1246: Growth of City Rights

Over the course of the 1200's Delft, along with other nearby cities like Haarlem, Leiden, and Dordrecht, got the rights to various activities that gradually increased its independence and self-sufficiency. Why?

Partly because the citizens, especially the merchants, wanted them and were willing to pay for them. And partly because the land's faraway rulers of the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th and 14th centuries did not see any strategic or dynastic or even economic reason to pay much attention to the few thousand people willing to live in a soggy river delta on the North Sea. The Burgundian and Habsburg emperors delegated responsibility to the Count of Holland -- as well as to the other counties that became the Seven United Netherlands.

Delft's city government slowly took shape over two hundred years. On April 15, 1246, Count Willem II granted basic rights of self-government to the approximately 1,400 people living in Delft, marking the official beginning of the city. Willem's decree (right; click to enlarge) established City Hall (Stadhuis) and the offices of sheriff (schout) and magistrate (schepen). While the early records are incomplete due to the 1536 fire, Boitet's Beschrijving lists only one sheriff at a time, and a dozen or more magistrates. The sheriff was the main contact with the counts and dukes. The magistrates performed all of the administrative and judicial duties.

On December 20, 1417, Jacoba, countess of Holland, issued a charter (privilegie) specifying four mayors (burgemeesters) and seven magistrates (schepenen). The mayors gradually took the administrative duties, and the magistrates retained the judicial duties.

On September 7, 1445, Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, issued a charter for Delft's city fathers (vroedschap) to appoint the first city council with forty members. The Council of Forty (Veertigraad) gradually ceded city management to the mayors and pensionary.

On four separate occasions over the course of the century between 1246 and 1355, the counts of Holland expanded the amount of land over which Delft had jurisdiction. The map shows the progress.

  • 1246: Willem II
  • 1268: Floris V
  • 1347: Margaretha van Beieren
  • 1355: Willem V van Beieren

Counts and Countesses of Holland

The names and numbers here are how the Dutch refer to them. In other lands where they ruled, they had different numbers. For example, Willem IV of Holland was Willem III in Zeeland and Willem II in Hainaut, which is how he is known in most history books.

For all of them, their reign began in the year their predecessor died in the row above.

House of Holland born died highlights of granted rights
Willem II William 1228 1256 jurisdiction, 1246 ; sheriff and magistrates
Floris V Floris V 1254 1296 expansion of city, 1268; tax income
Jan I John I 1284 1299  
House of Avesnes      
Jan II John II 1247 1304  
Willem III William I, Count of Hainaut 1286 1337 secular courts
Willem IV William II, Count of Hainaut 1307 1345 commercial affairs
Margaretha van Beieren Margaret I 1311 1354 expansion of city, 1347
House of Wittelsbach      
Willem V van Beieren William I, Duke of Bavaria 1330 1389 expansion of city, 1355
Albrecht van Beieren Albert I, Duke of Bavaria 1336 1404 withdrew and then regranted rights to walls and gates
Willem VI William II, Duke of Bavaria 1365 1417  
Jacoba Jacqueline 1401 1433 mayors (burgemeesters) and magistrates (schepenen)
House of Valois      
Filips de Goede Philip the Good 1396 1467 market square; Veertigraad; walls and towers
Karel de Stoute Charles the Bold 1433 1477  
Maria van Bourgondie Mary the Rich 1457 1482  
House of Habsburg      
Maximilian       husband of Mary, regent for son 1482-1494 and grandson 1506-1515
Filips de Schone Philip the Handsome 1478 1506  
Karel V Charles II 1500 1555  
Filips II Philip II of Spain 1527 1581 reign ended when the Dutch Republic declared independence

During the dispute between the Hooks and Cods, Jacoba, a Hook, shared competing jurisdiction over Delft with Jan van Beieren, her uncle, John of Bavaria, a Cod and brother of Willem VI. Jan van Brabant 1403-1418-1427, her cousin and husband, was responsible for extending Delft's city rights to Delfhaven and along the Schie.

The events listed below, highlighted above, come from the collection of documents called privileges or charters that are in the Delft city archives. They concern a variety of legal matters:

  • governance rights, especially adminstrative and judicial autonomy
  • physical expansion of the city, its infrastructure of waterways and fortifications, so that the city's ruling merchants could defend themselves
  • taxation rights that funded the city's administration, physical expansion, and defense
  • freedom from the tolls on nearby waterways so necessary for Delft's merchants to import and export
  • confirm by new rulers of the rights and privileges granted by predecessors