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i. Borne. By Arthur Gilman, M.A. 

2. The Jew*. By Prof. J. K. Hosmer. 

3. Germany. By Rev. S. BARING- 


4. Carthage. By Prof. 


5. Alexander's Empire. 

J. P. Mahaffy. 

6. The Moors in Spain. 


Alfred J. 

By Prof. 

By Stanley 

By Prof. George 

7. Ancient Egypt. 


8. Hungary. By Prof. Arminius 


9. The Saracens. By Arthur Gil- 

man, M.A. 

10. Ireland. By the Hon. EMILY 


11. Chaldea. By Zenaide A. Ragozin. 

12. The Goths. By Henry Bradley. 

13. Assyria. By ZenaTde A. Ragozin. 

14. Turkey. By Stanley Lane-Poole. 

15. Holland. By Prof. J. E. Thorold 


16. Mediaeval France. By Gustave 


17. Persia. By S. G. W. Benjamin. 

18. Phoenicia. By Prof. G. Rawlinson. 

19. Media. By ZenaIde A. Ragozin. 

20. The Hansa Towns. By Helen 


21. Early Britain. By Prof. Alfred 

J. Church. 

22. The Barbary Corsairs. By Stanley 


23. Russia. By W. R. MORFILL, M.A. 

24. The Jews under the Romans. By 

W. D. Morrison. 

25. Scotland. By JOHN MACKINTOSH, 


26. Switzerland. By Mrs. LlNA HUG 

and R. Stead. 

27. Mexico. By Susan Hale. 

28. Portugal. By H. Morse Stephens. 

29. The Normans. By Sarah Orme 


30. The Byzantine Empire. By C. W. 

C. Oman. 

31. Sicily : Phoenician, Greek and 

Roman. By the Prof. E. A. 

32. The Tuscan Republics. By Bella 


33. Poland. By W. R. MORFILL, M.A. 

34. Parthia. By Prof. GEORGE RAW- 


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. 


39. Venice. By Alethea Wiel. 

40. The Crusades. By T. A. ARCHER 

and C. L. KlNGSFORD. 

41. Vedio India. By Z. A. Ragozin. 

42. The West Indies and the Spanish 

Main. By James Rodway. 

43. Bohemia. By C. Edmund 


44. The Balkans. By W. Miller, M.A. 

45. Canada. By Sir J. G. BOURINOT, 


46. British India. By R. W. Frazer, 


47. Modern France. By Andre Le Bon. 

48. The Franks. By Lewis Sergeant. 

49. Austria. By Sidney Whitman. 

50. Modern England. Before the Re- 

form Bill. By Justin McCarthy. 

51. China. By Prof. R K. DOUGLAS. 

52. Modern England. From the Reform 

Bill to the Present Time. By 
Justin McCarthy. 

53. Modern Spain. By Martin A. S. 


54. Modern Italy. By Pietro Orsi. 

55. Norway. By H. H. Boyesen. 

56. Wales. By O. M. Edwards. 

57. Mediaeval Rome. By W. Miller, 


58. The Papal Monarchy. By William 

Barry, D.D. 

59. Mediaeval India under Mohamme- 

dan Rule. By Stanley Lane- 

60. Buddhist India. By Prof. T. W. 


61. Parliamentary England, By Ed- 

ward Jenks. M.A. 

62. Mediaeval England. By Mary 


63. The Coming of Parliament, By L 

Cecil Jane. 

64. The Story of Greece. From the 

Earliest Times to A.D. 14. By 
E. S. Shuckburgh. 
6s. The Story of the Roman Empire. 
(B.C. 29 to A.D. 476.) By H. 
Stuart Jones. 

66. Denmark and Sweden, with Ice- 

land and Finland. By Jon 
Stefansson, Ph.D. 

67. Belgium. From the Roman Inva- 

sion to the Present Day. By 
Emile Cammaerts. 

London : T. FISHER UNWIN, LTD., i Adelphi Terrace 


Photo Langfier. 








Copyright by T. Fisher Unwin, IQ2I 

(for Great Britain) 

Copyright by G. P. Putnam's Sons 

for the United States of America), ig2i 

First published in 1921 
(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 Miinster, 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 know- 
ledge 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 V Album 
Historique de la Belgique> and to the Phototypie 
Beige (Ph.B.), Ste 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. 


Frankish capital transferred from Tournai to Paris — Second 
Christianization — St. Amand — Restoration of the old 
bishoprics — Romanization of the Franks and germani- 
zation of the Walloons — Unification under Charlemagne 
— Aix-la-Chapelle, centre of the Empire — First period of 
economic and intellectual efflorescence. 


Partition after Charlemagne — Treaty of Verdun — The 
frontier of the Scheldt — Struggle of feudal lords against 
the central power — The Normans. 

REGNER LONG NECK . . . . . $2 

Policy of the Lotharingian princes — Influence of the 
German bishops — Alliance with Flanders against the 
Emperor — Decadence of the central power — Religious 
reform of Gerard de Brogne — The Clunisians and the 
struggle for the investitures — The first crusade. 





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 transforma- 
tion extending to the country-side — The meaning of the 


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. 



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 
Rtinaert, Van Maerlant. 



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 regime — Transformation of trade — Antwerp 
succeeds Bruges. 



Civilization under Burgundian rule — French and Flemish ; 
bilingualism — Flemish letters : Jean Boendaele, Ruys- 
broeck — The Brothers of the Common Life — Writers in 
French : Jean Le Bel, Froissart, Chastellain — Develop- 
ment 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. 



Reaction after the death of Charles the Bold — The ' ' Great 
Privilege " of Mary of Burgundy — Her marriage with 
Maximilian ; its consequences — Conflict between Bur- 
gundian 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. 


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 — Re- 
sistance 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" — Confeder- 
ation of Arras — Union of Utrecht — "French Fury" — The 
fall of Antwerp. 


Albert and Isabella — Catholic reaction — Siege of Ostend — 
Policy of the Spanish kings — The Walloon League — The 



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 seven- 
teenth centuries — Italian influence — Intellectual action of 
the Jesuits— Neglect of Flemish— Popular Art : Breughel, 


Situation of the Southern Netherlands between the United 
Provinces and France — Projects of Partition — Minister 
Treaty — Wars of the Spanish Succession — The Anglo- 
Batavian Conference— Treaty of Utrecht— The Barrier 





Economic Renaissance under the Austrian regime — Efforts 
to liberate Belgian trade — War of Austrian Succession — 
Charles de Lorraine — Intellectual decadence — Popular 



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 Bel- 
giques Unis " — " Statists " and " Vonckists " — The Reichen- 
bach Convention — Restoration of the Austrian regime. 



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 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. 





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 — Liege and Namur 
— Military reform. 


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. 


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 "Resis- 
tance of a Nation " — Result of the Treaty of Versailles — 
Future of Belgium. 

INDEX ....... 349 

















































JOSEPH II ..... 254 

VAN DER NOOT ..... 262 


LEOPOLD I ..... . 293 

LEOPOLD II . . . . . 310 


"THE puddler" (meunier) .... 334 




FEUDAL BELGIUM . . . . -52 


OF BURGUNDY . . . . . I02 


AUSTRIA ...... 245 





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 Caesar'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 Liege, 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 

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 

* * 

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 19 14, 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 there- 
fore 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 ex- 
perienced such severe trials, few have shown such 
extraordinary power of recovery. Peace and a wise 
government coincide invariably with an extra- 
ordinary 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 com- 
munications 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, Li^ge 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 arrange- 
ment 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 diffi- 
cult 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 main- 
tained a distinct civilization which, according to all 
the laws of materialistic logic, ought to have been 
wrecked and swamped long ago by the over- 
whelming 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 neighbour- 
hood, at the monasteries of Liege, 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 8o,ooo 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 (1 598-1633), 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 inhabi- 
tants. 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, 
C6sar Franck and Meunier show that she had re- 
conquered a great part of her former intellectual 


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 en- 
dangered 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 
Comte" and Artois to France. The Treaty of 
Miinster sealed the fate of Antwerp, and the Treaty 
of the Barriers left the Dutch in possession of all 
the country's most important fortified positions. 

Though it gave back to Belgium her natural 


frontier in the North and reopened the Scheldt 
for a short time, the French regime 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 consider- 
able 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 con- 
ditions which bring about Belgium's downfall contri- 
bute 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 inter- 
national 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 ex- 
ceptional advantages have been more than com- 
pensated in the past by the heavy risks which this 
richness implied. 



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 Caesar under 
the name of " Belgae," 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 
" Belgae " 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 high- 
way. 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 occupa- 
tion have disappeared from Flanders. The sandy 
and marshy nature of the soil in Northern Bel- 
gium 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 cen- 
tury, under the influence of Christianity. During 
the third century, the bishopric of Treves 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 

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. 


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 situa- 
tion 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 
jEtius, 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 iEtius. 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 con- 
querors. 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 Frank- 
ish 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 popula- 
tions 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 centraliz- 
ing 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 com- 
panions 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 in- 
fluence 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 them- 
selves at Maestricht, those of Tournai at Noyon, 
and those of Arras at Cambrai. Later, Maestricht 
was abandoned for Liege (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 simul- 
taneous 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. 

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. Remade 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 Li6ge 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 T^rouanne, 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. Liege 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 Liege 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 regime. 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 instru- 
ment 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 civiliza- 
tion 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 posi- 
tion midway between France and Germany, Charle- 
magne 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 Liege, 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 ac- 
complished 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 Li£ge. 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, Liege, 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 Mediterranean. 

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 develop- 
ment 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 fre- 
quency of intercourse with the North was such that 
a monastery was established at Thourout, near 
Duurstede, for the special purpose of training mis- 
sionaries 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 neutra- 
lity ; 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 Charle- 
magne (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 regime. 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 834, 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 them- 
selves 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 mediaeval 
communes, the counts of Flanders and the princes 
of Lotharingia offered the most perfect examples 
of the restless feudal princes. 

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 co- 
incided 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 un- 
hindered. 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' 


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. 

Chapter iv 


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. 

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 
regime, 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 im- 
portant, was led by a native lord, Regner Long Neck, 
son of one of Lotharius's daughters, who possessed 
vast domains in Hainault, the Ardennes, the 
Li^ge country and on the lower Meuse — that is to 
say, on both sides of the language frontier. Regner 
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. 
Regner differed entirely from the other nobles of 
the Empire, such as the dukes of Saxony, Bavaria, 
etc., inasmuch as he did not represent any ethno- 
graphic 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 Ger- 
many 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 dele- 
gating his power to his brother Bruno, Archbishop 
of Cologne, and germanizing the Lotharingian 
bishoprics of Liege 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 ex- 
pressed by Wazo, Bishop of Liege, 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 Liege 
(974-1005) undertook to reform their clergy and 
to encourage intellectual culture. Under their 
guidance, Liege 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 im- 
portant 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 con- 
siderably to increase German influence and 
brought to Liege a number of foreign students 
from Germany, France, England, and even from 
the Slav countries. 

For a time, the resistance of the local aristocracy 
was overcome. Regner 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 Regner Long Neck nevertheless 
remained powerful, owing, partly, to the marriage 
of Regner 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 
Regner'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 mediaeval 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 success- 
fully 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. 

Gerard 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 re- 
store 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 Liege, 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 extra- 
ordinary 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 Liege. 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 insti- 
tuted 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 re- 


Gerard 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 Li^ge 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 Euro- 
pean 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 claims. 

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 

The first years of the twelfth century mark the 
triumph of local feudalism over imperial rule. 
While Henry IV, under the ban of excommunica- 
tion, found a last refuge in Liege, his son gave 
the ducal dignity to Godfrey of Louvain. Thus 
the house of Regner 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 interfer- 
ence 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 mediaeval 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 Regner and that of the Flemish counts 
had in common. Both owed their initial power 
to their alliance with the Carolingian dynasty. 
Just as Regner'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 Ethel wulf (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 en- 
deavoured 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 Metiers "). 
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 child- 
hood " ; 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 possi- 
bility 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 
" staunch est 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-nn) 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 indepen- 
dence. 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 Regner 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 founda- 
tion of w.hat 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 con- 
ditions by the towns, or communes. 

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 regime, 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 advantages. 

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-opera- 
tion 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 accom- 
panied 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 im- 
portance 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 (Liege, 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, how- 
ever, quite distinct from the old, and their popula- 
tion lived under an entirely different regime. 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 " mercatores." 

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 con- 
necting Bruges with Cologne, through Maestricht, 
St. Trond, L6au, Lou vain, 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 cloth- 
makers in Flanders and metal-workers on the 
Meuse. From the early days of the Menapii 
the inhabitants of Northern Belgium had a reputa- 
tion 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 build- 
ing 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 ex- 
hausted, 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 

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 regime to the 
social transformation and to the necessity felt by 
the " guilds " (either of merchants or of artisans) 
to unite against a common enemy. 

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 Gerard left Cambrai to receive his investi- 
ture 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 
Gerard 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 cen- 
turies, 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 move- 
ment, for instance, the counts of Flanders en- 
couraged 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, * ne 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 (" echevins "), the prince being re- 
presented 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. 

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 Liege, 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 

If the imperial bishops opposed the new move- 
ment, 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 develop- 
ment 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 super- 
vision 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 mediaeval 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 mediaeval 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 develop- 
ment 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. Seven- 
teen 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 in- 
sufficient, 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 feudal- 
ism. 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 develop- 
ment of the Communes. Their influence is two- 
fold. 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 estab- 
lishment 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 


PS L? 
« | 

O l^ 



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 Burgundy. 

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 re- 
mained 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 Liege 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 

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 miHtary 
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 pre- 
vailed after the death of his rival. His son, 
Philip, acquired further territories in France 
(Amienois, 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 
1 187, 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 Bald- 
win 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 Coeur 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 Liege. 
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 Brabant. 

The latter belonged to the last national dynasty 
ruling in the country and were therefore particu- 
larly 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 Lou vain 
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 seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries. 


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-Brabanconne 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 com- 
munication 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 Liege obtained, in 1316, their first 
liberties, symbolized by the erection of the " Perron." 
The " Joyeuse Entree " 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 prac- 
tically the only purely feudal State in the country. 
Duke John of Luxemburg, who became King of 
Bohemia and who fought at Crecy, was considered 
at the time as one of the last representatives of 
mediaeval 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 13 19, after 
further military operations, took away from the 
county all the Walloon district, considerably reduc- 
ing the cattle grazing area and making Flemish in- 
dustry 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, 6r 
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 be- 
tween 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 pro- 
hibition 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 land- 
owner 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 Ill'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 restless- 
ness 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 Male, 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 Male 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 in- 
fested 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 
mediaeval 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 im- 
pression 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 

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 Liege and their celebrated schools, 

Ph. H. 



from the deeper influence exerted in other parts 
by the Clunisian monks (eleventh century) and 
by the Cistercians and Premontres (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 pre- 
dominant 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 sub- 
sequent 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 otner ecclesiastics, who succeeded in defeating 
them by their personal prestige. One of these 
preachers who was honoured as a saint, Lambert 
le Begue (the Stammerer), greatly influenced 
spiritual life in Liege and the surrounding districts. 
The foundation of the characteristically Belgian 
institution of the " Beguines," 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 " Beguines " 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 " Beguine " 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 ad- 
mirably 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 Lidge, where St. Denis, 
St. Jacques, St. Barthelemy 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 facade and sometimes over the 

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 archi- 
tecture 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 be- 
long 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 facade 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 Li£ge and Notre Dame of 
Huy (begun in 131 1). 

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. 

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 Renaissance. 

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 under- 
stood 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 " Cantilene of Stej 
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 in- 
fluence tended also to spread the use of French 
in the northern districts. 

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 be- 
longing 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, ex- 
plains 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 Li^ge, 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 in- 
creased 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 Com- 
munes. 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 extra- 
ordinary medley of Latin, French and Flemish texts. 
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 Bald- 
win VI, patronized native literature and even at- 
tracted to their courts some of the greatest French 
poets of the period, such as Chretien 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 trouvere. 
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 Hai- 
nault, 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. Transla- 
tions 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 mediaeval 
Flemish literature. Willem's predecessor, Hen- 
drick van Veldeke, is merely a translator. One 
of his most popular poems at the time, the Eneyde, 
is a Flemish version of the French Roman d'Eneas. 
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 inter- 
mediary 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 encyclopaedic 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 regime. 

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 contem- 
poraries 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 pro- 
vinces 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 uni- 


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fication 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 in- 
dependent 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 Scheldt. 

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 Male 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 recon- 
stituting 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 Brabancons 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 

From a portrait by Roger Van der Weyden (Madrid). 


marriage with Elisabeth Gorlitz, heiress of Luxem- 

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 
Liege 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. 

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 dis- 
possessed 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 circum- 
stances 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 mediaeval 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 Bur- 
gundy, Count of Flanders, Duke of Brabant, 
Count of Hainault, " Mambourg " of Liege, etc. ; 
he was, in short, the head of a monarchic confedera- 
tion 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, Bra- 
bant 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 abso- 
lutely and irremediably crushed, since such a 
victory would have upset the balance of Western 
power, on which the very existence of the new 
confederation depended. 

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- Burgun- 
dian 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 re- 
lations. The marriage of Charles, son of Philip, 

From a portrait by Roger Van der Weyden (Beilin Museum). 


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. 

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 Liege, 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 in- 
trigues, 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 re- 
sponsibility of his heavy succession to his young 
daughter Mary. 

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. 

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 in- 
terest 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 battle- 


ments, 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 inhabitants. 

None of these features is apparent in the 
" hotels 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 charac- 
teristic of their predecessors. They were still the 
seat of the " dchevinage," and it was within their 
walls that the magistrates of the town met the 
duke's representative, the " bailli." 

Economic activity had left the central hall 
and migrated to the Exchange. The achieve- 
ment of the Hotels 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 in- 
fluence 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 mediaeval 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 


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 mediaeval predecessors, opposed the develop- 
ment 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 high- 
ness of their rank, lay the glory and the power 
of princes." 

1 1 6 BELGIUM 

The substitution of the Renaissance Hotel 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 four- 
teenth 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 con- 
sequently decreased, while its price increased, and 
the Flemish industry was faced by the double diffi- 
culty 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 i486 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 introduc- 
tion 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 hotels de ville and other well-known monu- 
ments of the period, such as the Hotel Gruthuse 
and the Chapelle du Saint Sang in Bruges. This 
richness is real, and not artificially confined to the 
prince and the upper classes of society. 

At the beginning of the Burgundian regime, 
under Philip the Bold, Flanders was partially 


ruined by internal and external wars. Its towns 
were depleted of their craftsmen, its polders con- 
verted 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 Li^ge, 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 

These financial regulations are intimately con- 
nected with the transformation which trade under- 
went 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, in- 
creasing 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 equal. 

From the beginning of the fifteenth century 
the conditions of trade underwent complete trans- 
formation. 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 mediaeval regu- 
lations, instead of controlling commerce, only 
hampered it. Any protective measure detrimental 
to foreigners became fatal to home trade. Ant- 
werp, 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 Brabancon 
character and had become almost cosmopolitan. 
It had adopted economic liberty. Foreign mer- 
chants 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 mer- 
chants. Protective measures against the import 
of English cloth estranged the Hanseatic merchants, 
and, in 1442, the " Merchant Adventurers " es- 
tablished 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 archi- 
tectural 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 indus- 
trial centre. It was characteristic of the new 
trade conditions that no " halles " were built in 
Antwerp, the mediaeval 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. 

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 regime 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. 

The rule of the dukes was equally beneficial 
to the smaller towns and villages of the country- 
side. It put an end to the mediaeval regime 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 agri- 
cultural 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 regime was free from the 
terrible calamities which had never ceased to devas- 
tate 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 Li£ge. 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 adminis- 
tration 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 rule. 



The h6tels 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 regime, and to show that 
in every department, literature, architecture and 
music, the civilization of the period produced 
some remarkable works. In this way, the Nether- 
lands 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 con- 
siderably 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 circum- 
stances, 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 un- 
known, 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 attrac- 
tion 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 B^guines and the Beggards, 
so active and so influential during the twelfth cen- 
tury. 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, 
Gerard de Groote (1340-84), founded the Order 
of the " Freres 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 them- 
selves 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 oj 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 memoires destined for the aris- 
tocracy. 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 Liege 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 Beiges, who wrote for the dukes 
of Burgundy, this independent attitude is still 
further strengthened. All these writers extolled 
the Burgundian regime 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 con- 
temporaries 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 expres- 
sion to the Belgian national spirit. Its style was, 
unhappily, still so formal that national character- 
istics 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 Pres, 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 mediaeval 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 some- 
what 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 Liege, for nearly as many. 
It must be pointed out, however, that the ille- 
gitimate 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, prosti- 
tution 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 asceti- 
cism. 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 im- 
possible to understand the spirit of an epoch 
which, though deeply absorbed by its worldly life, 
produced works almost entirely devoted to Faith, 

Angels singing and playing. 


and in which luxurious garments and colours are 
only employed to enhance the glory of God. 

* * 

Painting stands foremost among the achieve- 
ments 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 civiliza- 
tion, 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 altar- 
piece 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. 

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 


wl^K ^'^^BW^^ 5^B ^Bfl 

Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. 
The Annunciation (exterior of the shutters). 


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 con- 
sidered 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. 

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 Pieta of Van der 
Weyden and the saints of Memling occupy the 
intermediate position between the purely mediaeval 
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 


Detail of the tomb of John the Fearless (Dijon Museum). 
Netherlandish School of the fifteenth 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 em- 
bellishment 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 
Li^ge was attached to the court of the French 
king Charles V, while Andre Beauneveu (1364-90) 
remained in Flanders as the sculptor of Louis de 
Male. 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, Presenta- 
tion 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 school. 
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, re- 
presented beside the brothers Van Eyck by the 


Brabancon 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 Isabella. 



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 expen- 
sive 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 


From the mausoleum in the Church of Notre Dame, Bruges. 


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 accom- 
plished 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, how- 
ever, evident that, under the circumstances, the 
Low Countries could not oppose the French 
advance without foreign help. The States there- 
fore agreed to the marriage of Mary with Maxi- 
milian 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 Burgun- 
dian 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 con- 
cerned, they succeeded in remaining neutral be- 
tween 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 Nether- 
landish 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 d}masty might be re- 

From a portrait by Ambrozio de Predis (Imperial Museum, Vienna). 


stored. 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 

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 arch- 
duke 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 Comte. 
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 
mediaeval principle of local privilege. 

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 com- 
missaries were restored to their offices and had 
again the power to choose communal magis- 
trates, thus removing them from the direct in- 
fluence 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 " (Croit-conseil) . 
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 re- 
lations 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 transfer- 
ring 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 con- 
nection 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, con- 
cluded 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 sacri- 
ficed his dynastic interests to the welfare of the 
Northern provinces. 

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. 


Portraits by an unknown Flemish painter of the sixteenth century. 


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 unsatis- 
factory from the Belgian point of view, and which 
was therefore called by the people the " Inter- 
cursus 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 Liege, and endeavoured to in- 
fluence 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 Nether- 
lands without sympathy, but with enough wisdom 
for her ability to be recognized, on several occasions, 
both by the people and the nobility. 

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 Chievres, 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. Chievres was recalled to the court, 
where he acted as tutor to the prince. Again, 


in 15 13, 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 Chievres 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 Chievres 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 there- 
fore a great disappointment to Margaret. Chievres 
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. 

The accession of Charles, which took place on 
January 5, 1515, was a triumph for Chievres. 
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 Chievres 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 (15 17), Charles having meanwhile consented 
to become a candidate for the Empire. 

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 Chievres, 
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 Chievres and Margaret, who, after the 
death of Maximilian (15 19), 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 deca " (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 pro- 
ject had been realized, Belgian independence might 
have been maintained. But the very prosperity 
of the Low Countries made such realization im- 


possible. 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 head- 
quarters. 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 

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 coali- 
tion, 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 

o S 


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 recog- 
nize 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 cele- 
brate 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 dispro- 
portionate 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 merci- 
lessly crushed and political centralization com- 
pletely 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 re- 
strained 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 resigna- 
tion. 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, disap- 
pointed 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 153 1 by centralizing tendencies. Beside 
the defence of local liberties, the aim of the revolu- 
tionaries was to restore the situation of the old 
corporations, which was directly threatened by 
the economic transformation of the modern regime. 
Under the new conditions, the " masters " had 
succeeded in enriching themselves, but the " com- 
panions " 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 
( I 543)- 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 Philippe- 
ville, 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 Nether- 
lands 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 Liege, 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 Haps- 
burg family. We are far from the time when he 
entertained the suggestion of creating a separate 
kingdom in the Low Countries, under the inspira- 
tion 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 cer- 
tainly be questioned. 

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 pro- 
tection 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 diffi- 
culty. 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 senti- 
mental 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 represen- 
tatives, 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 

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 here- 
after 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 



The economic and social development, accom- 
panying 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 Corpora- 
tions, their attachment to their old privileges 
and their disregard of modern tendencies, were 
the main reasons of its downfall. In 15 13, 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. Un- 
hampered by mediaeval traditions and enjoying 
the advantages of a deeper and more accessible 

l6 3 


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 Renaissance. 

As opposed to Bruges, Antwerp characterizes 
modern capitalist tendencies resting on the free- 
dom 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 mer- 
chants, 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 ecus yearly. 
The inhabitants " are well and gaily clothed ; 
their houses are well kept, well ordered and fur- 
nished 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 Russia. 

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, Oude- 
narde, 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 

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 in- 
stalled in Namurois. According to Guicciardini, 
" there was a constant hammering, forging, smelt- 
ing 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 bour- 
geois of the town, who had the means to set up 
these embryo factories, and the rural popula- 
tion 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 Liege 
district, the use of coal being extended from 
domestic consumption to the metal industry. 
By the end of the sixteenth century, all the super- 
ficial 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 Liege 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 char- 
acter 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 mediaeval 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 Renais- 
sance, 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 them- 
selves 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 Armentieres 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 scape- 
goat of the discontented, and the suffering and 
exasperated people were no longer able to dis- 
tinguish between the evil brought about by un- 
restrained 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 criti- 
cism of the dogmas of the Roman Catholic religion. 
Hitherto similar movements, such as those started 
in the Low Countries by Gerard de Brogne and 
the Beggards during the Middle Ages, and, during 
the last century, by Gerard 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 correspond- 


ing 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 remain- 
ing strictly faithful to the Church, had never- 
theless 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 pro- 
moted 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 protege 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 aris- 
tocratic and ecclesiastical circles, and neither the 
young emperor nor his gouvernante, Mary of 
Hungary, disguised their interest in the move- 
ment. 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 mort- 
main (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 prin- 
ciple of liberty of conscience, and, while pre- 


serving 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 re- 
canters 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, trans- 
ferred 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 Miinster 
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 regime 
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 suffer- 
ings under the new economic conditions and 
owing to the war with Denmark, was very rapid, 
and ought to have been a warning to the govern- 
ing 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 doc- 
trines on a reluctant population and appealed to 
open revolution. In fighting them, the Govern- 
ment was backed by the immense majority of 
the population, and, after the fall of Munster, 
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 dis- 
tributed 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 blas- 
phemy and sacrilege. They found very little 
favour among the educated classes, but made a 
number of converts among the discontented pro- 
letarians, 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 de- 
nouncing him was considered as a crime punishable 


by death and confiscation of property. Half of 
the fortune of the condemned went to the denun- 
ciator, the other half to the State. Only in one 
quarter, in the nominally independent bishopric 
of Liege, where Erard de la Marck issued similar 
decrees, was the repression successful. Every- 
where else, the number of new proselytes increased 
with that of the executions, and when the em- 
peror 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 inde- 
pendence, 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 tra- 
ditions. 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 under- 
standing 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 difficult. 

Philip's first visit, in 1549, na cl 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-Cam- 
braisis 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 Mar- 
guerite 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 mediaeval 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 instiga- 
tion 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, deem- 
ing, 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 applica- 
tion almost impossible. Marguerite herself de- 
clared 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 — in- 
cluding 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 emigration. 

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 com- 
promise acceptable to both parties in which the 
signatories swore to " defend the privileges of the 
country and prevent the maintenance of the Inqui- 
sition," 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 peti- 
tion 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 Brederode, 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 ap- 
peared 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 inscrip- 
tion : " Faithful to the king even to beggary." 

The " Compromise " implied liberty of con- 
science, but this remained open to interpretation. 


Most of the signatories considered that the fol- 
lowers 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 inter- 
ference, 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 com- 
pared 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 grie- 
vances. 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 nth, armed bands invaded 
the churches, convents and monasteries of the 
region of Hondschoote and Armentieres, 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 conces- 
sions, 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 resist- 
ance 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 protec- 
tion. 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 Brederode, 
abstained from taking the oath. Orange himself 
was led by his followers into adopting an in- 
transigent 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. Hence- 
forth, the Low Countries were to be divided into 
two parties, having their headquarters in the 
South and in the North. Both aimed at pre- 
serving 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 forma- 
tion 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 Ant- 
werp (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, how- 
ever, 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 

1 84 .BELGIUM 

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 modera- 
tion 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 (" Bosch- 
geuzen ") 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 regime 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 Lou vain 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 enthu- 
siasm. Successively Flushing, Rotterdam, Schie- 
dam, 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 unhap- 
pily marred by the massacre of the monks at 
Gorcum and other excesses. They were abruptly 
stopped by the news of the massacre of St. Bartho- 
lomew, 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 pros- 
perity 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 result- 
ing 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 agree- 
able 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 avail- 
able rendered any offensive by land against the 
Spanish armies extremely dangerous, so that the 
Southern provinces, exposed on all sides to in- 
vasion, 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 bis provinces and had 
found great resources in the confiscation of eccle- 
siastical property. 

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 Alknaar, in spite of his overwhelming 
superiority in numbers and of the striking suc- 
cesses 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 Endhuizen. 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 con- 
cessions, 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, sup- 
pressed the taxes of 10 per cent, and 5 per cent., 
and induced the Council of Troubles not to pro- 
nounce 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 Maxi- 
milian 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 ex- 
peditions. These excesses and the increasing 
danger of the situation brought about a recon- 
ciliation 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 representa- 
tives 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 Stad- 
houder and of the States conferred in Ghent, 
news reached them of the terrible excesses com- 
mitted, 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 regime 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 Icono- 
clasts, the massacre of Gorcum and the persecution 
of those of their faith in the North. The Paci- 
fication 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 pro- 
claimed in fifteen provinces. Calvinism remained 
the only religion permitted in Holland and Zee- 
land. It is true that the pre-eminent situation 
of Catholicism was recognized and that the Pro- 
testants were not allowed any public manifesta- 
tions 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 domina- 
tion 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. 

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 Nether- 
lands would escape him if he did not make some 
sacrifices, had given Don Juan still freer instruc- 
tions 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 reputa- 
tion 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 Perpetuel," 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 

Don Juan entered Brussels in May, after dis- 
missing 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 pro- 
tracted 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 under- 
mine 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 " Monarcho- 
maques " that " the prince existed for the people, 
not the people for the prince," while the unedu- 
cated 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, repre- 
sented 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, an( ^ 
guaranteed liberty of conscience. The young 
archduke was henceforth a mere figurehead and 
Orange remained the real ruler of the country. 

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 be- 
came 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 re- 
peated 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 Fiance remained. 
As early as July 1578, Count de Lalaing en- 
deavoured to repeat with the Duke of Anjou, 
Henry Ill'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 Elizabeth. 

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 I, 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 in- 
creased the discontent. Its clauses were entirely 
ignored by the Calvinist Republic of Ghent, which 
pursued its own ruthless policy under the leader- 
ship of Ryhove and terrorized the Catholics. On 
the other hand, the Catholic nobles, who com- 
manded 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 protege 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 Valenciennes. 

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 fol- 
lowers. His retirement to Antwerp, in close con- 
tact with Holland and Zeeland, but far removed 
from the Southern provinces, was also unfavourable 
to the maintenance of the Union under his leader- 
ship. 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 Wal- 


loon 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 nego- 
tiations 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 any- 
thing 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 acknow- 
ledge 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 con- 
sidered 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 empha- 
size their will to live together. Their mottoes 
are, " Viribus unitis " ; " Belgium fcederatum " ; 
" Concordia res parvae 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 Armentieres 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 out- 
numbered them far more than in any other part 
of the country. Even under ordinary circum- 
stances 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 Bethune were the only 


important centres whose representatives could 
oppose those of the far more important agricul- 
tural 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 Gron- 
ingen, 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 domin- 
ated 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 con- 
federates. The small forces at their disposal 
rendered any offensive towards Flanders and 
Brabant, which would have provided the be- 
leaguered 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 ex- 
pectant 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 here- 
ditary sovereign of the United Provinces, under- 
took 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, 
1 58 1, the deposition of the king. 

Hostilities were at once resumed, Farnese be- 
sieging 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 Novem- 
ber 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 Fury." 

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 situa- 
tion. 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 £cus, 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 inter- 
fered 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 transi- 
tion 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 Zee 1 and 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 

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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. 

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, 
Fuentes, brother-in-law of the Duke of Alba. 
The country suffered, at the time, from the com- 
bined 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 dis- 
tinguished himself as Viceroy of Portugal. He 
arrived just in time, in 1596, to relieve the situa- 
tion 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 Arch- 
duke 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 occa- 
sions, 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 

They knew that the new regime 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 intel- 
lectuals, 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 dis- 
appeared from the towns and maintained itself 
only in a few remote villages, such as Dour 
(Hainault), Hoorebeke, Estaires (Flanders) and 
Hodimont (Limburg), where Protestant communi- 
ties 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, Pro- 
testantism was not uprooted by the violence and 
cruelties of the Inquisition in the Southern pro- 
vinces. 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 opera- 
tions, 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 ports. 

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 Bra- 
bant 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 Maes- 
tricht 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 at- 
tempt was made by Henry, Count of Bergh, and 
Rene 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 Liege, 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 depu- 
ties left the town amid great rejoicings. With 
undaunted optimism, the Belgians hoped that 
where the Spanish armies had failed their repre- 
sentatives 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 secnre 
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 terri- 
torial 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 Brabanconne revo- 
lution, 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 Govern- 
ment and the people to restore as far as possible 
the economic prosperity of the Catholic Nether- 
lands. 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 be- 
tween 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 

At the end of the sixteenth century the situa- 
tion, 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 un- 
claimed 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 condi- 
tions 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 main- 
taining 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, Middle- 
burg 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 mer- 
chant 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, Nieu- 
port 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 pos- 
sessions 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 Valen- 
ciennes, 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 enthu- 
siastic 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 regime 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 mediaeval 

It was on the same lines that the new industries 
which developed in the country at the time 
were organized by their promoters. The manu- 
facture 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, Liege and Hainault, paper-works in Huy, 
the manufacture of iron cauldrons began in Liege, 
and soap factories and distilleries were set up 
in other places. 

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 restora- 
tion 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 hos- 
tilities 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 regime than it had ever been before. 
The Council of State was only assembled to con- 
ciliate 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 Cal- 
vinists 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 in- 
clined 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 stimu- 
lated 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 cate- 
chism and Sunday school was encouraged by 
benevolence, the distribution of prizes and small 
favours, while religious slackness or any revolu- 
tionary 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 Recollets 
and the Capuchins, who resumed the work under- 
taken 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 Cal- 
vinist and republican tendencies, which had never 
succeeded in affecting the bulk of the population. 
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 
regime 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 achieve- 
ments, 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 primi- 
tives. 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 in- 
fluences contributed to bring about this extra- 
ordinary 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 ten- 
dencies, 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 perfec- 
tion. 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 ten- 
dencies 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 deca- 
dence 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 them- 
selves 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 Jerome 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 Art. 

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 An- 
gelo'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 

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 com- 
pleted. 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 perse- 
cutions, the historians of the time confined them- 
selves 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 

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 deter- 
mined, 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 pro- 
cessions and sacred pageants. They surrounded 
the first solemn communion with a new ceremonial. 

Ph. B. 



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 Gesu 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 facades 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 Ant- 
werp master fulfilled the same purpose. They 
rendered religion attractive to the masses, they 
combined with music and incense to fill the con- 
gregation 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 toler- 
ance 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 interpreta- 
tion 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, endea- 
voured to weed out from the lives of the saints 
most of the popular anecdotes which had in- 
spired mediaeval artists. All episodes connected 
with the birth and marriage of the Virgin dis- 
appeared, at the same time, from the churches. 
The Jesuits were stern rationalists, and, con- 
sidering 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 con- 
trary to that of the mediaeval artists. For the 
latter, Art sprang naturally from a fervent mysti- 
cism, 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 mediaeval artists magni- 
fied 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 Recollets 
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, philo- 
sophers like Lessius, economists like Scribani, 
historians like the Bollandists, physicians, mathe- 
maticians, 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 mediaeval use of Latin in preference to the 


vulgar tongue. But Latin was not read by the 

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 asso- 
ciated 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 dis- 
seminated 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 Jerome 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 In- 
nocents " (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. 



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 begin- 
ning 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, main- 
tained 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 con- 
sidered 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 con- 
flicts 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 succes- 
sion 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, result- 
ing from territorial ambitions, dynastic suscepti- 
bilities 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 Pro- 
vinces 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 

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 recon- 
stituting 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 proble- 
matic 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 extra- 
ordinarily 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 Ant- 
werp 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 

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 Ferdi- 
nand. 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 regime 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 country. 

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 diffi- 
culties by the treaty of Miinster (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 Munster 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 Fauque- 
mont, Daelhem and Rolduc, secured their posi- 
tion 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 aban- 
doned 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 extension. 

The treaties of Munster and of the Pyrenees 
had, broadly speaking, determined the new status 


of the Southern provinces, considerably dimin- 
ished to comply with the wishes and the interests 
of the United Provinces and of France. This 
status was not considerably altered by the suc- 
cession 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 obtain- 
ing the right to live within her new frontiers, 
Belgium had still to undergo the ordeal of five 
devastating wars. 

At the time of the death of Philip IV (1665), 
the Southern provinces, impoverished and inade- 
quately 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 constitu- 
tion 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 (" devolution "), 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, Armentieres, 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 Parlia- 
ment, 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 spoils. 

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 Nether- 
lands, 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 atti- 
tude 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 disinterested- 
ness 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, how- 
ever, hesitated to reopen hostilities. The Spanish 
governor in Belgium was then Maximilian Em- 
manuel of Bavaria, who harboured the project of 

Marlborough's campaigns 241 

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 un- 
opposed and to establish themselves in the prin- 
cipal 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 Nether- 
lands, 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 Ouden- 
arde (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 Nether- 
lands would finally have to be restored to Charles III, 
who, at the death of the emperor, in 1710, suc- 
ceeded 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 nego- 
tiations 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 French. 
From the point of view of the Netherlands, 
the treaties of Rastadt and of Baden (17 14) 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 
Liege, 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 Miinster, 
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 tribula- 
tions, 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 non- 

" 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 regime is characterized by a return 
to more peaceful conditions, since, with the ex- 
ception 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 con- 
ditions on the cession of the Southern Nether- 
lands 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 regime, a small group of 
Ostend merchants had chartered a ship, the 
Prince Eugene, 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 Miinster 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, notwith- 
standing the closing of the Scheldt, are symp- 
tomatic 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 impor- 
tant 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 owner- 
ship, 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 Nether- 
lands 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 vic- 
tories 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 mainten- 


ance 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 resent- 
ment provoked by Dutch supremacy. 

On the whole, the Austrian regime 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 seven- 
teenth, 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 Lenotre, 
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 Neny, 
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 Colleges There- 
siens, and took a personal interest in the framing 
of the programme of studies and in the least 
detail of organization. She favoured the teach- 
ing 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 pauper- 
ism by the foundation of orphanages and alms- 

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 indepen- 
dence 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) an( * Louvain (1684). 
The people did not rise against foreign domina- 
tion or in order to obtain their share in the ad- 
ministration of the country, but because they 
thought, rightly or wrongly, that some mediaeval 
custom, which they considered as their sacred 
privilege, had not been observed. During the 
last years of the Spanish regime, frequent riots 
broke out in Brussels because, after the acci- 
dental collapse of a tower containing old docu- 


merits, 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 " reglements 
additionnels." This incident was the origin of 
further trouble at the beginning of the Austrian 
regime, when Prince Eugene, being engaged in 
the war against the Turks, delegated the Marquis 
de Prie 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, Francois 
Anneessens. Riots broke out in 1718 in Brussels 
and Malines, and Prie was obliged to let the local 
militia restore order. He had meanwhile sent 
for troops, and in October 171 9 Brussels was 
militarily occupied. Anneessens was executed, and 
the bitterness provoked by this tyrannical measure 
obliged the Government to recall Prie a few 
years later (1724). These popular movements were 
only the first signs of the increasing restlessness 
of the people which caused the Brabanconne 
revolution of 1789. While the conservative and 
even reactionary character of these civil troubles 
must be made clear, in order to avoid any con- 
fusion 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 regime, life would become 
more tolerable. The social conditions caused 


by the " ancien regime " 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 dis- 
content. 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 regime. 



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 regime. 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. 

But, in spite of this contrast in education, 
external appearance and outlook, Philip II and 


From a contemporary engraving. 


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-cen- 
tury 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. 

Such appreciation may seem strange if one 
considers that one of Joseph II's cardinal prin- 
ciples of government was precisely religious and 
philosophic tolerance and the complete dissocia- 
tion 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 ade- 
quate 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 Bur- 
gundian 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 insti- 
tutions 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 dog- 
matist 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 popu- 
larity 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 dis- 

Joseph's visit to Belgium 257 

appointment 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 an- 
swered 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 visit- 
ing in a hurried way schools, barracks and work- 
shops. 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 

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 rem- 
nants of their former glory, and that religious 
ceremonies and popular feasts were a healthy 
overflow for popular energy which might other- 
wise become dangerous. Choosing her oppor- 
tunities, 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 in- 
stitutions of the country. Practically everything 
seemed so to him : the anachronism of the 
Joyous Entry, the medievalism 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 mediaeval 
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 de- 
scribed 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 posses- 
sions 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). Encour- 
aged 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 announce- 
ment 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 recog- 


nizing 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 Catho- 
lics : 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 author- 
ized, 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 progres- 
sively, 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 

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 inten- 
dants, each of which was subdivided into districts 
under the authority of commissaries. All supreme 


courts, provincial, municipal, ecclesiastical, uni- 
versity and corporation courts were replaced, 
from one day to another, by sixty-four ordinary 
tribunals, two courts of appeal and one court of 

This last measure, which really meant the 
final break up of all the privileges and institu- 
tions so anxiously defended and preserved through 
centuries of foreign oppression, provoked a unani- 
mous 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 Francois 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." 

Meanwhile Van der Noot and Vonck had 
founded a Patriotic Committee, heavily sub- 
sidized 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, 

From a contemporary engraving. 


as plenipotentiary, Count Trautmansdorff, with 
dictatorial powers, and General d'Alton as com- 
mander of the imperial forces. Under the threat 
of the military, the Council of Brabant was 
obliged to submit. 

The religious reforms, however, were still pro- 
voking strong opposition. The Seminary General 
remained without pupils. The University of 
Louvain, having rebelled against the new regula- 
tions, 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, de- 
clared 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 dis- 
solved 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 under- 
taken several journeys to secure the support of 


the Triple Alliance. Pitt had refused to grant him 
an audience, but the Dutch and Prussian govern- 
ments, 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 princi- 
pality of Liege, 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 Segur : "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- 

05 -z 

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2: c 

6 S 

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known paper, assimilated the two revolutions 
because they started almost on the same day. 
As a matter of fact, the Brabanconne 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 

The new Constitution, accepted, on January II, 
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 pro- 
vinces. 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 suc- 
ceeded 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 contri- 
buted 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 Con- 
vention 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 pre- 
serving 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 
regime. 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 fruit- 
less. Neither the Spaniards nor the Austrians 
had succeeded in uprooting particularist ten- 
dencies. The French imposed a centralized 
regime 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 Napole- 
onic regime, were more successful, not because 
they displayed more diplomacy and moderation, 
but because, in spite of their excesses and auto- 
cratic 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 allow- 
ances. The first years of the French regime 
were nevertheless a bitter disappointment. 

By the declaration of Pillnitz (179 1), 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 Revolu- 
tion, and the Girondins, who had just come into 
power, obliged the King of France to declare war 



against Austria. The first attacks against Bel- 
gium 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 regime, they began to feel the 
first effects of the occupation. The French army, 
in the region of Liege, lived only on requisitions. 
Cambon had presented to the Convention (Decem- 
ber 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 adminis- 
tered 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 reac- 
tion 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, domina- 
ting the Convention, had entered upon an annexa- 
tionist 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 Re- 
public 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. 

NEE R WIN DEN 2 7 1 

In a letter to the Convention, he protested against 
the mad policy pursued by the Jacobin Commis- 
saries, 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), Dumou- 
riez was obliged to retreat, and on April 28th the 
Austrians re-entered Brussels. The restoration 
was favourably greeted by the people, espe- 
cially as Francis II adhered faithfully to the old 
privileges, abstaining from levying recruits, after 
the refusal of the States of Brabant, and person- 
ally 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 Miinster, 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 Miinster is particularly enlightening. Appar- 
ently, the demands of the French were moderate ; 
in fact, they entirely reversed the situation created 
in the seventeenth century. No wholesale annexa- 
tions would have given the French equivalent 
advantages. The choice of the Republic was 
dictated by sound strategic principles and deter- 
mined 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. Requisi- 
tions 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, con- 


vents, 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 for- 
gotten 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 trans- 
formed 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 de- 
partments — Lys, Escaut, Deux Nethes, Meuse 
Inferieure, Dyle, Ourthe, Jemappes, Sambre et 
Meuse and For&ts. 

The regime of the Directoire was equally hate- 
ful 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 con- 
fiscated. After the coup d'etat 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 Liege. 

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 coali- 
tion was formed, and the Directoire applied to 
the Belgian departments the new law of con- 

Up to that moment, with the exception of the 
rising avoided by Dumouriez, the Belgians had 
not attempted to rebel. Exhausted by the 
Brabanconne revolution, divided among them- 
selves, they had merely shown a passive resis- 
tance 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 

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 regime. 

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 sub- 
stituting many Belgian notables for the French 
officials who had, up to then, governed the country. 
Prefects were placed at the head of the depart- 
ments, which were divided into arrondissements 
and municipalities, each of these divisions possess- 
ing 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 machin- 
ery by the Gantois Lievin Bauwens, who suc- 
ceeded 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 regime. 
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 regime 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 18 14, 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 nor- 


thern 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. 

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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 ac- 
quired a strong foothold on the plateaux command- 
ing 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 Bra- 
banconne Revolution and their attitude under 
the French regime. 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 assump- 
tion that Belgian independence meant, sooner 
or later, reabsorption by France. 

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 Bel- 
gian 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 Bur- 
gundian 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 

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 for- 
mally recognized Belgian nationality and provided 
for the respect of the country's institutions under 


the new regime, the Belgians might have recon- 
ciled themselves to the idea of wiping away 
past grievances. The Dutch might have justi- 
fied 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 Constitu- 
tion 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 amend- 
ing 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 arithmetic." 

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 psycho- 
logical 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 " Societe 
generale pour favoriser T 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 Liege and Charleroi. 

The Dutch king attempted also to develop 
national education. He placed the three Uni- 
versities (Ghent, Louvain and Liege) 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. Be- 
sides, 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-speak- 
ing 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 dis- 
content. It alienated the Flemish bourgeoisie with- 
out 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 

Scorning all opposition, William I had not 
even attempted to conciliate one of the two L 
great parties which divided the Belgian popula- 
tion : 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 Courrier 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 Brabanconne 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 independence. 

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' Orleans, 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 Hotel de Ville, but it was soon replaced 
by the three colours of Brabant. 

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 
Liege 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 unprepared- 
ness 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 recon- 
ciliation had become impossible. A provisional 
Government was formed, a National Congress 
summoned, the complete independence of the 
country proclaimed and a new Constitution pre- 
pared, a special commission adopting the principle 
of constitutional monarchy (October 4th). 

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 re- 
tracing 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 considera- 
tion. 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. 



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 Con- 
ference was, nevertheless, called in London, in order 
to mediate between the two parties, to which France 
was invited to send a representative. On Novem- 
ber 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 Miinster 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 op- 
posed 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 

19 28 9 


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 suffer- 
ings 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 hap- 
piness, the new arrangement would be threatened 
with the same fate as that of the political com- 
bination 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 central- 
ization 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 Merode, 
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 formu- 
lated 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 inter- 
vention 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 Luxem- 
burg, which " would continue to belong to the 
German Confederation." 

It will be remembered that, under the treaty 
of Vienna, this Belgian province had been con- 
verted into a Grand Duchy and given to King 
William, in exchange for his possessions in Ger- 
many, but the king had declared, at the time, that 
the " Grand Duchy would be considered as an inte- 
gral 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 pro- 
minent 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 over- 
whelming majority (169 against 9) the Congress 
protested against any delimitation of Belgian 
territory made without the consent of the repre- 
sentatives 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 accept- 
ance. The Government remaining obdurate, an 
ultimatum was sent fixing June 1st as the last 
date on which the Belgians had to submit and 

LEOPOLD I. (REIGNED 1831-1865). 
From a portrait by Lievin de Winne. 

Ph. B. 


threatening military intervention. On June 6th, 
Lord Ponsonby, British representative at Brussels, 
and General Belli ard, the French representative, 
were formally recalled by their respective Govern- 
ments, 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 abey- 
ance, further negotiations concerning the contested 
territories having to be pursued direct between 
Belgium and Holland. 

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 pro- 
posal 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 repu- 
tation 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 diplo- 
mats' 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 mili- 
tary operations had set the seal on Belgian hopes. 

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 com- 
mission. 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 relin- 
quish 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 Munster 
(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 regime of the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries which subjected Belgium to their con- 
trol. 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 de- 
clared 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 Antwerp. 

Meanwhile, Limburg and Luxemburg had re- 
mained Belgian, and the bonds attaching the 
sacrificed provinces to the country had become 
so strong that the forthcoming settlement pro- 
voked emphatic protests. Petitions were sent 
to the king, and delegations came to Brussels 
urging resistance. Once more, Belgian negotia- 
tors multiplied their efforts in London and Paris. 
But, this time, the friendly Powers remained 
adamant and the Government was made to under- 
stand that, if the Belgians created difficulties, 
nothing would prevent the German Confedera- 
tion and the King of Holland from annexing 
Luxemburg and Limburg by force. In the spring 


of 1839 the Belgian Chamber was at last com- 
pelled to give its final decision. Three ministers 
had resigned from the Government. The Austrian 
and Prussian " charges 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 Luxem- 
burg 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 shame." 

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 accept- 
ance 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 con- 
version 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 adminis- 
tration and the Grand-Ducal regime 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 aggrand- 
isement, 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 out- 
burst 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 safe- 
guard 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 re- 
specting 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 guar- 
anteed 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 communica- 
tion between the country and her allies in time 
of war, a military entente with Holland towards 
the defence of Dutch Limburg, and a rapproche- 
ment with Luxemburg — were therefore the natural 
outcome of the revision of the 1839 settlement. 



From 1839 till 1914, Belgium lived under the 
regime of independent neutrality. 

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, Malmedy, St. Vith 
and Bitsburg, and the XXIV Articles had given 
half of Luxemburg to the German Confederation. 

The same treaty granted Belgium indepen- 
dence. Within these narrow limits, she remained 
at least mistress of her destinies. She had her 
own king, her own Government, her own Constitu- 
tion. 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 civiliza- 
tion 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 regime of guaranteed neu- 
trality 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 neu- 
trality 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 re- 
sented, 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 with- 
out 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 cur- 
rents of thought divided Belgian opinion. The 
first attempted to minimize the military respon- 
sibility 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, with- 


out 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 mis- 
represent measures of self-defence, urgently re- 
quired 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 regime 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 storm. 

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 Com- 
munist 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 fron- 
tier 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 play- 
thing of everyone." 

A greater danger loomed ahead. Louis Napo- 
leon had, by the coup d'etat of December I, 
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 in- 
dependence, 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 control- 
ling the railways. In January 1868 the Com- 
pagnie 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 ne- 
gotiations began with the Belgian companies 
Grand Luxemburg and Chemins de fer Li£geois- 
Limbourgeois, which would have placed all the 
main railways of Luxemburg and South-eastern 
Belgium in French hands. Warned in time, the 
Premier, Frere-Orban, instructed the Belgian 
representative in Paris to declare that Bel- 
gium would never consent to such an arrange- 
ment. Napoleon's threats remained without re- 
sult, the Belgian policy being strongly upheld by 
Lord Clarendon, and, in July 1869, a protocol 
was signed annulling the contracts of the Com- 
pagnie de l'Est as far as the Belgian railways 
were concerned. At the same time, Napoleon 


III, anxious to find at any cost " compensa- 
tions " 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 Bis- 
marck 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 War. 

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 
regime 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 impos- 
sible 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 guar- 
antee 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 inviola- 


bility 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 19 14 ? 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. 

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, pros- 
perity. 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 mili- 
tary 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 " pre- 
venting 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 bridge- 
heads, one at Namur and the other at Liege. 
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 clearsighted- 
ness and to Leopold II's firm attitude that 
Western Europe owes the respite given by the 
resistance of Liege in August 1914. Had not 
General Brialmont's original plans of the forts 
been unduly curtailed, this resistance would have 
proved still more effective. 

Credits for the defences of Liege 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 " 

3 1 2 BELGIUM 

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, 


/ 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 

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. Pam- 
phlets 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 

1 See E. Vandersmissen, Leopold II and Beernaert, and G. 
Harry, Leopold II (1920). 

3 1 4 BELGIUM 

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 succes- 
sors 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, suc- 
ceeded, within two months, in drafting a Constitu- 
tion 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 associa- 
tion 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 interest- 
ing 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 centraliza- 
tion, 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, particu- 
larism 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 recog- 
nized 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 re- 
gard to home defence, it developed to an abnormal 
degree party warfare. It shut the door on inter- 
national 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 conscious- 
ness. 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 x 885, 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 ignor- 
ing 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 education. 

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 I ^70 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 parlia- 
mentary, 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 ac- 
cording 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 expendi- 
ture and unpopular taxation, and finally brought 
about the downfall of the Liberal regime 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 regime. 

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, Frere-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, Cesar 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 promi- 
nent 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 work- 
men, who were now powerfully organized, es- 
pecially 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 produc- 
tive 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 
2 i to 7^ acres. It must be added that, during 
the last twenty years, powerful producers' co- 
operatives, or " Boerenbonden," have grouped 
agriculturists and given them important advan- 
tages with regard to credit and insurance. The 
inbred qualities which have rendered this deve- 
lopment 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 regime 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 
!833, 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 M alines, 
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 de- 
veloped. 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 rail- 
way 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 
regimes. Broadly speaking, no new development 
took place, every centre remaining in the situa- 
tion 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 Louviere (Centre), 
Charleroi and Liege ; the number of men en- 
gaged 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 popu- 
lation. 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 consider- 
able 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 numer- 
ous 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 merchan- 
dise 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 perma- 
nence 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 per- 
mitted 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 in- 
dustrial production. The necessity of finding new 
markets abroad and of discovering some substi- 
tute 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 
Nunez, where a regular protectorate was estab- 
lished for a short time, in Guatemala and in various 
parts of Brazil. None of these enterprises, how- 
ever, 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 develop- 
ment of China. He had formed several projects 
with regard to the establishment of a Belgian settle- 
ment 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, with- 
out 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 Philip- 
pines. 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 oppor- 

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 Interna- 
tionale Africaine." It was a purely private asso- 
ciation, 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 " Comity 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 complica- 
tions, 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 re- 
sources 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 "Associa- 
tion 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 adminis- 
tration 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 diffi- 
culties. 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 con- 
sidered 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 Bel- 
gium, 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 con- 
clusion. 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 

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 inade- 
quate, and, though a few financiers began by 
now to realize the enormous value of the enter- 
prise, 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 oppress- 
ing 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 disinterested- 
ness and of devotion to his country not to deserve 
the abominable accusations launched against 
him. They forgot the invaluable work accom- 
plished, 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 magis- 
trates 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 Parlia- 
ment, 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 
Oase 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 internationaliza- 
tion 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 atro- 
cities 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 intel- 
lectual 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 inde- 
pendence 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. 
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 ex- 
pressing 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 tra- 
ditional spirit of regionalism that the Hotels 
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 in- 
stance, 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 re- 
presents quite above criticism, but, if one remem- 
bers 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 agricul- 
tural 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 labour. 

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 Hotel 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 suffer- 
ings of the poor and destitute, De Groux, Leon 
Frederic and, even more, Eugene 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 pros- 
perity, so revolting did it seem that such pros- 
perity should not be shared by all. 

Another artist in whose works Breughel's in- 
spiration 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 bring- 
ing 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 valu- 
able 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 pro- 
duced, in later years, a number of first-rate land- 
scape painters such as Verwee, 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 char- 
acteristic of the race, and even in the drab years 
of the Austrian regime Belgian painters had 
never ceased to work. A far more startling deve- 
lopment 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 predomi- 
nant 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 Flem- 
ings 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 six- 
teenth 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 cer- 
tainly 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 ten- 
dency 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 mediaevalism. It belongs to 
the twentieth century, even when written in the 
nineteenth, or to the fifteenth. The classical atmo- 
sphere 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 discon- 
certed by childishness or fierce passion. It is 
an abrupt literature, but spontaneous and sin- 
cere, which has not been spoilt by formalism 
and scepticism, but which has not acquired, 
from a purely technical point of view, the per- 
fection of the French. Having remained inarticu- 
late during the two centuries of classical education, 
it has lost nothing and gained nothing through 


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 inter- 
pretation 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 established. 

It must be understood that the language ques- 
tion 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 regimes 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 ex- 


pression, 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 inti- 
midated, but an old nation like Belgium, which 
had struggled towards independence through long 
and weary periods of warfare and foreign domina- 
tion, 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 Merode, and the reply of the Belgian Govern- 
ment 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. Liege, Haelen, 
the three sorties from Antwerp, the ten terrible 
days on the Yser, are not due merely to the per- 
sonal 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 popula- 
tion 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 comman- 
deered 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 re- 
markable 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 

von bissing's intrigues 345 

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, ab- 
sorbed the attention of the German adminis- 
tration. 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 or- 
ganizations 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 

Professor Van der Linden has given to his 
valuable work on Belgian history the sub-title 
of The Making of a Nation, and shown conclu- 
sively 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 pros- 
perity, 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 regimes, independence is 


finally granted, and when a new dynasty is at 
last inaugurated as a symbol of national unity, 
Belgium remains nevertheless under foreign tute- 
lage. Her independence is bought at the price 
of neutrality ; and it is only after the violation 
of this guaranteed neutrality by two of the fore- 
most 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 Malmedy 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 regime 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 eques- 
trian 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, 

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 

Alsace — 

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, Francois, 252 

Antoine of Burgundy, 104, 105 

Antwerp, 70, 115, 117, 121, 
146, 155, 163, 164, 183, 

l86, l88, I92, 20I, 202, 

207, 209, 214, 2l6, 217, 

23O, 246, 248, 251, 259, 

263, 276, 279, 282, 287, 

296, 322, 323 

Camp of, 307, 308, 311, 312, 

Cathedral, 93, 221, 223 

Antwerp, 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 

Armentieres, 168, 180, 238 

Army defences, 307, 313, 314, 

Arnolfini, 139 

Arras, 61, 97, 117, 124, 141, 
143. 195. 205 
Bishopric, 32, 38, 64, 175, 

Confederation of, 196, 199, 

Peace of, 207, 218 
Union of, 196, 197 
Art, 125, 130, 131, 133, 134, 

135. 136, 137. 138, 139. 
147, 221-29, 258, 331- 

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, 8i, 89 
Baldwin II, Count of Guines, 

Banning, Emile, 310, 311 
Barriers, 248, 249, 259 

Treaty of the, 243 
Bases of Separation, 291, 292, 

Bastille, Taking of the, 263, 

Beauneveu, Andre, 137, 138 
Beggards, beguines, 90, 127, 

128, 136, 168 
Beggars, 178, 179, 184 

of Religion, 179 

of State, 179 

Sea, 185 
Belfries, 71, 73, 74, 75, 112 
Belgae, 30 

Belgica Secunda, 30, 34, 40 
Belgiojioso, Count of, 260, 262 
Belgo-Romans, 30, 32, 37 
Bergh, Henry, Count of, 210, 

Berlaymont, Charles de, 175, 

178, 188 
Berlin, Congress of, 327 
Bilingualism, 94, 95, 96, 98, 

104, 125, 126, 284, 285, 

339. 34° 
Bishoprics and bishops, 32, 

38, 40, 64, 219 
Bismarck, 307, 308, 327 
Blondeel, Lancelot, 153 
Boendaele, Jean, 127 
Bois-le-Duc, 156, 210, 271, 

Bollandists, 227 
Bollandus, 226 
Boulanger, Henri, 336 
Bouts, Thierry, 139 
Bouvines, 81 
Brabanconne Revolution, see 

Breda, 209, 234, 263, 264 

Congress of, 187 
Br6derode, 178, 181 
Breughel, Peter, 223, 229, 258, 

259, 335 
Brialmont, General, 308, 311 
Broederlam, Melchior, 138 

Brotherhood of the Active 
Love of My Neighbour, 

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, 

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, 

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, 

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, 

Charles, Duke, 55 
Charles the Bald, 48 
Charles the Bold, 109, no, 

115, 118, 119, 123, 140, 


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, 

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

Chastellain, 129, 130 

Chazal, Baron, 307 

Chepy, 270 

Chievres, 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. I" 
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 

Conference, The London, 289, 

290, 291 
Congo, 313, 325-30 

Campaign, 312 
Conscience, Henri, 339 
Consulta, 175, 176 
Council of Blood, 184, 189, 

Council of Brabant, 263 
Council of State, 175, 176, 177, 

180, 188, 218, 241 
Council of Trent, 225 
Council of Troubles. 184, 187, 

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, 

De Merode, 291, 342 
De Paepe, Cesar, 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, 

Douai, 61, 97, 225, 238 

University, 224 
Downs, Battle of the, 215 
Dufay, Guillaume, 130 
Dumouiiez, 269, 271, 273, 274 
Dunes, Battle of the, 235 
Dunkirk, 202, 205, 215, 216, 

Duplice, 310 

Edict of Marche, 190 
Edit Perpetuel, 190 
Education, 127, 128, 169, 227, 
250, 258, 282, 283, 318, 

Egmont, Count of, 174, 175. 

176, 177, 184, 333 
Egmont Count, 210 
Entente Cordiale, 310 
Erasmus, 169 
Ernest, Archduke, 205 
Eupen and Malmedy, 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, 

Ferrand of Portugal, 81 
Feudalism, 49, 50, 55, 72, 77, 

Finance, 119, 121, 158, 282, 

283, 308, 311, 312, 323, 

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, 

Franks, 41, 42 

Franks — Invasion, 33, 34, 35 

Salian, 41 
Frederic, Leon, 335 
French Fury, 202 

Revolution, see Revolution 
Frere-Orban, 306 
Froissart, Jean, 129 
Furnes, 238, 242, 247 

Gavere, 114 
Gelder, 157, 158 
Duke of, 150 
Gerard de Brogne, 56, 58, 168 
Gerard de Groote, 127, 128, 168 
General Council of the Low 

Countries, 261 
Germania, Inferior, 30, 32, 34, 

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. 34 8 
Godfrey of Verdun, 55 
Godfrey the Bearded, 55 
Godfrey the Hunchback, 58 
Golden Fleece, Order of, 107, 

Golden Spurs, Battle of, see 

Court rai 
Gorcum, 185, 189 
Grand Alliance, 241 



Granvelle, Bishop oi Arras, 175, 

Gravelines, 174 
Great Privilege, 141, 144, 252, 

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

Guinegate, 143, 149 

Hague, The, 288 

Treaty of the, 266, 271, 272 
Halles, 72, 112, 113, 116, 121, 

Hansa, Hanseatic, 77, 82, 121, 

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

25i> 254 
Hennequin of Liege, 137, 138 
Henry III, Duke of Brabant, 97 
Hoffmann, Melchior, 171 
Horn, Count of, 175, 176, 184, 

Hotel 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, 323 
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, 

Papermaking, 217 
Spinning, 276, 321 
Silk, 217 
Tapestry, 117, 165, 177, 

216, 247 

Industry — Wool, 32, 48, 70, 74, 
80, 83, 87, 116, 117, 216 

Inquisition, 171, 172, 177, 178, 

180, 181, 208, 256 
Invasion — 

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, 228 
Italianizants, 222, 223, 229 

Jemappes, 269 

Jesuits, 221, 223, 224, 225, 226, 

227, 250 
John the Fearless, 104, 105, 

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 Pres, 130 
Joyous Entry of Brabant, 84, 

M5. 155. 258, 263, 271, 

Justice, 125, 208, 250, 261, 275, 

277. 332 

Kermesses, 258, 261 

La Brielle, 185 
Laermans, Eugene, 335 
Lalaing, Count of, 193 
Lalaing, J. de, 234 
Lambeaux, 333 
Lambermont, Baron, 322 
Lambert d'Ardres, 97 
Lambert le Begue, 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, 

Leys, Henri, 334 
Liege, 43, 44, 54, 91. 92, 95. 

166, 167, 210, 217, 243, 

282, 311, 321, 342 
Bishopric, 38, 40, 54, 57 

88, 105, 173 
University, 282 
Lille, 90, 97, 165, 195, 214, 216, 

Limburg, 295, 296, 297, 299, 

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 Male, 87, 104, 137 
Louis Philippe D'Orleans, 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, 

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, 
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, 332 

Malplaquet, 241 

Manicheans, 89 

Mansfeld, Count of, 181, 188 

Margaret of Austria, 143, 147, 
148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 
153, 154, 155, 206, 222, 

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, 

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 Ba- 
varia, 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- i 28 > l8 ° 
Mons, 185, 269, 321 
Monstrelet, 129 
Morel, 329, 330 
Moresnet, 166 
Morini, 40 

Mousket, Philippe, 98 
Muhlberg, 159 
Munster, 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, 

Nassau, 150 
Nassau, Frederick Henry of, 

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 
N6ny, 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 
Noyon — 

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. 200-3 

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 

Party — 

Catholic, 284, 285, 315, 317, 

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

Liberal Catholic, 317 
Peter the Hermit, 89 
Philip the Bold, 104, 117, 132, 

Philip the Good, 105, 106, no, 

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 

Prie, Marquis de, 252 



Printing, 128, 169 
Protestantism, 177, 179, 180, 

201, 203, 207, 208, 219, 

224, 260 
Pyrenees, Treaty of the, 236, 


Races, 35 

Radewyn, Florent, 128 

Ramiliies, 241 

Rastadt, Treaty of, 242 

Ratisbon, Truce of, 239 

Recollets, 220, 227 

Reformation, 172, 173, 180, 

181, 221 
Counter, 222, 227 
Regner of Hainault, 55 
Regner, Long Neck, 53, 59 
Reichenbach, Convention of, 

Renaissance, 114, 130, 135, 164, 

167, 221, 224, 336, 339 
Renesse, Rene de, 210 
Requesens, Louis de Zuniga y, 

187, 188, 190 
Revolution — 

Brabanconne, 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, 

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 

Sluis, 163, 215 
Sluter, Claus, 137, 138 
Smits, Jacob, 325 
Spanish Fury, 189 
Spanish Succession, War of the, 

Spinola, Ambrose, 209, 210, 


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 
Terouanne, 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, 

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 



Tournai — Taking of, 149 

Tournaisis, 158 

Town Halls, 112, 113, 116, 124, 

137. 332, 334 

Toxandria, 33 

Trade, 45, 63, 68, 6g, 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, 

Trafalgar, Battle of, 276 
Transaction of Augsburg, 159 
Transport, 217, 320, 321 
Treaty of XVIII Articles, 291, 

of XXIV Articles, 291, 295, 

298, 301, 303, 307, 308 
Treves, 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, 

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, ioo, 101, 

125, 126, 127 
Van Thienen, 124 
Veldener, Jean, 169 
Venloo, 210, 243, 271 

Treaty of, 157 
Verdun — 

Treaty, 48 

Second Treaty, 52, 55 
Verhaeren, Emile, 337 
Versailles, Treaty of, 347 
Verwee, 336 
Vienna — 

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, 

Waterloo, Battle of, 277 
Willem, 99, 100 
Willems, Jan Frans, 339 
William II of Germany, 312, 


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 

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