United Kingdom of the Netherlands

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Kingdom of the Netherlands
Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (Dutch)
Keninkryk fan de Nederlannen (West Frisian)
Vereenegt Kinnekräich vun den Nidderlanden (Luxembourgish)
Royaume des Pays-Bas (French)





Flag Coat of arms
Je maintiendrai
"I will maintain"
Wien Neêrlands Bloed
"Those in whom Dutch blood"
Map of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is shown in light green.
Capital Amsterdam and Brussels
Languages Dutch, Frisian, French
Religion Protestant, Catholic
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  1815–1839 William I
Legislature States General
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Representatives
Historical era Early modern period
 -  Congress of Vienna 16 March 1815
 -  Constitution adopted 24 August 1815
 -  Belgian Revolution 25 August 1830
 -  Treaty of London 19 April 1839
Currency Dutch guilder

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1839) (Dutch: Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, Frisian: Feriene Keninkryk fan de Nederlannen, Luxembourgish: Vereenegt Kinnekräich vun den Nidderlanden, French: Royaume-Uni des Pays-Bas) is the unofficial name used to refer to the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, Frisian: Keninkryk fan de Nederlannen, Luxembourgish: Kinnekräich vun den Nidderlanden, French: Royaume des Pays-Bas) during the period after it was first created from part of the First French Empire and before the new Kingdom of Belgium split off from it in 1830. This state, a large part of which still exists today as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was made up of the former Dutch Republic (Republic of the Seven United Netherlands) to the north, the former Austrian Netherlands to the south, and the former Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The House of Orange-Nassau came to be the monarchs of this new state.

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands collapsed after the 1830 Belgian Revolution. William I, King of the Netherlands, would refuse to recognize a Belgian state until 1839, when he had to yield under pressure by the Treaty of London. Only at this time were exact borders agreed.

Prince William of Orange-Nassau, the new sovereign of the Netherlands[edit]

The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Limburg in 1839
1, 2 and 3 United Kingdom of the Netherlands (until 1830)
1 and 2 Kingdom of the Netherlands (after 1830)
2 Duchy of Limburg (1839–1867) (in the German Confederacy after 1839 as compensation for Waals-Luxemburg)
3 and 4 Kingdom of Belgium (after 1830)
4 and 5 Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (borders until 1830)
4 Province of Luxembourg (Waals-Luxemburg, to Belgium in 1839)
5 Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (German Luxemburg; borders after 1839)
In blue, the borders of the German Confederation.
History of the Low Countries
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Frisii Belgae
Chamavi, Tubanti Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Gallia Belgica (55BC-5th c.)
Sallii Batavii[2]
(4th-5th c.)
Saxons Salian Franks[3]
(4th-5th c.)
Frisian Kingdom
part of Frankish Kingdom (481-843)
part of Austrasia (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

Friesland (kleine wapen).svg
Counts of Holland Arms.svg
County of
Coat of arms of Utrecht city.gif
Bishopric of
Royal Arms of Belgium.svg
Duchy of
Guelders-Jülich Arms.svg
Duchy of

County of
Blason fr Hainaut ancien.svg
County of

Arms of Namur.svg
County of

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. L.
Gr D. of

Part of a series on the
History of the Netherlands
Coat of arms of the Netherlands
Portal icon Netherlands portal

After the liberation of the Netherlands in 1813 by Prussian and Russian troops, it was taken for granted that any new regime would have to be headed by William Frederik of Orange-Nassau, the son of the last stadtholder William V of Orange-Nassau and Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia. William returned to The Hague, where on 6 December he was offered the title of King. He refused, instead proclaiming himself "Sovereign Prince" of the Principality of the United Netherlands.

Unification under William I[edit]

During the Congress of Vienna in 1815 France had to give up its rule of the Southern Netherlands. These negotiations were not made easy, because William tried to get as much out of it as he could. His ideas of a United Netherlands were based upon the actions of Hendrik van der Noot, a lawyer and politician and one of the main players in the Revolution of the Southern Netherlands against the Austrian Emperor (1789–1790). In 1789, after the Southern Netherlands declared themselves independent, Hendrik knew this was a fragile state and he tried to be reunited with the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Since then William had never forgotten this and after the fall of Napoleon he saw a chance.

Three different scenarios were made:

  1. The Northern Netherlands restored within its old borders and the Southern Netherlands would become a barrier state under the rule of a great power, like Austria.
  2. If the Southern Netherlands would stay (partially) French, the Northern Netherlands should be extended to the Nete River or probably the whole of Flanders. In this scenario also portions of Germany would become Dutch. Then the border would be the line Mechelen-Maastricht-Jülich-Cologne-Düsseldorf where it ends at the river Rhine.
  3. France within its old borders, the Northern Netherlands unified with the Southern Netherlands and all of German territories on the left bank of the Rhine and north of the Moselle and the old Duchy of Berg and the old Lands of Nassau on the right bank of the Rhine.

The first two scenarios came from "Memorandum of Holland" made in 1813 after the Battle of Leipzig. The last scenario came from William himself. The first scenario never made it because the Great Powers (Great Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia) thought an independent Southern Netherlands/Belgium under an Austrian Prince was too weak and Austria was not interested in getting it back.

The Dutch question became a problem. The Great Powers of Europe chose the last scenario, but didn't want to go as far in enlarging the Netherlands as William.

In the end, the Eight Articles of London granted William the following lands:

The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands
The Austrian Netherlands within its borders of 1789 (so without French Flanders)
The Prince-Bishopric of Liège, but on Prussia's behalf small changes were made to its borders

The Duchy of Luxembourg was not fully granted to William, because it was a member of the German Confederation. William however demanded that Luxembourg become a part of the Netherlands, as a unified Netherlands was stronger as a buffer for France. Historically it had been a part of the Seventeen Provinces or Burgundian Netherlands up to 1648, but Luxembourg was still a part of the discussions.

On 1 March 1815, while the Congress of Vienna was still going on, Napoleon escaped from Elba and he created a large army against the Great Powers of Europe. He was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo (at that time within the kingdom) by Prussian, British, Belgian, Dutch and Nassau (under the prince of Orange) troops.

In response, on 16 March 1815, William proclaimed the Netherlands a kingdom, with himself as King William I. The Powers also granted him sovereignty over Luxembourg, which became a grand duchy in personal union with the Netherlands and stayed a member of the German Confederation, being garrisoned by Prussian troops on behalf of the Dutch king.

With the unification William completed the dream of his ancestor William of Orange (also known as William the Silent), who started it in 1579.

Power of the King[edit]

The newly formed kingdom was not like the Netherlands or Belgium today. Under the constitution, King William was granted much more power than a King or Queen in a modern constitutional monarchy.

The Second Chamber of the States General of the Netherlands had 110 members, of which 55 were chosen by the north and 55 were chosen by the south. The First Chamber was appointed by the king and consisted of old and new noblemen.

The Netherlands had eight ministers, who did not have to answer to the Second Chamber, but only to the King himself. In fact, they were following his demands. The King also could rule by "Royal Order".


The Kingdom consisted of 17 provinces (BE means currently part of Belgium, NL means currently part of the Netherlands):

Economic and social development[edit]

Economically the new state prospered, although many people in the north were unemployed and lived in poverty because a lot of British goods had destabilised the Dutch trade market.

Although financially stable, the south also had the burden of the nation's debt, but gained new trade markets in the Dutch colonies. Many people's welfare improved in the south lived in poverty because the profits of trade were used for big projects.

William tried to divide the nation's wealth more equally through, among others, the following actions:

Through these actions export of cotton, sheets, weapons and steel products increased. The fleet of Antwerp grew to 117 ships. Many of these projects were funded by King William himself.

The educational system was extended. Under William's rule the number of school-going children doubled from 150,000 to 300,000 by opening 1,500 new public schools. The south especially needed schools because many people could not read or write.

In 1825 William founded the Dutch Trading Company (Dutch: Nederlandse Handels Maatschappij), to boost trade with the colonies.

The way to separation[edit]

Social differences

Socially the unification created many problems. Although William set out from the start to create a single people, it soon became apparent that the north and south had drifted far apart culturally in the 200 years since the south was reconquered by the Habsburgs. In particular, the Burgundian and Calvinistic mentalities did not tolerate each other very well. Both the north and the south had a different historical background and the Dutch and French speaking people both were afraid of being overruled by each other. France played a role in this by the "Légion belge et parisienne", financed with private funds but with permission of the French government, to make a unification with France possible. A linguistic reform in 1823 intended to make Dutch the official language in the Flemish provinces, since it was the language of most of the Flemish population. This reform met with strong opposition from the Flemish upper and middle classes who at the time were mostly French speaking.

Religious and political differences

Religion was also a reason for separation. While the north was dominantly Protestant, the south was Catholic. The Catholic Church saw its influence declining in favour of the king. He built over 1,500 state schools where the Church was no longer the provider of education. Also the north had built up an independent history, and had experienced a golden age. So the Dutch people saw Belgium more as a territorial gain than a partner. Although 62% of the population lived in the South, they were assigned the same number of representatives in the States General while, having more provinces, the North represented a majority in the elected Lower Assembly; therefore the more populous Belgians felt significantly under-represented.


  • Blom, J.C.H., Lamberts, E. (2003), Geschiedenis van de Nederlanden.

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