Loevestein Castle, locally known as Slot Loevestein, lies next to the town of Woudrichem, on the southern bank of the river Waal, in the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands.
Loevestein Castle is a well-known castle in the Netherlands and a popular destination for a lot of school trips. It's also one of my favorites.
Loevestein Castle was built somewhere between 1357 and 1368 by a Dirk Loef van Horne, who was then Lord of Altena and an unloyal vassal of the Count of Holland. His name may well explain the name of the castle; the stone house of Loef (with stein being an old word for stone). With possessing the castle came the right to charge tolls from passing ships.
In 1385 regent Albert I, Duke of Bavaria, took over possession of the castle and appointed his trustee Brunstijn van Herwijnen as the castle's keeper. At this time the castle was strengthened but when this Brunstijn became too powerful the castle was besieged for 15 days by a son of Albert; William II. During this siege a corner tower and part of the curtain wall had collapsed. William gained the castle's fief as a reward.
After the death of William, who had become Duke of Bavaria in 1404, in 1417 he was succeeded by his daughter Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut (a.k.a. Jacoba van Beieren in Dutch). She then used the castle for the first time as a prison for political opponents. Until 1449 there was a lot of turmoil in the regions politics and a couple of keepers succeeded one another. During the following hundred years the castle saw some skirmishes but nothing major.
In 1570 the castle was taken by cunning; 8 Calvinist rebels disguised as monks, managed to get into the castle and quickly shot the keeper of the castle. Two days later they were joined by another 10 of their fellows. The plan was to wait for reinforcements coming from Germany and try to take over the nearby towns of Woudrichem and Gorinchem to rebel against the then Spanish rule under Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba and Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. Alas, the reinforcements never made it because of wintry conditions and a small Spanish army recaptured the castle after a short siege. The rebel leader committed suicide by setting fire to his room. The Spanish later decapitated his corpse and nailed his head to the gallows in 's-Hertogenbosch.
From then until 1589 the castle changed hands between the Spanish and the rebels (called the Beggars) once more and never came under Spanish rule again.
From 1614 on the castle was used as a state prison. In 1619 a famous Dutch lawyer; Hugo de Groot (a.k.a. Hugo Grotius), was imprisoned in the castle together with his wife and daughter to serve a life term sentence. In 1621 however he managed to escape from the castle by hiding in a big wooden bookcase which was being brought out of the castle.
Other prisoners were: a captured English vice-admiral; George Ayscue (1666), several Dutch mayors who surrendered their towns to the French without fighting (1700's) and during the French occupation until 1813, Spanish, Russian and English prisoners of war.
Other occupants were a battalion of Scottish mercenaries around 1750 who left some murals in their living quarters.
In the 16th century an earthwork fortress was put up around the castle of which some can still be seen today. In the 19th century the castle was incorporated into a new and enlarged earthwork fortress which made the castle an important stronghold in the New Hollandic Waterline (a line of defensive works using water throughout the western part of Holland). During all these works the bailey of the castle was torn down, the sole remnant is the round tower which was used as a powder magazine. Loevestein Castle lost its military function in 1952.
The interior of Loevestein Castle can be visited, with a guided tour, for a small fee. The fortress surrounding the castle is freely accessible during daytime. A great castle.