Hendrik van Nassau heer van Ouwerkerk en Woudenbergh


Lineage of Nassau Ouwerkerk

Prince Maurice of Orange was not only famous for militairy feats, but also for his very public afair with Margaretha van Mechelen. One of his bastards from this affair: Lodewijk van Nassau-Beverweerd, married Elisabeth countess of Hoorne. On 16 December 1640 their youngest son Hendrik van Nassau Ouwerkerk (from now on Ouwerkerk) was born. Here is a list of all their children:

Ouwerkerk joins the court of William III

Ouwerkerk1 came to the court of William III when the States of Holland appointed him as master of the horse (stalmeester) in 16662. This was a replacement instigated by De Wit for political reasons. He did however become one of the permanent confidants of the young prince of Orange and would accompany him in all his campaigns. The first we hear of him is that he visited Oxford and got a degree there in 1670.

Early military career of Nassau Ouwerkerk

The 1672 French invasion of the United Provinces, or Franco-Dutch war, brought William III the appointment as stadholder of the United Provinces. That same year Ouwerkerk was appointed as colonel of the Zeeland cavalry regiment Gardes du Corps. On 16 April 1674 Ouwerkerk was admitted to the knighthood (ridderschap) of Utrecht. This in spite of his military office.

There is an order of battle of July 1674 where Ouwerkerk is present as 'Ouwerkerk' commander of the Gardes du Corps3. On 9 August 1674 Ouwerkerk was present in the battle of Seneffe. He was reported wounded in that battle4.

There is also a story about Ouwerkerk saving the life of William III in the 1677 battle of Cassel, but I've not yet found its source.

Nassau Ouwerkerk goes to England

In 1688 Ouwerkerk crossed to England with William III. He became an English citizen in 1689 and in view of his many relations there he would have fit in. We hear again of him in July 1690, when he was sent to occupy Dublin with 1,000 horse.

In August 1692 Ouwerkerk fought at Steenkerken, but I do not yet know any details.

In September 1694 Ouwerkerk was near Dixmuiden with a detachment of cavalry.

In August 1695 Ouwerkerk was in Vaudemont's army in West Flanders. Here he commanded the cavalry of the right wing in the retreat towards Gent5. In 1696 Ouwerkerk was also in Flanders, but nothing spectacular happened that year.

Ouwerkerk in the war of the Spanish Succession

At the start of the war of the Spanish Succession Ouwerkerk did not play a significant role because he was still in England. After the death of field marshal Athlone in early 1703 there was however renewed discussion about the leadership of the Dutch army. The States General could choose between Ouwerkerk and Obdam, who both had an about equal right to the office. Because they were not able to choose no new field marshal was appointed. Obdam was designated as commander of an army near Antwerp and Ouwerkerk would command near Maastricht. The problem then solved itself with Obdam's discomfiture at Ekeren.

In April 1704 Ouwerkerk was appointed as field marshal and became the primus inter parus of all Dutch generals. However: because of the deal the United Provinces had made with England, Marlborough was to be supreme commander of the seapowers armies when they operated together. The fact that Marlborough and Ouwerkerk went along just fine was a happy coincidence in the appointment.

Therefore Ouwerkerk did not lead any campaigns, except when Marlborough was in another theatre, and the Dutch theatre was on the defensive. In 1704 Ouwerkerk did lead his own campaign along the Meuse. In early 1705 Ouwerkerk faced the French during Marlborough's hopeless attempts to achieve something on the Moselle.

In 1706 Ouwerkerk commanded the cavalry in the Battle of Ramillies. Ramillies was essentially a cavalry victory and so Ouwerkerk had every reason to be satisfied.

In his last campaign Ouwerkerk commanded the 'Dutch' wing of the combined armies in the battle of Oudenaarde. It was followed by the Siege of Lille. During this siege Ouwerkerk died of illness.

Nassau Ouwerkerk marries Isabella van Sommelsdijk

Ouwerkerk married Françoise van Aarssen van Sommelsdijk, daughter of Cornelis van Sommelsdijk. There children were:


Service Record


1) The spelling of Nassau Ouwerkerk's name is really messy through the ages. One has: Ouwerkerk, Ouwerkerque, Ouverkerque, Overkirk, Auverquerque, Auverkerque, Auwerkerque
2) Nieuw Nederlands Biografisch woordenboek by Molhuysen en Blok, Leiden 1911, under Nassau Ouwerkerk
3) Le Mercure Hollandais, Amsterdam 1676, under July 1674 page 436, has this order of battle with the Gardes du Corps under 'Ouwerkerk'
4) Le Mercure Hollandais, Amsterdam 1676, under July 1674 page 472 has Ouwerkerk in the list of wounded. Also see: Lettres de Messire Roger de Rabutin, comte de Bussy: De Madame de M..... au Comte de Bussy, Paris 14 August 1674: L'on a su par les prisoniers, que ...le Colonel Auverkerque ont été blessez..
5) Europische Mercurius for 1695 under August, for Ouwerkerk's role in West Flanders