Between the Habsburg-ruled remnants of medieval Burgundia and the Dutch Golden Age, the Low Countries saw a generation of war, politics, and culture leave its mark. Here are some of those stories.

Maarten van Rossum and the Kasteel De Cannenburch

In the decades before the Eighty Years War (or Tachtigjarige Oorlog) that severed the Low Countries into a republican Dutch north and a Habsburg royalist south, another war raged. One largely forgotten about. The Habsburg dynasty was ascending. Charles V…

The Lucky Life and Breaks of Painter Bartholomeus Spranger

Bartholomeus Spranger (1546–1611) was born the third son to an Antwerp merchant family with business ties to both Rome and Tunis in northern Africa. With his older brothers continuing the family business, young Bartholomeus made the most of his chances…

The Aftermath of the 1573 Siege of Haarlem

File this under “things could always be worse.” The city of Haarlem, just west of Amsterdam, was decidedly not part of the early turmoil and revolt that began spreading across Holland, Flanders, and Brabant in the 1560s. There was no…

1570 Letter to an Exiled Walloon Father and Husband

An example of the human experience from history. These were people like you and I. The years following Philip II’s ascension to the throne of a united Spain and the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries saw a dramatic rise…

Map of Northwest Europe, c. 1560

The Europe of the mid sixteenth century, at the dawn of the Dutch Revolt, was one of contrasts: a transitory peace between major powers with roiling social and religious turmoil about to boil over into war and carnage that would continue into the following century.

By this point in European history, you'll note many familiar names, but an equal number of borders and states that exist in vastly different ways in the 21st Century.

The Spanish Habsburgs & Their Governors

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V united the Low Countries under his personal rule and eventually abdicated in favor of his son Philip in 1555. From that point on, a revolving cast of Habsburg family members and close retainers would govern the Low Countries as the region descended into revolt and open war.

Ruckers Family Virginals and Harpsicords

The Ruckers family of Antwerp were active from the mid-1500s through the 1600s and are considered the "Stradivarius" of harpsichord and virginal makers. Their output was as much works of art as it was exquisite musical instruments.

Map of the Seventeen Provinces and Neighboring Domains

In 1548, much of the Low Countries (modern Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and parts of northern France) were brought together into a single political entity called the Seventeen Provinces - directly under the control of Charles V.

Though united by proximity, there were sharp divisions of history, culture, and language cutting through the provinces - divisions which would become highlighted by the political, religious, and military struggles which would follow.

Timeline: 1593-1619

Resurgent Dutch forces lead by Maurice of Nassau go on the offensive, setting the stage for a brokered Twelve Years Truce.

At the same time, the Humanist community at Leiden and Calvinist congregations grow in influence, leading to a cataclysmic confrontation in the Synod of Dort.

Timeline: 1568-1592

The Dutch Revolt had begun in earnest, and what began as a civil war evolved into a war for independence from Habsburg Spain by the northern provinces.

Timeline: 1548-1567

After decades of war and political maneuvering, Charles V united the Low Countries into the Seventeen Provinces in 1548. He'd later abdicate in favor of his son, Philip II, whose policies would stir the nobles and cities into open revolt by 1567.

Map of the Cities & Battles of the Dutch Revolt

The Dutch Revolt ravaged the Low Countries: pitched battles were fought in the countryside, dozens of towns were besieged, and murderous pillaging plundered the countryside. Use this map to orient yourself to the locations of significant battles, cities, and towns.

Also includes an inset map detailing post-Reformation religion in the northern provinces.

The Many Would-Be Kings of the Dutch

Thought it would come to be well known as a republic, the statesmen and soldiers that fought to establish an independent Dutch state certainly imagined - at first -that their new country would have a sovereign Prince at its head.

Common Names for the Low Countries

That part of Northwestern Europe forming the deltas and hinterlands of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers has been known by many names. And for many Americans, the term “Low Countries” itself is not well known or understood. This multiplication…

Malcontents & Royalists

The Dutch Revolt was not nearly as much an invasion by the Habsburgs as it was at first a civil war between Royalists and a small set of independently-minded provinces and cities. Among those Royalists were the “Malcontents” - former rebels whose Catholic faith brought them back to the king when the Calvinist faction rose in power in cities under rebel control.

Protestant Allies of the Dutch

The Dutch rebels were able to keep up the fight against the Habsburgs and Royalists in large part due to international support from other Protestant (and moderate Catholic) powers, including the towering historical presence of Elizabeth I of England.

Rebel Geuzen & Dutch Statesmen

“Do not be troubled, my Lady! These are just a bunch of… beggars.”

The epithet of geuzen (Dutch for “beggar”) was first hurled at noblemen protesting the policies of Philip II, but it quickly became a patriotic, highly political point of pride for the rebels who would fight to form the early Dutch Republic.

The House of Orange-Nassau

Originally a German noble family with holdings in the Low Countries, the Nassaus rose to singular prominence and influence through the actions of William “the Silent” and his brothers - of whom four out of the five would be killed in the first decades of the Dutch Revolt.