Maarten van Rossum and the Kasteel De Cannenburch

In the decades before the Eighty Years War (or Tachtigjarige Oorlog) that severed the Low Countries into a republican Dutch north and a Habsburg royalist south, another war raged. One largely forgotten about.

The Habsburg dynasty was ascending. Charles V – not just king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, but also local boy and inheritor of the old Burgundian seats of power in Flanders and Brabant – saw to make good on old claims to the Duchy of Guelders.

Control of these lands, wedged between the German territories of Westphalia and Charles’ Burgundian inheritance, would have to be wrested from the powerful dukes of the united Jülich-Cleves-Berg, who took control of the Duchy from Charles’ grandfather.

So as Charles waged his better-known battles in the great Italian Wars, he also orchestrated bloodshed much closer to home: the Guelders Wars would go on for decades.

Chief among the defenders and captains of the Dukes was the nobleman Maarten van Rossum.

For thirty years, he fought to preserve Guelders’ political independence and territorial claims – going so far as to secure alliances with the kings of France and Denmark and leading raids deep into Habsburg lands as far as Antwerp in Brabant.

But it wasn’t enough. France failed to come to the aid of the Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg. Habsburg troops controlled most of Guelders and the northern Low Countries.

The war was lost. The Treaty of Venlo was signed in 1543 handing over Gelderland to the Habsburgs.

Maarten van Rossum’s career as a feared commander was at an end, and in the same year, he secured the rights to a tumbled-down ruin of a 14th century castle in the freshly-conquered land.

He set about having a new stately home built on its ruins: what would become known as the Kasteel De Cannenburch. He would not live to see it completed. He would pass in 1555, and the project would come into the hands of his nephew Hendrik van Isendoorn (d. 1594), whose decedents would live in the house until the 19th century.