Balthasar Oomkens von Esens
Balthasar Oomkens von Esens (died 1540) was an East Frisia
East Frisia
East Frisia or Eastern Friesland is a coastal region in the northwest of the German federal state of Lower Saxony....

n noble
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

man who died during the siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

 of his castle in Esens by the Bremen army. He was described by his partisans as the last true Frisian freedom fighter, although some decried his seemingly insatiable appetite for violence.

Biography and history

Balthasar Oomkens von Esens was the son of Hero Oomkens von Esens
Hero Oomkens von Esens
Hero Oomkens von Esens was a Frisian nobleman, Earl of Harlingerland, who inherited the title on the death of his father, Sibet Attena von Esens, in 1473. He is usually referred to as Hero Oomkens "the Younger" to distinguish him from his maternal grandfather, Hero Oomkens the Elder...

, Lord of Harlingerland
The Harlingerland is a strip of land on the North Sea coast of East Frisia. Whilst, today, the whole of the district of district of Wittmund is usually described as Harlingerland, historically it is specifically used to refer to the northern part of the present district, which formed the old...

 and Armgard Countess of Oldenburg. The Oomkens family were established in East Frisia (now part of Niedersachsen in Germany) and in the Frisian Oldambt, in the Groninger Ommelanden
The Ommelanden are the parts of Groningen province that surround Groningen city. Usually mentioned as synonym for the province in the expression Stad en Ommeland ....

 (now part of Groningen
Groningen (province)
Groningen [] is the northeasternmost province of the Netherlands. In the east it borders the German state of Niedersachsen , in the south Drenthe, in the west Friesland and in the north the Wadden Sea...

 in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

). The family prided itself on its direct descent from Radbod, King of the Frisians
Radbod, King of the Frisians
Radbod was the king of Frisia from c. 680 until his death. He is often considered the last independent ruler of Frisia before Frankish domination. He defeated Charles Martel at Cologne. Eventually, however, Charles prevailed and compelled the Frisians to submit...


Balthasar led a successful resistance of the old Frisian aristocracy against the rise of the Cirksena
The Cirksena are noble East Frisian family descended from a line of East Frisian chieftains from Greetsiel.- The Cirksena in East Frisia :In 1439 in the wake of clashes between different lines of chieftains, the town of Emden was first placed by Hamburg under direct rule and then, in 1453, finally...

 family, which attempted to unite East Frisia
East Frisia
East Frisia or Eastern Friesland is a coastal region in the northwest of the German federal state of Lower Saxony....

 under its rule from the late fifteenth century. The Cirksenas supported Protestantism whilst both Balthasar and his father remained loyal to the Catholic Church.

Allied to his close relations the Counts of Oldenburg and the Duke of Gelderland/Gelre, Balthasar Oomkens von Esens resisted the doubtful political power-grabbing attempted by the Cirksena's (which included a forged imperial document relating to the lordship of Harlingerland) and also championed the interests of the Catholic Church against the Reformation-minded allies of the Cirksena's. As a result of his resistance, Harlingerland remained a free county under its own jurisdiction until it came through inheritance to Frederick the Great in 1744.

Balthasar Oomkens von Esens was a popular figure among the Frisian people and has remained so. He is generally remembered today as "Junker Balthasar" and in Esens (whose city rights he granted in 1527) there is a yearly festival in his honour.


There is a legend associated with Balthasar Oomkens von Esens which still finds expression in the city's coat of arms. One year, the city was besieged by Bremen, and amongst the people trapped behind the city walls there was an itinerant musician and his performing bear. As the siege dragged on, provisions ran out and the famished bear escaped. Breaking free of his chains, the bear climbed up one of the defensive towers, where his enraged roars attracted the attention of the besiegers. In his confusion, the bear broke some of the stones from the ancient walls and hurled them at the enemy. The besiegers concluded that if the people of Esens had enough food to feed a bear, they must have plenty to feed themselves and as the spectacle of the roaring bear unsettled them, they called off the siege and returned to Bremen. In gratitude, the people of Esens immortalised the bear in their city's coat of arms (later also incorporated into the arms of East Frisia
East Frisia
East Frisia or Eastern Friesland is a coastal region in the northwest of the German federal state of Lower Saxony....

 and of Wittmund (district)
Wittmund (district)
Wittmund is a Landkreis in the northwestern part of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated in East Frisia, on the North Sea coast. Neighboring districts are Friesland, Leer and Aurich.-Geography:...



Balthasar Oomkens von Esens' motto was inscribed on a window-pane in Esens castle:
  • "Wer das wol doht, der ist hochgeboren; Sonder doghede ist de adel verloren." (Who serves the common weal
    Public weal
    Public weal may refer to:*Commonwealth, a form of government without a monarch in which people have governmental influence*Common good, the notion of high quality of life for people in general-See also:...

    is nobly born; Without right actions, nobility is forlorn.")

Note: Alternative spellings/versions of his name are common, e.g.: Baltzer, Baldassar, etc.
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