Bourgeois of Brussels

In Brussels, as in most European cities,[1] one needed the capacity of bourgeois (equivalent to German burgher or English burgess; in French bourgeois or citoyen[2] de Bruxelles; in Dutch poorter or borger van Brussel; in Latin civis[3] or oppidanus[4] Bruxellensis) in order to not only exercise political rights, but also to practice a trade, which, in Brussels, meant to be a member of the Guilds or of the Seven Noble Houses. The charter of Brussels, as codified in 1570 in articles 206 and following, provided the conditions of admission to the bourgeoisie of the city.[5] The Bourgeois were the patrician class of the city. This social class was abolished by Napoleon during the French occupation.

Capacity of bourgeoisEdit

The non-bourgeois inhabitants, called "inhabitants" in French and "ingesetene" in Dutch, have none of these political rights, but are not less protected by communal laws, and can appeal to urban justice, as well as buy property. The capacity of Bourgeois, which implied an oath, was seen as a pledge of loyalty to the city and the urban community.

In Brussels, the bourgeois were sometimes called "poorters" name often given to citizens of important cities called walled cities. This word derives from the Dutch word fallen into disuse poorte,[6] city or place closed by walls, like the imposing stone houses that the rich bourgeois of the Seven Noble Houses lived in during the early days of the city, and to which was also given the name of "poorte" or "porta" in Latin, and whose synonym was "herberg" or "hostel" and which are also called steen. Each of these "poorte" had a name, for example: "Poorte van den Galoyse", "Poorte van Coeckelberg", "Gouden Poorte", "Priemspooerte", the "Raempoorte" (in Overmolen), "porta t 'Serclaes' known as 'the Palace', 'Slozenpoorte' (on the Sablon), 'Poorte van de Tafelronde' or 'Poorte van Vianen'.

The European Medieval practice of naming houses was rich and varied in Brussels.

The capacity of bourgeois, that is to say of citizen of a city having political rights in opposition to the simple inhabitants, forms the base of the urban organisation of cities. This urban system in Europe dates back for many cities still existing today to Greco-Latin antiquity, others were founded around the year one thousand.[7] This system of urban civilization developed in parallel to the rural civilization rooted in the Neolithic era.[8]

Abolition by NapoléonEdit

Under Napoleon, the Law abolished for good, in the territories that were submitted to France, the differences of status between cities and countryside and abolished the quality of bourgeois or citizen of a city. In other parts of Europe, as it is now in Switzerland (Swiss bourgeoisie), this system has endured. In Germany it was slowly abolished, and only Hamburg and Bremen retain the Hanseatic designation freie Stadt from their days as free imperial cities.

Subsisting bourgeois families of BrusselsEdit

The following is a chronological list of surviving Brussels bourgeois families[9] with the date of admission and of which of the Seven Noble Houses (Lignages in French) they currently descend from, if any. Namely, the houses of Sweerts, Sleeus, Steenweeghs, Roodenbeke, Serroelofs, Coudenbergh, and Serhuyghs.

Middle AgesEdit

15th CenturyEdit

  • 1447, approximately,   Leyniers family (Houses of Coudenbergh, Sweerts and Sleeus).
  • 1452, approximately,   d'Arschot family, then van Schoonhoven, then d'Arschot-Schoonhoven (House of t'Serroelofs)
  • 1458, 11 January,   van Droogenbroeck family (House of Sweerts)
  • 1458, 9 August, van Cotthem family (House of Sweerts)
  • 1460, approximately,   Meeûs family, (Houses of Sweerts and Sleeus)
  • 1461, approximately, Devadder ou de Vaddere family.
  • 1487, 9 July, Aelbrechts said de Borsere family (House of Roodenbeke)
  • 1488, 9 May, van Droogenbroeck family (House of Roodenbeke)
  • 1489, approximately,   t'Kint, then t'Kint de Roodenbeke family (House of Roodenbeke)
  • 1490,   Van der Meulen family
  • 1490, approximately, Jambers family
  • 1490, 4 December Ranspoet family (House of Roodenbeke):
  • 1492, 27 June, O(l)brechts dit de Vos family (House ofRoodenbeke):
  • 1498, 6 April Moyensoen family (House of Roodenbeke):

16th CenturyEdit

17th CenturyEdit

  • 1601, approximately,   van der Borcht family (Houses of Sweerts and Sleeus).
  • 1608-1609, van Berchem family.
  • 1611-1612, Roberti family.
  • 1617-1618,   van Dievoet family (Houses of Sweerts, Sleeus, Serhuyghs, t'Serroelofs, Coudenbergh, Roodenbeke and Steenweeghs) (also bourgeois of Paris until 1802, where the family was called Vandive).
  • 1619-1620, van der Belen family (House of Sweerts).
  • 1623-1624, Maskens family (House of Serhuygs).
  • 1626-1627,   de Viron family (House of Sweerts).
  • 1633-1634,   Dansaert family.
  • 1637 and 1655, Blondeau family.
  • 1649, 3 July,   Orts family (House of Sweerts).
  • 1655, 12 January, Blondeau.
  • 1668, de Burbure family.
  • 1683, 20 January, Deudon family.
  • 1696, 22 March, Poot family or Poot-Baudier family (House of Sweerts).
  • 1698, approximately, Heyvaert family.
Joseph Poelaert (1817-1879), a Belgian architect who designed the Law Courts of Brussels, is a member of a Bourgeois family of the city.

18th CenturyEdit

  • 1707, 12 October, Drugman family.
  • 1711, 7 January, de Meurs family.
  • 1712, 14 June, Demeure family.
  • 1711, 3 June, Brinck family (the family moved to Canada) (House of Serhuyghs).
  • 1729, 29 January, Fanuel family (currently House of Sweerts).
  • 1733, 22 September, Cattoir family.
  • 1741, 21 June, de Reus family (House of Serhuyghs).
  • 1745, 10 February, Picqué family.
  • 1752, 24 February, Triest family (House of Sleeus).
  • 1752, 29 May, and 1755, 18 February,   Allard family.
  • 1753, 10 March, Stinglhamber family (of Bavarian origins).
  • 1764, 16 June, van Cutsem family.
  • 1766, 19 September, Walckiers family (House of Coudenbergh).
  • 1767, 3 August, Marousé family.
  • 1768, 17 June, Hap family (House of Serhuyghs).
  • 1769, 14 July, Lequime family.
  • 1776, 8 February, Héger family.
  • 1782, 8 April,   Poelaert family.
  • 1783, 12 February, de Voghel family (House of Serhuyghs).
  • 1785, 14 January, van Hoegaerden family.
  • 1786, 11 December,   van Hoorde family.
  • 1794, 27 May,   Wittouck family.
  • 1794, 10 September, D'Ieteren family.
  • 1794, 16 December, Pitseys (Putseys) family.
  • 1795, 7 January, Becquet family.
  • 1795, 29 January, Janlet family.
  • 1795, 9 March, Van Nuffel family.
  • 1795, 20 May, Wielemans family (House of Coudenbergh).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History of Europe - The bourgeoisie". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  2. ^ During the Ancien Regime, the following were used indiscriminately: in Dutch, borger van Brussel and poorter van Brussel, In Latin: civis Bruxellensis and oppidanus Bruxellensis and in French: bourgeois de Bruxelles and citoyen de Bruxelles. See: 1644: Steven Ydens, Histoire du S. Sacrament de miracle: gardé a Bruxelles, 1644, p. 36: (FRENCH) "En la susdite année mille quatre cens trente six, un honnorable personnage nommé Gilles du Mont Chevalier & citoyen de Bruxelles, fit eriger une Chappelle au mesme lieu, ou le miracle estoit advenu : & y fonda trois Messes à dire": 1755: Gabriel Dupac de Bellegarde, Mémoires historiques sur l'affaire de la bulle Unigenitus, 1755, p. 446: Mais cette cruelle inquisition a été encore poussée plus loin à l'égard de M. du Cellier ecclésiastique, citoyen de Bruxelles, mort le 14 du mois; 1783: Jean Baptiste Lesbroussart, De l'éducation belgique ou Réflexions sur le plan d'études, adopté 1783, p. 14: tandis que l'autre jouirait de la lumière des lettres à quel tître le fils d'un citoyen de Louvain, d'Anvers, ou de Gand reçevrait-il une autre"; 1785: Theodore Augustine Mann, Abrégé de l'histoire ecclésiastique, civile et naturelle, 1785, volume 1, p. 50: "Un citoyen de Bruxelles ne sera emprisonné ailleurs que dans cette ville même. Personne ne pourra se saisir d'un citoyen, que le seul Amman ou ses sergens".
  3. ^ Example: in Collection de mémoires relatifs à l'histoire de Belgique, Société de l'histoire de Belgique, n° 16, Brussels, 1863, p. 114: "in hoc loco insignis quidam vir ex aula Imperatoris, civis Bruxellensis, qui narrabat se iterum atque iterum monachum convenisse de quibusdam negotiis, quae tum ad meam, tum aliorum causam pertinerent."
  4. ^ F. Favresse, L'avènement du régime démocratique à Bruxelles pendant le moyen, 1932: "Arnoldus de Lapide, oppidanus Bruxellensis, est cité en août 1244", or Édouard Terwecoren, Collections de précis historiques, Brussels, 1869, p. 286: "honestus vir Jacobus Taie, oppidanus Bruxellensis, alter magistrorum fabricae ecclesiae beatae Gudulae, aetatis annorum LXX vel circiter"
  5. ^ Recueil des anciennes coutumes de la Belgique, published by order of the King of the Belgians, under the direction of the Justice Ministre, by a special commission, Coutumes du Pays et duché de Brabant, quartier de Bruxelles, Volume 1, Coutumes de la ville de Bruxelles, by A. De Cuyper, advisor to the Court of Cassation, member of the Royal Commission for the publication of ancient laws and ordonnances of Belgium, Brussels, Fr. Gobbaerts, printer (publisher) of the King, successeur d’Emm. Devroye, rue de Louvain 40, Brussels, 1869.[1]
  6. ^ Word listed by Jan Louys D'Arcy, Het groote woorden-boeck, vervattende den schat der Nederlandtsche tale, met een Fransche uyt-legginge, Rotterdam, printed by Pieter van Waesberghe, 1651. The word poort-grave is also derived from this word, meaning mayor of the city.
  7. ^ Henri Pirenne, Les villes du Moyen Âge, essai d’histoire économique et sociale, Bruxelles, Lamertin, 1927. [2] Archived 2012-02-06 at the Wayback Machine, also : Les villes et les institutions urbaines, Alcan, 1939.
  8. ^ Pierre Bonenfant, Professor at the Brussels University, "Racines préhistoriques de la Wallonie", in Histoire de la Wallonie published under the direction of Léopold Genicot, Toulouse, Privat, 1973, p.37-39: (FR)

    Il n'y a pas si longtemps, tout compte fait, que notre Préhistoire est révolue. Dans l'angle nord-ouest de l'Europe, la vie, durant le haut Moyen Âge, a ressemblé de très près, matériellement et socialement, à ce qu'elle avait été à l'âge du Fer, soit que la tradition s'en fût purement et simplement maintenue, comme ce fut le cas hors des limites de l'Empire romain, soit qu'elle ait repris vigueur, ce qui advint en deçà de ces limites. Dans le domaine des techniques, l'archéologie ne cesse de multiplier les preuves de cette situation. (...) Forges, charronnages ou poteries rurales sont, au début du Moyen Âge, tout à fait dans la tradition de l'âge du Fer. Tandis que notre mode traditionnel d'agriculture, fondé à la fois sur l'élevage pour la viande et le lait et sur la culture du blé, remonte plus haut encore: à l'origine même du Néolithique européen continental (Danubien), c'est-à-dire au Ve millénaire au moins. Il n'en va pas autrement du plan dispersé de nos villages qui s'oppose à l'habitat fortement groupé que connaît l'Orient dès le Néolithique. Et la même origine vaut pour nos vieilles chaumières aux murs de colombage, hourdés de torchis et coiffés d'un toit à double pente. (...) Ajoutons que nos campagnes ont conservé parfois jusqu'à l'aube de la révolution industrielle de vieilles techniques protohistoriques. (...) Nous devons donc nous demander s'il n'existe pas quelques très vieilles continuités plongeant dans la Préhistoire qui peuvent conférer à la physionomie de la Wallonie actuelle certains traits particuliers.

  9. ^ Jan Caluwaerts published the list of Brussels bourgeois in his book "Poorters van Brussel-Bourgeois de Bruxelles", facilitating the research of many people interested in their Brussels origins.