Schieringers and Vetkopers

Vetkopers and Schieringers

The Schieringers and Vetkopers were two opposing Frisian factional parties from the medieval period. Responsible for a bloody civil war that lasted for over a century (1350 – 1498) and which eventually led to the end of the highly praised ‘Friese freedom’.

These factional parties had arisen because of an economic down turn that had begun in Friesland in the mid fourteenth century. Accompanied by a decline in monasteries and other communal institutions, social discord led to the emergence of untitled nobles called hoofdelingen ("headmen"), wealthy landowners possessing large tracts of land and fortified homes. The hoofdelingen derived their nobility not from havin lands and titles conferred on them by King of Emperor but assumed power after the demise of the Dutch counts before them.

The Hoofdelingen took over the role of the judiciary as well offering protection to their local inhabitants. Internal struggles between regional leaders resulted in bloody conflicts and the alignment of regions along two opposing parties: the Schieringers and the Vetkopers.

Worp van Thabor attributed the cause to a dispute between lay brothers of the Cistercian and Norbertine (Premonstratensian) orders.

A contemporary, Friese freedom fighter Jancko Douwama (1482 - 1533), wrote in his memoirs, titled the Boeck der Partijen ("Book of the Parties") about the origins of the discord between the warring parties in Friesland and his definition of the terms Schieringers and Vetkopers. According to Jancko the Vetkopers ("fat buyers") were so called because they had much and could buy fat products. The poor adopted the name Schieringers ("speakers") because they had tried firstly discussion rather than violence.

In the second half of the fifteenth century the Vetkoper town of Groningen, which had become the dominating force in Frisia, tried to interfere in Mid-Frisian affairs. The meddling met strong opposition in Schieringer held Westergo and ended in a call for foreign help.

On the 21 March 1498 a small group of Schieringers from Westergo secretly met with the stadholder-general of the Netherlands, Albert, Duke of Saxony in Medemblik requesting his help. Albrecht had gained a reputation as a formidable military commander accepted and soon conquered all Friesland. Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg appointed Albrecht hereditary potestate and gubernator of Friesland in 1499. Within a short time, occupation by the Duke and his Landsknecht military force became unacceptable to many Frisians of both factions and with the support of the Duke of Gelderland, they unsuccessfully attempted to regain their old freedoms and put an end to the de-Friesing of Friesland.

Saxon subjugation ended Frisian municipal independence. Although still spoken at the time the Frisian language did not have any official status. Frisian would disappear from the official written record, the last official document recorded in Frisian was in 1573. Frisian was replaced by Dutch and would not return until about 1800.


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