Claude-Frédéric T'Serclaes Count Tilly

1648- 10 April 1723

Tilly's Background and early career

Claude Frederic T'Serclaes Tilly was born in 1648 to Jean Werner T'Serclaes Tilly Marbais and Marie Françoise de Montmorency Robecq. He was a younger brother of Albert Octave who would make a brilliant career with Philip V of Spain. The relation of these brothers to the famous commander of the thirty years war was that their grandfather was a younger brother the famous Tilly. In 1667 Tilly entered Spanish Service, but switched to Dutch service in 1672, even though he was a Catholic. Tilly would marry Anne Antoinette d'Aspremont-Lynden countess of Reckheim. Anne Antoinette would stay with him often in the field.

Tilly during the League of Augsburg War

Tilly probably did a lot in the army, but I have not yet been able to find much about his early career. It seems he was appointed as colonel of a Holland Cavalry regiment in 1680. In December 1690 we see him mentioned as commander of a 540 men strong dragoon corps that would bivouac in Liège in the winter of 1690-1691. We also know he got appointed as General Major on 24 March 1691. In 1693 we see him as a commander of 3 cavalry and 5 dragoon regiments who were forced out of Tongres in the night of 14-15 July 1693. On 25 October 1694 he was appointed as Lieutenant General and on 5 August 1701 he became acting governor of Arnhem1.

Tilly in the Spanish Succession War

At the beginning of the Spanish Succession War Tilly got an offer to return to the service of the King of Spain, but he refused it. From the Dutch he got the command over a force that had to protect the United Provinces from an invasion along the great Rivers. As part of the campaign to capture Kaiserswerth he marched to Xanten on 19 April. Here Boufflers tried to catch him with superior forces, but Tilly narrowly escaped the maneuver and joined with Athlone at Klarenbeek. Because Athlone was general of cavalry this also meant that he was no longer supreme commander of part of the army but served under him for a time. In August 1702 Tilly commanded an attachment that ranged itself for battle on the Leenderheide and was almost attacked by Boufflers. September saw Tilly in command of closing in on Roermond.

After the conquest of Liège his religion made Tilly the preferred candidate of the population as military governor of Liège. I do not know when he got officially appointed, but fact is that Tilly and his wife went to live in Liège. Some of the Dutch complained about her behavior there. On 19 December she wrote a letter to Heinsius asking for another station for her husband and payment of his arrears. In the winter of 1702 - 1703 Tilly occupied himself with restoring the citadel, getting the contributions in order and guarding against spies and conspiracies.

At the end of April 1703 Tilly left for the front. Here he served in the siege of Bonn under Obdam. At the battle of Ekeren his wife was captured in her coach by the French. In the later phases of the battle he shared the command with lieutenant general of infantry Slangenburgh (his senior) and field deputy Hop. This circumstance might in itself have furthered his career. However, the fact that Obdam was later dismissed opened further career perspectives for Tilly, even though Obdam had recommended him on several occasions. In August he left the siege of Huy due to illness. When it was time for the winter quarters Tilly was expected to resume his command in Liège, but the fact that his wife always accompanied him and meddled in everything gave a bit of trouble2. He therefore did not take up command in Liège again.

Tilly becomes general of the cavalry

1704 was a very good year for Tilly, because he was appointed as General of Cavalry in April. The campaign saw him under Ouwerkerk, but nothing much was accomplished. From this year we have a letter by Albemarle that says that Ouwerkerk wasn't satisfied about him, while Tilly wasn't satisfied about Ouwerkerk, Noyelles and Dopff3.

The next year started with Tilly in Ouwerkerk's army near Maastricht while Marlborough was on the Moselle. It is however a bit unclear in which actions Tilly participated. On 23 May Dopff mentions that Tilly is ill and not expected to return to the army soon4. He then appears in a council of war on 10 June 17055, but as it was in Maastricht I'm not sure this meant he was better. With the return of Marlborough's army we again see Tilly in a council of war on 28 June where he voted for attacking Huy or the Lines6. In a council of 16 July near Huy, with only the generals of Ouwerkerk's wing present, Tilly however voted against a direct attack on the lines7.

In the subsequent battle of Eliksem that broke the Brabant Lines, Tilly is not mentioned on the Order of Battle for Ouwerkerk's army. On the other hand Slangenburgh is mentioned as general of infantry8. This therefore makes me doubt whether Tilly was present. Tilly again appears in the Heinsius correspondence on 14 September 17059 and in an OOB on 28 September10. In 'Het Staatse Leger' Tilly is mentioned on an earlier date, as having been present in the IJssche affair on 18 August11. To me it therefore seems that Tilly was ill for at least part of 1705, but this may just as well be a coincidence.

to be conintued




1) For this paragraph see: 'Staatse Leger' part VII.
2) Letter from Hop to Heinsius 11 September 1703: 'Ick word van verscheide oorden geinformeert dat men hier soo misnoecht is geweest over de gravinne van Tilli, als wel tevrede van de conduite van den grave haer gemael. Maer dewijle die vrouw hem altoos bijblijvt en sig met alles moeit, dat men daerom liefst sien soude dat gemelten heer niet hier wederom als in den verleden winter is geschiet, quame te commanderen.
3) Letter from Albemarle to Heinsius 23 June 1704: H.A. 1704 Nr. 555
4) Letter from Dopff to Heinsius 23 May 1705: H.A. 1705 Nr. 484
5) Letter from Heemskerck to Heinsius 11 June 1705: H.A. 1705 Nr. 551
6) Letter from Heemskerck to Heinsius 29 June 1705: H.A. 1705 Nr. 624
7) Letter from Heemskerck to Heinsius 16 July 1705: H.A. 1705 Nr. 696
8) The map of the forcing of the lines that was printed by Anna Beeck does not mention Tilly in the OOB.
9) Letter from Heemskerck to Heinsius 14 September 1705: H.A. 1705 Nr. 954
10) Ordre de Bataille des Armées des Alliéz au camp de Heerendaal ce de 7br 1705, WHK13/151 in the Marburg WHK Archive.
11) Staatse Leger VIII/I Page