|Province of Austria
State of the Holy Roman Empire
Alles Erdreich ist Österreich untertan
"All the world is subject to Austria"
The Austrian Netherlands in 1789.
|Languages||German, Dutch, Latin|
|-||1716–1724||Francis Eugene (first)|
|-||1793–1794||Charles Louis (last)|
|-||1714–1716||Lothar Dominik (first)|
|-||1793–1794||Franz Karl (last)|
|Historical era||Early Modern|
|-||Treaty of Rastatt||7 March 1714|
|-||Treaty of Fontainebleau||8 November 1785|
|-||Battle of Sprimont||18 September 1794|
|-||Treaty of Campo Formio||1797|
Part of a series on the
|History of Belgium|
The Austrian Netherlands (German: Österreichische Niederlande; Dutch: Oostenrijkse Nederlanden; Latin: Belgium Austriacum), was the period in which the Habsburg Monarchy was in control of the Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium) from 1714, until its annexation during the aftermath of the Battle of Sprimont by French revolutionary forces 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. The Austrian Netherlands was a broken territory that consisted of what is now western Belgium as well as greater Luxembourg, bisected by the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The dominant languages were German (including Luxembourgish), Dutch (Flemish), and Latin, along with Picard and Walloon.
The Austrians were unconcerned with the upkeep of their province 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 Treaty of Versailles of 1757, 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 later revoked by the Treaty of Versailles of 1758 and Austrian rule continued.
In 1784 Joseph II did take up the long-standing grudge of Antwerp, whose once-flourishing trade was destroyed by the permanent closure of the Scheldt, and demanded that the Dutch Republic open the river to navigation. However, the Emperor's stance was far from militant, and he called off hostilities after the so-called Kettle War, known by that name because its only "casualty" was a kettle. Though Joseph did secure in the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1785 that the Southern Netherlands would be compensated by the Dutch Republic for the continued closing the Scheldt, this achievement failed to gain him much popularity.
In the 1780s, the Austrian Netherlands reacted angrily at attempts made to implement liberal reforms in the territory by Joseph II. In 1789, a force of émigré patriots in the Dutch Republic crossed the border and defeated the Imperial Army at the Battle of Turnhout and forced imperial troops to withdraw from the territory, encouraged by a series of uprisings in towns across the country. The 11 individual minor states which made up the Austrian Netherlands (with the exception of the Duchy of Luxembourg which was still under occupation) proclaimed independence and created the United States of Belgium. In late 1790, imperial forces (with the military support of the Holy Roman Empire) repressed the rebellion (and another in nearby Liège) and regained control of the territory under Leopold II.
- Heinz-Dieter Heimann: Die Habsburger. Dynastie und Kaiserreiche. ISBN 3-406-44754-6. pp.38-45
- Heinrich Benedikt. Als Belgien österreichisch war. Herold, Vienna, 1965.