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Title: Belgium - From the Roman Invasion to the Present Day
Author: Cammaerts, Emile, 1878-1953
Language: English
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    Illustration: ALBERT I.
    _Photo Langfier._


From the Roman Invasion to the Present Day



With 36 Illustrations and 9 Maps

T. Fisher Unwin Ltd
London: Adelphi Terrace

Copyright by T. Fisher Unwin, 1921
(for Great Britain)

Copyright by G.P. Putnam's Sons
(for the United States of America), 1921

First published     1921
Second Impression   1922

(All rights reserved)


We possess happily, nowadays, a few standard books, of great insight
and impartiality, which allow us to form a general idea of the
development of the Belgian nation without breaking fresh ground. The
four volumes of Henri Pirenne's _Histoire de Belgique_ carry us as far
as the Peace of Münster, and, among others, such works as Vanderlinen's
_Belgium_, issued recently by the Oxford University Press, and a
treatise on Belgian history by F. Van Kalken (1920) supply a great deal
of information on the modern period. To these works the author has been
chiefly indebted in writing the present volume. He felt the need for
placing the conclusions of modern Belgian historians within reach of
British readers, and believed that, though he might not claim any very
special qualifications to deal with Belgian history, his knowledge of
England would allow him to present his material in the way most
interesting to the English-speaking public.

_Belgium_ is neither a series of essays nor a systematic text-book.
Chronological sequence is preserved, and practically all important
events are recorded in their appointed time, but special stress has
been laid on some characteristic features of Belgian civilization and
national development which are of general interest and bear on the
history of Europe as a whole.

The author wishes to express his sincere thanks to his friend,
Professor Van der Essen, who has been good enough to revise his work.
He is also indebted to Messrs. Van Oest & Co. for allowing him to
reproduce some pictures belonging to _l'Album Historique de la
Belgique_, and to the Phototypie Belge (Ph.B.), Sté anonyme, Etterbeek,
Bruxelles, and other holders of copyright for providing him with
valuable illustrations.


  PREFACE                                                                 5

  INTRODUCTION                                                           15


  THE COAL WOOD                                                          29
  Celts and Germans--Roman conquest--Roads of Roman civilization--First
  Christianization--Germanic invasion--Natural obstacle presented by
  the "Silva Carbonaria"--Origins of racial and linguistic division.


  FROM SAINT AMAND TO CHARLEMAGNE                                        37
  Frankish capital transferred from Tournai to Paris--Second
  Christianization--St. Amand--Restoration of the old bishoprics--
  Romanization of the Franks and germanization of the Walloons--
  Unification under Charlemagne--Aix-la-Chapelle, centre of the
  Empire--First period of economic and intellectual efflorescence.


  LOTHARINGIA AND FLANDERS                                               47
  Partition after Charlemagne--Treaty of Verdun--The frontier of
  the Scheldt--Struggle of feudal lords against the central
  power--The Normans.


  RÉGNER LONG NECK                                                       52
  Policy of the Lotharingian princes--Influence of the German
  bishops--Alliance with Flanders against the Emperor--Decadence
  of the central power--Religious reform of Gérard de Brogne--The
  Clunisians and the struggle for the investitures--The first


  BALDWIN THE BEARDED                                                    60
  Policy of the counts of Flanders--Imperial Flanders--The English
  alliance--First prospect of unification--Robert the Frisian.


  THE BELFRIES                                                           66
  Origin of the Communes; trade and industry--Resistance of feudal lords;
  Cambrai--Protection given by the counts of Flanders and the dukes of
  Brabant--Social transformation extending to the country-side--The
  meaning of the belfries.


  THE GOLDEN SPURS                                                       78
  Attraction of Flanders on the rest of the country--Attempts at
  maintaining neutrality between France and England--Thierry and Philippe
  d'Alsace--Baldwin IX--Ferrand of Portugal--Bouvines--Increasing French
  influence--Flemish reaction--"Matines Brugeoises"--Consequences of the
  Battle of Courtrai--Edward III and Van Artevelde.


  THE CATHEDRAL OF TOURNAI                                               88
  Religious spirit of Belgium in the Middle Ages--The Romanesque
  churches--Introduction of Gothic; Period of transition, early
  Gothic, secondary period, third period--French and Flemish
  languages during the Middle Ages--Picard writers in Walloon
  Flanders--First translations and chronicles in French--Origin
  of Flemish letters, Willem's _Reinaert_, Van Maerlant.


  THE GREAT DUKES OF THE WEST                                           102
  Decline of the Communes--Policy of the Burgundian dukes: Philip
  the Bold, John the Fearless, Philip the Good--Territorial
  unification and political centralization--Philip's external
  policy--Charles the Bold--Dream of a new central Empire.


  THE TOWN HALLS                                                        112
  The meaning of Belgium's Gothic Town Halls--Result of a compromise
  between centralization and local liberties--Decline of the cloth
  industry--Economic prosperity under the new régime--Transformation
  of trade--Antwerp succeeds Bruges.


  THE ADORATION OF THE LAMB                                             124
  Civilization under Burgundian rule--French and Flemish;
  bilingualism--Flemish letters: Jean Boendaele, Ruysbroeck--The
  Brothers of the Common Life--Writers in French: Jean Le Bel,
  Froissart, Chastellain--Development of music: Dufay, Ockeghem,
  etc.--Life in fifteenth-century Belgium--The early "Flemish
  School of Painting"--Its place in the history of Art--The
  brothers Van Eyck--Origins of the school; sculpture, illuminating.

  CHAPTER XII                                                           140
  Reaction after the death of Charles the Bold--The "Great
  Privilege" of Mary of Burgundy--Her marriage with Maximilian;
  its consequences--Conflict between Burgundian and Hapsburgian
  policies--Philip the Handsome--Margaret of Austria--Accession
  of Charles to the Empire--Projects of founding a separate
  kingdom--Margaret's second governorship.


  THE LAST STAGE OF CENTRALIZATION                                      154
  Mary of Hungary--Revolt of Ghent--Complete unification--Augsburg
  transaction--Pragmatic Sanction--Abdication of Charles V.


  ANTWERP                                                               163
  Development of modern trade--Rural industry--Humanism and
  Lutheranism--The placards--Anabaptism--Calvinism.


  THE BEGGARS                                                           174
  Philip II--Marguerite of Parma and the Consulta--Resistance
  of the Council of State--The "Compromise"--The
  Iconoclasts--Catholic reaction.


  SEPARATION                                                            182
  North and South--The Duke of Alba and the Council of
  Blood--Requesens--"Spanish Fury"--Pacification of Ghent--Don
  Juan--Policy of Orange--Archduke Matthias--The Duke of
  Anjou--The "Malcontents"--Confederation of Arras--Union of
  Utrecht--"French Fury"--The fall of Antwerp.


  DREAM OF INDEPENDENCE                                                 204
  Albert and Isabella--Catholic reaction--Siege of Ostend--Policy
  of the Spanish kings--The Walloon League--The States-General.


  THE TWELVE YEARS' TRUCE                                               213
  Period of reconstruction--Ruin of Antwerp--Revival of industry
  and agriculture--Social conditions under Albert and
  Isabella--Influence of the Church.


  RUBENS                                                                221
  Contrast between Flemish Art in the fifteenth and seventeenth
  centuries--Italian influence--Intellectual action of the
  Jesuits--Neglect of Flemish--Popular Art: Breughel, Jordaens.


  POLITICAL DECADENCE UNDER SPAIN                                       230
  Situation of the Southern Netherlands between the United
  Provinces and France--Projects of Partition--Münster
  Treaty--Wars of the Spanish Succession--The Anglo-Batavian
  Conference--Treaty of Utrecht--The Barrier system.


  THE OSTEND COMPANY                                                    245
  Economic Renaissance under the Austrian régime--Efforts
  to liberate Belgian trade--War of Austrian Succession--Charles
  de Lorraine--Intellectual decadence--Popular restlessness.


  THE BRABANÇONNE REVOLUTION                                            254
  Joseph II and Philip II--Strength of the Burgundian tradition--
  Suppression of the Barrier--The "War of the Cauldron"--The emperor's
  internal reforms--Popular resistance: Van der Noot and Vonck--The
  "Etats Belgiques Unis"--"Statists" and "Vonckists"--The Reichenbach
  Convention--Restoration of the Austrian régime.


  LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY                                         268
  Jemappes--Excesses of the "Sans Culottes"--Neerwinden--Treaty
  of The Hague--Policy of the Convention towards occupied
  territory--Annexation--The "War of the Peasants"--Napoleonic
  rule--The Vienna Treaty.


  BLACK, YELLOW AND RED                                                 279
  The Joint Kingdom--Causes of failure--Belgian grievances--Policy
  of William I--Reconciliation of Catholics and Liberals--The
  September days.


  THE SCRAP OF PAPER                                                    289
  The Conference of London--Attitude of the Belgian delegates--The
  "Bases of Separation"--The Luxemburg question--The XVIII
  Articles--Prince Leopold--Dutch invasion--The XXIV Articles--Their
  final acceptance--Guaranteed neutrality.


  NEUTRAL INDEPENDENCE                                                  301
  The meaning of neutrality--The question of national defence--Risquons
  Tout--The policy of Napoleon III--The entrenched camp of
  Antwerp--British action in 1870--Leopold II and Emile Banning--Liége
  and Namur--Military reform.


  ECONOMIC RENAISSANCE                                                  315
  The Belgian Constitution--Influence of neutrality on internal
  politics--Struggle between Liberals and Catholics--The "School
  War"--The Labour Party--The Franchise--Economic prosperity:
  agriculture, industry, trade--The opening of the Scheldt--The
  search for colonial outlet--Leopold II and the Congo Free
  State--The Belgian Congo.


  INTELLECTUAL RENAISSANCE                                              331
  Architecture and Sculpture in modern Belgium--The Modern School
  of painting--A National School of Literature in French and
  Flemish--The Flemish movement.


  CONCLUSION                                                            342
  Part played by Belgium in the Great War--German occupation--The
  "Making of a Nation"--The "Resistance of a Nation"--Result of
  the Treaty of Versailles--Future of Belgium.

  INDEX                                                                 349


  ALBERT I                                                   _Frontispiece_

                                                                FACING PAGE
  CLOTH HALL, YPRES                                                      66

  CASTLE OF THE COUNTS, GHENT                                            67

  CLOTH HALL AND BELFRY, BRUGES                                          75

  SEAL OF THE TOWN OF DAMME                                              78

  SEAL OF GUY DE DAMPIERRE                                               78

  TOURNAI CATHEDRAL                                                      88

  BRONZE FONT, ST. BARTHOLOMEW, LIÉGE                                    91

  SAINTE GUDULE, BRUSSELS                                                93

  PHILIP THE GOOD                                                       105

  CHARLES THE BOLD                                                      109

  TOWN HALL, BRUGES                                                     112

  THE FIRST ANTWERP EXCHANGE                                            121

  TOWN HALL, OUDENARDE                                                  124

  THE ADORATION OF THE LAMB                                             133

  THE ADORATION OF THE LAMB                                             135

  PLOURANT                                                              137

  MARY OF BURGUNDY                                                      140

  MAXIMILIAN I                                                          142

  PHILIP THE FAIR                                                       146

  JUANA OF CASTILE                                                      146

  CHARLES V                                                             152

  MARGARET OF AUSTRIA                                                   152

  THE INFANTA ISABELLA                                                  204

  ARCHDUKE ALBERT                                                       204

  PULPIT OF SAINTE GUDULE, BRUSSELS                                     225

  THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS (BREUGHEL)                              229

  PROCLAMATION OF THE PEACE OF MÜNSTER                                  236

  JOSEPH II                                                             254

  VAN DER NOOT                                                          262

  SCENE OF THE BRABANÇONNE REVOLUTION                                   265

  LEOPOLD I                                                             293

  LEOPOLD II                                                            310

  PALACE OF JUSTICE, BRUSSELS                                           332

  "THE PUDDLER" (MEUNIER)                                               334


  BELGIUM IN ROMAN TIMES                                                 29

  DIVISION OF CHARLEMAGNE'S EMPIRE                                       47

  FEUDAL BELGIUM                                                         52


  BELGIUM UNDER THE RULE OF THE KINGS OF SPAIN                          204


  BELGIUM UNDER FRENCH RULE                                             268

  THE UNITED KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS                                 279

  MODERN BELGIUM (TREATIES OF 1830-39 AND 1919)                         289


The history of the Belgian nation is little known in England. This
ignorance, or rather this neglect, may seem strange if we consider the
frequent relations which existed between the two countries from the
early Middle Ages. It is, however, easy enough to explain, and even to
justify. The general idea has been for a long time that the existence
of Belgium, as a nation, dated from its independence, and that previous
to 1830 such a thing as Belgian history did not even exist. All through
feudal times we are aware of the existence of the County of Flanders,
of the Duchy of Brabant, and of many other principalities, but, in no
official act, does the term "Belgique" occur. Even after the
unification of the fifteenth century, when the country came under the
rule of the Dukes of Burgundy, the notion of a distinct nationality,
such as the French or the British, remains hidden to the superficial
student, the Netherlands forming merely a part of the rich possessions
of the most powerful vassals of France. Through modern times the
Belgian provinces, "les provinces belgiques" as they were called in the
eighteenth century, pass under the rule of the kings of Spain, of the
emperors of Austria and of the French Republic, to be finally merged,
after the fall of Napoleon, into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The
word "Belgium," as a noun, is only found in a few books; "belgique" is
a mere adjective applied to the southern portion of the Netherlands.

It must be admitted that the Belgian official historians of the old
school did very little to dispel this wrong impression. In their
patriotic zeal they endeavoured to picture Belgium as struggling
valiantly all the time against foreign oppression. They laid great
stress on Cæsar's words: "Of all the Gauls the Belgians are the
bravest," and pictured the popular risings of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries in the same light as the 1830 revolution. If we are
to believe them, the Belgian people must have been conscious from their
origin of their unity. They considered national princes, such as the
Burgundian Dukes, in the same light as Philip II or the Austrian
Emperors, and, instead of clearing the air, added to the confusion.
Their interpretation of history according to the principles of national
liberty of the Romantic period could not be taken seriously, and the
idea prevailed that, if the Belgian nation was not merely a creation of
European diplomacy, its existence could only be confirmed by the
future, and rested on but frail foundations in the past.

This idea was strengthened by the knowledge that the country possessed
neither strong natural frontiers, like Great Britain, France, Italy or
Spain, nor the bond created by unity of language like Germany. Other
European countries, it is true, like Holland or Poland, did not
constitute strong geographical units and lacked definite boundaries
but their people talked at least the same idiom and belonged, as far as
the word may be used in a broad sense, to the same race. Others, like
Switzerland, were divided between various languages, but possessed
geographical unity. Belgium could not claim any of these distinctive
features. Her boundaries remained widely open in all directions. From
the cultivated plains of Flanders to the wild hills of the Ardennes she
offered the greatest variety of physical aspects. What is more, her
people were nearly equally divided, by a line running from the south of
Ypres to the north of Liége, between two different languages, two
different races. According to recognized standards, the very existence
of the Belgian nation was a paradox, and though the history of mankind
presents many similar contrasts between the hasty conclusions of the
untrained mind and the tangible reality of facts, these cannot be
recognized at first, and require a deeper knowledge of the past than
that which can be provided by the study of warlike conflicts and
political changes.

It was therefore left to the modern school of Belgian historians, and
more especially to Professor Pirenne, of Ghent, to place the study of
the origin of the Belgian nation in its right perspective and to show
that, in spite of diversity of race and language, lack of natural
boundaries and centuries of foreign domination, Belgian unity was based
on deep-rooted traditions and possessed strong characteristics in every
department of human activity which could be recognized from the early
Middle Ages to the modern period. By a close study of the economic and
intellectual life of the people and of their institutions, Pirenne and
his disciples made evident what every artist, every writer had already
realized, that, in spite of all appearances, Belgian unity had never
been impaired in the past by the language barrier, and that both parts
of the country presented common characteristics, common customs, and
common institutions which no foreign rule was able to eradicate. They
showed furthermore that these characteristics, determined by the common
interests and aspirations of the whole people, were so strong that they
inspired the policy of many foreign princes who, by their birth, would
naturally have been led to disregard them. They may still be found in
the country's old charters, in ancient chronicles, in the works of the
so-called Flemish School of painting, and in every monument of the past
which has survived the devastation of war. To these witnesses Belgian
historians will not appeal in vain, when they endeavour to show that
the origins of Belgian national unity may be sought as far back as
those of any other nation in Europe, and that if more exposed than her
powerful neighbours to the vicissitudes of war, Belgium always
succeeded in preserving, throughout her darkest days, some living token
of her former prosperity and of her future independence.

       *       *       *       *       *

If, as we trust, the reader is convinced after reading this short
sketch of Belgium's history that Belgian nationality is more than a
vain word, and that the attitude adopted by the Belgian people in
August 1914, far from being an impulsive movement, was merely the
result of the slow and progressive development of their national
feeling throughout the ages, he will also realize that this development
has received many checks, and is therefore very different from that
which may be traced in the history of England, for instance, or even in
that of France. Nowhere would the familiar image of the growing tree be
more misleading. Belgian history possesses some remarkable landmarks,
under Charlemagne, for instance, at the time of the Communes, under the
rule of the Dukes of Burgundy, under Charles V, and during the recent
period of independence. But, between these periods of prosperity and
even splendour, we notice some periods of stagnation due to internal
strife or even complete decadence, when the country became a prey to
foreign invasion. Few peoples have experienced such severe trials, few
have shown such extraordinary power of recovery. Peace and a wise
government coincide invariably with an extraordinary material and
intellectual efflorescence, war and oppression with the partial or
total loss of the progress realized a few years before, so that the
arts and trades of Belgian cities which shine at one time in the
forefront of European civilization seem totally forgotten at another.
In more than one way Belgium has lived under a troubled sky, where
heavy showers succeed bright sunshine, while the towers of Ypres,
Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Louvain and Brussels appear and disappear on
the horizon.

How can we explain the tragedy of these abrupt changes? How can we
justify these sudden alternations in the life of a hard-working and
peace-loving people who never indulged in any dreams of imperialism and
foreign conquest?

A look at the map will help us to solve the mystery. The plain of
northern Europe may be divided into two wide areas, the French plain,
whose waters run from East to West into the Atlantic, and the German
plain, whose waters run from South to North into the North Sea and the
Baltic. These wide expanses are connected by a narrow strip of
territory through which all communications skirting the hills and
mountains of the South must necessarily be concentrated, and whose
waters follow a north-westerly direction towards the Straits of Dover.
This small plain, only 90 miles wide from Ostend to Namur, constitutes
a natural link between Germany and France, and plays, from the
continental point of view, the same part as the Straits, on its
northern coast. Even to-day, in spite of the progress of railway
communications, the main line from Paris to Berlin passes along the
Sambre and Meuse valleys, through Namur, Liége and Aix-la-Chapelle, and
the events of August 1914 are only the last example of the frequent use
made of this road throughout history, by invaders coming from the East
or from the South. For peaceful and warlike intercourse, Belgium is
situated on the natural highway connecting the French and German
plains. This geographical feature alone would suffice to influence the
historical development of the country. But there is another.

It so happens that by an extraordinary arrangement of the map, which
one may be tempted to call a coincidence, the sea straits are placed
in close proximity to the continental narrows, so that the natural
route from Great Britain to central Europe crosses in Belgium the
natural route from France to Germany. This appears all the more clearly
if we take into consideration the fact that the seventeen provinces
extended in the past from the Zuyder Zee to the Somme, and that Bruges,
and later on Antwerp, benefited largely from the trade of the Thames.
This then is what is meant when Belgium is spoken of as being placed at
"the cross-roads of Europe." Most of the continental communications
between Great Britain and Germany or Italy, on the one hand, or between
France and Germany on the other, were bound to pass through her
provinces. She was, and is still to a certain extent, the predestined
meeting-ground of British, French and German culture, the market-place
where merchandise and ideas from the North, the West, the East and the
South may be most conveniently exchanged, and she derives her
originality from the very variety of the influences which surround her.
The division of languages and races helped her in her task, and,
instead of proving an obstacle to national development, contributed to
it whenever circumstances proved favourable. The original contribution
of the people to this development may be somewhat difficult to define,
but the result is no less evident. Belgian, or as it is sometimes
called, Flemish culture, though intimately connected with France and
Germany, is neither French nor German, still less English. Its
characteristics are derived from the combination of various European
influences strongly moulded by long-standing traditions and habits.
"The will to live together" which, according to Renan, is at the root
of every nationality, and proves stronger than unity of race and
language, finds nowhere a better illustration than in the strange part
played by the Belgian nation in the history of Europe. Common
interests, common dangers, common aspirations produced and maintained a
distinct civilization which, according to all the laws of materialistic
logic, ought to have been wrecked and swamped long ago by the
overwhelming influences to which it was subjected.

       *       *       *       *       *

As early as the ninth century, under the rule of Charlemagne, these
characteristics began to show themselves. The Emperor chose
Aix-la-Chapelle for his capital, not only because he possessed vast
domains in the region, but also because, from this central position, he
was better able to keep in contact with the governors of a vast Empire
which extended from the Elbe to Spain and Italy. Aix-la-Chapelle, "the
Northern Rome," became the metropolis of commerce as well as the
political capital. The various intellectual centres created in the
neighbourhood, at the monasteries of Liége, Tongres, and Maesyck
attracted English, Irish, French and Italian poets, musicians, lawyers
and theologians.

Later, in the twelfth century, when the free Communes developed all
over Western Europe and succeeded in breaking the power of feudalism,
it was left to Ghent and Bruges to raise the free city to a standard
of independence and prosperity which it did not attain in other
countries, placed under a stronger central power. In the shadow of
their proud belfries over 80,000 merchants and artisans pursued their
active trade, and Bruges, "the Venice of the North," became the
principal port of Europe and the centre of banking activity.

The part played by the Burgundian Dukes in European politics during the
Hundred Years' War is well known in this country, but the importance of
their action in unifying the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands is
not sufficiently realized. In fact, in spite of their foreign origin,
their policy was so much inspired by the interest of the country that
they may be considered as national princes. The "Great Dukes of the
West" did for Belgium, in the fifteenth century, what Louis XI did for
France, and what Henry VIII did for England, half a century later. They
succeeded in centralizing public institutions and in suppressing, to a
great extent, local jealousies and internal strife which weakened the
nation and wasted her resources. Under their rule the Belgian provinces
rose to an unequalled intellectual and artistic splendour and gave to
the world, by the paintings of the brothers Van Eyck and their school,
one of the most brilliant expressions of the early Renaissance.

This prominent situation was maintained, in spite of the fall of the
Burgundian dynasty, when, through the marriage of Mary of Burgundy with
Maximilian, Belgium passed under the sway of the Hapsburg dynasty.
Under Charles V, Antwerp inherited the prosperity of Bruges, and
became the principal centre of European commerce. It was visited every
year by 2,500 ships, and the amount of commercial transactions made
through its exchange was valued at forty million ducats per year.

Even after the disastrous wars of religion which separated the Northern
Netherlands, or United Provinces, from the southern provinces, and
ruined for two centuries the port of Antwerp, there was a short
respite, under the wise rule of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella
(1598-1633), during which the art of Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens
threw a last glamour on Belgium's falling greatness.

This rapid sketch of the happy periods of Belgian history would not be
complete if we did not allude to the wonderful recovery made by the
country as soon as the Powers granted her the right to live as an
independent State after the unhappy experiment of the joint Kingdom of
the Netherlands (1815-1830). Her population increased twofold. The
Scheldt was reopened and Antwerp regained most of its previous trade.
At the time of the German invasion modern Belgium occupied the first
rank in Europe with regard to the density of her population, the yield
of her fields per acre, the development of her railway system and the
importance of her special trade per head of inhabitants. In spite of
her small area, she occupied the fifth rank among the great trading
nations of the world, and the names of Maeterlinck, Verhaeren, César
Franck and Meunier show that she had reconquered a great part of her
former intellectual prestige.

There is one striking resemblance between all periods of Belgian
development. Whether in the ninth, the thirteenth, the fifteenth or the
nineteenth century, they express the civilization of the time, and
succeed in producing a typical example of essentially European culture,
imperial under Charlemagne, communal in the Middle Ages, centralized
under national princes during the Renaissance, highly industrialized
and colonial in modern times. This trait must be considered when
Belgium is represented as the "kernel of Europe," as combining the
spirit of the North, East and South. It is not enough to say that the
country seems predestined to this task by her geographical position and
her duality of race and language bringing together the so-called
"Germanic" and "Latin" tendencies; it must be added that, whenever
historical circumstances allowed it, the people made full use of such
advantages. Whether under local princes, or under foreign princes who
understood Belgian interests, given peace conditions at home and
abroad, the country never failed to rise to the occasion.

But these periods of greatness were short-lived compared with the
periods of decadence which succeeded them. After the division of the
Empire of Charlemagne the Belgian counties and duchies found themselves
plunged in the throes of feudal disputes and divided between the Kings
of France and the Emperors of Germany. The power of the suzerain was
nowhere weaker than in these distant marches, and the Belgian princes
were left free to pursue their quarrels with complete disregard of the
common interest. The prosperity of the Communes in the thirteenth and
beginning of the fourteenth centuries, was rapidly undermined by
internal strife and by the difficulties the Counts of Flanders
experienced in trying to conciliate their duty to their French suzerain
with the interest of the people which prompted an English alliance. The
fall of Charles the Bold provoked a fresh outburst of the spirit of
local independence, which greatly endangered the country's peace, and,
if the situation was restored, under Philip the Fair and Charles V,
during the first part of the sixteenth century, the second part of this
century witnessed the gradual exhaustion of the Southern Netherlands
divided against themselves and subjected to the attacks of both Spanish
and Dutch.

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which are for other
countries, like France, a period of exceptional national prestige, mark
the deepest stage of Belgian decadence and humiliation. The Scheldt was
closed, trade and industry were practically dead, foreign troops,
French, Dutch, Spanish or Austrian, ceaselessly pursued their work of
devastation. A foreign possession, open to the incursions of her
possessors' enemies, sacrificed by her masters at every stage of the
peace negotiations in order to save their native country, Belgium lost
Dutch Flanders, Northern Brabant and part of Limburg to Holland, French
Flanders, Franche Comté and Artois to France. The Treaty of Münster
sealed the fate of Antwerp, and the Treaty of the Barriers left the
Dutch in possession of all the country's most important fortified

Though it gave back to Belgium her natural frontier in the North and
reopened the Scheldt for a short time, the French régime did not
greatly improve the economic situation. After the union with Holland
(1815), the political struggle which followed prevented the people from
enjoying the full benefit of the change, so that we must wait until
1830 before being able to notice any considerable improvement.

       *       *       *       *       *

This general survey will suffice to show that Belgian history may be
divided into periods of progress and decadence. The same may be said,
it is true, of the history of all nations. But nowhere else is the
difference between the higher and lower levels so pronounced and the
intervals between the acts so protracted. As we have already said, the
country passes suddenly from the brightest limelight of fame to the
darkest recess of mediocrity and oblivion. Some of these contrasts,
such as those existing between Charlemagne's united Empire and feudal
divisions, are shared by the rest of Europe. Others, at the time of the
Renaissance and the Reformation, and when the country came under
Spanish, Austrian and French rule, are peculiar to Belgium. To the slow
development of national unity, her history adds the obstacles of
foreign domination and foreign invasion. The exceptional situation of
the country on the map gives equally great chances of ruin and
recovery. The same conditions which bring about Belgium's downfall
contribute largely to her restoration, the same roads which bring
wealth in time of peace, are followed, in time of war, by foreign
armies. She is not only the cross-roads of Europe, she is the
battlefield of Europe. From Bouvines (1214) to Waterloo and Ypres,
almost all the great battles which decided the fate of Europe and
determined her balance of power were fought on Belgian soil. Sometimes
the inhabitants took a share in the struggle, oftener they were not
even given the chance to interfere, while the Powers settled other
quarrels at their expense.

The Belgian people have acquired a remarkable reputation for their
sturdiness and their power of recovery. But, while they are entirely
irresponsible for their weakness, which can only be attributed to the
small size and the defenceless character of their country, they cannot
be considered as entirely responsible for their strength. A port like
Antwerp, if at all accessible, is bound to prosper under any
circumstances. A town like Brussels cannot fail to benefit by its
unique situation, from an international point of view. With her rich
coal mines among her fertile fields, Belgium, considering her size, is
perhaps more richly endowed by Nature than any other country in Europe.
But such exceptional advantages have been more than compensated in the
past by the heavy risks which this richness implied.

    Illustration: BELGIUM IN ROMAN TIMES.



It is usually assumed that, while human conditions alter throughout the
ages, natural surroundings remain sensibly the same. This may be true
with regard to people whose history is only affected by the streams
which cross their land and the hills and mountains which protect them
by natural barriers. When dealing with a country like Belgium however,
widely open on all sides, we cannot be content with such wide
generalizations. We must ask ourselves if some important physical
features have not been altered by the work of man and if some natural
obstacles, which have since disappeared, did not affect the earlier
stage of Belgian history.

The traveller who crosses the country to-day from Ostend to Arlon will
at once recognize its main features: first a low-lying plain, between
the sea and Brussels, then a district of smooth hills, as far as Namur,
and finally, beyond the Meuse, the deeply cut valleys and high plateaux
of the Ardennes, reaching an average of 1,500 feet above sea-level. In
this last region only will the aspect of the country suggest to him the
idea of some natural obstacle to free communications, though it could
in no way appear forbidding when compared to the mountains of Scotland
and Wales.

But at the time of the Roman conquest (57 _B.C._), Belgium, that is to
say the country peopled by various tribes designated by Julius Cæsar
under the name of "Belgæ," was very different from what it is to-day.
The flat coast, unprotected against the incursions of the sea, was
bordered by wide marshes, while all the southern part of the country
was covered by a thick forest, the "Silva Carbonaria," which merged in
the wild plateaux of the Ardennes and formed, at the time, a serious
obstacle to any incursion coming from the north or the east.

These physical conditions must have favoured the guerrilla warfare
waged for four years by the various Celtic tribes against the Roman
invader, and it is no doubt partly to them that the old "Belgæ" owed
their reputation of courage and fortitude. These tribes, occupying the
Scheldt and Meuse valleys, formed the rearguard of the Celtic wave of
invasion which, coming from the East, had spread across Western Europe.
At the time of the Roman conquest they were already closely pressed by
a vanguard of Germanic tribes which had settled in Zeeland and on the
left bank of the Rhine, so that even at this early stage of Belgium's
history we find the dualistic character of Belgian civilization marked
in the division of the country into two Roman provinces, "Belgica
Secunda," in the west, and "Germania Inferior," in the east.


The immediate effect of the Roman conquest, which was far more rapid
than in Britain, was to stop for a time the influx of German tribes by
the establishment of a solid barrier along the Rhine. The colonists of
German origin were soon absorbed by the old inhabitants of the country,
and were subjected with them to the powerful influence of Roman
culture. Celts and Germans alike became Belgo-Romans, and adopted the
trade and the institutions of their conquerors.

As far as we can make out from the scanty documents at our disposal,
Roman civilization moved along the Rhine towards Cologne, whence a
great Roman highway was built towards the West, crossing the Meuse at
Maestricht and, following the edge of the Coal Wood, through Tongres
and Cambrai to Boulogne. This road, known through the early Middle Ages
as the "Road of Brunehaut," was for a long time the main way running
from east to west in a country where all the important streams, such as
the Meuse, the Scheldt and their tributaries, ran from south to north.
The extent of Roman influence may be gauged by the position which the
various parts of the country occupied towards this highway. Tongres and
Tournai still possess Roman remains. The foundations of Roman villas
are found in the provinces of Namur, Hainault and Artois, while all
traces of Roman occupation have disappeared from Flanders. The sandy
and marshy nature of the soil in Northern Belgium may to a certain
extent account for this fact, and we know that, in some instances, the
stones provided by old Roman structures were used, in the Middle Ages,
for the construction of new buildings. But it can nevertheless be
assumed that, generally speaking, communications remained the principal
factor of Roman civilization in these far-away marches of the Empire,
and that Roman influence, so strongly felt on the Rhine and along the
Meuse, became gradually less important as the distance increased. The
country was almost exclusively agricultural, but it is interesting to
note, in view of later developments, that, even at this remote period,
the Menapii, who dwelt in Flanders, had acquired a reputation for
cattle breeding and manufactured woollen mantles which, under the name
of "birri," were exported beyond the Alps.

Though strongly influenced by Rome in their trade and methods of
agriculture, the Belgo-Romans had retained their language and religion.
Romanization, in the full meaning of the word, only began during the
last years of the third century, under the influence of Christianity.
During the third century, the bishopric of Trèves included the whole of
"Germania Inferior." A special bishopric was established subsequently
at Cologne, and, about the middle of the fourth century, at Tongres.
Others appeared later at Tournai, Arras and Cambrai. This gradual
spread of Christianity, which moved along the same roads as Roman
civilization, from Cologne towards the West, only reached Flanders half
a century later.

The Christianization of the country must have been far from complete
when the incursions of the Germanic tribes, greatly encouraged by the
gradual decline of the Roman Empire, brought a sudden and dramatic
change in the life and development of the two Roman provinces.

       *       *       *       *       *

    [_THE FRANKS_]

During the third and fourth centuries, the pressure of the Germanic
tribes, which had been considerably delayed by the Roman conquest,
reasserted itself. The Rhine frontier was subjected to repeated
assaults, which the depleted legions were no longer in a position to
repulse effectively. The Franks attacked from the east and the north
through Zeeland, while part of the Saxons who attacked Britain raided
at the same time the Belgian coast. In spite of the military successes
of the Emperors Constantine and Julian, the situation became so
threatening that a second line of defences was fortified on the Meuse
and along the great Roman highroad running from Tongres to Tournai. In
358, Julian authorized the Franks to settle in the sandy moors east of
the Scheldt (Toxandria), and when, at the beginning of the fifth
century, Stilicon recalled the legions in order to defend Italy against
the Goths, the German tribes, finding themselves unopposed, invaded the
country of the Scheldt and the Lys, reducing into serfdom the old
inhabitants who had escaped massacre. The Rhine ceased henceforth to be
the Empire's frontier. The latter ran now along the great highway from
Tongres to Arras. Before their second line of defences the Romans,
under Ætius, put up a last fight, but they were defeated by the
Frankish king Clodion, who extended his kingdom along the coast as far
as the Somme and established himself at Tournai (431), where his grave
was discovered twelve centuries later.


It seemed as if the Franks, in their irresistible advance, were going
to wipe out from Belgium and Gaul all trace of Roman civilization, and
such a catastrophe would no doubt have occurred, if a natural obstacle
had not broken their impetus. We mentioned above that, south of a line
running from Dunkirk to Maestricht, the country was covered with a
thick forest, the "Silva Carbonaria." This wall of wood did more to
stop the invaders than the heroic efforts of Ætius. It sheltered the
Celts from the Franks in Belgium as the mountains of Wales and the
hills of Cornwall sheltered them from the Saxons in Great Britain.
Conquests were pursued by the Frankish kings and their nobles, but the
invasion stopped. The movement ceased to be ethnical and became
political. The Franks reached the clearings of the forest and nominally
subjected Gaul to their power, but they were now in a minority, and the
conquered soon succeeded in absorbing the conquerors. It is significant
that the "Lex Salica," the oldest document in which the name of the
Coal Wood is mentioned, describes it as "the boundary of the
territories occupied by the Frankish people." To the north of this
boundary the country was entirely in the hands of the invaders; to the
south, the "Wala," as the Franks called the Belgo-Romans, succeeded in
maintaining themselves and in preserving to a certain extent the Roman
language and civilization. The old limit, running in a northerly
direction and dividing in the past "Germania Inferior" from "Belgica
Secunda," had been bent under the pressure of the Frankish invasions,
and ran now from east to west, but the dualism which we noted above had
not disappeared. The Franks settled in the north, the romanized Celts
or "Walas" occupied the south. The first are the ancestors of the
Flemings of to-day, the second of the Walloons, and the limit of
languages between the two sections of the population has remained the
same. It runs to-day where it ran fourteen centuries ago, from the
south of Ypres to Brussels and Maestricht, dividing Belgium almost
evenly into two populations belonging to two separate races and
speaking two different languages. The ancient forest has disappeared,
but its edge is still marked on the map. We cross it to-day without
noticing any alteration in the landscape, but the distant voices of the
peasants working in the fields remind us of its ancient shadow and
impassable undergrowth. The traveller wonders, one moment, at the
change, then takes up the road again, adding one further unanswered
question to his load of unsolved problems. The historian evokes the
terrible years of the fifth century, when the fate of Europe hung in
the balance and when the surging waves of Pagan Germanism spent their
last energy along that leafy barrier which saved Christianity and Roman
civilization, and incidentally gave the Belgian nation its most
prominent and interesting character. The singsong of a Walloon sentence
may thus suggest the rustling of the leaves and the piping of early
birds, while the more guttural accents of a Flemish name remind us of
the war-cry of wild hordes and the beating of "frameas."

The Frankish invasions of the fifth century may be considered the most
important event of Belgium's early history. Whether the unity of the
Belgian nation is questioned or upheld, we must inevitably go back to
the cause of its real or apparent division. If such division, from
being racial and linguistic, had become political or economic--that is
to say, if the language boundary had coincided with some of the
boundaries which divided the country at a later stage--the idea that
Belgium was born in 1830 and constituted an "artificial creation of
European diplomacy" might not be groundless. Here, as in many other
countries of Europe, nationality would have been determined mostly by
race and language. This, however, is not the case. At no period of
Belgian history did any division follow the linguistic frontier. On the
contrary, most of the political and ecclesiastical units created during
the Middle Ages included both elements of the population, and, through
frequent intercourse and common interests, these two people, speaking
different languages, became gradually welded into one. When in the
fifteenth century the various duchies and counties came under the sway
of the dukes of Burgundy, national unity was realized, as it was
realized in England or in France at the same time, through the
increasing power and centralizing action of modern princes. A few
prejudiced writers have vainly endeavoured to exaggerate the racial or
linguistic factor, and contended that, in the eyes of science, Belgian
nationality could not exist. The duty of a scientist is not to distort
the manifestations of natural phenomena in the light of some more or
less popular idea. His duty is to explain facts. The development and
permanence of Belgian nationality, in spite of the most adverse
conditions, is one of these facts. The existence of the Swiss nation,
far more deeply divided than the Belgian, shows that it is not unique.
But even if it were unique, it ought to be accounted for. It is far
easier to indulge in broad generalizations than to devote oneself to a
close study of nature or man. It is not the rules, it is the exceptions
which ought to retain our attention, for only exceptions will teach us
how imperfect are our rules.



Pursuing their conquests in Gaul, the Frankish kings soon abandoned
Clodion's capital and established themselves in Paris. Clovis and his
successors, surrounded by their warriors, could not resist the
Gallo-Roman influences to which they were subjected. They gave their
name to the country they conquered, but adopted its customs and paid
but scant attention to their old companions left behind as settlers on
the banks of the Scheldt. With the Belgo-Roman population, Christianity
had been swept from Northern Belgium, and it took the Church two
centuries, after the baptism of Clovis (496), to reconquer the ground
she had lost.

This long delay is easily accounted for. The conversion of Clovis and
of his followers, which affected so deeply the course of French
history, scarcely reacted on the creeds and customs of the Pagan
Frankish tribes established in the northern plain. The organization of
the Church, which had had no time to consolidate itself, had been
utterly shattered by the invasions. Between the fourth and the seventh
centuries, the shadow of Paganism spread again across the land in
Northern Belgium as in Britain, and when St. Amand arrived in Flanders,
he found the Franks as little prepared to receive him as the Saxons had
been, a few years before, to receive Augustine.

In Northern Belgium, as in Britain, the work of rechristianization had
to be undertaken from outside. The regular bishops, confined to their
towns, could not possibly cope with it. Their influence was limited to
a small area, and their frequent change of residence suggests that
their situation was rather precarious. During the sixth century, the
bishops of Tongres established themselves at Maestricht, those of
Tournai at Noyon, and those of Arras at Cambrai. Later, Maestricht was
abandoned for Liége (early eighth century). The old titles of "episcopi
Tungrorum" and "episcopi Morinorum" had lost all meaning since the
disappearance of the old Celtic tribes, but the bishops, in preserving
them, showed that they still hoped to increase their influence towards
the north.

This ambition would have remained an empty wish but for the action of a
few ardent missionaries who undertook to convert the German conquerors,
in the seventh century, as the vanquished Celts had been converted in
the third. We have already drawn the attention of the reader to the
simultaneous events occurring on both sides of the sea, in Britain and
Belgium, during the early stage of their history--Roman conquest,
German raids, retreat of the Celtic population among the forests and
the hills--but none of these concomitant events is more striking than
the appearance, almost at the same time, of St. Augustine in Kent and
St. Amand in Flanders.

    [_ST. AMAND_]

The latter's mission, however, was not official. On his way to Rome, he
saw in a vision St. Peter, who ordered him to preach the Gospel to the
Northern Pagans, and forthwith he established himself at the confluence
of the Lys and the Scheldt. In this place he founded two monasteries,
which were to be the origin of the city of Ghent (610). Emboldened by
his first successes, he attempted, supported by the king, to render
baptism compulsory, which caused the Franks to revolt against him.
After long wanderings among the Danube tribes, he came back to Flanders
as Bishop of Tongres in 641, but soon gave up the cross and the mitre
to resume the monk's habit, and sought martyrdom among the Basques. The
palm being refused him, he again took the road to Belgium, where he
died at the monastery of Elnone, near Tournai, towards 661.

For fifty years, with some intervals, he had worked unceasingly, as a
monk and as a bishop, for the conversion of Northern Belgium. His
efforts were not nearly so systematic as those of Augustine. He did not
organize in the same way his spiritual conquests. He contented himself
with bringing Pagans into the fold of Christianity, but did little to
retain them there. His burning enthusiasm, however, set an example to
many disciples and followers, who wandered after him through the
country--St. Eloi along the Scheldt, St. Remacle along the Meuse, St.
Lambert among the barren moors of Toxandria and St. Hubert through the
forests of the Ardennes. Beside these, English and Irish missionaries
took a large share in the conversion of Northern Belgium. The fruit of
these individual efforts was reaped by the various bishops who had
never ceased to claim the northern plain as an integral part of their
dominions, according to Roman tradition. All that was necessary, after
Christianity had been reintroduced, was to render again effective a
bond which for four centuries had remained purely nominal. The
bishopric of Liége extended between the Meuse and the Dyle, within the
limits occupied formerly by that of Tongres; that of Cambrai, between
the Dyle and the Scheldt (Nervii); that of Noyon, between the Scheldt
and the sea (Menapii); and that of Térouanne, along the Yser valley
(Morini). Thus were re-established, through the action of the Church,
the old frontiers of the Celtic tribes, adopted by the Roman
"civitates," long after the disappearance of the Celts and the fall of
Rome. Liége was attached to the archbishopric of Cologne, the three
others to Rheims, reviving, for ecclesiastical purposes, the old
division between "Belgica Secunda" in the west and "Germania Inferior"
in the east. This division never changed until the sixteenth century,
when the northern part of the country ceased to be under the religious
influence of the episcopal cities of the south.


It will be noticed that none of the ecclesiastical boundaries which we
have mentioned run in an easterly direction. Instead of coinciding with
the language frontier, they cross it everywhere, uniting in the same
religious community "Walas" and "Dietschen," Celts and Germans. For
eight centuries the Church, which was at the time the supreme moral
influence, unconsciously devoted all its energy to bringing together
the two groups of population. They met in the same churches, they
prayed before the same shrines, they joined in the same pilgrimages,
they studied and meditated within the walls of the same monasteries. No
wonder if such intercourse succeeded finally in uniting those whom
nature had so strongly separated, and in creating in Belgium a new
type of civilization neither Celtic nor Frankish, neither romanized nor
germanized, but combining some of the strongest qualities of both races
and well prepared to act as a kind of intellectual, moral and artistic
link between them. This rule suffers only one exception. When the
progress of Christianity permitted the foundation of a new bishopric at
Utrecht, this religious metropolis was not subjected to any Romanic
influence. It remained purely Germanic in character, and, already at
this early stage of the history of the Netherlands, gave a distinct
character to their extreme northern districts, which reasserted itself
so strongly at the time of the Reformation.

The Merovingian kings gave a kind of sanction to this gradual
separation of the Salian Franks, established in Northern Belgium, from
the bulk of the Germanic tribes. It is significant that the limit which
for a time separated their kingdom into Neustria in the west and
Austrasia in the east, and which followed, in Eastern Gaul, the
language frontier, assumed another course in Belgium, and, instead of
running from east to west, as might have been expected, ran north and
south along the frontier separating the bishopric of Liége from that of
Cambrai, bringing Walas and Franks together on both sides of the line.
Another proof of the romanizing influence of the Church may be found in
the fact that the Franks established in Belgium forgot their tribal
affinities. While in the seventh century Ripuarians, Alamans and
Thuringians constituted themselves into so many distinct duchies, no
attempt was ever made to found a Salian duchy in Northern Belgium. The
very name of Franks ceased to be applied to the Walas' neighbours, and
it is as "Dietschen," or "Thiois," that they were known through the
Middle Ages.

It ought not to be assumed, however, that the movement was one-sided
and that the ancient Franks adopted the religion and, to a certain
extent, the language of the southern people without influencing them in
their turn. The romanization of the Franks was accompanied by the
germanization of the Walloons, who adopted the laws and customs of
their conquerors. The latter became, in many instances, the great
landowners of this part of the country, while the Frankish settlers, in
the North, preserved the economic tradition of their native country and
remained small farmers. Even this last contrast gradually disappeared
under the influence of powerful landlords and through the foundation of
rich monasteries, which gradually drew towards them, as tenants or
clients, the bulk of the population in both parts of the country. So
that, when the Carolingian dynasty superseded the Merovingian, and when
Charlemagne received the imperial crown from the hands of the Pope
(800), the work of unification was very nearly accomplished. Through
reciprocal influences, Dietschen and Walas lived under the same
economic, political, religious and judicial régime. The linguistic
distinction, on both sides of the Tournai-Maestricht line, was the only
notable difference, and even this distinction tended to disappear
through the common use of the Roman dialect.


One thing only remained to be done in order to crown the work
accomplished during the two last centuries: the creation of a strong
centralizing political power. The country was prepared to play the part
which she was predestined to play through natural and racial conditions
in the history of Europe, but she was still without guidance, a mere
borderland, forgotten and neglected, on the fringe of the Frankish
kingdom. The instrument was ready, but no artisan could yet use it. As
long as the centre of political activity remained on the Seine, the
characteristics of Belgian civilization could not be revealed. As long
as the balance between Germanic and romanized culture inclined steadily
towards the West, the European qualities of this Germanic,
semi-romanized people could not be tested. It would be perhaps too much
to say that Charlemagne founded Belgian nationality, in the same way
that Clovis established French nationality in unifying Gaul, or that
Alfred revealed the English to themselves in his triumphant struggle
against the Danes. But, by carrying the frontiers of his Empire as far
as the Elbe and establishing his headquarters in the centre of his old
domain, at Aix-la-Chapelle, in a central position midway between France
and Germany, Charlemagne gave at least an opportunity to almost every
trait of Belgian social life to assert itself.

During the first part of the ninth century the region of the Scheldt
and the Meuse became a beehive of activity. From every part of the
world, merchants, theologians, artists and musicians crowded towards
the new economic and intellectual centre of Europe. Arnon, a pupil of
Alcuin, came to Elnone, the Irish Sedulius to Liége, the Italian
Georgius to Valenciennes, while the schools of St. Amand, under
Hucbald, acquired a world-wide reputation. Everywhere new monasteries
were established, new churches and palaces built. The arts of
illuminating, embroidery, carving and stained glass were brought to an
unparalleled degree of perfection and refinement. Bishops and abbots
competed in attracting to their courts and monasteries the best-known
doctors and poets of the time. We have lost most of the artistic
treasures and manuscripts of the period through the subsequent Norman
invasions. Every vestige of Carolingian sculpture and architecture in
Belgium has been destroyed. But, through the works accomplished in
other countries and with the help of a few documents such as the
inventory preserved in the _Chronicle of St. Trond_, we are able at
least to appreciate not only their intrinsic value, but also the
interest they awoke among clerics and laymen. That the great emperor
encouraged this movement and took a direct part in it in attracting to
the various centres of learning the best masters in Europe is
sufficiently shown by his letter to Gerbald of Liége. Under his
direction, European civilization was definitely established in the
northern plain of Europe and Aix-la-Chapelle became indeed the
"Northern Rome." The capital, with Tongres, Liége, St. Trond and other
neighbouring cities, formed a centre from which civilization spread
east and west towards Germany and France, just as it had spread, a few
centuries before, from Central Italy towards the Eastern and Western


The old Roman road, along which the monasteries founded many
hostelries, was followed by streams of travellers of every description.
The Meuse, Scheldt and Rhine were dotted with the sails of many ships
bringing foreign wares and taking away the products of home industry.
The most important of these was a special kind of cloth, "the Frisian
cloth," for which the northern plain, covered with rich pastures and
producing great quantities of wool, was already renowned. It was a
specialized industry, the natural development of the ancient
clothmaking of the Menapii mentioned above, and the predecessor of the
cloth-weaving for which Flanders acquired a world-wide reputation
during the subsequent centuries. The "Frisian cloth" was already
exported, by the Rhine, as far as Central Europe and, by sea, towards
Great Britain and Scandinavia. Pieces of money from the ports of Sluis
and Duurstede have been found in both countries, and the frequency of
intercourse with the North was such that a monastery was established at
Thourout, near Duurstede, for the special purpose of training
missionaries for the conversion of the Danish traders.

It is true that the prosperity realized under Charlemagne was
short-lived, and that, a few years later, Northern Europe, and more
especially Belgium, became the prey of the Normans, who destroyed most
of the literary and artistic treasures accumulated with such enthusiasm
during his reign. It is true also that Belgian unity was destined to
break up, and that the country was to be divided between Germany and
France and their respective vassals. But if Charlemagne came too soon,
at a time when ethnographic conditions had not yet been sufficiently
stabilized, and if his Empire did not survive him, his influence has
nevertheless been felt through many centuries. If his dream of a
European Empire could not be realized, the mission assigned to
Belgium, as a natural link between East and West, remains even to-day
one of the main features of European politics. History has shown that
no annexation, no territorial division, of the dualistic country could
ever guarantee peace between France and Germany. Such a peace is only
possible, if the intervening nation is allowed to play its part in the
concert of nations, and it has only been realized, when this part has
been played. Belgium will never be what Charlemagne made it, the
nucleus of a great Empire; but, unless it remains a free factor in the
history of Europe, as it was for the first time under the great
emperor, conflicts between the two rivals, abruptly brought together
along the same frontier, become inevitable. There is a big jump from
the ninth century to the Congress of Vienna, between the glory of
Aix-la-Chapelle and the establishment of Belgian neutrality; there has
been a great deal of ground covered since, but there is a kind of
permanency in human affairs which cannot vainly be disregarded, and the
policy of Charlemagne teaches us lessons which no modern statesman
ought to ignore.




The central position occupied by ancient Belgium, which had been the
cause of its efflorescence in the first years of the ninth century, was
also the cause of its decadence after the death of Charlemagne (814).
From the competition which arose at the time date the age-long
rivalries between France and Germany and the tribulations of the
territories lying between them, which, though claimed in turn by both
Powers, and including a half romanized and half Germanic population,
were neither French nor German, but possessed an individuality of their
own. If these territories had been widespread and strongly defended by
nature, like ancient Italy in the Mediterranean world, they might have
become the seat of a new European Empire, or at least played the part
of a strong third partner with which both French and German rivals
would have had to reckon. This would have entirely changed the course
of European politics and perhaps greatly increased the chances of a
peaceful and stable régime. As it was, the intermediate country, widely
open in the East and in the West, too weak to resist foreign
aggression, became, at best, a weak buffer State, and, at worst, a bone
of contention between two powerful hereditary enemies.


The wars and treaties which brought about the division of Charlemagne's
Empire show plainly that the creation of a central Power was doomed to
failure, this third Power being too vulnerable to resist combined
attacks from East and West and being far too heterogeneous to maintain
its unity. The treaty of Verdun, in 843, divided the Empire between
Charlemagne's three grandsons. Charles received France, Louis Germany,
and Lotharius, the youngest, the rich region lying between both
countries and extending from Holland to Italy, including the largest
portion of Belgium, with the title of emperor. After the death of
Lotharius I, his son, Lotharius II, inherited the northern part of his
father's domains, which, for want of a better name, was called "Regnum
Lotharii"--Lotharingia. But both Charles and Louis were already
endeavouring to conquer their nephew's possessions. Soon after his
death, they met at Meersen, near Maestricht (870), where the partition
of his lands was decided, Charles obtaining the whole of present
Belgium, as far as the Meuse. The death of Louis was the signal for a
new conflict. Charles was defeated at Andernach by Louis III (876), and
the frontier between France and Germany was fixed on the Scheldt,
Charles retaining Flanders, Louis obtaining Lotharingia (879). After
the short reign of Charles the Fat, who restored for a few years the
unity of the Empire, these two parts of Belgium remained thus separated
for three centuries. It is important to notice that both included
Flemings and Walloons, and that, on either side of the frontier, there
was a strong tendency not to let Lotharingia or Flanders be drawn into
the circle of German or French policy. The spirit of independence
remained alive, and when, in the eleventh century, political
conditions became more favourable, an entente between the Belgian
princes on both sides of the Scheldt was the natural result of the
weakening of the central power. Such an entente brought about finally,
in the early days of the fifteenth century, the complete reunion of
both parts of the country. So that the history of Belgium, from the
tenth century to the early Renaissance, may be considered as the
history of a small part of France and a small part of Germany, which,
after struggling for independence against their respective masters,
gradually joined hands in order to submit themselves to the rule of
common national princes.

It would be an error to attribute the separatist leanings of the nobles
in Flanders and Lotharingia to national feeling, at a time when this
feeling scarcely existed in Western Europe. No doubt, the resistance
offered by the Belgian nobles to their foreign sovereigns might be
simply represented as the direct effect of the feudal system and of the
jealous pride which every vassal entertained towards his suzerain. But,
if local ambitions became supreme in Europe in the tenth century, we
may at least point out that, owing to the mixed characters of language
and race prevailing in Belgium, and to the peculiar position occupied
by Flanders and Lotharingia, nowhere were those tendencies more evident
than in these distant marches of France and Germany. Just as, at a
later stage, Bruges and Ghent became the most accomplished types of the
independent mediæval communes, the counts of Flanders and the princes
of Lotharingia offered the most perfect examples of the restless feudal

The origin of feudalism is well known and is common to all European
countries. It springs from the weakening of central authority, after
the death of Charlemagne, the increasing influence of the big
property-owners and the gradual subordination of the small owners to
the nobles who gave them the benefit of their protection. Its
development was greatly hastened, in Belgium, by the invasions of the
Normans. These were particularly severe in a land which had become,
under Charlemagne, the richest in Europe, and which was easily reached
from the sea, owing to the navigable character of its rivers. They
coincided with the Danish invasions in England and with the
Scandinavian raids on the coasts of Germany and France. It seemed, at
one time, as if the invaders were going to settle in Holland, as they
settled later in Normandy. In 834 they established themselves at the
mouths of the Meuse, the Rhine and the Scheldt, and, from this centre,
pursued their systematic expeditions almost unhindered. Great camps
were organized by them at Louvain and Maestricht, at the farthest
navigable limit of the Dyle and Meuse, where all the treasures of the
surrounding monasteries, churches and palaces were accumulated.

Lotharius II allowed Ruric to establish himself on the lower Meuse, and
Godfried, another Norman chieftain, received Friesland from Charles the
Fat. When the victory of Arnulf of Carinthia at Louvain (891) put a
stop to their activity and compelled them to retreat, the Normans left
behind them only barren deserts dotted with ruins, separated by a
series of entrenched camps where tenants dwelt under the protection of
their masters' strongholds.


The Normans not only hastened the advent of feudalism, they wrecked
Carolingian civilization as effectually as the Franks had wrecked
Belgo-Roman culture. Once more the threads had to be picked up one by
one, and the fabric of European civilization patiently rebuilt, and
once more the Church became the most important factor in this work of
reconstruction and succeeded in preserving the spiritual heritage of
St. Amand. For the third time, she endeavoured to bring charity, art
and culture into a world of violence and barbarism. After civilizing
the Pagan Celts in the third century and the Pagan Franks in the
seventh, she had now to civilize the Christians of the tenth century,
and this was not destined to be an easier task.



Let us now deal briefly with the general course of events in Eastern
Belgium, or Lotharingia, attached to the Germanic Empire since 879. It
is merely, as we said, the story of the efforts made by the nobles, who
appear, for the first time, as a power in the State, to free themselves
from the control of their imperial suzerain. The aristocracy was
divided between the partisans of the German emperors and those of the
local chiefs, and between these parties no compromise was possible.

It would be without interest for the British reader to follow every
episode of this quarrel, but some of its aspects cannot be ignored in
the study of the formation of Belgian nationality.

    Illustration: FEUDAL BELGIUM.


Two features characterize the policy of the native aristocracy: their
attachment to the Carolingian dynasty and the way in which they
endeavoured to preserve their freedom of action by concluding a series
of alliances either with France against Germany or with Germany against
France. It is easy to understand that, in these districts, which owed
so much to the Carolingian régime, the Carolingian tradition had
retained its prestige. The way the descendants of Lotharius had been
despoiled of their heritage by Charles and Louis became the pretext for
a series of insurrections against the new masters imposed on the
country by the second treaty of Verdun. The first of these movements
was led by Hugh, a natural son of Lotharius; it failed through the
capture of its leader. The second, which was far more important, was
led by a native lord, Régner Long Neck, son of one of Lotharius's
daughters, who possessed vast domains in Hainault, the Ardennes, the
Liége country and on the lower Meuse--that is to say, on both sides of
the language frontier. Régner may be considered as a typical
representative of this Lotharingian nobility, which, though defeated at
first, succeeded in the end in freeing itself from imperial control.
Speaking both languages, he was attached neither to the French nor to
the German party, but was ready to pass from one to the other according
to the interest of his policy, which was merely to preserve his own
independence. Régner differed entirely from the other nobles of the
Empire, such as the dukes of Saxony, Bavaria, etc., inasmuch as he did
not represent any ethnographic group. He was the ideal type of the
feudal lord for whom no interest prevails against his own. Thanks to
his alliance with the French king, he succeeded in defeating
Zwentibold, the son of the emperor, and established his rule over
Lotharingia. His capital was at Meersen, near Maestricht, on the
language frontier, midway between his Walloon and Flemish possessions.
From the point of view of international politics, his son Gislebert is
a still more striking personality. Threatened by Charles the Simple, he
concluded an alliance with the Emperor Henry, and succeeded thus in
shifting his position from France to Germany and from Germany to France
no less than four times. He was finally obliged to submit to the
emperor, whose power was steadily growing, and married his daughter
(925). Having risen against Otto, Henry's successor, he was defeated at
Andernach and drowned in the Rhine. Otto experienced further
difficulties in controlling his Belgian possessions, and only succeeded
by delegating his power to his brother Bruno, Archbishop of Cologne,
and germanizing the Lotharingian bishoprics of Liége and Cambrai.

For over a century, the German or germanized high clergy became the
strongest supporters of the emperor's influence in the country. Their
loyalty never failed, and was emphatically expressed by Wazo, Bishop of
Liége, who declared that "even if the emperor had his right eye put
out, he would not fail to use the left for his master's honour and
service." Bruno and Notger of Liége (974-1005) undertook to reform
their clergy and to encourage intellectual culture. Under their
guidance, Liége became once more a great centre of learning. Besides
theology, grammar, rhetoric and poetry, music and mathematics were
taught in the city, which could boast of being a "Northern Athens." The
movement reached Cambrai and Utrecht, and one of the most important
chronicles of the time, Sigebert's _De Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis_--a
first attempt towards a universal history of Europe--was written in
the monastery of Gembloux. The prestige derived from this intellectual
movement helped considerably to increase German influence and brought
to Liége a number of foreign students from Germany, France, England,
and even from the Slav countries.

    [_BALDWIN V_]

For a time, the resistance of the local aristocracy was overcome.
Régner of Hainault, nephew of Gislebert, had been exiled by Bruno, the
Carolingian dynasty was supplanted in France by the Capetian, and its
last representatives, Duke Charles and his son, lay buried side by side
in Maestricht. The descendants of Régner Long Neck nevertheless
remained powerful, owing, partly, to the marriage of Régner V of
Hainault with a daughter of Hugh Capet, and to the marriage of Lambert
of Louvain to the daughter of Duke Charles. From the first years of the
eleventh century, feudalism prevailed not only in Hainault and Brabant,
but also in Namur, Holland and Luxemburg, so that the only means the
emperor and his loyal bishops had to maintain their power was by
provoking rivalries among the nobles. The title of Duke of Lotharingia
was therefore not given to one of Régner's descendants, but to Godfrey
of Verdun, who succeeded in defeating his adversaries at Florennes
(1015), where he was killed. His successors did not show the same
loyalty to Germany, and when the Emperor Henry III attempted to divide
the duchy in order to diminish the duke's power, he found himself faced
by a powerful confederacy, including not only Godfrey the Bearded, the
counts of Louvain, Hainault, Namur and Holland, but also Baldwin V of
Flanders (1044).

The date is important, for it marks a turning-point in the mediæval
history of Belgium. For two centuries Flanders and Lotharingia had
remained separated, dependent respectively on France and Germany for
their political life. By crossing the boundary established by the
Verdun treaty and interfering directly in the internal affairs of
Lotharingia, Baldwin inaugurated a new policy and rendered possible a
system of alliances between the Belgian nobles which brought about the
reunion of both parts of the country under the same sovereign and,
ultimately, the foundation of Belgian nationality.

The emperors might have resisted more successfully if they had
preserved to the last the support of the bishops, who had been for so
long their trustworthy agents. In order to understand how they lost
this support, we must describe briefly the conditions of religious life
during the tenth and eleventh centuries.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the Normans left the country, it was again plunged in barbarism.
The monasteries were in every way similar to any other feudal
residence, and the ascetic rule of St. Benedict was entirely forgotten.
The abbots rather distinguished themselves from the other nobles by
their greed and violence. They married and indulged in drinking bouts
and predatory expeditions. A reform was urgently needed. Once more it
was not accomplished by the high clergy, but quite spontaneously by the
people themselves, whose faith had survived the ordeal of invasions.


Gérard de Brogne, an obscure nobleman, possessor of the small domain of
Brogne, near Namur, after a visit to the Abbey of St. Denys, decided to
restore the Benedictine tradition. On his return, he founded an abbey
on his own land, gave up the world, and retired with a few disciples to
the solitude of the woods. The nobles soon heard of his exemplary life
and endeavoured to secure his services. Almost against his will, he
was made to go from one monastery to another under the patronage of
Duke Gislebert and of Arnulf of Flanders. St. Ghislain, St. Pierre, St.
Bavon (Ghent), St. Amand and St. Omer received his visit in turn, and,
by the middle of the tenth century, the old rule was re-established
from the Meuse to the sea. The bishops of Liége, Cambrai and Utrecht
joined in the movement and, with their help and that of the nobility, a
number of new monasteries sprang to life in a very short time on both
sides of the linguistic frontier. An extraordinary religious revival
took place, which was not limited to an intellectual aristocracy, like
the reform brought about almost at the same time by Bruno and Notgen in
the schools of Cologne and Liége. It was not concerned with science or
politics, and was essentially religious and popular in character. The
chronicles of the time tell us of many examples of religious fervour.
At St. Trond, the people volunteered to bring from the Rhine the stones
and pillars for the erection of a new church. Near Tournai, a colony of
monks established in the ruins of an old abbey were fed, year after
year, by the citizens. At the end of the eleventh century a great
procession was instituted in that town, in which the whole population
of the neighbouring districts took part, without any distinction of
rank or class, the people walking barefoot behind a miraculous image of
the Virgin. In order to put a stop to local conflicts, so frequent at
the time, it was enough to send a few monks carrying some sacred
shrine. At the sight of the relics, the contending warriors laid down
their weapons, forgot their quarrels and became reconciled.

Gérard de Brogne prepared the way for the Clunisian reformers, who,
coming from Lorraine, spread rapidly during the first part of the
eleventh century through Belgium towards Germany. This new movement,
however, which became extremely popular not only among the people and
the nobility but also among the high clergy, was bound to react on the
political situation of Lotharingia at a time when the question of the
supremacy of the spiritual over the temporal power was brought to the
fore. The Clunisians, like most mystics at the time, were bound to
reject any interference of the emperors in the affairs of the Church.
They only recognized one power, the spiritual power of the Pope. In the
struggle for the investitures, all their influence was thrown against
Henry IV and his German bishops. The latter, after a long resistance,
were obliged to give way before the popular outcry and the relentless
opposition of the feudal lords, who found in the new movement a
powerful and unexpected ally. French influence had come once more to
their help in their efforts to shake off German hegemony.

       *       *       *       *       *


Against the combined action of the Clunisians, the Lotharingian nobles
and their new allies, the counts of Flanders, the emperors were still
powerless. After the death of Henry III, Count Baldwin V obtained some
territories between the Scheldt and the Dendre (Imperial Flanders) and
the supremacy over Hainault, through the marriage of his son to
Countess Richilda (1051). The Duke of Lotharingia, Godfrey the
Hunchback, the last Belgian supporter of imperial rule, after checking
the progress of the coalition, died, murdered in Zeeland (1076). His
son, Godfrey of Bouillon, sold his land to the Bishop of Liége and left
the country as the leader of the first crusade.

The Belgian princes, talking both languages, in close relations with
France and Germany, were bound to take an important part in the great
European adventure. They were, as far as the word may be used at this
period of history, more European than national lords. And it is no
doubt owing to this essentially Belgian character, as well as to his
personal qualities, that Godfrey was chosen by the crusaders as their
chief rather than other princes who, in spite of their greater riches
and power, were not so well placed to understand and conciliate rival

The same reasons which made Aix-la-Chapelle the capital of
Charlemagne's Empire gave the leadership of the mightiest European
expedition of the Middle Ages to a humble and ruined Belgian prince.

The first years of the twelfth century mark the triumph of local
feudalism over imperial rule. While Henry IV, under the ban of
excommunication, found a last refuge in Liége, his son gave the ducal
dignity to Godfrey of Louvain. Thus the house of Régner Long Neck,
after two centuries of ostracism, came into its own once more.



While, during the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Lotharingian lords
were striving to retain their independence under German rule, the
counts of Flanders acquired very rapidly a considerable influence in
France, and were practically left free to administer their domains
without any interference from outside. No duke, no bishops stood in
their way. They were directly dependent on the French kings, and the
latter were so weak, at the time, that they could not use the power
they possessed. From this point of view the story of the two parts of
mediæval Belgium presents a striking contrast. On one side of the
Scheldt, an enfeebled and divided nobility struggled against a powerful
suzerain; on the other, a powerless suzerain was vainly attempting to
assert his authority over one of his most overbearing vassals.


There is, however, one characteristic which the house of Régner and
that of the Flemish counts had in common. Both owed their initial power
to their alliance with the Carolingian dynasty. Just as Régner's father
had abducted one of Lotharius's daughters, Baldwin Iron Arm succeeded
in abducting Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald, and widow of the
English king Ethelwulf (862). This gave him a pretext to intervene in
French affairs, of which his son Baldwin II (879-918) made full use.
After extending his domains as far as the Somme and annexing Walloon
Flanders and Artois, this prince consolidated his power by marrying a
daughter of Alfred the Great.

Flanders was definitely established as one of the richest fiefs of the
French crown, in close contact with England. Like Lotharingia, it
possessed two essentially Belgian characteristics. It had neither
racial nor linguistic unity, the north being Germanic and the south
romanized, and it was placed between two rival Powers, France and
England. The counts, or "marchios" as they preferred to call
themselves, sought alliance at one time with their suzerain, at another
with their neighbour, according to circumstances. When the power of the
French kings increased, they leant more and more towards England, as
the Lotharingian nobles had towards France when threatened by the
German emperors.

Arnulf I, having secured Douai and Arras, turned his attention towards
Normandy, but his progress was soon checked in that direction. His
seal, which has been preserved, is the oldest feudal seal known, and
the story of his life, the _Sancta prosapia domini Arnulfi comitis
gloriosissimi_, was the origin of the collection of annals and
chronicles in Latin, French and Flemish which formed, in the sixteenth
century, the well-known _Excellente Cronijke van Vlaenderen_. His son
and grandson gave up all attacks against Normandy and endeavoured to
extend their possessions towards the east and south. Baldwin IV seized
Valenciennes, in Hainault, and held it, for some time, against a
coalition including the emperor, the King of France and the Duke of
Normandy. He was finally obliged to restore the town in 1007, but, a
few years later, succeeded in obtaining a portion of Zeeland and
Zeeland Flanders ("Four Métiers"). In spite of the efforts made by the
emperors to fortify the line of the Scheldt at Antwerp and
Valenciennes, his successor, Baldwin V, the Bearded, crossed the river,
and, after pushing as far as the Dendre, obtained from Henry II the
investiture of the country of Alost and Zeeland. This was called
"Imperial Flanders," as opposed to French Flanders, and the count,
though nominally subjected to the rule of king and emperor, acquired
from his intermediate position a new prestige. Like the dukes of
Burgundy, four centuries later, he only lacked the title of a
sovereign. "The kings," according to William of Poitiers, "feared and
respected him; dukes, marquises, bishops trembled before him." When
Henry I of France died, Baldwin was unanimously chosen to act as regent
until young Philip came of age. The latter called him "his patron, the
protector of his childhood"; he called himself "_regni procurator et

The regency ended in 1065, at a time when William of Normandy, who had
married one of Baldwin's daughters, was preparing to invade England.
The mere threat of a diversion on the Somme would have prevented this
expedition, whose consequences were to prove later on so dangerous to
France. But Baldwin acted as a Belgian, not as a French prince. It
suited his policy to create a rival to his suzerain. Far from hampering
William, he allowed a number of his subjects to take an active part in
the enterprise.


The marriage of Baldwin's eldest son with Richilda of Hainault and of
his second son Robert with Gertrude of Holland suggested the
possibility of an early unification of Belgium under the counts of
Flanders. According to Gilbert of Bruges, the two sons of Baldwin were
"like powerful wings sustaining him in his flight."

The reunion of Hainault and Flanders was, however, destined to be
short-lived. Baldwin VI died in 1070, leaving his widow Richilda with
two young children; Robert, her brother-in-law, rebelled against her.
After his victory at Mont Cassel, where he defeated a French army sent
by the king to Richilda's help, he left Hainault to his nephew and took
possession of Flanders.

Up to then, the counts had resided most of the time in the southern
part of their possessions, where they had their richest domains. Robert
the Frisian established his capital at Bruges, whose trade was
beginning to develop rapidly, and which had opened relations with
England and the Baltic countries. The fact that Robert's first
possessions were in Holland might have influenced his choice, but the
change marks, nevertheless, an important stage in the evolution of
Flanders from a purely agricultural country into an industrial and
commercial one. It looked at one time as if war was going to break out
between England and Flanders, as the Conqueror, owing to his marriage,
had some claims on the country. Robert, who had given his daughter in
marriage to King Canute of Denmark, concluded an alliance with him, and
even projected a combined attack on the English coast, which, however,
never materialized. He proved an irreconcilable enemy to the German
emperors, and entered into close relations with the Pope. His
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in 1083, added to his prestige, and the
Emperor Alexis, who had received him with great pomp in Constantinople,
asked his support against the Turks. The letter which the emperor
addressed to him at the time, as to the "staunchest supporter of
Christianity," and which was given wide circulation, had a considerable
influence in preparing the first crusade, in which his son Robert II
(1093-1111) took a prominent part under Godfrey of Bouillon.

The rich and powerful Count of Flanders did not remain in the Holy
Land, like the ruined Duke of Lotharingia. His home interests were far
too important. He gave up the Danish policy of his father and allied
himself to the King of France against the English kings, whose power
was rapidly increasing. The French alliance stood him in good stead
when, making a pretext of the struggle of the investitures and of his
relationship with the Pope, he renewed his ancestor's claim upon the
emperor's possessions. More successful than Baldwin IV, he succeeded in
detaching the bishopric of Arras from Cambrai, and in spite of the
obstinate resistance of Henry IV and Henry V, in obtaining the
suzerainty over Cambraisis.


On the other hand, by encouraging and protecting the first Capetians,
Robert of Jerusalem and his son Baldwin VII made a very grave political
mistake. Too preoccupied by the imminent danger from England, they did
not realize that, owing to its geographical position, this country
could never threaten Flanders's independence in the same way as France,
which had, besides, the right to interfere in its internal affairs. It
is, however, characteristic of the Count's policy that, on several
occasions, in 1103 and 1109, they signed separate agreements with Henry
I, in which they promised him to use all their influence in his favour
in case the French king contemplated an expedition against England,
and, if their efforts failed, not to give their suzerain more help than
they were strictly bound to. Even at the time when the alliance with
France was most cordial, the door was never closed on possible
negotiations with England. To call such a policy sheer duplicity would
be to misunderstand the spirit of the period and the special position
in which the Belgian princes, whether of Lotharingia or of Flanders,
were placed. Their diplomacy was the necessary result of the central
situation occupied by their possessions. Unless they endeavoured to
maintain a certain balance of power between their neighbours, they were
in direct danger of losing their independence. Periods of hesitation
coincided with a divided menace. As soon as the danger became evident
on one side, the Belgian princes invariably turned towards the other.
The same reasons which bound the descendants of Régner Long Neck to
France soon brought about a closer entente between the counts and
communes of Flanders and the English kings.



On several occasions in the course of the eleventh century, the
constitution of Belgian unity seemed to come within sight. The Scheldt
no longer divided the country into two distinct political units. The
powerful counts of Flanders were still practically independent of their
French suzerain, while the Struggle for the Investitures had ruined the
emperors' authority in the Meuse region, where the native nobility was
again exerting its supremacy. Both parts of the country were brought
more and more into contact by military alliances and dynastic
intermarriages. In spite of these tendencies, three centuries were
still to elapse before the reunion of the various counties and duchies
under the same house and the foundation of what may be considered as
the Belgian nation, in the modern sense of the word. While in France
and England the central power was making great progress against the
separatist tendencies of the feudal barons, in Belgium the work of
political centralization was delayed by the considerable influence
exerted on social conditions by the towns, or communes.

    _Ph. B._


The development of urban institutions in the twelfth century was not
peculiar to Belgium. Almost in every European country the progress of
trade and industry had the same result, but, just as Feudalism had been
more feudal in the region of the Meuse and the Scheldt than in any
other part of Northern Europe, Communalism became more communal. The
same reasons which favoured separatism from the point of view of the
feudal lords allowed the spirit of the guilds to assert itself more
energetically than in the neighbouring countries. The very remoteness
of any strong centralizing influence, the linguistic and racial
differences, favoured the new régime, while the resources of the
country and its geographical position on the map of Europe gave to its
trade and industry an extraordinary efflorescence. The communes found
in Belgium a well prepared ground. Politically, they met with a minimum
of resistance; economically, they benefited from a maximum of

    _Ph. B._

Up to the twelfth century, it must be remembered, only the lay and
ecclesiastical aristocracy had been allowed to play a part in Belgian,
and, for the matter of that, in European history. The feudal system had
reduced the ancient free peasants to bondage; most of them were tied to
the soil and deprived, of course, of all political rights. The
foundation of large towns of 50,000 to 80,000 inhabitants, whose
citizens possessed their own militia, their own tribunals and their own
privileges, was nothing short of a social revolution. The merchants and
artisans made their influence strongly felt in the State; they had
money and military power, and the impoverished nobility became more and
more dependent on them. The spirit of separatism and local
individualism passed thus from the castle to the town, and it was only
when some balance was re-established between the different classes of
society, and when altered economic conditions necessitated a closer
co-operation of the whole nation, that unification became possible in
the early days of the fifteenth century.

The story of the formation of the first Communes is well known. It is
the same in all parts of Western Europe, though the essential
characteristics are nowhere more evident than in Belgium. Trade gave
the first impulse. It had been practically annihilated by the Norman
invasions and the wars of the ninth century. Using the natural
waterways of the country and the sea routes, it revived slowly, and we
know, through the discovery of Flemish coins in Denmark, Prussia and
Russia, that the Belgian coast was already in frequent communication
with Northern Europe at the end of the tenth century. The Norman
Conquest was the main cause of the rapid progress of trade in the
eleventh century. Many Flemings accompanied William in his expedition,
many more followed as colonists, and a constant intercourse was
established between the Thames and the Scheldt. The development of the
trade of Bruges was the natural consequence of the increasing
importance of London. Singing the _Kyrie Eleison_, Flemish sailors came
up the Thames, bringing to England wine from France and Germany, spices
from the East and cloth from Flanders.


Meanwhile, great fairs had been established in Southern Flanders at
Lille, Ypres and Douai, where French and Italian merchants met the
Flemish traders; so that Flanders was kept in close contact with the
romanized countries by the continental routes, while the sea brought
her into touch with the Germanic world. Wharves and storehouses were
built on the main streams where the merchants made their winter
quarters, usually in the vicinity and under the protection of some
monastery or some feudal castle. Though the commercial settlements were
more dependent than the latter on the geographical features of the
country, most of the best situated spots, at the crossing of two main
roads (Maestricht), at the confluence of navigable streams (Liége,
Ghent), at the highest navigable point of a river (Cambrai), etc., had
attracted the monks and the barons before the merchants. The new
settlements were, however, quite distinct from the old, and their
population lived under an entirely different régime. The name given to
them at the time is characteristic: they were called either "porters"
or "emporia" (storehouses); even after the industrial population had
joined the merchants, the inhabitants remained for a long time

The nobles--especially the lay nobles--protected the traders. At a
time when landed property diminished considerably in value, they were a
source of revenue. They paid tolls on the rivers, on the roads, at the
fairs. They provided all lingeries, silks, spices, furs, jewels, etc.;
their ships could be equipped for war. These were sufficient reasons
for the princes to grant the wandering traders a certain freedom and a
privileged position in the State, and even to fight any noble who
persecuted them and robbed them of their wares. At the beginning of the
twelfth century, trade not only moved from south to north, on Belgium's
many navigable streams; it ran also from east to west along a new road
connecting Bruges with Cologne, through Maestricht, St. Trond, Léau,
Louvain, Brussels, Alost and Ghent, all these places occupying some
favourable geographical position. The origin of the prosperity of
Antwerp dates from this period, a certain part of the wares being
transported to this spot by the Scheldt from Ghent. The Bruges-Cologne
road eventually ruined the trade of the latter place, to the great
advantage of agricultural Brabant, which was, by this means, drawn into
the economic movement then revolutionizing social conditions on the
Meuse and the Scheldt.


Had this movement continued to be purely commercial, social conditions
would not have undergone such a rapid change, for the number of
settlers would have remained relatively small. But, already in the
eleventh century, the "porters" and "emporia" proved a centre of
attraction, not only to discontented serfs and would-be merchants, but
to skilled artisans, mostly clothmakers in Flanders and metal-workers
on the Meuse. From the early days of the Menapii the inhabitants of
Northern Belgium had a reputation for working the wool of their sheep.
Under Charlemagne, it had already become their principal industry. In
the eleventh century, with the conquest of new "polders" upon the sea
and the extension of the area of rich low meadows, the quantity of wool
increased considerably, and, more raw material becoming available, the
cloth industry developed accordingly. From the building of a protective
dyke to the weaver bending over his loom and to the ship carrying
valuable Flemish cloth from Bruges to London or any other part of the
European coast, there is a natural chain of thought. But the progress
accomplished along the coast may also be connected with the foundation
and development of the first towns and the chimes of the belfries.

In the hills of the south, industry was very likely determined by the
presence of copper and tin mines. The latter, however, were rapidly
exhausted, and, as early as the tenth century, the artisans of the
Meuse were obliged to fetch their raw material from Germany, especially
from the mines of the Geslar. The industry, however, remained in Dinant
and Huy, and coppersmiths and merchants met in these places, as
clothmakers and merchants met in the Flemish towns. So that, in the
early Middle Ages, the contrast between agricultural and industrial
Belgium was already apparent.

The migration of artisans towards trade centres in the eleventh century
is as easy to understand as the attraction exerted in the present day
by commerce on industry. But, in the Middle Ages, the union was bound
to become closer still, owing to the resistance offered by the old
régime to the social transformation and to the necessity felt by the
"guilds" (either of merchants or of artisans) to unite against a common

Though, in some instances, the new towns received their privileges from
the princes, who rather encouraged than opposed their development, the
burgesses were frequently obliged to fight in order to obtain their
liberty. The case of Cambrai is typical. A settlement of traders and
artisans had been established close to the walls of the episcopal
castle at the beginning of the eleventh century. In 1070 it was
surrounded with walls and became a "bourg" (borough). The "bourg" was
placed under the jurisdiction of the bishop's officers, who
administered it without making any allowance for new conditions, the
laws applied to peasants and serfs being vigorously applied to traders
and craftsmen. Meetings took place in the "Halle" (Guildhall), and the
members of the guilds swore to shake off the bishop's yoke as soon as
an opportunity arose. When, in 1077, Bishop Gérard left Cambrai to
receive his investiture from Henry IV, the burgesses overwhelmed the
soldiery, seized the gates and proclaimed the Commune. It was not a
rising of the poor against the rich, for the leaders were the richest
merchants in the town, neither was it a rising of Guelphs against
Ghibelines, though the bishop had lost much of his prestige owing to
his loyalty to the emperor. It was essentially a fight of the new
"bourgeoisie" against feudalism, of a commercial and industrial culture
against a purely agricultural civilization. The rising was soon
crushed, but, a few years later, Bishop Walcher was obliged to grant to
the citizens the charters which Bishop Gérard had refused them, and
even when, in 1107, the Emperor Henry V tore up Cambrai's charter, the
town preserved its sheriffs and magistrates. The burgesses kept up the
struggle for two centuries, until they succeeded in taking from the
bishops every shred of temporal power and in obtaining the entire
control of the city.


Cambrai was, with Huy, one of the first communes in Belgium, and the
rising had a great influence in Northern France. It is an extreme
example of the resistance of the feudal lords to the rise of the
bourgeoisie. Generally speaking, this resistance was greater among
ecclesiastical than among lay nobles, and in small fiefs, where the
prince was in direct opposition to the people, than in larger ones,
where the communes frequently supported him against his vassals or even
against his suzerain.

While the imperial bishops opposed the movement, for instance, the
counts of Flanders encouraged it. During the eleventh century, the
merchants had already enjoyed the protection of the counts, and, in the
beginning of the twelfth century, the erection of a wall surrounding
the "porters" was accompanied by the grant of special privileges. When
Charles the Good was killed in 1127, the people rose to avenge his
death and besieged his murderers in the castle of Bruges. The count
having left no heir, Louis VI of France upheld the claim of William of
Normandy, but the burgesses, fearing that the duke would not maintain
their privileges, opposed his candidature and selected Thierry of
Alsace. A war ensued, during which most of the nobles sided with the
first, whilst the towns and free peasants took the part of the second.
After his victory, Thierry showed his gratitude by extending to all
towns in the country, whether Walloon or Flemish, the same freedom.
Strangely enough, it was not the charter of Bruges which was chosen,
but that of Arras. The towns enjoyed a kind of self-government. The
citizens were judged by their own sheriffs ("échevins"), the prince
being represented on their council by a "bailli." They had their own
seal, their own hall and archives. They owed allegiance to their
prince, and, in case of war, had to give him military help. Their
rights were shown by the gallows erected at the gates of the town and
by the belfry, whose bell called the burgesses to arms when the city
was threatened by the enemy.

    _Ph. B._

In Brabant also the communes enjoyed the protection of the duke, but
they developed later, owing to the agricultural character of the
region. The importance of Louvain and Brussels dates from the twelfth
century, when the Cologne-Bruges road brought commercial activity into
the country and when the weaving industry began to spread in the duchy.
As for Liége, which was a purely ecclesiastical town, where, for a long
time, the number of priests and monks exceeded that of the ordinary
citizens, it enjoyed a smaller share of local liberties than the other
centres of the Meuse valley where industry was more developed, and the
citizens never succeeded in freeing themselves completely from the
bishop's authority.


If the imperial bishops opposed the new movement, it was mainly owing
to the influence of the monks, and especially the Cistercian monks,
that it spread to agricultural districts and that the rise of the
communes coincided with the abolition of serfdom. The direct
consequence of the development of trade and industry was the
depreciation of the land, and it became necessary to open new districts
to agriculture. The Cistercians were pioneers in this direction. They
established their houses in barren heaths and marshy districts, and
applied their skill and patience to converting them into fertile
fields. Unable to carry on the work unaided, they appealed to lay
brethren, who established farms in the neighbourhood of the
monasteries. These peasants were no longer serfs but free peasants, as
had been their forefathers after the Frankish invasion. Under the
supervision of the monks and of the stewards of dukes and counts, who
soon realized the advantages of the Cistercian method, they created new
"polders" along the Flemish coast, cleared the forests of Hainault and
Namur, and reclaimed the heaths and marshes of Flanders and Brabant.
The reclaimed ground was divided among the workers, so that, at the
beginning of the thirteenth century, a new class of free peasants
replaced the old class of feudal serfs. The farm produce was no longer
for local consumption alone; it was taken to the market-place, where
the farmers met the merchants and artisans. The social transformation
begun in the town halls spread thence to the country-side, and the
whole country began to share the same economic and political interests.

The belfry remains the living symbol of this rapid and widespread
transformation, and the few mediæval belfries which remain standing in
Belgium date from that period. Those of Ghent and Tournai, built at the
end of the twelfth century, stand alone, in the centre of the town,
while in Ypres and Bruges (thirteenth century) the tower was erected
above the centre of the "halles." In both cases, however, the meaning
of these old monuments is the same. They are far more typical of
Belgian mediæval civilization than the Gothic churches of the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, such as St. Bavon (Ghent), Ste.
Gudule (Brussels) and Notre Dame (Bruges), and even than the great
cathedrals built later in Antwerp and Malines. Belgium's ecclesiastical
architecture, though distinct from the French, is strongly influenced
by the French Gothic style, while her civic monuments can only be
compared to the Palazzi publici of Florence and Sienna. They stand as
living witnesses of the heroic times when the alliance of the guilds
was sought by the princes and when common artisans did not hesitate to
challenge the power of the French kings. The spirit which raised them
has left its mark on the people, who still cherish to an extraordinary
degree their local institutions, and for whom communal privileges
constitute the very basis of social liberty. This "love of the
clock-tower" is not only Belgian, or Italian, or English; it is
essentially a European trait, as opposed to Asiatic Imperialism, and
may even be found in Republican Rome and in ancient Greece.


It is not without interest to notice that this European conception of
town-citizenship coincided with an exceptional artistic and economic
development strongly subjected both to Latin and Germanic influences.
While in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Ghent became the
centre of Flemish-German trade, owing to its privileged position on the
Cologne road, Bruges was the most cosmopolitan centre in Europe. It
communicated with the sea by a canal, whose great dykes are mentioned
by Dante (_Inferno_, XV, 4, 6), and its market-place, deserted to-day,
was then crowded with traders from England, France, Spain and Germany
and brokers from Lombardy and Tuscany. Seventeen States were
represented in the city, where the Hanseatic towns had their main
warehouses. Ships, laden with stores from all parts of the world, took
with them Flemish textiles, which were celebrated for their suppleness
and beauty of colour, and which were exported, not only to all parts
of Europe, but even to the bazaars of the East. When local raw material
became insufficient, wool was imported from England, and the Hansa of
London centralized the trade between the two countries. England and
Flanders were thus brought close together, and their commercial
relations reacted on the policy of both countries.

In the shadow of the Bruges belfry, amid English, French, German and
Italian traders, a new civilization was born, which, combining the
Latin and Germanic influences to which it was subjected, was soon to
assert its own originality. Belgium had definitely broken down the
barriers of feudalism. The same causes which had liberated her people
had brought them into contact with the outside world.



The political history of the last centuries of the Middle Ages is
entirely dominated by the development of the Communes. Their influence
is twofold. On one hand, they prevented the absorption of the country
by the French kings; on the other, they delayed its unification under
national princes. By safeguarding local liberties, they checked foreign
ambitions, but, through their efforts to maintain their privileges and
through their petty rivalries, they impeded, for a long time, the
establishment of central institutions. During the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries they fostered trade and industry by affording due
protection to the burgesses and forcing the princes to follow a policy
in accordance with the interests of the country. During the fourteenth
century they were weakened by internal struggles between classes and
cities, and, through their trade restrictions, became an obstacle to
the free development of the economic life of the nation.


The cardinal event of the period is the Battle of Courtrai (1302), also
called the Battle of the Golden Spurs, owing to the great number of
these spurs collected on the battlefield after the defeat of the French
knights by the Flemish militia. It was hailed at the time as a
miraculous triumph for the commoners, the disproportion between the
opposing forces being somewhat exaggerated by enthusiastic
contemporary chroniclers. But its influence was not only social, it was
national, for it definitely secured the independence of Flanders and of
the other Belgian principalities against the increasing power of the
French kings, and this rendered possible the unification of the
country, which was accomplished, a century later, under the dukes of

    Illustration: SEAL OF THE TOWN OF DAMME. (1376).


At the beginning of the twelfth century the old distinction between
Lotharingia and Flanders had practically ceased to exist. The emperor's
prestige, greatly diminished by the Struggle of the Investitures, was
no longer strong enough to keep the Belgian princes east of the Scheldt
within the bounds of their allegiance. The most loyal of them, the
Count of Hainault, would not even depart from neutrality during the war
waged between Frederick Barbarossa and the French king. "He was not
obliged," he declared, "to put his fortunes in the hands of the
imperial troops and to grant them passage across his territory, as that
would bring devastation to his country." The development of trade and
industry had shifted the centre of interest from Germany, which
remained purely feudal and agricultural, to Flanders, which represented
a far more advanced civilization, based on the free development of the
cities. When the princes of Brabant, Hainault and the other principal
cities looked for an example or for some political support, they no
longer had to seek it outside the country. Even Liége was gradually
drawn within the circle of Flanders's influence. This lead, given by
one Belgian principality to the others, over the Scheldt boundary,
marks the break-up of the division of the country between France and
Germany inaugurated at the treaty of Verdun, and prepares the work of
centralization which brought about the creation of Belgian nationality.

The policy of Flanders was determined by the desire to preserve peace
with England and with France, Germany playing only a very secondary
part in European affairs at the time. Good relations with England were
essential to the Flemish cloth industry, since most of the wool was
imported from this country through Bruges. As the power of the French
kings increased, the Flemish counts endeavoured also to avoid any
conflict with their suzerains, since their northern allies could not
bring them sufficient military help to prevent the country's invasion.
Counts and Communes tried in vain to remain neutral. Neutrality was
impossible, and, whenever it was infringed, Flanders had invariably to
suffer from the consequences, either through the ruin of her trade or
through the loss of her liberties.


The House of Alsace came into power at the death of Charles the Good.
Its representative, Thierry, had been opposed by the French king, who
wanted to give the county to the Duke of Normandy. The Communes,
fearing that the duke's attitude would bring difficulties with England,
upheld the claim of Thierry, who prevailed after the death of his
rival. His son, Philip, acquired further territories in France
(Amiénois, Valois and Vermandois). His influence and his prestige were
so considerable that the French king, Philippe-Auguste, is supposed to
have said: "France will absorb Flanders or be destroyed by it." To his
suzerain's policy of "absorption," the Count of Flanders opposed the
British alliance, which he, however, broke in 1187, when he thought
himself threatened by his ally. Philip of Alsace died in the crusade,
during the siege of St. John of Acre (1191). Philippe-Auguste at once
attempted to seize his possessions, but his attempt was frustrated by
Count Baldwin V of Hainault, who invaded the country and, having been
recognized by the Communes, succeeded in uniting both counties.

Baldwin V of Hainault and IX of Flanders preserved a friendly
neutrality towards England during the struggle between Coe de Lion
and Philippe-Auguste. When the Count of Flanders, who had become
Emperor of Constantinople, died before Adrianople (1205), the French
king hoped at last to annex definitely the rich county. He had given
Baldwin's daughter in marriage to one of his creatures, Ferrand of
Portugal, who thus became the legitimate successor. As soon, however,
as he arrived in Flanders, Ferrand recognized that he could only
maintain himself in power by pursuing an independent policy friendly to
England. Though a foreigner, with little knowledge of the country, he
observed the same attitude towards France as his predecessors,
concluding an alliance against his liege with the Duke of Brabant, King
John of England and the Emperor Otto. The confederates were severely
defeated at Bouvines (1214), and, for nearly a century, the hegemony of
France became paramount in the Low Countries. Not only did the kings
henceforth rule in their own estates of Flanders, but they were able to
extend their influence over the whole country as far as Liége. The
wishes of their representatives were considered as orders, and the
complete absorption of Belgium by France seemed the foregone conclusion
of their tireless activity.

Two obstacles, however, stood in the way--the fact that Flanders drew
from England most of her raw material and the independent policy of the
dukes of Brabant.

Henry III took the hansa of London under his special protection and
promised the Flemish traders that they should not be molested even if
war broke out between England and France, unless Flanders took an
active part in the conflict. The Flemish trade constituted a large
source of revenue for the English kings, and it was still as essential,
at the time, to the prosperity of England as to that of Flanders. Since
the increased power of the French crown had rendered direct opposition
impossible, the British kings did their best to favour Flemish
neutrality and to enter into close friendship with the only Belgian
princes who had preserved their full independence, the dukes of

The latter belonged to the last national dynasty ruling in the country
and were therefore particularly popular. The Battle of Woeringen
(1288), in which Duke John I succeeded in defeating the powerful
Archbishop of Cologne and his allies, established his supremacy between
the Meuse and the Rhine and gave him the full control of the road from
Cologne to Ghent, through Louvain and Brussels, which brought Brabant
into line with Flanders's trade and industry. Brabant became thus the
national bulwark against foreign influence and the political stronghold
of Belgium, a position which it never completely relinquished, even
through the cruel vicissitudes of the seventeenth and eighteenth


If the prosperity of Brabant did not yet equal that of Flanders, the
dukes possessed greater authority over their subjects and enjoyed far
more independence. Edward I, when preparing for war against France,
fully appreciated these advantages, and gave his daughter Margaret in
marriage to the son of John I. Antwerp benefited largely from the
Anglo-Brabançonne alliance, since, when the English kings forbade the
importation of wool into Flanders, following some conflict with France,
the English merchants found a suitable market in the Scheldt port in
close communication with the centres of Brabant's cloth industry,
Louvain, Brussels and Malines.

The cities of Flanders, however, were not prepared to see their trade
ruined to suit the plans of the French. The economic reasons which
forbade a hostile attitude towards England would have afforded
sufficient ground for an anti-French reaction. The crisis was hastened
by internal trouble. The merchants and the craftsmen of the Communes
had not remained united. The rich and influential merchants had
gradually monopolized public offices and formed a strong aristocracy
opposed by the craftsmen. Count Guy de Dampierre declared himself for
the artisans, Philip the Fair of France, seizing the opportunity of
interfering in the affairs of Flanders, declared himself in favour of
the aristocracy. At the same time, he opposed the projected marriage of
the count's daughter with King Edward's eldest son. The popular party,
or "Clauwaerts" (the claw of the Flemish lion), was not sufficiently
organized to resist the "Leliaerts" (partisans of the lily), helped by
Philip's forces, and for five years the land remained under French
occupation, Count Guy being imprisoned in France. In July 1302 a
terrible rising, known as "Matines brugeoises" and led by the weaver
Pieter de Coninck, broke out in Bruges, when all the French in the town
were murdered in the early hours of the morning. Philip immediately
sent a powerful army to punish the rebels, which was defeated under the
walls of Courtrai by the Flemish militia, which some nobles, partisans
of the count, had hastily joined.

The consequences of the Battle of the Golden Spurs were considerable.
It reversed the situation created, a century before, by Bouvines. From
the social point of view, it gave a tremendous impulse to democratic
liberty throughout Belgium. As a result, the people of Liége obtained,
in 1316, their first liberties, symbolized by the erection of the
"Perron." The "Joyeuse Entrée" of Brabant was published in 1354 and
became the fixed constitution of the central principality. Charters
were enlarged and confirmed even in the least industrial districts of
Hainault and Namur, Luxemburg remaining practically the only purely
feudal State in the country. Duke John of Luxemburg, who became King of
Bohemia and who fought at Crécy, was considered at the time as one of
the last representatives of mediæval chivalry. The Prince of Wales's
motto "I serve" was supposed to have been borrowed by the Black Prince
from this noble enemy.


From the national point of view, the Battle of Courtrai is no less
important. Had the Flemings again failed in their bold bid for liberty,
the principle of Belgian nationality might have been irretrievably
jeopardized on the eve of the period when it was to assert itself, and
the efforts of centuries towards the reconstitution of political unity
might have become useless. It is, of course, entirely wrong to
attribute the rising of 1302 to purely patriotic motives, as some
romantic Belgian historians have endeavoured to do; but one may
legitimately believe that part at least of the blind and obstinate
heroism displayed during the struggle may have been inspired by an
obscure instinct that Flanders was, at the moment, waging the battle of
Belgium--that is to say, of all the lands lying between France and
Germany, and which, if permanently annexed by one or other of the
Powers, must necessarily upset the balance of Europe and wreck all hope
of European peace based on national freedom.

Flanders did not, however, reap the full benefits of her victory. The
peace concluded in 1319, after further military operations, took away
from the county all the Walloon district, considerably reducing the
cattle grazing area and making Flemish industry more dependent than
ever on England for its raw material. From the beginning of the
fourteenth century, the counts, who had, up to then, sided with the
people, went over to the French party, so that, when the Hundred Years'
War broke out, Flanders found herself again faced by the cruel
alternative of breaking her allegiance and being exposed to the
disasters of an armed invasion from the South, or keeping it and seeing
her industry ruined owing to the stoppage of her trade with England.

As early as 1336, Count Louis de Nevers having ordered the arrest of
English merchants, Edward III, as a reprisal, interrupted all
intercourse between the two countries. This measure was all the more
disastrous for Flanders because, helped by the immigration of some
Flemish weavers and fullers to England, an English cloth industry had
been started across the Channel. The English were therefore far less
dependent on the Flemings than the Flemings on the English, and it was
to be feared that the new industry would greatly benefit from the
monopoly created by the stoppage of trade. The prosperity of Bruges was
further threatened, since the prohibition did not include Brabant, and
Antwerp remained open to British trade.


In 1338 the people rose against their count, and Jacques Van Artevelde
of Ghent became the acknowledged leader of the movement. These risings
differed from the "Matines brugeoises" in that the aristocracy took
part in them as well as the craftsmen. Van Artevelde was not a workman
like De Coninck. He was a rich landowner and had great interests in the
cloth trade. His aim was not only to preserve the country's
independence, but to safeguard its prosperity. Approached by Edward
III's delegates, he tried at first to maintain a purely neutral
attitude, but, when the English king landed in Antwerp with supplies of
wool, he was obliged to side with England. The "Wise Man of Ghent"
suggested, however, that in order to relieve the Communes of their oath
of allegiance to Philip of Valois, who had succeeded the Capetians,
Edward should declare himself the true king of France. The struggle
which followed the destruction of the French fleet at Sluis (1340) was
protracted, no decision being reached at the siege of Tournai. Edward
was called back to England by the restlessness of his own subjects,
while the Flemish artisans were unwilling indefinitely to hold the
field against the French armies. The departure of the English forces
caused great bitterness among the people, who accused Van Artevelde of
having betrayed them, and in the course of a riot the once popular
tribune was killed by the mob (1345). Froissart, his enemy, pays him a
generous tribute: "The poor exalted him, the wicked killed him."

His son Philip, Queen Philippa's godson, vainly endeavoured to succeed
where his father had failed. After leading a revolt against the
pro-French Count Louis de Mâle, he was defeated by the French in 1382
and died on the battlefield.

All these struggles had weakened Flanders considerably. By chasing
German merchants from Bruges (1380), Louis de Mâle had brought about
the decadence of this port in favour of Antwerp, where the English were
soon to transfer the wool market. Political persecutions had driven a
great many of the artisans to England, to the great advantage of
English industry. Hundreds of houses in Bruges remained empty, Ypres
was half destroyed, and Ghent had lost a considerable part of its
population. Civil war had exhausted the country's resources during the
last years of the fourteenth century. In the country-side the dykes
were neglected, great stretches of "polders" were again flooded by the
sea, and wolves and bears infested the woods. The restoration of
Flanders to its previous prosperity did not take place before the
middle of the fifteenth century, as a result of the wise rule of the
dukes of Burgundy.



Literature is perhaps nowadays the most characteristic expression of
civilization, just as painting was the most striking mode of expression
in the Renaissance and architecture in the Middle Ages. We have seen
that, in the Netherlands, civic monuments constitute a typical feature
in mediæval architecture, but, though it is important to insist on the
conditions which favoured and inspired the building of belfries and
cloth-halls, the important part played by churches in the Netherlands,
as in France and England, must nevertheless be acknowledged. It is true
that, considering the intense religious life of the Low Countries from
the tenth to the fifteenth centuries, the number of well preserved old
churches still existing is rather disappointing, but this impression
would be greatly altered if it were possible to revive the buildings
which have fallen victim to destruction or to a worse fate still,
wholesale restoration.


All through the Middle Ages, Belgium was an extraordinarily active
centre of religious teaching and mysticism, and nowhere else perhaps in
Europe did the Christian faith penetrate so deeply among the common
people. Quite apart from the intellectual and aristocratic movements
favoured in the tenth and eleventh centuries by the imperial bishops of
Liége and their celebrated schools, from the deeper influence
exerted in other parts by the Clunisian monks (eleventh century) and by
the Cistercians and Prémontrés (twelfth century), the enthusiasm
aroused by the crusades is a sufficient proof of the country's
religious fervour. Not only did the nobles play a predominant part,
Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lotharingia, being the leader of the
first crusade and the counts of Flanders, Robert II, Thierry of Alsace,
Philip of Alsace and Baldwin IX, taking a large share in the same and
in subsequent expeditions, but the lower classes enlisted with the same
enthusiasm and flocked around the cross raised by Peter the Hermit and
his followers. It is reported that, during the second crusade, certain
localities lost more than half their male population.

Later, with the development of the Communes, the bourgeois and the
townspeople endeavoured to nominate their own priests and chaplains,
civil hospitals were founded, and, in the thirteenth century, the
mendicant orders enjoyed an enormous popularity, owing to the
familiarity with which they mixed with the people. They followed the
armies in the field, and it was among them that the citizens found
their favourite preachers in times of peace.

The great concourse of merchants and artisans in the towns favoured the
spreading of heresies, and, for a time, the Manicheans, under their
leader Tanchelm, made many converts among the Antwerp weavers; but the
Church was strong enough, at the time, not to appeal hastily to
forcible repression. The heretic preachers were fought, on their own
ground, by Franciscans, Dominicans and other ecclesiastics, who
succeeded in defeating them by their personal prestige. One of these
preachers who was honoured as a saint, Lambert le Bègue (the
Stammerer), greatly influenced spiritual life in Liége and the
surrounding districts. The foundation of the characteristically Belgian
institution of the "Béguines," or "Beggards," can, at least partly, be
traced to his religious activity.

This institution, which spread all over the country during the
thirteenth century, shows once more the success of all attempts in the
Netherlands to bring the inspiration of religion into the practice of
everyday life and into close contact with the humble and the poor. It
was specially successful among the women, and absorbed a great many of
the surplus female population. The "Béguines" did not pronounce eternal
vows and could, if they liked, return to the world. They led a very
active life, settled in small houses, forming a large square planted
with trees, around a chapel where they held their services. All the
time not devoted to prayer was given to some manual work, teaching or
visiting the poor. From Nivelles, the movement spread to Ghent, Bruges,
Lille, Ypres, Oudenarde, Damme, Courtrai, Alost, Dixmude, etc., and
even to Northern France and Western Germany. The accomplished type of
the "Béguine" is Marie d'Oignies, who, after a few months of married
life, separated from her husband, spent many years among the lepers,
and finally settled, with a few companions, in the little convent of
Oignies, near Namur.


Such was the spirit which inspired the builders of the Belgian
churches. Certainly the most typical and perhaps the most beautiful
is Notre Dame of Tournai, with its romanesque nave, built in the
eleventh century, its early Gothic choir (thirteenth century) and its
later Gothic porch (fourteenth century). It illustrates admirably the
succession of styles used in the country during the Middle Ages and the
series of influences to which these styles were subjected from the East
and from the South. Most of the romanesque churches of the tenth and
eleventh centuries were built either by German architects or by their
Belgian pupils. Though the best examples of the period are now found
either at Tournai (cathedral and St. Quentin), at Soignies (St.
Vincent) and at Nivelles (Ste. Gertrude), the centre of the school was
at Liége, where St. Denis, St. Jacques, St. Barthélémy and especially
Ste. Croix still show some traces of this early work. The main features
of these buildings, in their original state, are, beside the use of the
rounded arch, round or octagonal turrets, with pointed roofs, over the
façade and sometimes over the transept.

    _Ph. B._

With the decline of German political and intellectual influence, Gothic
was introduced into the country by French architects. In the last years
of the twelfth century, Tournai thus became the meeting-place of the
two currents, and, owing to its favourable position on the Scheldt and
to the material available in the district, dominated the whole
religious architecture of Flanders. The period of transition lasted
over a century and produced some of the most characteristic religious
buildings of the country, in which both the rounded and pointed arches
are happily combined. To this period belong St. Jacques and Ste.
Madeleine of Tournai, St. Nicolas and St. Jacques of Ghent and the
pretty little church of Pamele, built by Arnold of Binche (near
Tournai) between 1238 and 1242, where beside the romanesque turrets of
the façade may be found a short central octagonal Gothic tower. The
well-known Church of St. Sauveur at Bruges, begun in 1137, belongs to
the same period, but brick instead of Tournai stone has been used for
its erection. The same feature is found in a good many Gothic churches
in maritime Flanders and Holland, which were too distant from the
Hainault quarries.

Tournai again, in the choir of its cathedral, furnishes a good example
of Belgian early Gothic (thirteenth century), of which the destroyed
cathedral of Ypres, St. Martin, was considered the masterpiece. All
trace of the round arch has now disappeared and the columns are formed
by massive pillars.

As the Gothic style develops in its secondary period (late thirteenth
and beginning of fourteenth century) the windows increase in size, the
pillars are fluted and the tracery of the windows becomes more and more
complicated. The best examples of this particular Gothic still in
existence are the choir of St. Paul at Liége and Notre Dame of Huy
(begun in 1311).

    The baptism of Christ.
    St. Peter baptising Cornelius.


The most important and the best preserved Belgian churches belong,
however, to the third period of Gothic, when clustered columns replace
pillars, tracery becomes flamboyant and spires soar higher and higher
above the naves. Brabant is especially rich in fourteenth and fifteenth
century churches. Possessing its own quarries, it was independent of
Tournai, and can claim an original style altogether free from Hainault
or French influence. In this group must be mentioned Notre Dame of Hal;
the cathedral of St. Rombaut, in Malines, begun in 1350 and whose
flat-roofed tower was only finished in 1452; Ste. Gudule, in Brussels,
the oldest of them all, with some parts dating as far back as the
thirteenth century, a flamboyant porch and two flat-roofed towers
similar to those of St. Rombaut; and, finally, the great cathedral of
Antwerp, begun in 1387, with one of the highest towers in Europe and
certainly the slenderest, whose various stories mark the transformation
of style as they rise to end in a purely Renaissance spire.

    _Ph. B._

Most of these romanesque and Gothic churches have no unity of style,
owing to the long period covered during their building. From a purely
architectural point of view, they lack perhaps the purity of some of
their French and German rivals, but they are all the more interesting
to the historian and bring him into close contact with the
transformation of mind and manners from the Middle Ages to the

In order not to split up our subject we have wandered from the
civilization of the Middle Ages into the early Renaissance. Let us now
go back to Notre Dame of Tournai, with her five pointed towers, and see
what we may learn from her with regard to the intellectual and literary
developments of the period. In the same way as the building of its
choir, in the early thirteenth century, shows evident traces of French
influence, so the use of French, among the upper classes and in the
literature of the period, becomes more and more predominant.

During the first centuries of the Middle Ages, French influence in
Flanders was particularly noticeable in the monasteries. Almost in
every monastery Walloon and Flemish monks lived side by side, and it
became necessary that their abbots should be able to make themselves
understood by both sections of the community. Thierry of St. Trond was
chosen by the monks of St. Peter at Ghent "quoniam Theutonica et
Gaulonica lingua expeditus." Examples abound of bishops, teachers and
preachers able to express themselves in Flemish and French. The
"Cantilène of Ste. Eulalie," the oldest poem written in the French
language, was discovered in the monastery of St. Amand together with
one of the oldest German writings, the "Ludwigslied." The Clunisian
influence tended also to spread the use of French in the northern


The same bilingual characteristic may be found among the nobles, who
met frequently in the course of their military expeditions or peaceful
tournaments. Intermarriages between families belonging to both parts of
Lotharingia and Flanders were frequent. Besides, most of the large
domains lay across the language frontier. The knowledge of French soon
became an essential condition of a good education, and the children of
Flemish lords were sent to French abbeys in order to perfect their
knowledge of the language. It may be assumed that, at the end of the
eleventh century, the majority of the aristocracy was bilingual. It was
one of the reasons which gave the Belgian nobles such a prominent
position in the crusades. A contemporary writer, Otto of Friesingen,
explains that Godfrey of Bouillon was placed at the head of the
crusaders because, "brought up on the frontier between romanized and
Teutonic people, he knew both languages equally well."

This penetration of French, not only in Flanders, which was nominally
attached to the kingdom of France, but also in Lotharingia and even in
Liége, the centre of German influence, is all the more remarkable as it
implied no political hegemony, the counts of Flanders being practically
independent, at the time, and the other nobles attached to the Empire.
It was not introduced by conquest, as in England in the eleventh
century, or through immigration, like German into Bohemia or into the
Baltic States. The race of the northern provinces remained relatively
pure, and the adoption of a second language by the aristocracy can only
be explained by the intimate relations created between Thiois
(Flemings) and Walloons owing to political conditions, to diocesan
boundaries and social intercourse.

The influence of French was still further increased during the twelfth
century, which is the classical epoch of French literature in the
Middle Ages, and during which trade became so much more active owing to
the formation of the Communes. It was not only spoken by nearly all the
counts of Flanders and used in their private correspondence, but it
became, to a certain extent, the official language when Latin was
dispossessed of its monopoly. Its use ceased to be confined to the
aristocracy and spread to the bourgeoisie, owing to the frequent
intercourse between Flemish and French merchants at the fairs of
Champagne. All bills of exchange were written in French, and even the
Lombards and the Florentine bankers used it in their transactions. Its
knowledge was as necessary, at the time, as a knowledge of English may
be to-day to all exporters. As late as 1250, it was the only popular
language in which public documents were written. It is true that, in
Northern Flanders, many Germanic terms are mixed with it, but it exerts
practically no influence on the early development of the Flemish
language. The linguistic situation in Flanders, during the thirteenth
century, is interesting to compare with that existing in England, at
the same time, where the imported tongue was progressively absorbed by
the native, just as the Normans were absorbed by the Saxons. Again, it
is typical of the pacific character of French penetration that when, in
the middle of the thirteenth century, Flemish prose, having
sufficiently developed, was adopted for public acts, no restriction
whatever was placed on this custom. French, however, remained the
language used by the counts and by their officers. The documents of the
period present an extraordinary medley of Latin, French and Flemish

Brabant was not so strongly influenced, partly because the dukes
belonged to the old native dynasty and partly because the dukedom
entered later into the current of trade intercourse. French was used at
court, and a knowledge of it was considered as a necessary
accomplishment for a nobleman. But the dukes used Flemish in their
relations with their Flemish subjects, and when Latin gradually
disappeared, the popular language took its place in public acts.


This efflorescence of the French language must be connected with the
great prosperity of Walloon Flanders and the development, in Arras,
Douai, Lille, Tournai and Valenciennes, of an intense literary
movement, including poets, chroniclers and translators endowed with a
distinct originality. As late as the thirteenth century these writers,
who had adopted the Picard dialect, proclaimed their independence from
purely French literature, so that, in their own domain, they play a
similar part to that played by the Tournai master-builders in theirs.
The counts of Flanders and Hainault, among them Philip of Alsace,
Baldwin V and Baldwin VI, patronized native literature and even
attracted to their courts some of the greatest French poets of the
period, such as Chrétien de Troyes and Gautier d'Epinal. The dukes of
Brabant imitated this example and patronized Adenet le Roi, who was
considered the most eminent Belgian trouvère. We still possess a few
songs composed by Duke Henry III. Nothing can give us a better insight
into the intellectual life of some of the nobles of the time than the
following lines in which Lambert d'Ardres describes the manifold
activities of Baldwin II, Count of Guines (1169-1206). This prince
"surrounded himself with clerks and masters, asked them questions
unceasingly and listened to them attentively. But, as he would have
liked to know everything and could not remember everything by heart, he
ordered Master Landri de Waben to translate for him from the Latin into
Romance the Song of Solomon, together with its mystic interpretation,
and often had it read aloud to him. He learned, in the same way, the
Gospels, accompanied by appropriate sermons, which had been
translated, as well as the life of St. Anthony Abbot, by a certain
Alfred. He also received from Master Godfrey a great portion of the
Physic translated from Latin into Romance. Everyone knows that the
venerable Father Simon of Bologna translated for him from the Latin
into Romance the book of Solinus on natural history and, in order to
obtain a reward for his labour, offered the book to him publicly and
read it to him aloud."

Translations play a most important part in the literature of the time,
and it is significant that Belgium, from this point of view, owing no
doubt to her duality of language, acted as a pioneer for France. Just
as the Walloon provinces were first to discard Latin in public acts and
replace it by French, it is among their writers that the first and most
notable translators may be found. The tastes of translators and their
patrons were very catholic; science, theology, history and poetry
proving equally attractive. Another characteristic of French letters in
Belgium is the importance given to history. The first historical work
written in French is a translation by Nicolas de Senlis of the
_Chronicle of Turpin_, made for Yolande, sister of Baldwin V of
Hainault. In 1225 a clerk compiled for Roger, castellan of Lille, a
series of historical stories, the _Livre des Histoires_, taken from the
most various sources, from the creation of the world down to his own
time. Soon original works, dealing with local and contemporary events,
replaced translations and compilations. Such are the _Story of
Hainault_, written for Baldwin of Avesnes, and the rhymed _Chronicle of
Tournai_ by Philippe Mousket.


The bourgeoisie soon became interested in the movement. But the
citizens of the towns enjoyed neither courtiers' poetry nor epics and
warlike histories. Satire and didactic works were far more to their
taste. As early as the first part of the twelfth century a priest,
Nivardus, collected the numerous animal stories which were told in his
time and in which Renard the fox, Isengrain the wolf, Noble the lion
and many more animal heroes play a very lively part. These tales, in
spite of their Oriental or Greek origin, had found a new meaning among
the townsfolk of the twelfth century, who delighted in the tricks of
Renard, whose cunning outwitted the strength of the great barons and
the pride of their suzerain. Translations from Nivardus were the origin
of the French versions of the _Roman du Renard_ and of the Flemish poem
of _Reinaert_, written by Willem in the thirteenth century, and which
surpasses all other variations of the theme.

The _Reinaert_ is the first notable work of mediæval Flemish
literature. Willem's predecessor, Hendrick van Veldeke, is merely a
translator. One of his most popular poems at the time, the _Eneÿde_, is
a Flemish version of the French _Roman d'Enéas_. The number and the
success of these Flemish translations of French romances of chivalry,
in the thirteenth century, is however, remarkable, especially as it was
the means of introducing these stories into Germany, where they
received new and sometimes original treatment. From its very origin
Flemish literature acted thus as an intermediary between France and
Germany. Veldeke was a noble, and his works were only appreciated in
the castles. Jacob van Maerlant, who was hailed, in his time, as the
"Father of Flemish Poets," was a bourgeois scribe. Though obliged at
first to write some translations from the French Romances, he could not
but feel that this kind of literature suited neither the aspirations
nor the temperament of the people among whom he lived. Turning from
these frivolous stories, he sought in the works of Vincent de Beauvais
and Pierre Comestor a wiser and more serious inspiration. His ambition
was to place within reach of laymen the scientific, philosophic and
religious thought of his time, so that they might obtain the same
chances of acquiring knowledge as the learned clerics. This is the
spirit which pervades his principal and most popular works, _Der
Naturen Blume_, the _Rymbybel_ and the _Spiegel historiael_, in which
the author deals with natural lore and sacred and profane history.

In his impatience against "the beautiful, false French poets who rhyme
more than they know," van Maerlant declared that all French things were
false: "wat waelsch is valsch is," but one would seek vainly any
systematic hostility towards France in the poet's encyclopædic work. On
the contrary, on several occasions, he pays a glowing tribute to the
intellectual splendour of France, specially as represented by the
University of Paris, and it is not without astonishment that we
discover from his pen, on the eve of the Battle of the Golden Spurs, a
eulogy of the French régime.


The reason why van Maerlant attacked the French Romances of Chivalry
was not that they were French, but that they were Romances. The
characteristic of the early Flemish writers, apart from the satiric
poetry of Willem, is the seriousness of their thought and purpose.
They feel strongly their responsibility in influencing their
contemporaries and seldom abandon the tone of the preacher or teacher.
The most eloquent verses of van Maerlant may be found in _Van den Lande
van Oversee_, in which he preaches a new crusade after the fall of St.
John of Acre.

From the very beginning Belgian Flemish literature is distinct from the
French, but has many points of contact with the intellectual movement
of the Walloon provinces. There can be no question, at this early
stage, of disagreement or rivalry, for French was only, at the time,
the second language of the aristocracy in Flanders, and, as Flemish
letters developed, they naturally penetrated into the upper classes.
There are few examples in history of a civilization combining with such
harmony the genius of two races and two languages.



There are certain periods in the life of nations and individuals when,
owing to a combination of happy circumstances, all their best faculties
work in perfect harmony. They give us a complete and almost perfect
image of the man or the land. It is towards such periods of
efflorescence that we turn when we want to judge a great reformer, a
great writer or a great artist, and it is only fair that we should turn
to them also when we want to appreciate the part played in the history
of civilization by all nations who have left their mark in the world.


Such a period of economic, political and artistic splendour may be
found in Belgium when the whole country became united under the dukes
of Burgundy. The fifteenth century is for Belgium what the Elizabethan
period is for England and the seventeenth century for France. Not only
did the territorial importance of the unified provinces reach its
culminating point and the national princes play a prominent part in
European politics, but, from the point of view of economic prosperity
and intellectual efflorescence, Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp rivalled,
at the time, the great Italian Republics of the Renaissance.


Considering the common interests linking the various States, and their
remoteness from the political centres of France and Germany, the
unification of the country under one crown seemed a foregone
conclusion. In fact, we have seen that, already at the beginning of the
twelfth century, the division of the country between the two great
Powers had become purely nominal. Lotharingia ceased to exist owing to
the decreasing influence of the Empire following the struggle of the
Investitures, and the counts of Flanders were so powerful that they
were practically independent of their French suzerains. They began to
take an important share in political life east of the Scheldt, and
would no doubt have succeeded in uniting the whole country under their
sway but for the rising power of the Communes and for the political
recovery of France. The Communes substituted economic divisions for the
political divisions created by Feudalism. The efforts of the French
kings, while unable to crush Flemish independence, succeeded,
nevertheless, in checking the power of the counts, while other States,
such as Brabant, were allowed to develop more freely beyond the

At the close of the fourteenth century, the Communes, which had proved
such a powerful means of liberating trade and industry from feudal
restrictions, had, to a great extent, ceased to fulfil their part in
the development of the nation. Instead of using their privileges to
further economic relations, the large towns oppressed the smaller ones
and the country-side was entirely sacrificed. Internal strife, war with
France and the decadence of the cloth industry had brought about a
state of economic depression and social unrest out of which the country
could only emerge through the support of a strong and centralized
administration. On the other hand, the French kings were, for the
time, reconciled to the idea of an independent Flanders and too
exhausted by their struggle against England to make further warlike
attempts in this direction. So that when Philip the Bold, Duke of
Burgundy, became Count of Flanders, in 1384, the country, exhausted by
civil war and independent of foreign hegemony, was at last prepared to
submit to parting with some of its local privileges in order to obtain
peace and prosperity under a wise central administration.

Philip was the brother of Charles V, King of France, and succeeded
Louis de Mâle after marrying the count's daughter. He was supposed to
bring back Flanders under French influence, but, as a matter of fact,
pursued a policy distinct from that of the French. Once more, as in the
case of Guy de Dampierre and of Ferrand, the French king was deceived
in his plans, and the interests of the country proved stronger than the
personal relations of its ruler. One of the first acts of the new count
was to secure Artois, thus reconstituting the bilingual Flanders of the
previous century. He then proceeded to extend the power of his house by
obtaining, for his second son Antoine, the succession of Brabant in
exchange for military help given to the Duchess Jeanne. Such a scheme
was opposed to the emperor's projects, but his influence could not
outweigh the advantages which the Brabançons expected from the House of
Burgundy. It thus happened that, when Philip the Bold died, in 1404,
his eldest son John inherited Flanders and Artois, and Antoine acquired
Brabant and Limburg. The latter's possessions were further increased by
his marriage with Elisabeth Gorlitz, heiress of Luxemburg.

The two brothers supported each other, and when Antoine died at
Agincourt (1415), John the Fearless obtained the lease of Luxemburg. He
had previously intervened in the affairs of Liége and received the
title of protector of the bishopric. Only Hainault, Holland, Zeeland
and Namur remained independent of the Burgundian House when John died,
in 1419, assassinated on the bridge of Montereau. Like his father, his
policy had been inspired far more by the interests of the Low Countries
than by those of France. He resided in Ghent during the greater part of
his reign.

    Illustration: PHILIP THE GOOD.
    From a portrait by Roger Van der Weyden (Madrid).


Philip the Good, his son, reaped all the benefits of his father's
efforts. He completed the work of unification by extending his
protectorate over Tournai, Cambrai and Utrecht and buying Namur. John
IV of Brabant, son of Antoine and Elisabeth, had married Jacqueline of
Bavaria, Countess of Hainault, Holland and Zeeland. When he and his
brother had died without heir, Brabant and Limburg reverted to the
elder branch of the House of Burgundy. So that, after having
dispossessed his cousin Jacqueline of her inheritance, Philip became
practically the sole master of all the principalities founded on
Belgian soil since the Middle Ages.

No doubt the dukes of Burgundy were helped in their work of unification
by a series of most favourable circumstances. Within a remarkably short
time, many marriages and deaths occurred which favoured their plans to
a very considerable extent. But it would be a great mistake to
attribute their success to fate alone. Their power was so great that,
through political pressure and offers of money, they might, in any
case, have induced the less favoured princes of the country to part
with their domains. And, what is far more important, economic and
political circumstances were such as to render the old system of local
divisions obsolete and to necessitate the formation of a central
administration pooling the resources and directing the common policy of
all parts of the country. It was not through the process of Burgundian
unification that Belgium became a nation. It was because Belgium had
already practically become a nation, through the gradual intercourse of
the various principalities, that one prince, more favoured than his
neighbours at the time, was able to concentrate in his hands the power
of all the Belgian princes.

It is not without reason, nevertheless, that Justus Lipsius, the
Belgian humanist of the seventeenth century, calls Philip the Good
"conditor Belgii," the founder of Belgium. If this prince benefited
from the efforts of his predecessors, if he enjoyed tremendous
opportunities, he was wise enough to make full use of them. While
enlarging his possessions and even contemplating, no doubt, the
foundation of a great European Empire, he proceeded step by step and
did not launch into any wild enterprise which might have jeopardized
the future. While building up a centralized State such as the legists
of the Renaissance conceived it, a State independent of local
institutions and possessing a distinct life apart from the people and
above them, he endeavoured, as much as possible, to respect local
privileges, superimposing modern institutions on mediæval ones and
preserving, if not wholly, at least formally, the rights of each
province and town.


The "great duke of the West," as he was called, "could," according to
his own words, "have been king if he had only willed it"--that is to
say, if he had been prepared to pay homage to the Emperor. After some
protracted negotiations, he preferred to remain a duke and to preserve
his complete independence. He was Duke of Burgundy, Count of Flanders,
Duke of Brabant, Count of Hainault, "Mambourg" of Liége, etc.; he was,
in short, the head of a monarchic confederation in which he succeeded
in establishing a few central institutions common to all the
principalities, a private Council, the "Council of the Duke," a
government Council, "the Grand Council," and the "States General," on
which sat delegates of the various provincial States and which the duke
called together when he deemed it opportune. The States General's
approval was necessary whenever fresh taxes were to be levied or when
the sovereign intended to declare war. Following the example of the
French kings, the duke was nearly always able to conciliate the States
General by giving the majority of the seats to members of the clergy or
to the nobility. The latter he succeeded in converting into a body of
courtiers by grants of money, land or well-paid offices, also by
founding, in 1480, the privileged order of the Golden Fleece.

Philip's external policy was judged severely by his English
contemporaries, whose views are no doubt reflected in the First Part of
Shakespeare's _Henry VI_, where we see Burgundy abandoning his allies
at the instigation of the Maid of Orleans. His "betrayal" was followed
by riots in London, during which some Flemish and Walloon merchants
lost their lives. Considered, however, from the point of view of the
period, when diplomacy and politics were not inspired by a particularly
keen sense of justice and morality, the duke's decision is easy to
explain. Drawn into the English alliance by the traditional policy of
Flanders, which always sought support in this country against France,
and by the murder of his father, for which he sought revenge, he never
lost sight of the possible threat to his power and independence which
an overwhelming English victory might constitute some day. English
ambitions in the Low Countries had been made evident by the expedition
of the Duke of Gloucester, Henry V's brother, who had championed
Jacqueline of Bavaria's cause against the duke. A permanent union of
Hainault, Brabant and Holland, under English protection, had even been
contemplated. It would, therefore, have been contrary to Burgundian and
to Belgian interests, if the power of France had been absolutely and
irremediably crushed, since such a victory would have upset the balance
of Western power, on which the very existence of the new confederation

Philip's quarrel with Henry VI was, however, short-lived, and, during
the last part of his reign, he succeeded in re-establishing the
Anglo-Burgundian alliance on a sounder basis. His wife, Isabella of
Portugal, a granddaughter of John of Gaunt, used her influence to bring
about a reconciliation and the resumption of trade relations. The
marriage of Charles, son of Philip, with Margaret of York, sister of
Edward IV, which was celebrated in Bruges in 1463 amidst an amazing
display of luxury, definitely sealed the bond of union.

    Illustration: CHARLES THE BOLD.
    From a portrait by Roger Van der Weyden (Berlin Museum).


For France had recovered from her trials; and when he succeeded his
father, Charles, surnamed the Bold, was confronted by an adversary all
the more formidable that, through his impulsive temperament, he
literally played into the hands of the cunning French king. Faced, as
Philip had been, by the opposition of the Communes and by the
separatist tendencies of certain towns, the new duke, scorning
diplomacy, tried to impose his will through sheer force and terrorism.
The sack of Dinant in 1466 was destined to serve as an example to
Liége, where the agents of King Louis maintained a constant agitation.
Two years later, the duke obliged his rival to witness the burning and
pillage of the latter city, which had revolted for a second time,
following the instigations of the French.

Charles might have resisted his enemy's intrigues, if he had limited
his ambitions to the Low Countries. Like his father, he entered into
negotiations with the Emperor with the hope of acquiring the title of
king. His Burgundian domains were separated from the Low Countries by
Alsace and Lorraine. Had he been able to join Low and High Burgundy
through these lands, he would have very nearly reconstituted the old
kingdom of Lotharingia, by unifying all the borderlands lying between
France and Germany, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. The
success of such an enterprise might have had incalculable consequences.
But Charles was the last man to succeed in an endeavour requiring at
least as much skill and diplomacy as material resources. He obtained
rights upon Alsace and conquered Lorraine, but fell an easy prey to
Louis XI's artifices by launching an expedition against the Swiss.
Defeated at Granson and Morat, he was killed before Nancy, leaving the
whole responsibility of his heavy succession to his young daughter

According to Philip de Commines: "He tried so many things that he could
not live long enough to carry them through, and they were indeed almost
impossible enterprises." But his external policy remained all through
perfectly consistent. He was a faithful friend to the House of York and
gave his support to Edward IV, with whom he intended to divide France,
had he succeeded in conquering Louis.


Philip the Good, by his work of territorial consolidation, had
succeeded in obliterating from the map of Europe the frontier of the
Scheldt, which, since the Treaty of Verdun, had divided the country
between France and Germany. Charles the Bold failed in reconstituting
the short-lived kingdom of Lotharius, which had stood, for a few years,
as a barrier between the two rival Powers. Such a dream was indeed
outside the scope of practical politics, though, considered from the
point of view of language and race, it was not entirely unjustifiable,
the population of the Rhine sharing with that of the Low Countries both
their Romanic and Germanic characteristics, and asserting from time to
time their desire to lead a free and independent life. This desire was
never fulfilled, owing partly to the main direction of the line of
race-demarcation running from north to south, parallel to the political
frontier, and partly to the narrowness of the strip of territory
involved. Had such a boundary extended through Belgium along the
Scheldt, for instance, instead of being deflected from Cologne to
Boulogne, the same result would have occurred. Belgium owes her
independent state to the presence of the Coal Wood which, in the fourth
century, broke the invaders' efforts along a line running from east to
west across political frontiers, not parallel to them. Thanks to the
exceptional richness of her widespread plain, easily accessible from
the sea, she remains, in modern times, as the last fragment of the
great Empire of Lotharius, which, for a few years, gathered under one
rule all the borderlands of Western Europe.



The most characteristic monument of the fifteenth century in Belgium is
the Town Hall, just as the most characteristic monument of the two
preceding centuries is the belfry, with, or without, its Cloth Hall.

    _Ph. B._


It may seem strange that it should be left to great municipal palaces
to express the spirit of a period of centralization, when local
privileges were progressively sacrificed to the general interest of the
State, and when the prince gathered under one sway the various States
among which the Netherlands had been divided. When looking at the
Gothic Town Halls of Brussels, Louvain and Bruges, with their flowered
traceries and luxury of ornament, one might be misled into taking them
for the palaces of the prince rather than for the expression of
municipal freedom. There is nothing about them of the strength and
defiance expressed in the great "halles" and belfries of Ypres, Bruges
and Ghent. The latter were, as we have seen, erected for two purposes.
They were, so to speak, a central citadel raised in the middle of the
town, from the towers of which the sentinel sounded the alarm and
called the citizens to arms to defend their privileges and protect
their homes against the attacks of any enemy from outside, not
excluding the prince himself. Behind their thick walls and
battlements, the archives and charters of the towns were jealously
preserved. On the other hand, the "halles" afforded a meeting-place for
foreign and local merchants and a warehouse where their goods were
stored. They constituted fortified covered markets, and the combination
of these military and economic characteristics is visible in every
outline of the building and reveals the dominant aspirations of an age
which succeeded in emancipating the city from the autocratic rule of
the suzerain and in safeguarding the trade and industry of its

None of these features is apparent in the "hôtels de ville" of the
Burgundian period. Their slender outline and small proportions exclude
any idea of defence. Compare, for instance, the graceful spire of
Brussels with the proud and massive belfry of Bruges, and the almost
feminine aspect of the Louvain Town Hall with the forbidding
masculinity of the destroyed Ypres Cloth Hall. Again, the profusion of
ornament and statuettes, the delicate flanking towers, especially in
Bruges and Louvain, contrast with the austerity of the old "halles."
These luxurious mansions were built neither for military nor for
economic purposes. They are far too small to be of any use as covered
markets. In fact, the new municipal buildings of the fifteenth century
only preserved one characteristic of their predecessors. They were
still the seat of the "échevinage," and it was within their walls that
the magistrates of the town met the duke's representative, the

Economic activity had left the central hall and migrated to the
Exchange. The achievement of the Hôtels de Ville of Brussels (1454)
and Louvain (1463) coincides with the foundation of the first European
Exchange in Antwerp (1460). In this transformation of the municipal
buildings from the Middle Ages to the early Renaissance, we may read a
parallel transformation in political and social institutions. The
municipal spirit was still predominant, and the resistance made by
Bruges in 1436, and still more energetically by Ghent from 1450 to
1453, to the increasing influence of Philip the Good, shows clearly
that the communal spirit was still prevalent, especially in the old
towns. But the relatively more modern towns, such as Brussels and
Antwerp, were ready to accept the beneficial protection of the princes.
The villages and the country, which had suffered for a long time from
the tyranny of the large towns, were all on his side. The
transformation of industry and trade contributed to break down local
mediæval customs and privileges, to the greater benefit of the State.
The result was a compromise, and it is that compromise which is
revealed by Burgundian municipal architecture. The town was still
exalted, but it was no longer the free defiant town which wrested its
charters from a reluctant suzerain; it was, if one may so express it, a
tamed town, developing its resources under the protection and the
control of its master, while still keeping alive its pride by a great
display of luxury. The failure of the Ghent revolt marked the decline
of the communal militias, which were no longer able to resist the well
disciplined ducal mercenary army. The defeat of Gavere (1453) sealed
the fate of citizen armies, just as the Battle of the Golden Spurs
(1302) had revealed their strength.


It must, however, be remarked that this success was only obtained by a
complete change of policy on the part of the dukes. They no longer,
like their mediæval predecessors, opposed the development of the towns
by oppressive measures. On the contrary, they did all in their power to
protect and expand this prosperity, not only by securing peace and
commercial liberty, but also by taking special measures in case of
emergency. Philip the Good, on several occasions, attempted to arrest
the decadence of Ypres caused by the development of the English cloth
industry. In spite of the opposition of Ghent and Ypres, Charles the
Bold undertook important works in order to dredge the estuary of the
Zwyn, which was rapidly silting up, and thus to keep open, if possible,
the port of Bruges. At the same time, the dukes encouraged the trade of
Antwerp and gave the first impulse to the maritime activity of the
ports of Holland. The Burgundian princes did not live isolated in their
feudal castles; they made it a rule to reside in their large towns,
either Ghent, Bruges or Brussels, where they held their courts and
where they contributed, by their display of luxury, to the general
prosperity. This solicitude for the welfare of the large towns was not
altogether disinterested. The dukes realized that their power rested
not so much on their military forces as on their wealth, and that their
wealth depended on the riches of their towns. They understood,
according to a contemporary historian (Chastellain), that "in the
fullness of substance and money, not in dignities and highness of their
rank, lay the glory and the power of princes."

The substitution of the Renaissance Hôtel de Ville for the old Cloth
Hall is also the symbol of the decline of the cloth industry. The wool
industry in Flanders had passed through three consecutive stages which
directly affected the relationships between Belgium and England. We
have seen how, during the early Middle Ages, Flemish wool being
sufficient for Flemish looms, the cloth industry was almost entirely
independent, and how, as the industry increased, Flemish weavers
depended more and more on the imports of English wool during the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. During the fourteenth century,
however, owing partly to the immigration of Flemish weavers encouraged
by Edward III and partly to the natural course of events, which must
induce a country to work up its own raw material, the English cloth
industry had become very active, and the quantity of wool available for
Flanders consequently decreased, while its price increased, and the
Flemish industry was faced by the double difficulty of preserving its
market from the import of English cloth, through Hanseatic ships, and
of obtaining the necessary raw material. The restrictive measures taken
against the import of English cloth proved ineffectual, and Spanish
wool, which was tried as a substitute for English, was of inferior
quality. Ypres was the first to suffer, in spite of the solicitude of
the dukes, who reduced commercial taxes in its favour. Its population
fell from 12,000 in 1412 to 10,000 in 1470, and in 1486 one-third of
its inhabitants were reduced to begging. Bruges succeeded in
maintaining herself for a time through her banking establishments,
while Ghent benefited from the staple of grain, Brussels from the
presence of the dukes, Malines from its parliament, Louvain from its
newly created university and Antwerp from its rising trade.


Besides, when the resistance to English rivalry proved fruitless, in
spite of the repeated prohibitions decreed by Philip the Good, the
country turned, with extraordinary adaptability, to the linen industry
as a substitute for the woollen. Linen replaced cloth, and the same
processes and looms which had been applied to the old industry were
successfully applied to the new. Clothmaking took refuge either in the
Flemish country districts, where the wages were lower, or in some
remote parts of the Walloon country. The existence of Verviers as a
clothmaking town dates from 1480. The decline of the cloth industry was
also to a certain extent compensated for by the introduction in
Northern Flanders and in Brabant of tapestry, whose centres, until
then, had been in Arras and Tournai.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have already alluded to the ornamental character of Burgundian Gothic
contrasting with the severity of the communal period. Luxury rather
than strength is aimed at by the architects of the hôtels de ville and
other well-known monuments of the period, such as the Hôtel Gruuthuse
and the Chapelle du Saint Sang in Bruges. This richness is real, and
not artificially confined to the prince and the upper classes of

At the beginning of the Burgundian régime, under Philip the Bold,
Flanders was partially ruined by internal and external wars. Its towns
were depleted of their craftsmen, its polders converted into marshes by
the incursions of the sea, and wolves and wild boars again wandered
through the country as in the early Middle Ages. Brabant, Holland,
Zeeland and Liége, though less severely affected, passed through a time
of strife and civil war. Fifty years later (about 1430), the Low
Countries were again the most prosperous States of Europe, and the
historian Philip de Commines was able to call them "a land of promise,"
while Gachard contrasts them with the southern domains of the duke,
"Burgundy, which lacks money and smells of France." Chastellain
eloquently vaunts their banquets and gorgeous festivities. The dukes
themselves took every opportunity to display their wealth, especially
in the presence of foreign princes. It seems as if they wanted to make
up for the title of king which they vainly coveted by an ostentatious
luxury which no king of the time could have afforded. When, in 1456,
the Dauphin Louis visited Bruges with the duke, the decoration of the
town amazed the French, "who had never witnessed such riches"
(Chastellain), and when Margaret of York entered the town, on the
occasion of her marriage with Charles the Bold, in 1469, the streets
were covered with cloth of gold, silks and tapestries, and the
procession had to stop ten times before reaching the market-place to
admire tableaux vivants illustrating the periods of sacred and profane
history: "By my troth," wrote John Paston, one of the English gentlemen
who attended Margaret's wedding, "I heard never of so great plenty as
there is, and, as for the duke's court, as for lords, ladies and
gentlewomen, knights, squires and gentlemen, I heard never of none like
to it save King Arthur's court."


This astounding economic recovery must not, it is true, be attributed
only to the beneficial action of the dukes' administration, but it
seems evident that a long period of peace, guaranteeing order, security
and free communication with other countries, combined with wise
administrative and financial measures, contributed greatly to hasten
it. Measures were taken to lighten the restrictions and monopolies of
towns and corporations and to regulate and control the minting of
money. As early as 1483, Philip the Good was able to boast that his
money was better than that of any of his neighbours. The right of
coining money was no longer farmed out, but entrusted "to notables well
known for their wealth, who could provide the country with gold and
silver money and exchange any money which might be brought to them by
the merchants." In 1469 Edward IV of England and Charles the Bold
agreed to call a conference in Bruges to determine a common currency
for both countries and to suppress the exchange.


These financial regulations are intimately connected with the
transformation which trade underwent at the time, and which was one of
the main causes of the transfer of the economic centre of the country
from Bruges to Antwerp. The reason generally given for this change is a
geographical one. It is pointed out that while, at the beginning of the
fifteenth century, the widening of the western branch of the Scheldt
through inundations in Zeeland afforded a direct road from Antwerp to
the high-seas (formerly ships had to go round the island of Walcheren),
all the efforts made to prevent the silting up of the Zwyn from 1470 to
1490 were fruitless. In 1506, it was possible for carts to drive safely
at low tide across the end of the harbour. The progress of navigation,
increasing the tonnage of ships, and the Spanish and Portuguese
discoveries acted also in favour of the deeper and safer harbour, but
there are other reasons which might have ruined Bruges in favour of
Antwerp, even if the geographical advantages of both ports had remained

From the beginning of the fifteenth century the conditions of trade
underwent complete transformation. Powerful companies, disposing of
large capital and wide credit, took the place of the old local merchant
companies. Transactions became so considerable and involved that
mediæval regulations, instead of controlling commerce, only hampered
it. Any protective measure detrimental to foreigners became fatal to
home trade. Antwerp, which then appeared as a new metropolis, had no
difficulty in adapting itself to modern capitalist conditions. At the
end of the fourteenth century the town had already lost its Brabançon
character and had become almost cosmopolitan. It had adopted economic
liberty. Foreign merchants meeting at its fairs were protected by safe
conducts. The positions of brokers and money-changers were open to all,
and citizenship easily accessible. Bruges, on the other hand, hampered
by old regulations and closely attached to its privileges, was not able
to adapt itself to the new situation. As late as 1477 measures were
taken to prevent foreigners from introducing on the market wares
purchased elsewhere, and their position was no longer in accordance
with the principle of free trade. It thus happened that, while the
population of Antwerp increased by leaps and bounds, from 3,440
families in 1435 to 8,785 in 1526, the trade of Bruges decreased
steadily, owing to the emigration of foreign merchants. Protective
measures against the import of English cloth estranged the Hanseatic
merchants, and, in 1442, the "Merchant Adventurers" established
themselves definitely in Antwerp, where they were soon followed by the
Italians, Spanish and Portuguese. It is true that Bruges remained, for
a time, the centre of banking activity, which accounts for the fact
that it preserved its architectural and artistic splendour at the very
time when its trade was failing. But in the natural course of events
the financiers had to follow the merchants, and at the end of the
century the decadence of Bruges as a great seaport was almost as
complete as that of Ypres as an industrial centre. It was
characteristic of the new trade conditions that no "halles" were built
in Antwerp, the mediæval emporium being replaced by a modern exchange.

Antwerp, however, possessed with Bruges one common feature. It was,
like its predecessor, the great clearing-house of Western Europe, and
derived its prosperity not from the goods either consumed or
manufactured in its own country, but from its position as an open
market where all merchants could conveniently sell their own wares and
buy those of distant lands.

    From an old print (1531).

It must also be noticed that, while Bruges resisted as far as lay in
its power the centralizing influence of the dukes and of the princes
who succeeded them, Antwerp remained loyal to the new political régime
which brought it so many advantages. The troubles which arose in Bruges
under Maximilian may be considered as the death-blow to the prosperity
of the old town.

    _Ph. B._

The rule of the dukes was equally beneficial to the smaller towns and
villages of the country-side. It put an end to the mediæval régime and
to feudal and ecclesiastical dues. The nobility had no longer the
monopoly of landownership, and many bourgeois enriched by trade bought
large estates. This change contributed, to a certain extent, to
decrease the number of small landowners and to create a larger class of
farmers and agricultural labourers. This was, however, partially
compensated for by the reclamation of land from the sea (polders)
through the building of dykes and by the impulse given to cattle
breeding, which rendered more intensive cultivation possible. It was at
that time that the old system of leaving a third of the land fallow was
to a great extent abolished through a larger use of manure. With the
exception of the famine of 1348, due to bad crops, the Burgundian
régime was free from the terrible calamities which had never ceased to
devastate the country during the previous centuries.


Through the census made for Brabant in 1435 and for Flanders in 1469,
it is possible to estimate the total population of the Burgundian
States in the Netherlands at two millions, to which 700,000 ought to be
added if we include Liége. This, considering the size of these States
and the economic conditions of the period, is a very high figure, and
implies an economic activity at least equal to that of modern Belgium.
How far such a rise in the population was due to the wise
administration of Philip the Good is shown by a closer inspection of
the facts. The years from 1435 to 1464 are marked by a steady increase,
while the period from 1464 to 1472, when Charles the Bold imperilled
the prosperity of the country by his foreign wars, shows a slow
decrease, which becomes far more accentuated after the death of the
duke and during the troubled period which succeeded the Burgundian



The hôtels de ville built during the Burgundian period afford an
excellent example of the new economic tendencies prevailing at the
time, but they are by no means the greatest works of art illustrating
this period of Belgian efflorescence. Neither in the Town Hall of
Bruges, begun in 1376 by Jean de Valenciennes, nor in those of Brussels
(1402 to 1444), built by Jacques van Thienen and Jean de Ruysbroeck, or
of Louvain, completed in 1448 by Matthieu de Layens, still less in the
pretty municipal buildings of Oudenarde or destroyed Arras, can we find
any adequate representation of the wonderful intellectual and artistic
movement which placed the Netherlands, during the fifteenth century, at
the head of Northern European civilization. This can only be realized
by a careful study of the pictures of the period, generally known as
the works of the Early Flemish School.


Before trying to determine the position of this school in the history
of Art, it may be well to give a rapid survey of the intellectual
movement under the Burgundian régime, and to show that in every
department, literature, architecture and music, the civilization of the
period produced some remarkable works. In this way, the Netherlands of
the fifteenth century are comparable with the Italian republics and
principalities which flourished at the same time. In Belgium, as in
Tuscany and Umbria, all arts were cultivated at the same time and
sometimes by the same man, and people and princes took an equal
interest in all the manifestations of human genius. One would have to
go back as far as ancient Greece to find such a harmonious development,
and the world has never produced it since.

Literary activity was perhaps the least brilliant, owing mostly to the
division of languages. Though the intercourse between the Flemish and
the Walloon parts of the country was intimate and never constituted an
obstacle in the work of unification, Belgium can scarcely boast of one
common literature at the time when its nationality was founded.

As far as political and administrative activity was concerned, an
almost exact balance was struck between the languages of the North and
the South. In Flanders, from the beginning of the fourteenth century,
French influence had considerably decreased, owing partly to the loss
of Artois and Walloon Flanders and to the blow inflicted on French
prestige by the reverses of the Hundred Years' War. The use of French
was only maintained among the nobility and the rich bourgeoisie, and in
all intercourse with other countries; Flemish made considerable
progress and took the place of Latin in all acts of common
administration. Its prestige as a literary language had been enhanced
by the reputation of van Maerlant, and it served also in all relations
with Lower Germany. By the end of the century, bilingualism was a
consecrated institution both in Flanders and Brabant, the judges
rendering their sentences in the tongue spoken by the parties and some
officials using, according to circumstances, either French, Latin or
Flemish. Under John the Fearless and Philip the Good, this situation,
which favoured the centralizing influence of the dukes, remained
unchanged. In Holland and Zeeland, where French was practically
unknown, State officials only used Flemish. The dukes themselves knew
both languages, included Flemish books in their libraries, and
encouraged Flemish letters. Owing to the economic attraction of
Antwerp, a great number of Walloon traders used both languages, and the
number of those who understood Flemish and French was considerable
enough to allow the production of Flemish plays to the south and of
French plays to the north of the dividing language line. It is true
that Charles the Bold attempted vainly to enforce French for
administrative purposes in Flemish districts, but, owing to subsidiary
evidence, this must be considered much more as an act of political
absolutism than as a sign of hostility towards Flemish. As a matter of
fact, we should seek vainly for proof of any attempt to frenchify the
country at the time. In holding their courts in the Netherlands, the
dukes of Burgundy had renounced their French origin.

Bilingualism must thus be considered as a solution of the language
question in Belgium in the fifteenth century. But though the people
remained united, the literatures of the two parts of the country
followed different lines.

On the Flemish side, poetry had never ceased to decline since the death
of van Maerlant, in spite of the numerous works produced by the
disciples of this master, especially in Brabant. Jean Boendaele
(1280-1365) described in his remarkable _Brabantsche Yeesten_ the
struggle of the duke against his enemies. His attitude of mind is
thoroughly typical of the time. Boendaele is a bourgeois poet, and
distrusts equally the democracy of the towns and the nobility. He
places his faith in the prince, the merchants and the peasants.


The mystic treatises of Jan Ruysbroeck (1292-1381), who may be
considered as the founder of Flemish prose, just as van Maerlant is the
founder of Flemish poetry, are far more important than the rhymed
chronicles of Boendaele. Not only do they rank among the most inspired
religious writings of the Middle Ages, but they are the expression of a
deep-rooted religious movement which animated the Flemish bourgeoisie
at the time, and which had its origin in the foundation of the
institution of the Béguines and the Beggards, so active and so
influential during the twelfth century. This movement aimed at bringing
religion closer to the common people through the work of laymen who,
though deeply attached to the Church, were conscious of its limitations
and of the barrier which aristocracy and privilege had built around it.
One of Ruysbroeck's disciples, Gérard de Groote (1340-84), founded the
Order of the "Frères de la Vie Commune" (Brothers of the Common Life),
and the "Sustershuysen," which contributed so much to the revival of
religious studies and general education in the early days of the
fifteenth century. Like the Beggards, the Brothers did not strictly
constitute a religious order, they did not pronounce any binding vow
and retained their lay character. Refusing any gift or endowment from
outside, they had to provide for their own needs, but, while the
Beggards devoted most of their time to the weaving industry, the
Brothers gave themselves up to copying manuscripts, learning and
teaching. Under Florent Radewyn, one of de Groote's early disciples,
they acquired a very complete organization and founded numerous
schools, specially in Brussels (1422) and in Ghent (1432), their
influence spreading as far as Germany. Thierry Maertens, the first
well-known Belgian printer, was one of their pupils. This educational
and religious revival is closely connected with the foundation of the
University of Louvain in 1426. De Groote and his disciples were
frequently attacked, chiefly by the monks, who became jealous of their
success, but their strict orthodoxy and the unimpeachable character of
their life made their position unassailable. De Groote was equally well
known for his criticism of the abuses among the clergy, his
denunciation of the luxury displayed by the rich and the mystic
character of his preaching. He was equally severe against heretics, and
was called by his contemporaries "malleus hereticorum." Another of his
followers founded the celebrated monastery of Windesheim, where, half a
century later, the _Imitation of Christ_ was written.

While the Flemish writers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
wrote mostly for the bourgeoisie and the people and kept in close
contact with the religious aspirations of the time, the authors
belonging to the Walloon part of the country were nearly all attached
to some court and confined themselves to the production of chronicles
and mémoires destined for the aristocracy. Though extremely limited,
this genre was cultivated with great success by the Walloon writers and
is typical of the Belgian branch of the French letters of the period.
As early as the fourteenth century, Jean Le Bel of Liége had related
with extraordinary vividness his adventures at the court of Hainault
and the part played by his master, Jean de Beaumont, in the expedition
led by Edward III against the Scots. Le Bel writes in French, but as
far as his political views are concerned remains impervious to French
influence and chooses an English King, "le noble roi Edowart," for his
hero, while he has nothing but harsh words for Philip de Valois.


Jean Froissart, of Valenciennes, who continued the work of Le Bel and
served as a link between him and the Burgundian school of chroniclers,
had a much wider field of vision. Attached successively to Albert of
Bavaria, Queen Philippa of England and Wenceslas of Luxemburg, he had
many opportunities to study European affairs, and, as a Belgian, was
able to consider them from an independent and even a sceptical point of
view. Though generally considered as a French writer, he remains
independent of French influence. With Monstrelet, Chastellain, Jean
Molinet and Jean Lemaire de Belges, who wrote for the dukes of
Burgundy, this independent attitude is still further strengthened. All
these writers extolled the Burgundian régime and supported the duke's
policy, whether friendly or antagonistic to France. From a literary
point of view, they are greatly inferior to their predecessors and
often lapse into rhetorical eloquence. Their style, which appears to
be overloaded with flowery images, excited great admiration at the
time, especially in the case of Chastellain, who was hailed by his
contemporaries as a "supreme rhetorician."

       *       *       *       *       *

Music was not hampered, like literature, by the division of languages,
and might, under different circumstances, have given a more accurate
expression to the Belgian national spirit. Its style was, unhappily,
still so formal that national characteristics cannot immediately be
recognized in the works of Guillaume Dufay, of Chimay (1350-1432) and
Giles de Binche, Chapelmasters to Philip the Good, and those of the
Fleming Jean Ockeghem (dec. 1494-6) and of Josquin des Prés, of
Hainault (_c._ 1450-1521). These musicians, who enjoyed European
celebrity and exerted a widespread influence on the musical movement in
France and Italy, are well known to musical historians as having
largely contributed to the development of polyphonic music as opposed
to the monody of the Gregorian chant. They were thus pioneers in the
art of musical ornamentation, and their method may be associated with
the flowery images of Chastellain's style, the architectural luxury of
Burgundian Gothic and the display of colouring of the early Flemish
painters. In all branches of intellectual activity, Belgium enters
decidedly, from the beginning of the fifteenth century, into the
Renaissance period. But, unlike the Italian, the Belgian Renaissance
was at first only very slightly affected by the study of the classics.
It was more realistic in its aims than the mediæval period. It
revelled in the display of harmony, whether in sound, colour or form,
and abundance of tracery, but as far as the subject was concerned it
remained essentially and profoundly Christian.


Though the works of Belgian writers and artists of the period are very
remarkable, they are somewhat misleading if we want to form an accurate
idea of social life in the fifteenth century. Neither the _Libri
Teutonici_, published by Ruysbroeck's followers, nor the great
paintings of the brothers Van Eyck, Van der Weyden and Memling, suggest
for one moment the laxity of morals prevalent at the time and revealed
by the writers of the Chronicles. The number of illegitimate births was
extraordinarily high, the example being set by the dukes themselves,
Philip the Good alone being responsible for eighteen bastards and Jean
de Heinsberg, Bishop of Liége, for nearly as many. It must be pointed
out, however, that the illegitimate character of their birth did not
stand in the way of many prominent men of the time, such as the
Chancellor Rolin, the Dean of St. Donatian of Bruges, the great
financier Pierre Bladelin, the Bishop of Tournai and many high
officials. All these had, of course, received their letters of
legitimation. Numerous edicts made by the dukes were unable to check
gambling, prostitution and prodigality. The scant effect of the
regulations relating to the latter may be easily understood when we
read that, on the occasion of the marriage of Margaret of York to
Charles the Bold, Belgian artists and artisans were ordered to prepare
and to decorate a large wooden house which was subsequently transported
by water from Brussels to Bruges. In a tower 41 feet high attached to
this house, the noble company invited to the ceremony witnessed the
movements and heard the cries of a number of mechanical animals,
monkeys, wolves and boars, while a whale 60 feet long moved around the
hall together with elephants, amid thirty large trees, a fountain of
crystal and a pelican "spouting hippocras from his beak." The fact is
that the situation in the Netherlands, in the second half of the
fifteenth century, was very much the same as that in Florence at the
same time, the people being swayed between an exuberant enjoyment of
life and a severe asceticism. There are many points of contact between
Charles the Bold and Lorenzo the Magnificent, and no figure comes
closer to Savonarola than that of the Carthusian, Thomas Conecte, who
stirred public feeling to such a pitch that the people crowding to
listen to his fiery speeches, in market-places, threw into the braziers
burning before his platform all the instruments of their worldly
life--chessboards, cards, dice, skittles, silks and jewels.

Strangely enough, no religious order benefited more from the sympathy
and generosity of the people than the ascetic Carthusians. Philip the
Bold erected in Dijon the famous Chartreuse of Champmol; Philip the
Good and Margaret of York corresponded with the celebrated Carthusian
Denys de Ryckel, the "doctor extaticus," and the Chartreuse of Louvain
was endowed by rich bourgeois of the duke's entourage. Unless this
apparent contradiction is fully realized, it is impossible to
understand the spirit of an epoch which, though deeply absorbed by its
worldly life, produced works almost entirely devoted to Faith, and
in which luxurious garments and colours are only employed to enhance
the glory of God.

       *       *       *       *       *


Painting stands foremost among the achievements of the Burgundian
period. Here again the difference of language does not hamper the
genius of the nation. While in music the Walloon element dominates, the
Flemish dominates in Art; but it must be clearly stated that, in this
branch, as in all other branches of Burgundian civilization, the two
parts of the country are strongly represented, and that the title of
"Flemish School of Painting" is therefore misleading when referring to
Belgian painting of the fifteenth century.

The greatest name associated with the period is that of the brothers
Jan and Hubert Van Eyck, and the work which naturally comes to the
mind, when thinking of them, is the monumental altarpiece which they
painted for Jos. Vyt, lord of Pamele, to be placed in his chapel in the
Cathedral of St. John in Ghent. This work, generally known as the
"Mystic Lamb," is composed of ten smaller pictures, but the partitions
separating the various divisions of the wings and the wings from the
central piece scarcely detract from the majesty of the ensemble. The
composition is well known: Above, God the Father, as Christ, enthroned,
His hand raised in benediction, between St. John Baptist and the
Virgin, with angels on both sides singing and playing on various
instruments. On the extreme right and left of the upper panels,
excluded, so to speak, from the company of heaven, stand Adam and Eve,
in all the realistic weakness of their nakedness. Below, in the midst
of a flowery meadow, behind the fountain of life, surrounded by groups
of holy virgins, martyrs and saints, in the New Paradise, under the
walls of the New Jerusalem, stands the Lamb, directly under the figure
of Christ and the symbol of the Holy Ghost, the centre towards which
every line, every attitude in the picture converges. Towards the holy
spot walk, on the right, the pilgrims and the hermits, on the left, the
good judges and the soldiers of Christ. The symbolism of the picture
which enfolds the majestic plan of the redemption of man through
Christ's sacrifice, of the second creation through the Spirit, as
contrasted with the first creation through the flesh, is directly
inspired by the mystic writings of the time, while the harmony and
depth of colours, the gorgeous robes and jewels adorning the figures of
God, the Virgin and the angels, the pompous cavalcade of knights and
judges and the systematic grouping of the central scene, are an
adequate expression of the love of ceremony and solemn luxury which
characterized the Burgundian age. The whole picture appears as a sacred
pageant in which the saints, the angels and the blessed take the place
of nobles, ladies and clerics, as they were seen during the festivities
and processions arranged at the ducal court.

    Angels singing and playing.


Considered as a purely religious picture, this work, like almost all
the works of the school, stands in striking contrast to Italian
fourteenth-century painting, especially as illustrated by the frescoes
of Giotto. The latter are characterized by an extreme simplicity of
outline and by vivid narrative power. In Padua, for instance, Giotto
tells us the story of Christ as he saw it in his mystical vision,
without any concern for accessories or detail. He clings to essentials,
to the figures of Christ and his apostles, while scorning any
subordinate object, such as trees, architecture, costumes, etc., which
are only represented in a rude fashion when necessary to the story. It
is characteristic of Hubert Van Eyck's work (since, according to all
evidence, Hubert must be considered as the author of the general
outlines of the picture, which was finished by his brother Jan after
his death) that perhaps the least satisfactory figure of the Adoration
of the Lamb is the Deity, while our attention is immediately captured
by the group of angels surrounding Him, and still more by the
procession of worshippers at the bottom of the picture. To put it
briefly, whereas Giotto's art is at its best when dealing with the
_divine_ side of the Christian drama, Van Eyck's genius stands foremost
in the _human_ interpretation of the subject. His greatest creations
are not the figures of the worshipped but of the worshippers, and we
must seek for religious inspiration not so much in the direct vision of
the Divinity as in the expression of devotion reflected on the faces of
the adoring crowds.

    The Annunciation (exterior of the shutters).
    _Hubert and Jan van Eyck._

It is true that we may find the same insistence on landscape, costume
and the portraits of donors in the works of the Italian artists of the
Early Renaissance, who painted at the same time as Van Eyck, and that
the spirit of the period may, to a certain extent, account for it. But
it would be difficult to discover in the pictures of Masaccio, Fra
Filippo Lippi, Ghirlandajo, Botticelli and the other masters of the
Italian fifteenth century, with the sole exception of Fra Angelico,
the same depth of religious inspiration which pervades the works of the
Van Eycks and of their disciples. If the Gospel story still provides
most of the subjects of the Italian school, it is treated in a lighter
vein, and pagan inspiration, prompted by the study of classics, is more
and more conspicuous. Earthly loveliness is of greater importance than
Christian teaching.

The virgins of Van Eyck, the Pietà of Van der Weyden and the saints of
Memling occupy the intermediate position between the purely mediæval
attitude of Giotto and of the sculptors of the French cathedrals and
the worldly atmosphere of the Early Italian Renaissance. They preserve,
to a great extent, the religious atmosphere of the former, and devote
the same attention to technical skill and realistic representation as
the second. The combination of these two elements is the chief source
of originality of the Burgundian school of painters, and it is truly
characteristic of the period, which, though strongly attached to the
world and its pleasures, founded its greatest productions on the stern
lessons of deep devotion and of a society in which the Beggards and the
Brothers of the Common Life strove incessantly to bring religion closer
to the heart of the people.

The Adoration of the Lamb is not only the most complete expression of
the spirit of Belgium in the fifteenth century, it is also the first
great work produced by Belgian painters. Art critics have been at great
pains to explain the sudden appearance in history of such a highly
skilled and complete production. But a closer study of Belgian
civilization in the fourteenth century would show that it is merely
the outcome of previous efforts and the blossoming of a great
individual genius in an Art which had already found, in other
departments, very remarkable means of expression.


From the end of the twelfth century, Belgian Art, as shown by the works
of the goldsmiths, decorators, sculptors and miniaturists, had become
independent of German and French influence. A highly trained class of
artisans was formed, and, in the middle of the fourteenth century, was
organized into regular corporations. Goldsmiths and decorators devoted
their talent to the embellishment of churches and ecclesiastical
treasures, as well as to decoration of secular buildings such as Cloth
Halls or Town Halls and to the designing of banners for the guilds. We
still possess a great number of engraved tombstones which reveal an
extraordinary development of technique. Soon the figure of the deceased
was raised in high relief, and even, as in the tomb of the Count of
Artois in the cathedral of St. Denys, the work of Pepin of Huy, raised
on the shoulders of standing figures. From the second half of the
fourteenth century the most prominent sculptors ceased to be considered
as mere artisans. Hennequin of Liége was attached to the court of the
French king Charles V, while André Beauneveu (1364-90) remained in
Flanders as the sculptor of Louis de Mâle. The striking sculptures of
the pit of Moses, at Dijon, were executed by Claus Sluter of Zeeland.
These statues, which bear comparison with those of Ghiberti and
Donatello, Sluter's contemporaries, suffice to explain the sense of
form and of line in the draperies revealed by the early Flemish
masters. In the North, as in the South, sculpture developed earlier
than painting, and, just as Pisano precedes Giotto, Sluter precedes,
and to a certain extent explains, the brothers Van Eyck. The influence
of sculpture on painting is made evident from the fact that many
statues of the time were gilded and coloured, painters being frequently
called in to perform this part of the work. Besides, many sculptors
such as Beauneveu and Hennequin were equally skilled in the art of
painting. The result of these influences is shown in the _Book of
Hours_ of the Duke of Berry, the work of Pol de Limburg, and in the
pictures painted in Dijon for Philip the Bold by Melchior Broederlam.
The latter's Annunciation, Presentation in the Temple and Flight into
Egypt prepare the way for the Adoration of the Lamb, though far from
being equal to it. These pictures serve as a link between the Belgian
Art of the fifteenth and the fourteenth centuries. The difference to be
accounted for is certainly not larger than that separating, a century
before, the frescoes of Giotto from the works of Cimabue and his

    Illustration: "PLOURANT."
    Detail of the tomb of John the Fearless (Dijon Museum). Netherlandish
    School of the fifteenth century.


It would be impossible here to characterize the works of the various
masters who followed in the wake of the brothers Van Eyck. Of the two
brothers, hailing from Maeseyck, we know that Hubert settled in Ghent
(_c._ 1410) and Jan in Bruges in 1425. Roger de la Pasture, usually
known as Van der Weyden, the foremost representative of the Walloon
branch of the school, came from Tournai to Brussels in 1435. There were
other Walloons, such as Robert Campin and Jacques Daret of Tournai, but
the Flemish element, represented beside the brothers Van Eyck by the
Brabançon Pieter Christus, Justus van Ghent, Hughes Van der Goes (of
Ghent) and Thierry Bouts of Harlem, not to mention Memling (of
Mayence), was manifestly prevalent. The renown enjoyed by these artists
extended far beyond the limits of Belgium and France, and the influence
exerted by their works in Italy can easily be traced. Strangely enough,
while during the next century the Belgian painters were subjected so
strongly to Italian influence, they were hailed, at this period, as
pioneers by the Italians themselves. At home, the consideration which
the great painters enjoyed is shown by the interest displayed in their
work not only by the prince but also by his courtiers, among them
Chancellor Rolin, and by rich foreigners, such as the Portinari and the
Arnolfini established in Flanders. Philip the Good visited Jan Van Eyck
frequently, was godfather to his daughter, and employed him on several
occasions for secret missions. His position at the court of Burgundy
was equal to that occupied later by Rubens at the court of Albert and



The disaster of Nancy naturally provoked a strong reaction in the
Belgian provinces. We have seen that the large towns bore only with
great reluctance the centralized rule of Philip the Good, in spite of
the moderation and the diplomatic talents of this prince. In the latter
part of his reign, Charles the Bold had completely disregarded local
privileges and relentlessly crushed every attempt at rebellion. He
raised taxes for his foreign expeditions which weighed heavily on the
people. More and more absorbed by his struggle against Louis XI, he
neglected internal affairs, and the Belgians were loath to support an
expensive policy of foreign adventures which could only be detrimental
to their own interests. Mary of Burgundy was thus left alone, in 1477,
to confront, on one side the exigencies of the towns and States, and on
the other the intrigues of Louis XI. The latter had not only
confiscated the duke's French dominions, as soon as the news of his
death reached him, but he proposed, with the support of the disaffected
towns, to appropriate as well his Northern provinces. Fearing English
interference, he thought of striking a bargain with the King of England
and offered to conquer Brabant for him. Very wisely, Edward IV retorted
that the province would be too difficult to hold and that "a war with
the Netherlands would not be popular in England owing to the active
trade between the two countries." Left to his own devices, Louis
succeeded in persuading the Flemings that a marriage between Mary and
the dauphin would be the most profitable solution of the crisis. On the
refusal of the princess, who was already affianced to the Archduke
Maximilian of Austria, the French king dropped the mask of friendship
and invaded Hainault and Artois.


By that time, Mary had given full satisfaction to the particularist
demands by granting the "Great Privilege," which practically restored
all provincial and urban liberties and brought to nought the patient
work of centralization accomplished by the dukes. Under the threat of
foreign invasion, the people rallied around her to the cry of "Vive
Bourgogne!" and identified the cause of their national dynasty with
that of their own independence. Arras was obliged to open its gates to
the French armies, but Valenciennes and St. Omer made a desperate
resistance. It was, however, evident that, under the circumstances, the
Low Countries could not oppose the French advance without foreign help.
The States therefore agreed to the marriage of Mary with Maximilian of
Austria, who entered the country at the head of a small army.

This marriage proved fatal to the independence of the Low Countries, by
bringing them more and more under the sway of the Hapsburg dynasty. In
spite of their French possessions, the Burgundian princes had
maintained a national policy, or, to speak more accurately, had, with
the exception of Charles's last adventures, furthered their own
interests to the greater benefit of the Belgian provinces. As far as
foreign politics were concerned, they succeeded in remaining neutral
between the three Powers surrounding them and in interfering in
European affairs only when their possessions were directly threatened.
There was no conflict between the economic and political interests of
Belgium and those of the Burgundian dynasty. The dukes remained in the
country and the welfare of the country was the essential condition of
their own prosperity. Owing to the union of Maximilian with Mary of
Burgundy, this situation was entirely altered. From the end of the
fifteenth century to the time of the French Revolution, the Netherlands
were more and more sacrificed to the interests of their masters,
whether belonging to the Austrian or the Spanish branch of the
Hapsburgs. They lost the benefit of the presence of their national and
"natural" princes, who were absorbed in far more important affairs and
spent most of their life out of the country. They were administered by
regents or governors, who generally did not enjoy sufficient
independence and authority to pursue a Netherlandish policy. They
constituted a sort of outpost of the Power to which they were attached,
and were, in consequence, first exposed to the attacks of the enemies
of this Power. This is one of the main causes of the sixteenth-century
revolution and the subsequent partition of the country, and of the
decadence of the Southern provinces which became so evident during the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

For some time, however, the Hapsburg policy did not prevail, and it
even appeared, at certain moments, as if a national dynasty might be
restored. The Belgian States, and more especially the Belgian
aristocracy, succeeded in influencing the princes and their governors,
who, from time to time, reverted to a national policy. The story of the
fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries in Belgium is composed of the
struggle of the two opposing principles: the national Burgundian
policy, based on peace and neutrality in European conflicts, and the
Hapsburg policy, drawing the provinces in the wake of Hapsburg
ambitions and rivalries.

    Illustration: MARY OF BURGUNDY.
    From the mausoleum in the Church of Notre Dame, Bruges.


If Maximilian, after his victory at Guinegate, had limited his aims to
the defence of the country and managed to conclude an early peace with
Louis, the attitude of the people would no doubt have remained
friendly. But, before being Mary's husband and the successor of the
Burgundian dukes, he was an Austrian archduke, bound to pursue the
policy of his House against France, whether it was to the interest of
the Netherlands or not, and to oppose any local liberties which
hampered his action. It is in this light that the intricate conflicts
which arose between the archduke and the towns, more especially Ghent,
must be viewed. The latter town rose against him, and even went as far
as to re-enter into negotiations with France, far more to guard
municipal liberties than from any friendly feeling towards that
country. Mary died in 1482, leaving two children, Philip and Margaret,
who had been entrusted to the care of Ghent. On the archduke's refusal
to conclude peace, the Ghent deputies, reverting to the project of the
French marriage, negotiated at Arras a treaty with Louis XI, according
to which the young Princess Margaret was to marry the dauphin.
Maximilian succeeded in defeating the Ghent militias, and transferred
Philip from Ghent to Malines. But the Communes were not yet daunted. A
rising occurred in Bruges and the citizens took Maximilian prisoner,
obliging him, before restoring him to liberty, to abolish all the
monarchical reforms which he had introduced since the granting of the
Great Privilege. Bruges, however, was finally defeated, in 1490, and
Ghent, which had allied itself with Charles VIII of France, in 1492.
The next year peace was concluded at Senlis between Maximilian and
Charles, who was compelled to restore Artois and Franche Comté. This
date marks, for the time, the end of the stubborn fight waged by the
towns against the central authority of the monarch and the triumph of
the modern principle of the State against the mediæval principle of
local privilege.

    Illustration: MAXIMILIAN I. From a portrait by Ambrozio de Predis
    (Imperial Museum, Vienna).


With the accession of Maximilian to the Empire (1493) and of his son
Philip the Handsome, then sixteen years old, to the governance of
Belgium, we witness a return to the traditional Burgundian policy on
strictly national lines. The enthusiasm provoked by the change and the
professions of loyalty made to Belgium's "natural prince" show how deep
was the attachment for the Burgundian policy and how much Maximilian's
foreign origin had counted against him. The new prince, who had never
left his Belgian provinces and whose education had been entrusted to
Belgian tutors, became the symbol of national independence, and all the
restrictions which had been exacted from Mary of Burgundy and from
Maximilian were allowed to lapse in his favour. He was not asked to
ratify the Great Privilege nor the various promises made by
Maximilian. His "Joyous Entry of Brabant" was very much on the same
lines as those sworn previously by Philip the Good and Charles the
Bold. The prince's commissaries were restored to their offices and had
again the power to choose communal magistrates, thus removing them from
the direct influence of the corporations. The Ducal Council was
reappointed, and a special ordinance of 1495 provided for the
reconstitution of the prince's estates. The Parliament of Malines was
re-established under the name of "Grand Council." In fact, all the
ground lost by centralization since the death of Charles the Bold was
rapidly reconquered without any opposition, and the States General made
no difficulty in granting the taxes. Such an extraordinary
transformation can only be explained if we remember that almost all
foreigners had been excluded from the Council of the prince. Out of
fourteen councillors, two only were Germans and three of Burgundian
origin. Philip himself did not even know German and had become
estranged from his father. The readiness with which he accepted the
counsels of his Belgian advisers, the Princes of Croy and the Counts of
Berg and Lalaing, had gained for him the nickname of "Take-advice"

Needless to say his foreign policy was entirely directed towards peace.
In vain did Maximilian endeavour to lure him into his intrigues against
France. Philip established the most cordial relations with Charles
VIII. Henry VII of England, who had alienated Maximilian's sympathies
since his reconciliation with France (the archduke having even
encouraged the pretender Perkin Warbeck against him), and who had
retaliated by transferring the staple of English cloth from Antwerp to
Calais and by forbidding all trade with the Low Countries, was also
pacified by Philip after some negotiations. In 1496, the two sovereigns
signed the "Intercursus Magnus," which re-established commercial
relations between the two countries. It is characteristic of the
intimate economic connection between England and Belgium that they were
the first to sign the most liberal treaty of commerce of the time.

In 1498, after a new attempt by Maximilian to enlist his support
against Louis XII, Philip appealed to the States General, which
strongly supported his pacific attitude. By the treaty of Paris,
concluded in the same year, the Belgian prince went as far as
renouncing his rights on Burgundy in order to maintain friendly
relations and to keep the advantages granted by the treaty of Senlis.
Philip the Handsome, in so doing, went farther than the dukes
themselves: he deliberately sacrificed his dynastic interests to the
welfare of the Northern provinces.

    Illustration: PHILIP THE FAIR. JUANA OF CASTILE. Portraits by an
    unknown Flemish painter of the sixteenth century.


This uncompromising attitude with regard to Belgian interests was
unhappily not destined to be adhered to much longer by Philip. In 1495
he had been married to Juana of Castille, daughter of his father's
allies, Ferdinand and Isabella. Through a series of deaths in the
family, Juana became, in 1500, heiress to the throne of Spain. From
this moment Philip's line of conduct changed, and the interests of the
Low Countries were sacrificed to his dynastic ambitions. This brought
about a reconciliation with Maximilian, who had at last succeeded in
enlisting his son's support. On the death of Isabella, in 1504,
Philip took the title of King of Castille in order to forestall the
intrigues of his father-in-law, Ferdinand. With a view of securing the
support of England, which had been somewhat estranged owing to the new
policy followed by Philip, the latter concluded in 1506 a new treaty of
commerce, very unsatisfactory from the Belgian point of view, and which
was therefore called by the people the "Intercursus Malus." The new
King of Spain died the same year, in Burgos, having lost a great deal
of the popularity which he had so largely enjoyed during the first part
of his reign.

The crisis which followed was not so severe as that of 1477, but was
very similar to it. While protesting his friendship for the young
Prince Charles of Luxemburg, then only six years old, Louis XII won the
support of Erard de la Marck, Bishop of Liége, and endeavoured to
influence the towns in order to exclude Maximilian from the Regency.
Under the threat of French ambition, the States General, however, took
the same line as after the death of Charles the Bold and sent a
deputation to Germany. The Emperor chose his daughter, Margaret of
Austria, aunt of Charles, to govern the Low Countries. This princess
had not forgotten the affront she had suffered during her youth: when
first affianced to Charles VIII she had been abducted by the French and
subsequently restored to her father. Her hostility was, however,
directed far more against the Valois than against France. Widow of
Philibert of Savoy, she was the type of the great princess of the
Renaissance, and combined an intense interest in Art and Letters with
great diplomatic acumen. During the twenty-three years that she
governed Belgium, she remained a foreigner to the people. She did not
know either Flemish or German, and her culture as well as her
surroundings remained entirely French. Devoted to her nephew, her first
aim was to further his dynastic interests, but, being very independent
of her father, whose Austrian policy she succeeded in checking several
times, she was intelligent enough to realize that Charles's interests
were also, at the time, those of the Netherlands. Her rule therefore
struck a balance between the Hapsburg and the dynastic tendencies.
Living a secluded life in her palace of Malines, and taking no part in
the festivities so dear to the heart of the people, she governed the
Netherlands without sympathy, but with enough wisdom for her ability to
be recognized, on several occasions, both by the people and the

This was soon made apparent during the first year of her governance.
She had to contend with the suspicions of the Belgian nobles, headed by
Guillaume de Croy, Lord of Chièvres, whom Philip had appointed governor
on leaving the country. The people of Ghent again became restive,
while, owing to the intrigues of Louis XII, Robert de la Marck and the
Duke of Gelder caused serious trouble in Luxemburg and in the North.
The States General, on their side, clamoured for peace. While ordering
the tax to be levied for war, in spite of the opposition of the States,
Margaret managed to conclude with France the treaty of Cambrai. This
caused great satisfaction all over the country. Chièvres was recalled
to the court, where he acted as tutor to the prince. Again, in 1513,
Margaret, who had been one of the principal agents in the League
against France, which, besides the Emperor, included the Pope, the King
of Aragon and the King of England, succeeded in maintaining the
neutrality of the Low Countries, which, though benefiting from the
allies' victory at Guinegate and from the taking of Tournai, had not to
suffer from the military operations.

The opposition between Chièvres and the gouvernante was nevertheless
constant. It had been embittered by a project of marriage between
Charles and Princess Mary of England, which Margaret furthered for
dynastic reasons, and which Chièvres opposed for fear of alienating
France. The reconciliation which took place in 1514 between Louis XII
and Henry VIII, and the marriage which followed between the French king
and the English king's sister, Mary, were therefore a great
disappointment to Margaret. Chièvres followed his advantage by
estranging Maximilian from his daughter and by urging the States
General to demand the emancipation of Charles, which was finally
granted by the Emperor for a money consideration. Margaret, who had
been kept in ignorance of these intrigues, though deeply hurt in her
pride, could do nothing but accept the accomplished fact.

    [_OF CHARLES V_]

The accession of Charles, which took place on January 5, 1515, was a
triumph for Chièvres. The situation was exactly similar to that which
prevailed when Philip the Handsome came into power. The youth of the
prince, who, like his father, had received a Belgian education and was
ignorant of German and Spanish, his veneration for Chièvres and his
friendship for his Belgian counsellors, brought about a return to a
purely national policy, to the exclusion of any dynastic tendencies.
All foreigners were excluded from the Council, the confidants of
Margaret and Maximilian became suspect, and a rapprochement was brought
about with Francis I of France. A new commercial treaty was signed with
Henry VIII, favouring, at the same time, relations with England.

This policy was not altered when, in 1516, through the death of
Ferdinand and owing to the disability of Juana to succeed him, Charles
took the title of King of Spain. Instead of countering Francis I's
intrigues and his claims to the kingdom of Naples by military measures,
Charles, still bent on maintaining peace with France, negotiated the
treaty of Noyon, and succeeded in persuading Maximilian to agree to
this treaty, in spite of the opposition of England. A few months later,
the young king and his Belgian courtiers left for Spain (1517), Charles
having meanwhile consented to become a candidate for the Empire.

    Illustration: CHARLES V.
    From a contemporary engraving.

    Illustration: MARGARET OF AUSTRIA. From a picture by Van Orley

These events were bound to cause the same reaction towards a dynastic
policy which had been provoked by the accession of Philip the Handsome
to the throne of Spain. Once more Belgium lost her national prince and
her interests were sacrificed to foreign ambitions. But Charles was so
thoroughly Belgian in his sympathies and tastes that he succeeded,
nevertheless, in retaining the friendship of the Belgian nobles.
Spanish honours and titles were showered on Chièvres, Lalaing, Croy,
Nassau and others, to the great annoyance of the Spanish, who had
nothing but scorn for the boisterous manners of the Belgian nobility. A
reconciliation was brought about between Chièvres and Margaret, who,
after the death of Maximilian (1519), worked hard for the nomination of
Charles as emperor. His election was loudly celebrated in Brussels and
all over the country, for the people, delighted at the honour conferred
on their prince, did not realize that henceforth their country was
bound to be lost and neglected among Charles's huge possessions. It is
true that the suzerainty of the Empire was purely nominal, but the
bonds linking Belgium's destiny to Spain were far stronger, and the
country acquired gradually the situation described above: she became an
advance post, in the North, of the Spanish power, which was about the
worst position she could occupy on the map of Europe, being cut off
from Spain and isolated among her adversaries.


This, however, was not yet apparent, and the protestations of
friendship of the young emperor, who declared, in 1520, to the States
General, that his heart had always been "par deça" (in the
Netherlands), together with his military successes, which resulted in
the signature of the treaty of Madrid (1525), were considered as a
happy omen for the future. By this treaty, Francis I renounced all
sovereignty over Artois and Flanders and all rights over Tournai.

It seemed as if, in his sympathy for his Belgian provinces, the emperor
had been more clear-sighted than his subjects, for we know that he
entertained, in 1527, the idea of forming the Low Countries into a
separate kingdom. If this project had been realized, Belgian
independence might have been maintained. But the very prosperity of the
Low Countries made such realization impossible. In urgent need of
money for his military expeditions, the emperor could not deliberately
sacrifice his principal source of revenue--the taxes provided by the
States General and the loans raised in Antwerp.

Since 1522, Margaret had again taken up the governorship, this time in
full accord with the Belgian nobility. From that date till the end of
the eighteenth century, with the sole exception of the short reign of
Albert and Isabella, Belgium was administered, not by its natural
princes, but by governors, most of them without power or initiative and
obeying orders received from headquarters. Charles spent only ten years
in the country until his abdication in 1555. Philip II made only a
short appearance, and until Joseph II none of the rulers who had the
responsibility of the government took enough interest in the welfare of
their Belgian subjects to visit the provinces.

Margaret, however, preserved a great deal of independence, and
succeeded in curbing the will of her nephew in the greater interests of
the Netherlands, as she had curbed the will of her father. When, in
1528, war broke out again between the emperor and an Anglo-French
coalition, she succeeded in maintaining the trade with England. In the
same way she constantly opposed Charles's project to help his relative,
Christian II of Denmark, to reconquer his throne, since such a policy
would have ruined Belgian trade with Denmark and the Hanseatic towns.
Finally, in 1529, she succeeded in negotiating the peace of Cambrai,
whose clauses bear the mark of a truly national policy. Charles
renounced all pretensions to Burgundy, while Francis gave up all
claims on the Netherlands and recognized Charles's sovereignty over
Artois, Flanders, Cambrai and Tournaisis. By inducing the two rivals to
recognize the established position and to renounce ancient dynastic
claims on each other's domains, Margaret hoped to ensure a long peace
for the greater benefit of the Netherlands. The final renunciation of
France of her rights over her old fiefs was bound also to consolidate
Belgian unity, the link binding the provinces to the Empire being
purely nominal. Thus, after a struggle of seven hundred years, the
Western Netherlands were finally detached from France. In order to
celebrate the event, Lancelot Blondeel designed the monumental
mantelpiece in carved wood which may still be admired, in the Palace of
Justice of Bruges, and where the victorious emperor is represented
having, on one side, Ferdinand and Isabella, and on the other,
Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy, his maternal and paternal ancestors.


Margaret of Austria died in 1530, at her palace of Malines, "without
any regret save for the privation of her nephew's presence." In her
last letter to Charles, she claims that under her rule the Low
Countries were considerably enlarged, and she expresses a wish to
obtain for her work divine reward, the commendation of her sovereign
and the good will of his subjects. She utters a last recommendation
which shows how far the Burgundian tradition had been preserved by the
Belgian people. She urges Charles not to abolish the name of Burgundy,
and to leave the title to his successor in the Low Countries.



From the death of Margaret, the emperor's policy became entirely
independent. Though absorbed by the affairs of the Empire, distant
military expeditions and a recurrent war with France, he managed to
devote a great deal of attention to the Netherlands, and during the
last years of his reign, from 1544 to 1555, scarcely left the country.
The Netherlands were far more important to the ruler of Germany, Spain
and half of the New World than their actual size might suggest. Not
only did they provide one of the main sources of his revenue, but their
central position allowed him to reach comparatively easily the various
parts of his Empire where his presence might become necessary. The
scattered possessions of Charles V cannot very well be compared with
the homogeneous domains of Charlemagne, which stretched all across
Western Europe, but we may nevertheless notice that, in both Empires,
the Netherlands were allowed to play a part disproportionate to their
size and population. Though France remained in the hands of his rival,
the great emperor of the Renaissance, just as the great emperor of the
Middle Ages, was obliged to divide his attention between East and West,
and Brussels was allowed to play a part similar to that of
Aix-la-Chapelle. It is significant that, at the time of Charles V's
abdication, this town was selected, in preference to Madrid or Vienna,
as the stage for the ceremony.

The second part of the reign of Charles V is characterized by the
completion of the work of the Burgundian dukes, the seventeen provinces
being finally brought under one rule. At the same time, the last local
resistance was mercilessly crushed and political centralization
completely established.


Mary of Hungary, Charles V's sister, who was chosen by him to succeed
Margaret of Austria, did not enjoy the independence of her predecessor.
She confined herself to executing faithfully the instructions she
received, even at the cost of her popularity. The emperor installed her
at Brussels in 1531. He had been previously absolved by the pope from
his oath at the time of the Joyous Entry of Brabant, and proceeded to
strengthen the Central Government by the creation of three collateral
Councils and the proclamation of a Perpetual Edict giving a common
constitution to all the provinces of the Netherlands. After his
departure, Mary was at once confronted with military difficulties.
Christian II, no longer restrained by Margaret, had concentrated troops
in Holland in order to attack Frederick of Holstein. His violation of
the neutrality of the Netherlands caused reprisals against the Dutch
merchant fleet, but Antwerp and Brussels refused to wage war in its
defence. Thanks to the death of Holstein, Mary succeeded in negotiating
a satisfactory treaty with Denmark at Ghent (1533). The resistance of
the States General and the towns to the warlike policy of Charles
caused further trouble when, in 1536, hostilities between the two
rivals were resumed. In vain did Mary endeavour to obtain the
neutralization of the Low Countries, in vain did she offer her
resignation. In spite of serious reverses, the emperor maintained his
attitude, while the States General declared "that they were not rich
enough to help him to conquer France and Italy." Their resistance was
only overborne when, in 1537, the French armies invaded the Low
Countries. Under this threat, they voted the taxes and organized
resistance. The French king, disappointed in his hopes, signed the
truce of Nice, 1538.

The revolt of Ghent, which broke out the next year, must be considered
as the last attempt made by the towns to save their old privileges. For
the last time, a Commune raised its head to challenge central power. In
spite of the peace of Cadzand, Ghent had succeeded in preserving a
privileged situation in the State, and many popular leaders had
witnessed with dismay the progress made in 1531 by centralizing
tendencies. Beside the defence of local liberties, the aim of the
revolutionaries was to restore the situation of the old corporations,
which was directly threatened by the economic transformation of the
modern régime. Under the new conditions, the "masters" had succeeded in
enriching themselves, but the "companions" and prentices had lost all
the advantages of the old corporation system. Riots caused by unstable
labour conditions had already taken place in Bois-le-Duc (1525) and
Brussels (1532). In Ghent, however, the movement acquired more
threatening proportions, the magistrates being overwhelmed by the crowd
and the workmen seizing the direction of affairs. Charles, who had
obtained from Francis I permission to cross France with an army,
condemned to torture most of the leaders of the movement, suppressed
all the town's privileges by the "Caroline concession" (1540), and even
ordered that the well-known bell "Roland" should be unhung. This last
punishment remained in the memory of the people as a symbol of the
deepest humiliation which might be inflicted on any town.


As soon as Charles departed for his expedition to Algiers, the
Netherlands were again exposed to the attacks of his enemies, including
Francis I, the King of Denmark and the Duke of Cleves, who had
inherited the county of Gelder. This time Mary was strongly supported
by the States General, and succeeded in facing the attacks on both
sides pending the return of the emperor (1543). The latter took the
opportunity given him by a prompt victory to settle once for all the
Gelder question by the treaty of Venloo. The Duke of Cleves was obliged
to renounce all rights over Gelder and Zutphen, which became integral
parts of the Netherlands. This was the last act of the work of
territorial unification pursued by the dukes of Burgundy. At the same
time, in order to protect the Low Countries from French attacks,
Charles V fortified the three towns of Marienbourg, Charlemont and
Philippeville, called after Mary of Hungary, Charles himself and his
son Philip.

Thus, at last, the Low Countries reaped some advantage from the
constant expenses which they had to sustain owing to incessant European
wars. They were no longer able to pursue an independent policy, and, if
the States preserved a certain liberty, it was mainly because they
could be induced to vote war-taxes, these being, so to speak, the
ransom which the so-called "free" Netherlands paid to their ruler.
During Charles's youth, almost all the revenues of the State had been
drawn from the prince's domain, but towards the end of his reign the
levies extorted from the people became more and more heavy and
frequent. The annual budget rose from one million pounds in 1541 to two
and a half millions in 1542 and six and a half millions in 1555. To
these annual contributions we must add the numerous loans raised by the
Government on the security of the provinces. The interest on these
loans weighed heavily on the budget. It was £141,300 in 1552, £424,765
in 1555, and rose to £1,357,287 in 1556. As a matter of fact, the
States General could grant taxes but not control expenditure, so that
most of the money raised in the Netherlands was spent on foreign
expeditions from which the country could reap no benefit. Up to 1552,
when gold from Mexico and Peru arrived in Spain, the Low Countries
remained the main source of the income of the emperor.

With the annexation of Tournaisis, Friesland, Utrecht, Gelder and
Zutphen and the protectorate over the prince-bishopric of Liége, which,
under Erard de la Marck (1506-38), had finally accepted Hapsburgian
control, the unification of the Low Countries was completed. It still
remained to give the country its definite status. Thanks to the
treaties of Madrid and Cambrai, all connection with France had been
severed, but the Reichstag endeavoured, on several occasions, to revive
the nominal rights of the Empire on the Low Countries and to compel
the provinces to pay the imperial tax. The emperor, foreseeing that his
son might not succeed him in Germany, was not at all keen to encourage
such claims. On the contrary, he exempted, by his own free will, the
Low Countries from the imperial tax, and he endeavoured to make it a
sovereign country attached to Spain, which should remain, with it, the
heritage of the Hapsburg family. We are far from the time when he
entertained the suggestion of creating a separate kingdom in the Low
Countries, under the inspiration of his Burgundian advisers, and though
this suggestion recurred in 1539 and 1544, connected with the project
of the marriage of the emperor's daughter with the French prince, the
sincerity of the emperor's proposals, at that time, may certainly be


The victory of Muhlberg (1547) provided Charles with an excellent
opportunity to settle definitely the situation of the Netherlands
towards the Empire. Cowed into submission, the Reichstag readily
admitted the Transaction of Augsburg (1548), by which the Netherlands
became the "circle of Burgundy," under the protection of the Empire,
and whose sovereign was represented on the Reichstag. The circle
undertook to pay a small subsidy, but was entirely independent of
imperial jurisdiction and imperial laws. In fact, it constituted an
independent sovereign State, which benefited from the Empire's military
protection without any obligation on its side, since the emperor had no
means to enforce the payment of the tax in case it should be refused.

The Augsburg Transaction was completed in 1549 by the Pragmatic
Sanction, which unified the successorial rights of all the provinces.
This new edict marked a new stage in the work of centralization by
securing the inheritance of all the provinces to the same prince. Thus,
of the two essential characteristics of modern States, unity and
independence, the first was practically achieved; the second, however,
was not yet within sight. It is characteristic of the status of
Belgium, as established by Charles V, that this period of consolidation
marks the final break up of the Burgundian tradition. The principle of
nationality, which had asserted itself so clearly under Philip the
Handsome and at the beginning of the reign of Charles V, was finally
defeated, and, for two centuries and a half, the dynastic principle of
the Hapsburgs was destined to dominate the fate of the country.

In the same year that the Pragmatic Sanction was signed, Prince Philip
visited the Netherlands. The appearance of the young prince and his
education were in complete contrast to those of his father and
grandfather. His name only was Burgundian. He did not know a word of
Flemish and only spoke French with great difficulty. All his manners,
all his views, were those of a Spanish aristocrat, and it did not take
long for the Belgian nobles and notables who were brought into contact
with him to realize that their future ruler would always remain a
foreigner in the country.

The failure of Philip to secure the title of King of the Romans
strengthened still more the links which bound Belgium to Spain. His
marriage with Queen Mary of England might have re-established a
healthier balance between South and North, to the greater benefit of
the Low Countries, but this union was only an episode in Philip's life,
and he was perhaps more foreign to England than he was to Belgium,
since he did not benefit in the former country from any sentimental
attachment to his family.


On October 25, 1555, the emperor, who suffered from ill-health and
desired to spend his last years in retreat, called together the States
General in Brussels and solemnly abdicated his power in favour of his
son. He recalled in his speech the ceremony of his accession, which had
taken place forty years before in the same hall, and, after surveying
rapidly the wars and struggles of his reign and the perils to which he
had been exposed, he recommended his son to the affection of his
subjects, exhorting them to remain united, to uphold justice and to
fight heresy. At the end of his speech, he asked forgiveness for the
wrongs he had committed and was unable to control his feelings. "If I
weep, gentlemen," he concluded, "do not think that it is because I
regret the sovereign power which I abandon; it is because I am
compelled to leave the country of my birth and to part from such
vassals as I had here." His emotion was shared by the Belgian
representatives, who realized that, whatever harm the great emperor had
inflicted upon his favourite provinces, Belgium had nevertheless found
in him, on several occasions, some sympathy and understanding. Parting
from him, they may have foreseen that they were parting from their last
natural and national prince. This feeling was only increased when
Charles, turning towards his son, addressed him in Spanish, and when
the latter, in his answer to the address of the States General,
excused himself for not being able to speak to them in French.

The Burgundian dukes had endeavoured to convert Belgium into a modern
centralized State, with common institutions, a permanent army, a loyal
nobility and docile States General. This part of their work was crowned
with success, and it is significant that the word "patrie" comes to be
used by Belgian writers towards the middle of the sixteenth century.
But the dukes had also pursued an independent policy, free from any
foreign influence and inspired by the country's interests, since the
country's prosperity was a condition of their own welfare and of the
stability of their dynasty. This part of their work had been
progressively destroyed. Belgium was hereafter ruled neither from
Bruges nor from Brussels, but from distant capitals and by ministers
and councillors entirely unacquainted with and indifferent to its
economic interests and social aspirations.



The economic and social development, accompanying the political
transformation which we have just witnessed, was entirely dominated by
the amazing prosperity of the city of Antwerp. The latter became,
during the first part of the sixteenth century, the first market and
the first banking centre in the world. For trade, limited during the
two former centuries to Europe, now extended to the New World, and the
Atlantic route hereafter played a more and more important part. The
same causes which brought about the decadence of Venice were the direct
causes of the growth of Antwerp. It is true that Bruges occupied a
similar position on the map, and from being a purely European market
might have become a world-metropolis. We have seen that the silting up
of the Zwyn did not account alone for the rapid decadence of the
Flemish city, and that the conservatism of the Guilds and Corporations,
their attachment to their old privileges and their disregard of modern
tendencies, were the main reasons of its downfall. In 1513, Damme and
Sluis were partly in ruins, and in the middle of the century, whole
quarters of Bruges were emptied of their inhabitants, while over seven
thousand destitute depended on charity. Unhampered by mediæval
traditions and enjoying the advantages of a deeper and more accessible
harbour, Antwerp was bound to secure the heritage of its former rival
and to add to it the prosperity derived from the opening of new markets
and the rapid widening of the circle of trade activity during the

As opposed to Bruges, Antwerp characterizes modern capitalist
tendencies resting on the freedom of trade and on individual
initiative. The advantages enjoyed by foreigners in the new metropolis
drew gradually towards it the powerful companies of Spanish, English
and German merchants, whose presence was so essential in a market where
most of the imported goods were re-exported to distant countries. The
Florentine Guicciardini, who resided in the Low Countries from 1542 to
1589, describes Antwerp as "an excellent and famous city," where
30,000,000 florins' worth of merchandise arrives every year, and in
whose Exchange transactions of 40,000,000 ducats take place. Out of its
100,000 inhabitants, 10,000 to 15,000 were foreigners. There were
13,500 "beautiful, agreeable and spacious" houses, and the rents varied
from 200 to 500 écus yearly. The inhabitants "are well and gaily
clothed; their houses are well kept, well ordered and furnished with
all sorts of household objects. The air of the country is thick and
damp, but it is healthy and encourages the appetite and the fecundity
of the people." He insists, in his description, on the abundant life
led by the rich bourgeois of the great city.

The decadence of the cloth industry, caused by the development of
English weaving, did not greatly affect the prosperity of Antwerp,
since it benefited from the import of English cloth, which arrived at
its docks in a rough state and was dyed and prepared by local artisans.
Besides, urban industry in Flanders and Brabant had to a great extent
been replaced by rural industry. Employers found in the country
districts the cheap labour that was needed, owing to foreign
competition, and, for a hundred workers who lost their employment in
the towns, thousands of weavers were only too ready to work up the raw
material provided for them by the merchants. The linen industry, which
more and more took the lead, recruited its labour in the same way, not
only in Flanders but also in Brabant, Holland and Hainault. The flax of
the country provided excellent raw material, notably in the region of
the Lys, whose water was specially suitable for retting. In 1530,
England bought from Flanders 100,000 marks' worth of linen in the
course of the year. It was soon found necessary to import flax from


The development of tapestry contributed also to fill up the gap caused
by the decadence of clothmaking. From Arras, where it had flourished
since the eleventh century, it extended, in the fifteenth century, to
the regions of Alost, Oudenarde, Enghien, Tournai and Brussels, and, in
the sixteenth, to those of Binche, Ath, Lille, Louvain and Ghent. The
Low Countries were especially suited to this branch of industry, owing
to the perfection of dyeing methods and to the great number of painters
and draughtsmen able to provide the workers with beautiful designs.
Here, again, most of the artisans were villagers, in spite of the
resistance of the old corporations. Around Oudenarde, in 1539, about
fourteen thousand men, women and children were engaged in this work.

Even the region of the Meuse was affected. It possessed mineral
resources besides great hydraulic power in its rapid streams. At the
beginning of the reign of Charles V, a great number of forges and blast
furnaces heated with wood were installed in Namurois. According to
Guicciardini "there was a constant hammering, forging, smelting and
tempering in so many furnaces, among so many flames, sparks and so much
smoke, that it seemed as if one were in the glowing forges of Vulcan."
Such a description must not be taken too literally, and the beginnings
of the metal industry in the Southern provinces were very modest
indeed, compared with present conditions. But, even then, a sharp
distinction was drawn between the employers, usually some rich
bourgeois of the town, who had the means to set up these embryo
factories, and the rural population employed to work them. While these
new conditions were developing, the corporations of Dinant, which had
for a long time monopolized the copper industry, were fast
disappearing, partly owing to the difficulty of obtaining the raw
material from the mines of Moresnet, but chiefly owing to the
protectionist spirit of the Guilds, which would not adapt themselves to
modern needs. At the same period, the coal industry was growing in
importance in the Liége district, the use of coal being extended from
domestic consumption to the metal industry. By the end of the sixteenth
century, all the superficial seams which could be worked by means of
inclined planes were practically exhausted, and it was found necessary
to resort to blasting and to sink pits, in order to reach the lower
strata. The bourgeois of Liége furnished the necessary funds for this
innovation, which they were the first in Europe to undertake, so that
the new industry soon acquired the same capitalistic character which we
have noticed in the metal industry, tapestry and textiles.


Though the condition of the peasantry was very prosperous and
agricultural methods had improved, the increase of large properties,
due to the investment in land of the money acquired by trade and
industry, favoured the development of a large class of agricultural
labourers, whose situation contrasted unfavourably with that of the
large tenant and the smaller farmer.

In every branch of economic activity, modern methods rapidly supplanted
mediæval conditions. From the general point of view of the country's
prosperity, the change was beneficial and the princes showed wisdom in
supporting it. A return to the narrow regulations and guild monopolies
of the fourteenth century would have proved as fatal, in the fifteenth,
as a return to the feudal system in the thirteenth. The princes
supported the rich merchants and employers in the Renaissance, as they
supported the Communes in the twelfth century. The corporation system,
which had proved a boon at that time, had become an obstacle to free
activity and initiative and had therefore to be sacrificed. But, at the
same time, the formation of a large class of unorganized rural workers,
who had no means of defending themselves against the ruthless
exploitation of their employers, was bound to prove a cause of social
unrest. It was among these uneducated masses that the Anabaptists
recruited most of their followers, and the industrial population around
Hondschoote and Armentières provided the first bands of iconoclasts
whose excesses contributed so much to confuse the issue of the
revolution against Spain. Modern monarchy, which had upheld the new
order of things, became the scapegoat of the discontented, and the
suffering and exasperated people were no longer able to distinguish
between the evil brought about by unrestrained capitalism and the good
resulting from the organization of a strongly centralized State.

       *       *       *       *       *


Antwerp was not only the centre of economic activity for the Low
Countries, it became, as early as 1518, the cradle of Lutheranism. It
is needless to recall here how the doctrines of Martin Luther, born in
the German Empire, had gradually spread through Northern Europe, and
how his criticism of the morals of the clergy had originated a
criticism of the dogmas of the Roman Catholic religion. Hitherto
similar movements, such as those started in the Low Countries by Gérard
de Brogne and the Beggards during the Middle Ages, and, during the last
century, by Gérard de Groote, the founder of the Brothers of the Common
Life, had confined themselves to fighting the excesses of the Church,
remaining throughout orthodox, as far as the dogmas were concerned. Now
the principle of free individualism was transplanted from the economic
to the religious domain, and capitalistic initiative and freedom of
trade found corresponding expression in free interpretation of the
Bible. The movement had been prepared and, to a certain extent,
favoured by the educative action of the Brothers of the Common Life,
who, though remaining strictly faithful to the Church, had nevertheless
substituted, in their schools, lay for clerical teaching. It is
interesting to remark that both Humanism, as represented by its
greatest master, Erasmus, and the art of printing, represented by
Thierry Maertens and Jean Veldener, who were its originators at Alost
and Louvain, were closely connected with the educational movement
promoted by the Brothers. Erasmus had first studied at Deventer. The
extraordinary success of his _Adagia_, published in 1500, and of his
early works, influenced by Thomas More (with whom he had been brought
into contact during his stay in England as a protégé of Lord Mountjoy),
seems certainly strange in view of the unbending attitude taken by
Charles V towards Lutheranism. But Humanism had become the fashion in
high aristocratic and ecclesiastical circles, and neither the young
emperor nor his gouvernante, Mary of Hungary, disguised their interest
in the movement. It is true that Erasmus endeavoured to reconcile
Christian dogmas with the new philosophy inspired by the Classics, but
his attacks against asceticism, the celibacy of the priests and the
superstition and ignorance of the monks would certainly not have been
tolerated if they had influenced social life at large. The situation,
at the beginning of the fifteenth century, among intellectuals and
aristocrats was very much the same as that which prevailed at the
courts of France, Prussia and Russia at the end of the eighteenth
century. Princes and nobles extended to Voltaire similar favours, and
for the same reasons. As long as their situation in the State was not
threatened, they encouraged doctrines and intellectual pursuits which,
besides providing them with fresh interests and distractions, justified
to a certain extent the laxity of their morals. But, whatever their
personal convictions might have been, their attitude had to change
entirely as soon as the doctrine was adopted by the common people and
when the privileges of Church and State, so closely bound together,
began to be questioned by the masses. That Charles V's policy was not
prompted only by his affection for the Church is shown by the fact
that, a few years before, he had subjected the pope's Bull to his
"placet," taken measures to restrict mortmain (which exempted Church
property from taxation), and had obtained the right to designate


It must be acknowledged that, as the new doctrines spread from the
aristocracy to the people, they assumed a more extreme character. The
first step in this direction was taken by Lutheranism, whose attacks
against dogmas were far more precise and categoric than those of the
Humanists. In the Low Countries, however, Lutheranism, at the beginning
of the sixteenth century, was still tolerant. It mainly affected a few
nobles and a number of rich bourgeois. Church and State, according to
them, were separate entities, and one could remain perfectly loyal to
the prince while denying the authority of the pope. They professed, in
other words, the principle of liberty of conscience, and, while
preserving the right to separate themselves from the dominant Church,
they did not make any attempt to enforce their theories on any
unwilling converts. The first "placard" issued against them by the
emperor was extremely severe in terms, since it condemned all heretics
to death, but was very lightly applied. The men were to perish by the
sword, the women to be buried alive and recanters to be burnt. But the
Belgian bishops were unwilling to denounce the Lutherans and to deliver
them to the secular arm. Influenced by his Spanish advisers, some of
whom had initiated the Spanish Inquisition, Charles, in 1523,
transferred the right of prosecution from the bishops to three special
inquisitors enjoying full powers. The first executions were too rare to
impress the public mind in an age when such spectacles were so frequent
for other reasons, and the "placards," which had received the sanction
of the States General, did not provoke much opposition. A new stage was
reached in 1530 by the appearance of Anabaptism, which had spread from
Münster into Holland and Gelder. Melchior Hoffmann, the leader of this
movement, claimed to found the kingdom of heaven by the sword. He
incensed the poor people by inflammatory speeches in which he invited
them to install the new régime of brotherhood on the ruins of the old
world. Their triumph would be the "day of vengeance." His success among
the sailors and the agricultural labourers of the North, who endured
great sufferings under the new economic conditions and owing to the war
with Denmark, was very rapid, and ought to have been a warning to the
governing classes. The Anabaptists did not make any distinction
between Church and State, like the Lutherans, neither did they
entertain the idea of freedom of conscience. They were as extremist in
their views as the Spanish inquisitors. They intended to enforce their
social and mystic doctrines on a reluctant population and appealed to
open revolution. In fighting them, the Government was backed by the
immense majority of the population, and, after the fall of Münster,
this danger was for the time averted.


A few years later, however, Calvinism, spread by Swiss and French
disguised predicants, began to make considerable progress among the
rural population of the Western and Northern provinces. The Calvinists,
like the Anabaptists, did not believe in freedom of conscience. They
opposed the fanaticism of the Spanish inquisition with the fanaticism
of the Reformers and opened the fight without any idea of conciliation.
They distributed satiric pamphlets, secretly printed, in which the
Church and the court were grossly caricatured, and their loathing for
the worship of the Virgin and the Saints degenerated into blasphemy and
sacrilege. They found very little favour among the educated classes,
but made a number of converts among the discontented proletarians, who
led a very miserable life in the neighbourhood of the most important
industrial centres. To counteract this propaganda, Charles issued a new
"placard," in 1550, which forbade the printing, selling or buying of
reformist pamphlets, together with any public or private discussion on
religious matters. Even to ask forgiveness for a heretic or to abstain
from denouncing him was considered as a crime punishable by death and
confiscation of property. Half of the fortune of the condemned went to
the denunciator, the other half to the State. Only in one quarter, in
the nominally independent bishopric of Liége, where Erard de la Marck
issued similar decrees, was the repression successful. Everywhere else,
the number of new proselytes increased with that of the executions, and
when the emperor abdicated, it seemed evident that a war of religion
could not be averted. This war was destined to break up Belgian unity,
which had only just been entirely achieved. This might have been
averted if Belgium had been allowed to cope with the Reformation crisis
in all independence, according to the social conditions of the time,
like other European States. A truly national prince and Government
would, no doubt, have succeeded in keeping the country together, but
Belgium no longer enjoyed the advantage of being ruled by national
princes. Hapsburgian dynastic principles had conquered Burgundian
traditions. Orders no longer emanated from Brussels but from Madrid, so
that to the obstacles created by religious differences and class hatred
was added the bitter conflict between patriots and foreign rulers.



Through a most unhappy coincidence, the prince on whose shoulders the
fate of the country was to rest during the critical times to come was
the first, since the beginning of unification, to be entirely unpopular
in the Low Countries. Even Maximilian, who could not adapt himself to
Belgian manners, found some moral support in the presence of his wife,
and, later on, of his son and heir. But no link of sympathy and
understanding could exist between the haughty and taciturn Spaniard and
his genial subjects, between the bigoted incarnation of autocracy and
the liberty-loving population of the Netherlands, so that even the
personal element contributed to render the task of government more

Philip's first visit, in 1549, had hardly been a success. His second
stay in the country did not improve the impression he had produced on
those who had approached him. In 1557 Henry II of France had resumed
hostilities. The campaign which followed was signalled by the brilliant
operations of the Count of Egmont, who, first before St. Quentin and
the next year at Gravelines, inflicted severe reverses on the enemy.
But, in spite of the satisfactory treaties of Cateau-Cambraisis and the
marriage of Philip with the French Princess Elisabeth, which was a good
omen for peace, the people of the Netherlands remained discontented.
They had again been called upon to pay the cost of a war which did not
concern them directly, and they were deeply incensed by the continued
presence of Spanish troops, who, irregularly paid, committed incessant
excesses. Several Belgian deputies vented their grievances rather
freely, urging the king to deliver them from these "destructive
brigands." Philip, hurt in his pride, left the Low Countries for Spain,
on August 25, 1559, without any intention of ever returning.


He had left behind him as gouvernante Marguerite of Parma, a natural
daughter of Charles, who lacked neither education nor intelligence, but
whose initiative was paralysed by the detailed secret instructions she
had received. She had been told not to make any important decision
without the advice of a secret council called the "Consulta," formed by
three courtiers who were merely creatures of the king: Granvelle,
Bishop of Arras, the jurist Viglius d'Ayetta and Charles de Berlaymont.
It was, however, impossible to keep such an institution secret, and the
Council of State, whose functions were unconstitutionally superseded by
the action of the Consulta, naturally resented such interference. Among
the most prominent members of the opposition were William of Nassau,
Prince of Orange, governor of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht; Lamoral,
Count of Egmont, governor of Flanders and Artois; and Philippe de
Montmorency, Count of Horn, grand admiral of the Flemish seas. These
three nobles were moderate Catholics, the two first being strongly
influenced by the tolerant spirit of Humanism, especially Orange, who,
though brought up as a Catholic, had had a Lutheran father.

The clergy had been also aggravated by Philip owing to the creation, in
1559, of fourteen new dioceses, added to the four ancient bishoprics of
Arras, Cambrai, Tournai and Utrecht. Such a reform had already been
contemplated by Philip the Good, and it would have caused no opposition
if the bishops had been nominated by the pope, as in mediæval times.
But, owing to Charles V's religious policy, they were now selected by
the king, and his choice, which included several inquisitors, was much
criticized by the Belgian clergy and the abbots. The promotion of the
parvenu Granvelle to the supreme dignity of Archbishop of Malines, in
1561, added still more to the discontent.

The same year, ceding to the entreaties of Marguerite, Philip consented
to withdraw the Spanish troops. This measure gave satisfaction to the
people, but did not placate the grievances of the nobles and of the
clergy. At the instigation of William of Orange, the States of Brabant
openly supported the Council of State in its opposition to Granvelle
and the Consulta. This was brought to a climax by the refusal of
Orange, Egmont and Horn to sit on the Council as long as Granvelle
remained in the country. Again, Marguerite supported the attitude of
her Council and, reluctantly, Philip resigned himself to recall his
minister (1564).


These first incidents were insignificant compared with the crisis
confronting the Government owing to the rigorous application of Charles
V's "placards." Philip had issued no new edicts, deeming, no doubt,
that his father's were sufficiently comprehensive, but these were to be
rigorously enforced. In his farewell message to the States General, he
had declared that "a change of religion cannot occur without at the
same time changing the republic," and it was a subject on which he was
not prepared to compromise. The increasing number of Protestants, owing
to the continued Calvinistic propaganda, rendered the placards more and
more odious and their application almost impossible. Marguerite herself
declared that "continual executions strained public opinion more than
the country could stand." In 1565 the Council of State deputed Egmont
to go to Spain in order to entreat Philip to moderate his instructions,
but, in spite of the courteous reception given to him, the journey of
the count remained without result. The horror inspired by the
Inquisition to Catholics and Protestants alike increased every day, and
the constant emigration of intellectuals and skilled workers to England
caused considerable uneasiness.

Queen Elizabeth was ready to welcome Belgian Calvinists. She assigned
the town of Norwich as the principal centre for their settlement. Quite
apart from her sympathy for the followers of the Reform, she realized
that the introduction of the refugees' various industries into
England--including tapestry--was likely to prove invaluable to this
country. She resented the economic rivalry of the Low Countries, and,
on several occasions, disregarded commercial treaties, levying taxes on
imports, from the Netherlands and ignoring the raids of English
privateers in the North Sea. It was high time to find means of checking


A few Calvinist notables, Jean de Marnix and Louis of Nassau,
William's brother, among them, conceived the plan of linking together
all the nobles opposed to Philip's policy. They drew up a compromise
acceptable to both parties in which the signatories swore to "defend
the privileges of the country and prevent the maintenance of the
Inquisition," without undertaking anything "which would be to the
dishonour of God and the king." Over two thousand adherents, nobles,
bourgeois and ecclesiastics, signed this document, and on April 5,
1556, three hundred nobles presented a petition to Marguerite. The
regent having assured them that she would apply the placards with
moderation while awaiting the king's orders, they promised, on their
side, to do their utmost to maintain public order. Two days later, the
delegates were invited to a banquet by the Calvinist Count of
Keulenburg. They appeared at this function dressed as beggars in rough
gowns, carrying wallets and bowls, and when Bréderode, emptying his
bowl, toasted them, the cry of "Long live the Beggars!" was repeated
with enthusiasm by the whole assembly. Tradition has it that the reason
for this disguise was a disparaging reflection made by Count Berlaymont
when the nobles appeared before the regent in simple dress as a sign of
protest against the reckless expenditure which was ruining the
provinces. But the medals struck at the time and worn by nobles and
bourgeois suffice to explain the incident. These medals bore, on one
side, the effigy of the king, and on the other, two hands joined over a
wallet, with the inscription: "Faithful to the king even to beggary."

The "Compromise" implied liberty of conscience, but this remained open
to interpretation. Most of the signatories considered that the
followers of the Reform would merely be tolerated, Catholicism
remaining the only State and public worship. These were the "Beggars of
State." The Calvinists, on the other hand, the "Beggars of Religion,"
claimed full liberty to proclaim their faith, to "fight Roman idolatry"
through their propaganda and to transform the institutions of the
country. In order to keep the two parties together, in their struggle
against foreign interference, it would have been necessary to persuade
both sides to adopt a more moderate attitude and entirely to dissociate
the affairs of State from religious convictions. Orange tried to obtain
this result. At the time, he drew his main support from the German
Lutherans, who had accepted the "Religions Friede." But the Lutherans
were only a small minority in the Low Countries compared to the
Calvinists, who were in close touch with the French Huguenots. In order
to conciliate Catholics and Protestants, the prince endeavoured to
bring the Lutherans and Calvinists together, and even entered into
negotiations with the Calvinist leader, Gui de Bray. His efforts failed
completely, the Calvinists declaring that "they would rather die than
become Lutherans." From that time, owing partly to Philip's policy in
exasperating the people by the application of the placards and partly
also to the fanatic attitude adopted by the new sect, the Reform
entered on a new phase in the Low Countries. No concessions on the part
of the Government would satisfy the extremists, bent on complete
victory or separation.

These tendencies were soon made apparent by the return of many
emigrants and the number of open air "predicants" who held meetings
where the people flocked, armed with sticks and weapons. The moderation
shown by Marguerite came too late. It was merely considered as a proof
of weakness and emboldened the Reformers to redouble their attacks.

Their task was considerably facilitated by the misery prevalent in the
country, due to the bad harvest of the year and to the increased cost
of living brought about by the paralysis of many branches of trade. A
great many merchants had left Antwerp, and in the region of Oudenarde
alone eight thousand weavers were unemployed. The Church was held
responsible for the misery endured by the people; class hatred and
fanaticism combined to make it the scapegoat for all grievances. In
Flanders, some agitators produced letters, supposed to have been sealed
by the king, by which the pillage of the churches was ordered.

Suddenly, on August 11th, armed bands invaded the churches, convents
and monasteries of the region of Hondschoote and Armentières, breaking
all statues, tearing pictures and manuscripts, and destroying church
treasures and ornaments. The movement spread to Ypres and Ghent,
ravaged the cathedral of Antwerp and passed like a hurricane over
Holland and Zeeland only to stop in Friesland, on September 6th. During
nearly a month the authorities of the Western and Northern provinces
allowed the destruction to continue without daring or trying to stop
it. Under the impression caused by the rising of the "Iconoclasts," the
Council of State obtained from Marguerite the abolition of the
Inquisition and the authorization for the Protestants to hold their
meetings publicly, but unarmed and only in such places where similar
meetings had already been organized. In return for these last
concessions, the nobles dissolved their confederation and applied
themselves to the re-establishment of order.


Just as the Inquisition had deepened the gulf between the two parties
and stiffened the resistance of the followers of the Reform, the
excesses of the Iconoclasts exasperated the moderate Catholics and
rendered union more and more difficult. The Count of Mansfeld, a
Belgian Catholic, was made governor of Brussels by Marguerite, who
placed herself under his protection. A great many moderate nobles, who
had taken part in the Compromise, rallied round the Government, and it
was suggested that, in order to counteract the revolutionary movement,
it would be wise to obtain from all the nobles of the kingdom a new
oath of fealty to the king. This measure was bound to cause a split.
The small group of Calvinist nobles, headed by the brothers Marnix,
Louis of Nassau and Bréderode, abstained from taking the oath. Orange
himself was led by his followers into adopting an intransigent
attitude, though he had not yet given up the hope of realizing union.



The year 1567 marks the beginning of civil war in the Low Countries. Up
till then, the nobility and the States General had worked more or less
together, acting as intermediaries between the Government and the
people. The sovereign rights of the king had never been questioned.
Henceforth, the Low Countries were to be divided into two parties,
having their headquarters in the South and in the North. Both aimed at
preserving their national liberties and equally resented foreign
oppression, but, while the people of the Northern provinces decided to
sever all connection with Spain, the people of the South were loath to
part from their national dynasty and were easily conciliated as soon as
the Government adopted a moderate attitude; while the people of the
North adopted Calvinism as their only public religion, the people of
the South remained attached to the Roman Church.


The story of the sixteenth-century revolution in the Low Countries is
so well known that it is scarcely necessary to recall again here the
details of events. From the point of view of the formation of Belgian
nationality, the revolution has an extraordinary importance, since it
engendered the separation of the Low Countries into two distinct
nationalities, which were later to be known as Belgian and Dutch. Most
English readers who remember their Motley, or any of the less valuable
writings he inspired, are under the impression that if the Belgians did
not adopt the same attitude as the Dutch all through the struggle
against Spain, it was either because they were blinded by their
religious prejudices or because their patriotism did not rise to the
same exalted height. Such an opinion is perfectly plausible, but it
does not sufficiently take into account the intransigent and selfish
attitude adopted by the Northern provinces, the political mistakes
committed by their leader, and the difference between the strategical
position and the economic interests of the revolutionaries in the North
and in the South of the country. It may therefore be useful to examine
the efforts made towards unity during the struggle and the causes of
their failure.

The steps taken by the Calvinist nobles which resulted in the failure
of de Marnix to seize Antwerp (March 13th) and the taking of
Valenciennes by Government troops (March 24th) were followed by a
strong reaction. The placards were again enforced, and a rumour began
to spread that the Duke of Alba was being sent by Philip to the
Netherlands at the head of a strong army. At this news over a hundred
thousand Protestants emigrated to England or to the North.

Many people in Southern Belgium were, however, unable to believe in the
possibility of ruthless repression, and even some of those who had
taken an active part in recent events remained in the country. They did
not know the intentions of the Duke of Alba and the instructions he had
received from his master. "I will try to arrange the affairs of
religion in the Low Countries," wrote Philip at the time, "if possible
without having recourse to force, because this means would imply the
total destruction of the country, but I am determined to use it
nevertheless, if I cannot otherwise arrange everything as I wish."
When, after a fortnight of festivities, the duke suddenly ordered the
arrest of the Counts of Egmont and Horn (September 9th), the people
were taken entirely by surprise. In spite of the protests of Marguerite
and the counsels of moderation of the pope and the Emperor Maximilian,
repression was systematically organized by the Council of Troubles,
soon called the "Council of Blood." Egmont and Horn were executed on
June 5th, and all those who had participated in the agitation of the
Compromise and the Iconoclast movement were arrested. During the three
years which followed, from six to eight thousand people perished. All
resistance was impossible. Only a few bands of Beggars kept to the
woods ("Boschgeuzen") and a few privateers operated in the North Sea
("Zeegeuzen"). Alba repulsed with equal success the attacks of Louis of
Nassau and of the Prince of Orange. "The people are very pleased," he
declared; "there is no people in the world more easy to govern when one
knows how to manage them." The new taxes he raised in 1569 to pay for
the cost of the war rendered his régime still more odious. These taxes
of 1 per cent. on all property, 5 per cent. on the sale of real estate
and 10 per cent. on the sale of all goods, were of course
unconstitutional, and for a long time Brussels and Louvain refused to
pay them. When at last they came into force, in 1571, all trade
stopped and the people opposed passive resistance amid great privations
and sufferings. The situation was at last relieved by the bold coup de
main of the Sea Beggars on the port of La Brielle, in Zeeland. Up till
then, they had sought refuge in the English ports, but in 1572 Queen
Elizabeth closed her ports to them, and the seizure of a naval base in
the Low Countries became imperative. The taking of La Brielle, coming
as it did in the worst time of Spanish oppression, provoked unbounded
enthusiasm. Successively Flushing, Rotterdam, Schiedam, and soon all
Zeeland and Holland, with the exception of a few towns, revolted
against the duke. The Huguenots were no less active in the South, where
La Noue seized Valenciennes and Louis of Nassau Mons (May 25th). Orange
himself advanced victoriously through Gelder towards Brabant. These
successes roused great hopes in the Southern provinces, but were
unhappily marred by the massacre of the monks at Gorcum and other
excesses. They were abruptly stopped by the news of the massacre of St.
Bartholomew, Orange's French allies being obliged to leave his army.


Holland and Zeeland became henceforth the centre of resistance. These
provinces had not taken an important share in the life of the Low
Countries during the Middle Ages. Their prosperity was of comparatively
recent date and mainly due to their merchant fleet, which brought to
Antwerp wood and corn from the Baltic and wine from Bordeaux. Their
sailors had ventured as far as Madeira and the Azores, and, on being
stopped by Charles V from reaching America by the Southern route, had
endeavoured to find a route to India by the North. From the beginning
of the sixteenth century, Amsterdam had become the great corn market,
Middleburg the centre of the French wine trade, and the shipyards of
Vere, Goes and Arnemuyden were among the most active in Northern
Europe. The influx of capital resulting from trade and shipping was
used to reclaim marshes, to build fresh dikes and to increase
considerably the cultivated area. Nowhere else, according to
Guicciardini, was prosperity so general or did the traveller meet such
"clean and agreeable houses and such smiling and well cared for
country." Economically speaking, the Northern provinces were only
beginning to feel the benefit of the advantages of their position,
already so manifest in Antwerp. They were, so to speak, in a stage of
formation, and far more ready to cut loose the links of tradition with
an obscure past and to throw themselves into some great adventure in
which they might try their strength.

They occupied, besides, a safer situation than the South, controlling
the outlets of three great streams and the adjoining seas, among
low-lying lands which, as a last resort, could be flooded in order to
stop the advance of an enemy or cut off his retreat. This situation
adapted itself remarkably well to a defensive strategy by land and an
aggressive strategy by sea. The small number of inhabitants and the
small forces available rendered any offensive by land against the
Spanish armies extremely dangerous, so that the Southern provinces,
exposed on all sides to invasion, were left to shift for themselves. It
so happened that the Prince of Orange, the principal leader of the
opposition, had, as governor of Holland and Zeeland, acquired a great
popularity in the country, which was considerably increased by his
conversion to Calvinism. He had been made "Stadhouder" of his provinces
and had found great resources in the confiscation of ecclesiastical

The next campaign (1572-73) affords an excellent example of the
strength of Orange's position. He was finally able to compel the duke
to raise the siege of Alkmaar, in spite of his overwhelming superiority
in numbers and of the striking successes which had marked his progress
from Malines to Zutphen, to Naarden and to Harlem. The Spanish retreat,
in October 1573, coincided with a naval defeat off Enkhuizen. Alba,
discouraged, left the Low Countries in December and was replaced by a
Spanish aristocrat, Louis de Zuniga y Requesens.


Philip was at last resigned to make some concessions, but remained
adamant with regard to religion. Thanks to the victory won by the
Spaniards at Mook, where Louis of Nassau lost his life, Requesens was
able to grant some of the claims of the States General without losing
prestige. He proclaimed a general amnesty, suppressed the taxes of 10
per cent. and 5 per cent., and induced the Council of Troubles not to
pronounce any more death sentences. He would not, however, dismiss the
Spanish troops, and the North having refused to negotiate, the
Spaniards laid siege to Leyden. In 1575 Maximilian offered his
mediation, and a congress was held at Breda between the representatives
of Philip and of the Prince of Orange. The religious question,
however, proved a stumbling-block, Philip maintaining Catholicism as
the only State religion and the prince asking for a guarantee with
regard to the preservation of liberty of conscience.

After the death of Requesens, on March 15, 1576, the administration was
taken over by the Council of State, including the moderate Catholics,
Mansfeld, Berlaymont and Viglius. They hastened to suppress the Council
of Troubles, but were unable to disband the Spanish army, in spite of
the insistence of the provincial States, owing to the lack of funds for
their arrears of pay. At the beginning of July some Spanish units took
Alost, which became the centre of pillaging expeditions. These excesses
and the increasing danger of the situation brought about a
reconciliation between Orange and the Belgian nobles, and once more the
dream of a common country came within reach of realization. The States
of Brabant proscribed the Spanish soldiers and called the citizens to
arms. The members of the Council of State were arrested and the States
General assembled. In spite of the irregularity of such procedure, all
the provinces sent their representatives with the sole exception of
Luxemburg. Philip was still proclaimed "sovereign lord and natural
prince," but the command of the national troops was given to the
Belgian nobles, and Orange was asked to help in reducing the rebellious
soldiery and in besieging the citadels of Ghent and Antwerp. While the
delegates of the Stadhouder and of the States conferred in Ghent, news
reached them of the terrible excesses committed, on November 4th, by
the Spanish soldiers in Antwerp, during the course of which seven
thousand people lost their lives. These riots are remembered as the
"Spanish Fury."


Deplorable though they were, they would not have been too heavy a price
to pay if national unity could have been maintained. Never did it seem
nearer at hand. With fresh memories of Alba's régime and the wholesale
executions of the Council of Blood, under the direct influence of the
terrible news from Antwerp, the Belgian Catholics were never more ready
to wipe off old grievances, to forget the sacrileges of the
Iconoclasts, the massacre of Gorcum and the persecution of those of
their faith in the North. The Pacification of Ghent was signed on
November 8th. The seventeen provinces allied themselves into a
confederation, promised to render each other mutual help, to expel the
Spanish armies, to suppress the placards and the ordinances of the Duke
of Alba and to proclaim a general amnesty. Liberty of conscience,
however, was only proclaimed in fifteen provinces. Calvinism remained
the only religion permitted in Holland and Zeeland. It is true that the
pre-eminent situation of Catholicism was recognized and that the
Protestants were not allowed any public manifestations outside Holland
and Zeeland, but if we take into account the fact that, all over the
country, the Catholics were far more numerous than their rivals, this
last clause of the Pacification of Ghent shows that the Calvinists were
bent on exacting all the advantages of the situation they had so
heroically conquered and that the moderates of the Southern provinces
still found themselves placed between the hammer of Spanish domination
and the anvil of Calvinist sectarianism.

The Prince of Orange cannot be held entirely responsible for missing
this unique opportunity of concluding with his compatriots a fair and
liberal compact. His correspondence shows that he had hard work to
reconcile his partisans even to such one-sided religious conclusions as
those expressed in the Pacification of Ghent, and that in many
instances he had to resign himself to being led in order to be allowed
to lead.

    [_DON JUAN_]

This mistake was bound to bear fruit, when the new Governor, Don Juan
of Austria, a natural son of Charles V who had covered himself with
glory at the battle of Lepanto, reached the country, in November 1576.
Philip, aware that the Netherlands would escape him if he did not make
some sacrifices, had given Don Juan still freer instructions than those
given to Requesens. The religious question only was excluded from
concessions. Besides, the king hoped that the Belgians would be
flattered by the choice of a prince of the blood and would be
captivated by the romantic reputation of this striking representative
of Renaissance nobility. Negotiations between Don Juan and the States
General were rendered difficult by the opposition of the partisans of
Orange and by the want of good faith on the part of the new Governor,
who, while promising to recall the Spanish troops, was discovered
secretly negotiating with them. The first Union of Brussels was,
however, concluded on January 9, 1577. The States promised to obey the
king and to maintain the Catholic religion as the only State religion
all through the country. On the other hand, Don Juan, by the Edict of
Marche, known as "Edit Perpétuel," undertook to convoke the States
General, to recall the Spanish troops and not to persecute the
partisans of the Reform. Orange and his partisans in Holland and
Zeeland naturally refused to ratify such an arrangement, which violated
the articles of the Pacification of Ghent.

Don Juan entered Brussels in May, after dismissing the Spanish troops,
but, in spite of all his efforts, was unable to ingratiate himself in
the eyes of the population. Most of the people had resented the
signature of the Union of Brussels, and when the negotiations with the
Northerners broke off and Don Juan asked for troops to fight them, he
met with a curt refusal. Alarmed by this veiled hostility and
exasperated by his protracted negotiations with Orange, Don Juan shut
himself up in the fortress of Namur and recalled the Spanish troops.
Nothing better could have happened from the point of view of the
patriots, and the differences which had begun to undermine the work of
the Pacification of Ghent, during the last months, were promptly
forgotten. William of Orange made a triumphal entry into Brussels on
September 23rd. He was greeted as the liberator of his country, amid
scenes of unbounded enthusiasm. He was proclaimed "Ruwaert" of Brabant
and his authority did not meet with any further open opposition.

Faithful to his principles, Orange endeavoured to establish liberty of
conscience in the Low Countries. His ideas, however, were only shared
by a few friends whose rather elastic religious principles allowed them
to sacrifice sectarianism to the higher interests of the State. They
did not suit the Catholic aristocracy, who, though strongly opposed to
Spain, remained attached to legitimist principles. They did not suit
Calvinist democrats, who, though in a minority, intended to overwhelm
all opposition. The intellectuals among them propounded the idea of the
"Monarchomaques" that "the prince existed for the people, not the
people for the prince," while the uneducated classes already proclaimed
the principle of modern democracy and universal suffrage and questioned
the right of the States to represent the people. Since August 1577
Brussels had been practically in the hands of the Commune, represented
by a Council of Eighteen. Similar Councils had seized power in some
provincial towns, and at Ghent, where the Calvinists dominated the
Commune, the articles of the Pacification were entirely disregarded,
the churches being plundered and the priests persecuted. Holland and
Zeeland maintained an expectant and somewhat moody attitude. They
resented their leader's concessions to the Catholics and were not
over-enthusiastic towards unification. They felt themselves stronger
than the rest of the country and had largely benefited from the closing
of the Scheldt and the momentary stoppage of Antwerp's trade. They were
loath to sacrifice such advantages for the sake of joining hands with
"Papists and monarchists."


As the democratic tendencies and Calvinist excesses were more and more
apparent, following the return of Orange to Brussels, the Catholic
aristocracy of the Southern provinces became alarmed. The nobles were
afraid of the attitude adopted by the people concerning their
privileges and of the personal prestige of Orange. They endeavoured to
check his power by inviting foreign princes to take the leadership of
the country. The Duke of Aerschot induced Archduke Matthias, brother of
the Emperor, to come to the Low Countries, but Orange easily countered
this manoeuvre by arresting the duke and opening negotiations with
Matthias, who signed the second Union of Brussels, on December 10,
1577, and guaranteed liberty of conscience. The young archduke was
henceforth a mere figurehead and Orange remained the real ruler of the

To add to the confusion, Don Juan opened an offensive, a few days
later, and easily defeated the national troops which opposed his
progress in Luxemburg, Namur and Hainault, forcing the Government to
take refuge in Antwerp. It became more and more apparent that the
provinces could not rid themselves of the Spaniards without appealing
to foreign help. The Emperor Rudolph being unwilling to support
Matthias, the latter had become practically useless. In spite of
repeated entreaties, Queen Elizabeth would not consent to give military
help. She encouraged the revolution, since it proved a drain on
Philip's resources and an efficient protection from Spanish enterprise
against England, but she would not openly break with Spain. Only France
remained. As early as July 1578, Count de Lalaing endeavoured to repeat
with the Duke of Anjou, Henry III's brother, the manoeuvre of
Aerschot. He sought, at the same time, to deliver the country from
Spain with foreign help and to check the increasing power of Orange and
all he stood for in his eyes. Anjou had no respect for the liberties
and aspirations of the provinces, neither did his rather tepid
religious convictions, as a Catholic prince, stand in his way. He
hoped to obtain the title of sovereign of the Netherlands and thus to
increase his chances of succeeding in his suit for the hand of Queen

Once more Orange took for himself the plans propounded by his enemies.
He negotiated with Anjou, who received the title of "Defender of the
Liberties of the Low Countries" in exchange for some military help. Don
Juan was obliged to retreat on Namur, where he died, completely
disheartened, on October 1, 1578, leaving his lieutenant, Alexander
Farnese, Duke of Parma, to continue the struggle.


The situation, during the last months of 1578, had become extremely
intricate. The Spanish troops, commanded by Farnese, held the Southern
provinces as far as the Sambre and the Meuse. Holland and Zeeland
maintained their powerful position in the North, but, between Spanish
and Dutch headquarters, the country was thrown into a state of complete
anarchy, and the power of the Stadhouder, who, from Antwerp, tried
vainly to maintain unity, was more and more disregarded. The Act of
Religious Peace, which he had issued in June and which placed the two
confessions on a footing of equality, though endeavouring to conciliate
everybody, only increased the discontent. Its clauses were entirely
ignored by the Calvinist Republic of Ghent, which pursued its own
ruthless policy under the leadership of Ryhove and terrorized the
Catholics. On the other hand, the Catholic nobles, who commanded some
units of the national army, formed themselves into a new party, the
"Malcontents," and occupied Menin on October 1st. Civil war became
more and more inevitable. Ryhove called the Prince Palatine, John
Casimir, a protégé of Queen Elizabeth, to his help, while Anjou,
alarmed by the apparition of this unexpected rival, helped the
Malcontents to reduce the Calvinist Communes in Arras, Lille and

William of Orange, who had displayed such extraordinary political
aptitudes during the first years of the revolution, seemed, since his
entry into Brussels, to have disregarded some essential conditions of
success. Though imbued by the principle of national unity, he never
threw himself wholeheartedly into the struggle and never gave the
country the leadership it so badly needed. He first seemed to ignore
the difficulties ahead, owing to the rivalry of religious factions,
and, when these were made clear to him, he did not take any strong
measure to enforce on the people the principle of liberty of conscience
which he so loudly proclaimed. The recurrence of excesses and cruelties
committed by the fanatic leaders of the Communes contributed to create
a widespread impression, among the Catholics, that he was merely paying
lip-service to them, while determined to tolerate any disobedience
among his own followers. His retirement to Antwerp, in close contact
with Holland and Zeeland, but far removed from the Southern provinces,
was also unfavourable to the maintenance of the Union under his
leadership. Finally, the interference in national affairs of such
disreputable adventurers as John Casimir and Anjou diminished, to a
certain degree, the reluctance with which the Catholics envisaged the
possibility of treating with Spain.


On January 6, 1579, Artois, Hainault and Walloon Flanders formed the
"Confederation of Arras," which sanctioned the first Union of
Brussels--that is to say, the maintenance of Catholicism all over the
country; and from that time negotiations began between the Catholic
bourgeoisie and nobility and Farnese. Had Orange proved more active or
Farnese less diplomatic, the Union might still have been maintained
even at the eleventh hour. For nothing but religious passion, and
perhaps, to a certain extent, the fear of mob rule, prompted the
Southern provinces to accept the Spanish offers. The States of Hainault
had declared that they would not undertake anything contrary to the
common cause, but wanted only to preserve their existence, to "maintain
the Pacification of Ghent against an insolent and barbarian tyranny
worse than the Spanish" and "to prevent the extinction of their holy
faith and religion, of the nobility and of all order and state." They
did not abandon any of their old claims against Spain, but they refused
to acknowledge the social and religious transformation which had taken
place in the country since the signature of the Pacification. The
defenders of the new confederation expressed the hope that in all towns
the oppressed Catholics would join hands with them. The Union of Arras
ought to be considered therefore, not as a Walloon, but as a purely
Catholic League. It confirms the first Union of Brussels, including all
its anti-Spanish stipulations concerning the restoration of the old
privileges, the voting of taxes by the States, the defence of the
country by native troops, the maintenance of the Catholic religion in
all the provinces being the only common ground on which Spaniards and
Belgians could meet. It was, nevertheless, a breach of the Pacification
of Ghent, and was destined to link Belgium with Spain for many years to
come. It was also a definite and irretrievable step towards separation.

It has been suggested that the difference of race and languages might
have influenced the fateful decision of the Walloon provinces. Such an
interpretation does not take into account the language situation in the
Low Countries at the time. One seeks vainly for any grievance which the
Southern provinces might have entertained on that ground. French was
used in all the acts of the central Government and in the deliberations
of the States General. Even the Prince of Orange had kept the
Burgundian tradition and considered French as his mother-tongue. He was
surrounded and supported by a great number of French Huguenots and
Walloon Calvinists. Owing to their smaller population the Southern
provinces were rather over-represented in the States General, where the
vote went by province and not by numbers. Besides, we must not overlook
the fact that the confederates represented themselves not as
dissenters, but as the true supporters of the Act of Union, which had
been violated by the Calvinists. They did not show any separatist
tendencies like Holland and Zeeland, but opposed their policy of Union
to the policy of the Prince of Orange. One of their most urgent demands
was that the Prince of the Netherlands should henceforth be of royal
and legitimate blood, in order to restore a national policy, similar to
that followed during the early years of the reigns of Philip the
Handsome and Charles V. All through the troubled period of the last
twenty years, Walloons and Flemings never ceased to emphasize their
will to live together. Their mottoes are, "Viribus unitis"; "Belgium
foederatum"; "Concordia res parvæ crescunt"; and almost every speech
and public manifestation insists on the necessity of protecting a
common "patrie" against a common enemy through a common defence. As a
matter of fact, the principle of unity was so popular at the time in
the Southern provinces that the confederates would have made themselves
thoroughly unpopular if they had dared to preach separation, and, on
both sides, it was only by pretending to defend the Union that the
extremists, moved by class hatred and religious passion, succeeded in
destroying it.

The centre of Catholic reaction might have been formed in any other
part of the Southern provinces under similar circumstances. The region
of Armentières and Valenciennes had been the cradle of the Iconoclast
rebellion, but repression in that quarter was far more effective than
in any other. A great proportion of the Walloon workers who did not
perish under Alba's rule emigrated to England. The Southern cities were
thus considerably depleted of their Calvinist element, and the peasants
and the bourgeois outnumbered them far more than in any other part of
the country. Even under ordinary circumstances the workers of the towns
exercised very little influence on the States of Hainault and
Artois. In Hainault (Valenciennes and Tournai forming special
circumscriptions), Mons remained alone to represent their interests. In
Artois, Arras, St. Omer and Béthune were the only important centres
whose representatives could oppose those of the far more important
agricultural districts. The question of race and language had no more
influence on the attitude of the Walloon provinces than on that of
Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht. Both were determined by economic, social
and religious conditions as well as by their strategic situation.


The Confederation of Arras was proclaimed on January 6, 1579. On the
23rd the Union of Utrecht was constituted, under the same claim of
defending the Pacification of Ghent. It grouped around Holland and
Zeeland the provinces of Utrecht, Gelder, Friesland, Over-Yssel and
Groningen, together with the most important towns of Flanders and
Brabant: Ghent, Ypres, Bruges, Antwerp, Brussels, etc. They undertook
to act jointly in reference to peace, war, alliances and all external
matters, while retaining their local autonomy. The exercise of religion
remained free, with the exception of Holland and Zeeland, from which
Catholicism was excluded. The Union of Utrecht was the origin of the
Republic of the Seven United Provinces. It was entirely dominated by
the particularist policy of Holland and Zeeland, which, as events
developed more and more in favour of Farnese in the South, took less
and less interest in their Southern confederates. The small forces at
their disposal rendered any offensive towards Flanders and Brabant,
which would have provided the beleaguered cities with food and arms,
very difficult, and the reopening of the Scheldt, which must have taken
place in the event of the integral preservation of the Union of
Utrecht, would have reacted unfavourably on the trade of the Northern


Owing to the defensive attitude of the North, events moved rather
slowly during the following years. After the fall of Maestricht, which
was marked by further massacres of the people by the Spanish soldiery,
Farnese, who had staked all on a policy of conciliation, gradually
dismissed the Spanish troops and organized native units with the help
of the Malcontents. Now that all bonds were severed between the Union
of Utrecht and the crown of Spain, Philip II endeavoured to revenge
himself on his opponent by putting a price on his head (1580). The
apology written by the Prince of Orange in answer to Philip's
accusations, in the shape of a letter addressed to the States General,
is one of the most dignified pleas of such a kind in history. Orange
had no difficulty in showing the sincerity of his motives and his
devotion to the common weal. The reader of this eloquent document will,
however, realize that its author lacked the energy and self-reliance
necessary to deal with the desperate situation in which the country was
placed. In his eagerness to save the Belgian towns and to safeguard
unity, in spite of the unwillingness of Holland and Zeeland to depart
from their expectant attitude, he concluded with the Duke of Anjou, on
September 29th, the treaty of Plessis-lez-Tours, by which, in exchange
for military help, the duke was to receive the title of hereditary
sovereign of the United Provinces, undertook to respect the rights of
the States General and maintain the representatives of the House of
Orange-Nassau as hereditary Stadhouders of Holland, Zeeland and
Utrecht. This last clause was introduced far more to pacify the
Northerners, who strongly objected to these negotiations, than to
further Orange's personal ambition. It shows once more the privileged
situation occupied by the three provinces and their strong
particularist tendencies. The treaty of Plessis-lez-Tours, which was
supposed to save the Union, was destined to give it its death-blow and
to strengthen the alliance between the Southern provinces and Farnese.
By that time, the central Government in Antwerp had become purely
nominal. The Northern provinces had ceased to send their
representatives and the delegates from the South could not claim to
represent the people, who were more and more unfavourable to their
attitude. The States General was only used to register and sanction
Orange's decisions. In spite of some opposition, it finally proclaimed,
on July 26, 1581, the deposition of the king.

Hostilities were at once resumed, Farnese besieging Cambrai and
Tournai, which had not yet joined the Confederation. The first town was
saved by the intervention of the French troops of Anjou, but the second
capitulated on November 3rd. From that time, Farnese endeavoured to
treat his enemies with the greatest clemency. He suppressed severely
all acts of terrorism or pillage and offered honourable conditions to
any city willing to surrender, the Protestants being free to leave the
town after settling their affairs and the local liberties remaining
intact. By these moderate conditions and by the loyalty with which he
kept to them, he gradually earned the respect, if not the sympathy, of
a great number of his former opponents, and his attitude contrasted
favourably with the vagaries of Anjou, whose rule was, after all, the
only alternative offered to the Southern provinces at the time. After a
journey to England, where he received a rebuff from Queen Elizabeth,
Anjou was greeted with great honours at Antwerp (February 19, 1582).
During the year which followed, he grew more and more impatient of the
obstacles placed in his way and the restrictions imposed on his
authority. He finally decided to make a bid for power, and, on the
night of January 16-17, 1583, his soldiers endeavoured to seize the
gates of Antwerp and occupy the public buildings. They were, however,
defeated by the armed citizens, and the duke, entirely discredited, was
obliged to leave the country. This episode is remembered as the "French

The last hopes of reconstituting the unity of the Netherlands were
ruined by the murder, on July 10, 1584, at Delft, of the Prince of
Orange, the only statesman who had pursued this aim with some
consistency, in spite of all his mistakes. This action was as criminal
as it was senseless. The prince had failed in his great enterprise of
uniting the Netherlands against Spain, and no efforts on his part could
have restored the situation. Thanks to the Spanish reinforcements the
Confederation had allowed him to receive, Farnese was systematically
blockading and besieging every important Flemish town. Already Dunkirk,
Ypres and Bruges had opened their gates to him and obtained very
favourable conditions. Ghent itself, the stronghold of Calvinism in
Flanders, whose population had distinguished itself by so many
cruelties and excesses and which was considered as the arch-enemy of
the Malcontents, benefited from the same policy when obliged to
surrender, on September 17th. All the old customs were restored, the
town was obliged to pay 200,000 golden écus, its hostages were
pardoned, and, though the Protestants were not allowed to celebrate
their worship in public, they obtained a delay of two years before
leaving the city.


At the beginning of 1585 almost every town had been reduced as far as
Malines. Brussels, which had vainly expected some help from the North,
opened its gates to Farnese on March 10th, and the taking of Antwerp,
on August 16th, closed the series of operations which definitely
separated Belgium from Holland and again placed the Southern provinces
under the subjection of Spain. Antwerp had been defended obstinately by
its burgomaster, the Calvinist pamphleteer, Marnix de St. Aldegonde,
who confidently hoped that his Northern allies would create a diversion
and at least prevent the Spanish from cutting off the great port from
the sea. In the case of Antwerp, Holland and Zeeland might have
interfered without so much danger, but Orange was no longer there to
plead for unity and the great port of the Southern provinces was
abandoned to its fate.



The fall of Antwerp had doomed all projects of anti-Spanish unity. It
had settled for centuries to come the fate of the Southern provinces,
which were henceforth attached to a foreign dynasty and administered as
foreign possessions. This ultimate result was not, however, apparent at
once, and for some years the people entertained a hope of a return to
the Burgundian tradition and to a national policy. This period of
transition is covered by the reign of Albert and Isabella, who were,
nominally at least, the sovereigns of the Low Countries.


Before giving the Low Countries as a dowry to his daughter Isabella,
Philip II made several attempts to break the resistance of Holland and
Zeeland. Had Farnese been left to deal with the situation after the
fall of Antwerp, he might have succeeded in this difficult enterprise.
But all the successes he had obtained against Maurice of Nassau in
Zeeland Flanders, Brabant and Gelder were jeopardized by the European
policy of the Spanish king. From August 20, 1585, Queen Elizabeth had
at last openly allied herself with the United Provinces, and the whole
attention of Philip was now centred upon England and upon the bold
project of forcing the entry of the Thames with a powerful fleet.
Farnese was therefore obliged to concentrate most of his troops
near Dunkirk, in view of the projected landing. The complete
failure of the expedition released these forces, but their absence from
the Northern provinces had already given Maurice of Nassau the
opportunity of restoring the situation (1588). The next year, instead
of resuming the campaign against the United Provinces, Farnese was
obliged to fight in France to support the Catholic League. It was in
the course of one of these expeditions that he died in Arras, on
December 3, 1593.


    Illustration: THE INFANTA ISABELLA.
    From a picture by Rubens (Brussels Museum).

    Illustration: ARCHDUKE ALBERT.
    From a picture by Rubens (Brussels Museum).

Philip was bound by his promises to send to Belgium a prince of the
blood. His choice of Archduke Ernest, son of Maximilian II, was,
however, an unhappy one, as the weak prince was entirely dominated by
his Spanish general, Fuentès, brother-in-law of the Duke of Alba. The
country suffered, at the time, from the combined attacks of Maurice of
Nassau and of Henry IV of France. After the death of Archduke Ernest,
Philip chose as governor-general the former's younger brother, Archduke
Albert, who had distinguished himself as Viceroy of Portugal. He
arrived just in time, in 1596, to relieve the situation by the taking
of Calais. This success was short-lived, and by the treaty of Vervins
(May 2, 1597) Philip was obliged to restore Calais to France, together
with the Vermandois and part of Picardy. The next year the king
negotiated the marriage of his daughter Isabella with Archduke Albert.
He died on September 13, 1598, before the marriage could be celebrated.
Had Philip II come to this last determination willingly, the future of
the Low Countries, at least of the Southern provinces, might still have
been saved. But this last act of the sovereign whose rule had been so
fatal to the Netherlands proved as disappointing as the others. While
he wrote in the act of cession that "the greatest happiness which might
occur to a country is to be governed under the eyes and in the presence
of its natural prince and lord," he almost annihilated this very wise
concession to Belgian aspirations by adding stringent restrictions. The
inhabitants of the Low Countries were not allowed to trade with the
Indies; in the eventuality of the Infanta Isabella having no children,
the provinces would return to the crown. Besides, the act contained
some secret clauses according to which the new sovereigns undertook to
obey all orders received from Madrid and to maintain Spanish garrisons
in the principal towns. The Spanish king reserved to himself the right
to re-annex the Low Countries in any case, under certain circumstances.

This half-hearted arrangement, besides placing the archduke in a false
position in his relations with his subjects, deprived him of all
initiative in foreign matters. In fact, in spite of his sincere
attempts to shake off Spanish influence, he enjoyed less independence
than some former governors, like Margaret of Austria.

These secret clauses were not known to the Belgian people, and they
greeted their new sovereigns with unbounded enthusiasm. Their journey
from Luxemburg to Brussels, where they made their entry on September
15, 1599, was a triumphal progress. After so many years of war and
foreign subjection, the Belgians believed that Albert and Isabella
would bring them a much needed peace and an independence similar to
that which they enjoyed under Charles V and Philip the Handsome. They
considered their accession to the throne as a return to the Burgundian
policy to which they had been so consistently loyal all through their
struggle against Spain, and whose remembrance had done so much to
separate them from the Northern provinces. On several occasions, and
more especially at the time of the peace of Arras, they had expressed a
wish to be governed by a prince of the blood who would be allowed to
act as their independent sovereign, and they confidently imagined that
this wish was going to be realized and that, under her new rulers, the
country would be at last able to repair the damage caused by the war
and to restore her economic prosperity.


They knew that the new régime implied the exclusion of the Protestants
from the Southern provinces, but this did not cause much discontent at
the time. All through the struggle the Catholics had been in great
majority not only in the country but also in the principal towns, with
the sole exception of Antwerp, which was the meeting-place of many
refugees. Though at the time of the Pacification of Ghent a great
number of citizens had adopted the new faith in order to avoid
Calvinistic persecutions, they had given it up as soon as the armies of
Farnese entered their towns. The sincere Protestants had been obliged
to emigrate to the Northern provinces. Though the number of these
emigrants has been somewhat exaggerated, they included a great many
intellectuals, big traders and skilful artisans, whose loss was bound
to affect the Southern provinces, as their presence was destined to
benefit Holland, where the names of the Bruxellois Hans van Aerssen,
the Gantois Heinsius and the Tournaisiens Jacques and Issac Lemaire are
still remembered.

At the time of the arrival of Albert and Isabella in Belgium,
Protestantism had practically disappeared from the towns and maintained
itself only in a few remote villages, such as Dour (Hainault),
Hoorebeke, Estaires (Flanders) and Hodimont (Limburg), where Protestant
communities still exist to-day. Though the placards had not been
abolished, they were no longer applied, and all executions had ceased.
Except in case of a public manifestation causing scandal, the judges
did not interfere, and even then, penalties were limited to castigation
or fine.

Contrary to some popular conceptions, Protestantism was not uprooted by
the violence and cruelties of the Inquisition in the Southern
provinces. On the contrary, these violences, under the Duke of Alba,
only contributed to extend its influence. The Calvinist excesses of
1577-79 and the leniency of Farnese did more to counteract Calvinist
propaganda than the wholesale massacres organized by the Council of
Blood. It was against these persecutions, not against the Catholic
religion, that the Southern provinces fought throughout the period of
revolution, and the breaking off of all relations with the North
automatically brought to an end the influence of Calvinism.

The rapid success obtained by Farnese's policy, and the fact that his
successors had no need to have recourse to violent measures, shows that
Protestantism was not deeply rooted in the South and that the people
would have been only too pleased to agree to its exclusion if they had
obtained in exchange peace and independence. But the war went on and
the archduke was compelled to remain governor for Philip III.


This became apparent immediately when, in 1600, the States General
claimed a voice in the administration of the country and in the control
of expenditure. They met with a curt refusal and were obliged to agree
to pay a regular subsidy in place of the old "special grants." The same
year, Maurice of Nassau invaded Northern Flanders in the hope of
provoking a rising, but the people did not answer to his call. The
Spanish, however, were defeated at the battle of Nieuport, where the
archduke was severely wounded. The next year began the siege of Ostend,
which had remained faithful to the United Provinces and which was
easily able to receive provisions by sea. After three years of
struggle, the town was obliged to surrender, thanks to the skilful
operations of Ambrose Spinola, who was placed at the head of the
Spanish army. After further indecisive operations, a twelve years'
truce was finally declared, on April 9, 1609, between the United
Provinces and Spain. Philip III virtually recognized the independence
of the Republic and even allowed the Dutch merchants to trade with the
West Indies, a privilege which he had refused to his own subjects in
Belgium. The Southern provinces were further sacrificed by the
recognition of the blockade of the Scheldt, which remained closed to
all ships wishing to enter Antwerp, to the greater benefit of Dutch

As soon as hostilities were resumed, in 1621, it became apparent that
Philip IV would not support Belgium any more energetically than his
father had done. Spinola, who had the whole responsibility of the
defence of the country after the death of Archduke Albert (1621),
succeeded in taking Breda (1625). With the Spanish general's disgrace,
owing to a court intrigue, the armies of the United Provinces were once
more successful in consolidating their situation in Northern Brabant
and Limburg, which they considered as the bulwarks of their
independence. Frederick Henry of Nassau, who had succeeded his brother
in the command of the Republic's armies, took Bois-le-Duc in 1629, and
Venloo, Ruremonde and Maestricht in 1632. He was supported, in these
last operations, by Louis XIII, who, prompted by Richelieu, took this
opportunity of humiliating the Hapsburg dynasty. The Spanish commander,
the Marquis of Santa Cruz, proved so inefficient that some Belgian
patriots tried to take matters into their own hands and to deliver
their country from a foreign domination which was so fatal to its
interests. It soon became clear, however, that any step taken against
Spain would deliver Belgium into the hands of either the French or the
Dutch. A first ill-considered and hasty attempt was made by Henry,
Count of Bergh, and René de Renesse, who opened secret negotiations at
The Hague with some Dutch statesmen and the French ambassador. On June
18th they attempted a rising at Liége, but were obliged to take refuge
in the United Provinces. A more serious conspiracy was entered into,
almost at the same time, by Count Egmont and Prince d'Epinoy, who, with
some followers, formed a Walloon League. Their aim was to drive the
Spaniards out of the country with the help of the French and to found a
"Belgian Federative and Independent State." On being denounced to the
Government, the conspirators were obliged to take flight before their
plans had matured.


The fall of Maestricht had induced Isabella to assemble once more the
States General. After thirty-two years' silence, the latter put forward
the same grievances concerning the restoration of old privileges and
the defence of the country by native troops, together with new
complaints referring to the recent Spanish administration. The people
had become so restless that the Marquis of Santa Cruz and Cardinal de
La Cueva, the representative of Philip IV in the Low Countries, were
obliged to fly from Brussels. Under pressure of public opinion,
Isabella allowed the States General to send a deputation to The Hague
to negotiate peace (September 17, 1632). The deputies left the town
amid great rejoicings. With undaunted optimism, the Belgians hoped that
where the Spanish armies had failed their representatives would be
successful, and that the new negotiations would bring them at last
peace and independence, for they realized that they could not obtain
one without the other. According to a contemporary, they believed that
they saw "the dawn of the day of peace and tranquillity after such a
long and black night of evil war." But they had reckoned without the
exigencies of the Dutch, whose policy was even then to secure their own
safety, independence and prosperity by drastically sacrificing the
interests of the Southern provinces. The delegates were met with the
proposal of establishing in Belgium a Catholic Federative Republic at
the price of heavy territorial concessions both to Holland and to the
French. They could obtain independence, but on such conditions that
they would never have been able to defend it.

The following year (1633), after the death of Isabella, Philip IV
recalled the Belgian delegates. He dissolved the States General a few
months later (1634). From this time to the end of the eighteenth
century, during the Brabançonne revolution, the representatives of the
Belgian people were no longer consulted and had no share in the central
Government of Belgium.



The truce of 1609-21 was used by the Government and the people to
restore as far as possible the economic prosperity of the Catholic
Netherlands. The relative success with which these efforts were crowned
shows that some energy was left in the country, in spite of the
blockade imposed on her trade and of the emigration of some of her most
prominent sons to the United Provinces. It is a common mistake to
presume that, from the beginning of the seventeenth century, all
economic and intellectual life left the Southern provinces and was
absorbed by the Northern. The contrast was indeed striking between the
young republic which was becoming the first maritime Power in Europe
and the mother-country from which it had been torn, and which had
ceased to occupy a prominent rank in European affairs. A medal was
struck, in 1587, showing, on one side, symbols of want and misery,
applied to the Catholic Netherlands, and, on the other, symbols of
riches and prosperity, applied to the Northern Netherlands, whilst the
inscriptions made it clear that these were the punishment of the
impious and the reward of the faithful. But a careful study of the
period would show that her most valuable treasure, the stubborn energy
of her people, did not desert Belgium during this critical period, and
that in a remarkably short time she succeeded in rebuilding her home,
or at least those parts of it which she was allowed to repair.

At the end of the sixteenth century the situation, especially in
Flanders and Brabant, was pitiful. The dikes were pierced, the polders
were flooded and by far the greater part of the cultivated area left
fallow. The amount of unclaimed land was so large in Flanders that the
first new-comer was allowed to till it. Wild beasts had invaded the
country, and only a mile from Ghent travellers were attacked by wolves.
Bands of robbers infested the land, and in 1599 an order was issued to
fell all the woods along roads and canals, in order to render
travelling more secure. In Brabant, many villages had lost more than
half their houses, the mills were destroyed and the flocks scattered.
The conditions in several of the towns were still worse. At Ghent the
famine was so acute among the poor that they even ate the garbage
thrown in the streets. The population of Antwerp, from 100,000 in the
fifteenth century, had fallen to 56,948 in 1645. Lille, on account of
its industry, and Brussels, owing to the presence of the court, were
the only centres which succeeded in maintaining their prosperity. The
excesses of the foreign garrisons, often ill-paid and living on the
population, added still further to the misery. The English traveller
Overbury, who visited the seventeen provinces at the beginning of the
truce, declared that, as soon as he had passed the frontier, he found
"a Province distressed with Warre; the people heartlesse, and rather
repining against their Governours, then revengefull against the
Enemies, the bravery of that Gentrie which was left, and the Industry
of the Merchant quite decayed; the Husbandman labouring only to live,
without desire to be rich to another's use; the Townes (whatsoever
concerned not the strength of them) ruinous; And to conclude, the
people here growing poore with lesse taxes, then they flourish with on
the States side."


The truce had declared the re-establishment of commercial liberty, but
the blockade of the coast remained as stringent as ever. Flushing,
Middleburg and Amsterdam had inherited the transit trade of Antwerp,
now completely abandoned by foreign merchants. In 1609 only two Genoese
and one merchant from Lucca remained in the place, while the last
Portuguese and English were taking their departure. The Exchange was
now so completely deserted that, in 1648, it was used as a library. The
docks were only frequented by a few Dutch boats which brought their
cargo of corn and took away manufactured articles. Any foreign boat
laden for Antwerp was obliged to discharge its cargo in Zeeland, the
Dutch merchant fleet monopolizing the trade of the Scheldt.

The Belgians could not alter this situation themselves. They could only
appeal to Spanish help, and Spain was neither in a situation nor in a
mood to help them. Most of its naval forces had been destroyed during
the Armada adventure, and neither the few galleys brought by Spinola to
Sluis, before the taking of this town by Maurice of Nassau (1604), nor
the privateers from Dunkirk were able to do more than harass Dutch
trade. With the defeat of the reorganized Spanish fleet at the Battle
of the Downs, the last hope of seeing the Dutch blockade raised
vanished. Not only was the Lower Scheldt firmly held, but enemy ships
cruised permanently outside Ostend, Nieuport and Dunkirk. The attempts
made by the Government to counter these measures by the closing of the
land frontier were equally doomed to failure, since the Dutch did not
depend in any way on their Belgian market, while the Belgians needed
the corn imported from the Northern provinces. The extraordinary
indifference of the Spanish kings to the trade of their Northern
possessions is made evident by the fact that, while the treaty of 1609
allowed the Dutch to trade with the Indies, it was only thirty-one
years later that the Belgians received the same permission.

Thwarted in this direction, the activity of the people and of the
Government concentrated on industry and agriculture. Dikes were
rebuilt, marshes drained and cattle brought into the country. Though
trade had been ruined, the raw material remained. The region of
Valenciennes, Tournai and Lille was the first to recover. The wool
which could no longer come through Antwerp was imported from Rouen, a
staple being fixed at St. Omer. In 1597 an enthusiastic contemporary
compared Lille to a small Antwerp. The Walloon provinces had been less
severely tried, and the coal industry, as well as the foundries, in the
Meuse valley soon recovered their former activity. Tapestry-making was
also resumed in Oudenarde and Brussels, copper-working in Malines,
dyeing in Antwerp and linen-weaving in the Flemish country districts.
But the economic upheaval caused by the civil wars had given the
death-blow to the decaying town industries, paralysed by the régime of
the corporations. The coppersmiths of Dinant and Namur were now
completely ruined, and the cloth industry in Ghent had become so
insignificant that, in 1613, the cloth hall of the town was ceded to
the society of the "Fencers of St. Michael." Rural industry and
capitalist organization, which had made such strides at the beginning
of the sixteenth century, had now definitely superseded mediæval

It was on the same lines that the new industries which developed in the
country at the time were organized by their promoters. The manufacture
of silk stuffs started in Antwerp, while the State attempted the
cultivation of mulberry-trees to provide raw material. Similar
attention was devoted by Albert and Isabella to lace-making, which
produced one of the most important articles of export. Glass furnaces
were established in Ghent, Liége and Hainault, paper-works in Huy, the
manufacture of iron cauldrons began in Liége, and soap factories and
distilleries were set up in other places.

    [_NEW CANALS_]

The solicitude of the central Government was not limited to industry.
Roads and canals were repaired all over the country and new important
public works were undertaken. Though the project of a Rhine-Scheldt
Canal, favoured by Isabella, had to be given up owing to Dutch
opposition, the canals from Bruges to Ghent (1614), from Bruges to
Ostend (1624-66) and from Bruges to Ypres (1635-39) were completed at
this time. Navigation on the Dendre was also improved, and it was in
1656 that the project was made to connect Brussels with the province of
Hainault by a waterway. This plan was only realized a century later.

The conditions prevailing in the Catholic Low Countries during the
first part of the seventeenth century were, therefore, on the whole,
favourable. With regard to world trade and foreign politics the country
was entirely paralysed, but the activity of the people and the
solicitude of the sovereigns succeeded in realizing the economic
restoration of the country as far as this restoration depended upon
them. The real economic decadence of Belgium did not occur on the date
of the separation, but fifty years later, during the second half of the
seventeenth century, when its exports were reduced by the protective
tariffs of France, when the Thirty Years' War ruined the German market
and when Spain remained the only country open for its produce.


This relative prosperity extended beyond the twelve years of the truce.
For, even when hostilities were resumed, they did not deeply affect the
life of the nation, most of the operations being limited to the
frontier. Some Belgian historians have drawn a very flattering picture
of this period and extolled the personal qualities of Albert and
Isabella. We must, however, realize that, in spite of the archduke's
good intentions, the promises made at the peace of Arras were not kept,
that the States General were only twice assembled and that all the
political guarantees obtained by the patriots from Farnese were
disregarded. Spanish garrisons remained in the country and the
representatives of the people had no control over the expenditure. In
fact, Belgium was nearer to having an absolutist monarchical régime
than it had ever been before. The Council of State was only assembled
to conciliate the nobility, whose loyalty was still further encouraged
by the granting of honours, such as that of the Order of the Golden
Fleece, and entrusting to them missions to foreign countries. The
upper bourgeoisie, on the other hand, were largely permitted to enter
the ranks of the nobility by receiving titles. From 1602 to 1638 no
less than forty-one estates were raised to the rank of counties,
marquisates and principalities, and a contemporary writer complains
that "as many nobles are made now in one year as formerly in a
hundred." It was among these new nobles, or would-be nobles, who
constituted a class very similar to that of the English gentry of the
same period, that the State recruited the officers of its army and many
officials, whose loyalty was, of course, ensured.

No opposition was likely from the ranks of the clergy. The new
bishoprics founded by Philip II had been reconstituted and the bishops
selected by the king exercised strict discipline in their dioceses.
Besides, all religious orders were now united by the necessity of
opposing a common front to the attacks of the Protestants, and they
felt that the fate of the religion was intimately bound up with that of
the dynasty. The principle of the Divine right of Kings was opposed to
the doctrine of the right of the people to choose their monarch
propounded by the Monarchomaques, and Roman Catholics were, by then,
attached to the monarchy just as Calvinists were attached to the
Republic. The experiences of the last century prevented any return to
the situation existing under Charles V, when, on certain questions, the
clergy were inclined to side with the people against the prince. The
close alliance of Church and State had now become an accomplished fact,
and was destined to influence Belgian politics right up to modern
times. The loyalty of the people was even stimulated by this alliance,
the work of public charity being more and more taken from the communal
authorities to be monopolized by the clergy. Attendance at church and,
for children, at catechism and Sunday school was encouraged by
benevolence, the distribution of prizes and small favours, while
religious slackness or any revolutionary tendency implied a loss of all
similar advantages. Here, again, the skilful propaganda against heresy
constituted a powerful weapon in the hands of the State. It must, in
all fairness, be added that charity contributed greatly to relieve the
misery so widespread during the first years of the century, and that
the people were genuinely grateful to such orders as the Récollets and
the Capuchins, who resumed the work undertaken with such enthusiasm by
the Minor Orders in the previous centuries. They visited the prisoners
and the sick, sheltered the insane and the destitute, and even
undertook such public duties as those of firemen. These efforts soon
succeeded in obliterating the last traces of Calvinist and republican
tendencies, which had never succeeded in affecting the bulk of the

As a modern sovereign, bent on increasing the power of the State,
Archduke Albert resented the encroachments of the clergy, as Charles V
had done before him. But he was as powerless to extricate himself from
the circumstances which identified the interests of his internal policy
with those of the Church, as to liberate himself from the severe
restrictions with which the Spanish régime paralysed his initiative in
foreign matters.



If it be true that the spirit of a period can best be judged by its
intellectual and artistic achievements, we ought certainly to find in
the pictures of Rubens (1577-1640) an adequate expression of the
tendencies and aspirations of the Counter Reformation in Belgium.
Compared with the religious pictures of the Van Eycks and of Van der
Weyden, such works as the "Spear Thrust" (Antwerp Museum), "The
Erection of the Cross" and the "Descent from the Cross" (Antwerp
Cathedral) form a complete contrast. There is no trace left in them of
the mystic atmosphere, the sense of repose and of the intense inner
tragedy which pervade the works of the primitives. Within a century,
Flemish art is completely transformed. It appeals to the senses more
than to the soul, and finds greatness in the display of physical effort
and majestic lines more than in any spiritual fervour. Two predominant
influences contributed to bring about this extraordinary
transformation--the influence of Italy and that of the Catholic
Restoration, specially as expressed by the Jesuits.

While, in the fifteenth century, Art, in the Low Countries, had
remained purely Flemish, or, to speak more accurately, faithful to
native tendencies, all through the sixteenth century the attraction of
the Italian Renaissance became more and more apparent. We know that
Van der Weyden, in 1450, and Josse van Ghent, in 1468, visited Italy,
but they went there more as teachers than as students. Their works were
appreciated by the Italian patrons for their intense originality and
for their technical perfection. Jean Gossaert, better known as Mabuse
on account of his being born in Maubeuge (_c._ 1472), was the first of
a numerous series of artists who, all through the sixteenth century,
considered the imitation of the Italian art of the period as an
essential condition of success. Just as the primitive National school
had been patronized by the dukes of Burgundy, the Italianizants were
patronized by Charles V, Margaret of Austria and Mary of Hungary. The
worship of Raphael and Michael Angelo, so apparent in the paintings of
Van Orley, Peter Pourbus, J. Massys and many others, marks the
transition between the primitive tendencies of Van Eyck and the modern
tendencies of Rubens. Both tendencies are sometimes aptly combined in
their works, and their portraits, especially those of Antoine Moro,
still place the Antwerp school of the sixteenth century in the
forefront of European Art, but the general decadence of native
inspiration is nevertheless plainly apparent. The favour shown to these
painters by the governors under Charles V and Philip II is significant.
Whatever their personal opinions may have been, the Italianizants
adapted themselves to the pomp displayed by the Monarchists and to the
modern spirit of Catholicism, as opposed to the Reformation, whose
critical and satiric tendencies were expressed, to a certain extent, by
realists like Jérôme Bosch (1460-1516) and Peter Breughel (_c._
1525-69) who painted, at the same time, genre pictures of a popular
character and who remained absolutely free from Italian influence. The
same opposition which divided society and religion reflected itself in


Though he succeeded in transforming their methods, Rubens is
nevertheless the spiritual descendant of the Italianizants. It is from
them and from his direct contact with the works of Michael Angelo and
Titian that he inherits his association of spiritual sublimity with
physical strength. Adopting without reserve Michael Angelo's pagan
vision of Christianity, he transformed his saints and apostles into
powerful heroes and endeavoured to convey the awe and majesty inspired
by the Christian drama through an imposing combination of forceful
lines and striking colouring.

Rubens was chosen by the Jesuits to decorate the great church they had
erected in Antwerp in 1620. Such a choice at first appears strange,
considering that, on several occasions, Rubens does not seem to conform
to the strict rule which the powerful brotherhood succeeded in imposing
on other intellectual activities. Translated into poetry, such works as
the "Rape of the Daughters of Lucippus," "The Judgment of Paris," "The
Progress of Silenus," would suggest a style very much akin to that of
Shakespeare's _Venus and Adonis_, and, needless to say, would never
have passed the Church's censor. For the reaction against the moral
license and the intellectual liberty of the previous century was by now
completed. Higher education was monopolized by the reformed University
of Louvain and the new University of Douai, and no Belgian was allowed
to study abroad. All traces of Humanism had disappeared from Louvain,
where Justus Lipsius remained as the last representative of Renaissance
tendencies strongly tempered by orthodoxy. Scientific novelties were so
much distrusted that when, in 1621, Van Helmont dared to make public
his observations on animal magnetism, he was denounced as a heretic and
obliged to recant. For fear of exposing themselves to similar
persecutions, the historians of the time confined themselves to the
study of national antiquities. The theatre was confined to the
representation of conventional Passions and Mysteries and to the plays
produced every year by the Jesuits in their schools.

    _Ph. B._

As a matter of fact, the tolerance and even the encouragement granted,
at the time, to an exuberant display of forms and colours and to an
overloaded ornamental architecture, were not opposed to the Jesuit
methods. They were determined, by all means at their disposal, to
transform the Low Countries into an advance citadel of Roman
Catholicism. Their policy was far more positive than negative. They
were far more bent on bringing to the Church new converts and
stimulating the zeal of their flock than on eradicating Protestantism.
They thought that the only means to obtain such a result was to attract
the people by pleasant surroundings and not to rebuke them by morose
asceticism. They were the first to introduce dancing, music and games
into their colleges. They organized processions and sacred pageants.
They surrounded the first solemn communion with a new ceremonial.
They stimulated emulation and showered prizes on all those who
distinguished themselves.


Society was merely for them a larger school in which they used the same
means in order to consolidate their position. During the first years of
the seventeenth century, an enormous number of new churches were built.
Never had architects been so busy since the time of Philip the Good.
The church of Douai, erected in 1583, was a replica of the Gésù in
Rome, and the general adoption of the Italian "barocco" by the Jesuits
has encouraged the idea, in modern times, that there really existed a
Jesuit type of architecture. The flowery ornaments on the façades of
these churches, their columns, gilded torches, elaborate and heavy
designs, cannot be compared to Rubens's masterpieces, but, from the
point of view of propaganda, which was the only point of view that
mattered, the glorious paintings of the Antwerp master fulfilled the
same purpose. They rendered religion attractive to the masses, they
combined with music and incense to fill the congregation with a sacred
awe conducive to faith.

It ought not to be assumed, however, that the painters of the period
enjoyed complete liberty of expression. If the Church showed great
tolerance with regard to the choice of certain profane subjects,
Christian art was directly influenced by the reforms promulgated by the
Council of Trent. In a pamphlet published in 1570 by Jean Molanus, _De
Picturis et Imaginibus sacris_, the new rules are strictly set forth.
All subjects inspired by the apocryphal books and popular legends are
proscribed, and even such details of treatment as the representation of
St. Joseph as an old man and the removal of the lily from the hand of
the Angel of the Annunciation to a vase are severely criticized. The
censors of the period would have given short shrift to Memling's
interpretation of St. Ursula's story and all similar legends which
could not be upheld by the authority of the _Acta Sanctorum_. This
remarkable historical work, initiated by Bollandus at the time,
endeavoured to weed out from the lives of the saints most of the
popular anecdotes which had inspired mediæval artists. All episodes
connected with the birth and marriage of the Virgin disappeared, at the
same time, from the churches. The Jesuits were stern rationalists, and,
considering themselves as the defenders of a besieged fortress, were
determined not to lay the Church open to attack and to remove any cause
for criticism. Their point of view was entirely contrary to that of the
mediæval artists. For the latter, Art sprang naturally from a fervent
mysticism, just as flowers spring from the soil. Its intimate faith
does not need any effort, any artifices, to make itself apparent; even
secondary works retain a religious value. The sacred pictures of the
seventeenth century appear, in contrast, as a gigantic and wonderful
piece of religious advertisement. Based on purely pagan motives, they
succeed in capturing the wandering attention on some sacred subject, by
overloading it with a luxury of ornament and an exuberance of gesture
unknown to the primitives. The treatment may be free, it is even
necessary that it should be so in order to flatter the taste of the
period, but the repertory of subjects becomes more and more limited.
Brilliant colours, floating draperies, powerful draughtsmanship,
become the obedient servants of a stern and dogmatic mind. The pagans
exalted sensuousness, the mediæval artists magnified faith, the artists
of the Counter-Reformation used all the means of the former to reach
the aim of the latter "ad majorem Dei gloriam."


The result of this intellectual and artistic movement was stupendous.
While the Récollets and Capuchins, Carmelites, Brigittines, Ursulines
and Clarisses worked among the poor, the Jesuits succeeded in capturing
the upper classes. All the children of the rich bourgeoisie and the
nobility attended their schools and colleges, and, in 1626, the number
of pupils with their parents who had entered the Congregation of the
Virgin reached 13,727. One might say that the Jesuits had taken
intellectual power from the hands of the laity in order to wield it for
the benefit of the Church. From their ranks rose all the most prominent
men of the period, philosophers like Lessius, economists like Scribani,
historians like the Bollandists, physicians, mathematicians, architects
and painters.

The direct result of this clericalization of Art and Letters was to
thwart the progress realized during the last century by the vulgar
tongue. Latin replaced French in philosophy, history and science, and
even in literature the elite preferred to express themselves in the
classic tongue. Flemish was completely disdained. According to Geulinx,
"it ought not to have been heard outside the kitchen or the inn." This
period, which from the artistic point of view was marked by such bold
innovations, favoured a reaction towards the mediæval use of Latin in
preference to the vulgar tongue. But Latin was not read by the people.

Rubens was not only the most successful religious painter of his time,
he was also the favourite and ambassador of Albert and Isabella, the
great courtier and portrait painter and the decorator of the Luxemburg
Palace in Paris. He not only paid court to the Church, he also placed
his talent at the service of the sovereigns and nobles of his day, and
certainly the encouragement given by the latter to pagan subjects may
account for the leniency of the Church towards them. In 1636 the King
of Spain ordered from the Antwerp master fifty-six pictures
illustrating the _Metamorphoses_ of Ovid, destined for his hunting
lodge near Madrid. Rubens's pupil, Van Dyck, was the accomplished type
of the court painter of the period. His portraits of Charles I and of
his children and of Lord John and Lord Bernard Stewart are among the
best-known examples of the work he accomplished in England.


There is a third aspect of Rubens which cannot be ignored and through
which he may be associated with the realist artists of the seventeenth
century, who succeeded in preserving a purely Flemish and popular
tradition in spite of Italian and monarchist influences. The "Kermesse"
of the Louvre and the wonderful landscapes disseminated in so many
European museums are the best proofs that the master did not lose touch
with his native land and with the people who tilled it. This special
aspect of his art is even more prominent in the works of his follower,
Jacques Jordaens (1593-1678). It is significant that the latter became
a Calvinist in 1655. While Rubens and Van Dyck represent mostly the
aristocratic and clerical side of the Flemish art of the period,
Jordaens appears as the direct descendant of Jérôme Bosch and Peter
Breughel. Breughel's satires, such as the "Fight between the Lean and
the Fat" and the "Triumph of Death," show plainly that his sympathies
were certainly not on the side of Spanish oppression. His
interpretation of the "Massacre of the Innocents" (Imperial Museum,
Vienna) is nothing but a tragic description of a raid of Spanish
soldiery on a Flemish village. Quite apart from their extraordinary
suggestiveness, these works, like most of Breughel's drawings and
paintings, constitute admirable illustrations of the popular life of
the Low Countries during the religious wars. It must never be forgotten
that all through the sixteenth century, starting from Quentin Matsys,
the founder of the Antwerp school, the popular and Flemish tradition
remains distinct from the flowery style of the Italianizants. Though it
is impossible to divide the two groups of artists among the two
political and religious tendencies in conflict, the works of Breughel
and Jordaens may be considered as a necessary counterpart to those of
Frans Floris and Rubens if we wish to form a complete idea of the
civilization of the period.

    (Imperial Museum, Vienna.)
    _P. Breugghel._[i]



Though the seven Northern provinces could be considered as definitely
lost after the failure of Farnese's last attempt to reconquer them, the
Spanish Netherlands still included, at the beginning of the seventeenth
century, the three duchies of Brabant, Limburg (with its dependencies
beyond the Meuse, Daelhem, Fauquemont and Rolduc), Luxemburg and a
small part of Gelder with Ruremonde; four counties, Flanders, Artois,
Hainault and Namur, and the two seigneuries of Malines and Tournai.
When, in 1715, the Southern Netherlands passed under Austrian
sovereignty, they had lost Maestricht and part of Northern Limburg,
Northern Brabant, Zeeland Flanders, Walloon Flanders and Artois, and
various small enclaves, most of their fortified towns being further
obliged to receive foreign garrisons, maintained at the expense of the
State. Antwerp remained closed, and the efforts made during the first
years of the seventeenth century to restore the economic situation
through industrial and agricultural activity were practically
annihilated by incessant wars.

This situation was evidently caused by the weakness of Spain, which,
though clinging to its Northern possessions, did not possess the means
to defend them against the ambition of European Powers, more especially
France. It was due also to the policy of the United Provinces, who
considered Belgium as a mere buffer State which they could use for
their own protection and whose ruin, through the closing of Antwerp,
was one of the conditions of their own prosperity. Up to the War of the
Spanish Succession, England played a less prominent part in the various
conflicts affecting the Southern Netherlands, but she succeeded, on
several occasions, in checking the annexationist projects of France,
whose presence along the Belgian coast was a far greater danger than
that of a weak and impoverished Spain.


There is no better illustration of the paramount importance of a strong
and independent Belgium to the peace of Europe than the series of wars
which followed each other in such rapid succession during the
seventeenth century. It is true that, in nearly every instance, the new
situation created in the Netherlands cannot be given as the direct
cause of these various conflicts, resulting from territorial ambitions,
dynastic susceptibilities and even, as in the case of the Thirty Years'
War, from circumstances quite independent of those prevalent on the
Meuse and the Scheldt. But, whatever the nominal cause of these wars
may have been, they certainly acquired a more widespread character from
the fact that the Spanish Netherlands lay as an easy prey at the mercy
of the invader and constituted a kind of open arena where European
armies could meet and carry on their contests on enemy ground. It is
not a mere chance that the separation of the Southern and Northern
provinces coincided with a remarkable recrudescence of the warlike
spirit all over Europe. The contrast between the fifteenth century,
when the Seventeen Provinces constituted a powerful State under the
dukes of Burgundy, and the seventeenth, when the greater part of it was
ruined and undefended, at the mercy of foreign invasion, is
particularly enlightening. All through the Middle Ages first Flanders,
later the Burgundian Netherlands, had exerted their sobering and
regulating influence between France, on one side, and England or
Germany on the other. The Belgian princes were directly interested in
maintaining peace, and, in most cases, only went to war when their
independence, and incidentally the peace of Europe, was threatened by
the increasing ambition of one of their neighbours. The system of
alliances concluded with this object could not possibly prevent
conflicts, but it certainly limited their scope and preserved Europe
from general conflagration, the combination of the Netherlands with one
Power being usually enough to keep a third Power in order. The
weakening of the Southern provinces under Spanish rule thus caused an
irreparable gap in the most sensitive and dangerous spot on the
political map of Europe. Triple and Quadruple Alliances were entered
into and inaugurated the system of Grand Alliances which was henceforth
to characterize almost every European conflict and increase on such a
large scale the numbers of opposed forces and the devastations
accompanying their warlike operations.


It may be said that the United Provinces might have played the part
formerly filled by the Burgundian Netherlands and the county of
Flanders, but, in spite of their amazing maritime expansion and of the
prosperity of their trade, they did not enjoy the same military
prestige on land. Besides, they did not care to undertake such a heavy
responsibility, and pursued most of the time a narrowly self-centred
policy. Though they had some excellent opportunities of reconstituting
the unity of the Low Countries, and though some of their statesmen
contemplated such a step, the United Provinces never embarked upon a
definite policy of reconstitution. They played for safety first and
were far too wary to sacrifice solid material advantages for a
problematic European prestige. Unification would have meant the
reopening of the Scheldt and the resurrection of Antwerp, whose rivalry
was always dreaded by the Northern ports. It would have meant the
admission of a far more numerous population on an equal footing, with
religious freedom, to the privileges of the Republic. It would have
implied the sacrifice of an extraordinarily strong strategic situation
and the risks involved by the defence of weak and extended frontiers.
The maintenance of a weak buffer State, as a glacis against any attacks
from the South, seemed far more advantageous, especially if its
fortified positions were garrisoned with Dutch forces. It gave all the
same strategic advantages which unification might have given, without
any of its risks and inconveniences. "It is far better," wrote a Dutch
Grand Pensioner, at the time, "to defend oneself in Brussels or Antwerp
than in Breda or Dordrecht." Such an attitude was perfectly justified
as long as Holland did not claim the advantages attached to the
position of a moderating central Power and ask for the reward without
having taken the risks.

We have seen how, in 1632, the delegates of the States General were met
at The Hague with the proposal of the creation of a Federative Catholic
Republic under the tutelage of France and Holland. This project,
already entertained in 1602 by the Grand Pensioner Oldenbarneveldt, was
very much favoured by Cardinal Richelieu, who, in 1634, signed a secret
convention with the United Provinces, according to which such a
proposal would be made to the people of the Southern Netherlands. In
the event of their refusing this arrangement, the country would be
divided among the two allies, following a line running from
Blankenberghe to Luxemburg. If we remember the attitude of the Belgians
at the time of the Conspiracy of the Nobles, led by the Count of Bergh
(1632), such a refusal must have been anticipated, so that the proposal
amounted really to a project of partition. This project would anyhow
have been opposed by England, since, according to the Dutch diplomat
Grotius, Charles I "would not admit" the presence of France on the
Flemish coast.

In 1635 a formal and public alliance was declared between the United
Provinces and France, and war broke out once more between Spain and the
confederates. The operations which followed form part of the fourth
phase of the Thirty Years' War, but we are only concerned here with
their result with regard to the Netherlands. While the Dutch took Breda
and concentrated near Maestricht, the French advanced through the
Southern provinces towards Limburg, where they made their junction
with their allies to proceed against Brussels. The Belgians had not
answered the Franco-Batavian manifesto, inviting them to rebel, and
gave whatever help they could to their Spanish governor, the Cardinal
Infant Ferdinand. Students co-operated in the defence of Louvain, and
the people showed the greatest loyalty during the campaign. They knew
by now that they had very little good to expect from a Franco-Dutch
protectorate and that even the shadow of independence they were allowed
to preserve under the Spanish régime would be taken from them.
Powerless to reconquer full independence, they preferred a weak rule
which secured for them at least religious liberty to the strong rule of
those whom they considered as foreigners and as enemies to their


Operations were pursued with alternating success until 1642, when
Mazarin succeeded Richelieu as French Prime Minister. Mazarin favoured
a more radical solution of the Netherlands difficulty. He persuaded
Louis XIV that the possession of the left bank of the Rhine was
essential to the safety of the kingdom, and aimed at the total
annexation of the Belgian Provinces. The negotiations begun in that
direction met with Dutch and English opposition and the curt refusal of
Spain to renounce her rights on her Northern possessions. This new
attitude of France brought about a rapprochement between Spain and the
United Provinces, who began to fear Louis XIV's ambitious schemes. The
two countries settled their difficulties by the treaty of Münster
(1648), while, after a new series of defeats, culminating, in 1658, in
the Battle of the Dunes, won by Turenne against Don Juan, Philip IV
was finally obliged to submit to the treaty of the Pyrenees (1659).

The Dutch plenipotentiaries had practically a free hand in the settling
of the Münster treaty. They acquired all the territories they claimed,
and they only claimed the territories they wanted and which they
already held. Their choice was dictated neither by territorial ambition
nor by the desire to realize the unity of the Netherlands. They
obtained, of course, the official recognition of their full
independence and the maintenance of the closing of the Scheldt and of
its dependencies. The annexation of Zeeland Flanders, henceforth known
as Flanders of the States, ensured their position on the left bank of
the stream, that of North Brabant with Bergen-op-Zoom, Breda and
Bois-le-Duc, ensured the protection of their central provinces, while
Maestricht, together with Fauquemont, Daelhem and Rolduc, secured their
position on the Meuse. These were purely strategic annexations,
prompted by strategic motives and by the desire to keep a firm hold on
some key positions from which the United Provinces could check any
attack, either from Spain or from France, with the least effort.

By the treaty of the Pyrenees Philip IV abandoned to France the whole
of Artois and a series of fortified positions in Southern Flanders,
Hainault, Namur and Luxemburg. These latter demands were prompted by an
evident desire to extend French territory towards the Netherlands and
to obtain a position which should afford a good starting-point for such

The treaties of Münster and of the Pyrenees had, broadly speaking,
determined the new status of the Southern provinces, considerably
diminished to comply with the wishes and the interests of the United
Provinces and of France. This status was not considerably altered by
the succession of wars which took place during the second half of the
seventeenth century and the early years of the eighteenth, and which
ended by the substitution of Austrian for Spanish rule. It was,
however, considered as provisional by Louis XIV, whose territorial
ambitions extended far beyond Walloon Flanders, and, before obtaining
the right to live within her new frontiers, Belgium had still to
undergo the ordeal of five devastating wars.

    From an old print (1648).


At the time of the death of Philip IV (1665), the Southern provinces,
impoverished and inadequately defended, were an easy prey to foreign
territorial greed. The Dutch Grand Pensioner De Witt returned to the
old plan of 1634, whereby Holland and France should agree to the
constitution of a protected buffer State, and, in case this proposal
should not meet with the support of the States, to a partition along a
line extending from Ostend to Maestricht. Holland and England, however,
were soon to realize that no compromise was possible with France and
that their safety required prompt joint action.

The Roi-Soleil would not agree to recognize the right of the new King
of Spain, Charles II, to the Southern Netherlands. A few years before,
King Louis had married Maria Theresa, the eldest daughter of Philip IV,
and his legal advisers made a pretext of the non-payment of her dowry
and of a custom prevalent in some parts of Brabant, according to which
the children of a first marriage were favoured ("dévolution"), to
claim this part of the Spanish succession. The King's troops entered
the Netherlands in 1667, without meeting with any serious opposition,
and hostilities only came to an end when, after concluding a hasty
peace and enlisting the support of Sweden, the United Provinces and
England concluded the Triple Alliance (1668). By the treaty of
Aix-la-Chapelle, France nevertheless obtained the fortified towns of
Bergues, Furnes, Armentières, Courtrai, Lille, Oudenarde, Tournai, Ath,
Douai, Binche and Charleroi, strengthening her position still further
on the borders of Walloon Flanders and in Hainault. The allies
understood by then that Louis's ambitions threatened their very
existence. When the French resumed hostilities, four years later, a
revolution took place in Holland which overthrew De Witt in favour of
William III of Orange, who was hereafter the strongest opponent of
French policy. Charles II of England took an equally strong attitude,
following the traditional English policy of not allowing the French to
obtain a hold on the Flemish coast. Addressing Parliament, a few years
later, he declared that England could not admit "that even one town
like Ostend should fall into French hands, and could not tolerate that
even only forty French soldiers should occupy such a position, just
opposite the mouth of the Thames." William had therefore no difficulty
in constituting a powerful alliance, including, besides the United
Provinces and England, Spain, Germany and Denmark. In face of such
opposition, Louis was finally compelled to sign the treaty of Nymegen,
which restored to Spain some of the advanced positions obtained by the
treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, but confirmed the loss of Walloon Flanders
and Southern Hainault.

After a few years, however, seeing the alliance broken off and his
enemies otherwise engaged, the King of France assumed a more and more
aggressive attitude and encroached so much on the rights of Spain that
Charles II was finally compelled to resist his pretensions. Luxemburg
was the only town which offered any serious resistance; everywhere else
French armies pursued their methods of terrorism, bombarded the towns
and ravaged the country. The Truce of Ratisbon, concluded in 1684 for
twenty years, added Chimay, Beaumont and Luxemburg to the French


William III, alarmed by this progress, succeeded in enlisting the
support of the Emperor Leopold I, the King of Spain, the King of Sweden
and the Duke of Savoy. A new League against France was founded in
Augsburg (1686). When, two years later, William succeeded in
supplanting James II on the throne of England, this country entered the
League and a new conflict became inevitable. Belgium was not directly
interested in it, and, as on former occasions, served as the
battleground of foreign armies. In spite of the series of victories won
by the French general, the Marshal of Luxemburg, at Fleurus (1690),
Steenkerque (1692) and Neerwinden (1693), William III always succeeded
in reconstituting his army. Two years later, he retook Namur, in spite
of Marshal de Villeroi's attack on Brussels, during which the capital
was bombarded for two days (August 13th to 15th) with red-hot bullets,
over four thousand houses, including those of the Grand' Place, being
destroyed by fire. The peace of Ryswyck, September 20, 1697, gave back
to Spain the advanced fortresses annexed by the two previous treaties,
William being definitely recognized as King of England.

The personal union between the two countries reacted somewhat on
British policy in the Netherlands, this country taking a far more
important share in the last period of the struggle against Louis XIV.
Up till then, England had been content with checking France's
encroachments in Flanders and maintaining the balance of power in
Europe. The closer relationships with the United Provinces, during the
reigns of William and Mary and of Queen Anne, involved England in
further responsibilities and even induced her to impose, for a short
time, an Anglo-Dutch protectorate on the Belgian provinces. This
attitude was made more apparent by Marlborough's personal ambitions
concerning the governorship of the Southern provinces, but the failure
of these projects and the prompt return to traditional policy, after
the treaty of Utrecht, only makes more apparent the general territorial
disinterestedness of this country concerning the Netherlands.


Charles II of Spain had died in 1700, leaving all his possessions and
the crown of Spain to Philip, Duke of Anjou, the second grandson of
Louis XIV, thus depriving of his hopes of the succession Archduke
Charles, son of the Emperor Leopold I, who stood in exactly the same
relation to the deceased monarch. The emperor at once sought the
support of the United Provinces, which, however, hesitated to reopen
hostilities. The Spanish governor in Belgium was then Maximilian
Emmanuel of Bavaria, who harboured the project of restoring the
Southern provinces to their former prosperity and of becoming the
sovereign of the new State, with or without a Spanish protectorate.
French agents at his court encouraged his plan and so lured him by
false promises that, in 1701, he allowed French troops to enter Belgium
unopposed and to establish themselves in the principal towns. The Grand
Alliance, including the same partners as the Augsburg League, was at
once re-formed, in spite of the death, in 1702, of William, and the
Duke of Marlborough was placed at the head of the allied troops. During
the first years of the War of the Spanish Succession, operations were
purely defensive in the Netherlands, owing specially to the anxiety of
the Dutch not to risk any offensive which might have left a gap for the
enemy's attacks. It was not until 1706 that Marlborough was able to
break through the enemy's defences at Ramillies, near Tirlemont. This
victory was followed by a French retreat, and the Belgians expected to
be placed at once under the rule of Charles III, the other claimant of
the Spanish crown, instead of which the Council of State, summoned in
Brussels, was subjected to the orders of an Anglo-Batavian Conference,
which had no legitimate right to rule the country. The Council
protested, upon several occasions, and the exactions of the allies, who
had been first hailed as deliverers, caused such indignation in the
provinces that some towns, such as Ghent, opened their gates to the
French. The defeat of Louis XIV was, however, consummated at Oudenarde
(1708) and Malplaquet (1709). The French forces had been so
considerably reduced that, had Louis's openings for peace been met at
the time, the integrity of the Southern provinces might have been
restored. The Allies were, however, rather indifferent to such
advantages, since it became more and more evident that, owing to
Anglo-Dutch rivalries, they could not reap any direct benefit from
them, and the Netherlands would finally have to be restored to Charles
III, who, at the death of the emperor, in 1710, succeeded his brother
under the name of Charles VI. The Whig Party had fallen from power in
England in the previous year, and Marlborough, no longer supported at
home, could not undertake any further operations. Under these
conditions negotiations became possible, and the result was not so
damaging to the prestige of France as might have been expected. By the
treaty of Utrecht (1713) the Southern Netherlands were transferred to
the Austrian branch of the Hapsburgs as a compensation for its loss of
the Spanish crown. Louis restored Tournai, and a portion of West
Flanders beyond the Yser including Furnes and Ypres, but Artois,
Walloon Flanders, the south of Hainault and of Luxemburg remained


From the point of view of the Netherlands, the treaties of Rastadt and
of Baden (1714) were merely the ratification, by the emperor and by the
Holy Roman Empire, of the clauses of the treaty of Utrecht. But the
treaty of Antwerp, or of the Barriers, concluded the next year, between
Austria and the United Provinces, included new stipulations practically
placing the new Austrian Netherlands under the tutelage of Holland and
still increasing her territorial encroachments. This was the outcome of
previous conventions concluded between England and the United Provinces
and according to which the latter were promised, beside some
territorial advantages, the possession of a certain number of fortified
towns "in order that they should serve as a barrier of safety to the
States General" (1705). If, at Utrecht, the British had obtained new
possessions in Canada, at Antwerp the Dutch claimed their share of
advantages and exacted from Charles VI the price of their services.
Namur, Tournai, Menin, Ypres, Warneton, Furnes, Knocke and Termonde
were to be the fixed points of the Barrier where the United Provinces
might keep their troops at the expense of the Belgian provinces.
Further advantages were obtained in Zeeland Flanders and on the Meuse
by the annexation of Venloo, Stevensweert and Montfort. The
fortifications of Liége, Huy and Ghent were to be razed and the Dutch
had further the right to flood certain parts of the country if they
considered it necessary for defence. The Scheldt, of course, remained
closed, since, according to Article XXVI, "the trade of the Austrian
Netherlands and everything depending on it would be on the same footing
as that established by the treaty of Münster, which was confirmed."

The treaty of the Barriers marked the lowest ebb of Belgian
nationality. During the protracted war which preceded it, complete
anarchy reigned, imperialists, the allied conference, Maximilian
Emmanuel and the French administering various parts of the country. The
great nation raised in the heart of Europe by the dukes of Burgundy
seemed practically annihilated, but the people had retained, in spite
of all reverses and tribulations, the memory of their past, and, from
the very depth of their misery, evolved a new strength and reasserted
their right to live, in spite of the attitude of all European Powers,
which seemed, at the time, to consider their nationality as

"We are reduced to the last extremity," wrote the States of Brabant to
Charles II in 1691, "we are exhausted to the last substance by long and
costly wars, and we can only present your Majesty with our infirmities,
our wounds and our cries of sorrow."




The Austrian régime is characterized by a return to more peaceful
conditions, since, with the exception of the period of 1740 to 1748,
the country was not directly affected by European conflicts. Under any
rule, this period of peace must have been marked by an economic
renaissance in a country disposing of such natural riches as the
Southern provinces. The Austrian governors encouraged this movement, as
the archdukes had encouraged it before, but, like them, they were
unable to deliver the country from its economic bondage, as far as
foreign trade was concerned. The maritime countries had made stringent
conditions on the cession of the Southern Netherlands to the Austrian
dynasty. The treaties stipulated that "the loyal subjects of his
Imperial Majesty could neither buy nor sell without the consent of
their neighbours." During the last years of the Spanish régime, a small
group of Ostend merchants had chartered a ship, the _Prince Eugène_,
and founded factories near Canton. This was the origin of the "General
Company of the Indies to trade in Bengal and the extreme East," usually
known as the "Ostend Company," founded in 1723. Within seven hours'
time, the capital of 6,000,000 florins was subscribed, and soon eleven
ships plied between Ostend and a series of factories established on the
coast of Bengal and Southern China. This success was looked at askance
by the maritime Powers, which, basing their claim on a clause in the
treaty of Münster forbidding the Spanish to trade in the East Indies,
made the suppression of the new company a condition to the acceptance
of the Pragmatic Sanction. By this act, Charles VI endeavoured to
ensure the succession of Maria Theresa to the Austrian throne. Once
more, Belgium was sacrificed to dynastic interests, and on May 31,
1727, the concession of the Company of Ostend was suspended, to be
finally suppressed in 1731. A similar attempt was made, later in the
century, by the Company of Asia and Africa, whose seat was at Trieste,
with a branch at Ostend. This company chose for its ventures the
deserted group of islands surrounding Tristan d'Acunha, with the idea
that such a modest enterprise could not possibly awake the jealousy of
the Powers. But, in the same way, in 1785, Holland, England and France
brought about the failure of the new company. Ostend had to be
satisfied with the transit of Spanish wool towards the Empire and with
the temporary activity brought to her port by the American War of


In spite of their apparent insignificance and of their total failure,
these attempts to reopen communication with the outer world,
notwithstanding the closing of the Scheldt, are symptomatic of a
remarkable economic revival. The population had risen from two to three
millions, during the first half of the eighteenth century, and
Brussels, with 70,000 inhabitants, Ghent and Antwerp, with 50,000 each,
had regained a certain part of their former prosperity. Native
industry, strongly encouraged by protective measures, made a wonderful
recovery. In the small towns and the country-side, the linen industry
benefited largely from the invention of the fly shuttle, over two
hundred thousand weavers and spinners being employed in 1765.
Lace-making had made further progress, specially in Brussels, where
fifteen thousand women followed this trade. In 1750 Tournai became an
important centre for the china industry, its wares acquiring great
renown. The extraction of coal in the deeper seams had been facilitated
by the use of recently invented steam-pumps, and the woollen industry
around Verviers was producing, in 1757, 70,000 pieces of material a
year. Such progress largely compensated for the decadence of tapestry,
which had been ruined by the rivalry of printed stuffs.

The Government intervened also actively in agricultural matters by
encouraging small ownership, at the expense of great estates, and the
breaking up of new ground. The land tax was more evenly distributed and
the great work of draining the Moeres (flooded land between Furnes and
Dunkirk), which had been begun by the archdukes, was successfully
completed (1780). The peasants also benefited from the cultivation of
potatoes, which were becoming more and more popular.

The only severe check to economic activity was caused by the War of the
Austrian Succession, which opened at the accession of Maria Theresa
(1740), and which opposed the forces of Austria, England and Holland
against the coalition of Prussia, France, Spain and Poland. A British
landing in Ostend prevented an early invasion of the Southern
Netherlands by France during the first year of the struggle, but in
1744 French troops appeared in West Flanders, and Belgium became once
more the "Cockpit of Europe."

The victory of Maurice de Saxe at Fontenoy against the allied armies
commanded by the Duke of Cumberland placed the Southern Netherlands
under French occupation. After a month's siege, Brussels was obliged to
capitulate, and was soon followed by Antwerp and the principal towns of
the country. The Marshal de Saxe treated the Belgian provinces as
conquered territory, and the exactions of his intendant, Moreau de
Seychelles, provoked some protests, which were abruptly silenced. After
two years' operations, during which the allies sustained some reverses
on land but obtained some victories at sea, peace was finally signed at
Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). The Belgian provinces came again under Austrian
rule, and Maestricht and Bergen-op-Zoom, which had been conquered by
the French, were given back to Holland, together with the fortresses of
the Barrier, which were again occupied by Dutch troops.

Dutch occupation had, from the beginning, been strongly resented by the
Belgian people, who felt the humiliation of entertaining foreign
garrisons in their own towns. Now that the Dutch had proved unable to
defend the Barrier, its re-establishment was still less justified and
was considered as a gratuitous insult. Nothing did more to deepen the
gulf between the Southern and Northern Netherlands than the
maintenance of the Barrier system, combined with the repeated actions
taken by the Dutch to ruin the trade of Ostend and to enforce the free
import of certain goods. The popularity enjoyed by Charles de Lorraine,
the brother in-law of Maria Theresa, who governed the Belgian provinces
from 1744 to 1780, was partly due to the resentment provoked by Dutch


On the whole, the Austrian régime was not very different from the
Spanish. The provinces were governed from Vienna, where the Council of
the Low Countries invariably adopted the Government's decision. The
States General were never summoned and no affair of importance was
submitted to the Council of State in Brussels. Charles de Lorraine,
however, showed a greater respect for local privileges than his
predecessors and gained the sympathy of the nobles by his genial
manners. He held court either in Brussels or in his castles of
Mariemont and Tervueren, where French fashions were introduced and
which recalled, on a modest scale, the glories of Versailles. Some
members of the aristocracy, like Charles Joseph de Ligne, who was,
besides, a remarkable writer, were in close relations with the French
philosophers, but they were only a small minority and most of the
Belgian nobles were decidedly hostile to the new ideas. Voltaire, who
visited Brussels in 1738, did not appreciate this provincial
atmosphere: "The Arts do not dwell in Brussels, neither do the
Pleasures; a retired and quiet life is here the lot of nearly all, but
this quiet life is so much like tedium that one may easily be mistaken
for the other."

As a matter of fact, though the eighteenth century contrasted
favourably with the seventeenth, in the Southern provinces, from the
economic point of view, its intellectual life was extraordinarily poor.
There is no name to mention among the Flemish writers. Indeed, one
might even say that Flemish had practically ceased to be written and
had become a mere dialect. The Prince de Ligne remained isolated in his
castle of Beloeil, designed by Lenôtre, and was merely a French
intellectual in exile. A Royal Academy of Drawing had been founded, but
the period hardly produced any painter worthy of note. An Imperial and
Royal Academy of Science and Letters had been inaugurated in 1772, but
the only members were scholars and antiquaries without any originality.
Maria Theresa tried to react against this intellectual apathy. She
substituted civil for ecclesiastical censorship, she commissioned Count
de Nény, the famous jurist, to reform the University of Louvain. When
the order of the Jesuits was suppressed by the pope in 1773, she
founded fifteen new lay colleges, known as Collèges Thérésiens, and
took a personal interest in the framing of the programme of studies and
in the least detail of organization. She favoured the teaching of
Flemish as well as French in the secondary schools and the two
languages were placed on exactly the same footing. In the judicial
domain she succeeded in abolishing torture as a means of inquiry. She
also attempted to relieve pauperism by the foundation of orphanages and


In spite of the fact that neither Charles VI nor Maria Theresa ever
visited Belgium, the people felt a genuine attachment to the monarchy.
They lived with the memory of such severe trials that they were
grateful for the scant attention they received. Besides, the Hapsburg
dynasty remained one of their links with the past, and it is
significant that, at a time when all eyes were turned towards the
future, the Belgians, and especially the popular classes, were more and
more thrown back on their own traditions. No doubt the economic
restrictions to which they were subjected and the fact that they were
practically isolated must have conduced to this state of mind, but the
lack of political independence is mainly responsible for it. Unable to
take their fate in their own hands, obliged to submit to the greatest
calamities without being allowed to avoid or to prevent them, the
Belgians clung to the last vestige of their past privileges as if their
salvation could only be found among the ruins of their bygone glory.


The only serious civil trouble which occurred under Spanish and
Austrian rule was caused by trivial infringements by the Government of
some of the old privileges of the corporations. For such reasons, riots
broke out in Brussels (1619), Antwerp (1659) and Louvain (1684). The
people did not rise against foreign domination or in order to obtain
their share in the administration of the country, but because they
thought, rightly or wrongly, that some mediæval custom, which they
considered as their sacred privilege, had not been observed. During the
last years of the Spanish régime, frequent riots broke out in Brussels
because, after the accidental collapse of a tower containing old
documents, the people had been able to read again the Grand Privilege
of Mary of Burgundy, granted two centuries before. They had reprints
made of it under the name _Luyster van Brabant_ (Ornament of Brabant)
and wanted to persuade Maximilian Emmanuel to apply the old charter.
After long delays, the governor had finally to enforce severe
regulations, known as "réglements additionnels." This incident was the
origin of further trouble at the beginning of the Austrian régime, when
Prince Eugène, being engaged in the war against the Turks, delegated
the Marquis de Prié to represent him in the Low Countries. Unwilling to
comply with the new regulations, the Brussels artisans refused to pay
the taxes. They were led by a chair-maker, François Anneessens. Riots
broke out in 1718 in Brussels and Malines, and Prié was obliged to let
the local militia restore order. He had meanwhile sent for troops, and
in October 1719 Brussels was militarily occupied. Anneessens was
executed, and the bitterness provoked by this tyrannical measure
obliged the Government to recall Prié a few years later (1724). These
popular movements were only the first signs of the increasing
restlessness of the people which caused the Brabançonne revolution of
1789. While the conservative and even reactionary character of these
civil troubles must be made clear, in order to avoid any confusion
between the Belgian and the French revolutions, it must at the same
time be admitted that both movements started from the same desire for
change and from the same confused feeling that, under a new régime,
life would become more tolerable. The social conditions caused by the
"ancien régime" were not nearly so oppressive in the Belgian provinces
as in France, and, under the enlightened rule of Maria Theresa and
Joseph II, some amelioration was certainly to be expected. But the
people suffered from the artificial conditions under which they lived
economically, and though they did not see clearly the cause of their
trouble, they were inclined to seize upon any pretext to manifest their
discontent. In spite of all appearances, one could suggest that the
closing of the Scheldt may have had something to do with the overthrow
of the Austrian régime.



Philip II's policy ruined the Southern Netherlands at the end of the
sixteenth century. Two hundred years later, Joseph II's methods of
government provoked a popular reaction which practically brought to an
end the Hapsburg régime. The contrast between the two sovereigns is
striking. Philip II is the type of the monarchic tyrant basing his
claim to sovereignty on the Divine Right of Kings and pursuing these
principles to their extreme conclusions. Not only did he consider his
mission to govern his people's bodies, but he also felt bound to govern
their souls, and sincerely believed that, by persecuting heresy by the
most cruel means, he was in reality working for their good. Opposed
to this clerical fanatic, issuing decrees from a monastery cell,
Joseph II stands as the type of the modern monarch, brought up on
eighteenth-century enlightened philosophy, for whom the State was not
to serve the Church but to be served by it. For this young philosopher,
who affected the greatest simplicity in manners and habits, the
sovereign himself was the first servant of the State, and his
autocratic rule was only justified by his belief that a reasonable and
wise government could not be subjected to the peoples' control.

    [_JOSEPH II_]

But, in spite of this contrast in education, external appearance and
outlook, Philip II and Joseph II had certain points in common. They
were both conscientious workers, over-anxious to control every act of
their representatives, and they had both the greatest contempt for the
feelings of the people they governed. Having come to certain
conclusions, they applied them mechanically, scornful of all
resistance. They held the secret of their people's happiness or
salvation in their hands and they were resolved to enforce this
happiness and this salvation on them whether they agreed or not. They
both possessed the hard, intolerant and virtuous mind which makes the
worst autocrats. The only striking difference between the wishes of the
two monarchs was that the fanatic of eighteenth-century philosophy was
determined that his people should find happiness in this life, while
the fanatic of the Catholic Renaissance was determined that they should
find this happiness in the next.

    Illustration: JOSEPH II.
    From a contemporary engraving.


Such appreciation may seem strange if one considers that one of Joseph
II's cardinal principles of government was precisely religious and
philosophic tolerance and the complete dissociation of State politics
from personal belief. But we are not concerned at present with the
personal philosophy of the two kings, but with the way it affected
their people. This people, as far as the Netherlands were concerned,
were the last in Europe to tolerate such hard and abstract methods of
government, and nothing perhaps is more enlightening, if we try to form
an adequate opinion of Belgian temperament, than the upheaval caused by
the reforms proclaimed by the "benighted" and by the "enlightened"
monarch. It was not so much that the Belgians rebelled against
Inquisition, in one case, and against secularization in the other. We
have seen that, in the sixteenth century, the great majority had
remained Catholic, in spite of Calvinistic propaganda, and, though the
Church had obtained still greater authority during the seventeenth
century, the minority influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution
was by no means to be disregarded. The principle to which the Belgians
most objected was State worship, because it broke up all the traditions
of the Burgundian and post-Burgundian periods. As long as these
traditions and local privileges, giving them still a shadow of
provincial independence, were respected, they submitted without too
much difficulty to the imposition of centralized institutions and to
foreign rule. They were even ready, when this rule proved at all
congenial, to give solid proofs of their loyalty. They were very
sensible of any mark of sympathy and showed an almost exaggerated
gratitude to any prince who condescended to preside over their
festivals and share in their pleasures. This had been the secret of
Charles V's popularity, and the successful governorship of Charles de
Lorraine had no other cause. But Charles de Lorraine was just the type
of man whom a puritan dogmatist like Joseph II could not stand. Though
he had visited most of his estates, as heir apparent, he had always
refrained from going to Belgium, owing to his antipathy for his uncle,
whose popularity he envied. When Charles died, he changed the name of
the regiment which had been called after him. His visit to Belgium, in
1781, was a great disappointment to the people--as great a
disappointment as the first appearance of Philip II in Brussels. He
started with the intention of "undertaking a serious and thorough
study" of the Southern Netherlands. When asked to preside over a
festivity, in Luxemburg, he answered that he had not come "to eat,
drink and dance, but on serious business." When shown, at Ghent, the
glorious masterpiece of Flemish art, the crowning glory of the
Burgundian time, Van Eyck's Adoration of the Lamb, he objected to the
nude figures of Adam and Eve and had them removed. He appeared in
simple uniform, accompanied by one servant, stayed at the public inn
and travelled in public coaches. He spent most of his time in
government offices, taking no opportunity to mix with the people and
visiting in a hurried way schools, barracks and workshops. Such were
his serious studies. How could the people understand a prince who
understood them so little? Perceiving this lack of sympathy, he had
already judged them; they were, for him, "frenchified heads who cared
for nothing but beer."

Maria Theresa, though her policy had remained strictly dynastic,
involving even the possible exchange of her Belgian provinces against
other States, had acquired a certain knowledge of the people and
realized that their prejudices, though absurd according to her own
lights, had to be indulged. She had urged her son to be patient with
regard to such prejudices, "of which too many had already been scraped
away." She realized that the acceptance by the Government of local
customs and privileges was an essential condition to the continuance of
Austrian rule, that the people, unable to defend themselves, centred
all their affection and their pride on these last remnants of their
former glory, and that religious ceremonies and popular feasts were a
healthy overflow for popular energy which might otherwise become
dangerous. Choosing her opportunities, she had gradually worked towards
the secularization of education and the limitation of the privileges of
the clergy, but she had not attempted wholesale reforms.

Joseph II, on the contrary, worked according to plan, and was bent on
destroying whatever seemed to him absurd in the customs and
institutions of the country. Practically everything seemed so to him:
the anachronism of the Joyous Entry, the mediævalism of the Grand
Privilege of Mary of Burgundy, the regionalism of provincial States,
the prestige of the Church, the pilgrimages, the intolerance, down to
the popular festivities, the drinking bouts of the "kermesses" and the
mad craving of the people for good cheer. This last trait was as
characteristic of the Belgian people in those days as in mediæval and
modern times. All the realist painters, from Breughel to Jordaens and
from Jordaens to Teniers, had exalted the joys of popular holidays, and
it is remarkable that, during a century when there was so little to eat
in the country and so little cause for merrymaking, the works of art
which are the truest expression of the people's aspirations dwell on no
other subject with so much relish and insistence. The tragic side of
life was not represented, and one might venture to say that the
admirers of such merry kermesses must often have taken their wish for
the reality. Like Breughel's "Pays de Cocagne," they described an
earthly paradise far more distant than the heavenly one.


In one way only the emperor understood the aspirations of his people
and supported them up to a certain point. Before organizing his
possessions according to the ideal project he had already sketched, he
intended to consolidate their political situation. The Barrier system
was as distasteful to him as to the population of Flanders and
Hainault, and he shared the grievances of the merchants of Antwerp with
regard to the closing of the Scheldt. As early as 1756 Maria Theresa
had refused to pay the annual tribute for the upkeep of the Dutch
garrisons, which had done so little to defend Belgium during the
previous war, but she had been unable to prevent the Prince of
Brunswick from rebuilding the destroyed fortresses and from reinstating
the garrisons. After the break up of the Dutch-British alliance, owing
to the American War, Joseph II did not hesitate to demolish the
fortresses, and the Dutch garrisons were obliged to depart (1782).
Encouraged by this first success and finding England eager to reopen
the Scheldt, owing to the blockade of the Dutch coast, the emperor
announced the liberty of the river, and followed this announcement by
sending, rather rashly, a small brig, the _Louis_, flying his flag,
from Antwerp down to the sea. A shot, fired from a Dutch cutter, hit a
cauldron which happened to be on deck and Europe was faced with the
prospect of a new war. The "War of the Cauldron" was, however,
prevented by the mediation of Louis XVI, and the treaty of
Fontainebleau (1785), while recognizing the suppression of the
Barrier, maintained the closing of the Scheldt.

This check in his foreign policy further increased the unpopularity of
Joseph II in Belgium. Jealous of the authority of Duke Albert Casimir
of Saxe-Teschen and of his sister, Marie Christine, his representatives
in the country, the emperor deprived them of all initiative and acted
directly through his minister plenipotentiary, the Count of
Belgiojioso. In order to restrict the influence of the clergy and to
bring Belgian institutions into complete harmony with the organization
of his other States, Joseph II issued, from 1781 to 1786, a series of
edicts which could not fail to cause great indignation among the
Catholics: all public functions were rendered accessible to Catholics
and non-Catholics alike, complete liberty of worship was proclaimed,
mixed marriages (between Catholics and Protestants) were authorized,
the keeping of the parish registers was taken from the ecclesiastical
authorities, all "useless" convents and monasteries were suppressed,
all episcopal charges were subjected to imperial sanction, all
episcopal seminaries were suppressed, to be replaced by controlled
seminaries at Louvain and Luxemburg. The parish limits were altered and
strong regulations were made with regard to processions, pilgrimages
and even sacerdotal costume, while burying in consecrated ground was
forbidden, in order that all dead, whatever their creed, should be
equally honoured.


Some of these measures might have been quite justified, and the example
of Maria Theresa shows that they might have been taken progressively,
under favourable circumstances, without causing trouble. What hurt the
people most was their sweeping character, their frequency and the petty
tyranny with which they were applied. It was not without reason that
Frederick II of Prussia nicknamed Joseph "my brother the sacristan."
The emperor had gone as far as replacing the Catholic brotherhoods by
the "Brotherhood of the Active Love of My Neighbour." All protests
remained without the least result. They were merely, according to
Joseph II, "the effect of delirium." Within five years, this too
sensible sovereign, by calling all those who did not agree with him
"madmen," had succeeded in undoing all the good work undertaken by
Charles de Lorraine and in ruining Austrian authority in the
Netherlands. In 1786 Joseph II undertook to regulate the people's
pleasures. In order to prevent the inhabitants of neighbouring villages
and towns from taking part in each other's kermesses, he fixed one day
in the year for the celebration of all these festivities. No wonder
that his good intentions were not appreciated and that this constant
interference of the State in the people's most intimate and cherished
traditions was met with growing dislike.

The emperor, nevertheless, did not slacken his activity, and the next
year issued a decree which completely upset the administrative and
judicial organization of the provinces. A "General Council of the Low
Countries" replaced the three collateral Councils. The country was
divided into nine circles, under the authority of intendants, each of
which was subdivided into districts under the authority of
commissaries. All supreme courts, provincial, municipal,
ecclesiastical, university and corporation courts were replaced, from
one day to another, by sixty-four ordinary tribunals, two courts of
appeal and one court of revision.

This last measure, which really meant the final break up of all the
privileges and institutions so anxiously defended and preserved through
centuries of foreign oppression, provoked a unanimous protest. The
Catholics, headed by the popular tribune Van der Noot, were joined by
the minority of nobles and bourgeois influenced by the ideas of the
French Revolution, whose principal representative was François Vonck.
The States of Brabant refused to pay the taxes, as long as the 1787
decrees were not repealed, and the few partisans of Belgiojioso, or
"Figs," were persecuted by the populace. On May 18, 1787, Duke Albert
Casimir wrote to Joseph II: "Convinced that it is attacked in its most
sacred rights and its very liberty, the whole nation, from the first to
the last citizen, is permeated with a patriotic enthusiasm which would
cause them to shed the last drop of their blood rather than obey laws
which the authorities would endeavour to impose and which appear
contrary to the Constitution."

    Illustration: VAN DER NOOT.
    From a contemporary engraving.

Meanwhile Van der Noot and Vonck had founded a Patriotic Committee,
heavily subsidized by the clergy, which enlisted volunteers and
circulated anti-imperial pamphlets. In August 1787 Joseph II was at
last persuaded to suspend his last decrees, on the condition that the
Committee should be dissolved and the volunteers disbanded. He sent to
Brussels, as plenipotentiary, Count Trautmansdorff, with dictatorial
powers, and General d'Alton as commander of the imperial forces. Under
the threat of the military, the Council of Brabant was obliged to


The religious reforms, however, were still provoking strong opposition.
The Seminary General remained without pupils. The University of
Louvain, having rebelled against the new regulations, was closed. Riots
broke out in Louvain, Malines and Antwerp which were sternly repressed.
The States of Hainault, having refused subsidies, were dissolved. When
the States of Brabant adopted a similar attitude, the emperor had guns
trained on the Grand' Place of Brussels and threatened "to turn the
capital into a desert where grass would grow in the streets." The
autocrat was now showing under the dogmatist. Exasperated by
resistance, Joseph II asked from the States of Brabant a perpetual
subsidy, declared his intention of revising the Joyous Entry, which he
had sworn to maintain, and of taking up his plans of judiciary
reorganization. The States, having refused their support, were
dissolved and the Joyous Entry annulled.

It so happened that public opinion was stirred most acutely in the
provinces at the time of the taking of the Bastille by the people of
Paris (July 1789). This great symbolic event was bound to react on the
Belgian crisis. The Vonckist minority was strongly encouraged and the
rest of the people saw in the event merely a victory of liberty against
autocracy. Van der Noot had taken refuge in Breda, whence he had
undertaken several journeys to secure the support of the Triple
Alliance. Pitt had refused to grant him an audience, but the Dutch and
Prussian governments, without making any definite engagements, had at
least lent an ear to his proposals. The popular leader, rushing to
hasty conclusions, announced that the Powers were favourable to the
revolution. Vonck, on the other hand, had established his headquarters
in the principality of Liége, where he had many friends and where he
succeeded in enlisting a certain number of volunteers. When the
Austrians entered the principality, he was obliged to leave for Breda,
where he joined forces with Van der Noot. A retired colonel of the
Prussian army, Van der Meersch, was chosen as the commander of the
three thousand badly equipped volunteers massed along the Dutch
frontier. On October 23rd he occupied Hoogstraeten, in the Campine, and
issued a manifesto in which Joseph II was declared to have forfeited
his rights. A slight success at Turnhout, a few days later, followed by
the retreat of the Austrian forces, sufficed to provoke risings all
over the country. Deserted by his Walloon troops, General d'Alton was
obliged to leave Brussels for Luxemburg, the only town remaining loyal.
On December 18th Van der Noot and Vonck made their solemn entry into
Brussels, followed by a thanksgiving service at Ste. Gudule. Amazed by
these events, Joseph II wrote to Count de Ségur: "A general madness
seems to seize all peoples; those of Brabant, for instance, have
revolted because I wanted to give them what your own nation clamours
for." He was certainly nearer the truth than Camille Desmoulins, who,
in his well-known paper, assimilated the two revolutions because
they started almost on the same day. As a matter of fact, the
Brabançonne revolution was far more conservative than progressive. The
intellectual Vonckists, who had always been in a minority, were
practically ignored on the morrow of the victory, and Van der Noot
assumed power.

    A delegation from Mons arriving at the Town Hall of Brussels.


The new Constitution, accepted, on January 11, 1790, by delegates of
the provincial States, with the exception of Luxemburg, declared the
"Etats Belgiques Unis" to form a confederation under the leadership of
a Supreme Congress. The States General dealt only with questions of
general administration and differences between the provinces. The
Congress was responsible for foreign affairs, all local matters being
referred to the provincial States. Though, at first sight, this
Constitution seems to be strongly influenced by the American example,
it marked merely the triumph of the particularist tendencies of the
Middle Ages and a reaction against the dogmatic and centralized rule of
Joseph II. It secured the predominance of the nobility and the clergy
and the maintenance of the old States, while preserving the Church
against any attempt at secularization. Any effort made by the Vonckists
to infuse the new Constitution with the principles of the Rights of Man
and popular sovereignty was not only resisted, but strongly resented,
and soon a regular persecution of the progressive bourgeois and nobles
was organized by the "statistes" led by Van der Noot. Vonck and his
followers were obliged to fly to France, and Van der Meersch, who sided
with them, was arrested by Baron de Schoenfeldt, placed by the
Congress at the head of the National troops.


The new emperor, Leopold II, who had succeeded his brother on the
throne of Austria (February 1790), took the opportunity offered by
these internal troubles to reopen negotiations. He promised a complete
amnesty, the suppression of the reforms and the nomination of Belgians
to all posts, even those of Plenipotentiary and of Commander of the
National forces. Van der Noot had refused these offers on the ground
that the Triple Alliance would support the Confederacy. On July 27th,
however, England, the United Provinces and Prussia signed the
Convention of Reichenbach, reinstating Leopold II in his dominion over
the Netherlands. This contributed to ruin the prestige of the Congress.
The Belgian National troops could not offer much resistance to the
invading Austrian armies. On November 25th, Marshal Bender reached
Namur, and on December 2nd, nearly a year after their departure from
Brussels, the Austrians re-entered the capital. The Reichenbach
Convention had guaranteed complete amnesty. Leopold II kept his promise
and, by the treaty of The Hague, restored all institutions as they had
been in the reign of Maria Theresa.

Thus failed miserably a revolution begun amid fervent enthusiasm. The
patriotism of the people cannot be questioned. They had only been
reconciled to foreign rule in the sixteenth century because it had been
the means of preserving their faith and their ancient traditions. As
soon as this tacit contract was broken, they decided to shake off
foreign tutelage and to make a bid for independence. But, if the
people did not lack public spirit, they had lost contact with the times
and were unable to use their liberty when they had conquered it. Public
opinion was uneducated and regionalism had blinded the people to the
advantages which they might have derived from a more centralized
régime. They were not prepared to make any concessions to their
political adversaries for the sake of unity; they had still to learn
the motto of 1830: "Union is Strength." In this way, the terrible
ordeal which they had to undergo under French occupation did not remain
entirely fruitless. Neither the Spaniards nor the Austrians had
succeeded in uprooting particularist tendencies. The French imposed a
centralized régime and impressed the people with its social value.
When, in 1830, the Belgians again rebelled against foreign oppression,
they had learnt their lesson and did not again allow internal
differences to deprive them of the fruit of their labours.



One of the reasons of Joseph II's failure to reform Belgian
institutions was that his monarchical power rested mainly on the
nobility, the clergy and the peasants, who were bound to resent the
sacrifice of their privileges and traditions. The French Republic and
its outcome, the Napoleonic régime, were more successful, not because
they displayed more diplomacy and moderation, but because, in spite of
their excesses and autocratic procedure, they really brought a new idea
into the country and based their power on a new conception of society.
The bourgeois elements of the Vonckist school and the population of the
great towns had by now been permeated with the spirit of the
Revolution. They had adopted the principle of the Rights of Man and of
equal citizenship, and, for the sake of such ideals, they were prepared
to make some allowances. The first years of the French régime were
nevertheless a bitter disappointment.


By the declaration of Pillnitz (1791), Leopold II, brother of the
French queen, had laid the basis of the first coalition and manifested
his intention of intervening in favour of Louis XVI. After his death
(1792) Francis II pursued a still more aggressive policy towards the
Revolution, and the Girondins, who had just come into power, obliged
the King of France to declare war against Austria. The first attacks
against Belgium were easily repulsed by the imperial troops, commanded
by national leaders, but the victory of Jemappes (November 6th), won by
Dumouriez with the help of a Belgian legion, opened the Belgian
provinces to the revolutionary troops. General Dumouriez was a moderate
and intended to remain faithful to the principles of liberty. He issued
a proclamation, approved by the Convention, declaring that his soldiers
were coming as allies and as brothers. When, on November 14th, he was
offered the keys of Brussels by the magistrates, he refused them,
saying: "Keep the keys yourselves and keep them carefully; let no
foreigner rule you any more, for you are not made for such a fate."
Greatly impressed by the warm reception given him in Mons and Brussels
by the Vonckists, he did not realize that the country was far from
being unanimous. The French general declared the Scheldt open, in
accordance with a decree of the Republic which had proclaimed the
freedom of the river.


While the Belgians hesitated to declare a Convention and to organize
themselves according to the Republican régime, they began to feel the
first effects of the occupation. The French army, in the region of
Liége, lived only on requisitions. Cambon had presented to the
Convention (December 1792) a decree suppressing all distinctions and
privileges in the conquered territories, these being replaced by the
sovereignty of the people. This sovereignty being without expression in
Belgium, the provinces were practically administered by a number of
Jacobin Commissaries, whose most important task was to confiscate the
goods of the nobles and of the clergy and to enforce the circulation
of the revolutionary paper money (assignats). These measures provoked a
reaction in favour of Statism, and the conservatives obtained an
overwhelming majority in the elections held in December. Meanwhile,
England and the United Provinces, alarmed by the progress of the French
in the Netherlands, had joined the first coalition (January 1793), and
the Jacobins, dominating the Convention, had entered upon an
annexationist policy, nothing short of the left bank of the Rhine being
able, according to them, to secure France against the attacks of the
reaction. In order to appease the scruples of the French moderates, the
Jacobins endeavoured to provoke manifestations in favour of annexation
in the Belgian provinces. A regular propaganda was organized by the
Clubs. Orators, wearing the scarlet hood and armed with pikes,
addressed the crowds in the market-places. The deputy Chepy, who had
taken the leadership of the movement, declared that he was determined
to obtain reunion by "the power of reason, the touching insinuations of
philanthropy and by all means of revolutionary tactics." On many
occasions crowds driven into a church were surrounded by armed "Sans
Culottes" and obliged to manifest their attachment to the Republic by
loud acclamations. In March 1793 a rising was imminent, ten thousand
armed peasants being already concentrated near Grammont. It was
prevented, at the last moment, by the return of Dumouriez, who ordered
Chepy to be arrested, liberated hostages and enforced the restitution
of the spoils taken from churches and castles. In a letter to the
Convention, he protested against the mad policy pursued by the Jacobin
Commissaries, and adjured them to read through the story of the
Netherlands, where they would find that the good will of the Belgian
people could never be obtained by force.


Defeated at Neerwinden (March 1793), Dumouriez was obliged to retreat,
and on April 28th the Austrians re-entered Brussels. The restoration
was favourably greeted by the people, especially as Francis II adhered
faithfully to the old privileges, abstaining from levying recruits,
after the refusal of the States of Brabant, and personally taking the
oath of the Joyous Entry (April 1794). This was the last time that this
ancient ceremony was performed.

A few days later, Pichegru started a great offensive movement in
Flanders, and on June 26th, the victory of Fleurus again placed the
Belgian provinces in French hands. While Jourdan pursued the
imperialists towards the Rhine, taking Maestricht on his way, Pichegru
continued the campaign in Holland. Zeeland Flanders had already been
conquered by Moreau, and the treaty of The Hague (May 1795) restored to
the Belgian provinces most of the districts lost by the treaty of
Münster, nearly a century and a half before. France obtained Zeeland
Flanders with the left bank of the Scheldt, and, in Limburg, the key
positions of Maestricht and Venloo. She obtained, besides, the right to
place garrisons, in war-time, in Bois-le-Duc and other towns of North
Brabant. Holland was promised compensation in Gelder.


While the internal policy of the Republic was veiled in so much
ideology and marred by tyrannous cupidity, its foreign policy was based
on sound realism. The French plenipotentiaries, like Joseph II, but far
more clearly, perceived that the possession of the key positions on the
Scheldt and on the Meuse was essential to the security of the country
and to its commercial prosperity. A comparison between the clauses of
the treaty of The Hague and of the treaty of Münster is particularly
enlightening. Apparently, the demands of the French were moderate; in
fact, they entirely reversed the situation created in the seventeenth
century. No wholesale annexations would have given the French
equivalent advantages. The choice of the Republic was dictated by sound
strategic principles and determined by the same motives as had guided
the Dutch in 1648.

But the Belgian people, suffering from all the evils of foreign
occupation, could derive but scant satisfaction from the restoration of
the lost districts. The Convention was waging war on the world and
bleeding Belgium white in order to find the necessary resources. The
provinces were obliged to pay a contribution of 80,000,000 francs,
amounting to six times the previous yearly budget. Hostages were taken
from the towns which could not contribute their share. Requisitions of
all raw material were systematically organized. Cambon boasted to the
Convention that the Netherlands not only provided for the upkeep of the
Republican armies, but also enriched the national treasury. Under the
management of the "Agence de Commerce et d'Extraction de la Belgique,"
the treasuries of churches, convents, corporations and municipalities
were carted away, together with pictures, works of art and industrial
machines. The Republican agents, nicknamed the "French sponges," even
went as far as plundering private property. At the same time, the value
of the assignats had fallen to a ridiculously low level, and in order
to check the corresponding rise in prices the authorities had fixed a
"maximum" and obliged the traders to keep their shops open.

All Dumouriez's promises had been long forgotten and no account
whatever was taken now of the wishes of the population. Old charters
were destroyed and people were obliged to plant "trees of liberty" in
the market-places. The names of the streets were altered, the use of
the Republican calendar enforced and the "decadi" (observance of the
tenth day) substituted for Sunday. Religious festivals were replaced by
feasts in honour of "Nature" or "Mankind," and most of the churches
were closed or transformed into barracks, storehouses or temples
devoted to the worship of the "Supreme Being." Finally, in 1795, a
proposal was made to the Committee of Public Safety to annex the
territory of the Austrian Netherlands. In spite of a few protests, the
proposal was adopted, on October 1, 1795, and the country divided into
nine departments--Lys, Escaut, Deux Nèthes, Meuse Inférieure, Dyle,
Ourthe, Jemappes, Sambre et Meuse and Forêts.

The régime of the Directoire was equally hateful to the Belgians, who
derived scant benefit from their annexation. The Flemish language was
proscribed from official documents, all public manifestations of
Catholic worship were forbidden, and the estates of religious
communities confiscated. After the coup d'état of the eighteenth
Fructidor, the Directoire exacted from every priest an oath of hatred
against monarchy. Most of the Belgian priests having refused to take
this oath, deportations and persecutions followed. Many churches were
destroyed, among them St. Lambert, the cathedral of Liége.

By the treaty of Campo Formio (1797), Francis II submitted to the
annexation of the Austrian Netherlands, but Great Britain refused to
give up the fight, faithful to her traditional policy, which could not
admit the presence of the French on the Belgian coast, which was all
the more threatening now that they held the left bank of the Scheldt.
The next year the second coalition was formed, and the Directoire
applied to the Belgian departments the new law of conscription.

Up to that moment, with the exception of the rising avoided by
Dumouriez, the Belgians had not attempted to rebel. Exhausted by the
Brabançonne revolution, divided among themselves, they had merely shown
a passive resistance to Republican propaganda and to the efforts made
by their masters to induce them to take part in rationalistic worship.
This last measure, however, provoked a rising among the peasantry. Many
young men, liable to conscription, preferred to die fighting for their
liberty than for the French. The movement was quite desperate. It could
expect no help from outside, neither could it be supported by the
nobles, who had fled the country, or by the high clergy, who were now
powerless. The peasants were assembled in the villages, at the sound
of the tocsin, wearing their working clothes and often armed only with
clubs or forks. They raided small towns and villages, cut down the
trees of liberty, destroyed the registers on which the conscription
lists were based and molested those who were suspected of French
sympathies. The rising, begun in the Pays de Waes, spread to Brabant,
and especially to the Campine. The repression, entrusted to General
Jardon, was merciless. Most of the leaders were shot and their
followers dispersed after heavy losses.


The rule of Napoleon restored peace to the Low Countries. The emperor
carried the war far from the Belgian frontiers. The United Provinces
had become a vassal kingdom, under the sceptre of Napoleon's brother
Louis (1806), and, with the exception of a British landing on the
island of Walcheren which miscarried (1809), the Belgian provinces were
spared military operations up to the eve of the fall of the imperial

In spite of the aversion caused by incessant conscription levies and by
the strict censorship which stifled intellectual life, the Belgians
benefited largely from the stern rule of the emperor, who
re-established discipline and succeeded in substituting many Belgian
notables for the French officials who had, up to then, governed the
country. Prefects were placed at the head of the departments, which
were divided into arrondissements and municipalities, each of these
divisions possessing its own councils and its own courts: justices of
the peace, courts of the first instance, courts of assize with a jury,
above which were installed Courts of Appeal and a Court of Cassation.
A "general code of simple laws," still known as the Code Napoleon, was
substituted, in 1804, for the confused and intricate customs and laws
preserved from the Middle Ages, and the fiscal methods were similarly
transformed, inaugurating a system of direct and indirect taxes.

The Concordat, signed in 1801, re-established religious peace,
Catholicism being recognized as the State religion. Churches were
reopened and the observance of Sunday re-established.

Already, as First Consul, Napoleon devoted great attention to external
trade. Ostend, which had been bombarded by the British in 1798, was
restored, and after the peace of Amiens Antwerp enjoyed a few years of
remarkable prosperity. In 1802, 969 ships entered the port; in 1803 the
customs receipts rose to over 6,000,000 francs, in 1804 to over
8,000,000, and in 1805 to over 15,000,000. But the emperor's decree of
November 21, 1806, establishing the Continental blockade, after the
Battle of Trafalgar, converted Antwerp into a powerful naval base and a
great centre of naval dockyards, without any benefit to the rest of the
country. The activity of the nation was again confined to agriculture
and industry. In this latter domain the period is marked by the
introduction of spinning machinery by the Gantois Liévin Bauwens, who
succeeded in obtaining models of the new British jennies. This was the
origin of the prosperity of Ghent. While, in 1802, only 220 persons
were employed in this industry, there were over 10,000 in 1810. Another
innovation was brought about by a British engineer, William Cockerill,
who, in 1799, initiated the use of new carding and spinning machines
in Verviers. Many French cloth manufacturers were sent to the Walloon
town by the French Government in order to study the new process.


There are no periods of Belgian history where intellectual and artistic
production reached such a low level as under the Napoleonic régime. How
could it be otherwise at a time when official patronage directed every
activity towards imperial worship? In France, such worship, stimulated
by brilliant victories, might have inspired some sincere
manifestations, but in Belgium, where the people submitted to the
French régime only as to a necessary evil, military glory could not
provoke any genuine enthusiasm. It was more than compensated for by
conscription and arbitrary imprisonments. According to La Tour du Pain,
prefect of the Dyle, the Belgians were "neither English, nor Austrian,
nor anti-French--they were Belgian." In the way of administration and
judicial organization, they learnt their lesson, but it was a
distasteful lesson. They were too wise to disregard the benefit which
they might derive from the simplification of procedure brought about by
the reforms, and they remembered them at the right time, but they
remained stubbornly hostile to a foreign domination which could not be
supported by any dynastic loyalism, and most of them greeted with
enthusiasm the arrival of the allied armies which penetrated into the
country in January 1814, after the battle of Leipzig. This enthusiasm
was considerably cooled by the time of Waterloo, when it was known
that, in order to constitute a powerful State on the northern
frontiers of France and to reward William of Orange for his services to
the allied cause, Belgium's destinies would henceforth be linked with
those of the Northern provinces. This decision, already declared in the
secret protocol of London, was confirmed by the Congress of Vienna.
From August 1, 1814, the Prince of Orange administered the Southern
provinces on behalf of the Powers.




The Vienna settlement, creating the joint kingdom of the Netherlands,
suited the Powers which made it. It suited England, since it placed the
Belgian provinces, and especially Antwerp, out of the reach of France.
It suited Prussia, which acquired a strong foothold on the plateaux
commanding the Meuse and the right to interfere in the affairs of
Luxemburg. It suited Holland, whose position was considerably
strengthened by the addition of rich and populous provinces. It suited
Austria and Russia, since it created a strong buffer State acting as a
bulwark against French annexionism in the North. It suited everybody
but the Belgians themselves, who had never been consulted, in spite of
their desire to be independent, made evident by the Brabançonne
Revolution and their attitude under the French régime. They had been
disposed of as being without legitimate owner, and if the idea of
granting them the right to rule themselves ever occurred to European
diplomacy at the time, it was promptly dismissed, under the assumption
that Belgian independence meant, sooner or later, reabsorption by

The project of reuniting Belgium and Holland affords an excellent
example of a scheme plausible enough on paper, but which could not
resist the test of reality. It not only seemed sound from the Powers'
selfish point of view, it ought to have worked for the common benefit
of Belgians and Dutch alike. An end was made to the bitter struggle
waged by Holland against the Southern provinces. The commerce of
Antwerp ceased to threaten the Dutch ports, the Scheldt was open, the
commercial blockade lifted at last, and Belgian trade able to regain
its former importance after two centuries of stagnation. Belgium must
benefit from the association with a strong maritime Power, possessing
rich colonies and a limitless capacity for expansion. Holland's
prosperity, on the other hand, must be largely increased through the
agricultural and industrial resources of the Southern provinces. Even
from a purely historical point of view the idea of reconstituting the
Burgundian Netherlands must have appealed to those who had preserved
the memory of their former grandeur. This was not a mere inert buffer
State: it might become the strong central nation which European balance
of power so urgently required, since the Renaissance, to relieve the
tension of Franco-British or Franco-Prussian relations. Thus could be
bridged the gap created, during two centuries, by the religious wars.
The old tradition of Philip the Good and Charles V was to be renewed,
and the Netherlands to take once more their rank at the outposts of
European civilization.


And, indeed, under exceptionally favourable conditions, sound union, if
not "complete and intimate fusion," could have been the outcome of this
bold experiment. Had the Powers formally recognized Belgian nationality
and provided for the respect of the country's institutions under the
new régime, the Belgians might have reconciled themselves to the idea
of wiping away past grievances. The Dutch might have justified their
attitude under the plea that they had not been fighting Belgium, but
Spain or France, and that their policy had been dictated by the
necessity in which they had been placed of defending themselves against
foreign invasion. William I might have conciliated public opinion in
Belgium by respecting scrupulously the country's customs, which had
survived Spanish and Austrian domination, by avoiding all undue
interference in religious affairs, by protecting the rights of the
French-speaking minority and by placing the Belgians exactly on the
same footing as the Dutch. In fact, his policy aimed at achieving the
complete and intimate assimilation advised at Vienna from the Dutch
point of view and without any consideration for the natural feeling of
a people whose traditions and religion were different from his own.

The new Constitution was the Dutch Constitution adopted in 1814,
revised by a commission including an equal number of Belgian and Dutch
delegates. It provided for equal toleration for all creeds and a two
Chamber Parliament where an equal number of deputies from both
countries would sit. (This in spite of the fact that Belgium had 50 per
cent. more inhabitants than Holland.) This Constitution or "fundamental
law," as it was called, was adopted by the Dutch, but rejected by the
Belgian States General. Instead of amending the law, the king
considered abstentions as favourable votes and ignored all opposition,
so that the new Constitution was passed, in spite of a strong adverse
majority. This singular procedure was called, at the time, "Dutch

In several aspects, the policy of William I resembled that pursued
thirty years before by Joseph II. It had the same qualities and the
same defects. Though taking into consideration the material interests
of the people, he ignored their character and traditions and the
psychological problems with which he was confronted. Faced with
opposition, he attempted to override all resistance by asserting his
sovereign will, with little consideration for the democratic spirit
which pervaded Western Europe at the time.


Like Joseph II, William I, very wisely, attached great importance to
the economic revival of the country. The embargo once removed, Antwerp
made surprising progress, its tonnage being increased twofold between
1818 and 1829. New canals were built between Maestricht and
Bois-le-Duc, Pommeroeul and Antoing, while through the creation of
powerful banks, such as the "Société générale pour favoriser
l'Industrie nationale," Belgian manufacturers received adequate
credits. The king supported, also, the creation of several factories,
such as the "Phoenix" at Ghent and "Cockerill" at Seraing. It was
during his reign that Belgian collieries began considerably to increase
their production and that the first blast furnaces were erected near
Liége and Charleroi.

The Dutch king attempted also to develop national education. He placed
the three Universities (Ghent, Louvain and Liége) under State control.
Many secondary and primary schools were founded all over the country
and public instruction made considerable progress.

Such measures would have been beneficial to Belgium, but they needed a
deep knowledge of and sympathy for local conditions to be carried out
successfully. Neither the king nor his Dutch ministers (the Belgians
remained always in a minority in the Cabinet) were able to realize the
difficulties which stood in the way and the legitimate grievances which
might easily be created by hasty action.

When Holland entered the union, she had a debt of nearly 2,000,000,000
florins, while Belgium's debt was much smaller (30,000,000). The latter
was, nevertheless, obliged to bear half of the total liabilities and
the heavy taxes rendered necessary by the king's enterprising policy.
Besides, in the distribution of such taxes the interests of Belgium,
still almost entirely agricultural, were sacrificed to those of
commercial Holland. The latter stood for free trade, the former for
protection. It is characteristic of the situation that the first sharp
conflict between Belgian and Dutch deputies took place in 1821 over a
bill imposing taxes on the grinding of corn and the slaughter of
cattle. These immediate grievances overshadowed, in the minds of the
Belgians, the encouragement given by the Government to Belgian trade
and industry.

A similar disregard for existing conditions and long-established
traditions brought about the failure of the measures taken by William I
to promote education. Not content with creating new schools, he
endeavoured to give the monopoly of public education to the State and
to subject the existing private establishments (almost all led by
priests) to official control. He further increased Catholic opposition
by establishing a Philosophical College at Louvain, where all those
intending to enter a seminary were obliged to study.

These examples show how premature was the idea of a "complete union"
between the two countries--an idea put forward, no doubt, owing to the
necessity of creating a strong centralized State on the northern
boundary of France. Had the Dutch Government possessed as much
political wisdom as the Austrian Minister at the court of The Hague,
they would have realized that the "kingdom of the Netherlands would
never be consolidated as long as the constitutional and administrative
union was not replaced by a federal system."

The same solution might have avoided a great deal of discontent with
regard to the language question. The difference of language between
Northern and Southern Belgium had created no difficulty in the last
centuries, owing to the fact that the country was nearly equally
divided, and also that the Northern provinces were bilingual, French
being used by the bourgeoisie and Flemish by the people. The union with
Holland placed the French-speaking population in a minority. On the
other hand, twenty years of French occupation had left their mark on
the country, and the prestige of French letters had never been so
brilliant. It seemed, therefore, urgent to display a great deal of tact
in any reform dealing with the language question, in order not to
encourage pro-French tendencies at the expense of Dutch sympathy. The
idea of introducing Dutch as the official language in Flemish-speaking
Belgium seemed wise enough, since it was the language understood by the
great majority of the people, but there was no urgent demand for it,
and it could have been realized progressively with the development of
Flemish education. King William, nevertheless, decreed that no
officials or civil servants should remain in office in Northern Belgium
unless they spoke and wrote Dutch correctly. Since a great many of
these officials belonged to the Flemish bourgeoisie and had only a very
incomplete knowledge of the popular language, they were obliged to
resign their posts and were supplanted by Dutchmen. So that a measure
which might have been popular in Flanders, at another time and under
different circumstances, was considered as a mere pretext for turning
Belgian subjects out of office.

It must be made clear that this language question played a secondary
part among the causes of discontent. It alienated the Flemish
bourgeoisie without conciliating the working classes, whose influence
in politics, at the time, was very small. It scarcely affected the
French-speaking population, since only few Walloon officials were
concerned in the matter.


Scorning all opposition, William I had not even attempted to conciliate
one of the two great parties which divided the Belgian population: the
conservative Catholics and the Liberals, advocates of the "Rights of
Man" and opposed to the influence of the Church. He had alienated the
first by his attempt to monopolize education and the second by the
autocratic manner in which he suppressed all opposition. The
prosecution against a Liberal journalist, De Potter, who attacked the
Government's policy in _Le Courier des Pays-Bas_, brought about the
reconciliation of the two parties against the common enemy, in 1828,
just as the harsh attitude of Joseph II had caused the alliance of Van
der Noot and Vonck on the eve of the Brabançonne Revolution. From
anti-Government, the movement became gradually anti-Dutch, and party
grievances were henceforth merged into a revival of patriotic feeling,
aiming first at administrative separation and later at complete

The final outburst was no doubt hastened by the 1830 Revolution in
France, when the legitimist dynasty was overthrown in favour of Louis
Philippe d'Orléans, just as the taking of the Bastille determined a
corresponding movement in Belgium against Austrian rule. But nothing
could be more misleading than to attribute to French influence the
popular demonstration which took place in Brussels, on August 25th,
following a performance of Auber's _Muette de Portici_ at the Monnaie
Theatre. The song which stirred such wild enthusiasm in the breasts of
the Brussels people was purely patriotic, and it was to defend the
rights of their country that they sacked the house of Van Maenen, King
William's unpopular minister, and the offices of _Le National_, whose
director, a French pamphleteer named Libri, was looked upon as a Dutch
agent. It is true that the French flag was for a short time hoisted at
the Hôtel de Ville, but it was soon replaced by the three colours of

French influences had been at work, but the French party remained a
small minority. Every act of the leaders of the revolution shows that
they were bent on obtaining first administrative separation, and later,
after such a proposal had been made impossible through the king's
stubborn attitude, complete independence. Never did the idea of a union
with France commend itself to the people. From Brussels, standing on
the language frontier, the revolution spread to Walloon Liége and
Flemish Louvain. Most of the important towns, with the exception of
Ghent and Antwerp, joined in the movement in both parts of the country.
The Prince of Orange, whose popularity was used in order to calm the
multitude, came to visit Brussels, but, unable to make any definite
promise, he was obliged to fly from the city.


Even at that last hour, the joint kingdom of the Netherlands might have
been saved, since the most enthusiastic leaders, like Gendebien, only
urged autonomy; but King William remained deaf to all advice of
moderation and sent a Dutch army of 12,000 men against Brussels under
Prince Frederick. The revolutionary leaders had preserved but small
hope, owing to the unpreparedness of the defence. The Belgian success
in the street-fighting which took place near the Rue Royale and the
adjoining streets was nothing short of a miracle. After three days,
Prince Frederick was obliged to leave the town, leaving 2,500 dead
behind him; but the losses on the Belgian side had also been heavy, and
all reconciliation had become impossible. A provisional Government was
formed, a National Congress summoned, the complete independence of the
country proclaimed and a new Constitution prepared, a special
commission adopting the principle of constitutional monarchy (October

Meanwhile, the few towns, including Ghent and Antwerp, which had not
already done so expelled their garrisons, the citadel of Antwerp alone
remaining in Dutch hands.

The fascinating scheme endorsed by the Vienna Congress had completely
miscarried. Though only a ruler of great political talent could have
realized it, the story of the fifteen years of union between the two
countries shows that the king and his Dutch ministers were unable to
master the very elements of the difficult proposition they had to
solve. Up to the last months several opportunities offered themselves
to them of retracing their steps and retrieving the situation. They
failed to seize them. A careful survey of events will show that the
action brought against De Potter and the choice of The Hague as the
seat of the Supreme Court did more to estrange the Belgian bourgeoisie
from Dutch rule than the activity of French propagandists. The initial
blunder of William I was to ignore the fact that Belgium was not merely
a group of ownerless provinces, but a nation as strong in her soul, if
not as happy in her fate, as the Dutch nation, deserving the same care
and the same consideration. Had he acted as a national prince he would
have succeeded, in spite of the sad memories of past oppression, as
many princes had succeeded before. But he remained essentially Dutch in
his manners and his political outlook, and as such he was bound to
fail, as Joseph II, Maximilian and Philip II had failed before him.

    Illustration: MODERN BELGIUM (TREATIES OF 1830-1839 AND 1919).



Having failed to repress the revolution, King William appealed to the
Powers signatories of the eight articles creating the joint kingdom.
Lord Aberdeen answered that the independence of the Belgians was an
accomplished fact, but a Conference was, nevertheless, called in
London, in order to mediate between the two parties, to which France
was invited to send a representative. On November 14, 1830, the
conditions of an armistice were settled, according to which both
belligerents were to withdraw their forces behind the frontier which
divided the two countries before their reunion in 1814.

This arrangement would have restored to Belgium the left bank of the
Scheldt, which she had lost since the Münster treaty. The Dutch king
protested, and the line was altered from the frontier of 1814 to that
of 1790--that is to say, five years before the annexation by the French
of the contested territory.

Throughout the negotiations the autocratic Powers--Prussia, Austria and
Russia--were opposed to the Belgians. They treated them as rebels who
ought to be only too happy to buy their independence at any price. As a
matter of fact, if the same wave of nationalism which had stirred
Belgium had not, at the same time, caused serious trouble in Poland and
Italy, it is doubtful whether England and France could have induced
the Conference to accept even the principle of Belgian independence.
But, owing to their internal troubles, both Russia and Austria were
disinclined to take action, and Prussia would have found herself
isolated if she had maintained an uncompromising attitude.

The Belgians, on the other hand, from the very beginning of the
negotiations, placed themselves on an equal footing with Holland, and
considered the Conference as a mediator, not as an arbiter. They
gratefully accepted its intervention as "prompted by feelings of
sympathy for the sufferings of Belgium and by humanitarian motives,"
but refused energetically to bind themselves by any engagement. When,
on December 20th, Belgian independence was finally recognized, the
Provisory Government remarked that "the balance of power in Europe can
still be ensured, and a general peace maintained, by making Belgium
independent, strong and happy. If Belgium were to be left without
strength and happiness, the new arrangement would be threatened with
the same fate as that of the political combination of 1815. Independent
Belgium has her share of European duties to fulfil, but it would be
difficult to conceive what obligations could be imposed upon her by
treaties in the conclusion of which she had no voice."

Such a complete consciousness of their national rights on the part of
the Belgian plenipotentiaries can only be explained by the fact that
such consciousness had never ceased to exist. This was no new nation
struggling for its birth, but an Old nation, as old as any of those who
had assumed the responsibility of planning her future. The Belgian
statesmen of 1830 had nothing to improvise. They had merely to pick up
the threads broken through the vicissitudes of European struggle. Their
new Constitution was based on the old Joyous Entry of Brabant, which
Joseph II had vainly attempted to abolish, and whose memory forty years
of French and Dutch centralization had not succeeded in obliterating.
Their foreign policy was, in the same way, inspired by a firm
attachment to their past and a firmer belief in their future. The
London Conference was not long in realizing, when faced by such men as
Lebeau, Van de Weyer and De Mérode, that they had not merely to deal
with vague idealists or eloquent demagogues. It is not enough to say
that Belgium was well represented. It would be more accurate to say
that her delegates had a good case to defend.


Three treaties were prepared by the London Conference in the course of
the negotiations. The first included a series of conditions formulated
in January 1831 and known as "Bases of Separation." The second was the
outcome of new negotiations which took place during the following
months, and is known as "the Treaty of XVIII Articles" (July 1831). The
third, framed after the defeat of the Belgian troops by the Dutch and
the military and naval intervention of the Powers, is known as "the
Treaty of XXIV Articles" (November 1831). Accepted by the Belgians, it
was first rejected by William I, and finally sanctioned by him in 1839.
This is the final settlement which popular history will remember as the
"scrap of paper."

According to the Bases of Separation, Belgium lost the left bank of the
Scheldt, but this stream was to remain entirely free. She also lost
Luxemburg, which "would continue to belong to the German

It will be remembered that, under the treaty of Vienna, this Belgian
province had been converted into a Grand Duchy and given to King
William, in exchange for his possessions in Germany, but the king had
declared, at the time, that the "Grand Duchy would be considered as an
integral part of the State." Accordingly, Luxemburg shared the
political life of the rest of the kingdom, sending deputies to the
Chambers and being, from every point of view, considered as a Belgian
province. Luxemburgers had even taken a prominent part in the
revolutionary movement. One of them remarked in Congress, during the
debate which followed the Conference resolutions, that "national
sovereignty was transferred from Brussels to the Foreign Office," and
by an overwhelming majority (169 against 9) the Congress protested
against any delimitation of Belgian territory made without the consent
of the representatives of the nation.


A period of acute tension followed this refusal. King William had not
raised the blockade of the Scheldt, in spite of the conditions of the
armistice, and the Belgians consequently continued their military
operations in front of Maestricht, which had not yet been evacuated.
The Conference urged cessation of hostilities and prompt acceptance.
The Government remaining obdurate, an ultimatum was sent fixing June
1st as the last date on which the Belgians had to submit and
threatening military intervention. On June 6th, Lord Ponsonby, British
representative at Brussels, and General Belliard, the French
representative, were formally recalled by their respective Governments,
but the action of the Powers was delayed owing to differences of
opinion concerning the method of intervention. This allowed Belgium
some time to reopen negotiations, and her delegates in London finally
obtained the revision of the "Bases of Separation." A new agreement was
drafted, on June 26th, known as "the Treaty of XVIII Articles,"
according to which Belgium became permanently neutral, while the
questions of Luxemburg and Maestricht remained in abeyance, further
negotiations concerning the contested territories having to be pursued
direct between Belgium and Holland.

    Illustration: LEOPOLD I. (REIGNED 1831-1865).
    From a portrait by Liévin de Winne.
    _Ph. B._

This diplomatic success was not only due to the perseverance of the
Belgian delegates but also to Prince Leopold's wise decision not to
accept the crown unless a satisfactory solution was reached. It must be
recalled that, as soon as the Belgian Congress had decided on
constitutional monarchy, the names of several candidates had been
discussed. The conservative Powers favoured the candidature of the
Prince of Orange, hoping thus to restore in the future the union of the
two countries. But this proposal had met with an overwhelming
opposition in Belgium. The candidature of the Duke of Nemours, son of
Louis Philippe, had then been considered, and by a narrow majority of
two votes the Belgian Congress decided in his favour. Such a choice
could not be approved in England, since it would have meant, sooner or
later, French hegemony over the Belgian coast and Antwerp. Louis
Philippe, therefore, refused the Belgian offer. Prince Leopold of
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, widower of Princess Charlotte, was practically an
English Prince, having spent most of his life in England; he was of
German extraction, and a marriage was contemplated between him and
Princess Marie Louise, Louis Philippe's daughter. He had already
acquired a great reputation for wisdom, which gained him later the
title of the "Nestor of Europe." It was felt that no better man could
be found to fill such a delicate post, and both English and French
diplomats were inclined to remove all obstacles which might prevent him
from accepting the Belgian offer.

The Prince's influence and the Belgian diplomats' firm attitude
succeeded in altering the Conference's views. The Belgians were no
longer treated as rebels and ordered to submit, but as free people
whose claims must be considered. "Everybody says," wrote Lord
Palmerston to Lord Granville, "that the Belgians are mad and that it is
useless to discuss with them. I have noticed that there is a good deal
of method in their madness." Talleyrand, who was not too well disposed
towards the Belgian emissaries and "their reticences," wrote on June
24th: "We have been in conference for forty hours, but the Belgian
delegates are so little accustomed to this kind of negotiations, they
create so many difficulties, that we cannot get on and I am tired out.
A conference took place to-day at Prince Leopold's; it lasted until
eight. It will continue at my house and last probably till late in the
night." The next day, the XVIII Articles were signed.

Prince Leopold having accepted the crown, the new treaty was sanctioned
by the Belgian Congress on July 9th. Less than a month later, on August
2nd, the Dutch armies, breaking the armistice, invaded Belgian
territory and defeated the Belgian forces at Louvain. Owing to the
armed intervention both of England and France, the Dutch were forced to
retreat, but these military operations had set the seal on Belgian


The Powers were now "firmly determined to stop, by all available means,
the resumption of hostilities which would threaten Europe with a
general war," and, on November 15th, King Leopold was obliged to
accept, under strong protest, a new agreement, known as "the Treaty of
XXIV Articles," which, though preserving the country's independence and
neutrality, deprived her of her natural frontiers and tore from her
territories whose inhabitants had shared her life since the early
Middle Ages. The Scheldt was given the status of an international
river, according to the General Act of Vienna, the supervision of
pilotage, buoying and dredging operations being entrusted to a
Dutch-Belgian commission. Belgium retained half of Luxemburg (the area
known to-day as the province of Luxemburg), while the other half, with
the town of Luxemburg, remained in the hands of the Dutch king, and
constituted a Grand Duchy attached to the German Confederation. "In
exchange" for their portion of Luxemburg, the Belgians were obliged to
relinquish their rights over Eastern Limburg and Maestricht, which
became the Dutch provinces of the same name. Such were the "final and
irrevocable" decisions of the Powers.

Though the compromise was entirely in his favour, King William refused
to sanction it. From the beginning of the negotiations the Dutch had
contended that, by the separation of Belgium and Holland, Article XIV
of the treaty of Münster (that is to say, the right of Holland to close
the Scheldt in time of peace or war) came into force again.
Disregarding the liberal principles laid down at Vienna, they wanted to
go back to the old régime of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
which subjected Belgium to their control. Holding Maestricht, the key
of the Meuse, and the Lower Scheldt, the key of Antwerp, they intended
to treat independent Belgium as they had treated the Spanish and
Austrian provinces.

Laborious negotiations proceeded during the following years, and, in
1838, King William declared himself at last prepared to sign the treaty
on the consideration of the payment of a toll of one florin and a half
per ton on every ship entering and leaving the stream on its way to

Meanwhile, Limburg and Luxemburg had remained Belgian, and the bonds
attaching the sacrificed provinces to the country had become so strong
that the forthcoming settlement provoked emphatic protests. Petitions
were sent to the king, and delegations came to Brussels urging
resistance. Once more, Belgian negotiators multiplied their efforts in
London and Paris. But, this time, the friendly Powers remained adamant
and the Government was made to understand that, if the Belgians created
difficulties, nothing would prevent the German Confederation and the
King of Holland from annexing Luxemburg and Limburg by force. In the
spring of 1839 the Belgian Chamber was at last compelled to give its
final decision. Three ministers had resigned from the Government. The
Austrian and Prussian "chargés d'affaires" had left the capital. It was
common knowledge that several Prussian army corps were massed on the
Eastern frontier. Under such a threat, and this time without the
support of England and France, the Chamber was faced with the cruel
alternative of sanctioning partial annexation or seeing the very life
of the nation jeopardized by foreign invasion. The deputies of Limburg
and Luxemburg were the most emphatic in their opposition: "Suicide will
follow fratricide," exclaimed a deputy of Maestricht, while a
representative of Ruremonde urged armed resistance. "I would rather
give my life a thousand times," protested a Luxemburger, "than a vote
which would oppress my conscience until my last day." On March 12th,
Mr. Metz, who was unable to walk through illness, was carried to his
seat and declared that "neither the king, nor the Conference, nor the
Government, nor the Chambers had the right to dispose of his life" by
"a sacrilegious treaty which takes away four hundred thousand Belgians
from the country of their choice and covers Belgium with eternal


The Government's action was defended by Mr. Nothomb, who, though a
Luxemburger and an ardent patriot, realized too well the danger of the
situation not to urge submission: "We have not yet had the opportunity
of rendering any service to Europe. She has no reason to be grateful to
us. If it were not for our pressing need of independence, nothing up to
now justifies our existence. What matter to her our national soul
tempered by age-long traditions! If we resist, she will put an end to
our existence as a free State with a stroke of the pen. In bending
before the inevitable, Belgium will save her nationality, spare the
disputed districts the horrors of war, and make a sacrifice which
Europe will be obliged to take into account on the day when, bearing no
responsibility in the outbreak of war, the country will be able to
claim her revenge!" Another argument urged by some supporters of the
Government was based on the fact that, though not legally bound by her
former acceptance of the XXIV Articles, which had remained in abeyance
for seven years, Belgium's faith had been pledged to it: "I believe,"
said one of them, "that international treaties have a real value, that
they are not merely scraps of paper. I believe that Right more than
Force governs the affairs of this world, and that, in the end, it pays
to fulfil one's obligations, however painful these may be."

A tragic incident occurred on March 14th. Mr. Bekaert-Baekelandt,
deputy of Courtrai, had first been opposed to the Government's policy.
He had, however, been gradually convinced that all resistance had
become useless. This conversion to the inevitable had broken his heart.
He ended his speech by alluding to the return at a future date of the
deputies of the sacrificed provinces to the Belgian Chamber.
"Meanwhile," he said, "they will remain Belgians like ourselves, and
they will be generous enough to consider that our votes are extorted by
force, that they are a painful sacrifice imposed upon us by foreign
nations. They will no doubt appreciate how powerless we are to avoid
this sad obligation...." He did not proceed further, and fell dead.


These manifestations have been compared with the heartrending scenes
which took place at the time of the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by
Germany, but it would be wrong to draw too hasty conclusions from such
a comparison. On the one hand, the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine is far
more recent. On the other, Dutch administration and the Grand-Ducal
régime did not provoke the same opposition among the people. If Belgian
irredentism proved very strong at the beginning, it gradually
diminished, owing mainly to the fact that the patriots, on both sides
of the frontier, were unable to entertain any hope of reunion during
the long period of neutrality which paralysed Belgian foreign policy.
Recent manifestations which took place on the occasion of the revision
of the 1839 treaties towards the reunion of Zeeland Flanders, Luxemburg
and Limburg to Belgium must, however, not be misjudged. They must not
be considered as the outcome of a crude instinct towards
aggrandisement, following the military success of the Belgian army at
the end of the Great War, or of a wild thirst for revenge, but merely
as the outburst of irredentist feelings, nursed in silence during
eighty years of neutrality, and revived, among a certain group of
intellectuals, by the fierce struggle waged by the nation for the
safeguard of its liberties. As for the demand of military guarantees
made by the Government during these negotiations, a demand which must
be clearly distinguished from the irredentist agitation just mentioned,
it was merely prompted by the circumstances in which Belgium is placed
at the present time. The territorial losses inflicted upon the country
in 1839 were largely compensated for by the pact of neutrality entered
into by the Great Powers, which provided Belgium with the strongest and
most unequivocal guarantees respecting her territorial integrity.
Provided these guarantees were observed faithfully, the closing of the
Scheldt by Holland in time of war, the critical situation on the
Eastern frontier created by the indefensible cul-de-sac of Dutch
Limburg, and the supremacy in Luxemburg of a foreign Power, did not
seriously jeopardize the country's security. The treaties of 1839 were
considered as forming a whole, the moral safeguard of guaranteed
neutrality counterbalancing, to a certain extent, the new territorial
encroachments. With the disappearance of neutrality, the substitution
of new guarantees of security for the old ones seemed obvious. The
demands formulated at the Paris Conference by the Belgian people and
Government--free access from the sea towards Belgian ports in order to
ensure communication between the country and her allies in time of war,
a military entente with Holland towards the defence of Dutch Limburg,
and a rapprochement with Luxemburg--were therefore the natural outcome
of the revision of the 1839 settlement.



From 1839 till 1914, Belgium lived under the régime of independent

Her territory had been gradually reduced during modern times. She stood
stripped of all her marches. In the course of the seventeenth century
she had lost Walloon Flanders and Artois to France and Northern Brabant
to Holland, while the conquest by the latter Power of Zeeland Flanders
and some districts in Eastern Limburg had been confirmed and enlarged
by the 1839 settlements. In 1816 Prussia had seized the districts of
Eupen, Malmédy, St. Vith and Bitsburg, and the XXIV Articles had given
half of Luxemburg to the German Confederation.

The same treaty granted Belgium independence. Within these narrow
limits, she remained at least mistress of her destinies. She had her
own king, her own Government, her own Constitution. As far as internal
affairs were concerned, she enjoyed full sovereignty. She was
diminished, but not deeply altered. She maintained, in the nineteenth
century, all the main characteristics which had distinguished her
history and civilization during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Two races, two languages, were still associated on her soil. Walloons
and Flemings took an equal share in the framing of her future. The sea
remained free for commercial purposes, and the great European roads,
which had so largely contributed in the past to placing her in the
forefront of European nations, still found in the country their natural
and necessary meeting-place. This main fact must be made evident if one
attempts to explain the causes of the Belgian renaissance during the
nineteenth century. It is not enough to say that the Belgium of Leopold
I and Leopold II followed the tradition of the Belgium of Charles V and
Philip the Good. It must be added that modern Belgium, in spite of
gradual encroachments, had remained whole. Such encroachments having
taken place on all sides, the nucleus was untouched. Belgium preserved
her great towns and her main streams. No essential organ of the
national body had been impaired.

As far as internal affairs were concerned, Belgium then emerged free
and sound from the turmoil of three centuries of European warfare. For
external affairs, she was still subjected to the restriction of
guaranteed neutrality. It is scarcely necessary to dwell on the
distinction between self-imposed neutrality, such as that existing in
Switzerland, and the régime of guaranteed neutrality imposed by the
Powers on Belgium. The first is no restriction of the sovereign rights
of the State upon its foreign policy, the second takes away from it
practically all initiative in foreign matters. If the Powers bound
themselves, in the 1839 treaty, not to violate the integrity of Belgian
territory and to defend the country in case of attack, Belgium, on her
side, undertook to observe strictly the rules of neutrality and to take
necessary measures towards the defence of her frontiers. It might be
argued, and it has been argued frequently in Belgium, that such
neutrality could not prevent a nation from possessing colonies and
concluding a defensive alliance for the sole purpose of safeguarding
herself. But, as a matter of fact, rival Powers could not give such a
liberal interpretation to the text of the treaties. First from the
French side, later from the German side, Belgium was constantly held
under suspicion. Any manifestation of public opinion concerning foreign
affairs was deeply resented, her military policy was narrowly watched,
she could not take a step towards self-defence or economic expansion
without provoking some discontent among the Powers. Thanks to the
firmness of her statesmen and, more than once, to the friendly support
of Great Britain, she was able to resist urgent demands. But it goes
without saying that the Belgian Government, anxious to preserve their
dignity, avoided all possible cause of friction, so that Belgium
scarcely ever made use of her legitimate right to determine, within
some limits, her foreign policy. Neutrality, to all intents and
purposes, meant paralysis. For many, it meant worse than
that--carelessness and apathy.


After the eight years of uncertainty which followed the first signature
of the XXIV Articles--eight years during which all parties joined under
the permanent Dutch menace--two currents of thought divided Belgian
opinion. The first attempted to minimize the military responsibility of
the country, and, trusting blindly to the promise of the Powers, to
reduce to a strict minimum Belgium's military charges in men and money.
The second saw clearly that, without an adequate army and the
necessary defences, Belgium would be unable to fulfil her obligations
in case her integrity should be violated, and would suffer in
consequence; it realized that any weakness in the country's defences
increased the temptation of some Powers to break their pledge. It is
easy to understand that the first school was generally more popular
than the other, and rallied not only the sincere idealists who thought
such a contingency as the tearing up of solemn treaties absolutely
impossible, but many unscrupulous politicians only too anxious to use
the popular catchword "Not a penny, not a soldier," or "Niemand
gedwongen soldaat," for electoral purposes. The Belgians had always
been stubbornly opposed to conscription; it will be remembered that
they resisted all attempts at enforcing it in the past and that it was
the main cause of the War of Peasants (1798) against the "Sans
Culottes." To a people which, by tradition, was strongly adverse to
militarism and centralization, it was only too easy to misrepresent
measures of self-defence, urgently required by the European situation,
as the first step towards autocracy and oppression. The partisans of
military safeguards found themselves, therefore, in a minority, and
their only support was the personal influence of the Belgian kings,
who, from the first days of the new régime till the eve of the war,
never ceased to emphasize the evident danger of disregarding the
country's international responsibilities. It is true that, with the
lapse of time, the danger became more and more threatening, but, on the
other hand, the "anti-militarists" found a fresh argument in the fact
that, during so many years, the country had been able to weather the


The first trouble arose in connection with the Socialist revolution
which broke out in France in 1848. In the previous year, Marx and
Engels had established their headquarters in Brussels, where they
drafted the "Manifesto of the Communist Party." The Belgians, however,
were not prepared to adopt it, and the revolutionaries decided to
invade the country from the South. Bands organized in France and
secretly encouraged by some French leaders attempted to cross the
frontier near Mouscron, at Risquons Tout, but their advance was easily
checked by the Belgian forces.

The only consequence of these disturbances was the vote by the Chamber
of a new grant towards the reinforcement of the army: "No doubt," said
the Minister Rogier on that occasion, "it will cost something to equip
a greater number of men. But has one ever estimated the cost of an
invasion, even if it only lasted a week?" In 1850, Leopold II wrote to
one of his ministers: "Without means of defence you will be the
plaything of everyone."

A greater danger loomed ahead. Louis Napoleon had, by the coup d'état
of December 1, 1851, imposed his dictatorship on France. Many prominent
exiles and refugees came to Belgium, and the Brussels papers openly
expressed their opinion of the new dictator. So that Belgium, which
three years before had been branded as ultramontane, was now denounced
as a nest of communists and rebels. Pressure was even brought to bear
on the Government to introduce Press censorship. It was duly ignored,
and the relations between the two countries became strained. One year
later, Napoleon became Emperor of the French, and all clear-sighted
Belgians realized that he was only awaiting an opportunity to extend
his power and authority towards the North. This was shown plainly by
the French policy with regard to Luxemburg.


The emperor having approached the King of Holland in view of obtaining
from him the cession of the Grand Duchy, a conference was called in
London (May 1867) at which the independence, neutrality and
inviolability of the duchy were placed under the collective guarantee
of the Powers. Thwarted in this direction by European diplomacy,
Napoleon III attempted to obtain a footing in Luxemburg by controlling
the railways. In January 1868 the Compagnie de l'Est, under guarantee
of the French Government, took over from the Compagnie Guillaume
Luxembourg its railway lines both in Luxemburg and Belgian territory.
Further negotiations began with the Belgian companies Grand Luxemburg
and Chemins de fer Liégeois-Limbourgeois, which would have placed all
the main railways of Luxemburg and South-eastern Belgium in French
hands. Warned in time, the Premier, Frère-Orban, instructed the Belgian
representative in Paris to declare that Belgium would never consent to
such an arrangement. Napoleon's threats remained without result, the
Belgian policy being strongly upheld by Lord Clarendon, and, in July
1869, a protocol was signed annulling the contracts of the Compagnie de
l'Est as far as the Belgian railways were concerned. At the same time,
Napoleon III, anxious to find at any cost "compensations" for the
increased prestige which Prussia obtained from her Danish and Austrian
victories, had sounded that Power regarding a project of partition of
the Netherlands. His proposal, first kept secret and subsequently
revealed by Bismarck on the morrow of the declaration of war in 1870,
was to annex Belgium to France, while Prussia would be left a free hand
in Holland. The publication of this revelation by _The Times_ did more
than anything else to alienate British public opinion, if not from
France at least from the French emperor, during the Franco-Prussian

Baron Chazal, who had joined the Belgian ministry in 1857, succeeded in
convincing the Cabinet of the necessity of reinforcing Belgian
defences. In view of the superiority of the French army--for the threat
came evidently from that quarter at the time--it was decided to give up
the idea of defending the country by a cordon of inefficient
fortresses, and to build round Antwerp a powerful "entrenched camp,"
where the Belgian army could retreat and maintain itself until
reinforcements came from abroad. It goes without saying that the only
country which would be in a position to send such reinforcements to
Antwerp, in case of an invasion, was Great Britain, and Antwerp was
purposely chosen as the only position where considerable forces could
conveniently be disembarked from the sea. In view of the present
interpretation placed on the 1839 treaties by Holland, which gives to
the latter country the right to close the Scheldt in time of war, this
scheme seems, to say the least, hastily conceived. But the Dutch
exclusive sovereignty over the Scheldt did not appear nearly so
definite at the time as it appears now. No mention being made of the
matter in the 1839 settlement, many Belgian authorities considered that
the stream was placed under a régime of co-sovereignty, and it seemed
then incredible that the Dutch should stop the passage of relief ships.

In the face of strong popular opposition, the Chamber voted a credit of
50,000,000 francs for the Antwerp fortifications, and General
Brialmont, one of the foremost military engineers in Europe, was
entrusted with the work. After its completion, Antwerp was considered
one of the strongest fortified towns in the world.

As soon as a conflict became imminent between France and Prussia, Great
Britain, in accordance with her traditional policy as far as Belgium
was concerned, demanded from the two Powers a declaration confirming
Belgian neutrality. The situation in 1870 corresponds exactly to that
in 1914, and the language used by Mr. Asquith during the first days of
August of the latter year seems to echo the words uttered forty years
before by his great chief. "It would be impossible for us not to
interfere," firmly declared Mr. Gladstone, "should we witness the
destruction of Belgium's liberty and independence." In both cases,
British policy was inspired by the guarantee mentioned in the treaties,
a guarantee which not only implied safety for Belgium, but also
absolute opposition to any Power attempting to seize the Belgian coast.
The motives were the same, the steps taken were the same, the outcome
only was different. Both the French emperor and Bismarck confirmed, in
1870, the inviolability of Belgian territory, the latter stating that
such a declaration was not required, the treaties being sufficiently
explicit on the subject.


Why did Germany respect in 1870 a treaty which she ignored in 1914?
Even without taking into account the change in German mentality since
her victory, military conditions were totally different. The strong
chain of fortifications on the French Eastern frontier had not yet been
erected, and the strength of the Belgian army appeared by no means
negligible. Before the enormous increase of modern armies which took
place during the twenty years of "armed peace," 80,000 men might have
made all the difference one way or the other. It was approximately the
strength of the French army which surrendered at Sedan. After this
great defeat, German Headquarters declared their intention to pursue
the fugitives into Belgian territory if the French forces attempted to
escape being encircled by crossing the frontier. Such steps, however,
were not rendered necessary. While showing their intense sympathy for
the vanquished, the Belgians fulfilled most scrupulously all their
obligations, and the European diplomats who had conceived the idea of
neutralizing "the cockpit of Europe" could congratulate themselves.
Their arrangements had worked perfectly, and for once Belgium had not
been drawn into the conflict.

In the light of recent events, it is almost to be regretted that the
test had been so successful. More than anything else, the 1870
experience allayed suspicion in and out of Belgium. The Powers
refrained from pressing on the country the necessity for further
armaments, and the hands of the anti-militarists in Belgium, instead
of being weakened (as they ought to have been if events had been placed
in their proper light), were considerably strengthened.

    Illustration: LEOPOLD II. (REIGNED 1865-1909).
    _Ph. B._


During the long period of armed peace which followed, while the Powers
formed, on one side the "Triplice" (1883), on the other the "Duplice"
(1891) and the Entente Cordiale (1904), while armies and fleets were
increased tenfold and German aggressive policy asserted itself more and
more acutely, Belgium's defences were only slowly reinforced, in spite
of the desperate efforts of disinterested patriots and of the stern
warnings of the kings. The name of Leopold II must be associated here
with that of Albert I. Both were prompted in their action by the same
motives that inspired Leopold I's policy. They placed security on a
level with, and even above, prosperity. Standing aloof from party
intrigues, they were in a position to appeal to all patriots without
distinction, and to make use of the services of a little band of
clear-sighted citizens who saw the centre of danger transferred from
France to Germany, and watched the young Empire's military and economic
development with growing anxiety. Foremost among them stood Emile
Banning, author of a prophetic report on the Meuse defences (1881-86).
Nothing illustrated more clearly the crippling influence of neutrality
on Belgian international thought than the way this man of genius was
ignored by his fellow-citizens. In any other country, he would have
exercised a considerable influence on public opinion. In Belgium, he
was only heard by a few statesmen and, happily, by Leopold II, who no
doubt had his report in mind when, in 1887, he warned one of his
ministers of the necessity of Belgium not only safeguarding her
independence, but "preventing the passage" of foreign troops through
her territory. Germany had now become the main source of danger, but in
order to avoid all criticism it was decided to build two bridgeheads,
one at Namur and the other at Liége. The first commanded the upper
valley of the Meuse, the second the middle course of the stream; one
was facing France, the other Germany. The plan of defence was
consequently developed, the forts enabling the army to make a short
stand before retiring into the entrenched camp of Antwerp. It is
largely to Banning's clearsightedness and to Leopold II's firm attitude
that Western Europe owes the respite given by the resistance of Liége
in August 1914. Had not General Brialmont's original plans of the forts
been unduly curtailed, this resistance would have proved still more


Credits for the defences of Liége and Namur, like those of Antwerp a
few years before, were voted grudgingly by a Chamber lulled into a
false state of security by the experience of 1870. But, if public
opinion was little inclined to devote money to improve the country's
defences, it became obdurate when experts advised a reform of the
Belgian military system. Not only were the effectives ridiculously
small, compared with the size of the German and French armies, but
recruiting was managed through a system of drawing lots, to which was
added the evil of "substitution"--that is to say, the sons of the
bourgeois class who drew a "bad number" were entitled to buy a
substitute, who took their place in the ranks. A campaign for personal
and general service was launched, but in spite of the king's support it
met with little success. A certain number of volunteers were added to
the normal effectives in 1902, and in 1908, after the sensational
journey of William II to Tangiers, new credits were voted for the
development of the Antwerp defences. To those who objected that
fortifications would be useless if Belgium did not possess a sufficient
army to man them, the king answered: "Let us have the stones first. The
men will come later." When the seventy-fifth anniversary of Belgian
Independence gave him at last the opportunity of breaking the silence
imposed upon him by the Congo campaign, he uttered a supreme warning to
the nation: "Let us not be overconfident in our present prosperity; let
us stand closer and closer together around our flag. Nations, like
human beings, have to pass through a critical age which brings about
old age or premature death. Its date, for young nations, falls _during
the last quarter of the first century of their existence_." Once more,
on February 18, 1909, he imparted to a friend--for his lack of
popularity had made public declarations useless at that time--his
anxieties regarding the future: "It is indispensable that we should
possess a good army, that we should be able to defend ourselves, and
thus, in conformity with our international obligations, prevent the
crossing of our territory by a foreign army, and _make such crossing as
costly as possible, in order to remove the temptation from those who
would be inclined to attempt it.... On my return from my recent journey
to Germany, I warned all concerned that Germany is building more ships
and increasing her military expenses. We must efficiently complete our
fortifications and our equipment. You know that neither one nor the
other can be improvised...._"

Leopold II attached such importance to the adoption of personal
service, proposed in 1909, that he deliberately postponed an operation
which might have saved his life, in order to be able to sign the decree
which placed the Bill on the Statute Book. He died three days later.[1]

    Footnote 1: See E. Vandersmissen, _Leopold II and Beernaert_, and G.
    Harry, _Leopold II_ (1920).

This supreme satisfaction was not unmixed. Important concessions had
had to be made. The voluntary system was maintained to a certain
extent, only one son per family being called up for a short time
(fifteen months). The passing of the Bill was a victory in principle,
but it only increased very slightly the strength of the Belgian army.

The Pan-German campaign was in full swing by then. Maps were published,
beyond the Rhine, showing large portions of Belgium painted in imperial
red, like the rest of the Reich. Pamphlets and books appeared claiming
Antwerp as a German port and connecting East Africa with the German
Cameroons through the Belgian Congo. Still the majority of the Belgians
would not believe that such views were shared by the German Emperor and
his Government. It was only after the Agadir coup (1911) and Algeciras
(1912) that M. de Broqueville, Minister of War, strongly supported by
King Albert, was able to carry through a Bill introducing general and
compulsory service, which would have placed the army on a proper
footing if its provisions had been rendered immediately effective.
Unhappily, the Bill only provided for a gradual increase, the army
reaching its full strength of 340,000 men in 1917. This last
reservation proved nearly fatal to the country, for, when mobilization
was ordered, in July 1914, the total forces available only amounted to
117,000 men, of which the combatant portion was reduced to 93,000
bayonets--an increase of only 10,000 over the effectives of 1870.

There are few subjects so depressing as the slow development of Belgian
defences under the threat of invasion. Each time the situation became
serious, as in 1848, 1852, 1908 and 1911, public opinion allowed some
progress to be made. But it came always too late. The people were ready
to face their responsibilities, but they could not be made to realize
them. Blindly relying on the 1839 treaties, absorbed in their economic
and intellectual development, they showed little interest in
international affairs. Those who did, found themselves in the dilemma
either of taking refuge in a fools' paradise or of powerlessly facing
an ever-growing menace. Neutrality may have saved Belgium in 1870, full
independence might have saved her in 1914.



One month after the first outbreak of the Belgian Revolution, elections
were already taking place. An almost equal number of Liberals (the
successors of the Vonckists) and of Catholics (Statists) were returned
to the Congress whose duty was to frame the new Constitution. It is
typical of the spirit of patriotic union between both parties and of
the adaptability of the Belgians to their new independent life that
these deputies, most of whom had no experience of political life,
succeeded, within two months, in drafting a Constitution which has
since served as a model for several European nations. It was the result
of various influences: the groundwork--based on individual liberty,
equality before the law, freedom of the press, of worship, of public
meeting, of association and of teaching--was no doubt inspired by the
French. On the other hand, the preponderance of legislative power,
represented by the Chamber and the Senate, over the executive, the
principle of ministerial responsibility, placing the king outside and
above parties, was the result of English influence: but perhaps the
most interesting characteristic of the new Constitution was the way in
which provincial and communal rights were safeguarded, the communes, in
particular, preserving practical autonomy for local affairs, with the
only restriction that the burgomaster was to be nominated by the king.
The Belgian Constitution struck the balance between centralization,
inherited from the period of French rule, and particularism, which had,
from the Burgundian period, been the most striking feature in Belgian
politics. If we associate, in our minds, particularism with the
traditional conservatism of the Catholic peasantry and centralization
with modern industrial developments and the intellectual culture of the
large towns, we shall obtain a fairly good idea of the two general
tendencies which divided public opinion in Belgium during the
nineteenth century and whose main features may be recognized not only
in politics, but also in the economic, intellectual and artistic
development of the country.


The status of neutrality not only affected foreign politics, it reacted
very strongly on Belgium's internal life. If it crippled her activity
with regard to home defence, it developed to an abnormal degree party
warfare. It shut the door on international problems and all questions
which may be considered as national issues and before which party
strife ought to cease in consideration for the common weal. Social,
philosophic or religious differences were not balanced, in modern
Belgium, as in other countries, by international consciousness. In the
close atmosphere of the tutelage of the Powers, party politics absorbed
the whole public life of the nation and external problems were
practically ignored. It thus happened that the people who stood in the
forefront of Europe, and who were more directly interested than any
other in the fluctuations of European politics, were about the worst
informed on foreign affairs.

From 1839 to 1885, the electorate being limited by a property
qualification (only 35,000 electors out of 4,000,000 inhabitants taking
part in the first election), the struggle was confined to the two
middle-class parties, Catholics and Liberals. Roughly speaking, the
Catholics stood for the defence of religious interests, more especially
in the domain of education and relief, the Liberals for the supremacy
of a nominally neutral State in all public matters. It is easy to
realize how this purely political quarrel could degenerate into a
conflict of ideals, some ultramontanes distrusting the motives of
"atheists" and ignoring the public spirit of men who did not share
their creed, while some agnostics, steeped in the narrow doctrines of
Voltaire and Diderot, made the Church the scapegoat of all social evils
and even denied the wholesome influence of religion on social

During the first part of the century the conflict was not so acute,
both parties possessing their moderate and extremist leaders and the
so-called "Liberal Catholics" acting as a link between the two
factions. From 1847 to 1870 the Liberals, representing the bourgeoisie
of the large towns, were most of the time in power, while from 1870 to
1878 the Catholics, upheld by the farmers and the middle classes of the
small towns, took the direction of affairs. The property qualification
was progressively reduced, first for the parliamentary, later for the
provincial and communal elections, and a larger share was given to the
lower middle classes in the administration of the country. Meanwhile,
party differences had developed through the gradual disappearance of
the moderating elements on both sides, and the vexed question of
education was coming to the fore. The 1830 Constitution was not very
explicit concerning this matter, and both parties interpreted it
according to their own interests. Many communes having neglected to
keep up the official schools, religious orders had taken a more and
more important part in primary education. When the Liberals came into
power, in 1878, they passed a law compelling every commune to maintain
its own schools, where religious instruction should only be given out
of school hours. They also founded a great many secondary schools and
training colleges, with the object of transferring education from
religious to secular teachers. These sweeping reforms entailed heavy
expenditure and unpopular taxation, and finally brought about the
downfall of the Liberal régime in 1884. The Catholics proceeded to
abrogate the 1879 law on primary education by giving State grants to
the free Catholic schools, and suppressed a number of the secondary
schools and training colleges established by the previous régime.

Feeling ran so high that King Leopold, who realized the harm which this
"school war" was doing to the national spirit, warned Monsieur Malou
(the Catholic premier) against the attitude he had adopted, as he had
previously warned the Liberal premier, Frère-Orban: "The Liberals have
acted as if there were no longer any Catholics in Belgium. Are you
going also to act as if there were no Liberals left in the country,
without any consideration for the disastrous consequences of such an
attitude for the nation and for yourself?"

From 1885 to 1913 educational matters, though by no means forgotten,
were entirely overshadowed by social problems and by the efforts made
by the Opposition to obtain the revision of the Constitution and the
adoption of universal suffrage. This change was brought about by the
foundation, in 1885, by the Flemish printer, César de Paepe, of the
Belgian Labour Party. Its action was from the first political as well
as economic. While consumers' co-operatives, such as the "Vooruit" of
Ghent, were founded in several large towns, Socialist clubs entertained
a continuous agitation for electoral franchise, their aim being to use
Parliament to obtain the sweeping social reforms inscribed on their
programme. Here, again, we find French insistence on politics checked
by the old spirit of association which had been so prominent in the
Netherlands during the Middle Ages.


After the miners' strike of 1886, both Catholics and Liberals revised
their programmes and paid more attention to social reforms. But the
workmen, who were now powerfully organized, especially in the
industrial centres of the South, wanted to take a direct share in
political life. Under pressure of public opinion, the demand for a
revision of the Constitution was at last taken into consideration in
1891, and in 1893 a new law granted universal suffrage tempered by
plural voting. In 1902 a new campaign was launched by the allied
Liberal-Socialist opposition in favour of universal suffrage pure and
simple, without obtaining any result, but when, in 1913, a general
strike supported the demand, the Catholic Government promised that the
question should be examined by a parliamentary commission.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before the war, Belgium was the most productive agricultural district
of Europe. The secret of her prosperity is generally attributed to the
small number of large estates and to the great area cultivated by small
owners, 48 per cent. of the cultivated area being covered by farms of
2½ to 7½ acres. It must be added that, during the last twenty
years, powerful producers' co-operatives, or "Boerenbonden," have
grouped agriculturists and given them important advantages with regard
to credit and insurance. The inbred qualities which have rendered this
development possible are, however, to be found in the race itself.
Again and again, in the course of centuries, the Belgian peasant has
come to the fore under every political régime and every system of
landholding. He has had to conquer the country from the sea, protect it
against its incursions and to repair periodically the havoc caused by
war. The memory of physical and social calamities has been handed down
the ages, and the present system of small-ownership and co-operative
societies is only the result of centuries of incessant toil.

The conservative spirit of the peasants and farmers is illustrated by
the opposition made to the project of the Liberal Minister Rogier, in
1833, to build the first railway in Belgium. It was argued that this
would be a considerable waste of fertile soil and would frighten the
cattle. The first railway line, between Brussels and Malines, was
nevertheless inaugurated on May 5, 1835, and since then, such enormous
progress has been realized that, before the war, Belgium occupied the
first place in Europe with regard to the development of its railway
lines. All other means of communication have been similarly developed.
In 1913 the country possessed 40,000 kilometres of roads, 4,656
kilometres of railway line, 2,250 kilometres of light railways, and
2,000 kilometres of inland waterways.

       *       *       *       *       *


The first consequence of the Revolution was to disorganize Belgian
industry, which had lost the Dutch market, the powerful works of
Cockerill, at Seraing, being among the few which did not suffer from
the change. The introduction of machinery in a country so rich in
coal-fields not only restored the situation but enormously increased
industrial production in the Southern districts. In 1830 only 400
machines were used, with a total of 12,000 horse-power; in 1902 these
figures had risen to 19,000 machines with 720,000 horse-power, without
taking into account railway engines (718,000 horse-power).

The distribution of the various industries in the different parts of
the country did not vary very much from that existing under previous
régimes. Broadly speaking, no new development took place, every centre
remaining in the situation determined by coal or the presence of raw
material. The principal centre of the textile industry remained at
Ghent, near the hemp-fields of the Lys; metal-works, glass-works, etc.,
were still grouped close to the four main coal-fields in the region of
Mons, La Louvière (Centre), Charleroi and Liége; the number of men
engaged on industrial production before the war had reached 1,500,000,
among whom were 153,000 miners, over 149,000 metal workers, and over
129,000 textile workers.

But it is not so much to the number as to the quality of her workmen
that Belgium owes her great industrial prosperity. This may be
accounted for by the fact that a great number of industrial workers
never lost touch with the land. Belonging, most of them, to
agricultural districts, they do not settle permanently around their
factories, and between the country and the great centres there is a
continuous exchange of population. The hard-working qualities of
mechanics and artisans are inherited from the peasants, and there is a
considerable reluctance, on their part, to crowd into big cities, cheap
railway fares allowing them to live around the towns where they work
during the day.


The condition of this wonderful economic development was the opening of
the Scheldt. For nearly two centuries and a half the country had been
cut off from the outside world and obliged to live on her own
resources. We have seen how, during the fifteen years of union with
Holland, the trade of Antwerp had made considerable progress, and how,
in spite of Dutch resistance, the freedom of international rivers
proclaimed by the Vienna Congress was applied to the Lower Scheldt. The
1839 settlement placed the river, below Antwerp, under the joint
control of a Belgo-Dutch commission. The only obstacle still in the way
was a toll of one florin and a half which King William had persisted in
levying on all ships going and coming from the port. In 1863, after
laborious negotiations undertaken by Baron Lambermont, Belgium was able
to buy off these tolls from Holland for the sum of 36,000,000 francs.
The stream was at last definitely free, at least in time of peace.
Placed under normal conditions, with the help of numerous waterways
spreading over the interior of an exceptionally rich country, Antwerp
was bound to reconquer rapidly the situation it had occupied under
Charles V. In 1840 about 1,500 ships, with a tonnage of 24,000, entered
the port. In 1898 the annual tonnage had reached 6,500,000, and in 1913
over 25,000,000. Though such figures were undreamt of in the sixteenth
century, the nature of the Antwerp trade remained very similar. The
Antwerp merchants were really brokers or warehousers, and most of the
merchandise brought to the port from all parts of the world was
re-exported to other countries. So that in trade, as in industry and
agriculture, the permanence of certain characteristics, determined by
the land and the race, are preserved to this day. The absence of a
national merchant fleet, which was equally apparent in the sixteenth
century, did not affect imports and exports, which increased
respectively from 98,000,000 francs and 104,500,000 francs in 1831 to
6,550,000,000 francs and 5,695,000,000 francs in 1910. The Government
undertook various great public works in order to allow the country to
benefit fully from this extraordinary activity. In 1906 a law was
passed voting large credits for the extension of Antwerp's maritime
installations. When these works are completed they will give to the
port 60 kilometres of quays instead of 21. In 1881 the enlargement of
the Terneuzen canal permitted large ships to reach Ghent; the new port
of Bruges and the Zeebrugge canal were inaugurated in 1907, and an
important scheme, whose result will be to connect Brussels with the
sea, begun in 1900, is still in progress.

Economic renaissance was accompanied by a corresponding increase in the
population. From 4,000,000 in 1831 it rose to 5,000,000 in 1870, and to
7,500,000 in 1911. With a density of 652 persons per square mile,
Belgium became the most thickly populated country in the world and only
consumed a fourteenth part of her industrial production. The necessity
of finding new markets abroad and of discovering some substitute for
the loss of the Dutch colonies, which had proved so helpful during the
period of union with Holland, might have been felt by any far-sighted
statesman. Leopold I had already devoted some attention to the problem.
He encouraged several Belgian settlements in Rio Nuñez, where a regular
protectorate was established for a short time, in Guatemala and in
various parts of Brazil. None of these enterprises, however, bore
fruit, and the problem was still unsolved when Leopold II ascended the
throne in 1865.


The search for a colonial outlet for the activity of the nation
dominated the reign of the new king and absorbed all the energy he was
able to spare from military problems. As Duke of Brabant, Leopold II
had already drawn the attention of the country to the future
development of China. He had formed several projects with regard to the
establishment of a Belgian settlement at the mouth of the Yangtse-Kiang
and on the island of Formosa. Their failure did not prevent him from
taking, later on, an active part in Chinese affairs. The Imperial
Government did not entertain towards Belgium the same distrust as it
did towards the European Great Powers, and King Leopold several times
had the opportunity of acting as intermediary between these Powers and
the Chinese Government, in order to obtain concessions. He became thus,
in later years, the initiator of the Peking-Hankow railway. The
difficulty of finding a field of economic activity in foreign countries
became, nevertheless, more and more apparent, and, without giving up
his Chinese policy, the Belgian king endeavoured to ensure to his
country some part of the vacant territories which had not yet been
seized by other European nations. When his Congo enterprise was in full
swing, he proposed to buy the Canary Islands from Spain (1898), and,
after the Spanish-American War, opened negotiations with America with
regard to the future development of the newly acquired Philippines. He
was also concerned, for a time, with Korean, Manchurian and Mongolian
enterprises, and nothing but the progress of the Congo scheme put a
stop to his incessant search for new opportunities.

In 1876, when the Congo basin was still practically _terra incognita_,
Stanley having just left Europe in order to determine the course of the
stream, Leopold II founded the "Association Internationale Africaine."
It was a purely private association, composed of geographers and
travellers, its aim being to suppress the slave trade in Central Africa
and to open this part of the continent to modern civilization. Two
years later, on Stanley's return, the "Comité d'Etudes du Haut Congo"
secured his services in order to undertake, with the help of a little
band of Belgian explorers, a complete survey of the Congo basin and to
conclude treaties with the native chiefs. Within five years a region as
large as a fifth of Europe, and eighty times larger than Belgium, had
been brought under the influence of the Committee, and in 1883 the king
founded the "Association Internationale du Congo."

If, instead of ruling over a small neutral State, Leopold II had ruled
over one of the large nations of Europe, he would have reaped forthwith
the fruit of his labour and the gratitude of his people. The Congo
would have become a State colony, been subsidized by State funds, and
the sovereign would have incurred no further responsibilities in the
matter. But Belgium was not a Great Power like Germany, which acquired
its African colonies at the same time, in a similar manner. Neither
could she rest her colonial claims on historical grounds, like Holland
or Portugal. She was not even fully independent, as far as foreign
policy was concerned, and her right to break fresh ground might have
been questioned at the time. Besides, popular opinion in Belgium,
dominated by the fear of international complications, was not prepared
to claim this right, even the capitalists considering the king's
projects far too hazardous to give him the necessary support. Leopold
II was, therefore, left to his own resources to accomplish an almost
superhuman task: to obtain the necessary recognition from the Powers,
and to sufficiently develop the resources of the Congo to persuade the
Belgian people to accept his gift.

It was, therefore, not as a king, but as a private individual, that the
president of the "Association Internationale du Congo" was obliged
first to remove the obstacles created by French and Portuguese
opposition, and, later, to persuade the other Powers to entrust him
with the administration of the new territory. This first success must
not be attributed to his diplomatic skill alone, but also to the
enormous expenses implied by the bold enterprise, to the reluctance of
the rich colonial Powers to incur further liabilities and to their
anxiety to avoid international difficulties. Germany's attitude, in
view of further events, may be described as expectant. Bismarck had
only just been converted to colonial expansion, and found, no doubt,
what he must have considered as the "interregnum" of King Leopold an
excellent solution of his difficulties.


In 1885 the work of the "Association" was recognized by the Congress of
Berlin, the sovereign of Belgium becoming the sovereign of the Congo
Free State. The treaty of Berlin stipulated that trade should remain
free in the new State, that the natives should be protected and that
slavery should be suppressed. Four years later, the king, in his will,
left the Congo to Belgium, "desiring to ensure to his beloved country
the fruit of a work pursued during long years with the generous and
devoted collaboration of many Belgians, and confident of thus securing
for Belgium, if she was willing to use it, an indispensable outlet for
her trade and industry and a new field for her children's activity."

The work was pushed with indomitable energy. In 1894 a vigorous
campaign against the Arab slave-traders was brought to a successful
conclusion. In 1898 the first railway connecting Matadi, on the Lower
Congo, with Leopoldville, on the Stanley Pool, opened the great
waterway as far as the Stanley Falls. A flotilla was launched on the
upper stream and its main affluents, while roads and telegraph lines
spread all over the country.

The financial situation, however, remained critical. The enterprise had
absorbed the greater part of the king's personal fortune. The credits
voted by the Belgian Chambers were inadequate, and, though a few
financiers began by now to realize the enormous value of the
enterprise, their number was not sufficient to ensure the immediate
future. Faced with considerable difficulties, which compelled him to
severely curtail his personal expenses, Leopold II had formally offered
the colony to the country in 1895. This offer had been rejected. Under
the stress of circumstances, the sovereign of the Congo Free State
decided to exploit directly the natural resources of the land, mainly
rubber and ivory. The natives were compelled to pay a tax in kind and
vast concessions were granted to commercial companies whose actions
could not be properly controlled. This semi-commercial, semi-political
system was bound to lead to abuses, even a few State agents betraying
the confidence which their chief had placed in them and oppressing the
natives in order to exact a heavier tax.

When the first protests were heard in this country, King Leopold
committed the grave mistake of not starting an immediate inquiry and
punishing the culprits. Distrusting the motives of the leaders of the
campaign, and stiffened in his resistance by the tone they chose to
adopt towards him, he allowed the opposition to grow to such
proportions that the general public, whose indignation was skilfully
nurtured by the most exaggerated reports, lost all sense of proportion.
They ignored the fact that the king had given sufficient proof of
disinterestedness and of devotion to his country not to deserve the
abominable accusations launched against him. They forgot the invaluable
work accomplished, under the most difficult circumstances, during
twenty years of ceaseless labour, the suppression of slavery, of
cannibalism, human sacrifices and tribal wars, and remembered only the
gross indictments of Mr. Morel and the biased reports of Mr. Roger
Casement (1913).


When, the next year, three impartial magistrates sent to the Congo by
King Leopold reported that the excesses had been repressed and advised
a complete reform of the administration, their testimony was
disregarded. When concessions were abolished and drastic measures taken
against the criminal agents, the fact remained unnoticed. Even after
the Congo had become a Belgian Colony (1908), under the control of the
Belgian Parliament, when every scrap of authority had been taken away
from the old king with the "Domaine de la Couronne" (whose revenue was
to be devoted by its founder to public works in Belgium), when the
colony had been entirely reorganized, the campaign of the Congo Reform
Association went on relentlessly. Far from silencing his accusers, the
king's death, a year later, was made the occasion of a fresh outburst
of abuse.

The good faith of the public throughout the Congo campaign is
unquestionable. That of its main engineers is at least open to doubt.
They organized their efforts at the time when the greatest difficulties
of colonization had been overcome. They pursued them after all cause
for abuse had been removed. In one of his first books, _British Case in
French Congo_, Mr. Morel suggests the partition of the Free State
between this country and Germany. In his last books, written during the
war, he warmly champions the internationalization of Central Africa in
order to save the German Colonies. Neither can it be urged that those
two men who roused the conscience of this country against the Congo
atrocities were deeply shocked by more recent and far better
authenticated atrocities committed in Belgium. If they were, the only
remark an impartial observer might venture to make is that their
actions, during the war, scarcely reflected such righteous indignation.
It may be too hasty to conclude from this, and from the close
association of Erzberger, Morel and Casement in the Congo campaign,
that this campaign was engineered by Germany. We do not yet possess all
the documents necessary to establish this fact. We know enough,
however, to deplore that a movement which might have been so beneficial
to all concerned was allowed to fall into the hands of unscrupulous
agitators, who succeeded in estranging for a time Belgium from Great
Britain, and incidentally in marring the last years of the life of one
of the greatest Belgian patriots.



The remarkable revival of Belgian Arts and Letters which followed
shortly after the 1830 Revolution is one of the most striking examples
of the influence exercised by political events on intellectual
activity. For over a century the nation had been devoid of
self-expression, and during the fifteen years of Union with Holland
scarcely any notable works were produced. No doubt this time, being one
of economic recovery, was not favourable to the efflorescence of Art
and Letters, but the intense activity of the period of independence
appears nevertheless as an outburst of national pride and energy. It
seems as if all the strength, subdued during the periods of foreign
domination, had at last found an outlet, as if the Belgians had waited
all these years to assert again their intellectual power, which could
not or would not flourish for the benefit of foreigners.

    _Ph. B._

Architecture no longer represents, in modern times, what it represented
in the past, and it would be vain to search in modern Belgium, and, for
the matter of that, in any modern country, for the manifestation of an
original style expressing the spirit of the age. There are, however,
symptoms of vitality which must not be entirely disregarded. The
considerable number of public buildings erected and the more or less
successful efforts of their builders are by themselves a remarkable
testimony. It is characteristic of Belgian civilization and of its
irradicable traditional spirit of regionalism that the Hôtels de Ville
built in imitation of the Flemish Renaissance are particularly
numerous, and even in some cases, such as the Maison communale of
Schaarbeek, particularly impressive. Some reconstitutions were also
attempted, as, for instance, the Antwerp Exchange and the Palace of
Margaret of Austria in Malines. The only strikingly original monument
is the Palace of Justice in Brussels, built by Poelaert (1870-79). It
is the result of an extraordinary medley of styles, from the Assyrian
onwards, and presents one of the most pathetic and gigantic efforts to
create a beautiful monument under modern conditions. This huge building
was intended by the Belgian people to be the apotheosis of Right. Not
only of the Justice of everyday courts, but also of international
Justice and of the right, so long violated on Belgian soil, of the
people to dispose of themselves.


Wandering through the most important squares and gardens of Belgian
towns, the stranger will be astonished at the number of monuments
raised to the great Belgians of the past and to the heroes of Belgian
history. In Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, and even the small
provincial towns, he will find statues dedicated not only to the modern
kings and statesmen, but to the leaders of the various revolts against
foreign oppression, to the great artists and communal tribunes. Almost
every person mentioned in this book possesses his effigy, and the town
of Tongres has gone as far as immortalizing the features of the
Celtic chief Ambiorix in token of his resistance to the Roman Legions.
All these statues are not necessarily great works of art, nor is the
historical conception which their ensemble represents quite above
criticism, but, if one remembers that they were almost all raised
within fifty years of the declaration of Belgian independence, one may
at least understand the reason of their sudden appearance. In spite of
those who insist, in flattering terms, on Belgium's youth, she strongly
maintains her right to old traditions and wants to keep her ancient
heroes before her eyes. More or less consciously, the sculptors of
these statues realized that their fathers of the Renaissance and the
Middle Ages had as great a share in the making of the nation as present
kings and ministers. Their sudden appearance in the midst of Belgian
towns was not the result of official zeal, but the living symbol of the
gratitude of new to old Belgium. Jacques van Artevelde in Ghent,
Breydel and De Coninck in Bruges, Egmont and Horn in Brussels came into
their own at last.

Beside these historical statues, the traveller will find some
remarkable works of a more recent date which will recommend themselves
for their purely artistic value and which are generally noticeable for
their feeling for movement and muscular effort. In many ways, the
qualities of Rubens were revived in the modern school of Belgian
sculpture, and the Brabo fountain in Antwerp, the Death of Ompdrailles
and the Riders' Fight in Brussels suffice to show the influence
exercised by the seventeenth century school of painting on Jef.
Lambeaux, Van der Stappen and J. de Lalaing. The most original of
Belgian sculptors, Constantin Meunier (1831-1904), while possessing
similar plastic qualities, opened a new field by his idealization of
agricultural and industrial work. His miners, dockers, puddlers, and
field labourers are known to all students of art and will stand in the
future as the symbol of the economic renaissance of a people who could,
even under modern conditions, find a kind of grim attachment to their

    Illustration: "THE PUDDLER." BY CONSTANTIN MEUNIER (1831-1904).

Cold academic compositions, painted under the influence of the chief of
the Imperial French school of painting, Louis David, were the only
productions of Belgian Art at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
In no domain did the fashion change more abruptly, on the morrow of the
Revolution, than in Belgian historical paintings. As early as 1833, G.
Wappers of Antwerp exhibited a large canvas recording an episode of the
recent Revolution. His example was followed by many artists at the
time, and Belgian history became the subject of a great number of
paintings, whose rather theatrical and pompous style does not entirely
succeed in hiding their sincere and serious qualities. The French style
of David was soon abandoned. Movement and colour, so inherent in the
Belgian temperament, came again to the fore, and, though the influence
of Rubens was overmastering, it was at least a national influence, and
soon led, under the inspiration of Henri Leys (1815-69), to the
production of historical works of great interest. The latter's frescoes
of the Hôtel de Ville in Antwerp, illustrating the old franchises and
privileges of the town, may still be considered as a striking
expression of municipal freedom.


At the same time, a great number of painters, reacting against the
rather artificial style of historical paintings, went back to genre
pictures, in which Teniers and his followers had excelled in the past.
Henri de Braekeleer (1814-88) translated the simple, intimate poetry of
modest interiors, while Joseph Stevens (1819-92) devoted his genius to
scenes of dog life. Later, when social questions came to the fore and
when the attention of the public was centred on the sufferings of the
poor and destitute, De Groux, Léon Frédéric and, even more, Eugène
Laermans (_b._ 1864) conveyed in their works a burning sympathy for the
wretches and vagabonds straying through the towns and the Flemish
country-side. The latter's work is strongly influenced by Breughel.
Through an extraordinary paradox, Belgian Art, which only represented
scenes of merriment during the darkest days of the Spanish occupation,
gave far more importance to scenes of misery during the modern time of
great public prosperity, so revolting did it seem that such prosperity
should not be shared by all.

Another artist in whose works Breughel's inspiration is apparent is
Jacob Smits (_b._ 1856). He is almost the only one who may be
considered as a representative of religious painting in Belgium. Like
Breughel, he succeeded in bringing the Christian story close to the
people's hearts amidst Flemish contemporary surroundings.

A school of art in which colour and light play such a predominant part
is bound to produce valuable landscapes. In this new form, the love of
country expressed itself far more sincerely than in the earlier
historical compositions. Under the influence of Henri Boulanger,
Belgium produced, in later years, a number of first-rate landscape
painters such as Verwée, Courtens, Gilsoul, Baertsoen and Emile Claus.
Flemish landscapes exert a far greater attraction than the Walloon
hills, and, generally speaking, the Flemish element dominates in the
modern school as it did in the old. For the golden light lies on the
damp fields of Flanders, and Flemish artists have not yet given up the
hope of capturing it.


The artistic Renaissance of modern Belgium might have been expected.
The worship of colour and form had always been a strong characteristic
of the race, and even in the drab years of the Austrian régime Belgian
painters had never ceased to work. A far more startling development was
the appearance, towards the middle of the nineteenth century, of a
national Belgian school of literature. In the Middle Ages, Flemish and
French letters in Belgium had produced some remarkable works. Owing to
the scholastic character of these writings and to the predominant
influence of French culture, they could not, however, be considered as
a direct expression of the people's spirit. In many ways, the modern
school of Belgian Letters was a new departure: French and Flemish
influences were more evenly balanced, and, though they worked
separately, Flemish and French writers, coming into close contact with
the people's soul, expressed the same feelings and the same
aspirations. For, if we make due allowance for the part played by
purely Walloon writers, specially novelists and story-tellers, the main
feature of the Belgian school of literature in the nineteenth century
is the break up of the language barrier. Strange as it may seem, a
comparison between writers in French and Flemish reveals a series of
similarities so striking that, supposing an adequate translation were
possible, there would be no difficulty whatever in including them in
the same group. The main reason for this is, no doubt, that almost all
the leaders of the movement in French, starting with De Coster and
Lemonnier, up to the contemporary period of Verhaeren and Maeterlinck,
are of Flemish extraction, and that their best works are imbued with
Flemish traditions and Flemish temperament. Broadly speaking, one might
say that most of the Belgian French writers are Flemings writing in
French and are far closer to their Northern brethren than to the French
whose language they use. Charles de Coster, who may be considered as
the father of this particular branch of the school, published in 1868
the _Legend of Ulenspiegel_, which is nothing but a prose epic in which
the legendary character of Owliglass is identified with one of the
heroes of the sixteenth century revolution against Spain. Camille
Lemonnier (1844-1913), in his best novels, deals with the manners and
customs of the Flemish peasantry. The very soul of Flanders shines
through the whole work of Belgium's great national poet, Emile
Verhaeren, from his early _Les Flamandes_ (1883) to the six volumes of
_Toute la Flandre_ (1904-12), and in all his earlier writings
(1889-98), Maurice Maeterlinck remains under the influence of Flemish
mysticism and miracle plays. This may seem a one-sided conclusion, and
the names of many Belgian writers of great distinction may be quoted
against it, but if we were to examine the question more closely, this
conclusion would be rather verified than disproved. From a purely
historical point of view, the general trend of inspiration is certainly
towards the North rather than towards the South.

The main features which characterize the Belgian writers in French and
confer on them a truly national originality are, on one side, a
tendency to emphasize the intimate joys of life, and on the other, an
intense feeling for mysticism, sometimes quite dissociated from any
dogmatic faith. Just as Flemish Art is remarkable for the religious
work of the fifteenth century and the sensuous productions of the
seventeenth, so Belgian writing in the nineteenth oscillates between
the spirit of Jordaens and that of Memling. In spite of some modernist
tendencies and a great technical boldness, Belgian literature remains
deeply influenced by mediævalism. It belongs to the twentieth century,
even when written in the nineteenth, or to the fifteenth. The classical
atmosphere of the French seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is
totally absent. Those who care for the delicately poised balance of
classical taste, for wit and brilliance of dialogue, will be
disconcerted by childishness or fierce passion. It is an abrupt
literature, but spontaneous and sincere, which has not been spoilt by
formalism and scepticism, but which has not acquired, from a purely
technical point of view, the perfection of the French. Having remained
inarticulate during the two centuries of classical education, it has
lost nothing and gained nothing through them.


It is significant that the movement started in Flanders before
influencing the French-speaking part of the country. The Flemish
novelist, Henri Conscience (1812-83) had devoted a series of books to
the history of his country long before De Coster wrote his
_Ulenspiegel_. The Flemish language was, at the time, struggling
against great difficulties. It had been entirely neglected, from the
literary point of view, during the eighteenth century, and suffered now
from the natural reaction which followed the 1830 Revolution. It had
reaped little benefit from the fifteen years of union with Holland, and
there was a general belief, among the Flemings themselves, that it
would never recover its ancient position. The Flemish literary
Renaissance was initiated by a small group of intellectuals, headed by
Jan Frans Willems (1793-1846), who exerted all their energy to revive
Flemish customs, collect folk songs and traditions, and obtain a
liberal interpretation of the Constitution which proclaimed liberty of
language. The Flemish Movement received a new impulse when the young
poet Albrecht Rodenbach (1856-80) spread its influence to all Flemish
intellectual circles. The Flemings began to realize that they possessed
in Guido Gezelle (1813-99) a religious poet whose work could bear
comparison with the best French writings in the country. They saw,
growing up around them, a new school of writers of great promise, and
they insisted on their language being recognized, not only in
principle, but in fact, as the second official language of the country.
In 1898 a law was passed removing some of the causes of grievances,
such as the inability of judges and officials to understand the
language of the people with whom they dealt. Progressively the Flemish
language came into its own in matters of education and administration,
and, before the war, the only large question still under discussion was
the creation of a Flemish University. The principle of such an
institution had been admitted, but the relationship between this new
University and the old French University of Ghent had not yet been


It must be understood that the language question remained throughout a
local quarrel between two sets of Flemish intellectuals. It was not a
quarrel between Walloons and Flemings, and administrative separation
was scarcely ever mentioned. It was not even, before the war, a quarrel
between the Flemish people, who knew only Flemish, and the Flemish
bourgeoisie, who preferred to talk French. It was a dispute between a
few intellectual Flemings, who wished to restore the language to the
position it occupied before the Spanish and Austrian régimes silenced
it, and the Flemings who wanted to restrict it to the common people and
treat it as a patois. It was, to put it bluntly, a discussion between
those who ignored history and those who realized that the independence
of the Belgian provinces was bound to bring about a revival of Flemish
Letters, as it was causing a revival of French Letters. For two
centuries the country had remained silent; she was now able to speak
again and to use all the riches and the resources of her two languages.
Instead of threatening national unity, bilingualism was its necessary
condition. For real differences do not lie in modes of expression, but
in the feeling and the soul of the people, and it matters little if an
image or a thought is expressed in one language or another, as long as
they reflect a common temperament and common aspirations.



The part played by Belgium during the war is well known. Those who knew
the country and its history were not astonished at the attitude
observed by King Albert and his people on August 3, 1914. Quite apart
from any foreign sympathies, no other answer could be given to an
ultimatum which directly challenged Belgium's rights. A modern nation
might have been intimidated, but an old nation like Belgium, which had
struggled towards independence through long and weary periods of
warfare and foreign domination, was bound to resist. In challenging
King Albert and his ministers, the German Government challenged at the
same time all the leaders of the Belgian people, from De Coninck to
Vonck and De Mérode, and the reply of the Belgian Government was
stiffened by an age-long tradition of stubborn resistance and by the
ingrained instinct of the people that this had to be done because there
was nothing else to do.


History also accounts for the desperate fight waged by the small and
ill-equipped army against the first military Power in Europe. Liége,
Haelen, the three sorties from Antwerp, the ten terrible days on the
Yser, are not due merely to the personal valour of the leaders and of
their troops, but to the fact that they were Belgian leaders and
Belgian troops, that they belonged to a nation conscious of her
destiny and who had never despaired in the past, in spite of the
ordeals to which she was subjected and of the scorn of those who
questioned her very existence. The same thing might be said of all
Allied nations. Even so fought the British, even so fought the French;
the only difference lies in the fact that their heroism was expected as
a matter of course, while that of the Belgians came to many as a
surprise. For British traditions and French traditions were well known,
while the past of Belgium was blurred amidst the confusion of Feudalism
and foreign rule.

On the Yser, in October 1914, the Belgian forces had been reduced from
95,000 to 38,000 bayonets. These last defences, preserving about twenty
square miles of independent territory, were maintained during four
years while the army was refilling its ranks and reorganizing its
supplies. It took its share in all the concerted actions of the Allies
in Flanders, and when, at last, the final offensive was launched, on
September 28, 1918, King Albert was placed at the head of the
Anglo-Franco-Belgian forces.

Meanwhile the civil population, under German occupation, was undergoing
one of the severest trials that the nation had ever experienced, not
excepting revolutionary oppression and the Spanish Fury. The Germans
used every means in their power to disintegrate the people's unity,
break its resistance and enlist its services. Terrorism was used, from
the first, at Aerschot, Louvain, Tamines, Andenne and Dinant, whilst
the invasion progressed towards the heart of the country. Then, under
the governorship of Von Bissing, the method was altered, and attempts
were made to induce the chiefs of industry and their workmen to resume
work for the greater benefit of the enemy. This policy culminated in
the sinister deportations, pursued during the winter of 1916-17, which
enslaved about 150,000 men and compelled them to work either behind the
German front or in German kommandos. Enormous fines and contributions
were levied on towns and provinces, the country was emptied of all raw
material, private property and the produce of the soil were
systematically requisitioned, and the population would have been
decimated by famine but for the help of the Commission for Relief in
Belgium. When it became evident, in 1917, that the passive resistance
of the workers could not be broken, all the industries which had not
been commandeered were entirely or partially destroyed and the
machinery transported to Germany.


The most insidious attack of Governor von Bissing's policy on the
Belgian nation was his attempt to use the Flemish Movement as a means
to divide the Belgians against themselves. The governor, who explained
his intentions in a remarkable document known as his "Political
Testament," undertook this campaign under the assumption that Belgium
was an artificial creation of the Vienna Congress and that such a thing
as Belgian nationality did not really exist. German university
professors had been at great pains to explain to the German and neutral
public that nationality could only be created by unity of race or
language, and that Belgium, possessing neither of these attributes,
could consequently claim no right to independence. Following this
trend of thought, the governor and his advisers considered the Flemish
Movement as the outcome of internal dissensions between Walloons and
Flemings, and hoped that, by encouraging the Flemings, they would
succeed in dividing the country and in securing the protectorate of

First the creation of a Flemish University in Ghent, replacing the
French University, absorbed the attention of the German administration.
Having secured the support of a few extreme "flamingants" known as
"activists" and completed the professorial board with foreigners, they
hastily inaugurated the new institution (1916). To their great
surprise, all Flemish organizations protested indignantly against this
action, contending that the occupying Power had no right to interfere
in internal policy. The next step was a series of decrees establishing
Administrative Separation, with two capitals at Namur and Brussels and
a complete division of Government offices between the Flemish and
Walloon districts of the country. This measure failed like the first,
owing to the patriotic resistance of the Belgian officials and the
inability of the Germans to replace them, and long before they were
obliged to evacuate the country the Germans had given up the hope of
mastering the absurd and unscientific decision of Walloons and Flemings
alike to remain one people, as history had made them.

Professor Van der Linden has given to his valuable work on Belgian
history the sub-title of _The Making of a Nation_, and shown
conclusively how the present institutions of Belgium are the result of
various contributions from the Middle Ages to the present time. But a
book on Belgian history might just as aptly be called _The Resistance
of a Nation_, since history tells us not only how the monument was
built, but also how it was not destroyed in spite of the most adverse
circumstances. From that point of view, Belgium may indeed be
considered as the embodiment of steadfastness, rather than that of
sheer heroism. She has succeeded in preserving, far more than in
acquiring. From her fifteenth century frontiers she has been reduced to
her present limited boundaries, which, nevertheless, contain all the
elements of her past and present genius. She sacrificed territory,
centuries of independence, long periods of prosperity, but she remained
essentially one people and one land, a small people on a small land,
combining the genius of two races and two languages and acting as a
natural intermediary between the great nations of Europe. Her history,
up to her last fight, is nothing but the struggle of a nation to assert
her right to live, in spite of her weakness, in the midst of great
military Powers. Unity, first constituted in the fifteenth century, is
at once endangered by the rule of a foreign dynasty. During the first
part of the sixteenth century the two influences, national and foreign,
contend in the counsels of the nation. The latter tendency prevails,
and, though remaining nominally independent in regional matters, the
country passes under foreign rule. When, in the beginning of the
nineteenth century, after the failure of several insurrections under
the Austrian and French régimes, independence is finally granted, and
when a new dynasty is at last inaugurated as a symbol of national
unity, Belgium remains nevertheless under foreign tutelage. Her
independence is bought at the price of neutrality; and it is only after
the violation of this guaranteed neutrality by two of the foremost
Powers which established it that the cycle of Belgium's trials comes to
an end and that she is allowed to exert her sovereign rights in
external as well as internal affairs.


Some may consider that Belgium has not reaped important advantages from
the treaty of Versailles, and may be inclined to compare the small
territories of the Walloon districts of Eupen and Malmédy with the
efforts made during the last few years. But, quite apart from economic
indemnities, which may prove a great asset if they materialize, Belgium
has conquered a far more valuable possession than any territory could
give. For the first time in modern history she has received full
recognition. She is at last allowed to make friends with her friends
and to beware of her enemies, if she has any reason to fear them.
Through the bitter struggle of the last few years Belgium has conquered
what other nations might consider as their birthright--the right to be
herself, the master of her fate, the captain of her soul.

It becomes more and more apparent to foreign consciousness that her
future is bound up with that of Europe. Her welfare will be Europe's
welfare, her ruin, the ruin of Western civilization and Christianity.
Unless through the League of Nations, or through any other means,
justice prevails in international relations, the history of her
tribulations is not yet closed, for only under a régime of justice may
the weak hope to live in freedom and in peace.

Among the pantheon of monuments erected by modern Belgium to the heroes
of her past history, the stranger will find, with some surprise, in the
midst of the Place Royale in Brussels, an equestrian statue of Godfrey
of Bouillon, who, nine centuries ago, sold his land to join the first
crusade, and who refused to wear a crown of gold where his Saviour had
worn a crown of thorns. Quite close stands the Palace where another
Belgian prince returned lately, after four years' incessant labour at
the side of his soldiers amid the sodden fields of Flanders. There is a
great contrast between the civilization of the eleventh and that of the
twentieth century, between the Great Adventure sought by the old
crusaders and the Great War forced on Western Europe, between the
mystic idealism of the Middle Ages and the practical idealism of modern
times. On both occasions, however, Belgium was placed in the van, and
found in Godfrey IV and Albert I two leaders whose courage and dignity
will stand as the purest symbol of chivalry and national honour.


Administration, 106, 107, 119, 125, 126, 145, 152, 155, 188, 209, 211,
  261, 265, 269, 277, 278, 286, 315, 317, 340, 345

Aerschot, Duke of, 193

Agadir, 312, 313

Agriculture, 74, 75, 122, 167, 214, 215, 216, 247, 276, 320, 323

Aix-la-Chapelle, 43, 44, 248
  Treaty of, 238, 239

Alba, Duke of, 183, 184, 189, 208

Albert, Archduke, 139, 152, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 217, 218,
  220, 228

Albert I, 310, 342, 343, 348

Algeciras, 313

Alost, 90, 165, 169, 188

  House of, 80
  Philip of, 80, 81, 89, 97
  Thierry of, 73, 80, 89

Amiens, Peace of, 276

Anabaptism, 168, 171, 172

Anjou, Duke of, 193, 194, 195, 200, 201, 202

Anneessens, François, 252

Antoine of Burgundy, 104, 105

Antwerp, 70, 115, 117, 121, 146, 155, 163, 164, 183, 186, 188, 192,
  201, 202, 207, 209, 214, 216, 217, 230, 246, 248, 251, 259, 263,
  276, 279, 282, 287, 296, 322, 323
  Camp of, 307, 308, 311, 312, 342
  Cathedral, 93, 221, 223
  Fall of, 203
  Lutheranism, 168
  Monuments, 332, 333, 334
  School of, 221, 222, 229
  Treaty of, _see_ Barriers

Architecture, 88, 91, 92, 93, 112, 113, 114, 124, 130, 224, 225, 331

Ardennes, 29, 30

Armada, 215

Armentières, 168, 180, 238

Army defences, 307, 313, 314, 343

Arnolfini, 139

Arras, 61, 97, 117, 124, 141, 143, 195, 205
  Bishopric, 32, 38, 64, 175, 176
  Confederation of, 196, 199, 201
  Peace of, 207, 218
  Union of, 196, 197

Art, 125, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 147, 221-29,
  258, 331-41

Augsburg League, 239, 241

Austrasia, 41

Baden, Treaty of, 242

Baertsoen, 336

Baldwin I, Iron Arm, 60

Baldwin II, 60

Baldwin IV, The Bearded, 61

Baldwin V, 55, 62, 97

Baldwin VI of Flanders and I of Hainault, 63, 97

Baldwin VII of Flanders and of Hainault, 64

Baldwin VIII of Flanders and V of Hainault, 81, 89

Baldwin II, Count of Guines, 97

Banning, Emile, 310, 311

Barriers, 248, 249, 259
  Treaty of the, 243

Bases of Separation, 291, 292, 293

Bastille, Taking of the, 263, 286

Beauneveu, André, 137, 138

Beggards, béguines, 90, 127, 128, 136, 168

Beggars, 178, 179, 184
  of Religion, 179
  of State, 179
  Sea, 185

Belfries, 71, 73, 74, 75, 112

Belgæ, 30

Belgica Secunda, 30, 34, 40

Belgiojioso, Count of, 260, 262

Belgo-Romans, 30, 32, 37

Bergh, Henry, Count of, 210, 234

Berlaymont, Charles de, 175, 178, 188

Berlin, Congress of, 327

Bilingualism, 94, 95, 96, 98, 104, 125, 126, 284, 285, 339, 340

Bishoprics and bishops, 32, 38, 40, 64, 219

Bismarck, 307, 308, 327

Blondeel, Lancelot, 153

Boendaele, Jean, 127

Bois-le-Duc, 156, 210, 271, 282

Bollandists, 227

Bollandus, 226

Boulanger, Henri, 336

Bouts, Thierry, 139

Bouvines, 81

Brabançonne Revolution, _see_ Revolution

Breda, 209, 234, 263, 264
  Congress of, 187

Bréderode, 178, 181

Breughel, Peter, 223, 229, 258, 259, 335

Brialmont, General, 308, 311

Broederlam, Melchior, 138

Brotherhood of the Active Love of My Neighbour, 261

Brothers of the Common Life, 127, 128, 136, 168, 169

Bruges, 63, 76, 90, 102, 114, 115, 117, 118-22, 138, 144, 153, 162,
  163, 202, 217, 324
  Belfry, 75, 77, 113
  Chapelle du Saint Sang, 117
  Churches, 75, 92
  Palais de Justice, 153
  Statues, 332, 333
  Town Hall, 112, 124

Bruno, 54, 55
Brussels, 74, 75, 102, 114, 115, 151, 154, 155, 156, 161, 181, 184,
  191, 192, 203, 206, 214, 217, 239, 246, 248, 249, 251, 252, 263,
  266, 269, 286, 320, 324, 345
  Industry, 165, 216, 247
  Palais de Justice, 332
  St. Gudule, 93
  Statues, 332, 333, 348
  Town Hall, 112, 113, 124
  Union of, 190, 193, 196

Burgundy, House of, 142, 153, 173

Calais, 205

Calvinism, 172, 173, 177, 178, 179, 181, 182, 183, 187, 189, 192, 194,
  195, 197, 198, 202, 203, 207, 208, 219, 220, 228

Cambrai, 71, 201
  Bishopric, 32, 38, 39, 40, 57, 64, 176
  Peace of, 152
  Treaty of, 148, 158

Cambraisis, 64

Campin, Robert, 138

Campo Formio, Treaty of, 274

Capuchins, 220, 227

Caroline Concession, 157

Carolingian dynasty, 42, 52, 55, 60

Carthusians, 132

Casement, Roger, 329, 330

Casimir, John, 195

Casimir, Duke Albert, 260, 262

Cateau-Cambraisis, Treaty of, 174

Catholics, Catholicism, 177, 179, 181, 182, 187, 189, 190, 192, 195,
  196, 198, 199, 205, 207, 208, 211, 213, 219, 221, 222, 224, 260,
  274, 276

Cauldron, War of the, 259

Celtic, 30, 34

Centralization, 36, 66, 80, 155, 160, 162, 168, 316

Charlemagne, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 154

Charleroi, 238, 282, 321

Charles, Archduke, 240

Charles de Lorraine, 249, 256, 261

Charles, Duke, 55

Charles the Bald, 48

Charles the Bold, 109, 110, 115, 118, 119, 123, 140, 145

Charles the Fat, 48, 50

Charles the Good, 73

Charles V, 147, 149-56, 158, 160, 161, 166, 169, 170, 171, 172, 175,
  176, 185, 190, 197, 207, 219, 222, 256, 280, 302, 323

Charles II of Spain, 237, 239, 240

Charles III of Spain and VI of Austria, 241, 242, 246, 250

Chastellain, 129, 130

Chazal, Baron, 307

Chepy, 270

Chièvres, 148, 149, 150, 151

Christianity, Christianization, 32, 37, 38, 39, 45, 64

Cistercians, 74, 89

Clodion, 33

Cloth Hall, _see_ Halles

Clovis, 37

Clunisians, 58, 89

Coal Wood, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 111

Cockerill, John, 282, 321

Cockerill, William, 276

Cologne, bishopric, 32, 40, 54

Communes, 66, 67, 68, 72, 73, 74, 78, 89, 103, 109, 114, 144, 156,
  167, 192, 195, 315, 318

Compromise of the Nobles, 178, 181, 184

Concordat, 276

Conecte, Thomas, 132

Confederation of Arras, _see_ Arras

Conference, The London, 289, 290, 291

Congo, 313, 325-30
  Campaign, 312

Conscience, Henri, 339

Consulta, 175, 176

Council of Blood, 184, 189, 208

Council of Brabant, 263

Council of State, 175, 176, 177, 180, 188, 218, 241

Council of Trent, 225

Council of Troubles, 184, 187, 188

Courtens, 335

Courtrai, 90, 238
  Battle of, 78, 84

Crusade, 59, 64, 89

D'Alton, General, 263, 264

Damme, 90, 163

Daret, Jacques, 138

De Braekeleer, Henri, 335

De Broqueville, 313

De Coninck, 84, 333, 342

De Coster, 337, 339

De Groux, 335

De Lalaing, _see_ Lalaing

De la Marck, Erard, 147, 158

De la Marck, Robert, 148

De la Pasture, Roger, _see_ Van der Weyden

De Ligne, Charles Joseph, 249, 250

De Mérode, 291, 342

De Paepe, César, 319

De Potter, 287

De Witt, 237, 238

Dietschen, _see_ Thiois

Dijon, 132, 137, 138

Dinant, 166, 216, 343
  Sack of, 109

Dixmude, 90

Don Juan, 190, 191, 193, 194, 236

Douai, 61, 97, 225, 238
  University, 224

Downs, Battle of the, 215

Dufay, Guillaume, 130

Dumouriez, 269, 271, 273, 274

Dunes, Battle of the, 235

Dunkirk, 202, 205, 215, 216, 247

Duplice, 310

Edict of Marche, 190

Edit Perpétuel, 190

Education, 127, 128, 169, 227, 250, 258, 282, 283, 318, 340

Egmont, Count of, 174, 175, 176, 177, 184, 333

Egmont Count, 210

Entente Cordiale, 310

Erasmus, 169

Ernest, Archduke, 205

Eupen and Malmédy, 301, 347

Exchange, 113, 114, 121, 164, 215, 332

Farnese, Alex., Duke of Parma, 194, 196, 199, 200, 201, 202, 204, 208,
  218, 230

Ferdinand, Cardinal Infant, 235

Ferrand of Portugal, 81

Feudalism, 49, 50, 55, 72, 77, 84

Finance, 119, 121, 158, 282, 283, 308, 311, 312, 323, 328

Flemings, 34, 48, 198

Flemish Movement, 339, 345

Fleurus, 239, 271

Fontainebleau, Treaty of, 259

Fontenoy, 248

Francis I of France, 150, 151, 153, 157

Francis II, 268, 271, 274

Franco-Prussian War, 307, 308, 309

Franks, 41, 42
  Invasion, 33, 34, 35
  Salian, 41

Frédéric, Léon, 335

French Fury, 202
  Revolution, _see_ Revolution

Frère-Orban, 306

Froissart, Jean, 129

Furnes, 238, 242, 247

Gavere, 114

Gelder, 157, 158
  Duke of, 150

Gérard de Brogne, 56, 58, 168

Gérard de Groote, 127, 128, 168

General Council of the Low Countries, 261

Germania, Inferior, 30, 32, 34, 40

Germanic, 30, 32, 41

Germanization, 42

Gertrude, of Holland, 63

Gezelle, Guido, 339

Ghent, 39, 76, 90, 114, 115, 116, 128, 138, 143, 144, 148, 180, 188,
  202, 214, 217, 243, 246, 257, 287, 323
  Belfry, 75, 112
  Churches, 75, 92, 133
  Halle, 112
  Industry, 165, 216, 217, 276, 282, 321
  Pacification of, 189-92, 196, 197, 207
  Revolt, 156
  Statues, 332, 333
  Treaty, 155
  University, 282, 340, 345

Giles de Binche, 130

Gilsoul, 336

Gislebert, 53

Gladstone, 308

Godfrey, of Bouillon, 59, 64, 89, 95, 348

Godfrey of Verdun, 55

Godfrey the Bearded, 55

Godfrey the Hunchback, 58

Golden Fleece, Order of, 107, 218

Golden Spurs, Battle of, _see_ Courtrai

Gorcum, 185, 189

Grand Alliance, 241

Granvelle, Bishop of Arras, 175, 176

Gravelines, 174

Great Privilege, 141, 144, 252, 258

Guilds, 71, 137, 156, 163-66, 167

Guinegate, 143, 149

Hague, The, 288
  Treaty of the, 266, 271, 272

Halles, 72, 112, 113, 116, 121, 137

Hansa, Hanseatic, 77, 82, 121, 152

Hapsburg, 141, 142, 143, 148, 158, 159, 173, 210, 242, 251, 254

Hennequin of Liége, 137, 138

Henry III, Duke of Brabant, 97

Hoffmann, Melchior, 171

Horn, Count of, 175, 176, 184, 333

Hôtel de Ville, _see_ Town Halls

Huguenot, 179, 185

Humanism, 169, 170, 175, 224

Hundred Years' War, 85

Huy, 92, 217, 243

Iconclasts, 168, 180, 181, 184, 189, 198

Industry, 78, 85, 128, 165, 167, 214, 216, 217, 247, 276, 283, 321,
  China, 247
  Cloth, 45, 70, 86, 116, 117, 121, 146, 164, 216
  Coal, 166, 216, 247, 282
  Copper-working, 216
  Distilling, 217
  Dyeing, 216
  Glass, 217, 321
  Lacemaking, 217, 247
  Linen, 117, 165, 216, 247
  Metal and Mining, 71, 166, 167, 216, 217, 282, 321, 322
  Papermaking, 217
  Spinning, 276, 321
  Silk, 217
  Tapestry, 117, 165, 177, 216, 247
  Wool, 32, 48, 70, 74, 80, 83, 87, 116, 117, 216, 247

Inquisition, 171, 172, 177, 178, 180, 181, 208, 256

  Frankish, 33, 34, 35
  German, 342
  Norman, 50

Investitures, Struggle of, 58, 66, 103

Isabella, Archduchess, 139, 152, 204, 206, 208, 211, 212, 217, 218,

Italianizants, 222, 223, 229

Jemappes, 269

Jesuits, 221, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 250

John the Fearless, 104, 105, 126

John I of Brabant, 82

John IV of Brabant, 105

Jordaens, Jacques, 228, 229, 258, 338

Joseph II, 152, 253, 254, 255, 256, 258, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264,
  265, 268, 272, 282, 286, 288, 291

Josquin des Prés, 130

Joyous Entry of Brabant, 84, 145, 155, 258, 263, 271, 291

Justice, 125, 208, 250, 261, 275, 277, 332

Kermesses, 258, 261

La Brielle, 185

Laermans, Eugène, 335

Lalaing, Count of, 193

Lalaing, J. de, 234

Lambeaux, 333

Lambermont, Baron, 322

Lambert d'Ardres, 97

Lambert le Bègue, 90

Lambert of Louvain, 55

Language limit, 34, 35, 36, 42, 126, 287 (_see_ Bilingualism)

League of Nations, 347

Lebeau, 291

Le Bel, Jean, 129

Leipzig, Battle of, 277

Lemaire, Jean, 129

Lemonnier, Camille, 337

Leopold II of Austria, 266, 268

Leopold I of Belgium, 293, 294, 295, 302, 310, 324

Leopold II of Belgium, 266, 268, 310, 311, 312, 318, 324-30

Leys, Henri, 334

Liége, 43, 44, 54, 91, 92, 95, 166, 167, 210, 217, 243, 282, 311, 321,
  Bishopric, 38, 40, 54, 57 88, 105, 173
  University, 282

Lille, 90, 97, 165, 195, 214, 216, 238

Limburg, 295, 296, 297, 299, 300

Lipsius, Justus, 224

Literature, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 131,
  226, 227, 331, 336, 337, 338, 339

Lotharingia, 48, 52, 55, 58, 103, 109

Lotharius I, 48

Lotharius II, 48, 50

Louis, Buonaparte, 275

Louis the Germanic, 48

Louis de Mâle, 87, 104, 137

Louis Philippe d'Orléans, 286, 293, 294

Louis XIII, 210

Louis XIV, 235, 237-41

Louis XVI, 259, 268

Louvain, 74, 132, 165, 169, 184, 224, 235, 251, 295, 343
  Town Hall, 112, 113, 124
  University, 117, 223, 250, 263, 282

Luther, Lutheranism, 168, 169, 170, 171, 179

Luxemburg, 239, 292, 295, 296, 297, 299, 300, 301, 306

Mabuse (Jean Gossaert), 222

Madrid, 173
  Treaty of, 151, 158

Maeseyck, 138

Maestricht, 55, 210, 211, 234, 248, 271, 282, 292, 295, 296
  Bishopric, 38
  Fall of, 200

Maeterlinck, Maurice, 337

Malcontents, 194, 195, 200, 203

Malines, 93, 117, 145, 148, 153, 176, 187, 203, 216, 252, 263, 320,

Malplaquet, 241

Manicheans, 89

Mansfeld, Count of, 181, 188

Margaret of Austria, 143, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155,
  200, 222, 332

Marguerite of Parma, 175, 176, 177, 178, 180, 181, 184

Maria Theresa, 246, 247, 250, 251, 253, 257, 258, 259, 260, 266

Marie d'Oignies, 90

Marlborough, Duke of, 240, 241, 242

Marnix, de, 177, 181, 183, 203

Mary of Burgundy, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 153, 252, 258

Mary of Hungary, 155, 156, 157, 169, 222

Massys, J., 222

Matsys, Quentin, 229

Matthias, Archduke, 193

Maximilian, 122, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 147, 149, 150, 153, 174,
  184, 187, 288

Maximilian II, 205

Maximilian Emmanuel of Bavaria, 240, 241, 243, 252

Mazarin, 235

Memling, 131, 139, 226, 338

Menapii, 32, 40, 45

Mendicant Orders--
  Franciscans, 89
  Dominicans, 89

Merchant Adventurers, 121

Merovingian dynasty, 41, 42

Meunier, Constantin, 334

Molinet, Jean, 129

Monarchomaques, 192, 219

Monasteries, 39, 42, 44, 45, 54, 56, 57, 94, 128, 180

Mons, 185, 269, 321

Monstrelet, 129

Morel, 329, 330

Moresnet, 166

Morini, 40

Mousket, Philippe, 98

Muhlberg, 159

Münster, 171, 172
  Treaty of, 235, 236, 237, 243, 246, 271, 272, 289, 296

Music, 124, 130, 133

Namur, 191, 216, 239, 311, 345

Nancy, 140

Napoleon I, 275, 276, 277

Napoleon III, 305, 306, 307, 308

Nassau, 150

Nassau, Frederick Henry of, 210

Nassau, Louis of, 178, 181, 184, 185, 187

Nassau, Maurice of, 204, 205, 209, 215

Nassau, William of, _see_ Orange

National Congress, 287

Navigation and harbours, 115, 120, 121, 209, 217, 276, 323, 324

Neerwinden, 239, 271

Nény, Count de, 250

Nervii, 40

Neustria, 41

Neutrality, 293, 299-314, 316

Nieuport, 209, 216

Nivardus, 99

Nivelles, 90, 91

Normans, 45, 50

Notger, 54

Nothomb, 297

  Bishopric, 38, 40
  Treaty of, 150

Nymegen, Treaty of, 238

Ockeghem, Jean, 130

Orange, House of, 200

Orange, William of (the Silent), 175, 176, 181, 184-8, 190-5, 197,

Orange, William III of England, 238, 239, 241

Orange, William I of the Netherlands, 278, 281, 282, 283, 287, 288,
  289, 292, 296, 322

Ostend, 216, 217, 248, 249, 276
  Company, 245, 246
  Siege of, 209

Otto, 54

Oudenarde, 90, 124, 165, 180, 216, 238
  Battle of, 241

  Catholic, 284, 285, 315, 317, 318, 319
  Labour, 319
  Liberal, 285, 315, 317, 318, 319
  Liberal Catholic, 317

Peter the Hermit, 89

Philip the Bold, 104, 117, 132, 138

Philip the Good, 105, 106, 110, 114, 115, 123, 126, 131, 132, 139,
  140, 145, 176, 280, 302

Philip I (the Handsome), 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 160, 197, 207

Philip II, 152, 157, 160, 161, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 183, 184, 187,
  188, 190, 193, 200, 204, 205, 218, 254, 288

Philip III, 209

Philip IV, 209, 212, 236, 237

Pichegru, 271

Pieter Christus, 139

Pillnitz, Declaration of, 268

Placards, 171, 172, 176, 178, 189, 208

Plessiz-lez-Tours, Treaty of, 200, 201

Poelaert, 332

Pol de Limburg, 138

Population, 116, 121, 122, 123, 214, 246, 324

Pragmatic Sanction, 159, 160, 246

Prié, Marquis de, 252

Printing, 128, 169

Protestantism, 177, 179, 180, 201, 203, 207, 208, 219, 224, 260

Pyrenees, Treaty of the, 236, 237

Races, 35

Radewyn, Florent, 128

Ramillies, 241

Rastadt, Treaty of, 242

Ratisbon, Truce of, 239

Récollets, 220, 227

Reformation, 172, 173, 180, 181, 221
  Counter, 222, 227

Régner of Hainault, 55

Régner, Long Neck, 53, 59

Reichenbach, Convention of, 267

Renaissance, 114, 130, 135, 164, 167, 221, 224, 336, 339

Renesse, René de, 210

Requesens, Louis de Zuniga y, 187, 188, 190

  Brabançonne, 212, 252, 265, 274, 279
  French, 256, 263-78
  1830, 286, 289, 331

Richelieu, 210, 234, 235

Richilda of Hainault, 62

Risquons Tout, 305

Robert the Frisian, 63

Robert II, 64, 89

Rogier, 305, 320

Rolin, Chancellor, 131, 139

Roman Conquest, 29

Roman Culture, 31, 32

Romanization, 42

Roman Road, 31, 33

Rubens, 139, 221, 222, 225, 228, 229, 333, 334

Ruremonde, 210

Ruysbroeck, Jean de, 124

Ruysbroeck, Jan, 127

Ryswyck, Peace of, 240

St. Amand, 37, 38, 39
  Schools of, 43
  Monastery of, 94

St. Bartholomew, Massacre of, 185

St. Eloi, 39

St. Hubert, 39

St. Lambert, 39

St. Omer, 141, 216

St. Quentin, 174

St. Remacle, 39

St. Ursula, 226

Saxons, 33

Scrap of Paper, _see_ Treaty of XXIV Articles

Sedan, 309

Senlis, Nicolas de, 98
  Peace of, 144, 146

Silva Carbonaria, _see_ Coal Wood

Sluis, 163, 215

Sluter, Claus, 137, 138

Smits, Jacob, 325

Spanish Fury, 189

Spanish Succession, War of the, 241

Spinola, Ambrose, 209, 210, 215

States General, 146, 148, 152, 155, 156, 157, 160, 182, 187, 188, 191,
  197, 200, 201, 208, 211, 212, 218, 265, 281

Sustershuysen, 127

Stevens, Joseph, 335

Talleyrand, 294

Teniers, 258, 335

Térouanne, bishopric, 40

Thierry, Bouts, _see_ Bouts

Thierry Maertens, 128, 169

Thierry of Alsace, _see_ Alsace

Thierry of St. Trond, 94

Thiois, 40, 41, 42, 95

Thirty Years' War, 218, 231, 234

Tongres, 332
  Bishopric, 32, 38, 39, 44

Tournai, 91, 92, 93, 97, 117, 138, 151, 165, 201, 216, 238, 242, 247
  Bishopric, 32, 38, 176
  Frankish Capital, 33
  Belfry, 75
  Siege of, 86

Taking of, 149

Tournaisis, 158

Town Halls, 112, 113, 116, 124, 137, 332, 334

Toxandria, 33

Trade, 45, 63, 68, 69, 70, 74, 76, 77, 78, 82, 83, 113, 115, 116, 117,
  120, 121, 146, 163, 164, 167, 168, 185, 186, 192, 206, 209, 215,
  216, 218, 233, 245, 246, 249, 276, 279, 283, 322, 323

Trafalgar, Battle of, 276

Transaction of Augsburg, 159

Transport, 217, 320, 321

Treaty of XVIII Articles, 291, 294
  of XXIV Articles, 291, 295, 298, 301, 303, 307, 308

Trèves, bishopric, 32

Triple Alliance, 238, 264, 266

Triplice, 310

Turenne, 235

Unity, national, 35, 36, 40, 41, 42, 45, 48, 49, 56, 68, 79, 80, 102,
  103, 105, 106, 153, 160, 173, 182, 183, 189, 198, 202, 203, 280,
  340, 343-7

Universities, 117, 128, 223, 340

Utrecht, 158
  Bishopric, 41, 57, 176
  Treaty of, 240, 241, 243
  Union of, 199, 200

Valenciennes, 61, 97, 141, 183, 185, 195, 198, 216
  Jean de, 124

Van Artevelde, Jacques, 86, 87, 333

Van der Goes, Hughes, 139

Van der Linden, 345

Van der Noot, 262-6, 286

Van der Stappen, 333

Van der Weyden, 131, 136, 221

Van de Weyer, 291

Van Dyck, 228, 229

Van Eyck, 131, 133, 135, 136, 138, 139, 221, 222, 257

Van Ghent, Justus, 139

Van Helmont, 224

Van Josse, 222

Van Maerlant, 99, 100, 101, 125, 126, 127

Van Thienen, 124

Veldener, Jean, 169

Venloo, 210, 243, 271
  Treaty of, 157

  Treaty, 48
  Second Treaty, 52, 55

Verhaeren, Emile, 337

Versailles, Treaty of, 347

Verwée, 336

  Congress of, 278, 279, 288, 322, 343
  Treaty of, 279, 292, 295

Viglius d'Ayetta, 175, 188

Voltaire, 249, 317

Von Bissing, 343, 344, 345

Vonck, Vonckists, 262, 263, 264, 265, 268, 269, 286, 315, 342

Wala, 34, 40, 41

Walloon League, 210

Walloons, 34, 42, 48, 85

Wappers, G., 334

War of the Peasants, 274, 275, 304

Waterloo, Battle of, 277

Willem, 99, 100

Willems, Jan Frans, 339

William II of Germany, 312, 313

Woeringen, Battle of, 82

Ypres, 87, 90, 92, 112, 113, 115, 116, 180, 202, 217, 242

Yser, Battle of the, 342, 343

Zeebrugge Canal, 324

Zutphen, 157, 158, 187

Zwyn, 115, 120, 163

_Printed in Great Britain by_




   1. =Rome.= By ARTHUR GILMAN, M.A.
   2. =The Jews.= By Prof. J.K. HOSMER.
   3. =Germany.= By Rev. S. BARING-GOULD, M.A.
   4. =Carthage.= By Prof. ALFRED J. CHURCH.
   5. =Alexander's Empire.= By Prof. J.P. MAHAFFY.
   6. =The Moors in Spain.= By STANLEY LANE-POOLE.
   7. =Ancient Egypt.= By Prof. GEORGE RAWLINSON.
   8. =Hungary.= By Prof. ARMINIUS VAMBERY
   9. =The Saracens.= By ARTHUR GILMAN, M.A.
  10. =Ireland.= By the Hon. EMILY LAWLESS.
  11. =Chaldea.= By ZÉNAÏDE A. RAGOZIN.
  12. =The Goths.= By HENRY BRADLEY.
  13. =Assyria.= By ZÉNAÏDE A. RAGOZIN.
  14. =Turkey.= By STANLEY LANE-POOLE.
  15. =Holland.= By Prof. J.E. THOROLD ROGERS.
  16. =Mediæval France.= By GUSTAVE MASSON.
  17. =Persia.= By S.G.W. BENJAMIN.
  18. =Phoenicia.= By Prof. G. RAWLINSON.
  19. =Media.= By ZÉNAÏDE A. RAGOZIN.
  20. =The Hansa Towns.= By HELEN ZIMMERN.
  21. =Early Britain.= By Prof. ALFRED J. CHURCH.
  22. =The Barbary Corsairs.= By STANLEY LANE-POOLE.
  23. =Russia.= By W.R. MORFILL, M.A.
  24. =The Jews under the Romans.= By W.D. MORRISON.
  25. =Scotland.= By JOHN MACKINTOSH, LL.D.
  26. =Switzerland.= By Mrs. LINA HUG and R. STEAD.
  27. =Mexico.= By SUSAN HALE.
  28. =Portugal.= By H. MORSE STEPHENS.
  29. =The Normans.= By SARAH ORME JEWETT.
  30. =The Byzantine Empire.= By C.W.C. OMAN.
  31. =Sicily: Phoenician, Greek and Roman.= By the Prof. E.A. FREEMAN.
  32. =The Tuscan Republics.= By BELLA DUFFY.
  33. =Poland.= By W.R. MORFILL, M.A.
  34. =Parthia.= By Prof. GEORGE RAWLINSON.
  35. =The Australian Commonwealth.= By GREVILLE TREGARTHEN.
  36. =Spain.= By H.E. WATTS.
  37. =Japan.= By DAVID MURRAY, Ph.D.
  38. =South Africa.= By GEORGE M. THEAL.
  39. =Venice.= By ALETHEA WIEL.
  40. =The Crusades.= By T.A. ARCHER and C.L. KINGSFORD.
  41. =Vedic India.= By Z.A. RAGOZIN.
  42. =The West Indies and the Spanish Main.= By JAMES RODWAY.
  43. =Bohemia.= By C. EDMUND MAURICE.
  44. =The Balkans.= By W. MILLER, M.A.
  45. =Canada.= By Sir J.G. BOURINOT, LL.D.
  46. =British India.= By R.W. FRAZER, LL.B.
  47. =Modern France.= By ANDRÉ LE BON.
  48. =The Franks.= By LEWIS SERGEANT.
  49. =Austria.= By SIDNEY WHITMAN.
  50. =Modern England.= Before the Reform Bill. By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.
  51. =China.= By Prof. R.K. DOUGLAS.
  52. =Modern England.= From the Reform Bill to the Present Time.
  53. =Modern Spain.= By MARTIN A.S. HUME.
  54. =Modern Italy.= By PIETRO ORSI.
  55. =Norway.= By H.H. BOYESEN.
  56. =Wales.= By O.M. EDWARDS.
  57. =Mediæval Rome.= By W. MILLER, M.A.
  58. =The Papal Monarchy.= By WILLIAM BARRY, D.D.
  59. =Mediæval India under Mohammedan Rule.= By STANLEY LANE-POOLE.
  60. =Buddhist India.= By Prof. T.W. RHYS-DAVIDS.
  61. =Parliamentary England.= By EDWARD JENKS, M.A.
  62. =Mediæval England.= By MARY BATESON.
  63. =The Coming of Parliament.= By L. CECIL JANE.
  64. =The Story of Greece.= From the Earliest Times to A.D. 14.
  65. =The Story of the Roman Empire.= (B.C. 29 TO A.D. 476.)
  66. =Denmark and Sweden=, with Iceland and Finland.
  67. =Belgium.= From the Roman Invasion to the Present Day.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note i.

   In the caption of the illustration in the original text the
   name is spelt "Breugghel".

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