Grand Belgic Duchy
Grand Belgic Duchy
|Common languages||Walloon, Dutch, Flemish|
|Ethnic groups||Walloons |
|Louis I (first)|
|12 September 1815|
|Today part of||Netherlands |
The Grand Belgic Duchy (French: Grand-duché belgique, Walloon: dutcheye bedje, Dutch: Belgisch Hertogdom), commonly known as Belgica or Belgique, was a state in western Europe. It was created in 1815 after the Augustine Wars, with Philip-Louis of Palatinate-Zweibrücken being elected Grand Duke. The grand duchy consisted of ten counties formerly part of the Spanish Netherlands. In 1874, the communard French republic invaded and annexed the nation.
In English, the state is often known by its long form, the Grand Belgic Duchy. It may also be called Belgica or Belgique, the latter inspired by the French name for the country. These names derive from the Latin Gallia Belgica, the Roman name for the northern part of Gaul.
The region where the Duchy would later be created had been part of the Spanish Netherlands (1556-1798) for over two centuries.
After the Augustine Wars, the Treaty of Ysabeauville in 1815 established the Grand Belgic Duchy. Prince Philip Louis, a close relative of the Palatinate-Zweibrückens of Sweden and the Schombergs of Britain, was elected Grand Duke. While a fluent speaker of French and a patron of culture, he was a Lutheran. In order to mitigate this liability, he wed Lady Stéphanie de Beaufort-Spontin, a member of a prominent Walloon noble family.
In 1842, Louis I died at age fifty. He was succeeded by his son, Louis-Alphonse, Count of Hainaut, who was made Louis II. He was married to Princess Seraphina of Sforza-Cesarini, the reigning dynasty of Lombardy. As Duke, he sent several settlers to the French colonies of New Zeeland and Fiji, invested in tobacco plantations, and supported the return of autocracy in Sweden as well as the Spanish side in the Second Dutch-Spanish War.
Louis II's industrialisation policies actively destroyed rural and domestic economic activities, dispossessing peasants of farmland and expanding urban centres. Efforts to supplant Walloon and Flemish with the standard French of Paris were also enacted. In 1855, the death of the Duke's good friend, the Duke of Fife, prompted him to spend exorbitantly on memorials and commemorations. All these actions were incredibly unpopular with the population and the Privy Council, leading to the growth of the Communard movement and other opposition.
In 1861, the Duke was deposed by his Privy Council and members of the Ducal Assembly. He was replaced with his brother, Grand Duke Charles-Louis. Raphaël Dezon, a communard leader in France, instigated the creation of the Union wallonne des ouvriers. In response, the Belgic government gave orders to suppress the movement and burn buildings and farmsteads. After years of tension, the Palace of Coudenbourg was set ablaze by communard sympathizers in 1873. The ducal family fled to Blanmont Castle in the County of East Brabant, fearing for their safety following the murder of Louis XVII of France. Étienne Thévenet, the communard leader of France, invaded the Duchy in 1874. By the end of the year, most of the vast majority of the country was under republican French control.
Government and Politics
The Grand Duchy consisted of ten counties; Bruges, Furnes, Lys, Escaut, east and west Hainaut, east and west Brabant, the Pays-Noir, and Liège. They were further divided into districts (ammanie) and then into municipalities (commune).