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United Kingdom of the Netherlands (or Kingdom of the United Netherlands) (1815 - 1830) (1839) ( , ) was the unofficial name used to refer to a new unified European state created from part of the First French Empire during the Congress of Vienna in 1815. This state, officially called the "Kingdom of the Netherlands", was made up of the former Dutch republic (Republic of the Seven United Netherlands) to the north, the former Austrian Netherlands to the south, and the former Prince-Bishopric of Liègemarker. The House of Orange-Nassau came to be the monarchs of this new state.

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands collapsed after the 1830 Belgian Revolution. William I, King of the Netherlands, would refuse to recognize a Belgian state until 1839, when he had to yield under pressure by the Treaty of London.

Prince William of Orange-Nassau, the new sovereign of the Netherlands

After the liberation of the Netherlands in 1813 by Prussian and Russian troops, William Frederik of Orange-Nassau, (better known as William I of the Netherlands) the son of the last stadtholder William V of Orange-Nassau and Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, returned to The Hague to be granted the title Sovereign of The Netherlands on 2 December 1813.

Unification under King William I

During the Congress of Vienna in 1815 France had to give up its rule of the Southern Netherlands. These negotiations were not made easy, because William tried to get as much out of it as he could. His ideas of a United Netherlands were based upon the actions of Hendrik van der Noot, a lawyer and politician and one of the main players in the Revolution of the Southern Netherlands against the Austrian Emperor (1789-1790). In 1789, after the Southern Netherlands declared themselves independent, Hendrik knew this was a fragile state and he tried to be reunited with the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Since then William had never forgotten this and after the fall of Napoleon he saw a chance.

Three different scenarios were made:

  1. The Northern Netherlands restored within its old borders and the Southern Netherlands would become a barrier state under the rule of Great Power, like Austria.
  2. If the Southern Netherlands would stay (partially) French, the Northern Netherlands should be extended to the Nete River or probably the whole of Flanders. In this scenario also portions of Germany would become Dutch. Then the border would be the line Mechelenmarker-Maastrichtmarker-Jülichmarker-Cologne-Düsseldorfmarker where it ends at the river Rhinemarker.
  3. France within its old borders, the Northern Netherlands unified with the Southern Netherlands and all of German territories on the left bank of the Rhine and north of the Mosellemarker and the old Duchy of Bergmarker and the old Lands of Nassau on the right bank of the Rhine.

The first two scenarios came from "Memorandum of Holland" made in 1813 after the Battle of Leipzigmarker. The last scenario came from William himself. The first scenario never made it because the Great Powers (Great Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia) thought an independent Southern Netherlands/Belgium under an Austrian Prince was too weak and Austria was not interested in getting it back.

The Dutch question became a problem. The Great Powers of Europe chose the last scenario, but didn't want to go as far in enlarging the Netherlands as William.

In the end William was granted the following lands:

The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands
The Austrian Netherlands within its borders of 1789 (so without French Flanders)
The Prince-Bishopric of Liège, but on Prussia's behalf small changes were made to its borders

The Duchy of Luxembourg was not fully granted to William, because it was a member of the German Confederationmarker. William however demanded that Luxembourg became a part of the Netherlands, as a unified Netherlands was stronger as a buffer for France. Historically it had been a part of the Netherlands (Seventeen Provinces or Burgundian Netherlands), up to 1648, but Luxembourg was still a part of the discussions.

On 1 March 1815, while the Congress of Vienna was still going on, Napoleon escaped from Elbamarker and he created a large army against the Great Powers of Europe. He was defeated at the Battle of Waterloomarker by Prussian, British, Belgian, Dutch and Nassau (under the prince of Orange) troops.

William no longer hesitated and with permission of the Great Powers of Europe on 16 March 1815 he made himself King William I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Luxembourg became a Grand-Duchy in personal union with the Netherlands and stayed a member of the German Confederation, being garrisoned by Prussian troops on behalf of the Dutch king.

With the unification William completed the dream of his ancestor William of Orange (also known as William the Silent), who started it in 1579.

Power of the King

The newly formed kingdom was not like the Netherlands or Belgium today. By the constitution, King William was granted much more power than a King or Queen in a modern constitutional monarchy.

The Second Chamber of the States-General of the Netherlands had 110 members, of which 55 were chosen by the north and 55 were chosen by the south. The First Chamber consisted of noblemen, old and new nobles, who were granted the position by King William.

The Netherlands had eight ministers who did not have to answer to the Second Chamber, but only to the King himself. In fact they were following his demands. The King also could rule by "Royal Order".

Economic and social development

Economically the new state prospered, although many people in the north were unemployed and lived in poverty because a lot of English goods had destabilised the Dutch trade market.

Although financially stable, the south also had the burden of the nation's debt, but gained via the new trade markets of the Dutch colonies. Still, many people in the south lived in poverty because the profits of trade were being used for big projects.

William tried to divide the nation's wealth more equally by the following:
  • Constructing new roads
  • Digging new canals and widening/deepening existing canals:(North-Holland canal, Canal from Gent to Terneuzenmarker, Brussels-Charleroi Canalmarker, Moselle canal, canal of Liegemarker)
  • Extending the steel industry to the south
  • Instating the Metric System
  • Levying new import and export taxes
  • Opening the harbour of Antwerpmarker

By these actions the export of cotton, sheets, weapons and steel products increased. The fleet of Antwerp grew to 117 ships. Many of these projects were funded by King William himself.

Also, the educational system was extended. Under William's rule the number of school-going children was doubled from 150,000 to 300,000 by opening 1,500 new public schools. The south especially needed schools because many people could not read or write.

In 1825 William founded the Dutch Trading Company (Dutch: Nederlandse Handels Maatschappij), to boost trade with the colonies.

The way to separation

Social differences

Socially the unification created many problems. The Burgundian and Calvinistic mentalities did not tolerate each other very well. The French-speaking elite acted in their personal interest by using the differences in religion, mentality, life style and communication. Both the north and the south had a different historical background and the Dutch and French speaking people both were afraid of being overruled by each other. France played a role in this by the "Legion belge et parisienne", financed with private funds but with permission of the French government, to make a unification with France possible.

Religious and political differences

Religion was also a reason for separation. While the north was dominantly Protestant, the south was Catholic. The Catholic Church saw its influence declining in favour of the king. He built over 1,500 state schools where the Church was no longer the provider of education. Also the north had built up an independent history, and had experienced a golden age. So the Dutch people saw Belgium more as a territorial gain than a partner. This was used by the church and the French-speaking elite to create anti-Dutch feelings which led to the Belgian revolution.

See also

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