Seventeen Provinces

Seventeen Provinces
1549–1581
Map of the Seventeen Provinces, 1581 secession outlined in red
Map of the Seventeen Provinces, 1581 secession outlined in red
StatusPersonal union of Imperial fiefs
CapitalBrussels
Common languagesDutch, Low Saxon, Frisian, Walloon, Luxembourgish, French
Religion
Roman Catholic
Protestant
GovernmentMonarchy
Historical eraEarly modern period
1549
• Dutch Act of Abjuration
1581
ISO 3166 codeNL
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Habsburg Netherlands
Dutch Republic
Spanish Netherlands

The Seventeen Provinces were the Imperial states of the Habsburg Netherlands in the 16th century. They roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e. what is now the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and most of the French departments of Nord (French Flanders and French Hainaut) and Pas-de-Calais (Artois). Also within this area were semi-independent fiefdoms, mainly ecclesiastical ones, such as Liège, Cambrai and Stavelot-Malmedy.

The Seventeen Provinces arose from the Burgundian Netherlands, a number of fiefs held by the House of Valois-Burgundy and inherited by the Habsburg dynasty in 1482, from 1556 held by Habsburg Spain. Starting in 1512 the Provinces formed the major part of the Burgundian Circle. In 1581 the Seven United Provinces seceded to form the Dutch Republic.

Composition

After the Habsburg emperor Charles V had re-acquired the Duchy of Guelders from Duke William of Jülich-Cleves-Berg by the 1543 Treaty of Venlo, the Seventeen Provinces comprised:

Map of the Low Countries in 1477
  1. the County of Artois
  2. the County of Flanders, including the burgraviates of Lille, Douai, Orchies, the Lordship of Tournai and the Tournaisis
  3. the Lordship of Mechelen
  4. the County of Namur
  5. the County of Hainaut
  6. the County of Zeeland
  7. the County of Holland
  8. the Duchy of Brabant, including the Lordship of Breda, the Margraviate of Antwerp, the counties of Leuven and of Brussels, and the advocacy of the Abbey of Nivelles and of Gembloux
  9. the Duchy of Limburg and the "Overmaas" lands of Brabant (Dalhem, Valkenburg and Herzogenrath)
  10. the Duchy of Luxembourg
  11. the Prince-Bishopric, later Lordship of Utrecht
  12. the Lordship of Frisia
  13. the Duchy of Guelders
  14. the Lordship of Groningen (including the Ommelanden)
  15. the Lordship of Drenthe, Lingen, Wedde, and Westerwolde
  16. the Lordship of Overijssel
  17. the County of Zutphen

It was not always the same seventeen provinces represented at the Estates-General of the Netherlands. Sometimes one delegation was included in another.

In later years the County of Zutphen became a part of the Duchy of Guelders, and the Duchy of Limburg was dependent on the Duchy of Brabant. The Lordship of Drenthe is sometimes considered as part of the Lordship of Overijssel. On the other hand, the French-speaking cities of Flanders were sometimes recognised as a separate province.
Therefore, in some lists Zutphen and Drenthe are replaced by

There were a number of fiefdoms in the Low Countries that were not part of the Seventeen Provinces, mainly because they did not belong to the Burgundian Circle but to the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle. The largest of these was the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the green area on the map, including the County of Horne. The ethnically and culturally Netherlandish duchies of Cleves and Julich did not join either. In the north, there were also a few smaller entities like the island of Ameland that would retain their own lords until the French Revolution.

Historians came up with different variations of the list, but always with 17 members. This number could have been chosen because of its Christian connotation.[1]