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Seventeen Provinces: Map


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The Seventeen Provinces were a personal union of states in the Low Countries in the 15th century and 16th century, roughly covering the current Netherlandsmarker, Belgiummarker, Luxembourgmarker, a good part of the North of Francemarker (Artoismarker, Nordmarker), and a small part of the West of Germanymarker.

The Seventeen Provinces were originally held by the Dukes of Burgundy of the House of Valois and later by the Habsburgs, first by the Spanish and then by the Austrian line. From 1512 the Provinces formed the major part of the Burgundian Circle.


The map corresponds to the following provinces:

  1. the County of Artois
  2. the County of Flanders, including the burgraviates of Lillemarker, Douaimarker, Orchiesmarker, the Lordship of Tournaimarker and the Tournaisis
  3. the Lordship of Mechelenmarker
  4. the County of Namur
  5. the County of Hainautmarker
  6. the County of Zeeland
  7. the County of Holland
  8. the Duchy of Brabant, including the Margraviate of Antwerpmarker, the counties of Leuvenmarker and of Brusselsmarker, and the advocacy of the Abbey of Nivellesmarker and of Gemblouxmarker
  9. the Duchy of Limburgmarker, including the counties of Dalhemmarker and Valkenburg and the Lordship of Herzogenrathmarker
  10. the Duchy of Luxembourg
  11. the Prince-Bishopric, later Lordship of Utrecht
  12. the Lordship of Frisia
  13. the Duchy of Guelders and the County of Zutphen
  14. the Lordships of Groningenmarker
  15. the Ommelandenmarker
  16. the Lordship of Drenthe, Lingenmarker, Weddemarker, and Westerwoldemarker
  17. the Lordship of Overijssel

It was not always the same Seventeen Provinces represented at the Estates-General of the Netherlands. Sometimes one delegation was included in another.

In later years the county of Zutphen became a part of the Duchy of Guelders, and the Duchy of Limburg was dependent on the Duchy of Brabant. On the other hand the French-speaking cities of Flanders were sometimes recognised as a separate province.

There were a number of fiefdoms in the Low Countries that were not part of the Seventeen Provinces, mainly because they did not belong to the Burgundian Circle but to the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle. The largest of these was the Prince-Bishopric of Liègemarker, the green area on the map, including the County of Hornemarker. The ethnically and culturally Netherlandish duchies of Clevesmarker and Julichmarker did not join either.In the north, there were also a few smaller entities like the island of Amelandmarker that would retain their own lords until the French Revolution.

Historians came up with different variations of the list. The number could have been chosen because of its Christian connotation.


The Seventeen Provinces originated from the Burgundian Netherlands. The dukes of Burgundy systematically became the lord of different provinces. Mary I of Valois, Duchess of Burgundy was the last of the House of Burgundy.

When she married Maximilian I of Habsburg, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the provinces were acquired by the House of Habsburg in 1482. His grandson and successor, Charles V of Habsburg, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and Duke of Burgundy, eventually united all seventeen provinces under his rule, the last one being the Duchy of Guelders, in 1543.

Most of these provinces were fiefs of the Holy Roman Empire. Two provinces, the County of Flanders and County of Artois, were originally French fiefs, but sovereignty was ceded to the Empire in the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529.

The Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 determined that the Provinces should remain united in the future and inherited by the same monarch. Therefore, Charles V introduced the title of Heer der Nederlanden ("Lord of the Netherlands"). Only he and his son could ever use this title.

After Charles V's abdication in 1556, his realms were divided between his son, Philip II of Habsburg, King of Spain, and his brother, Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor. The Seventeen Provinces went to his son, the king of Spain.

Conflicts between Philip II and his Dutch subjects led to the Eighty Years' War, which started in 1568. The seven northern provinces gained their independence as a republic called the Seven United Provinces. They were:

  1. the Lordship of Groningen and of the Ommelanden
  2. the Lordship of Friesland
  3. the Lordship of Overijssel
  4. the Duchy of Guelders (except its upper quarter) and the County of Zutphen
  5. the Prince-Bishopric, later Lordship of Utrecht
  6. the County of Holland
  7. the County of Zeeland

The southern provinces, Flanders, Brabant, Namur, Hainaut, Luxembourg a.o., were restored to Spanish rule thanks to the military and political talent of the Duke of Parma, especially at the Siege of Antwerp . Hence, these provinces became known as the Spanish Netherlands or Southern Netherlands.

The northern Seven United Provinces kept parts of Limburg, Brabant, and Flanders during the Eighty Years' War (see Generality Lands), which ended with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

Artois and parts of Flanders and Hainaut were ceded to Francemarker in the course of the 17th and 18th century.


the mid-16th century, the Margraviate of Antwerp (Duchy of Brabant) had become the economic, political, and cultural center of the Netherlands after its capital had shifted from the nearby Lordship of Mechelen to the city of Brusselsmarker.

Brugesmarker (County of Flanders) had already lost its prominent position as economic powerhouse of northern Europe. And Holland was gradually gaining importance in the 15th and 16th centuries.

However after the independence of the seven northern provinces and the resulting closure of the Scheldtmarker river to navigation, a large number of people from the southern provinces emigrated north to the new republic.

The center of prosperity moved from cities in the south such as Brugesmarker, Antwerpmarker, Ghentmarker, and Brusselsmarker to cities in the north, mostly Holland, including Amsterdammarker, the Haguemarker, and Rotterdammarker.


To distinguish between the older and larger Low Countries of the Netherlands from the current country of the Netherlands, Dutch speakers usually drop the plural for the latter. They speak of Nederland in singular for the current country and of de Nederlanden in plural for the integral domains of Charles V.

In other languages, this has not been adopted, though the larger area is sometimes known as the Low Countries in English.

The fact that the term Netherlands has such different historical meanings can sometimes lead to difficulties in expressing oneself correctly. For example, composers from the 16th century are often said to belong to the Dutch School (Nederlandse School). Although they themselves would not have objected to that term at that time, today it may wrongly create the impression that they were from the current Netherlands. In fact, they were almost exclusively from current Belgium.

Coats of arms

Image:Flag - Low Countries - XVth Century.png|XVII ProvincesImage:Artois Arms.svg|I. County of ArtoisImage:Coat_of_arms_of_Brabant.svg|II. Duchy of BrabantImage:Blason_de_Tournai.svg|III. Bishopric of Tournai
Image:Blason Nord-Pas-De-Calais.svg|IV. County of FlandersImage:WapenFriesland.gif|V. Lordship of FrieslandImage:Groningen coa.svg|VI. Lordship of Groningen and of the OmmelandenImage:Armoiries Gueldre ancien.png|VII. Duchy of Guelders
Image:Blason fr Hainaut ancien.svg|VIII. County of HainautImage:Counts of Holland Arms.svg|IX. County of HollandImage:Limburg New Arms.svg|X. Duchy of LimburgImage:Armoiries Comtes de Luxembourg.svg|XI. Duchy of Luxembourg
Image:COA Mechelen Belgium.jpg|XII. Lordship of MechelenImage:Namur Arms.svg|XIII. County of NamurImage:Overijssel coat.gif|XIV. Lordship of OverijsselImage:Coat_of_arms_of_Utrecht_city.gif‎|XV. Prince-Bishopric, later Lordship of Utrecht
Image:WapenZeeland.gif|XVI. County of ZeelandImage:Coat_of_arms_of_Zutphen.png|XVII. County of Zutphen

See also

Notes and references

  1. The Invention of the Dutchman: the Dynamics of Identity in the Low Countries, 1400-1600; international colloquium, 2007 Leiden University

External links

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