Independent Estates

The magistrates’ bench of Oerle fell directly under the Duke of Brabant. In the 16th century, Emperor Charles V (1515 – 1555) and King Philips II of Spain (1555 – 1598) held the title of the Duke of Brabant. The empire of Philips II spanned over the five continents. He had to deploy his armies everywhere to maintain this vast territory. It goes without saying that his armies costed him a pretty penny. Part of the required funds came from the colonies in South America, as well as from the riches in the Netherlands. From 1557, King Philips II had ducal villages sold and converted into independent estates (heerlijkheden). This meant that a local gentleman was given territorial rights over the land, its population and the jurisdiction. King Philips II divided the magistrates’ bench of Oerle into seven estates and offered the individual villages as individual estates. Four of the seven villages were sold. Oerle and Meerveldhoven became ownership of nobleman Willem de Borchgrave in 1560.

Emperor Charles V was also Duke of Brabant. In his time, the Dingbank of Oerle (the magistrates’ bench) was still ducal territory.

Schepenbank van Oerle opgesplitst
The estates Veldhoven and Zeelst and neighboring Blaarthem became the property of the noble Van Eyck family, who lived in the castle of Blaarthem. As a result, the former magistrates’ bench of Oerle was split into three magistrates: Veldhoven-Zeelst-Blaarthem, Oerle-Meerveldhoven and Vessem-Wintelre-Knegsel. A large part of the current municipality of Veldhoven was already represented in the first two magistrates. Once it became an estate, many things changed on the administrative level, as the lord of the estate had the right to appoint all the village officials. The schout (bailiff) was put in charge of the magistrate in his capacity as deputy to the lord. The seven aldermen of the magistrates’ bench were involved in administration and justice.

The aldermen were often influential farmers or tenant farmers. Each village within the magistrate’s bench had its own board or corpus. This consisted of two or three of the seven aldermen, two bailiffs, two church masters and two poorhouse masters. The treasurers were chosen annually from the landowners and were responsible for the accounting of the village’s income and expenditures.

Gravestone of Roelof van Eyck from 1850.

In the 16th century, the population was severely affected by the warfare between the Duke of Brabant on the one hand, and the Duke of Gelre on the other. In particular, the robbery and extortion in 1543, by the Gelrese general, Maarten van Rossum, brought the population to poverty. In 1543 Gelre was annexed to the Netherlands by Emperor Charles V.

General Maarten van Rossem ravaged Kempenland in 1543.

Tachtigjarige Oorlog
Between 1579 and the ceasefire of 1609, state armies of the Republic and Spanish armies remained in Brabant. The population was confronted with sieges from neighboring cities such as Eindhoven and Helmond, as well as with extortion demands for fire prevention, interrupted food supplies, billeting, encampments, raids and other forms of army nuisance.

Drawing of the siege of Eindhoven. During this attack many houses in Oerle and Veldhoven were set on fire.

Peace returned during the Twelve Years’ Truce from 1609 to 1621, but the battle was resumed in 1621. In particular, the conquest of the city of Den Bosch in 1629 had major consequences; since the State troops claimed that they controlled the entire Meierij (territory) of Den Bosch. This created a chaotic time in the years between 1629 and 1648. The body of power was reluctantly recognized as the village administrators continued to receive instructions from the Spanish government situated in Brussels, and government officials appointed by Spain simply remained in office. Gradually, the Republic of the United Netherlands gained more control of Brabant, especially after Breda and the surrounding area was conquered in 1637 from the Spaniards.

The Republic set itself the goal of introducing Protestantism in the Meierij (territory) van Den Bosch. Immediately after the conquest of the city of Den Bosch in 1629, the monasteries were closed and the clergy expelled from the city. Bishop Ophovius and his entourage were forced to leave the city and thus they moved around within the Meierij for a few more years. For a period of time, he stayed as a guest of the noble Amandus van Horne at his castle in Geldrop, from where he ruled the diocese of Den Bosch.

In 1633, pastors were placed in a few villages and towns in the Meierij, including Eindhoven. Some Protestants from Veldhoven and Blaarthem joined the Protestant congregation in Eindhoven. In 1634, an appeal was made to appoint a preacher for Veldhoven, but that plan ultimately fell through.

The Catholic clergy in the Meierij also had an increasingly difficult time. After 1648, they were forced to leave their parishes and the church buildings were handed over to the Protestants. With characteristic tenacity, the Norbertines remained in their parishes until 1648 or sometimes even afterwards. Norberts also left their parishioners in Oerle and Veldhoven.

Read more in the next chapter The Republic of the United Low Countries