This was quite something in the Middle Ages! If you could call yourself town. You could be in control of your own affairs, tax tradesmen who wanted access to the town, start your own court of law. And lots of other things. It can all be read in the City Rights, bestowed on Alkmaar by Count Willem II of Holland in 1254. We still have a copy from 1325 with 71 articles no less, which describes exactly what the town itself was entitled to do and when the Count still had the final word. This major privilege came with conditions attached. A sizeable delegation had to travel to Leiden, which was the Count’s administrative seat. And it cost the Alkmaar citizens a large sum of money. But this is when the rise of our town began. Count Willem had a stake in the matter as well. As yet Alkmaar was only small but it was situated in a strategic position at a ford in the peat-river De Rekere. The citizens of the town had to be well-armed in order to be able to defend the northern border of the county of Holland. For on the other side of the border they faced those people of Hoorn and its surroundings, savage West-Frisians, who would regularly come over to ransack Alkmaar and the surrounding villages. Time to put a stop to that! Willem had his tax-collector live in a stone house in the Pieterstraat, nowadays known as the Willemshouse. He built the castle of Torenburg to protect the town. His son Floris V later added the castles of Middelburg and Nieuwburg. The soldiers in his employ, together with the brave, resilient Alkmaar folk, had to safeguard security and peace. In the end they managed to do so but Willem himself lost his life in his struggle with the West Frisians. Heavily armed, he went through the ice near Hoogwoud. Those Hoorn people made short shrift of it.