Aleida of Culemborg, Bertha of Heukelom and Maria of Avenes – Ladies of IJsselstein




aleida van culemborg graf
Photo by Moniek Bloks

The Lordship of IJsselstein was part of the Holy Roman Empire and now lies in the Netherlands. It began in the 13th century and ended with the founding of the Batavian Republic in 1795. By then, the title had been with the House of Orange-Nassau since the 16th century, and they now rule the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Officially, King Willem-Alexander still holds the title of Lord of IJsselstein.

The Reformed Church in IJsselstein still holds two magnificent tombs with the remains of several Lords and Ladies of IJsselstein. There is one single tomb for Aleida of Culemborg and a shared tomb with Gijsbrecht of Amstel, his wife Bertha of Heukelom, their son Arnold and his wife Maria of Avesnes.

Aleida of Culemborg

Aleida of Culemborg was born circa 1445 as the daughter of Gerard of Culemborg and Elizabeth of Buren.

She had a brother named Jasper, who succeeded their father as Lord of Culemborg. In her own right, Aleida became Lady of Sint-Maartensdijk and Buren in the Netherlands. In 1464, she married Frederik of Egmont, who was the Lord of  IJsselstein. They went on to have two children together, including their heir, Floris of Egmont. Aleida was still only around 26 years old when she died on 20 July 1471. Her cause of death is not clear.

Through her son Floris, she was the great-grandmother of Anna of Buren, who married William I, Prince of Orange.

Aleida’s magnificent tomb in IJsselstein still survives to this day despite a devasting fire in 1911. The tomb was completely restored and painted white. It originally had several different colours. The tomb is made of sandstone, and she is shown with two angels supporting the pillow her head rests on, and a little dog is sleeping at her feet.

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Bertha of Heukelom

Bertha of  Heukelom
Photo by Moniek Bloks

Bertha was born on an unknown date as the daughter of Otto I of Arkel, Lord of Heukelom and a woman who had the last name Van Heusden. Around 1280, Bertha married Gijsbrecht of Amstel, who was later known as Gijsbrecht of IJsselstein, as he became the first Lord of IJsselstein. They went on to have five sons and two daughters.

Bertha has gone down in history as a heroine for defending the Castle of IJsselstein during the power struggle between the Bishops of Utrecht and John I, Count of Holland, following the murder of John’s father, Floris V, Count of Holland. John claimed the castle, but Gijsbrecht refused to give it up, and he was taken prisoner. The castle then came under siege by the Lord of Culemborg with Bertha at its defence. It was later said that “Lady Bertha was so bold that she wouldn’t give up her house for anything; not for the sake of friends, nor for relatives.”1 After several weeks, Bertha made a deal, which meant she had to give up the castle, but she managed to trick the Lord of Culemborg into only taking a few men prisoner. After this, John gave the castle to Catharina of Durbuy before it passed to a relative, Guy of Avesnes. His daughter Maria married Bertha’s son, Arnold, bringing the castle back to the family. Bertha died on 25 February 1322.

Maria of Avesnes

Maria of Avesnes
Photo by Moniek Bloks

Maria was born on an unknown as the daughter of Guy of Avesnes, who was the Bishop of Utrecht from 1301 to 1317, and an unknown woman. She had a sister named Aleid, and it’s unclear if they were born from a marriage before Guy entered the religious life or if they were illegitimate. Maria married Arnold, Lord of IJsselstein, in 1410. The couple went on to have four daughters together: Guyote, Catharina, Bertha and Beatrice. Maria died around 1346/1347. Guyote married John I, Lord of Egmond and had six sons and seven daughters.2 She succeeded her father as Lady of IJsselstein.

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Guyote was most likely the one who ordered the tomb of her parents and grandparents. It is likely that she and her husband are also buried, but they are not depicted on it.3

The Reformed Church in IJsselstein is open to visitors but only on Saturday afternoons.

  1. Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon
  2. Middeleeuwers in drievoud: hun woonplaats, verwantschap en voeding by J. M. van Winter p.165
  3. Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon






About Moniek Bloks 2659 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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