Battle in the trenches of Hulst

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Battle in the trenches of Hulst
This tapestry, the fifth of the cycle, is the first one dedicated to Archduke Albert’s victory over the Dutch Republic. It is a depiction of the battle which took place in the summer of 1596 in the fortress of Hulst, in the province of Zeeland.

Finishing off the rebels

Following the victories over the French troops in Calais and Ardres, Archduke Albert, as governor of the Low Countries, decided to mobilize his soldiers to Hulst. This was one of the strongest and most advanced cities in Zeeland, on the shores of the river Scheldt, which had rebelled against the Spanish crown. The siege began on the 19th July 1596 and would last one month, with fighting in the trenches opposite the fort. The Spanish troops were led in battle by Don Luis de Velasco, Count of Salazar. In the upper part of the tapestry, we see the Archduke’s troops, the artillery, the regiments and the encampment.

A battle to the death

The violence of the battle is portrayed in the foreground by a multi-coloured composition in which soldiers from both armies fight hand to hand with swords, spears and muskets. The wounded bodies and corpses of the besiegers and the besieged fall to the ground and into the canal which surrounds the fortified city.

The border

The four corners of the border contain depictions of Medusa, as in the other tapestries in the series. Elsewhere in the border, the same motifs related to military victories are repeated: weapons, armour, palm branches of victory and laurel wreaths. Three emblems are also included, which vary between each piece in the series, and a banner with a weaved Latin inscription telling us about the scene being depicted.


In the upper part of the border, an inscription describes the moment depicted in the tapestry: AGGERIBVS ET VALLIS VI EXPVGNATIS, CETERISQVE/ MVNIMENTIS DEDITIS DESERTISQVE, HVLSTVM/ ARCTIVS OBSIDETVR [With the ramparts and stockades captured by force, and the other trenches surrendered and abandoned, Hulst is tightly besieged].

In the lower border we see a gathering of gods, discussing the King’s campaign, beside the inscription STAT VINDICE REGIS CAVSA DEO [The King’s campaign is confirmed with God as a guarantor].

The emblem in the border on the left-hand edge alludes to the bravery of the Archduke Albert’s troops by means of a hare surrounded by swords and the inscription FORAS GLADIVS, INTVS PAVOR [Remove your sword, suppress your fear].

On the right-hand side, a depiction of Religion, bearing the cross in hand, directs the soldiers to battle. The inscription reads AVDENTIOR IBO HAC DVCE [With [Religion] as guide I go with no fear].

Series Triumphs and battles of Archduke Albert

Fifth tapestry in the series

Model Otto van Veen y Hans I Snellinck

Manufacture Martin Reynbouts, Bruselas, 1597-1599

Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool

Size 350 x 398 cm

Location Royal Palace of Madrid

Origin Collection of Philip IV

On display Royal Armoury

National Heritage Inv. N. 10005713


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