|History of the Netherlands|
The Peace of Münster was a treaty between the Lords States General of the Seven United Netherlands[a] and the Spanish Crown, the terms of which were agreed on 30 January 1648. The treaty, negotiated in parallel to, but not part of, the Peace of Westphalia, is a key event in Dutch history, marking the formal recognition of the independent Dutch Republic and the end of the Thirty Years' War and the Eighty Years' War.
The years 1621–1648 constituted the final phase of the Eighty Years' War (c. 1568–1648) between the Spanish Empire and the emerging Dutch Republic. It began when the Twelve Years' Truce (1609–1621) expired, and concluded with the Peace of Münster in 1648.
Although the Dutch and Spanish were both involved in opposite sides of the War of the Jülich Succession (June 1609 – October 1610; May–October 1614) in Jülich-Cleves-Berg, they carefully avoided each other, and thus the hostilities never spread back into the Habsburg Netherlands, and the truce held firm. Nevertheless, attempts to negotiate a definitive peace also failed, and the war resumed as anticipated in 1621. Essentially, it became a side theatre of the wider Thirty Years' War that had already broken out with the Bohemian Revolt in 1618 in eastern parts of the Holy Roman Empire (Bohemia and Austria), pitting Central Europe's Protestant Union against the Catholic League, although the two conflicts never fully merged. With several back and forths – notably, the Spanish conquered Breda in 1625, but the Dutch took it back in 1637 – the Dutch Republic was able to conquer the eastern border forts of Oldenzaal (1626) and Groenlo (1627), the major Brabantian city of 's-Hertogenbosch (1629), the fortified cities of Venlo, Roermond and Maastricht along the Meuse (1632), and Sas van Gent (1644) and Hulst (1645) in Zeelandic Flanders.
Nevertheless, peace talks in 1629–1630 came to nothing; more ambitious plans to conquer Brussels in 1632–1633 with the help of anti-Spanish nobility in the Southern Netherlands never came to fruition; and several attempted Northern republican surprises and sieges of Antwerp were parried by the Spanish royal Army of Flanders.
Nor did the Franco-Dutch alliance, that began with a disastrous Franco-Dutch invasion of the Southern Netherlands in 1635, bring significant changes to the situation on the ground, and in fact made matters more difficult for the Dutch by the atrocities committed during the Sack of Tienen that cost them the sympathies of the southern population.
However, French intervention and internal discontent at the costs of the war in the Low Countries led to a change in Spain's 'Netherlands First' policy and a focus on suppressing the French-backed Catalan Revolt or Reapers War. The resulting stalemate and financial troubles, plus Spanish military exhaustion and Dutch desire for formal political recognition, eventually convinced both sides in the mid-1640s to hold peace talks.The outcome was the 1648 Peace of Münster, which confirmed most agreements already reached with the Truce of 1609.
Negotiations between began in 1641 in the towns of Münster and Osnabrück, in present-day Germany. With the initiation of Spanish-Dutch peace talks, Dutch trade with the Levant and the Iberian Peninsula began to flourish. Dutch merchants, benefiting from both the availability of relatively cheap shipping and the cessation of hostilities, soon dominated the markets that had been previously dominated by English traders. Dutch merchants would also benefit from the foreign upheavals of the English Civil War and gain on English trade in their American colonies.
While Spain did not recognise the Dutch Republic, it agreed that the Lords States General of the United Netherlands was 'sovereign' and could participate in the peace Talks. This was a result of the immense political pressure from the entire Bicker-De Graeff Clan, whose leaders Andries and Cornelis Bicker, Cornelis and Andries de Graeff from Amsterdam as well as Jacob de Witt from Dordrecht vehemently pushed for this peace. In January 1646, eight Dutch representatives arrived in Münster to begin negotiations; these included two delegates from Holland with one each from the other six provinces. The Spanish envoys were Gaspar de Bracamonte, 3rd Count of Peñaranda and Antoine Brun, and had been given great authority by the Spanish King Philip IV who had been suing for peace for years.
Start of peace negotiations
The Holland regents continued their attempts at whittling down the stadtholder's influence by breaking up the system of secrete besognes in the States General. This helped wrest influence from the stadtholder's favourites, who dominated these committees. It was an important development in the context of the general peace negotiations which the main participants in the Thirty Years' War (France, Sweden, Spain, the Emperor, and the Republic) started in 1641 in Münster and Osnabrück. The drafting of the instructions for the Dutch delegation occasioned spirited debate and Holland made sure that she was not barred from their formulation. The Dutch demands that were eventually agreed upon were:
- cession by Spain of the entire Meierij district;
- recognition of Dutch conquests in the Indies (both East and West);
- permanent closure of the Scheldt to Antwerp commerce;
- tariff concessions in the Flemish ports; and
- lifting of the Spanish trade embargoes.
On 30 January 1648, the parties reached agreement and the text sent to the Hague and Madrid for approval; it was ratified by the Spanish and Dutch delegations on 15 May, with the States General narrowly approving the Treaty on 5 June 1648.
Despite achieving independence, there was considerable opposition to the Treaty within the States General since it allowed Spain to retain the Southern Provinces and permitted religious toleration for Catholics. Support from the powerful province of Holland meant it was narrowly approved but these differences resulted in political conflict.
During the peace talks, negotiators representing the Republic and Spain reached an agreement relatively quickly. The text of the Twelve Years' Truce was taken as the foundation, and this made it a lot easier to formulate the peace treaty, because many articles could be copied without too many changes. If one compares the texts of the Twelve Years' Truce of 1609 to the Peace of Münster of 1648, the articles that correspond in whole or in part are as follows::
|Twelve Years' Truce (1609)||Art. 1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10/11||12||13||14||15||16||17||18||19||20||21||22||23||24||25||26||27||28||29||30||31||32||33||34||36||37||38|
|Peace of Münster (1648)||Art. 1||2||3||4||5||7||8||17||20||22||23||24||25||31||32||33||34||42||43||46||47||48||51||54||55||56||57||58||59||60||61||62||63||75||77||79|
The States-General of the Dutch Republic were formally recognised by Spain as a sovereign entity. This important concession by Spain was therefore the first point; Spain stopped regarding the Republic's inhabitants as rebellious Spanish subjects (which it had done for nearly a century). Peace seemed near. France, with which the Republic had agreed to come to a joint treaty with Spain, threw a spanner in the works by constantly coming up with new demands. The States then decided to conclude a separate peace with Spain without France. On 30 January 1648, the peace text was adopted in four copies, two in French and two in Dutch. The Utrecht delegate Nederhorst initially refused to put down his signature and seal, but after being forced to do so by his province, he put them on 30 April (although they no longer fit neatly on the document). Then the documents were sent to The Hague and Madrid for ratification. On 15 May 1648, the peace was definitively signed and solemnly ratified with an oath by Dutch and Spanish envoys, while a huge crowd was spectating the proceedings from the sidelines.
In the Netherlands, the National Archives in The Hague keeps two copies of the Peace of Münster, a Dutch-language one ("NL-HaNA 1.01.02 12588.55B"), and a Francophone version ("NL-HaNA 1.01.02 12588.55C"). Both versions are provided by the Spanish side with French-language ratifications, both signed by King Philip IV – one in Spanish with Yo el Rey ("I the King"), the other in French with Philippe ("Philip") – and both bearing his seal in solid gold.: 12–13 They are on display in the archive's exhibition room. The Archivo General de Simancas in Spain preserves the other Dutch-language copy ("ES.47161.AGS//EST,LEG,2943,27") and the other French-language copy ("ES.47161.AGS//EST,LEG,2943,28").
- The Treaty does not use the word Republic but instead recognizes the Lords States General as sovereign.
- 1648 Treaty of Munster. Rijks Museum/
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- Scans from the National Archives (The Hague) of the Dutch-language version (12588.55B) of the Peace of Münster
- Scans from the National Archives (The Hague) of the French-language version (12588.55C) of the Peace of Münster
- Printed Latin and German translations of the original text of the Peace of Münster (30 January 1648)
- Tratado de Münster (1648) en español – Modern Spanish version