Belgium History: from the Origins to the End of Spanish Domination

By | October 13, 2021

Belgium, as a political state, only exists since 1830, when, following the revolt of Brussels and some provinces against Dutch domination, an independent nation was established under the name of Kingdom of the Belgians. The study of the country’s history, however, concerns the region bounded by the Seine, Marne and Rhine rivers, as well as the North Sea, a region whose borders no longer coincide with those of today. Any attempt to reconstruct the past before the Roman occupation (1st century BC) is difficult and unsatisfactory. According to globalsciencellc, the region was mainly inhabited by Celts: we know the names of the populations of the Aduatuci, the Nervi and the Eburoni, etc., who opposed a strong resistance to Julius Caesar. In fact, he undertook from 57 to 51 a. C. to be able to defeat those communities. Thus was born Belgium, a designation given by the Romans to the northern part of Gaul, and already in the century. I, after the Roman unification, the fundamental characteristics of this region and its history emerged: no real territorial unity, no racial unity, more commercial than cultural ties (phenomena still present and found in the bilingualism of the Walloons, of the Gallo- Roman, and of the Flemings, Thiois, of Frankish descent). The Belgium created by Caesar was divided in the century. III, under Diocletian, in Belgica prima (capital Trier) and in Belgica secunda (capital Reims).

It should be noted that the influence of the Roman occupation (from 50 a. C. to 450 d. C. approx) was more sensitive to the south and the north, where pressing the Franks, who indeed invaded numerous times Belgium to starting from 250 d. C., thus managing to occupy it entirely in the century. V d. C. (it will be a Frankish king, Clovis, to extend the occupation to the whole Gaul, 486-507). At the death of Clovis, in 511, the conquered regions were divided among his sons: Belgica first became part of the Kingdom of Austrasia and Belgica secunda of the Kingdom of Neustria. From the century VI to VIII the history of Belgium coincides with that of the families of the Merovingian and Carolingian kings; the latter consolidated their great power in this region. Divided in two by Charlemagne, Belgium was again divided in 843, with the Treaty of Verdun, when after the death of Louis the Pious (840) it was divided among the sons of this emperor; the river Schelda became the internal border that separated the part touched to Charles the Bald, and including Flanders, from that touched to Lothair, and called Lotharingia. The latter, in a period of complicated disputes between France and Germany, passed between 870 and 880 to Germany, to become in 925 a German possession increasingly linked, especially during the reign of Otto I after the victory of Andernach (939), to the destinies of the Teutonic Empire, of which for one hundred and fifty years it constituted a province.

In fact, only after the investiture struggle (1076-1122) was able to become independent again, freeing himself both from the supremacy of the Empire (his duke in fact was no longer called imperial governor since then), and from the supremacy of the bishops. Starting from this era, we witnessed throughout the country, as well as in the neighboring Dutch regions, the birth of various principalities – the result of a complex feudal fragmentation of powers – which will become more and more autonomous. For Lotharingia the two most important were the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Hainaut, which however disappeared in the century. XV, after the male lines of the respective dynasties of Brabant and Hainaut-Holland with John III of Brabant (d. 1355) and Guillaume d’Avesnes had already died out in the previous century (d. 1345). As for the region including Flanders, it was first consolidated under Charles the Bald (823-877), but above all starting from the marriage contracted by Baldwin I (called Popeye) with the daughter of Charles the Bald, Giuditta, when the country became a county. The reigning dynasty founded by Baldovino ruled the country until 1127, the date of the death of Charles the Good, the last descendant of the family. Flanders then became the scene of bloody struggles that lasted for several decades, which ended the Treaty of Melun (1226) which regulated the relations of the counts of Flanders with the kings of France. Then there were wars between the d’Avesnes and Dampierre families and the Hundred Years War, until the whole region passed in 1384 under the dominion of the Dukes of Burgundy after the death of Louis of Male. Starting from this date, the history of Flanders merges with that of the Duchy of Burgundy and we witness the foundation of the so-called Netherlands – the Belgica of the humanists starting from the century. XV – which dates back to the marriage of the daughter of Charles the Bold, Maria of Burgundy, with Maximilian I of Habsburg.

To this group of countries, united by complex ties, Charles V, grandson of Maximilian of Habsburg, added, during his reign over Belgium, the region of Groningen, the bishopric of Utrecht and Overijssel. The Spanish domination, which began during the reign of this emperor, will leave deep traces in the history of the Netherlands; it was under Philip II of Spain that the first nationalistic revolts broke out which had their heroes in the figures of Lamoraal Egmontand the Count of Hornes, executed in Brussels in 1568 by order of the king. Also under Philip II the revolt against Spanish domination took place, essentially motivated by the internal struggles between Protestants and Catholics, which was resolved with the division of the Netherlands into two parts (1579): the northern provinces became ” United Provinces “And were independent, while the southern provinces, the so-called Spanish (or Catholic) Netherlands, with the Union of Arras favored the continuation of the Spanish occupation until the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 with which they were returned to the house of Austria, except the French possessions conquered by Louis XIV and the region ceded to Holland (Treaty of the barrier). An independent state escaped this complex system of interference and external conquests, the Episcopal Principality of Liège (built in the 8th century) which was joined by the Duchy of Bouillon, which retained its sovereignty for long centuries, until in 1791 it was annexed to the French Republic, in 1815 to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, to finally become an integral part of Belgium in 1830.

Belgium History - from the Origins to the End of Spanish Domination