1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Breda

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BREDA, a fortified town in the province of North Brabant, Holland, at the confluence of the canalized rivers Merk and Aa, 15 m. by rail E.N.E. of Roozendaal. Pop. (1900) 26,296. It is connected by steam tramway with Antwerp (30 m. S.S.W.), and with Geertruidenberg in the north, and the island of Duiveland on the west. The fortress of Breda, which was once considered impregnable, has been dismantled, but the town is still protected by extensive lines of fortification and lies in the midst of a district which can be readily laid under water. It has a fine quay, town-hall and park. There are several Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. The principal Protestant church is a Gothic building dating from the end of the 13th century, with a fine tower, and a choir of later date (1410). Among the many interesting monuments is the imposing tomb of the stadtholder Count Engelbert II. of Nassau and his wife. This is the work of Tomasino Vincenz of Bologna, who, though a pupil of Raphael in painting, in sculpture followed Michelangelo, to whom the work is sometimes ascribed. Since 1828 Breda has been the seat of a royal military academy for all arms of the service. It also possesses a Latin school, an arsenal, and a modern prison built on the isolated-cell principle. The prison is in the form of a rotunda, 58 yds. in diameter, and covered by a high dome. In the middle is the office of the administration, and on the top of this a small watch-tower. Round the walls of the rotunda are the cells, 208 in number, and arranged in four tiers with balconies reached by iron staircases. Each cell measures 35 cub. yds., is provided with an electric bell communicating with the warder in the tower, heated by hot-air pipes, and lighted by day through a window on the outer wall of the rotunda, and from sunset till ten o'clock by electric light. The industries of Breda comprise the manufacture of linen and woollen goods, carpets, hats, beer and musical instruments. In the neighbourhood of the town are the villages of Ginneken and Prinsenhage, situated in the midst of pretty pine woods. They form favourite places of excursion, and in the woods at Ginneken is a Kneipp sanatorium.

History.—Breda was in the 11th century a direct fief of the Holy Roman Empire, its earliest known lord being Henry I. (1098 – 1125), in whose family it continued, though, from the latter part of the 13th century, in the female line, until Alix, heiress of Philip (d. 1323), sold it to Brabant. In 1350 the fief was resold to John (Jan) of Polanen (d. 1377), the heiress of whose line, Joanna (d. 1445), married Engelbert of Nassau-Dillenburg (d. 1442). Henceforth it remained in the house of Nassau, passing ultimately to William I. (1533 – 1584), the first stadtholder of the Netherlands. Breda obtained municipal rights in 1252, but was first surrounded with walls in 1534 by Count Henry of Nassau, who also restored the old castle, originally built by John of Polanen in 1350. From this period until late in the 19th century it remained the most important of the line of fortresses along the Meuse. Breda was captured by surprise by the Spaniards in 1581; but in 1590 it fell again into the hands of Maurice of Nassau, 68 picked men contriving to get into the town concealed under the turf in a peat-boat. The so-called “Spaniard’s Hole” still marks the spot where the peat-boat lay. Its surrender in 1625, after a ten months’ siege, to the Spaniards under Spinola is the subject of the famous picture by Velasquez in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. In 1637 Breda was recaptured by Frederick Henry of Orange after a four months’ siege, and in 1648 it was finally ceded to Holland by the treaty of Westphalia. During the wars of the French Revolution, it was taken by Dumouriez in 1793, evacuated soon after and retaken by Pichegru in 1795, after the whole of Holland had already succumbed to the French. In 1813, a sally being made by the French garrison on an advance-guard of the Russians under Benckendorff, the citizens of Breda again made themselves masters of the town.

Breda was the residence, during his exile, of Charles II., who, by the declaration of Breda (1660), made known the conditions of his acceptance of the crown of England. In 1696 William, prince of Orange and king of England, built the new castle, one of the finest buildings of the period, which now serves as the military academy. Breda also derives some celebrity from the various political congresses of which it has been the scene. In 1575 a conference was held here between the ambassadors of Spain and those of the United Provinces; in 1667 a peace was signed between England, Holland, France and Denmark; and in 1746 – 1747 the representatives of the same powers met in the town to discuss the terms of another treaty.