Low Countries

The Low Countries, the Low Lands (Dutch: de Lage Landen, French: les Pays Bas), or historically also the Netherlands (Dutch: de Nederlanden, German: die Niederlande), is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as today's French Flanders.[1][2]

Historically, the regions without access to the sea have linked themselves politically and economically to those with access to form various unions of ports and hinterland,[3] stretching inland as far as parts of the German Rhineland. That is why nowadays some parts of the Low Countries are actually hilly, like Luxembourg and the south of Belgium. Within the European Union the region's political grouping is still referred to as the Benelux (short for Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg).

During the Roman empire the region contained a militarised frontier and contact point between Rome and Germanic tribes.[4] With the collapse of the empire, the Low Countries were the scene of the early independent trading centres that marked the reawakening of Europe in the 12th century. In that period, they rivalled northern Italy as one of the most densely populated regions of Western Europe. Most of the cities were governed by guilds and councils along with a figurehead ruler; interaction with their ruler was regulated by a strict set of rules describing what the latter could and could not expect from them. All of the regions mainly depended on trade, manufacturing and the encouragement of the free flow of goods and craftsmen.[5] Dutch and French dialects were the main languages used in secular city life.

NasaBenelux
The Low Countries as seen from space

Terminology

The Low Countries
The Low Countries from 1556 to 1648
Lage Landen (Frankische Tijd)
Southern part of the Low Countries with bishopry towns and abbeys ca. 7th century. Abbeys were the onset to larger villages and even some towns.

Historically, the term Low Countries arose at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy, who used the term les pays de par deçà ("the lands over here") for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà ("the lands over there") for the Duchy of Burgundy and the Free County of Burgundy, which were part of their realm but geographically disconnected from the Low Countries.[6][7] Governor Mary of Hungary used both the expressions les pays de par deça and Pays d'Embas ("lands down here"), which evolved to Pays-Bas or Low Countries. Today the term is typically fitted to modern political boundaries[8][9] and used in the same way as the term Benelux.

The name of the country of the Netherlands has the same etymology and origin as the name for the region Low Countries, due to "nether" meaning "low".[10] In the Dutch language itself De Lage Landen is the modern term for Low Countries, and De Nederlanden (plural) is in use for the 16th century domains of Charles V, the historic Low Countries, while Nederland (singular) is in use for the country of the Netherlands. However, in official use, the name of the Dutch kingdom is still Kingdom of the Netherlands, Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (plural). This name derives from the 19th-century origins of the kingdom which originally included present-day Belgium.

In Dutch, and to a lesser extent in English, the Low Countries colloquially means the Netherlands and Belgium, sometimes the Netherlands and Flanders—the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium. For example, a Low Countries derby (Derby der Lage Landen), is a sports event between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Belgium separated in 1830 from the (northern) Netherlands. The new country took its name from Belgica, the Latinised name for the Low Countries, as it was known during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648). The Low Countries were in that war divided in two parts. On one hand, the northern Federated Netherlands or Belgica Foederata rebelled against the Spanish king; on the other, the southern Royal Netherlands or Belgica Regia remained loyal to the Spanish king.[11] This divide laid the early foundation for the later modern states of Belgium and the Netherlands.

History

The region politically had its origins in the Carolingian empire; more precisely, most of the people were within the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia.[12][13] After the disintegration of Lower Lotharingia, the Low Countries were brought under the rule of various lordships until they came to be in the hands of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy. Hence, a large part of the Low Countries came to be referred to as the Burgundian Netherlands. After the reign of the Valois Dukes ended, much of the Low Countries were controlled by the House of Habsburg. This area was referred to as the Habsburg Netherlands, which was also called the Seventeen Provinces up to 1581. Even after the political secession of the autonomous Dutch Republic (or "United Provinces") in the north, the term "Low Countries" continued to be used to refer collectively to the region. The region was temporarily united politically between 1815 and 1839, as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, before this split into the three modern countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Early history

The Low Countries were part of the Roman provinces of Gallia Belgica and Germania Inferior. They were inhabited by Belgic and Germanic tribes. In the 4th and 5th century, Frankish tribes had entered this Roman region and came to run it increasingly independently. They came to be ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, under which dynasty the southern part (below the Rhine) was re-Christianised.

Frankish empire

By the end of the 8th century, the Low Countries formed a core part of a much expanded Francia and the Merovingians were replaced by the Carolingian dynasty.[14] In 800, the Pope crowned and appointed Charlemagne Emperor of the re-established Roman Empire.

After the death of Charlemagne, Francia was divided in three parts among his three grandsons.[15] The middle slice, Middle Francia, was ruled by Lothair I, and thereby also came to be referred to as "Lotharingia" or "Lorraine". Apart from the original coastal County of Flanders, which was within West Francia, the rest of the Low Countries were within the lowland part of this, "Lower Lorraine".

After the death of Lothair, the Low Countries were coveted by the rulers of both West Francia and East Francia. Each tried to swallow the region and to merge it with their spheres of influence. Thus, the Low Countries consisted of fiefs whose sovereignty resided with either the Kingdom of France or the Holy Roman Empire. While the further history the Low Countries can be seen as the object of a continual struggle between these two powers, the title of Duke of Lothier was coveted in the low countries for centuries.[16]

Duchy of Burgundy

In the 14th and 15th century, separate fiefs came gradually to be ruled by a single family through royal intermarriage. This process culminated in the rule of the House of Valois, who were the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy. During the height of Burgundian influence, the Low Countries became the political and economic centre of Northern Europe, noted for its crafts and luxury goods, notably early Netherlandish painting, which is the work of artists who were active in the flourishing cities of Bruges, Ghent, Mechelen, Louvain, Tournai and Brussels, all in present-day Belgium.

Seventeen Provinces

In 1477 the Burgundian holdings in the area passed through an heiress—Mary of Burgundy—to the Habsburgs. The Low Countries were roughly divided into Seventeen Provinces. Charles V united the provinces into one indivisible territory, covered by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549,[17] while retaining existing customs, laws, and forms of government within the provinces.[18] Therefore, Charles V introduced the title of Heer der Nederlanden ("Lord of the Netherlands"). Only he and his son could ever use this title.

The Pragmatic Sanction transformed the agglomeration of lands into a unified entity, of which the Habsburgs would be the heirs. By streamlining the succession law in all Seventeen Provinces and declaring that all of them would be inherited by one heir, Charles effectively united the Netherlands as one entity. After Charles' abdication in 1555, the Seventeen Provinces passed to his son, Philip II of Spain.[19]

Division

The Pragmatic Sanction is said to be one example of the Habsburg contest with particularism that contributed to the Dutch Revolt. Each of the provinces had its own laws, customs and political practices. The new policy, imposed from the outside, angered many inhabitants, who viewed their provinces as distinct entities. It and other monarchical acts, such as the creation of bishoprics and promulgation of laws against heresy, stoked resentments, which fired the eruption of the Dutch Revolt.[20]

After the northern Seven United Provinces of the seventeen declared their independence from Habsburg Spain in 1581, the ten provinces of the Southern Netherlands remained occupied by the Army of Flanders under Spanish service and are therefore sometimes called the Spanish Netherlands. In 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht following the War of the Spanish Succession, what was left of the Spanish Netherlands was ceded to Austria and thus became known as the Austrian Netherlands.

Late Modern Period

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830) temporarily united the Low Countries again, before this split into the three modern countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

During the early months of World War I (around 1914), The Central Powers invaded the Low Countries of Luxembourg and Belgium in what has been come to be known as the German invasion of Belgium. It led to the German occupation of the two countries. However, the German advance into France was quickly halted, causing a military stalemate for most of the war. In the end, a total of approximately 56,000 people were killed in the invasion.[21]

World War II started in the region when Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht forces turned their eyes west to France. The Low Countries were an easy route of getting around the feared French Maginot Line. Hitler ordered a conquest of the Low Countries to be executed at the shortest possible notice to forestall the French and prevent Allied air power from threatening the vital German Ruhr Area.[22] It would also provide the basis for a long-term air and sea campaign against Britain. As much as possible of the border areas in northern France should be occupied.[23] Germany used its Blitzkrieg tactics and took out the countries in a matter of two weeks.

Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg were occupied from about May 1940 to about May 1945. During the occupation, their governments were forced to be exiled in Britain. In 1944, they signed the London Customs Convention, laying the foundation for the Benelux Economic Union,[24] an important forerunner of the EEC (later the EU).[25].

Literature

One of the Low Countries' earliest literary figures is the blind poet Bernlef, from c. 800, who sang both Christian psalms and pagan verses. Bernlef is representative of the coexistence of Christianity and Germanic polytheism in this time period.[26]:1–2

The earliest examples of written literature include the Wachtendonck Psalms, a collection of twenty five psalms that originated in the Moselle-Frankish region around the middle of the 9th century.[26]:3

See also

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ "Low Countries". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Low Countries - definition of Low Countries by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Farlex, Inc. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  3. ^ Matei-Chesnoiu, Monica (2012). Re-imagining Western European Geography in English Renaissance Drama. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 105. ISBN 9780230366305.
  4. ^ Turner, Barry (2010). The Statesman's Yearbook 2011: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World. Springer. p. 908. ISBN 9781349586356.
  5. ^ Braudel, Fernand (1992). Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. III: The Perspective of the World. University of California Press. p. 98. ISBN 9780520081161.
  6. ^ "1. De landen van herwaarts over" (in Dutch). Vre.leidenuniv.nl. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  7. ^ Alastair Duke. "The Elusive Netherlands. The question of national identity in the Early Modern Low Countries on the Eve of the Revolt". Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Low Countries". TheFreeDictionary.com.
  9. ^ "Low Countries | region, Europe". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  10. ^ "netherlands | Origin and meaning of netherlands by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com.
  11. ^ Buys, Ruben (2015). Sparks of Reason: Vernacular Rationalism in the Low Countries, 1550-1670. Uitgeverij Verloren. p. 17. ISBN 9789087045159.
  12. ^ "Franks". Columbia Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  13. ^ "Lotharingia / Lorraine ( Lothringen )". 5 September 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  14. ^ Ramirez-Faria, Carlos (2007). Concise Encyclopeida Of World History. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 683. ISBN 9788126907755.
  15. ^ Chopra, Hardev Singh (1974). De Gaulle and European Unity. Abhinav Publications. p. 131. ISBN 9780883862889.
  16. ^ Jeep, John M. (2017). Routledge Revivals: Medieval Germany (2001): An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 291-295. ISBN 9781351665391.
  17. ^ "History of Luxembourg: Primary Documents". EuroDocs. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  18. ^ Limm, P. (12 May 2014). "The Dutch Revolt 1559 - 1648". Routledge. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  19. ^ Ronald, Susan (7 August 2012). "Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion". St. Martin's Press. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  20. ^ State, Paul F. (2008). A Brief History of the Netherlands. Infobase Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 9781438108322. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  21. ^ Great Britain. War Office (14 April 2018). "Statistics of the military effort of the British Empire during the Great War, 1914–1920". London H.M. Stationery Off. Retrieved 14 April 2018 – via Internet Archive.
  22. ^ Frieser 2005, p. 74.
  23. ^ "Directive No. 6 Full Text". Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  24. ^ Yapou, Eliezer (1998). "Luxembourg: The Smallest Ally". Governments in Exile, 1939–1945. Jerusalem.
  25. ^ Park, Jehoon; Pempel, T. J.; Kim, Heungchong (2011). Regionalism, Economic Integration and Security in Asia: A Political Economy Approach. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 96. ISBN 9780857931276.
  26. ^ a b Hermans, edited by Theo (2009). A literary history of the Low Countries. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House. ISBN 1-57113-293-7.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

Bibliography

External links

Art of the Low Countries

The art of the Low Countries consists of painting, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, pottery and other forms of visual art produced in the Low Countries, and since the 19th century in Belgium in the southern Netherlands and the Netherlands in the north.

From the late Middle Ages until about 1700 the Low Countries were a leading force in the art of northern Europe, thereafter becoming less important. In the earlier High Middle Ages Mosan art, from an area partly in the Low Countries, had had a similar role.

The art of the Low Countries includes the traditions of Early Netherlandish painting and the Renaissance in the Low Countries, before the political separation of the region. After the separation, a protracted process lasting between 1568 and 1648, Dutch Golden Age painting in the north and Flemish Baroque painting, especially the art of Peter Paul Rubens, were the cornerstones of art.

Barrel organ

A barrel organ (also called roller organ or crank organ) is a mechanical musical instrument consisting of bellows and one or more ranks of pipes housed in a case, usually of wood, and often highly decorated. The basic principle is the same as a traditional pipe organ, but rather than being played by an organist, the barrel organ is activated either by a person turning a crank, or by clockwork driven by weights or springs. The pieces of music are encoded onto wooden barrels (or cylinders), which are analogous to the keyboard of the traditional pipe organ. A person (or in some cases, a trained animal) which plays a barrel organ is known as an organ grinder.

Benelux

The Benelux Union (Dutch: Benelux Unie; French: Union Benelux; Luxembourgish: Benelux-Unioun) is a politico-economic union of three neighbouring states in western Europe: Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.The name Benelux is formed from joining the first two or three letters of each country's name – Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg – and was first used to name the customs agreement that initiated the union (signed in 1944). It is now used more generally to refer to the geographic, economic and cultural grouping of the three countries.

In 1951, West Germany, France, and Italy joined these countries to form the European Coal and Steel Community, a predecessor of the European Economic Community (EEC) and today's European Union (EU).

The main institutions of the Union are the Committee of Ministers, the Council of the Union, the General Secretariat, the Interparliamentary Consultative Council and the Benelux Court of Justice while the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property cover the same territory but are not part of the Benelux Union.

The Benelux General Secretariat is located in Brussels. It is the central administrative pillar of the Benelux Union. It handles the secretariat of the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Economic Union and the various committees and working parties.

Burgundian Netherlands

In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands (French: Pays-Bas Bourguignons, Dutch: Bourgondische Nederlanden, Luxembourgish: Burgundeschen Nidderlanden, Walloon: Bas Payis borguignons) were a number of Imperial and French fiefs ruled in personal union by the House of Valois-Burgundy in the period from 1384 to 1482 and later their Habsburg heirs. The area comprised large parts of present-day Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as Luxembourg and parts of northern France.

City rights in the Low Countries

City rights are a feature of the medieval history of the Low Countries. A liege lord, usually a count, duke or similar member of the high nobility, granted to a town or village he owned certain town privileges that places without city rights did not have.

In Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, a town, often proudly, calls itself a city if it obtained a complete package of city rights at some point in its history. Its current population is not relevant, so there are some very small cities. The smallest is Staverden in the Netherlands, with 40 inhabitants. In Belgium, Durbuy is the smallest city, whilst the smallest in Luxembourg is Vianden.

Dutch Golden Age

The Dutch Golden Age (Dutch: Gouden Eeuw Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɣʌudə(n) ˈeːu]) was a period in the history of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The first section is characterized by the Eighty Years' War, which ended in 1648. The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century.

The transition by the Netherlands to the foremost maritime and economic power in the world has been called the "Dutch Miracle" by historian K. W. Swart.

Dutch Republic

The Dutch Republic, or the United Provinces, was a confederal republic that existed from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first Dutch nation state.

Dutch people

Dutch people (Dutch: Nederlanders) or the Dutch are a Germanic ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Aruba, Suriname, Guyana, Curaçao, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United States. The Low Countries were situated around the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, forming a part of their respective peripheries, and the various territories of which they consisted had become virtually autonomous by the 13th century. Under the Habsburgs, the Netherlands were organised into a single administrative unit, and in the 16th and 17th centuries the Northern Netherlands gained independence from Spain as the Dutch Republic. The high degree of urbanization characteristic of Dutch society was attained at a relatively early date. During the Republic the first series of large-scale Dutch migrations outside of Europe took place.

The Dutch have left behind a substantial legacy despite the limited size of their country. The Dutch people are generally seen as the pioneers of capitalism, and their emphasis on a modern economy, secularism, and a free market ultimately had a huge influence on the great powers of the West, especially the British Empire, its Thirteen Colonies, and ultimately the United States.The traditional arts and culture of the Dutch encompasses various forms of traditional music, dances, architectural styles and clothing, some of which are globally recognizable. Internationally, Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh are held in high regard. The dominant religion of the Dutch was Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant), although in modern times the majority are no longer religious. Significant percentages of the Dutch are adherents of humanism, agnosticism, atheism or individual spirituality.

Folklore of the Low Countries

Folklore of the Low Countries, often just referred to as Dutch folklore, includes the epics, legends, fairy tales and oral traditions of the people of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Traditionally this folklore is written or spoken in Dutch.

Franco-Flemish School

The designation Franco-Flemish School (Ammer 2004; Broekema 1978, 273; Chase 2003, 13; D'Epiro and Pinkowish 2001, 253–54; Gillespie 1965, 27; Gleeson and Becker 1988, 106–11; Karp 2007; Lundberg 2012, 59; Porter 1986, 190; Wright and Fallows 2001), also called Netherlandish School, Burgundian School, Low Countries School, Flemish School, Dutch School, or Northern School, refers, somewhat imprecisely, to the style of polyphonic vocal music composition originating from the Burgundian Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries as well as to the composers who wrote it. The spread of their technique, especially after the revolutionary development of printing, produced the first true international style since the unification of Gregorian chant in the 9th century. Franco-Flemish composers mainly wrote sacred music, primarily masses, motets, and hymns.

Habsburg Netherlands

Habsburg Netherlands, also referred to as Flanders during the early modern period, is the collective name of Holy Roman Empire fiefs in the Low Countries held by the House of Habsburg. The 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. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was born in the Habsburg Netherlands and made the Low Countries (primarily Brussels) the core of his "empire on which the sun never sets".Becoming the Seventeen Provinces in 1549, they were held by the Spanish Empire from 1556, and are therefore also known as the Spanish Netherlands from that time on. In 1581, the Seven United Provinces seceded to form the Dutch Republic; the remaining Spanish Southern Netherlands eventually passed on to Habsburg Austria. Finally, the Austrian Netherlands were annexed by the French First Republic in 1795.

History of urban centers in the Low Countries

The development of urban centers in the Low Countries shows the process in which a region, the Low Countries in Western Europe, evolves from a highly rural outpost of the Roman Empire into the largest urbanized area above the Alps by the 15th century CE. As such, this article covers the development of Dutch and Flemish cities beginning at the end of the migration period till the end of the Dutch Golden Age.

Northern Renaissance

The Northern Renaissance was the Renaissance that occurred in Europe north of the Alps. Before 1497, Italian Renaissance humanism had little influence outside Italy. From the late 15th century, its ideas spread around Europe. This influenced the German Renaissance, French Renaissance, English Renaissance, Renaissance in the Low Countries, Polish Renaissance and other national and localized movements, each with different characteristics and strengths.

In France, King Francis I imported Italian art, commissioned Italian artists (including Leonardo da Vinci), and built grand palaces at great expense, starting the French Renaissance. Trade and commerce in cities like Bruges in the 15th century and Antwerp in the 16th increased cultural exchange between Italy and the Low Countries, however in art, and especially architecture, late Gothic influences remained present until the arrival of Baroque even as painters increasingly drew on Italian models. also a time period with a lot of dirty things, such as the black death

Universities and the printed book helped spread the spirit of the age through France, the Low Countries and the Holy Roman Empire, and then to Scandinavia and finally Britain by the late 16th century. Writers and humanists such as Rabelais, Pierre de Ronsard and Desiderius Erasmus were greatly influenced by the Italian Renaissance model and were part of the same intellectual movement. During the English Renaissance (which overlapped with the Elizabethan era) writers such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe composed works of lasting influence. The Renaissance was brought to Poland directly from Italy by artists from Florence and the Low Countries, starting the Polish Renaissance.

In some areas the Northern Renaissance was distinct from the Italian Renaissance in its centralization of political power. While Italy and Germany were dominated by independent city-states, most of Europe began emerging as nation-states or even unions of countries. The Northern Renaissance was also closely linked to the Protestant Reformation with the resulting long series of internal and external conflicts between various Protestant groups and the Roman Catholic Church having lasting effects.

Renaissance in the Low Countries

The Renaissance in the Low Countries was a cultural period in the Northern Renaissance that took place in around the 16th century in the Low Countries (corresponding to modern-day Belgium, the Netherlands and French Flanders).

Culture in the Low Countries at the end of the 15th century was influenced by the Italian Renaissance, through trade via Bruges which made Flanders wealthy. Its nobles commissioned artists who became known across Europe. In science, the anatomist Andreas Vesalius led the way; in cartography, Gerardus Mercator's map assisted explorers and navigators. In art, Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting went from the strange work of Hieronymus Bosch to the everyday life of Pieter Brueghel the Elder. In architecture, music and literature too, the culture of the Low Countries moved into the Renaissance style.

Seventeen Provinces

The Seventeen Provinces were the Imperial states of the Habsburg Netherlands in the 16th century. They roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e. what is now the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and most of the French departments of Nord (French Flanders and French Hainaut) and Pas-de-Calais (Artois). Also within this area were semi-independent fiefdoms, mainly ecclesiastical ones, such as Liège, Cambrai and Stavelot-Malmedy.

The Seventeen Provinces arose from the Burgundian Netherlands, a number of fiefs held by the House of Valois-Burgundy and inherited by the Habsburg dynasty in 1482, from 1556 held by Habsburg Spain. Starting in 1512 the Provinces formed the major part of the Burgundian Circle. In 1581 the Seven United Provinces seceded to form the Dutch Republic.

Southern Netherlands

The Southern Netherlands, also called the Catholic Netherlands, was the part of the Low Countries largely controlled by Spain (1556–1714), later Austria (1714–1794), and occupied then annexed by France (1794–1815). The region also included a number of smaller states that were never ruled by Spain or Austria: the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy, the County of Bouillon, the County of Horne and the Princely Abbey of Thorn. The Southern Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire until the whole area was annexed by Revolutionary France.

The Southern Netherlands comprised most of modern-day Belgium and Luxembourg, some parts of the Netherlands and Germany (the region of Upper-Gueldres, now divided between Germany and the modern Dutch Province of Limburg and in 1713 largely ceded to Prussia and the Bitburg area in Germany, then part of Luxembourg) as well as, until 1678, most of the present Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and the Longwy area in northern France.

Spanish Netherlands

Spanish Netherlands (Spanish: Países Bajos Españoles; Dutch: Spaanse Nederlanden; French: Pays-Bas espagnols, German: Spanische Niederlande) was the collective name of States of the Holy Roman Empire in the Low Countries, held in personal union by the Spanish Crown (also called Habsburg Spain) from 1556 to 1714. This region comprised most of the modern states of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France, southern Netherlands, and western Germany with the capital being Brussels.

The Imperial fiefs of the former Burgundian Netherlands had been inherited by the Austrian House of Habsburg from the extinct House of Valois-Burgundy upon the death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482. The Seventeen Provinces formed the core of the Habsburg Netherlands which passed to the Spanish Habsburgs upon the abdication of Emperor Charles V in 1556. When part of the Netherlands separated to form the autonomous Dutch Republic in 1581, the remainder of the area stayed under Spanish rule until the War of the Spanish Succession.

Stadtholder

In the Low Countries, stadtholder (Dutch: stadhouder [ˈstɑtˌɦʌudər] (listen)) was an office of steward, designated a medieval official and then a national leader. The stadtholder was the replacement of the duke or earl of a province during the Burgundian and Habsburg period (1384–1581/1795).

The title was used for the official tasked with maintaining peace and provincial order in the early Dutch Republic and, at times, became de facto head of state of the Dutch Republic during the 16th to 18th centuries, which was an effectively hereditary role. For the last half century of its existence, it became an officially hereditary role and thus a monarchy (though maintaining republican pretence) under Prince William IV. His son, Prince William V, was the last stadtholder of the republic, whose own son, King William I, became the first king of the Netherlands. The Dutch monarchy is only distantly related to the first stadtholder of the young Republic, William of Orange, the leader of the successful Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Empire, his line having died out with William III.

The title stadtholder is roughly comparable to England's historic title Lord Lieutenant.

Terminology of the Low Countries

The Low Countries is the coastal Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta region in Western Europe whose definition usually includes the modern countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Both Belgium and the Netherlands derived their names from earlier names for the region, due to nether meaning "low" and Belgica being the Latinized name for all the Low Countries, a nomenclature that went obsolete after Belgium's secession in 1830.

The Low Countries—and the Netherlands and Belgium—had in their history exceptionally many and widely varying names, resulting in equally varying names in different languages. There is diversity even within languages: the use of one word for the country and another for the adjective form is common. This holds for English, where Dutch is the adjective form for the country "the Netherlands". Moreover, many languages have the same word for both the country of the Netherlands and the region of the Low Countries, e.g., French (les Pays-Bas) and Spanish (los Países Bajos). The complicated nomenclature is a source of confusion for outsiders, and is due to the long history of the language, the culture and the frequent change of economic and military power within the Low Countries over the past 2000 years.

In general, the names for the language, for the region, and for the countries within the region, and the adjective forms can all be arranged in five main groups according to their origin: it is a reference to a non-Latin, Germanic language—þiudisk—(Dietsc, "Dutch", Nederduits), whose speakers are ancestral to local Germanic tribes (Belgae, Batavi, Frisii); these tribes dissolved into confederations (Franconian, Frisian) which consolidated into local, economic powerful polities (Flanders, Brabant, Holland) in the low-lying, down river land at the North Sea (Germania Inferior, Lower Lorraine, Low Countries, Netherlands).

History of the Low Countries
Frisii Belgae
Cana-
nefates
Chamavi,
Tubantes
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg
Gallia Belgica (55 BC – 5th c. AD)
Germania Inferior (83 – 5th c.)
Salian Franks Batavi
unpopulated
(4th–5th c.)
Saxons Salian Franks
(4th–5th c.)
Frisian Kingdom
(6th c.–734)
Frankish Kingdom (481–843)Carolingian Empire (800–843)
Austrasia (511–687)
Middle Francia (843–855) West
Francia

(843–)
Kingdom of Lotharingia (855– 959)
Duchy of Lower Lorraine (959–)
Frisia

Friesland (kleine wapen).svg
Frisian
Freedom

(11–16th
century)
Wapen graafschap Holland.svg
County of
Holland

(880–1432)
Utrecht - coat of arms.png
Bishopric of
Utrecht

(695–1456)
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Duchy of
Brabant

(1183–1430)
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Duchy of
Guelders

(1046–1543)
Arms of Flanders.svg
County of
Flanders

(862–1384)
Hainaut Modern Arms.svg
County of
Hainaut

(1071–1432)
Arms of Namur.svg
County of
Namur

(981–1421)
Armoiries Principauté de Liège.svg
P.-Bish.
of Liège


(980–1794)
Arms of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.svg
Duchy of
Luxem-
bourg

(1059–1443)
  Flag of the Low Countries.svg
Burgundian Netherlands (1384–1482)
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Habsburg Netherlands (1482–1795)
(Seventeen Provinces after 1543)
 
Statenvlag.svg
Dutch Republic
(1581–1795)
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Spanish Netherlands
(1556–1714)
 
  Austrian Low Countries Flag.svg
Austrian Netherlands
(1714–1795)
  Flag of the Brabantine Revolution.svg
United States of Belgium
(1790)
LuikVlag.svg
R. Liège
(1789–'91)
     
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Batavian Republic (1795–1806)
Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810)
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associated with 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) Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Gr D. L.
(1815–)


Kingdom of the Netherlands (1839–)
Flag of Belgium.svg
Kingdom of Belgium (1830–)
Gr D. of
Luxem-
bourg

(1890–)

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