Joyous Entry of 1356
The Joyous Entry of 1356 (Dutch: Blijde Intrede, Blijde Inkomst, or Blijde Intocht, French: Joyeuse Entrée) into Brussels is the charter of liberties granted to the Duchy of Brabant following the death in 1355 of Duke John III, by his daughter Joanna, the new Duchess, and her husband Wenceslaus, Duke of Luxembourg. The document is dated 3 January 1356, (NS) and it is seen as the equivalent of the Magna Carta for the Low Countries.
In 1354, Duke John III of Brabant summoned representatives of the cities of the duchy to Leuven to announce the marriage of his oldest daughter and heiress Joanna of Brabant to Wenceslaus, duke of Luxemburg, and offered them liberal concessions so as to secure their assent to the change of dynasty. The death of John in 1355 sparked a succession crisis. As both of his sons had died, he left the throne to his daughter Joanna and her husband Wenceslaus I of Luxembourg. In January 1356, Wenceslaus and Joanna signed the charter that had been drawn up and solemnly swore to uphold its provisions.
Louis II, Count of Flanders had married Joanna's younger sister Margaret and thought the throne should be his. Louis invaded Brabant and quickly seized Brussels. By August 1356, the Brabantian document was a dead letter in practice, owing to the military occupation of Brabant by Louis. During the night of 24 October 1356, a group of Brabantian patriots led by Everard 't Serclaes scaled the city walls and drove the Flemings from the city. This enabled Joanna and Wenceslaus to make their Joyous Entry into Brussels, giving the document its name.
The charter had not been completely new. A custom of "landcharters" originating in Brabant during the previous century, had already produced the Charter of Kortenberg, granted by John II in 1312 and also considered a Babantian Constitution, or the "Walloon Charter" of 1314. The six specific freedoms or "privileges" detailed powers granted to the church, the towns and some nobles, by means of which Duke John III's heiress, Joanna, Duchess of Brabant and her consort Wenceslaus of Luxembourg, could collect taxes. With this instrument the dukes of Brabant undertook to maintain the indivisibility of the duchy, and not to wage war, make treaties, or impose taxes without the consent of their subjects, as represented by the municipalities. All members of the duke's council were to be native-born Brabanters.
On 5 April, Wenceslaus' half-brother Charles (also originally named Wenceslaus) became Holy Roman Emperor; he presided at the Imperial Diet which decreed the Golden Bull of 1356, fixing an important aspect of the constitutional structure of the Holy Roman Empire, mainly restricting the freedoms of cities and civilians.
The following February, when Emperor Charles IV, Joanna and Wenceslaus, and representatives of the Brabantian towns all met at Maastricht: to satisfy the Luxembourg dynasty it was officially denigrated by all parties, especially its chapter vii, which stipulated that the Duchess Joanna, if childless, should be succeeded by her natural heirs—her sisters. Thus it was by abrogation of the Joyous Entry of 1356 that the Habsburgs eventually inherited Brabant. The defeat of Wenceslaus in 1371 was a victory for the towns over the feudal nobility, and in supporting Anton of Burgundy as Duke, the towns wrung from him a new constitution or Inauguration Charter (1406). What remained of the Joyous Entry charter would nevertheless be referred to for centuries.
The Joyous Entry of 1356 has been viewed an equivalent to the rechtsstaat in the Low Countries or the Magna Carta's establishment of a rule of law for England, the only other medieval document with claims to comprising a written basis of governance, in the other early successful example of a nation-state. In common with Magna Carta its functioning significance was exaggerated by the Romantic historians of the 19th century.
Annually the Dukes of Brabant pledged to adhere to the text in the document by making a ceremonial entry into the main cities of Brabant. In the midst of the Eighty Years' War in the Low Countries, a book was repeatedly published (the 1578 edition safely from Cologne) with the Latin title Laetus introitus, with the view of reminding Philip II and his military commanders of the constitutional restraints of the Blijde Inkomst and giving heart to the insurgents in Brabant. Later, the ill-advised attempt of the 18th century Austrian Emperor Joseph II in his reforming zeal to abrogate the Joyous Entry caused a revolt in Brabant, before which he had to yield.
This Joyous Entry charter was declared null and void when the Revolutionary French forces took possession of the Austrian Netherlands in 1794. Nevertheless, it became one of the elements that formed the Belgian Constitution of 1831.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.