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The Austrian Netherlands (Dutch: Oostenrijkse Nederlanden; French: Pays-Bas Autrichiens; German: Österreichische Niederlande; Latin: Belgium Austriacum) was the larger part of the Southern Netherlands between 1714 and 1797. The period began with the acquisition of the former Spanish Netherlands under the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 and lasted until its annexation during the aftermath of the Battle of Sprimont in 1794 and the Peace of Basel in 1795. Austria, however, did not relinquish its claim over the province until 1797 in the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrian Netherlands was a noncontiguous territory that consisted of what is now western Belgium as well as greater Luxembourg, bisected by the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The dominant languages were German (including Luxembourgish), Dutch (Flemish), and French, along with Picard and Walloon.[citation needed]

Austrian Netherlands
Österreichische Niederlande
Pays-Bas Autrichiens
Oostenrijkse Nederlanden
Belgium Austriacum
Province of Austria
State of the Holy Roman Empire
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
The Austrian Netherlands in 1789.
Capital Brussels
Languages German, French, Dutch, Latin
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Governorate
 •  1716–1724 Francis Eugene (first)
 •  1793–1794 Charles Louis (last)
 •  1714–1716 Lothar Dominik (first)
 •  1793–1794 Franz Karl (last)
Historical era Early Modern
 •  Treaty of Rastatt 7 March 1714
 •  Treaty of Fontainebleau 8 November 1785
 •  Brabant Revolution 1789–1790
 •  Battle of Sprimont 18 September 1794
 •  Treaty of Campo Formio 1797
Currency Kronenthaler
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Spanish Netherlands
French First Republic
Today part of  Belgium

As a result of the Barrier Treaty, the Holy Roman emperor Charles VI showed little apparent interest in the day-to-day rule of the Austrian Netherlands; yet he insisted on keeping ultimate control of the territories concerned. This caused quite a lot of frustration with Austria's own inhabitants, especially because the Dutch troops were paid with money that needed to be raised from the Austrian Netherlands themselves. The situation would last until the 1740s, when Charles's daughter and successor Maria Theresa refused to pay for those troops any longer.

The war of 1740-1748 showed that the fortifications manned with Dutch troops were easy for the French army to overrun. When Austria and France entered into an alliance in 1756, there was in effect no purpose in the barrier treaty any more. In 1781, Emperor Joseph II of Austria unilaterally renounced the treaty.



Under the Treaty of Rastatt (1714), following the War of the Spanish Succession, the surviving portions of the Spanish Netherlands were ceded to Austria.

The Austrians were unconcerned with the upkeep of their province and the fortresses along the border (the Barrier Fortresses) were, by treaty, garrisoned with Dutch troops. The area had, in fact, been given to Austria largely at British and Dutch insistence, as these powers feared potential French domination of the region.

Map of the Austrian Netherlands, bisected by the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.

Charles VI attempted to use the Austrian Netherlands to compete with British and Dutch traders in an enterprise known as the Ostend Company.[citation needed]

Throughout the latter part of the eighteenth century, the principal foreign policy goal of the Habsburg rulers was to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria, which would round out Habsburg possessions in southern Germany. In the Treaty of Versailles of 1757, Austria agreed to the creation of an independent state in the Southern Netherlands ruled by Philip, Duke of Parma and garrisoned by French troops in exchange for French help in recovering Silesia. However, the agreement was later revoked by the Treaty of Versailles of 1758 and Austrian rule continued.[citation needed]

In 1784 Joseph II did take up the long-standing grudge of Antwerp, whose once-flourishing trade was destroyed by the permanent closure of the Scheldt, and demanded that the Dutch Republic open the river to navigation. However, the Emperor's stance was far from militant, and he called off hostilities after the so-called Kettle War, known by that name because its only "casualty" was a kettle. Though Joseph did secure in the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1785 that the Southern Netherlands would be compensated by the Dutch Republic for the continued closing the Scheldt, this achievement failed to gain him much popularity.[citation needed]

Brabant RevolutionEdit

In the 1780s, opposition emerged to the liberal reforms of Emperor Joseph II, which were perceived as an attack on the Catholic Church and the traditional institutions in the Austrian Netherlands. Resistance, focused in the autonomous and wealthy Estates of Brabant and Flanders, grew. In the aftermath of rioting and disruption, known as the Small Revolution, in 1787, many of opponents took refuge in the neighboring Dutch Republic where they formed a rebel army. Soon after the outbreak of the French and Liège revolutions, the émigré army crossed into the Austrian Netherlands and decisively defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Turnhout in October 1789. The rebels, supported by uprisings across the territory, soon took control over much of the territory and proclaimed independence. Despite the tacit support of Prussia, the independent United Belgian States, established in January 1790, received no foreign recognition and soon became divided along ideological lines. The Vonckists, led by Jan Frans Vonck, advocated progressive and liberal government, whereas the Statists, led by Hendrik Van der Noot, were staunchly conservative and supported by the Church. The Statists, who had a wider base of support, soon drove the Vonckists into exile through a terror. [1]

By mid-1790, Habsburg Austria ended its war with the Ottoman Empire and prepared to suppress the rebels. The new Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II, was also a liberal and proposed an amnesty for the rebels. After defeating a Statist army at the Battle of Falmagne, the territory was soon overrun and the revolution was defeated by December. The Austrian reestablishment was short-lived, however, and the territory was soon overrun by the French during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Imperial Councillors of StateEdit

The Councillors of state acted as government, and formed the council by imperial consent:[1]

  • The Baron von Reischach, Imperial Diplomat
  • Cardinal von Migazzi
  • Cardinal von Frankenberfg
  • the Baron of Gottignies, Imperial Lord Chamberlain
  • Philippe von Cobenzl, vice Chancellor of the Imperial Council of State.
  • Henri d'Ognies, Prince of Grimberghen, Imperial Lord Chamberlain
  • the Count of Neny; president of the Privy Council, member of the Imperial Council of State
  • the Count of Woestenraedt, Imperial Lord Chamberlain.
  • the Marquess of Chasteler, Lord Chamberlain
  • the Count of Gomegnies, President of the Council of Hainaut
  • the Viscount of Villers; Imperial Treasurer General
  • the Prince of Gavre: Grand Marshall of the Imperial Court of the Archduchess.

French ruleEdit

In 1794, the armies of the French Revolution annexed the Austrian Netherlands and integrated them into the French Republic.


  1. ^ Almanach de la cour de Bruxelles sous les dominatione autrichienne et francaise, la monarchie des Pays-Bas et le gouvernement belge, de 1725 a 1840 (etc.)


  • Heinrich Benedikt. Als Belgien österreichisch war. Herold, Vienna, 1965.