Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma (1545 - 1592), Spanish Conqueror in Netherland

Alexander Farnese grandson of Charles V by Alonso Sanchez Coello, c.1560. (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)

Portrait of Alexander Farnese by Jean Baptiste De Saive, Oil on Canvas

Portrait of Alexander Farnese by Jean Baptiste De Saive, Oil on Canvas

The capture of Maastricht in 1579 by Alexander Farnese, duke of Parma

Alexander Farnese (Italian: Alessandro Farnese, Spanish: Alejandro Farnesio) (27 August 1545 – 3 December 1592) was Duke of Parma and Piacenza from 1586 to 1592, and Governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1578 to 1592.

Alessandro was the son of Duke Ottavio Farnese of Parma and Margaret, the illegitimate daughter of the Habsburg Emperor Charles V. He had a twin brother, Charles, who only lived one month.

His mother was the half-sister of Philip II of Spain and John of Austria. He led a significant military and diplomatic career in the service of Spain under the service of his uncle the King. He fought in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and then in the Netherlands against the rebels.
He accompanied his mother to Brussels when she was appointed Governor of the Netherlands. In 1565 his marriage with Maria of Portugal was celebrated in Brussels with great splendour. Alexander Farnese had been brought up in Spain with his cousin, the ill-fated Don Carlos, and Don John, both of whom were about the same age as himself, and after his marriage he took up his residence at once in the court of Madrid.

It was seven years, however, before he had again the opportunity to display his great military talents. In the meantime the provinces of the Netherlands had revolted against Spanish rule. Don John, who had been sent as governor-general to restore order, found difficulties in the opposition from William the Silent, who had succeeded in uniting all the provinces in common resistance to King Philip II. In the autumn of 1577, Farnese was sent to join Don John at the head of reinforcements, and it was his able strategy and prompt decision at a critical moment that won the Battle of Gembloux in 1578. Shortly afterwards Don John, whose health had broken down, died. Farnese was appointed to take his place.

He was confronted with important difficulties, but he proved himself more than equal to the task. In military ability he was inferior to none of his contemporaries. As a skilful diplomat he was the match even of his great antagonist, William the Silent. And, like most of the leading statesmen of his day, he was unscrupulous as to the means he employed so long as he achieved his ends.

Perceiving that there were divisions in the ranks of his opponents between Catholic and Protestant, Fleming and Walloon, he set to work by persuasion, to successfully foment the growing discord, and bring back the Walloon provinces' allegiance to the king. By the treaty of Arras, January 1579, he was able to secure the support of the 'Malcontents', as the Catholic nobles of the south were styled, to the royal cause. The reply to the treaty of Arras was the Union of Utrecht, concluded a few weeks later between the seven northern provinces, who abjured the sovereignty of King Philip and bound themselves to use all their resources to maintain their independence of Spanish rule.

As soon as he had obtained a secure basis of operations in Hainaut and Artois, Farnese set himself in earnest to the task of reconquering Brabant and Flanders by force of arms. Town after town fell into his power. Tournai, Maastricht, Breda, Bruges and Ghent opened their gates.
He finally laid siege to the great seaport of Antwerp. The town was open to the sea, strongly fortified, and defended with resolute determination and courage by the citizens. They were led by the famous Marnix van St. Aldegonde and assisted by an ingenious Italian engineer named Gianibelli. The siege began in 1584 and called forth all of Farnese's military genius. He cut off all access to Antwerp from the sea by constructing a bridge of boats across the Scheldt from Calloo to Oordam, in spite of the desperate efforts of the besieged townspeople to prevent its completion. The terms offered included the clause that all Protestants had to leave the city within two years. This relatively disciplined capture should not be confused with the bloody events of the Spanish Fury on November 4, 1576. Farnese was clearly avoiding the mistakes of his predecessor Don Luis de Requesens, although fear of a repeat of Spanish atrocities could have been a factor in the fleeing of 60,000 Antwerp citizens (60% of the pre-siege population). With the Fall of Antwerp, and with Mechelen and Brussels already in the hands of Farnese, the whole of the southern Netherlands was once more placed under the authority of Philip. Holland and Zeeland, whose geographical position made them unassailable except by water, were able to hold out and defy Farnese's further advance through the courage and skill of their hardy seafaring population and the help of English auxiliaries sent by Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1586 Alexander Farnese became Duke of Parma through the death of his father. He applied for leave to visit his paternal territory, but Philip would not permit him. He could not replace him in the Netherlands. However, while retaining him in his command at the head of a formidable army, the king would not give his sanction to his great general's desire to use it for the reconquest of England. Farnese at first believed it possible to successfully invade England with a force of 30,000 troops, without significant naval protection, relying mainly on the hope of a native Catholic insurrection. Philip overruled him, and began the work that led to the Spanish Armada. As part of the general campaign preparations, Farnese moved against Ostend and Sluis. Sluis was taken in August 1587. The Armada reached the area a year later. After its defeat, Farnese broke up his camp in Dunkirk in September.

Farnese was to have turned his attention back to the northern Netherlands, where the Dutch had regrouped, but on 1–2 August 1589, the French king Henry III was assassinated, and Farnese was ordered into France, in support of the Catholic opposition to Henry IV of France. This enabled the Dutch rebels to turn the tide in favour of the Dutch Revolt, which had been in ever deeper trouble since 1576. In September 1590 he moved to relieve Paris from the lengthy siege it had been placed under by Huguenots and Royalists loyal to Henry IV. On 20 April 1592 he repeated the same deed at Rouen, but was subsequently wounded in the hand. His health quickly declining, Farnese called his son Ranuccio to command his troops. Returned to the Flanders, he was however removed from the position of governor by the Spanish court, jealous of his successes.

He died in Arras in December of 1592.

Farnese became Duke of Parma and Piacenza in 1586, but he never ruled, naming his son Ranuccio as regent.

Sources :

ORIGIN: Netherland

  1. William The Silent

William The Silent (1533-1584), Liberator of the Netherlands

Portrait of Willem I of Nassau, prince of Orange and Stadhouder, in 1555

William I (1533-1584), Prince of Orange, called William the Silent, portrayed by Adriaen Thomas Key (ca. 1570–1584)

William the Silent

William the Silent was killed at his home by Balthasar Gérard on 10 July 1584

The statue of William of Orange in The Hague. His finger originally pointed towards the Binnenhof, but the statue has since been moved. A similar statue stands in Voorhees Mall on the campus of Rutgers University.

William I, Prince of Orange (24 April 1533 – 10 July 1584), also widely known as William the Silent (Dutch: Willem de Zwijger), or simply William of Orange (Dutch: Willem van Oranje), was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish that set off the Eighty Years' War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648. He was born in the House of Nassau as Count of Nassau-Dillenburg. He became Prince of Orange in 1544 and is thereby the founder of the branch House of Orange-Nassau.

A wealthy nobleman, William originally served the Habsburgs as a member of the court of Margaret of Parma, governor of the Spanish Netherlands. Unhappy with the centralisation of political power away from the local estates and with the Spanish persecution of Dutch Protestants, William joined the Dutch uprising and turned against his former masters. The most influential and politically capable of the rebels, he led the Dutch to several successes in the fight against the Spanish. Declared an outlaw by the Spanish king in 1580, he was assassinated by Balthasar Gérard (also written as 'Gerardts') in Delft four years later.

William was born on 24 April 1533 in the castle of Dillenburg in Nassau, Germany. He was the eldest son of William, Count of Nassau and Juliana of Stolberg-Werningerode, and was raised a Lutheran. He had four younger brothers and seven younger sisters: John, Hermanna, Louis, Maria, Anna, Elisabeth, Katharine, Juliane, Magdalene, Adolf and Henry.

When his cousin, René of Châlon, Prince of Orange, died childless in 1544, the eleven-year-old William inherited all Châlon's property, including the title Prince of Orange, on the condition that he receive a Roman Catholic education. This was the founding of the house of Orange-Nassau Besides Châlon's properties, he also inherited vast estates in the Low Countries (present-day Netherlands and Belgium). Because of his young age, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V served as the regent of the principality until William was fit to rule. William was sent to the Netherlands to receive the required education, first at the family's estate in Breda, later in Brussels under the supervision of Mary of Habsburg (Mary of Hungary), the sister of Charles V and governor of the Habsburg Netherlands (Seventeen Provinces). In Brussels, he was taught foreign languages and received a military and diplomatic education under the direction of Champagney (Jérôme Perrenot), brother of Granvelle.

On 6 July 1551, he married Anna van Egmond en Buren, the wealthy heir to the lands of her father, and William gained the titles Lord of Egmond and Count of Buren. They had three children. Later that same year, William was appointed captain in the cavalry. Favoured by Charles V, he was rapidly promoted, and became commander of one of the Emperor's armies at the age of 22. He was made a member of the Raad van State, the highest political advisory council in the Netherlands It was in November 1555, shortly after Charles had abdicated in favour of his son, Philip II of Spain that the gout-afflicted Emperor leaned on William's shoulder during his abdication ceremony.

His wife Anna died on 24 March 1558. Later, William had a brief relationship with Eva Elincx, leading to the birth of their illegitimate son, Justinus van Nassau: William officially recognised him and took responsibility for his education — Justinus would become an admiral in his later years.

In 1559, Philip appointed William as the stadtholder (governor) of the provinces Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, thereby greatly increasing his political power. A stadtholdership over Franche-Comté followed in 1561.

Although he never directly opposed the Spanish king, William soon became one of the most prominent members of the opposition in the Council of State, together with Philip de Montmorency, Count of Hoorn and Lamoral, Count of Egmont. They were mainly seeking more political power for themselves against the de facto government of Count Berlaymont, Granvelle and Viglius of Aytta, but also for the Dutch nobility and, ostensibly, for the Estates, and complained that too many Spaniards were involved in governing the Netherlands. William was also dissatisfied with the increasing persecution of Protestants in the Netherlands. Brought up as a Lutheran and later a Catholic, William was very religious but was still a proponent of freedom of religion for all people. The inquisition policy in the Netherlands, carried out by Cardinal Granvelle, prime minister to the new governor Margaret of Parma (1522–83) (natural half-sister to Philip II), increased opposition to Spanish rule among the — then mostly Catholic — population of the Netherlands. Lastly, the members of the opposition wished to see an end to the presence of Spanish troops.

On 25 August 1561, William of Orange married for the second time. His new wife, Anna of Saxony, was described by contemporaries as "self-absorbed, weak, assertive, and cruel", and it is generally assumed that William married her to gain more influence in Saxony, Hesse and the Palatine. The couple had five children.

Up to 1564, any criticism of governmental measures voiced by William and the other members of the opposition had ostensibly been directed at Granvelle; however, after the latter's departure early that year, William, who may have found increasing confidence in his alliance with the Protestant princes of Germany following his second marriage, began to openly criticize the King's anti-Protestant politics. In an iconic speech to the Council of State, William to the shock of his audience motivated his conflict with King Philip II by saying that, even though he had decided for himself to keep to the Catholic faith, he could not approve that monarchs should desire to rule over the souls of their subjects and take away from them their freedom of belief and religion.
Later, in his Apology (1580), William stated that his resolve to oppose the King's policies had originated in June 1559, when, during a hunting trip to the Bois de Vincennes together with the duke of Alva and King Henry II of France, to whom both had been sent as hostages to ensure the proper fulfillment of the conditions of the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis following the Hispano-French war, the latter two had openly discussed a secret understanding between Philip and Henry which aimed at the extermination of the Protestants in both France and the Netherlands; William at that time had kept silent, but had decided for himself that he would not allow the slaughter of so many innocent subjects.

In early 1565, a large group of lesser noblemen, including William's younger brother Louis, formed the Confederacy of Noblemen. On 5 April, they offered a petition to Margaret of Parma, requesting an end to the persecution of Protestants. From August to October 1566, a wave of iconoclasm (known as the Beeldenstorm) spread through the Low Countries. Calvinists, Anabaptists and Mennonites, angry with their being persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church and opposed to the Catholic images of saints (which in their eyes conflicted with the Second Commandment), destroyed statues in hundreds of churches and monasteries throughout the Netherlands.

Following the Beeldenstorm, unrest in the Netherlands grew, and Margaret agreed to grant the wishes of the Confederacy, provided the noblemen would help to restore order. She also allowed more important noblemen, including William of Orange, to assist the Confederacy. In late 1566, and early 1567, it became clear that she would not be allowed to fulfill her promises, and when several minor rebellions failed, many Calvinists (the major Protestant denomination) and Lutherans fled the country. Following the announcement that Philip II, unhappy with the situation in the Netherlands, would dispatch his loyal general Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba (also known as "The Iron Duke") to restore order, William laid down his functions and retreated to his native Nassau in April 1567. He had been (financially) involved with several of the rebellions.

After his arrival in August 1567, Alba established the Council of Troubles (known to the people as the Council of Blood) to judge those involved in the rebellion and the iconoclasm. William was one of the 10,000 to be summoned before the Council, but he failed to appear. He was subsequently declared an outlaw, and his properties were confiscated. As one of the most prominent and popular politicians of the Netherlands, William of Orange emerged as the leader of an armed resistance. He financed the Watergeuzen, refugee Protestants who formed bands of corsairs and raided the coastal cities of the Netherlands (often killing Spanish and Dutch alike). He also raised an army, consisting mostly of German mercenaries to fight Alba on land. William allied with the French Huguenots, following the end of the second Religious War in France when they had troops to spare. Led by his brother Louis, the army invaded the northern Netherlands in 1568. However the plan failed almost from the start. The Huguenots were defeated by French Royal Troops before they could invade, and a small force under Jean de Villers was captured within two days. Villers gave all the plans of the campaign to the Spanish following his capture. On 23 May, the army under the command of Louis won the Battle of Heiligerlee in the northern province of Groningen against a Spanish army led by the stadtholder of the northern provinces, Jean de Ligne, Duke of Aremberg. Aremberg was killed in the battle, as was William's brother Adolf. Alba countered by killing a number of convicted noblemen (including the Counts of Egmont and Hoorn on 6 June), and then by leading an expedition to Groningen. There, he annihilated Louis’ forces on German territory in the Battle of Jemmingen on 21 July, although Louis managed to escape. These two battles are now considered to be the start of the Eighty Years' War.

William responded by leading a large army into Brabant, but Alba carefully avoided a decisive confrontation, expecting the army to fall apart quickly. As William advanced, riots broke out in his army, and with winter approaching and money running out, William decided to turn back. William made several more plans to invade in the next few years, but little came of them, since he lacked support and money. He remained popular with the public, in part through an extensive propaganda campaign conducted through pamphlets. One of his most important claims, with which he attempted to justify his actions, was that he was not fighting the rightful owner of the land, the Spanish king, but only the inadequate rule of the foreign governors in the Netherlands, and the presence of foreign soldiers. On 1 April 1572 a band of Watergeuzen captured the city of Brielle, which had been left unattended by the Spanish garrison. Contrary to their normal "hit and run" tactics, they occupied the town and claimed it for the prince by raising the Prince of Orange's flag above the city. This event was followed by other cities opening their gates for the Watergeuzen, and soon most cities in Holland and Zeeland were in the hands of the rebels, notable exceptions being Amsterdam and Middelburg. The rebel cities then called a meeting of the Staten Generaal (which they were technically unqualified to do), and reinstated William as the stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland.

Concurrently, rebel armies captured cities throughout the entire country, from Deventer to Mons. William himself then advanced with his own army and marched into several cities in the south, including Roermond and Leuven. William had counted on intervention from the French Protestants (Huguenots) as well, but this plan was thwarted after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre on 24 August, which signalled the start of a wave of violence against the Huguenots. After a successful Spanish attack on his army, William had to flee and he retreated to Enkhuizen, in Holland. The Spanish then organised countermeasures, and sacked several rebel cities, sometimes massacring their inhabitants, such as in Mechelen or Zutphen. They had more trouble with the cities in Holland, where they took Haarlem after seven months and a loss of 8,000 soldiers, and they had to break off their siege of Alkmaar.

In 1573, William went over to the Calvinist Church.

In 1574, William's armies won several minor battles, including several naval encounters. The Spanish, led by Don Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens since Philip replaced Alba in 1573, also had their successes. Their decisive victory in the Battle of Mookerheyde in the south east, on the Meuse embankment, on 14 April cost the lives of two of William's brothers, Louis and Henry. Requesens's armies also besieged the city of Leiden. They broke off their siege when nearby dykes were breached by the Dutch. William was very content with the victory, and established the University of Leiden, the first university in the Northern Provinces.

William had his previous marriage legally disbanded in 1571, on claims that his wife Anna was insane. He then married for the third time on 24 April 1575 to Charlotte de Bourbon-Monpensier, a former French nun, who was also popular with the public. Together, they had six daughters.

After failed peace negotiations in Breda in 1575, the war lingered on. The situation improved for the rebels when Don Requesens died unexpectedly in March 1576, and a large group of Spanish soldiers, not having received their salary in months, mutinied in November of that year and unleashed the Spanish Fury on the city of Antwerp, a tremendous propaganda coup for the Dutch Revolt. While the new governor, Don John of Austria, was under way, William of Orange managed to have most of the provinces and cities sign the Pacification of Ghent, in which they declared themselves ready to fight for the expulsion of Spanish troops together. However, he failed to achieve unity in matters of religion. Catholic cities and provinces would not allow freedom for Calvinists, and vice versa.

When Don John signed the Perpetual Edict in February 1577, promising to comply with the conditions of the Pacification of Ghent, it seemed that the war had been decided in favour of the rebels. However, after Don John took the city of Namur in 1577, the uprising spread throughout the entire Netherlands. Don John attempted to negotiate peace, but the prince intentionally let the negotiations fail. On 24 September 1577, he made his triumphal entry in the capital Brussels. At the same time, Calvinist rebels grew more radical, and attempted to forbid Catholicism in areas under their control. William was opposed to this both for personal and political reasons. He desired freedom of religion, and he also needed the support of the less radical Protestants and Catholics to reach his political goals. On 6 January 1579, several southern provinces, unhappy with William's radical following, signed the Treaty of Arras, in which they agreed to accept their Catholic governor, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma (who had succeeded Don John).

Five northern provinces, later followed by most cities in Brabant and Flanders, then signed the Union of Utrecht on 23 January, confirming their unity. William was initially opposed to the Union, as he still hoped to unite all provinces. Nevertheless, he formally gave his support on 3 May. The Union of Utrecht would later become a de facto constitution, and would remain the only formal connection between the Dutch provinces until 1795.

In spite of the renewed union, the Duke of Parma was successful in reconquering most of the southern part of the Netherlands. Because he had agreed to remove the Spanish troops from the provinces under the Treaty of Arras, and because Philip II needed them elsewhere subsequently, the Duke of Parma was unable to advance any further until the end of 1581. In the mean time, William and his supporters were looking for foreign support. The prince had already sought French assistance on several occasions, and this time he managed to gain the support of François, Duke of Anjou, brother of king Henry III of France. On September 29, 1580, the Staten Generaal (with the exception of Zeeland and Holland) signed the Treaty of Plessis-les-Tours with the Duke of Anjou. The Duke would gain the title "Protector of the Liberty of the Netherlands" and become the new sovereign. This, however, required that the Staten Generaal and William renounce their formal support of the King of Spain, which they had maintained officially up to that moment.

On 22 July 1581, the Staten Generaal declared their decision to no longer recognise Philip II as their king, in the Act of Abjuration. This formal declaration of independence enabled the Duke of Anjou to come to the aid of the resisters. He did not arrive until 10 February 1582, when he was officially welcomed by William in Flushing. On 18 March, the Spaniard Juan de Jáuregui attempted to assassinate William in Antwerp. Although William suffered severe injuries, he survived thanks to the care of his wife Charlotte and his sister Mary. While William slowly recovered, the intensive care administered by Charlotte took its toll, and she died on 5 May. The Duke of Anjou was not very popular with the population. The provinces of Zeeland and Holland refused to recognise him as their sovereign, and William was widely criticised for what were called his "French politics". When the Anjou's French troops arrived in late 1582, William's plan seemed to pay off, as even the Duke of Parma feared that the Dutch would now gain the upper hand.

However, the Duke of Anjou himself was displeased with his limited powers, and decided to take the city of Antwerp by force on 18 January 1583. The citizens, who had been warned in time, defended their city in what is known as the "French Fury". Anjou's entire army was killed, and he received reprimands from both Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I of England (whom he had courted). The position of Anjou after this attack became untenable, and he eventually left the country in June. His departure also discredited William, who nevertheless maintained his support for Anjou. He stood virtually alone on this issue, and became politically isolated. Holland and Zeeland nevertheless maintained him as their stadtholder, and attempted to declare him count of Holland and Zeeland, thus making him the official sovereign. In the middle of all this, William had married for the fourth and final time on 12 April 1583 to Louise de Coligny, a French Huguenot and daughter of Gaspard de Coligny. She was to be the mother of Frederick Henry (1584–1647), William's fourth legitimate son.

The Catholic Frenchman Balthasar Gérard (born 1557) was a supporter of Philip II, and in his opinion, William of Orange had betrayed the Spanish king and the Catholic religion. After Philip II declared William an outlaw and promised a reward of 25,000 crowns for his assassination, and of which Gérard learned in 1581, he decided to travel to the Netherlands to kill William. He served in the army of the governor of Luxembourg, Peter Ernst I von Mansfeld-Vorderort for two years, hoping to get close to William when the armies met. This never happened, and Gérard left the army in 1584. He went to the Duke of Parma to present his plans, but the Duke was unimpressed. In May 1584, he presented himself to William as a French nobleman, and gave him the seal of the Count of Mansfelt. This seal would allow forgeries of the messages of Mansfelt to be made. William sent Gérard back to France to pass the seal on to his French allies.

Gérard returned in July, having bought pistols on his return voyage. On 10 July, he made an appointment with William of Orange in his home in Delft, nowadays known as the Prinsenhof. That day, William was having dinner with his guest Rombertus van Uylenburgh. After William left the dining room and climbed down the stairs, Van Uylenburgh heard Gérard shoot William in the chest at close range. Gérard fled to collect his reward.

As William the Silent climbed the stairs to the first floor (that is the one right above ground level, called the second floor in the US), he was spoken to by the English captain Roger Williams who knelt before him. William put him hand on the bowed head of the old captain at which moment Balthasar Gérard jumped out of a dark corner. With a wild expression Gérard drew his weapon and fired three shots at the stadtholder. William the Silent collapsed. His sister knelt besides him, but it was too late.

William the Silent was shot a few times from close range and died on the spot.

In the mean time, Balthasar Gérardhad fled through the side door and ran across the narrow lane. He had almost reached the ramparts from which he intended to spring into the moat. On the other side stood a saddled horse ready. Because he couldn't swim he had a pigs blatter around his waist which he could use as a swimming belt. But alas, he stumbled over a heap of rubbish. A servant and a halberdier of the prince who had raced after him caught him.

"Hellish traitor!" they screamed. His cool answer was "I am no traitor; I am a loyal servant of my lord." "Which lord?" they asked. "Of my lord and master, the king of Spain".

At the same time more pages and halberdiers of the prince appeared and dragged him back to the house under a rain of fists and beatings with the butt of a sword. From the talk he heard he thought that the prince was still alive. "Cursed be the hand that missed!" he yelled.

According to official records, William's last words are said to have been:

Mon Dieu, ayez pitié de mon âme; mon Dieu, ayez pitié de ce pauvre peuple.
("My God, have pity on my soul; my God, have pity on this poor people.")

Generations of Dutch children had to learn these words at school.

Gérard was caught before he could flee Delft, and imprisoned. He was tortured before his trial on 13 July, where he was sentenced to be brutally — even by the standards of that time — killed. The magistrates decreed that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disemboweled alive, that his heart should be torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be cut off!

Traditionally, members of the Nassau family were buried in Breda, but as that city was in Spanish hands when William died, he was buried in the New Church in Delft. His monument on his tomb was originally very modest, but it was replaced in 1623 by a new one, made by Hendrik de Keyser and his son Pieter. Since then, most of the members of the House of Orange-Nassau, including all Dutch monarchs have been buried in the same church. His great-grandson William the third, King of England and Scotland and Stadtholder in the Netherlands was buried in Westminster Abbey.

According to a British historian of science Lisa Jardine, he is reputed to be the first world head of state to be assassinated by handgun, though this is debatable since William was not officially head of state, and the Scottish Regent Moray had been shot 13 years earlier.

Philip William, William's eldest son by his first marriage, to Anna of Egmond, succeeded him as the Prince of Orange at the suggestion of Johan van Oldenbarneveldt. Phillip William died in Brussels on 20 February 1618 and was succeeded by his half-brother Maurice, the eldest son by William's second marriage, to Anna of Saxony, who became Prince of Orange. A strong military leader, he won several victories over the Spanish. Van Oldenbarneveldt managed to sign a very favourable twelve-year armistice in 1609, although Maurice was unhappy with this. Maurice was a heavy drinker and died on 23 April 1625 from liver disease. Maurice had several sons by Margaretha van Mechelen, but he never married her. So, Frederick Henry, Maurice's half-brother (and William's youngest son from his fourth marriage, to Louise de Coligny) inherited the title of Prince of Orange. Frederick Henry continued the battle against the Spanish. Frederick Henry died on 14 March 1647 and is buried with his father William "The Silent" in Nieuwe Kerk, Delft. The Netherlands became formally independent after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In the 21st century the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Beatrix of Orange as head of state, she is descended from William of Orange, although not in direct line.

The son of Frederick Henry, William II of Orange succeeded his father as stadtholder, as did his son, William III of Orange. The latter also became king of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689. Although he was married to Mary II, Queen of Scotland and England for 17 years, he died childless in 1702. He appointed his cousin Johan Willem Friso (William's great-great-great-grandson) as his successor. Because Albertine Agnes, a daughter of Frederick Henry, married William Frederik of Nassau-Dietz, the present royal house of the Netherlands is descended from William the Silent through the female line. As the chief financer and political and military leader of the early years of the Dutch revolt, William is considered a national hero in the Netherlands, even though he was born in Germany, and usually spoke French. Many of the Dutch national symbols can be traced back to William of Orange:
  • The flag of the Netherlands (red, white and blue) is derived from the flag of the prince, which was orange, white and blue.
  • The coat of arms of the Netherlands is based on that of William of Orange. Its motto Je maintiendrai (French, "I will maintain") was also used by William of Orange, who based it on the motto of his cousin René of Châlon, who used Je maintiendrai Châlon.
  • The national anthem of the Netherlands, Het Wilhelmus, was originally a propaganda song for William. It was probably written by Philips of Marnix, Lord of Saint-Aldegonde, a supporter of William of Orange.
  • The national colour of the Netherlands is orange, and it is used, among other things, in the clothing of Dutch athletes.
  • The orange sash of the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle was in honour of the Dutch Dynasty of William the Silent, since the order's founder, Frederick I of Prussia's mother, Louise Henrietta of Nassau, was the granddaughter of William the Silent.
  • A statue of William the Silent stands on the main campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, a legacy of the university's founding by ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1766. The statue is commonly known to students and alumni as "Willie the Silent" and contains an inscription referring to William as "Father of his Fatherland."
  • In January 2008, a planetoid was named after him.
There are several explanations for the origin of his nickname, "William the Silent". The most common one relates to his prudence in regard to a conversation with the king of France.

One day, during a stag-hunt in the Bois de Vincennes, Henry, finding himself alone with the Prince, began to speak of the great number of Protestant sectaries who, during the late war, had increased so much in his kingdom to his great sorrow. His conscience, said the King, would not be easy nor his realm secure until he could see it purged of the " accursed vermin," who would one day overthrow his government, under the cover of religion, if they were allowed to get the upper hand. This was the more to be feared since some of the chief men in the kingdom, and even some princes of the blood, were on their side. But he hoped by the grace of God and the good understanding that he had with his new son, the King of Spain, that he would soon get the better of them. The King talked on thus to Orange in the full conviction that he was aware of the secret agreement recently made with the Duke of Alva for the extirpation of heresy. But the Prince, subtle and adroit as he was, answered the good King in such a way as to leave him still under the impression that he, the Prince, knew all about the scheme proposed by Alva; and on this understanding the King revealed all the details of the plan which had been arranged between the King of Spain and himself for the rooting out and rigorous punishment of the heretics, from the lowest to the highest rank, and in this service the Spanish troops were to be mainly employed.

In the Netherlands, he is also known as the Vader des Vaderlands, "Father of the Fatherland", and the Dutch national anthem, Het Wilhelmus, was written in his honour.

Sources :

George Skanderberg (1405-1468), Military Genius From Albania

Skanderberg against Ottoman Turks

George Kastrioti Skanderbeg

George Kastrioti Skanderbeg

George Kastrioti Skanderbeg

Skanderberg Square in Tirana (Albania)

George Kastrioti Skanderbeg (6 May 1405 – 17 January 1468), widely known as Skanderbeg (Albanian: Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, Latin: Georgius Castriotus Scanderbegh, Turkish: İskender Bey, meaning "Lord Alexander", or "Leader Alexander") was a 15th-century Albanian lord, who as leader of the federation of the League of Lezhë defended the region of Albania against the Ottoman Empire for more than two decades. Skanderbeg's military skills presented a major obstacle to Ottoman expansion, and he was considered by many in western Europe to be a model of Christian resistance against the Ottoman Muslims. Skanderbeg is Albania's most important national hero and a core figure of the Albanian National Awakening.

Skanderbeg was born in 1405 to the noble Kastrioti family in the Dibër region. Sultan Murad II took him hostage during his youth and he fought for the Ottoman Empire as a general. In 1443, he deserted the Ottomans during the Battle of Niš and became the ruler of Krujë. In 1444, he organized local leaders into the League of Lezhë, a federation aimed at uniting their forces for war against the Ottomans. Skanderbeg's first victory against the Ottomans, at the Battle of Torvioll in the same year marked the beginning of more than 20 years of war with the Ottomans. Skanderbeg's forces achieved more than 20 victories in the field and withstood three sieges of his capital, Krujë!

In 1451 he recognized himself as a vassal of the Kingdom of Naples through the Treaty of Gaeta, to ensure a protective alliance. In 1460–1461, he participated in Italy's civil wars in support of Ferdinand I of Naples. In 1463, he became the chief commander of the crusading forces of Pope Pius II, but the Pope died while the armies were still gathering. Left alone to fight the Ottomans, Skanderbeg did so until his death in January 1468.

Marin Barleti's biography of Skanderbeg, written in Latin and in a Renaissance and panegyric style, was translated into all the major languages of Western Europe from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Such translations inspired an opera by Vivaldi, and literary creations by eminent writers such as playwrights William Havard and George Lillo, French poet Ronsard, English poet Byron, and American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Skanderbeg's first name in Albanian is Gjergj, the equivalent of the English form George. The form of his last name was given variously as Kastrioti, Castriota, Castriottis, or Castriot. The last name Kastrioti refers both to the Kastrioti family and to a municipality in northeastern Albania called Kastriot, in the Dibër District.

The Ottoman Turks gave him the name Skanderbeg. Skanderbeg has also been rendered as Scanderbeg in English versions of his biography; Skënderbeu (or Skënderbej) is the Albanian version. Skanderbeg is derived from the combination of Iskender (a Turkish word derived from Alexander) and the Turkish appellative Bey (for Lord or Prince). Latinized in Barleti's version as Scanderbegi and translated into English as Skanderbeg, the combined appellative is assumed to have been a comparison of Skanderbeg's military skill to that of Alexander the Great.

Skanderbeg is thought to have been born with the name George Kastrioti in 1405 in Sinë, one of the two villages owned by his grandfather. Skanderbeg's father was Gjon Kastrioti, lord of Middle Albania, which included Mat, Mirditë and Dibër. His mother was Vojsava Tripalda, a princess from the Tripalda family, originally from the Polog valley, north-western part of present-day Republic of Macedonia. Skanderbeg's parents had nine children, of whom he was the youngest son, his older brothers were Stanisha, Reposh and Kostandin, and his sisters were Mara, Jelena, Angjelina, Vlajka and Mamica.

Gjon Kastrioti had accepted his submission to be the Sultan's vassal in 1409 and was obliged to pay tribute and to send his eldest son, Stanisha, to be the Sultan's hostage. George seems to have gone to Sultan Murad II's court in 1423, when he was 18. It is assumed that Skanderbeg remained as Murad II's hostage for a maximum of three years because his name is mentioned in Albania for the first time in 1426, in the First Act of Hilandar. Shortly afterwards, Gjon Kastrioti and his sons, with the exception of Stanisha (who had by then become a Muslim), purchased four adelphates (rights to reside on monastic territory and receive subsidies from monastic resources) to the Saint George tower and to some property within the monastery as stated in the Second Act of Hilandar.

In 1430, Gjon Kastrioti was defeated in a battle by the Ottoman governor of Skopje, Isa bey Evrenos and as a result, his territorial possessions were extremely reduced. Later that year, Skanderbeg started fighting for Murad II in his expeditions, and he gained the title of sipahi. In 1437–1438, he became a governor (Turkish: subaşi) of the Krujë zeamet. Up until 1432, the subaşi of the city had been Zaganos Bey. During the 1430s, Skanderbeg controlled a relatively large timar composed of nine villages, which historians believe may have been part of the vilayet of Dhimiter Jonima.

It was because of Skanderbeg's display of military merit in several Ottoman campaigns, that Murad II (r. 1421–1451) had given him the title of vali. At that time, Skanderbeg was leading a cavalry unit of 5,000 men. During his stay in Albania as Ottoman governor, he maintained close relations with the population in his father's former properties and also with other Albanian noble families.

After his brother Reposh's death on 25 July 1431 and the later deaths of Kostandin and Skanderbeg's father (who died in 1437), Skanderbeg and his surviving brother Stanisha continued to govern the zeamet that had earlier been governed by their father. Although Skanderbeg was summoned home by his relatives when George Arianiti and Andrew Thopia with other chiefs from region between Vlorë and Shkodër organized rebellion against Ottoman Empire in period 1432—1436, he did nothing, remaining loyal to the sultan. During the 1438–1443 period, he is thought to have been fighting alongside the Ottomans in their European campaigns, mostly against the revolts led by Janos Hunyadi. In 1440 Skanderbeg was appointed as sanjakbey of Sanjak of Debar.

In November 1443, Skanderbeg saw his opportunity to rebel against Sultan Murad II during the Battle of Niš, while fighting against the crusaders of John Hunyadi. Skanderbeg quit the field along with 300 other Albanians serving in the Ottoman army. He immediately went to Krujë on November 28, and by forging a letter from Murad II to the Governor of Krujë, he became lord of the city. To reinforce his intention of gaining control of the former domains of Zeta, Skanderbeg proclaimed himself the heir of the Balšići. After various attacks against Bar and Ulcinj along with Đurađ Branković, Stefan Crnojević and Albanians of the area, the Venetians offered rewards for his assassination. After capturing some other minor surrounding castles and eventually gaining control over more than his father Gjon Kastrioti's domains, Skanderbeg abjured Islam and proclaimed himself the avenger of his family and country. He raised a red flag with the double-headed eagle silhouette on it: a similar flag and symbol are in use today by Albania.

On March 2, 1444, Skanderbeg managed to bring together all the Albanian princes in the city of Lezhë and form the League of Lezhë. Particularly strong was his alliance with Gjergj Arianiti, a member of the Arianiti family, whose daughter Donika he later married. Gibbon reports that the "Albanians, a martial race, were unanimous to live and die with their hereditary prince", and that "in the assembly of the states of Epirus, Skanderbeg was elected general of the Turkish war and each of the allies engaged to furnish his respective proportion of men and money". With this support, Skanderbeg built fortresses (Rodoni Castle) and organized a mobile defense army that forced the Ottomans to disperse their troops, leaving them vulnerable to the hit-and-run tactics of the Albanians. Skanderbeg fought a guerrilla war against the opposing armies by using the mountainous terrain to his advantage. During the first 8–10 years, Skanderbeg commanded an army of generally 10,000-15,000 soldiers, but only had absolute control over the men from his own dominions, and had to convince the other princes to follow his policies and tactics.

In the summer of 1444, in the Plain of Torvioll, the united Albanian armies under Skanderbeg faced the Ottomans who were under direct command of the Turkish general Ali Pasha, with an army of 25,000 men. Skanderbeg had under his command 7,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry. 3,000 cavalry were hidden behind enemy lines in a nearby forest under the command of Hamza Kastrioti. At a given signal they descended, encircled the Turks and gave Skanderbeg a much needed victory. About 8,000 Turks were killed and 2,000 were captured. Skanderbeg's first victory echoed across Europe because this was one of the few times that an Ottoman army was defeated in a pitched battle on European soil. In the following two years, Skanderbeg defeated the Turks two more times, on October 10, 1445, when Ottoman forces from Ochrid suffered severe losses, and again in the Battle of Otonetë on September 27, 1446.

At the beginning of the Albanian insurrection, the Republic of Venice was supportive of Skanderbeg, considering his forces to be a buffer between them and the Ottoman Empire. Lezhë, where the eponymous league was established, was Venetian territory, and the assembly met with the approval of Venice. The later affirmation of Skanderbeg and his rise as a strong force on their borders, however, was seen as a menace to the interests of the Republic, leading to a worsening of relations and the dispute over the fortress of Dagnum which triggered the Albanian-Venetian War of 1447–1448. The Venetians sought by every means to overthrow Skanderbeg or bring about his death, even offering a life pension of 100 golden ducats annually for the person who would kill him! During the conflict, Venice invited the Ottomans to attack Skanderbeg simultaneously from the east, facing the Albanians with a two-front conflict. Skanderbeg, who had besieged a few castles that were possessed by Venice in Albania, was forced to fight an Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Pasha. In 1448, he won a battle against Mustafa Pasha in Dibër. Some days later, on July 23, 1448, he also won another battle in Shkodër against a Venetian army led by Andrea Venier. At the same time, he besieged the towns of Durazzo (modern Durrës) and Lezhë which were then under Venetian rule. This forced the Venetians to offer a peace treaty to Skanderbeg.

The peace treaty, signed between Skanderbeg and Venice on 4 October 1448, envisioned that Venice would keep Dagnum and its environs, but would cede to Skanderbeg the territory of Buzëgjarpri at the mouth of the river Drin, and also that Skanderbeg would enjoy the privilege of buying, tax-free, 200 horse-loads of salt annually from Durazzo. In addition Venice would pay Skanderbeg 1,400 ducats. Soon after the treaty Skanderbeg left to join John Hunyadi in Kosovo. During the period of clashes with Venice, Skanderbeg intensified relationships with Alfonso V of Aragon (r. 1416–1458), who was the main rival of Venice in the Adriatic, where his dreams for an empire were always opposed by the Venetians.

Skanderbeg did not participate in the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448 because he was delayed by Đurađ Branković, who was then allied with Sultan Murad II. He and his army were still en route to reinforce the mainly Hungarian army of John Hunyadi, when the Hungarian forces lost the battle. Skanderbeg and his army ravaged Branković's land to punish Serbs for desertion of Christian cause.

In 1448, Alfonso V suffered a rebellion caused by certain barons in the rural areas of his Kingdom of Naples. He needed reliable troops to deal with the uprising, so he called upon Skanderbeg for assistance. Skanderbeg responded to Alfonso's request for aid by sending to Italy a detachment of Albanian troops commanded by General Demetrios Reres. These Albanians were successful in quickly suppressing the rebellion. Many of these troops settled there. King Alfonso rewarded Demetrios Reres for his service to Naples by appointing him governor of Calabria. One year later, in 1449, another detachment of Albanian troops was sent to garrison Sicily against a rebellion and invasion. This time the troops were led by Giorgio and Basilio Reres, the sons of Demetrios.

On May 14, 1448, an Ottoman army led by Sultan Murad II and his son Mehmed laid siege to the castle of Svetigrad. The Albanian garrison in the castle resisted the frontal assaults of the Ottoman army, while Skanderbeg harassed the besieging forces with the remaining Albanian army under his personal command. In late summer 1448, due to a lack of potable water, the Albanian garrison eventually surrendered the castle with the condition of safe passage through the Ottoman besieging forces, a condition which was accepted and respected by Sultan Murad II. Although his loss of men was minimal, Skanderbeg lost the castle of Svetigrad, which was an important stronghold that controlled the fields of Macedonia to the east. During those battles also German, French, Italian and Slav volunteers joined the League of Lezhë.

In June 1450, two years after the Ottomans had captured Svetigrad, they laid siege to Krujë with an army numbering approximately 100,000 men and led again by Sultan Murad II himself and his son, Mehmed. Following a scorched earth strategy (thus denying the Ottomans the use of necessary local resources), Skanderbeg left a protective garrison of 1,500 men under one of his most trusted lieutenants, Vrana Konti, while, with the remainder of the army, he harassed the Ottoman camps around Krujë by continuously attacking Sultan Murad II's supply caravans. The garrison repelled three major direct assaults on the city walls by the Ottomans, causing great losses to the besieging forces. Ottoman attempts at finding and cutting the water sources failed, as did a sapped tunnel, which collapsed suddenly. An offer of 300,000 aspra (Turkish silver coins) and a promise of a high rank as an officer in the Ottoman army made to Vrana Konti, were both rejected by him.

During the First Siege of Krujë, the Venetian merchants from Shkodër sold food to the Ottoman army and those of Durazzo supplied Skanderbeg's army. An angry attack by Skanderbeg on the Venetian caravans raised tension between him and the Republic, but the case was resolved with the help of the bailo of Durazzo who stopped any Venetian merchants from furnishing any longer the Ottomans. Venetians' help to the Ottomans notwithstanding, by September 1450, the Ottoman camp was in disarray, as the castle was still not taken, the morale had sunk, and disease was running rampant. Murad II acknowledged that he could not capture the castle of Krujë by force of arms, and in October 1450, he lifted the siege and made his way to Edirne, leaving behind several thousand dead soldiers. A few months later, on February 5, 1451, Murad died in Edirne and was succeeded by his son Mehmed II (r. 1451–1481).

Although Skanderbeg had achieved success at resisting Murad II himself, harvests were unproductive and famine was widespread. Following Skanderbeg's requests, King Alfonso V helped him in this situation and the two parties signed the Treaty of Gaeta on March 26, 1451, according to which, Skanderbeg would be formally a vassal of Alfonso in exchange for military aid. More explicitly, Skanderbeg recognized King Alfonso's sovereignty over his lands in exchange for the help that King Alfonso would give to him in the war against the Ottomans. King Alfonso pledged to respect the old privileges of Krujë and Albanian territories and to pay Skanderbeg an annual 1,500 ducats, while Skanderbeg pledged to make his fealty to King Alfonso only after the full expulsion of the Ottomans from the country, a condition never reached in Skanderbeg's lifetime.

A month after the treaty, in April 1451, Skanderbeg married Donika Kastrioti, daughter of Gjergj Arianiti, one of the most influential Albanian noblemen, strengthening the ties between them.Their children included Gjon Kastrioti II.

Right after the Treaty of Gaeta, Alfonso V signed other treaties with the rest of the most important Albanian noblemen, including Golem Arianit Komneni, and with the Despot of the Morea, Demetrios Palaiologos. These movements of Alfonso show that he was thinking about a crusade starting from Albania and Morea, which actually never took place. Following the Treaty of Gaeta, in the end of May 1451, a small detachment of 100 Catalan soldiers, headed by Bernard Vaquer, was established at the castle of Krujë. One year later, in May 1452, another Catalan nobleman, Ramon d’Ortafà, came to Krujë with the title of viceroy. In 1453, Skanderbeg paid a secret visit to Naples and the Vatican, probably to discuss the new conditions after the fall of Constantinople and the planning of a new crusade which Alfonso would have presented to Pope Nicholas V in a meeting of 1453—1454.

During the five years which followed the First Siege of Krujë, Albania was allowed some respite as the new sultan set out to conquer the last vestiges of the Byzantine Empire, but a battle did take place in 1452 when another Ottoman army sent to Albania was defeated again by Skanderbeg's forces. During this period, skirmishes between Skanderbeg and the Dukagjin family, which had been dragging on for years, were put to an end by a reconciliatory intervention of the Pope, and in 1454, a peace treaty between them was finally reached.

In November 1453, Skanderbeg informed King Alfonso that he had conquered some territories and a castle, and Alfonso replied some days later that soon Ramon d’Ortafà would return to continue the war against the Ottomans and promised more troops and supplies. In the beginning of 1454, Skanderbeg and the Venetians informed King Alfonso and the Pope about a possible Ottoman invasion and asked for help. The Pope sent 3,000 ducats while Alfonso sent 500 infantry and a certain amount of money, along with a message directed to Skanderbeg. Meanwhile, the Venetian Senate was resenting Skanderbeg's alliance with the Kingdom of Naples, an old enemy of the Republic. Frequently they delayed their tributes to Skanderbeg and this was long a matter of dispute between the parties, with Skanderbeg threatening war on Venice at least three times during the 1448–1458 period, and Venice conceding in a conciliatory tone.

In June 1454, Ramon d’Ortafà returned after a long absence to Krujë, this time with the title of viceroy of Albania, Greece, and Slavonia, with a personal letter to Skanderbeg as the Captain-General of the armed forces in Albania. Along with Ramon d’Ortafà, King Alfonso V also sent the clerics Fra Lorenzo da Palerino and Fra Giovanni dell’Aquila to Albania with a tabby flagembroidered with a white cross as a symbol of the Crusade which was about to begin. Even though this crusade never materialized, the Neapolitan troops were used in the Siege of Berat where they were almost entirely annihilated and were never replaced.

The Siege of Berat was the first real test between the armies of the new sultan and Skanderbeg. That siege would end up in a defeat for the League of Lezhë forces. Skanderbeg besieged the town's castle for months, causing the demoralized Turkish officer in charge of the castle to promise his surrender. At that point, Skanderbeg relaxed his grip, split his forces, and departed the siege, leaving behind one of his generals, Muzakë Topia, and half of his cavalry on the banks of the Osum River in order to finalize the surrender. It was a costly error—the Ottomans saw this moment as an opportunity for attack and sent a large cavalry force from Anatolia, led by Isa bey Evrenos, to reinforce the garrison. The Albanian forces had become overconfident and lulled into a false sense of security. The Ottomans caught the Albanian cavalry by surprise while they were resting on the banks of the Osum River, and almost all the 5,000 Albanian cavalry laying siege to Berat were killed. Most of the forces belonged to Gjergj Arianiti, whose role as the greatest supporter of Skanderbeg diminished after siege of Berat ended up in defeat.

The defeat of Berat somewhat affected the attitude of other Albanian noblemen. One of them, Moisi Arianit Golemi, defected to the Turks and returned to Albania in 1456 as a commander of a Turkish army of 15,000 men, but he was defeated by Skanderbeg in Battle of Oranik. Later that year, he returned to Albania asking for Skanderbeg's pardon, and once pardoned, remained loyal until his death in 1464.

In 1456, one of Skanderbeg's nephews (the son of his sister Elena), Gjergj Stress Balsha, sold the fortress of Modric to the Ottomans for 30,000 silver ducats. He tried to cover up the act; however, his treason was discovered and he was sent to prison in Naples.

In the beginning of 1457, another nobleman, Hamza Kastrioti, Skanderbeg's own nephew and his closest collaborator, defected to the Turks when he lost his hope of succession after the birth of Skanderbeg's son Gjon Kastriot II. In the summer of 1457, an Ottoman army numbering approximately 70,000 men invaded Albania with the hope of destroying Albanian resistance once and for all. This army was led by Isa bey Evrenos, the only commander to have ever defeated Skanderbeg's forces, and by Hamza Kastrioti, the commander who knew all about Albanian tactics and strategy. After wreaking much damage to the countryside, the Ottoman army set up camp at the Ujebardha field (literally translated as "White Water"), halfway between Lezhë and Krujë. After having avoided the enemy for months, calmly giving to the Turks and his European neighbours the impression that he was defeated, on 2 September Skanderbeg attacked the Ottomans in their encampments and defeated them. This was one of the most famous victories of Skanderbeg over the Ottomans, which led to a five-year peace treaty with Sultan Mehmed II. Hamza was captured and sent to detention in Naples.

After the victorious Battle of Ujëbardha, Skanderbeg's relations with the Papacy under Pope Calixtus III were intensified. The reason was that during this time, Skanderbeg's military undertakings involved considerable expense which the contribution of Alfonso V of Aragon was not sufficient to defray. In 1457, Skanderbeg requested help from Calixtus III. Being himself in financial difficulties, the Pope could do no more than send Skanderbeg a single galley and a modest sum of money, promising more ships and larger amounts of money in the future. On December 23, 1457, Calixtus III appointed Skanderbeg as Captain-General of the Curia in the war against the Turks and declared him Captain-General of the Holy See. The Pope also gave him the title Athleta Christi, or Champion of Christ. Meanwhile, Ragusa bluntly refused to release the funds which had been collected in Dalmatia for the crusade and which, according to the Pope, were to have been distributed in equal parts to Hungary, Bosnia, and Albania. The Ragusans even entered into negotiations with Mehmed. At the end of December 1457, Calixtus threatened Venice with an interdict and repeated the threat in February 1458. As the captain of the Curia, Skanderbeg appointed the duke of Leukas (Santa Maura), Leonardo III Tocco, formerly the prince of Arta and "despot of the Rhomaeans", a figure virtually unknown except in Southern Epirus, as a lieutenant in his native land.

On June 27, 1458, King Alfonso V died at Naples and Skanderbeg sent emissaries to his son and successor, King Ferdinand. According to the historian C. Marinesco, the death of King Alfonso marked the end of the Aragonese dream of a Mediterranean Empire and also the hope for a new crusade in which Skanderbeg was assigned a leading role. The relationship of Skanderbeg with the Kingdom of Naples continued even after Alfonso V's death, but the situation had changed; Ferdinand I was not as able as his father and now it was Skanderbeg's turn to help King Ferdinand to regain and maintain his kingdom.

In 1460, King Ferdinand had serious problems with another uprising of the Angevins and asked for help from Skanderbeg. This invitation worried King Ferdinand's opponents, and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta declared that if Ferdinand of Naples received Skanderbeg, Malatesta would go to the Turks. In the month of September 1460, Skanderbeg dispatched a company of 500 cavalry under his nephew, Gjok Stres Balsha. Ferdinand's main rival, Giovanni Antonio Orsini, Prince of Taranto, in correspondence with Skanderbeg tried to dissuade the Albanian from this enterprise and even offered him an alliance. This did not affect Skanderbeg, who answered on October 31, 1460, that he owed fealty to the Aragon family, especially in times of hardship. When the situation became critical, Skanderbeg made a three-year armistice with the Ottomans on April 17, 1461, and in late August 1461, landed in Puglia with an expeditionary force of 1,000 cavalry and 2,000 infantry. At Barletta and Trani, he managed to defeat the Italian and Angevin forces of Giovanni Antonio Orsini, Prince of Taranto, secured King Ferdinand's throne, and returned back to Albania. King Ferdinand was grateful to Skanderbeg for this intervention for the rest of his life: at Skanderbeg's death, he rewarded his descendants with the castle of Trani, and the properties of Monte Sant'Angelo and San Giovanni Rotondo.

After securing the Neapolitan kingdom, a crucial ally in his struggle, Skanderbeg returned home after being informed of Ottoman movements within the borders of the League of Lezhë. There were three Ottoman armies approaching: the first, under the command of Sinan Pasha, was defeated at Mokra (near Dibër); the second, under the command of Hussain Bey, was defeated in the Battle of Ohër, where the Turkish commander was captured; and the third was defeated in the region of Skopje. This forced Sultan Mehmed II to agree to a 10-year armistice which was signed in April 1463 in Skopje. Skanderbeg did not want peace, but he was outvoted in the League of Lezhë, and Tanush Thopia's willingness for peace prevailed. Tanush himself went to Tivoli to explain to the Pope why the League had opted for peace with Mehmed II. He pointed out that Skanderbeg would be ready to go back to war should the Pope ask for it.

In November 1463, Pope Pius II tried to organize a new crusade against the Ottoman Turks, similar to what Pope Nicholas V and Pope Calixtus III had tried to do before him. Pius II invited all the Christian nobility to join, and the Venetians immediately answered the appeal. So did Skanderbeg, who on 27 November 1463, declared war on the Ottomans and attacked the Turkish forces near Ohrid. Pius II's planned crusade envisioned assembling 20,000 soldiers in Taranto, while another 20,000 would be gathered by Skanderbeg. They would have been summoned in Durazzo under Skanderbeg's leadership and would have formed the central front against the Ottomans. However, Pius II died in August 1464, at the crucial moment when the crusading armies were gathering and preparing to march in Ancona, and Skanderbeg was again left alone facing the Ottomans.

Meanwhile, the position of Venice toward Skanderbeg had changed perceptibly because the Republic had entered in their first war with the Turks (1463–1479). During this period the Republic saw Skanderbeg as an invaluable ally, and on 20 August 1463, the peace treaty of 1448 was renewed and this time other conditions were added: the right of asylum in Venice, an article stipulating that any Venetian treaty with the Turks would include a guarantee of Albanian independence, and allowing the presence of several Venetian ships in the Adriatic waters around Lezhë.

In April 1465, at the First Battle of Vajkal, Skanderbeg fought and defeated Ballaban Badera Pasha, an Albanian Ottoman general. However, during an ambush in the same battle, Ballaban managed to capture some important Albanian noblemen, including Moisi Arianit Golemi, a cavalry commander, Vladan Gjurica, the chief army quartermaster, Muzaka of Angelina, a nephew of Skanderbeg, and 18 other officers. These men were sent immediately to Constantinople (Istanbul) where they were skinned alive for fifteen days and later cut to pieces and thrown to the dogs. Skanderbeg's pleas to have these men back, by either ransom or prisoner exchange, failed.

Later that same year, two other Ottoman armies appeared on the borders. The commander of one of the Ottoman armies was Ballaban Pasha, who, together with Jakup Bey, the commander of the second army, planned a double-flank envelopment. Skanderbeg, however, attacked Ballaban's forces at the Second Battle of Vajkal, where the Turks were defeated. This time, all the Turkish prisoners were slain in an act of revenge for the previous execution of Albanian captains. The other Turkish army, under the command of Jakup Bey, was also defeated some days later in Kashari field near Tirana.

In 1466, Sultan Mehmed II personally led an army of 30,000 into Albania and laid the Second Siege of Krujë, as his father had attempted 16 years earlier. The town was defended by a garrison of 4,400 men, led by Prince Tanush Thopia. After several months of siege, destruction and killings all over the country, Mehmed II, like his father, saw that seizing Krujë was impossible for him to accomplish by force of arms. Subsequently, he left the siege to return to Istanbul. However, he left the force of 30,000 men under Ballaban Pasha to maintain the siege by building a castle in central Albania, which he named Il-basan (modern Elbasan), in order to support the siege. Durazzo would be the next target of the sultan in order to be used as a strong base opposite the Italian coast.

Skanderbeg spent the following winter of 1466—1467 in Italy, of which several weeks were spent in Rome trying to persuade Pope Paul II to give him money. At one point, he was unable to pay for his hotel bill, and he commented bitterly that he should be fighting against the Church rather than the Turks! Only when Skanderbeg left for Naples did Pope Paul II give him 2,300 ducats. The court of Naples, whose policy in the Balkans hinged on Skanderbeg's resistance, was more generous with money, armaments and supplies. However, it is probably better to say that Skanderbeg financed and equipped his troops largely from local resources, richly supplemented by Turkish booty. It is safe to say that the papacy was generous with praise and encouragement, but its financial subsidies were limited. It is possible that the Curia only provided to Skanderbeg 20,000 ducats in all, which could have paid the wages of 20 men over the whole period of conflict!

However, on his return he allied with Lekë Dukagjini, and together on April 19, 1467, they first attacked and defeated, in the Krrabë region, the Turkish reinforcements commanded by Yonuz, Ballaban's brother. Yonuz himself and his son, Haydar were taken prisoner. Four days later, on April 23, 1467, they attacked the Ottoman forces laying siege to Krujë. The Second Siege of Krujë was eventually broken, resulting in the death of Ballaban Pasha by an Albanian arquebusier named Gjergj Aleksi.

After these events, Skanderbeg's forces besieged Elbasan but lacked artillery and sufficient numbers to capture it by direct assault. The destruction of Ballaban Pasha's army and the siege of Elbasan forced Mehmed II to march against Albania again in the summer of 1467. He energetically pursued the attacks against the Albanian strongholds while sending detachments to raid the Venetian possessions (especially Durazzo) and to keep them isolated. The Ottomans failed again, in their third Siege of Krujë, to take the city and subjugate the country, but the degree of destruction was immense.

During the annual Ottoman incursions, the Albanians suffered a great number of casualties, especially to the civilian population, while the economy of the country was in ruins. The above problems, the loss of many Albanian noblemen, and the new alliance with Lekë Dukagjini, caused Skanderbeg to call together in January 1468 all the remaining Albanian noblemen to a conference in the Venetian stronghold of Lezhë to discuss the new war strategy and to restructure what remained from the League of Lezhë. During that period, Skanderbeg fell ill with malaria and soon died on January 17, 1468.

After Skanderbeg's death, Venice asked and obtained from his widow the permission to defend Krujë and the other fortresses with Venetian garrisons. Krujë held out during its fourth siege, started in 1477 by Gedik Ahmed Pasha, until 16 June 1478, when the city was starved to death and finally surrendered to Sultan Mehmed II himself. Demoralized and severely weakened by hunger and lack of supplies from the year-long siege, the defenders surrendered to Mehmed, who had promised them to leave unharmed in exchange. As the Albanians were walking away with their families however, the Ottomans reneged on this promise, killing the men and enslaving the women and children. In 1479, an Ottoman army, headed again by Mehmed II, besieged and captured Shkodër, reducing Venice's Albanian possessions only to Durazzo, Antivari, and Dulcigno.

Meanwhile, King Ferdinand of Naples' gratitude toward Skanderbeg for the help given during this Italian campaign continued even after Skanderbeg's death. In a letter dated to 24 February 1468, King Ferdinand expressively stated that "Skanderbeg was like a father to us" and "We regret this (Skanderbeg's) death not less than the death of King Alfonso", offering protection for Skanderbeg's widow and his son. It is relevant to the fact that the majority of Albanian leaders after the death of Skanderbeg found refuge in the Kingdom of Naples and this was also the case for the common people trying to escape from the Ottomans, who formed Arbëresh colonies in that area.

On April 25, 1479, the Ottoman forces captured the Venetian-controlled Shkodër, which had been besieged since May 14, 1478. Shkodër was the last Albanian castle to fall to the Ottomans. The Albanian resistance to the Ottoman invasion continued after Skanderbeg's death by his son, Gjon Kastrioti II, who tried to liberate Albanian territories from Ottoman rule in 1481–1484. In addition, a major revolt in 1492 occurred in southern Albania, mainly in the Labëria region, and Bayazid II was personally involved with crushing the resistance. In 1501, Gjergj Kastrioti II, grandson of Skanderbeg and son of Gjon Kastrioti II, along with Progon Dukagjini and around 150–200 stratioti, went to Lezhë and organized a local uprising, but that too was unsuccessful. The Venetians evacuated Durazzo in 1501.

Skanderbeg’s family, the Kastrioti Scanderbeg, were invested with a Neapolitan dukedom after their flight from the Ottoman conquest of Albania. They obtained a feudal domain, the Duchy of San Pietro in Galatina and the County of Soleto (Province of Lecce, Italy). Gjon Kastrioti II, Scanderbeg’s son, married Irene Brankovic Palaiologina, daughter of Lazar Brankovic, despot of Serbia and one of the last descendents of the Byzantine imperial family, the Palaiologos.

Two lines of the Castriota Scanderbeg family lived from that time onwards to the present day in southern Italy, one of which has descended from Pardo Castriota Scanderbeg and the other from Achille Castriota Scanderbeg, who were both biological sons of Duke Ferrante, son of Gjon, and Scanderbeg’s nephew. They are part of the Italian nobility and members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta with the highest rank of nobility.

The only legitimate daughter of Duke Ferrante, Irene Castriota Scanderbeg, born to Andreana Acquaviva d'Aragona from the Nardò dukes, inherited the paternal estate, bringing the Duchy of Galatina and County of Soleto into the Sanseverino family after her marriage with Prince Pietrantonio Sanseverino (1508–1559). They had a son, Nicolò Bernardino Sanseverino (1541–1606), but the direct male line of descendants was lost after Irenece Castriota. Prominent modern descendants include Filippo Castriota, collaborator of Ismail Qemali, founder of modern Albania and author Giorgio Maria Castriota.

The Ottoman Empire's expansion ground to a halt during the time that Skanderbeg's forces resisted. He has been credited with being the one of the main reasons for delaying Ottoman expansion into Western Europe, giving the Italian principalities more time to better prepare for the Ottoman arrival. While the Albanian resistance certainly played a vital role, it was one of numerous relevant events that played out in the mid-15th century. Much credit must also go to the successful resistance mounted by Vlad III Dracula in Wallachia and Stephen III the Great of Moldavia, who dealt the Ottomans their worst defeat at Vaslui, among many others, as well as the defeats inflicted upon the Ottomans by Hunyadi and his Hungarian forces. Along with Skanderbeg, Stephen III the Great and Hunyadi achieved the title of Athleta Cristi (Defenders of the Christian faith). The distinguishing characteristic of Skanderbeg was the maintenance of such an effective resistance for a long period of time (25 years) against one of the 15th century's strongest powers while possessing very limited economic and human resources. His political, diplomatic, and military abilities were the main factors enabling the small Albanian principalities to achieve such a success.

Skanderbeg is considered today a commanding figure not only in the national consciousness of Albanians but also of 15th-century European history. According to archival documents, there is no doubt that Skanderbeg had already achieved a reputation as a hero in his own time. The failure of most European nations, with the exception of Naples, to give him support, along with the failure of Pope Pius II's plans to organize a promised crusade against the Turks meant that none of Skanderbeg's victories permanently hindered the Ottomans from invading the Western Balkans. When in 1481 Sultan Mehmet II captured Otranto, he massacred the male population, thus proving what Skanderbeg had been warning about. Skanderbeg's main legacy was the inspiration he gave to all of those who saw in him a symbol of the struggle of Christendom against the Ottoman Empire. During the Albanian National Awakening Skanderbeg was a symbol of national cohesion and cultural affinity with Europe.

Skanderbeg's struggle against the Ottomans became highly significant to the Albanian people. It strengthened their solidarity, made them more conscious of their identity, and was a source of inspiration in their struggle for national unity, freedom, and independence.

Probably one of the most important legacies of Skanderbeg lies with his military mastery. The trouble that he caused to the Ottoman Empire military forces was such that when the Ottomans found the grave of Skanderbeg in Saint Nicholas, a church in Lezhë, they opened it and made amulets of his bones, believing that these would confer bravery on the wearer! Indeed the damage inflicted to the Ottoman Army was such that Skanderbeg is said to have slain three thousand Turks with his own hand during his campaigns! Among stories told about him was that he never slept more than five hours at night and could cut two men asunder with a single stroke of his scimitar, cut through iron helmets, kill a wild boar with a single stroke, and cleave the head off a buffalo with another! James Wolfe, commander of the British forces at Quebec, spoke of Skanderbeg as a commander who "excels all the officers, ancient and modern, in the conduct of a small defensive army". On October 27, 2005, the United States Congress issued a resolution "honoring the 600th anniversary of the birth of Gjergj Kastrioti (Scanderbeg), statesman, diplomat, and military genius, for his role in saving Western Europe from Ottoman occupation." Fully understanding the importance to the Albanians of the hero, Nazi Germany formed in February 1944, the 21st SS Division Skanderbeg, with 6,491 Kosovo Albanians.

Skanderbeg is also remembered as a statesman. During his reign as part of his internal policy programs, Skanderbeg issued many edicts, such as those on carrying out a census of the population and on tax collection, based on Roman and Byzantine law.

Skanderbeg gathered quite a posthumous reputation in Western Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. With much of the Balkans under Ottoman rule and with the Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683, nothing could have captivated readers in the West more than an action-packed tale of heroic Christian resistance to the "Moslem hordes".

Books on the Albanian prince began to appear in Western Europe in the early 16th century. One of the earliest was the Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi, Epirotarum Principis (Rome, 1508), published a mere four decades after Skanderbeg's death. This History of the life and deeds of Scanderbeg, Prince of the Epirotes was written by the Albanian historian Marinus Barletius Scodrensis, known in Albanian as Marin Barleti, who, after experiencing the Turkish occupation of his native Shkodër at firsthand, settled in Padua where he became rector of the parish church of St. Stephan. Barleti dedicated his work to Don Ferrante Kastrioti, Skanderbeg's grandchild, and to posterity. The book was first published in Latin. Although Barleti gives a good history of Skanderbeg, he is sometimes inaccurate in favour of his hero, for example, according to Gibbon, Barleti claims that the Sultan was killed by disease under the walls of Krujë. Barleti's inaccuracies had also been noticed prior to Gibbon by Laonikos Chalkokondyles.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Barleti's book was translated into a number of foreign language versions: in German by Johann Pincianus (1533), in Italian by Pietro Rocca (1554, 1560), in Portuguese by Francisco D'Andrade (1567), in Polish by Ciprian Bazylik (1569), in French by Jaques De Lavardin (French: Histoire de Georges Castriot Surnomé Scanderbeg, Roy d'Albanie, 1576), and in Spanish by Juan Ochoa de la Salde (1582). The English version was a translation made by Zachary Jones Gentleman from de Lavardin's French version, and was published at the end of the 16th century under the title, Historie of George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albinie; containing his Famous Actes, his Noble Deedes of Armes and Memorable Victories against the Turkes for the Faith of Christ. All these books, written in the panegyric style that would often characterize medieval historians who regarded history mostly as a branch of rhetoric, inspired a wide range of literary and art works.

Franciscus Blancus, a Catholic bishop born in Albania, also wrote Kastrioti's biography. His book "Georgius Castriotus, Epirensis vulgo Scanderbegh, Epirotarum Princeps Fortissimus" was published in Latin in 1636. French philosopher, Voltaire, in his works, held in very high consideration the Albanian hero.

Skanderbeg is the protagonist of three 18th-century British tragedies: William Havard's Scanderbeg, A Tragedy (1733), George Lillo's The Christian Hero (1735), and Thomas Whincop's Scanderbeg, Or, Love and Liberty (1747). A number of poets and composers have also drawn inspiration from his military career. The French 16th-century poet Ronsard wrote a poem about him, as did the 19th-century American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Gibbon, the 18th-century historian, holds Skanderbeg in high regard with panegyric expressions.

In 1855, Camille Paganel wrote Histoire de Scanderbeg, inspired by the Crimean War, whereas in the lengthy poetic tale Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812–1819), Byron wrote with admiration about Skanderbeg and his warrior nation. Ludvig Holberg, a Danish writer and philosopher, claimed that Skanderbeg is one of the greatest generals in history. Sir William Temple considered Skanderbeg to be one of the seven greatest chiefs without a crown, along with Belisarius, Flavius Aetius, John Hunyadi, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, Alexander Farnese, and William the Silent. Skanderbeg is also mentioned by Prince of Montenegro, Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, one of the greatest poets of Serbian literature in his poem The Mountain Wreath, and False Tsar Stephen the Little.

The Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi composed an opera entitled Scanderbeg (first performed 1718), libretto written by Antonio Salvi. Another opera, entitled Scanderbeg, was composed by 18th century French composer François Francœur (first performed 1763). In the 20th century, Albanian composer Prenkë Jakova composed a third opera, entitled Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, which premiered in 1968 for the 500th anniversary of the hero's death.

The Great Warrior Skanderbeg (Albanian: Skënderbeu, Russian: Velikiy voin Albanii Skanderbeg), a 1953 Albanian-Soviet biographical film, earned an International Prize at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.

Skanderbeg's memory has been engraved in many museums, such as the Skanderbeg Museum next to Krujë Castle. Many monuments are dedicated to his memory in the Albanian cities of Tirana (in the Skanderbeg Square by Odhise Paskali), Krujë, and Peshkopi. A palace in Rome in which Skanderbeg resided during his 1466–67 visits to the Vatican is still called Palazzo Skanderbeg and currently houses the Italian museum of pasta: the palace is located between the Fontana di Trevi and the Quirinal Palace. Also in Rome, a statue is dedicated to the Albanian hero in Piazza Albania. Monuments or statues of Skanderbeg have also been erected in the cities of Skopje and Debar, in the Republic of Macedonia; Pristina, in Kosovo; Geneva, in Switzerland; Brussels, in Belgium; and other settlements in southern Italy where there is an Arbëreshë community. In 2006, a statue of Skanderbeg was unveiled on the grounds of St. Paul's Albanian Catholic Community in Rochester Hills, Michigan, the first Skanderbeg statue in the United States.