served me true so far. The name of this Dutch Angel that had captured a rough soldier’s heart was Annie, short for Anneke and she was every inch a De Ruyter, a name her brother had adopted, for unknown at that time she would be related to one of Holland’s most famous Admirals - Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter (27 March 1607 - 29 April 1676).
Summer walks along the beach at Vlissingen fired up their passion as much as the warmth of the sun and the ever fresh salt sea air. They fell in love and Baillie had the means to make a very comfortable life for them both. Adriaan and Altje, Anneke’s father and mother gave the marriage their blessing, they were actually somewhat relieved as a dowry would not be require and it would mean one mouth less to feed and so the happy couple were married that autumn.
The whole scenario was re-enacted in the long hot summer of 1976 and I can particularly remember the violent electric jolt of subconscious recognition that I received whilst watching a Dutch TV programme about a young blonde girl that lived in an old fisherman’s cottage on a beach by a sea wall. Although set in Victorian times the similarity was so close that I still remember it after 30 years!
The siege of 1629 would prove to be the most successful and well paid yet, Anneke would give birth to their first born son, Jamie Baillie on October 29, and this would offset the emotional loss of her father just 9 days earlier. Triumph and tragedy all rolled into one, what a year. They would ultimately set up home in Amsterdam after William Baillie’s adventures in Germany. For now, well provided for, Anneke and baby Jamie would stay to comfort her mother during 1630 to 1632. For William Baillie now fully kitted out as a Ruyter there was work to do!
My First Publication
In 1979 I was seriously ill and whilst recovering I went to an 350th anniversary exhibition in Den Bosch. I then translated a Diary of the Siege of 1629 from Dutch to English, selling 50 copies!