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Habsburg Netherlands before the war

The Eighty Years' War, better known as the Dutch War of Independence, was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces, located in what is now roughly the Benelux, against the rule of Philip II of Spain, sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. The year in which the war started is an ongoing discussion, though commonly it is assumed that the war started in 1568 and ended in 1648, making it last eighty years.


Start and causes[edit]

The cause of the war can be sourced back to 1515, when Charles V began to rule over the Habsburg Netherlands. The cities and gewesten (povinces) had lots of power. Historically, these cities bought their rights from the gewest, which gave them the right to build, for instance, fortifications. Charles V, however, started centralising the rule over his empire, which pulled power and influence away from the cities. They could no longer have their own jurisdiction, but had to follow the jurisdiction of the greater, Habsburg empire. Charles V also pulled power away from the nobles of the Habsburg Netherlands, which used to have a lot of influence and notable tasks within cities. Charles V replaced nearly all of these with Spanish civil servants, which were easier for him to deal with as they could be fired if they didn't live up to Charles' expectations.

The second cause can be found in 1531, in which the introduction of the three councils: the Council of State, the Privy Council and the Council of Finances. This was an action of centralisation, again pulling power away from the Dutch cities and citizens, who became increasingly unhappy with the Spanish rule.

The third cause can be found in 1550, in which the Bloedplakkaten were introduced. This was Charles' answer to the reformation of the Catholic church. These plakkaten were a set of rules that, in short, made it to where any protestant was considered a heretic, which made them be considered outlawed, making it legal for anyone to kill them.

In 1555, Charles V resigned from his throne, leaving his son Philip II in charge. Charles resigned because his control of religion had failed. He considered himself to be beaten and abdicated for that reason. His son, now the King of Spain and duke of the Habsburg Netherlands, was raised as a catholic, and he saw it as his duty to spread Catholicism throughout his empire. This gave a boost to the hunting of heretics.

Eleven years later, several hundred nobles of the Netherlands offered Governess Margaretha, family of Philips II and appointed to be in charge of the Habsburg Netherlands by him, a Smeekschrift (Written Plea) asking her to stop the hunting of heretics until further notice, which she did. This gave a large rise to Hagepreken. These were preaches in the open air held by the protestants. They did not have to be affraid to do this in the open air, as they couldn't be charged for doing so. They had to preach in open air because they weren't allowed to have churches before 1566, so they did not have any churches to preach in.

Shortly after, the Beeldenstorm (Statue Tempest) happened. This was a raze to all Catholic churches, in which all statues were destroyed by protestants. They were sick of being harassed and prosecuted by their fellow citizens and saw their chance to revolt. This is often seen as the start of the Eighty Years' War.

Before the truce[edit]

Siege and Capture of Brielle (April 1st, 1572)
Text:Hieronder staen de Teykenen der Koogelen daer meede Prins Willem van Orange is Doorschoten op 10 Iuly Anno 1584 - Below are the marks of the bullets which killed Prince William of Orange on July 10th, 1584 - Monument at the Prinsenhof, Delft

Initially, Philip II didn't know how to respond. He would have laid in bed ill for a week because his churches, the ones that thought the belief that was so dear to him, were razed. In 1567, however, he took to action, sending the Duke of Alva to the Netherlands to bring an end to the uprising. The belief of Protestantism, especially Calvinism, however, was very popular amongst the Dutch, as it fit their way of life. Calvinism thought them to work had and earn their place in heaven, which fit the lifestyle of the Dutch, who were sober humans that focused on trade and production. The revolt was led by Willem of Orange. Their first fight against the Spanish was in 1568, which is considered to be the start of the Eighty Years' War.

Initially, the Dutch lost many battles, William of Orange even ended up fleeing to Germany at some point, to take shelter at a castle owned by family. He came back with a stronger force, which attacked the land from the east, while the Watergeuzen attacked from the western shorelines. Their first victory was the seige of Brielle, on April first, 1572. From here on, the war went well, having the Dutch claim city after city.

In may 1584, a man named Balthasar Gérard, a French catholic, arranged a meeting with William of Orange. He presented himself to him as a French nobleman, and gave him the seal of the Count of Mansfelt. This seal would allow forgeries of the messages of Mansfelt to be made. William sent Gérard back to France to pass the seal on to his French allies. Gérard returned on the tenth of July, hiding two flint-lock pistols under his jacket. He met William that day in his house in Delft. William was dining with guests when Gérard arrived, yet he made time to meet him in the hallway. As he came down the stairs, however, he was shot in the chest by Gérard, who was standing at a close range. Gérard fled, leaving William on the bottom of the stairs, dying. Gérard was captured before he could flee Delft. He was lynched in public later that year. William was buried with his previously passed relatives in the New Church of Delft. As William became the father of the nation after the war, all monarchs after him would be burried in the New Church as well. After his death, the fight against the Spanish consisted of wins and losses.

The military upkeep and decreased trade had put both Spain and the Dutch Republic under financial strain. To alleviate conditions, a ceasefire was signed in Antwerp on 9 April 1609, marking the end of the Dutch Revolt and the beginning of the Twelve Years' Truce.

After the Truce[edit]

After the truce, fighting continued. The opposition against Spain was now led by Maurice of Orange and Frederick Henry. The English, who too had problems with the Spanish, joined on the Dutch side. In 1635, the French joined as well. The Spanish lost many naval battles against the English and Dutch, and lost on land against the Dutch and French, which simultaneously attacked the Spanish.

Meanwhile, many more parts of Europe were at war. They all fought the Thirty Years' War against opponents of their own. Peace negotiations started in 1641. Agreements were made on negotiating amongst all associated parties in Münster and Osnabrück. Though many large lots of land were won from the Spanish, the now self-proclaimed Dutch Republic was more or less in a setting of peace. This setting however, could not be found in the provinces of Zeeland and Utrecht, as well as the city of Leiden which supported the war until its end.

All parties agreed on the Republic joining the peace negotiations, which was considered a first agreement on the country being a fully-fledged country. Eight representatives of the provinces arrived in Münster in 1646. Negotiations took place in the Haus der Niederlande (House of the Dutch). At the end of the negotiations, the Dutch Republic was acknowledged by Spain. The ruling monarch of Spain, now Philip IV, sought to end the war for many years, and wanted to come to peace with the Dutch no matter what. Peace seemed closer than before, and at January 30th 1648, a peace treaty between the Spanish and Dutch was signed, ending the war.


Map of the Dutch Republic after the war. The Southern, lightly coloured regions joined after peace was signed.
  • 1 Brielle (Netherlands) (Den Briel). The first city to be captured by the Dutch, its city centre is still the old fortified centre, fortified with a moat that it used to be.
  • 2 Delft (Netherlands). The city of William of Orange, he was burried in the Nieuwe Kerk.
  • 3 Grolle (Netherlands) (Groenlo). Small town in Gelderland that once every two years reenacts the battle of Grolle, which took place during the Eighty Years' War.
  • 4 Münster (Germany), Alter Steinweg 6/7, D-48143 Münster, Germany, +49 25 18 32 85 13. The city where the peace ending the Eighty Years' War was signed. The Haus der Niederlande is the exact building where the treaty was signed.