Republic of the Seven United Provinces

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Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Provinciën
Republic of the Seven United Provinces
Flag of the netherlands
Coat of arms of the Netherlands
flag coat of arms
Official language Dutch
capital city No; de facto The Hague
Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden de.svg
Template: Infobox State / Maintenance / NAME-GERMAN

The Republic of the Seven United Provinces , also known as the United Netherlands or Republic of the United Netherlands ( Dutch Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Provinciën or Verenigde Nederlanden ) or the States General , but also with the term Belgica Foederata , was an early modern state on the territory of the northern Netherlands and a forerunner of today's Dutch state.

The Republic of the Seven United Provinces emerged from the rebellion of the Habsburg Netherlands against Philip II of Spain in 1581 and achieved complete independence from the Spanish Habsburgs in the Eighty Years' War (with breaks until 1648) . The republic, actually a rather loose, if permanent alliance of more or less independent small states, existed as one of the few and best-known republics of the early modern period until 1795, when it was replaced by the new Batavian republic in the course of the export of the French revolution .



The entire seventeen provinces of the Burgundian Netherlands , which in addition to the present-day Netherlands also included present-day Belgium and Luxembourg , fell to the House of Habsburg in 1477 . For the most part they belonged to the Holy Roman Empire (formally until 1648). After the Reformation , under the Catholic Spanish monarch Philip II (1556–1598), violent religious tensions and attempts at centralization resulted in the Dutch War of Independence, the so-called Eighty Years War , in 1568 , in which the Dutch provinces used their local privileges against the sought to defend the attacks of the central power forced by the Spanish Habsburg king and his governors.


During the Eighty Years' War between the Spanish and the Dutch, the seventeen provinces were split and the Union of Utrecht was founded in 1579, when various northern provinces and cities formed a defensive alliance against Philip II. In 1581, the northern Netherlands officially renounced the Spanish monarch in Plakkaat van Verlatinghe and deposed him as their sovereign . This is considered to be the birth of the United Netherlands.

Although the northern Netherlands no longer had a monarch, this did not mean a preliminary decision for the republican form of government, which was rather unusual in the early modern period, if not unknown . Instead, the Dutch subsequently looked for a new princely sovereign who would support the provinces in their fight against the Habsburgs, but not restrict the privileges and traditional rights of the Dutch estates. One by one, the Dutch turned to François de Valois , brother of the French King Henry III. , and to Queen Elizabeth I of England (who made the Netherlands a de facto protectorate in 1585/86 under Governor General Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester ). However, both alliances ultimately failed due to the resistance of the Dutch regent oligarchy against the respective attempts at centralization. It was only this failure that ultimately meant the decision in favor of a republican form of government and the renunciation of a princely sovereign as patron.

Even though the Republic of the Seven United Provinces had become de facto independent at the latest after the end of the English protectorate in 1587 and subsequently experienced an impressive rise to an economic, cultural and political great power (see Golden Age ), the status of international law still remained provinces claimed by Spain were disputed until the middle of the 17th century. It was not until the end of the Eighty Years' War with Spain in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that the United Netherlands was officially recognized as an independent sovereign state.

Constitutional shape and development

The Republic of the United Netherlands did not have a written constitution. Instead, the extremely complex constitutional structure of the state was based on the provisions of the Utrecht Union of 1579, which was intended more as a defensive alliance, as well as traditional laws. In addition to obvious republican constitutional elements (it did not contain any regulation regarding a princely sovereign), there were also dynastic, monarchical or quasi-monarchical elements. This includes v. a. the position of the governor , who, with military authority and special rights, played an important role as a power factor (especially in times of war), but also as a figure of identification with an integrative function for the entire republic.

The republic was not a central state , but a confederation of provinces, each of which saw itself as sovereign and only decided on certain matters - such as national defense or foreign policy - jointly at the federal level. The highest common body was the States General as an assembly of estates, to which the individual provinces sent representatives with imperative mandates and which represented the community to the outside world. The seven provinces were Holland , Zeeland , Groningen , Utrecht , Friesland , Gelderland and Overijssel . These still exist today in almost the same form as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands . In addition, the province of Drente , which is still in the shadow of the other provinces, was part of this federation, but without voting rights in the States General. In addition, there was the jointly administered territory of the generals land , which was conquered in the course of the war against Spain .

The most important province of the Union was the province of Holland, which assumed a hegemonic position due to its economic power and also appeared as a decisive force externally. Within Holland and thus also within the state as a whole, the small urban ruling class dominated , who shaped the image of the Netherlands as an urban-dominated oligarchic rule . The most important counterweight against this oligarchic elite was the governor , who traditionally came from the House of Orange and played the role of a quasi-monarch for long stretches of the history of the republic. The constant conflict between the person of the governor or his followers, the so-called orangists , and the oligarchic rulers is reflected in v. a. in the times without governor (1650–1672 and 1702–1747), in which the most important provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht did without a governor after tough power struggles. Only after the second period without governor was the governorship officially hereditary with the Orange Restoration of 1747 and the appointment of William IV of Orange as governor of all provinces.

End of the republic

After the Orange Restoration under Wilhelm IV and his successor Wilhelm V of Orange , who had been governor since 1751 , there was increasing resistance to the in the course of the second half of the 18th century, especially in enlightened circles who demanded more “democratic” participation existing power structures. The aging institutional structure of the republic turned out to be incapable and unwilling to implement reforms that could have protected the state against growing revolutionary pressure. After the failed democratic “ patriotic ” revolt against the Orange in 1785 and the renewed Restoration in 1787, revolutionary France finally declared war in 1793 and in 1794/95 French troops invaded the Netherlands and the Orange were expelled. As a result, the old republic was overthrown as a French revolutionary export by exiles of the 1780s and replaced by the new Batavian republic , which, as a French subsidiary republic and unitary state, broke with the old system and also introduced numerous innovations to the French republic in the Netherlands. The Batavian Republic existed until 1806 before it was replaced by the Napoleonic Kingdom of Holland .

The tradition of the old republic was continued in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was formed in 1814/15 , when Wilhelm VI. of Orange , the son of the last heir William V , was made King of the Netherlands. However, the provinces did not regain their former position of power and the Netherlands remained a monarchy to this day.


The seven provinces with their area in geographical square miles and the number of inhabitants with a status of 1795:

province Area QM resident Belonging
Friesland 55 161,513 11 cities, 336 towns and villages
Gelderland 115 217,828 20 cities, 2 spots
Groningen 40 114,555 3 cities, 165 villages
Holland 125 828,542 37 cities, 3 spots, 400 villages
Overijssel 112 135.060 16 cities, 165 villages
Utrecht 32 92,964 5 cities, 65 towns and villages
Zeeland 30th 82,212 11 cities, 110 towns and villages

In addition:

This means that 44 percent of the total population of 1.88 million lived in the province of Holland.

See also


Web links

Commons : Republic of the Seven United Provinces  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Horst Lademacher : History of the Netherlands . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1983, ISBN 3-534-07082-8 , p. 76.
  2. Horst Lademacher: History of the Netherlands . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1983, p. 176.
  3. Horst Lademacher: History of the Netherlands . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1983, p. 210.
  4. ^ Johann Adolph Friedrich Randel: Statistical overview of the most distinguished German and all European states , 1786 p. 114 ( Google Books )
  5. Albrecht Christoph Kayser: Holland's state constitution until it was changed by the French in January 1795 , Hof: Grau 1795, Appendix I. ( Münster State Library )
  6. ^ Carl von Rotteck : General Political Annals , Volume 7, Cotta'sche Buchhandlung, 1831, p. 99 ( Google Books )