For What Is Ours : Kenau, and the True History of the Siege of Haarlem
1572 Northern Europe Across the Low Countries, a handful of towns and cities have barricaded their gates against the Spanish King Phillip II's invading army, led by the bloodthirsty Duke of Alva. Few towns remain untouched. With Amsterdam long ago subjugated, and ruthless slaughter in Dutch town after town, Spain's mighty foothold in the Netherlands is gaining strength. The country is in the grip of Spain, and that grip is tightening. Ten miles west of Amsterdam, the little city of Haarlem means either victory or defeat for Spain, over the 'rebel Dutch'. As the Spanish army advances, Haarlem is thrown into disorganised panic. Should they hand the city over to Alva to save their lives and risk sacrificing their eternal souls, or should they fight for their right to remain free citizens in their own country? The town is divided. Someone has to make a stand. Northern Europe in the 16th century was a dangerous place for women, and when a city was under attack, women fought. Towns and cities were built with ramparts, they were formed as citadels, or bastions, and when attacked everyone defended their home. Women were probably more vicious in battle than we've ever given them credit for, as a woman I feel particularly touched by accounts of man's inhumanity towards women. I immediately put myself in Kenau's shoes, as a mature Dutch woman, mother, and indeed no fool, Kenau must have known that once those marauding Spaniards broke through the walls and gates of Haarlem, she and her daughters, sisters and nieces would lose their lives in ways too terrible to contemplate. So Kenau wasted no time in contemplating the obvious; she rounded up three hundred of Haarlem's toughest, most formidable women, and taught them how to defend themselves; to fight off the enemy, and to protect their beloved city. But first they rebuilt the decrepit walls of Haarlem. Then they waited. This is the tale of those brave souls left behind to face the enemy head on.
- Paperback | 320 pages
- 152 x 229 x 17mm | 431g
- 25 Jun 2015
- United States
- black & white illustrations
About Jane E Monk
When I moved to the Netherlands in the early 1990s to work on a novel, I discovered a much different nation to write about. I first encountered the legend of Kenau Hasselaer when I overheard a professor and his students at the University of Leiden's library, and was immediately captivated. The professor spoke about the savage sixteenth century Dutch Revolt against the invading Spanish King Phillip II, the revolt that inspired one woman's fight to preserve the lifestyle that her family had nurtured for generations. Kenau's battle was the seven-month Siege of Haarlem, 1572-1573. The professor recited the legend of this spirited aristocrat who had been driven to form an army of three hundred women soldiers. He said that Kenau had trained them to fight the Spanish back from the walls of Haarlem, but had refused to wear armour. From the moment Kenau entered my consciousness, I determined to learn every possible detail about this inspirational female character, a woman that was grist to the mill of my own life story. It seemed to me that legends have a lot to answer for, after all these years the fable that Kenau Hasselaer was a dedicated cutthroat for the sake of it should have morphed into something more honourable. She may indeed have been a hellcat, but she must have been so much more besides. Some legends just beg interrogation. This book was written on the back of that eternal question: Given the same circumstances, what would I do?