Jean Philippe Eugène comte de Mérode Westerloo

24 June 1674 - 2 September 1732

Westerloo's background

Westerloo was borne on 22 June 1674 in Brussel at the Hotel Hooghstraeten, which his family hired at the time. His family were the Counts of Mérode, who had a lot of property in present day Belgium and in the Duchy of Jülich. Westerloo's grandfather had been married to Anne-Marie countess of Brockhorst-Batenburg and left two sons. The oldest was Ferdinand-Philippe marquis de Westerloo. The youngest was Maximilien, who got the barony of Petersheim, and after the death of his mother that of Stein. Ferdinand-Philippe married Marie-Madeleine-Eugénie de Gand a daughter of the Prince d'Isenghien. When the oldest brother died at age 27 he left only a girl named Isabelle-Françoise-Marguerite. In order to preserve and re-establish the house the younger brother therefore wanted to marry this girl. Two popes refused the necesarry permission, but the third allowed it for 20,000 ecu's, and so the marriage took place in 1665. Thus the holdings of this branch of the Mérode's, one of the oldest and most powerful families of the Spanish Netherlands were kept together.

After the death of his father Westerloo's mother remarried in 1677 to a Duke of Holstein-Plön. At the time there were 3 dukes of Holstein-Plön. The oldest was Johan Adolf of Holstein-Plön (1634-1704), who held high command in the Dutch army. The second was August (1635-1699), who had become Duke of Nordburg in 1672, and would inherit Holstein-Plön in 1706. Isabelle married the third son; Joachim Ernest Duc de Holstein-Rethwisch (1637 - 4 July 1700). He turned Catholic and would later become general of cavalry in the Spanish Netherlands. This second marriage gave Westerloo a steph-brother Johan Adolf Ernst Ferdinand Carl of Plön-Rethwisch (4 Dec 1684-1729).

Westerloo grew up a weak and sickly child. According to his own memoirs his education was of sub-standard quality. E.g. he had no teacher during the whole of his stay in Spain.

On 15 March 1686 the Duke of Holstein Ploen and his family made a voyage to Spain and stayed in Madrid. While still there the Moroccans laid siege to Oran in 1688. Amongst the volunteers who went to the rescue was the Duke of Holstein Ploen, who brought along his stephson. One can say that Westerloo started his career in the defense of Oran, but this is nonsense1. On his return to Madrid Charles II made Holstein-Ploen a grandee of Spain and promised Westerloo the Toison d'or2.

Adolescence of Westerloo

On account of the Nine Years War the Holstein-Ploen family started to return to Flanders in September 1689 and arrived in Brussel on christmas eve. Westerloo then got a captain of his late father's regiment as teacher. This Segard held on to his company in the regiment and meanwhile teached the adolescent Westerloo. According to Westerloo Segard was honest, good and brave, but had little knowledge and was of mediocre intelligence. In his company he went to the academy Cicati le Jeune, where Westerloo learned to ride a horse. Furthermore he was given a teacher for history and geography; a master of arms and a dancing teacher.

In 1692 the Duke of Holstein-Ploen decided to participate in the campaign as volunteer and invited Westerloo to join him. The 3 August 1692 battle of Steenkerque was the first battle in which Westerloo participated3. From a distance he also saw the progress of the French siege of Namur. In the 1693 campaign Westerloo visited the lines of Namur and then continued to the main force. In the 29 July 1693 battle of Neerwinden Holstein-Ploen and Westerloo joined the Hartmann cavalry as volunteers.

Westerloo begins his military career

Shortly after this Holstein-Ploen was appointed as general of Cavalry of the Spanish Netherlands. Westerloo then joined a company in his regiment as cavalryman, which was rather extraordinary for a young man in his position. In 1695 he made his second campaign in this capacity. During the Siege of Namur he was in a detachment towards Waterloo. This was meant to stop Boufflers, who bombarded Brussel, and burned Westerloo's home. Later Westerloo he returned to the siege, but only saw the final assault from a distance. At the end of the campaign a cavalry company vacated. Westerloo would have obtained if his parents had not prevented it.

Westerloo then wrote to Spain to have two cavalry companies of the Milanese accorded to him. This was granted, and in May or June he arrived in Italy as a cavalry captain. He then continued to Turin, where he met Victor Amadeus, Eugen, Catinat and Tessé. During the siege of Valence Westerloo executed a number of raids against the enemy. After the peace between France and Savoy hostilities ceased in Italy and Westerloo left his companies and went back to the Netherlands.

On 1 August 1699 Westerloo became colonel of a regiment of Spanish Netherlands infantry. In his memoirs he tells that it was the oldest regiment in the army, and had before then been owned by his father, Prince t'Serclaes and D'Ennetières. The regiment was handed to Westerloo at Oostende, where it counted 160 men without proper clothing and badly armed.

Westerloo under Felipe V

After Felipe V became King of Spain Westerloo remained true to his fatherland and thus changed to the Bourbon side. He made a career becoming a brigadier-general and then Maréchal de Camp. He first went on campaign in Italy after that he fought at Ekeren and at Blenheim. There is a remarkable anecdote about the latter campaign. It states that he lost 97 horses and mules and therefore gives an idea of his rank.

Westerloo under the Habsburgs

It is said that it was Westerloo's ambition to become general of cavalry and that the fact that Count Egmont got this post made him leave King Felipe V. The Habsburg emperor did indeed make him general of cavalry. He furthermore made him colonel of a dragoon regiment which was later named Dragons de la Tour. In 1709 he was then made Grandee of Spain, and Field marshal in 1717. He also became captain of the emperor's guard and vice-president of the Hofkriegsrat.

However this may be, he did not get along very well with Eugen and Starhemberg and it seems that this prevented him from exercising the influence that his high birth and wealth would otherwise have given him. On 12 September 1732 he died at Castle Merode.

Westerloo's personal life

Westerloo first married Maria Tersea Pignatelli, daughter of the Duke of Monteleone, a marriage which caused a row described by Saint Simon. From this marriage he had Isabella de Merode, born 13 October 1703. In 1721 he married princess Charlotte of Nassau-Hadamar who gave him Jean Guillaume (1722) and Philippe Maximilien (1729). This was the origin of a long line of Counts of Mérode in Belgium.

Westerloo as a writer

Westerloo is one of those officers who did not gain fame by exercising a high command, but by writing influential memoirs. In 1840 his great grandson published his memoirs in Brussels. These memoirs have been used extensively by writers about the war of the Spanish Sucession.


Service record


This biography is based on Michaud part 28. As yet I've not been able to cross reference it with any other sources.


1) Westerloo's memoires page 81, where he states that it was at the Battle of Steenkerque were: 'ou, pour la première fois, je vis le feu véritablement.'
2) Westerloo's memoires page 93 make clear that he actually received the Toison d'or only in 1692 or 1693.
3) Westerloo's memoires page 81, 'j'essuyai á cheval, auprès de lui, le feu, á quarante pas, de l'infanterie et des dragons françois.'