Habsburg Netherlands

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Habsburg Netherlands
Personal union of Imperial fiefs


Flag Coat of arms
Habsburg Netherlands (orange) in 1548, with the ecclesiastical enclaves of Liège and Stavelot-Malmedy
Capital Brussels
Languages Dutch, Low Saxon, Frisian, Walloon, Luxembourgish, French
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Monarchy
Historical era Early modern period
 -  Inherited by Habsburg 1482
 -  Incorporated into Burgundian Circle 1512
 -  Part of Habsburg Monarchy 1526
 -  to Habsburg Spain 1556
 -  Dutch Act of Abjuration 1581
 -  Southern Netherlands annexed by French First Republic 1795

The Habsburg Netherlands were the Imperial fiefs in the Low Countries at the time when they were held by the House of Habsburg. Their 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.

The Seventeen Provinces were held by Habsburg Spain from 1556 and are therefore also known as the Spanish Netherlands from that time on. In 1581 Seven United Netherlands seceded to form the Dutch Republic; the remaining Southern Netherlands were finally annexed by the French First Republic in 1795.


The Habsburg Netherlands was a geo-political entity covering the whole of the Low Countries (i.e. the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and French Nord-Pas-de-Calais) from 1482 to 1581.

Burgundian Netherlands (orange) upon the death of Charles the Bold

Already under the rule of the Burgundian duke Philip the Good (1419–1467), the provinces of the Netherlands began to grow together: Flanders, Artois and Mechelen, Namur, Holland, Friesland, Zeeland and Hainaut, Brabant, Limburg and Luxembourg were ruled in personal union by the Valois-Burgundy monarchs and represented in the States-General assembly. The centre of the Burgundian possessions was the Duchy of Brabant, where the Burgundian dukes held court in Brussels.

Philip's son Duke Charles the Bold (1467-1477) also acquired Guelders and Zutphen and even hoped for the royal title from the hands of the Habsburg emperor Frederick III by marrying their children Mary and Maximilian. Deeply disappointed, he entered into the disastrous Burgundian Wars and was killed in the Battle of Nancy.

History of the Low Countries
............ ...... ............ ......... ............ ......... ............ ............ ............ ......... .........
Baetasii, Menapi
Eburones, Tungri
Nervii Atuatuci
(pre 400)
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Gallia Belgica (55BC-5th c.)
Batavii (foederati)
Sallii Germania Inf. Belgica II (297-5th c.) Germania

(83-5th c.)
Belg. II Belg. I
(4th-5th c.)
Saxons Salian Franks
(4th-5th c.)
Frisian Kingdom
Frankish Kingdom (481-843)
Austrasia and Neustria (511-751)
part of Carolingian Empire (after 800)
part of Middle Francia (843–855) part of
Lotharingia (855– 959) - part of East Francia (after 939)

Lower Lorraine (959–1190) - part of Holy Roman Empire

Frisia Arms of Flanders.svg


(11–16th c.)

Friesland (kleine wapen).svg
Groningen coa small.png

Counts of Holland Arms.svg
C. of

Coat of arms of Zeeland.svg
C. of

Coat of arms of Utrecht city.gif
Bishopric of

Small coat of arms of Overijssel.svg
Graafschap zutphen.svg
C. of Zutphen
Royal Arms of Belgium.svg
Duchy of Brabant
Modern Arms of Limburg.svg
Duchy of Limburg
Guelders-Jülich Arms.svg
Duchy of Guelders
C. of

Artois Arms.svg
C. of Artois
Escudo de Malinas 1581.svg
Blason de Tournai.svg
Blason fr Hainaut ancien.svg
C. of Hainaut
Arms of Namur.svg
C. of Namur
Armoiries Principauté de Liège.svg
of Liège

Arms of Luxembourg.svg
Duchy of

  Arms of the Duke of Burgundy (1364-1404).svg
Burgundian Netherlands (1384–1482)
Flag of the Low Countries.svg
Habsburg Netherlands (1482–1556)
Seven United Netherlands (Belgica Foederata)
Flag of the Low Countries.svg
Spanish Netherlands
(Belgica Regia)
  Austrian Low Countries Flag.svg
Austrian Netherlands
  Flag of the Brabantine Revolution.svg
United States of Belgium
R. Liège
Flag of the Batavian Republic.svg
Batavian Republic (1795–1806)

Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810)

Flag of France.svg
part of French First Republic (1795–1804)
part of First French Empire (1804–1815)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Princip. of the Netherlands (1813-1815)
United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830)
Kingdom of the Netherlands (1839-) Flag of Belgium.svg
Kingdom of Belgium (1830-)
Flag of Luxembourg.svg

Gr D.



Upon the death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482, her substantial possessions including the Burgundian Netherlands passed to her son, Philip the Handsome. Through his father Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor from 1493, Philip was a Habsburg scion, and so the period of the Habsburg Netherlands began. The period 1481–1492 saw the Flemish cities revolt and Utrecht embroiled in civil war, but by the turn of the century both areas had been pacified by the Habsburg rulers.

Philip's son Charles V, born in Ghent, succeeded his father in 1506, when he still was a six-years-old minor. His grandfather Emperor Maximilian I incorporated the Burgundian heritage into the Burgundian Circle, whereafter the territories in the far west of the Empire developed a certain grade of autonomy. Attaining full age in 1515, Charles went on to rule his Burgundian heritage as a native Netherlander. He acquired the lands of Overijssel and the Bishopric of Utrecht (see Guelderian Wars), purchased Friesland from Duke George of Saxony and regained Groningen and Gelderland. His Seventeen Provinces were re-organised in the 1548 Burgundian Treaty, whereby the Imperial estates represented in the Imperial Diet at Augsburg acknowledged a certain autonomy of the Netherlands. It was followed by a pragmatic sanction by the Emperor the next year, which established the Seventeen Provinces as an entity separate from the Empire and from France.

By a 1522 inheritance treaty with his younger brother Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria, Emperor Charles V had established the Austrian and the Spanish branch of the Habsburg dynasty. Upon his abdication in 1556, the Seventeen Provinces fell to the Spanish Crown. Charles son and successor King Philip II of Spain by his despotism and Catholic persecutions sparked the Dutch Revolt and the Eighty Years' War. The Spanish hold on the northern provinces was more and more tenuous. In 1579 the northern provinces established the Protestant Union of Utrecht, in which they declared themselves independent as the Seven United Provinces by the 1581 Act of Abjuration.

After the secession of 1581, the southern provinces, called "'t Hof van Brabant" (of Flandria, Artois, the Tournaisis, Cambrai, Luxembourg, Limburg, Hainaut, Namur, Mechelen, Brabant, and Upper Guelders) remained with the House of Habsburg until the French Revolutionary Wars. After the extinction of the Spanish Habsburgs and the War of the Spanish Succession, the southern provinces were also known as the Austrian Netherlands from 1715 onwards.


The provinces were ruled on their behalf by a governor (stadtholder or landvoogd):

In 1578 the Dutch insurgents appointed Archduke Matthias of Austria governor, though he could not prevail and resigned before the 1581 Act of Abjuration.