The Battle of Bodegraven in the Year 1025

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During the 11th century, the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht were continuously on a war footing. The border between their territories ran through vast peat bogs and was not well defined. The counts often claimed lands that actually belonged to the bishop.
This tense situation climaxed in the year 1018, on July 29. Bishop Adelbold, with the help of his fellow-bishops and even troops from the German emperor Henry II, attacked count Dirk II in his stronghold in Vlaardingen. Despite their numerical preponderance, the attackers were defeated by the count of Holland.

In this same period, another, rather obscure, battle was fought near Bodegraven, about halfway between Vlaardingen and Utrecht. The root of this conflict is mentioned very briefly in only one contemporary source, which says that count Dirk usurped a feudal benefice that belonged to Utrecht. No date or year are given.
The actual Battle of Bodegraven is mentioned only three centuries later, by the chronicler Johannes de Beke. According to his Chronographia bishop Adelbold tried to recapture his possessions but he failed. Beke names several of the bishop’s men who perished in the attempt and he also gives the date of the battle: July 11, 1018.
If this were true, the Battle of Bodegraven would have taken place only a few weeks before the Battle of Vlaardingen. However, Beke’s date is very unlikely.

Beke is well known for his vivid descriptions of battle scenes, but he is not the most reliable medieval chronicler. His account of the events in the year 1018 is rather incoherent and not in line with the contemporary sources, which mention only one battle during that year. This Battle of Vlaardingen was initiated in April 1018, when the emperor decided that the insurgent count Dirk III should be punished. The next few months were used to set up the expedition to Vlaardingen and for the troops to assemble in the port of Tiel. It would be illogical if, in the middle of these preparations, one of the key players would attack the enemy all by himself.
Most modern historians agree that the Battle of Bodegraven must have taken place somewhere after 1018, but no exact year has been proposed do far.
The suggestion of the year 1025 in this article is based on an analysis of the participants that are named by Beke. Although his chronology is dubious, the names of the victims are probably derived from an authentic obituary from Utrecht.

The battle must have taken place in or before 1026 because Dirk III’s brother Sicco (died June 5, 1030) participated, and also Bishop Adelbold (died November 27, 1026). Furthermore, Adelbold’s successor Bernold made peace with the counts of Holland, shortly after his appointment in 1027.
In Bodegraven, Adelbold received no help from the German monarch. This suggests that the battle was fought after the death of Emperor Henry II (July 13, 1024) and during the reign of King Conrad II. Bishop Adelbold had been a close ally of Henry II but he had opposed the election of Conrad II in March 1025.

Beke mentions a count Wiking who fell at Bodegraven. This name was rather unusual in the early 11th century. A noble man ‘Wiking’ signed several charters in the bishopric of Paderborn. His last appearance was on January 4, 1025. Bishop Meinwerc of Paderborn was related to the liegemen who held the Bodegraven area from the bishop of Utrecht. Another ‘Wickingus’ was guardian of Gelre for a period of 24 years. There is no record of his death, but his predecessor died either in 998 or 1001, so Wickingus must have died in 1022 or 1025. Maybe, a family-relationship existed between the Gelre dynasty and Bishop Meinwerc. Finally, a 17th-century historiographer produced a list of the dignitaries who were present at the consecration if the new Church of Saint Martin in Utrecht, on June 26, 1023. One of them was a Wiking from Gelre.
It suggested that the three Wikings from Paderborn, Gelre and Utrecht were one and the same person, who fought and died on the battlefield in Bodegraven. This would imply that the Battle of Bodegraven must be placed in the year 1025, probably on July 11.

The area that was at stake in the battle was not very large, but it had a strategical value, positioned directly along the river Rhine. From Bodegraven, the shipping traffic between Utrecht and the North Sea could be controlled.
It is interesting to note that on July 26 1025, two weeks after the proposed battle date, Bishop Adelbold visited King Conrad II and received confirmation of the privileges in Drenthe given to Utrecht by the former German king. It seems as if the bishop, immediately after the loss of Bodegraven, sought to ensure his position in other parts of the bishopric.

The full article was originally published in 2015 in Terra Nigra, magazin of Helinium, AWN (Archeologische Werkgemeenschap voor Nederland):
Nieuwenhuijsen, K., De Slag bij Bodegraven in het jaar 1025, Terra Nigra 190, 2015, p. 18-30.

Another article about the Battle of Bodegraven was published in March 2017 in Boreftse Berichten, the magazine of the Bodegraven Historical Society. This second article focusses on the question how the battle passed into oblivion.
Download the article from Boreftse Berichten as pdf-file (1 Mb)

© Dr. Kees C. Nieuwenhuijsen

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Last update: March 3, 2017
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Lex Frisionum
Ewa ad Amorem
Battle of Vlaardingen 1018
The Comet in the Year 1018
The Assassination of Godfrey the Hunchback