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The Southern Netherlands, [note 1] also called the Catholic Netherlands, were the parts of the Low Countries belonging to the Holy Roman Empire which were at first largely controlled by Habsburg Spain (Spanish Netherlands, 1556–1714) and later by the Austrian Habsburgs (Austrian Netherlands, 1714–1794) until occupied and annexed by Revolutionary 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 comprised most of modern-day Belgium and Luxembourg, small parts of the modern Netherlands and Germany (the Upper Guelders region, as well as the Bitburg area in Germany, then part of Luxembourg), in addition to (until 1678) most of the present Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, and Longwy area in northern France. The (southern) Upper Guelders region consisted of what is now divided between Germany and the modern Dutch Province of Limburg (in 1713 largely ceded to Prussia).
As they were very wealthy, the Netherlands in general were an important territory of the Habsburg crown which also ruled Spain and Austria among other places. But unlike the other Habsburg dominions, they were led by a merchant class. It was the merchant economy which made them wealthy, and the Habsburg attempts at increasing taxation to finance their wars [note 2] was a major factor in the Dutch (merchants) efforts to defend their privileges. This, added to resistance to penal laws enforced by the Habsburg monarchy that made heresy a capital crime, led to a general rebellion of the Netherlands against Habsburg rule towards 1570 (protests and hostilities started the Dutch Eighty Years' War for independence ca. 1566–1568). Although the northern seven provinces, led by Holland and Zeeland, established their independence as the United Provinces after 1581, the ten southern Netherlands were reconquered by the Spanish general Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma. Liège, Stavelot-Malmédy and Bouillon maintained their independence.
The Habsburg Netherlands passed to the Austrian Habsburgs after the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. Under Austrian rule, the ten provinces' defence of their privileges proved as troublesome to the reforming Emperor Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor as it had to his ancestor Philip II two centuries earlier, leading to a major rebellion in 1789–1790. The Austrian Netherlands were ultimately lost to the French Revolutionary armies, and annexed to France in 1794. Following the war, Austria's loss of the territories was confirmed, and they were joined with the northern Netherlands as a single kingdom under the House of Orange at the 1815 Congress of Vienna. The southeastern third of Luxembourg Province was made into the autonomous Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, because it was claimed by both the Netherlands and Prussia.
In 1830 the predominantly Roman Catholic southern half became independent as the Kingdom of Belgium (the northern half being predominantly Calvinist)[ citation needed ]. In 1839 the final border between the kingdom of the Netherlands and Belgium was determined and the eastern part of Limburg returned to the Netherlands as the province of Limburg. The autonomy of Luxembourg was recognised in 1839, but an instrument to that effect was not signed until 1867. The King of the Netherlands was Grand Duke of Luxembourg until 1890, when William III was succeeded by his daughter, Wilhelmina of the Netherlands – but Luxembourg still followed the Salic law at the time, which forbade a woman to rule in her own right; so the union of the Dutch and Luxembourgish crowns then ended. The northwestern two-thirds of the original Luxembourg remains a province of Belgium.
The Spanish Netherlands (Dutch: Spaanse Nederlanden, Spanish: Países Bajos españoles) was a portion of the Low Countries controlled by Spain from 1556 to 1714, inherited from the Dukes of Burgundy. Although the territory of the Duchy of Burgundy itself remained in the hands of France, the Habsburgs remained in control of the title of Duke of Burgundy and the other parts of the Burgundian inheritance, notably the Low Countries and the Free County of Burgundy in the Holy Roman Empire. They often used the term Burgundy to refer to it (e.g. in the name of the Imperial Circle it was grouped into), until 1794, when the Austrian Netherlands were lost to the French Republic.
When part of the Netherlands separated from Spanish rule and became the United Provinces in 1581 the remainder of the area became known as the Spanish Netherlands and remained under Spanish control. This region comprised modern Belgium, Luxembourg as well as part of northern France.
The Spanish Netherlands originally consisted of:
The capital, Brussels, was in Brabant. In the early 17th century, there was a flourishing court at Brussels, which was under the government of King Philip III's half-sister Archduchess Isabella and her husband, Archduke Albert of Austria. Among the artists who emerged from the court of the "Archdukes", as they were known, was Peter Paul Rubens. Under the Archdukes, the Spanish Netherlands actually had formal independence from Spain, but always remained unofficially within the Spanish sphere of influence, and with Albert's death in 1621 they returned to formal Spanish control, although the childless Isabella remained on as Governor until her death in 1633.
The failing wars intended to regain the 'heretical' northern Netherlands meant significant loss of (still mainly Catholic) territories in the north, which was consolidated in 1648 in the Peace of Westphalia, and given the peculiar, inferior status of Generality Lands (jointly ruled by the United Republic, not admitted as member provinces): Zeelandic Flanders (south of the river Scheldt), the present Dutch province of North Brabant and Maastricht (in the present Dutch province of Limburg).
As Spanish power waned in the latter decades of the 17th century, the territory of the Spanish Netherlands was repeatedly invaded by the French and an increasing portion of the territory came under French control in successive wars. By the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659 the French annexed Artois while Dunkirk was ceded to the English. By the Treaties of Aix-la-Chapelle (ending the War of Devolution in 1668) and Nijmegen (ending the Franco-Dutch War in 1678), further territory up to the current Franco-Belgian border was ceded, including Cambrai, Walloon Flanders (the area around Lille, Douai and Orchies), as well as half of the county of Hainaut (including Valenciennes). Later, in the War of the Reunions and the Nine Years' War, France temporarily annexed other parts of the region that were returned in the 1697 Peace of Ryswick.
Under the Treaty of Rastatt (1714), 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 or Belgium Austriacum. However, the Austrians themselves generally had little interest in the region (aside from a short-lived attempt by Emperor Charles VI to compete with British and Dutch trade through the Ostend Company), and the fortresses along the border (the Barrier Fortresses) were, by treaty, garrisoned with Dutch troops. The area had, in fact, been given to Austria largely at British and Dutch insistence, as these powers feared potential French domination of the region.
Throughout the latter part of the eighteenth century, the principal foreign policy goal of the Habsburg rulers was to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria, which would round out Habsburg possessions in southern Germany. In the 1757 Treaty of Versailles, Austria agreed to the creation of an independent state in the Southern Netherlands ruled by Philip, Duke of Parma and garrisoned by French troops in exchange for French help in recovering Silesia. However the agreement was unimplemented and revoked by the Third Treaty of Versailles (1785) and Austrian rule continued.
In 1784, its ruler, Emperor Joseph II, took up the long-standing grudge of Antwerp, whose once-flourishing trade was destroyed by the permanent closing of the Scheldt, and he demanded for the Dutch Republic to open the river to navigation. However, his stance was far from militant, and he called off hostilities after the so-called Kettle War, so called because its only "casualty" was a kettle. Though Joseph secured in the 1785 Treaty of Fontainebleau that the territory's rulers would be compensated by the Dutch Republic for the continued closing the Scheldt, this failed to gain him much popularity.
The people of the Austrian Netherlands rebelled against Austria in 1788 as a result of Joseph II's centralizing policies. The different provinces established the United States of Belgium (January 1790). However, waylaying Joseph's intended concessions to the Belgians to restore the height of their autonomy and privileges, Austrian imperial power had been restored by Joseph's brother and successor, Leopold II, by the end of 1790.
|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)|| |
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Kingdom of the Netherlands (1839–)
Kingdom of Belgium (1830–)
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In the course of the French Revolution, the entire region (including territories that were never under Habsburg rule, like the Prince-Bishopric of Liège) was overrun by French armies after they won the Battle of Sprimont in 1794. The territory was then annexed to the Republic (October 1, 1795).
Only a minority of the population – mostly the local Jacobins and other members of "Societies of Friends of Liberty and Equality" in urban areas – supported the annexation. The majority were hostile to the French regime, above all because of the imposition of the assignat, wholesale conscription, and the ferocious antireligious policies of the French revolutionaries. The opposition was first led by the Catholic clergy, which became an irreducible enemy of the French Republic after it dissolved convents and monasteries and confiscated ecclesiastical properties, ordered the separation of Church and State, shut down the University of Louvain and other Catholic educational institutions, regulated church attendance and introduced divorce. In 1797, nearly 8000 priests refused to swear the newly introduced Oath of Hatred of Kings ("serment de haine à la royauté"), and went into hiding to escape arrest and deportation. The situation, particularly in the religious field, eased with the rise to power of Bonaparte in 1799, but soon, the intensification of conscription, the police state and the Continental System, which brought ruin to Ostend and Antwerp, reignited opposition to French rule.  During that period Belgium was divided into nine départements: Deux-Nèthes, Dyle, Escaut, Forêts, Jemmape, Lys, Meuse-Inférieure, Ourthe and Sambre-et-Meuse.
Austria confirmed the loss of its territories by the Treaty of Campo Formio, in 1797.
In anticipation of Napoleon's defeat in 1814, it was hotly debated inside Austrian ruling circles whether Austria should get the Southern Netherlands back or, in view of the experience gained after the War of the Spanish Succession about the difficulty of defending non contiguous possessions, whether she should not instead obtain contiguous territorial compensations in Northern Italy.  This latter viewpoint won and the Congress of Vienna allotted the Southern Netherlands to the new United Kingdom of the Netherlands. After the Belgian Revolution of 1830, the region separated to become the independent Kingdom of Belgium.
Limburg is the southernmost of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. It is bordered by Gelderland to the north and by North Brabant to its west. Its long eastern boundary forms the international border with the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. To the west is the international border with the similarly named Belgian province of Limburg, part of which is delineated by the river Meuse. The Vaalserberg is on the extreme southeastern point, marking the tripoint of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
The United Kingdom of the Netherlands is the unofficial name given to the Kingdom of the Netherlands as it existed between 1815 and 1839. The United Netherlands was created in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars through the fusion of territories that had belonged to the former Dutch Republic, Austrian Netherlands, and Prince-Bishopric of Liège in order to form a buffer state between the major European powers. The polity was a constitutional monarchy, ruled by William I of the House of Orange-Nassau.
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 Kingdom of Belgium is divided into three regions. Two of these regions, Flanders and Wallonia, are each subdivided into five provinces. The third region, Brussels, does not belong to any province and nor is it subdivided into provinces. Instead, it has amalgamated both regional and provincial functions into a single "Capital Region" administration.
Eupen is the capital of German-speaking Community of Belgium and is a city and municipality in the Belgian province of Liège, 15 kilometres from the German border (Aachen), from the Dutch border (Maastricht) and from the "High Fens" nature reserve (Ardennes). The town is also the capital of the Euroregion Meuse-Rhine.
The Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 was an edict, promulgated by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, reorganising 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.
The Austrian Netherlands was the territory of the Burgundian Circle of the Holy Roman Empire between 1714 and 1797. The period began with the Austrian acquisition of the former Spanish Netherlands under the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 and lasted until Revolutionary France annexed the territory during the aftermath of the Battle of Sprimont in 1794 and the Peace of Basel in 1795. Austria, however, did not relinquish its claim over the province until 1797 in the Treaty of Campo Formio.
In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands or the Burgundian Age is the period between 1384 and 1482, during which a growing part of the Low Countries was ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy. Within their Burgundian State, which itself belonged partly to the Holy Roman Empire and partly to the Kingdom of France, the dukes united these lowlands into a political union that went beyond a personal union as it gained central institutions for the first time.
Spanish Netherlands was the Habsburg Netherlands ruled by the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs from 1556 to 1714. They were a collection of States of the Holy Roman Empire in the Low Countries held in personal union by the Spanish Crown. This region comprised most of the modern states of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France, the southern Netherlands, and western Germany with the capital being Brussels. The Army of Flanders was given the task of defending the territory.
The Duchy of Limburg or Limbourg was an imperial estate of the Holy Roman Empire. Much of the area of the duchy is today located within Liège Province of Belgium, with a small portion in the municipality of Voeren, an exclave of the neighbouring Limburg Province. Its chief town was Limbourg-sur-Vesdre, in today's Liège Province.
The Generality Lands, Lands of the Generality or Common Lands were about one fifth of the territories of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, that were directly governed by the States-General. Unlike the seven provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, Overijssel, Friesland and Groningen, these territories had no States-Provincial and were not represented in the central government. From an economic point of view, they were exploited with heavy taxes and levies. As one author puts it:
"Back in the Dutch lap, these so-called Generality lands were for a long time governed as a sort of internal colonies, in which Catholics were seen as second-class citizens."
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. For most of its history, its lands were coterminous with the holdings of the Spanish Habsburgs in the Empire.
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 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 was the Renaissance period fiefs in the Low Countries held by the Holy Roman Empire's House of Habsburg. The rule began in 1482, when the last Valois-Burgundy ruler of the Netherlands, Mary, wife of Maximilian I of Austria, died. Their grandson, Emperor Charles V, was born in the Habsburg Netherlands and made Brussels one of his capitals.
The Burgundian inheritance in the Low Countries consisted of numerous fiefs held by the Dukes of Burgundy in modern-day Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and in parts of France and Germany. The Duke of Burgundy was originally a member of the House of Valois-Burgundy and later of the House of Habsburg. Given that the Dukes of Burgundy lost Burgundy proper to the Kingdom of France in 1477, and were never able to recover it, while retaining Charolais and the Free County of Burgundy, they moved their court to the Low Countries. The Burgundian Low Countries were ultimately expanded to include Seventeen Provinces under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Burgundian inheritance then passed to the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs under Philip II of Spain, whose rule was contested by the Dutch revolt, and fragmented into the Spanish Netherlands and the Dutch republic. Following the War of the Spanish succession, the Habsburg Netherlands passed to Austria and remained in Austrian hands until the French conquest of the late 18th century. The Bourbon Restoration did not re-establish the Burgundian states, with the former Burgundian territories remaining divided between France, the Netherlands and, following the Belgian Revolution, modern-day Belgium.
Upper Guelders or Spanish Guelders was one of the four quarters in the Imperial Duchy of Guelders. In the Dutch Revolt, it was the only quarter that did not secede from the Habsburg monarchy to become part of the Seven United Netherlands, but remained under Spanish rule during the Eighty Years' War.
Netherlands–Spain relations are the bilateral and diplomatic relations between these two countries. The relations between both countries are defined mainly by their membership in the European Union and by being allies in the NATO, as well as belonging to numerous International Organizations.
Gewest is a Dutch term often translated as "region". It was used to describe the various different polities making up the Low Countries, which covered what is now the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of northern France, until the annexation by France in the late 18th century. The term is now mostly associated with the official titles of the constituent states of Belgium.