The Low Countries, the Low Lands (Dutch : de Lage Landen, French : les Pays Bas), or historically also the Netherlands (Dutch : Nederland, German : die Niederlande), is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Germany (East Frisia and Cleves), Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as today's French Flanders.
French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
Historically, the regions without access to the sea have linked themselves politically and economically to those with access to form various unions of ports and hinterland,stretching inland as far as parts of the German Rhineland. That is why nowadays some parts of the Low Countries are actually hilly, like Luxembourg and the south of Belgium. Within the European Union, the region's political grouping is still referred to as the Benelux (short for Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg).
Hinterland is a German word meaning "the land behind". The term's use in English was first documented by geographer George Chisholm in his Handbook of Commercial Geography (1888).
The Rhineland is the name used for a loosely defined area of Western Germany along the Rhine, chiefly its middle section.
The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.
During the Roman empire the region contained a militarised frontier and contact point between Rome and Germanic tribes.With the collapse of the empire, the Low Countries were the scene of the early independent trading centres that marked the reawakening of Europe in the 12th century. In that period, they rivalled northern Italy as one of the most densely populated regions of Western Europe. Most of the cities were governed by guilds and councils along with a figurehead ruler; interaction with their ruler was regulated by a strict set of rules describing what the latter could and could not expect from them. All of the regions mainly depended on trade, manufacturing and the encouragement of the free flow of goods and craftsmen. Dutch and French dialects were the main languages used in secular city life.
Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.
The Germanic peoples were an ethnolinguistic group of Northern European origin identified by Roman-era authors as distinct from neighbouring Celtic peoples, and identified in modern scholarship as speakers, at least for the most part, of early Germanic languages.
The Renaissance of the 12th century was a period of many changes at the outset of the high Middle Ages. It included social, political and economic transformations, and an intellectual revitalization of Western Europe with strong philosophical and scientific roots. These changes paved the way for later achievements such as the literary and artistic movement of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century and the scientific developments of the 17th century.
Historically, the term Low Countries arose at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy, who used the term les pays de par deçà ("the lands over here") for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà ("the lands over there") for the Duchy of Burgundy and the Free County of Burgundy, which were part of their realm but geographically disconnected from the Low Countries.Governor Mary of Hungary used both the expressions les pays de par deça and Pays d'Embas ("lands down here"), which evolved to Pays-Bas or Low Countries. Today the term is typically fitted to modern political boundaries and used in the same way as the term Benelux .
The Duchy of Burgundy emerged in the 9th century as one of the successors of the ancient Kingdom of the Burgundians, which after its conquest in 532 had formed a constituent part of the Frankish Empire. Upon the 9th-century partitions, the French remnants of the Burgundian kingdom were reduced to a ducal rank by King Robert II of France in 1004. Robert II's son and heir, King Henry I of France, inherited the duchy but ceded it to his younger brother Robert in 1032. Other portions had passed to the Imperial Kingdom of Arles and the County of Burgundy (Franche-Comté).
The Free County of Burgundy was a medieval county of the Holy Roman Empire, within the modern region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, whose very name is still reminiscent of the title of its count: Freigraf. It should not be confused with the more westerly Duchy of Burgundy, a fiefdom of Francia since 843.
Mary of Austria, also known as Mary of Hungary, was queen consort of Hungary and Bohemia as the wife of King Louis II, and was later Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands.
The name of the country of the Netherlands has the same etymology and origin as the name for the region Low Countries, due to "nether" meaning "low".In the Dutch language itself De Lage Landen is the modern term for Low Countries, and De Nederlanden (plural) is in use for the 16th century domains of Charles V, the historic Low Countries, while Nederland (singular) is in use for the country of the Netherlands. However, in official use, the name of the Dutch kingdom is still Kingdom of the Netherlands, Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (plural). This name derives from the 19th-century origins of the kingdom which originally included present-day Belgium.
The Netherlands is a country located in Northwestern Europe with some overseas territories. In Europe, it consists of 12 provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.
Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor from 1519, King of Spain from 1516, and ruling prince of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1506. Head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over Austria and the Low Countries, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".
The Kingdom of the Netherlands, commonly known as the Netherlands, is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with the large majority of its territory in Western Europe and with several small island territories in the Caribbean Sea, in the West Indies islands.
In Dutch, and to a lesser extent in English, the Low Countries colloquially means the Netherlands and Belgium, sometimes the Netherlands and Flanders—the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium. For example, a Low Countries derby (Derby der Lage Landen), is a sports event between Belgium and the Netherlands.
Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.
The Low Countries derby, is the name given in football to any match between the Belgian and Dutch national football teams. The countries have a long-standing tradition of rivalry in football, having played over 125 official Derbies so far. Only Austria–Hungary and Argentina–Uruguay have been contested more often. Not only have the Low Countries met 18 times in the framework of major tournaments, they have also played at least 35 friendly cup duels.
Belgium separated in 1830 from the (northern) Netherlands. The new country took its name from Belgica, the Latinised name for the Low Countries, as it was known during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648). The Low Countries were in that war divided in two parts. On one hand, the northern Federated Netherlands or Belgica Foederata rebelled against the Spanish king; on the other, the southern Royal Netherlands or Belgica Regia remained loyal to the Spanish king.This divide laid the early foundation for the later modern states of Belgium and the Netherlands.
|History of the Low Countries|
Gallia Belgica (55 BC – 5th c. AD)
Germania Inferior (83 – 5th c.)
|Saxons|| Salian Franks |
| Frisian Kingdom |
|Frankish Kingdom (481–843)—Carolingian Empire (800–843)|
|Middle Francia (843–855)|| West|
| Kingdom of Lotharingia (855– 959)|
Duchy of Lower Lorraine (959–)
Burgundian Netherlands (1384–1482)
Habsburg Netherlands (1482–1795)
(Seventeen Provinces after 1543)
United States of Belgium
Batavian Republic (1795–1806)
Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810)
associated with French First Republic (1795–1804)
part of First French Empire (1804–1815)
Princip. of the Netherlands (1813–1815)
|United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830)|
Gr D. L.
Kingdom of the Netherlands (1839–)
Kingdom of Belgium (1830–)
| Gr D. of|
The region politically had its origins in the Carolingian empire; more precisely, most of the people were within the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia.After the disintegration of Lower Lotharingia, the Low Countries were brought under the rule of various lordships until they came to be in the hands of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy. Hence, a large part of the Low Countries came to be referred to as the Burgundian Netherlands. After the reign of the Valois Dukes ended, much of the Low Countries were controlled by the House of Habsburg. This area was referred to as the Habsburg Netherlands, which was also called the Seventeen Provinces up to 1581. Even after the political secession of the autonomous Dutch Republic (or "United Provinces") in the north, the term "Low Countries" continued to be used to refer collectively to the region. The region was temporarily united politically between 1815 and 1839, as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, before this split into the three modern countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The Low Countries were part of the Roman provinces of Gallia Belgica and Germania Inferior. They were inhabited by Belgic and Germanic tribes. In the 4th and 5th century, Frankish tribes had entered this Roman region and came to run it increasingly independently. They came to be ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, under which dynasty the southern part (below the Rhine) was re-Christianised.
By the end of the 8th century, the Low Countries formed a core part of a much expanded Francia and the Merovingians were replaced by the Carolingian dynasty.In 800, the Pope crowned and appointed Charlemagne Emperor of the re-established Roman Empire.
After the death of Charlemagne, Francia was divided in three parts among his three grandsons.The middle slice, Middle Francia, was ruled by Lothair I, and thereby also came to be referred to as "Lotharingia" or "Lorraine". Apart from the original coastal County of Flanders, which was within West Francia, the rest of the Low Countries were within the lowland part of this, "Lower Lorraine".
After the death of Lothair, the Low Countries were coveted by the rulers of both West Francia and East Francia. Each tried to swallow the region and to merge it with their spheres of influence. Thus, the Low Countries consisted of fiefs whose sovereignty resided with either the Kingdom of France or the Holy Roman Empire. While the further history the Low Countries can be seen as the object of a continual struggle between these two powers, the title of Duke of Lothier was coveted in the low countries for centuries.
In the 14th and 15th century, separate fiefs came gradually to be ruled by a single family through royal intermarriage. This process culminated in the rule of the House of Valois, who were the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy. During the height of Burgundian influence, the Low Countries became the political and economic centre of Northern Europe, noted for its crafts and luxury goods, notably early Netherlandish painting, which is the work of artists who were active in the flourishing cities of Bruges, Ghent, Mechelen, Louvain, Tournai and Brussels, all in present-day Belgium.
In 1477 the Burgundian holdings in the area passed through an heiress—Mary of Burgundy—to the Habsburgs. The Low Countries were roughly divided into Seventeen Provinces. Charles V united the provinces into one indivisible territory, covered by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549,while retaining existing customs, laws, and forms of government within the provinces. Therefore, Charles V introduced the title of Heer der Nederlanden ("Lord of the Netherlands"). Only he and his son could ever use this title.
The Pragmatic Sanction transformed the agglomeration of lands into a unified entity, of which the Habsburgs would be the heirs. By streamlining the succession law in all Seventeen Provinces and declaring that all of them would be inherited by one heir, Charles effectively united the Netherlands as one entity. After Charles' abdication in 1555, the Seventeen Provinces passed to his son, Philip II of Spain.
The Pragmatic Sanction is said to be one example of the Habsburg contest with particularism that contributed to the Dutch Revolt. Each of the provinces had its own laws, customs and political practices. The new policy, imposed from the outside, angered many inhabitants, who viewed their provinces as distinct entities. It and other monarchical acts, such as the creation of bishoprics and promulgation of laws against heresy, stoked resentments, which fired the eruption of the Dutch Revolt.
After the northern Seven United Provinces of the seventeen declared their independence from Habsburg Spain in 1581, the ten provinces of the Southern Netherlands remained occupied by the Army of Flanders under Spanish service and are therefore sometimes called the Spanish Netherlands. In 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht following the War of the Spanish Succession, what was left of the Spanish Netherlands was ceded to Austria and thus became known as the Austrian Netherlands.
The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830) temporarily united the Low Countries again, before this split into the three modern countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
During the early months of World War I (around 1914), The Central Powers invaded the Low Countries of Luxembourg and Belgium in what has been come to be known as the German invasion of Belgium. It led to the German occupation of the two countries. However, the German advance into France was quickly halted, causing a military stalemate for most of the war. In the end, a total of approximately 56,000 people were killed in the invasion.
World War II started in the region when Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht forces turned their eyes west to France. The Low Countries were an easy route of getting around the feared French Maginot Line. Hitler ordered a conquest of the Low Countries to be executed at the shortest possible notice to forestall the French and prevent Allied air power from threatening the vital German Ruhr Area.It would also provide the basis for a long-term air and sea campaign against Britain. As much as possible of the border areas in northern France should be occupied. Germany used its Blitzkrieg tactics and took out the countries in only two weeks.
Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg were occupied from about May 1940 to about May 1945. During the occupation, their governments were forced to be exiled in Britain. In 1944, they signed the London Customs Convention, laying the foundation for the Benelux Economic Union,an important forerunner of the EEC (later the EU).
One of the Low Countries' earliest literary figures is the blind poet Bernlef, from c. 800, who sang both Christian psalms and pagan verses. Bernlef is representative of the coexistence of Christianity and Germanic polytheism in this time period. :1–2
The earliest examples of written literature include the Wachtendonck Psalms, a collection of twenty five psalms that originated in the Moselle-Frankish region around the middle of the 9th century. 3:
The history of Belgium extends before the founding of the modern state of that name in 1830, and is intertwined with those of its neighbours: the Netherlands, Germany, France and Luxembourg. For most of its history, what is now Belgium was either a part of a larger territory, such as the Carolingian Empire, or divided into a number of smaller states, prominent among them being the Duchy of Brabant, the County of Flanders, the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and County of Luxembourg. Due to its strategic location and the many armies fighting on its soil Belgium has often been called the "battlefield of Europe" or the "cockpit of Europe". It is also remarkable as a European nation which contains, and is divided by, a language boundary between Latin-derived French and Germanic Dutch.
The Seventeen Provinces were the Imperial states of the Habsburg Netherlands in the 16th century. They roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e. what is now the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and most of the French departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais (Artois). Also within this area were semi-independent fiefdoms, mainly ecclesiastical ones, such as Liège, Cambrai and Stavelot-Malmedy.
The Southern Netherlands, also called the Catholic Netherlands, was the part of the Low Countries largely controlled by Spain (1556–1714), later Austria (1714–1794), and occupied then annexed by France (1794–1815). The region also included a number of smaller states that were never ruled by Spain or Austria: the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy, the County of Bouillon, the County of Horne and the Princely Abbey of Thorn. The Southern Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire until the whole area was annexed by Revolutionary France.
The Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 was an edict, promulgated by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, reorganizing the Seventeen Provinces of the present day Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg into one indivisible territory, while retaining existing customs, laws, and forms of government within the provinces.
Greater Netherlands or Dietsland ("Dutchland") is a hypothetical monolingual polity formed by fusing the two Dutch-speaking regions of Flanders and the Netherlands. The concept was originally developed by Pieter Geyl, who argued that the two only separated during the Eighty Years' War against Spain in the 16th century.
Gallia Belgica was a province of the Roman empire located in the north-eastern part of Roman Gaul, in what is today primarily France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, along with parts of the Netherlands and Germany.
The County of Holland was a State of the Holy Roman Empire and from 1432 part of the Burgundian Netherlands, from 1482 part of the Habsburg Netherlands and from 1581 onward the leading province of the Dutch Republic, of which it remained a part until the Batavian Revolution in 1795. The territory of the County of Holland corresponds roughly with the current provinces of North Holland and South Holland in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a country located in Northwestern Europe.
The County of Artois was a historic province of the Kingdom of France, held by the Dukes of Burgundy from 1384 until 1477/82, and a state of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 until 1659.
In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands were a number of Imperial and French fiefs ruled in personal union by the House of Valois-Burgundy in the period from 1384 to 1482 and later their Habsburg heirs. The area comprised large parts of present-day Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as Luxembourg and parts of northern France.
Spanish Netherlands was the collective name of States of the Holy Roman Empire in the Low Countries, held in personal union by the Spanish Crown from 1556 to 1714. This region comprised most of the modern states of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France, southern Netherlands, and western Germany with the capital being Brussels.
The Duchy of Limburg or Limbourg was a state of the Holy Roman Empire. Its main territory including the capital Limbourg is today located within the Belgian province of Liège, with a small part in the neighbouring province of Belgian Limburg, within the east of Voeren.
The Burgundian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1512 and significantly enlarged in 1548. In addition to the Free County of Burgundy, the Burgundian Circle roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e., the areas now known as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg and adjacent parts in the French administrative region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
The Duchy of Brabant was a State of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1183. It developed from the Landgraviate of Brabant and formed the heart of the historic Low Countries, part of the Burgundian Netherlands from 1430 and of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1482, until it was partitioned after the Dutch revolt.
The Low Countries comprise the coastal Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta region in Western Europe, whose definition usually includes the modern countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Both Belgium and the Netherlands derived their names from earlier names for the region, due to nether meaning "low" and Belgica being the Latinized name for all the Low Countries, a nomenclature that went obsolete after Belgium's secession in 1830.
The Duchy of Luxemburg was a state of the Holy Roman Empire, the ancestral homeland of the noble House of Luxembourg. The House of Luxembourg, now Duke of Limburg, became one of the most important political forces in the 14th century, competing against the House of Habsburg for supremacy in Central Europe. They would be the heirs to the Přemyslid dynasty in the Kingdom of Bohemia, succeeding the Kingdom of Hungary and contributing four Holy Roman Emperors until their own line of male heirs came to an end and the House of Habsburg got the pieces that the two Houses had originally agreed upon in the Treaty of Brünn in 1364.
Habsburg Netherlands, also referred to as Flanders during the early modern period, is the collective name of Holy Roman Empire fiefs in the Low Countries held by the House of Habsburg. The rule began in 1482, when after the death of the Valois-Burgundy duke Charles the Bold the Burgundian Netherlands fell to the Habsburg dynasty by the marriage of Charles's daughter Mary of Burgundy to Archduke Maximilian I of Austria. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was born in the Habsburg Netherlands and made Brussels his imperial capital.
Around the 13th and early 14th century, various Dutch cities became so important that they started playing a major role in the political and economical affairs of their respective fiefs. At the same time, the political system of relatively petty lords was ending, and stronger rulers started to emerge.
The Dutch Republic Lion was the badge of the Union of Utrecht, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and is a precursor of the current coat of arms of the Kingdom the Netherlands.