Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
Also know as the Netherlands, Holland, the Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands.
- Relations: Peaceful, but cool. England has fought two wars with the Dutch already and they are natural rivals. Still, both nations are Protestant, and the English Court in exile resided for a long time in the Netherlands and Charles' sister, Mary, married Prince William of Orange, making William III of Orange (the later King William III) his nephew.
- Current Ruler: Republic
- Religion: Protestant
The Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands was a European Republic between 1581 and 1795, which is now known as the monarchy of the Netherlands. It consisted of seven provinces, the most important of which was Holland. The term Holland became another informal name for the republic.
In 1568, the Netherlands, led by prince William of Orange, revolted against the Spanish Philip II, Emperor of the Habsburg Empire, because of his efforts to modernize and centralize the devolved medieval government structures of the provinces, high taxes, and persecution of Protestants by the Catholic Church. It took till 1581before the Netherlands declared their independancy with William of Orange's Oath of Abjuration. After unsuccessfully trying to find a new king or lord, the Netherlands became a republic in 1588. The Republic of the United Provinces was officially recognized in the Peace of Westphalia (1648).
Each of the Provinces was ruled by the patricians of the time in a council, which delegated councillors to the States General, or the States for short. The States General was the government, led by the Grand Pensionary. Because of the popularity of the Prince of Orange as the rebellion leader, he was appointed Stadtholder as early as 1559. Even though it was a public office, it became defacto heriditary. William of Orange's sons Maurits and Frederik Hendrik became the subsequent stadtholders after their father was assassinated in 1584. The Dutch Stadtholder was the military Head of Chief, but despite legal limitations, the real political powers of the princes of Orange were far larger, helped by the near martial law in the Independence War.
From an economic perspective, the Republic of the United Provinces completely out-performed all expectations; it was a surprise to many that a nation, not based on the church or on a single royal leader, could be so successful. This time period is known in Holland as the Golden Age. The free trade spirit of the time — which some would argue was the Protestant spirit of the time — received a strong augmentation through the development of a modern — much better functioning —stock market in the Low Countries. From 1590-1670, the Dutch also enjoyed having the strongest navy in the world. This allowed for their varied conquests, including breaking the Portuguese sphere of influence on the Indian Ocean and on the Orient.
Inside the Dutch Republic there were two factions: The States Faction (mostly rich merchants/patricians) and the Orangist faction (the artisans and the poor following the princes of Orange).
Johan de Witt. Grand Pensionary (1653-1672) brought about peace with England after the First Anglo-Dutch War with the Treaty of Westminster in the year 1654. The peace treaty had a secret annex, the Act of Seclusion, forbidding the Dutch ever to appoint William II's infant son as new stadtholder. This annex had been attached on instigation of De Witt. De Witt did his utmost to prevent any member of the House of Orange from gaining any power, convincing many provinces to abolish the stadtholderate entirely. He bolstered his policy by publicly endorsing the theory of republicanism.
For the next thirteen years the Republic increased in wealth and influence under his leadership. De Witt created a strong navy, appointing one of his political cronies, Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, as supreme commander of the confederate fleet. Later De Witt became a personal friend of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter. The Second Anglo-Dutch War began in 1665, lasting until 1667 when it ended with the Treaty of Breda, in which De Witt negotiated very favorable agreements for the Republic after the partial destruction of the British fleet in the Raid on the Medway, originally conceived by De Witt himself (De Ruyter sailed up the Thames with a broom in his mast to wipe the English out!).
The Dutch War (1672– present) is a war fought between France and a quadruple alliance consisting of Brandenburg, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and the United Provinces. It had disastrous results for the Dutch who hence forth called 1672 The Disaster Year, effectively ending their superpower status.
France led a coalition including Münster and England. Louis XIV was annoyed by the Dutch refusal to cooperate in the destruction and division of the Spanish Netherlands (to the south of the Seven Provinces). As the Dutch army had been neglected since 1648, the French had no trouble after unexpectedly by-passing the fortress of Maastricht to march into the heart of the Republic, taking Utrecht.
The Orangists took power by force, accusing Johan de Witt of pro-French tendencies and expelling him. Prince William III of Orange was acclaimed stadtholder. Recovering from an earlier attempt on his life in June, Johan de Witt was assassinated by a carefully organised lynch "mob" after visiting his brother Cornelis de Witt in prison. He was decoyed into this trap by a forged letter, victim of a conspiracy by the orangists Johan Kievit and Lieutenant-Admiral Cornelis Tromp. He was killed by a shot in the neck; his naked body was hanged and mutilated and the heart was carved out to be exhibited. His brother was shot, stabbed, eviscerated alive, hanged naked, brained and partially eaten. It is assumed that his adversary and successor as leader of the government stadtholder William III of Orange was involved. At the very least he protected and rewarded the killers.
As the French had promised the major Hollandic cities to the English they were in no hurry to capture them, but tried to extort sixteen million guilders from the Dutch in exchange for a separate peace. This outrageous demand stiffened Dutch resistance and the negotiations gave the Republic time to flood the countryside by deliberate inundations, the Dutch Water Line, blocking any further French advance. The bishop of Münster laid siege to Groningen but failed. An attempt was made to invade the Republic by sea, but this was thwarted by Admiral Michiel de Ruyter in four strategic victories against the combined Anglo-French fleet (these events are usually called the Third Anglo-Dutch War). England then abandoned the war in 1674. Already, allies had joined the Dutch — the Elector of Brandenburg, the Emperor, and Charles II of Spain. Louis, despite the successful Siege of Maastricht in 1673, has been forced to abandon his plans of conquering the Dutch and revert to a slow, cautious war of attrition around the French frontiers.