The Kingdom of Belgium separated in 1830 from the Kingdom of the Netherlands to which it belonged since 1815.

The relationship between the two countries however goes centuries back into history as they once existed as the Habsburg / Spanish Netherlands, and the Seventeen Provinces.

Map from Abraham Ortelius – 1573, one of the oldest maps depicting the Netherlands. * Source ;

Because being ruled by members from the House of Habsburg, the area of modern day Belgium – The Netherlands – Luxemburg and parts of Northern France, would also be referenced as the Habsburg Netherlands.

Before the rule of the House of Habsburg, the Seventeen Provinces since the middle ages had been part of the Carolingian and Holy Roman Empire respectively, until Mary of Burgundy died and the Burgundian Netherlands came into the possession of her son, Philip I the Fair.

King Philip I the Fair. * Source ;

When Philip the first suddenly died on the 25th of September 1506 in Spain while residing in Burgos, it was rumored around that he was poisoned, which was also believed to be the main cause of death by his wife Joanna of Castille.

His son Charles V at the age of 6 would be his successor inheriting the Habsburg Netherlands where he was born just like his father Philip the First. Charles the Fifth was born on the 24th of February 1500 A.D. and would spend one third of his life in The Netherlands, one third in Spain and one third in the rest of Europe.

Portrait of Charles V in Augsburg, painted in 1548 by Titiaan. * Source ;

The Habsburg Netherlands in the 16th century just as today was already densely populated, having a large portion of the population living in numerous developed cities. These cities were extensions of the Hanseatic league, and all though being in a watery corner of Europe had an ideal position for trading.

The Seventeen Provinces however consisted of regions that differed from each other and already enjoyed some autonomy and privileges. Charles V needed a way to tax the region in a legal centralized and efficient way, but it was needed to retain their own laws and customs so that the Habsburg Netherlands wouldn’t rise up in revolt, or to make tax collection a troublesome issue.

With the 1548 Burgundian Treaty this autonomy was acknowledged, and a year later in the edict of 1549, Charles V proclaimed that the Seventeen Provinces were one indivisible entity, where the existing law, customs and way of governing had to be respected.

The Spanish Netherlands came into being when Philip II of Spain inherited the densely populated in northwest Europe, when his father Emperor Charles V abdicated as Holy Roman Emperor in 1556.

Philips the Second in the first place was King of Spain, and that’s the reason why another nickname for today’s countries of Belgium and the Netherlands was the Spanish Netherlands.

Portrait of Philip II of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola. * Source ;

The house of Habsburg between 1555 and 1556 broke up in an Austrian and a Spanish branch, where the latter among inherited Spain, the colonies and the Seventeen Provinces. The Austrian branch under Ferdinand I inherited the Austrian lands in Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Italy just to name a few.

Already under Charles V taxation had been raised and intensified in the Habsburg Netherlands to finance the never ending costs of wars on the European and International scene. This combined with the persecution of Humanist, Devotist and Protestant followers continuing even harsher under Philip the Second made the Habsburg Netherlands spring up in revolt in the year of 1568.

Cavalry engagement from the struggle of the Dutch against Spain c. 1605. * Source ;

The 7 Northern Provinces would eventually secede in 1581 officially ending the indivisible entity of former Charles V Habsburg Netherlands. The Spanish would reconquer most of the Southern Habsburg Netherlands which together with the divide of religion would finally rupture the former Habsburg Netherlands in two new entities.

1st page of the printed version of the “Act of Leaving, which is seen as the formal declaration of Independence for the Northern Habsburg Netherlands. * Source ;

Signing of the “Act of Leaving” in 1581 by Johannes Hinderikus Egenberger. * Source ;

The Southern Habsburg Netherlands remained Catholic where Calvinism was the presiding religion in the Northern former Habsburg Netherlands.

Philip the Second turned over the Southern Netherlands to his daughter Isabella instead of his son Philip the Third, under the prerequisite that if her marriage with Albrecht of Austria remained childless, the Southern Netherlands would fall under Spanish rule once again.

Albrecht VII of Austria and Isabella Clara Eugenia, by an anonymous 17th century master, after originals by Frans Pourbus the younger. * Source ;

The fact that the Southern Netherlands were under Spanish control led to partaking in the wars against France and the former Northern Habsburg Netherlands, which were now called the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands / Provinces.

The eighty year war in the former Habsburg Netherlands that started in 1568, finally ended with the “Peace of Munster” in 1648.

Peace of Munster – 1648 by Gerard ter Borch. * Source ;

Peace wouldn’t last long in the Spanish Netherlands when in 1701 the Spanish Succession War broke out raging until 1713.

After that it was decided that the Southern Spanish Netherlands would be assigned to the Austrian line of the House of Habsburg, and stayed under Austrian Habsburg rule until 1794 when it was captured by the French.

Under Napoleon and later his brother the former Southern Netherlands would be part of :

  • First French Republic (1794) ;
  • Batavian Republic (1795) ;
  • First French Empire (1804) ;
  • Kingdom of Holland as a vasal state (1806) ;
  • Sovereign Principality of the Netherlands (1813 when Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Leipzig) ;
  • General Governances (1814) ;
  • United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815) ;

With a renewed unification of the former South and North Netherlands the differences that had grown over the course of 2 centuries wouldn’t suddenly go away in one day. The enmity eventually resulted in riots and uprisings and on the 24th of September 1830 a temporary government was formed in Brussels.

Romantised depiction of the events in September 1830 on the Great Market Square of Brussels (by Gustaaf Wappers, 1835). * Source ;

On the 4th of October 1830 this temporary government proclaimed their independence from the Northern Netherlands, and the new constitution was approved on the 7th of February 1831. It would last until 1839 when finally King Willem the First of the Netherlands would finally recognize Belgium as a new independent country.

Happiness and tranquility again wouldn’t last long in the newly formed independent Kingdom of Belgium where divides between French and Dutch speakers would continue, further incinerated by religious beliefs.

Up to this day these divides are still present in Belgium and form a major difficulty in governing the country.

The text on both types mean the same, only stated in the French and Dutch language. The lettering on the obverse of the coin is Belgium in Dutch together with the jubilee years. On the reverse the text says : 150 years Independence of Belgium.