Burgundian Netherlands

Burgundian Netherlands

In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands refers to the period when the dukes of Burgundy ruled the area, as well as Luxembourg and parts of northern France, from 1384 to 1530.


A fair share (but not most) of these territories were inherited by the Burgundian dukes, a younger branch of the French royal house of Valois in 1384, upon the death of Louis de Mâle, count of Flanders. His heiress, Margaret III of Flanders had married Philip the Bold (1342–1404), youngest son of John II of France and the first of the Valois dukes of Burgundy, who thus inherited the counties of Flanders, Artois, Rethel, Burgundy, and Nevers. Together they initiated an era of Burgundian governance in the Low Countries.

The Burgundian territories were expanded with the county of Namur in 1421, the duchies of Brabant and Limburg in 1430, the counties of Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland in 1432, the duchy of Luxembourg in 1441 and the duchy of Guelders in 1473.

The Valois era would last until 1477, when the last Valois duke Charles the Bold died on the battlefield, leaving no male heir. The territorial Duchy of Burgundy reverted to the French crown (see Salic Law), and the Low Countries portion of the Duchy of Burgundy passed to the Habsburgs through Mary of Burgundy and her husband Maximilian of Habsburg to their son Philip the Handsome (see Seventeen Provinces).

The Burgundian dukes who ruled the Netherlandish territories were:

House of Valois, territorial Dukes of Burgundy

House of Valois, titular Duchess of Burgundy

House of Habsburg, titular Dukes of Burgundy


The sheer burden of variety of bishoprics and independent cities, the intensely local partisanship, the various taxation systems, weights and measures, internal customs barriers, fiercely defended local rights were a hindrance to a good Valois, but attempts at enlarging personal control by the dukes resulted in revolts among the independent towns, sometimes supported by independent local nobles, and bloody military suppression in response, and an increasingly modernized central government with a bureaucracy of clerks allowed the dukes to become celebrated art patrons and establish a glamorous court life that set conventions of behavior that lasted for centuries. Philip the Good (1419-1467) extended his personal control to the southeast bringing Brussels, Namur, and Liège under his control. He channeled the traditional independence of the cities through such mechanisms as the first Estates-General, and he consolidated the region's economy.

The Estates-General met for the first time in the City Hall of Bruges on 9 January 1464. It consisted of delegates of the Estates of Brabant, Flanders, Lille, Douai, Orchies, Artois, Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland, Namur, Mechelen and Boulonnais. Up to 1464, the Duke only maintained ties with each of the provincial States separately. In principle, the provincial Estates were composed of representatives of the three traditional estates: clergy, nobility and the Third Estate, but the exact composition of and the influence of each estate in the provincial Estates could differ. Convening an Estates-General in which all provincial Estates were represented was part of Philip the Good's policy of centralisation.

Ducal patronage

From 1441, Philip based his ducal court in Brussels, but Bruges was the center of commerce, though by the 1480s the inevitable silting of its harbor was bringing its economic hegemony to a close. Philip was a great patron of illuminated manuscripts and court painting reached new highs: Robert Campin, the van Eyck brothers, and Rogier van der Weyden

Social and economic

External links


  • Panofsky, Erwin, Early Netherlandish Painting
  • Prevenier, W. and Blockmans W., The Burgundian Netherlands Cambridge University Press 1986

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