For the older history read: Middle ages.
* The “Dutch” provinces were something very unique in the history of Europe. For a long time they were even separate “states”. And although the Netherlands today is one country with one feels loyal but many of the inhabitants: Frisians, Zeeuwen, Hollanders or where they may come from are still proud of their own provincial history.
* Such a dividing line ran not only between all provinces but there was also a much stronger one between the Southern Netherlands (Belgium and Luxem-bourg) and the “free” united Northern Netherlands. Finally that latter dividing line became the border between the separate countries: the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
* After World War II these three countries formed a union called the Benelux. That Union, together with Germany, France and Italy, founded the EU (European Union).
Netherlands without dikes and polders
1a. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (European part).
A partner of the Benelux Union (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) the forrunner of the EEC (European Economic Community) which in its turn became the present EU (European Union).
Today “the Netherlands” (the northern provinces) are together one country in Europe (EU). Their capital is Amsterdam (= dam, to moor ships in the river Amstel). The seat of the government is ‘s-Gravenhage (= protective hedge of the count) which is often called “den Haag” (the Hague). The European Netherlands are one unitary state with three layers of elected governments (national, provincial and municipal). The Kingdom of the Netherlands is not unitarian. Besides the European part there are also has three Caribbean municipalities and three Caribbean countries with their own identities.
The “Northern” provinces:
Northern: Groningen, Friesland, Flevoland; Middle: Drenthe, Overijssel, Gelderland; West: North- and South-Holland, Utrecht; South: Zealand, Noord-Brabant, Limburg.
* Only the province of Friesland is formally bilingual (Dutch and Frisian), which does not mean there are no other regional languages / dialects!
* The Netherlands had, like Luxembourg, two national songs: the anthem “Wilhelmus” and the “Wien Neerlands blood“. Between WWI and WWII singing about “Dutch blood in your veins” (the Dutch then saw racism in it) felt wrong, so they stopped singing it.
The water of the rivers and the sea forced the inhabitants of the “northern” Netherlands, (Today Netherlands) to work more closely together. Construction and maintenance of dikes, etc. is expensive and also very labour intensive. The advantage of the rivers was that they formed, with some foreland, a good defense in the east and south. So the united provinces (Netherlands “hired” troops from other countries. These troops had Dutch Guards as the core of those provincial armies and were stationed under the command of the Dutch Guard officers in the Eastern and Southern provinces.
In the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium and Luxembourg), however, the situation was completely different. There was almost no coastline to be defended (no warfleets needed) and there were almost no rivers to control. So the need of working together was hardly present. This difference is very old. For example, the Romans came rarely north of the rivers, the southern provinces romanized much stronger than the northern ones. Because of these differences, Belgium and Netherlands developed different cultures so the cooperation between the northern (the Netherlands) and the southern provinces now Belgium (the Latin name for the Low Countries) and Luxemburg, was never really successful.
Originally these provinces were independent states. The northern ones were forced to cooperate. So it is logical to consider them separate from Belgium (the southern ones).
1b. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (Caribbean part)
This is the former country “Netherlands Antilles” (Papiamento: Antias Hulandes) that was formed by 5½ islands (provinces) in the Caribbean Ocean. 2½ islands became countries of the united Netherlands and 3 Islands became special municipalities of the Netherlands. All these islands are not members of the Benelux and of the EU.
The (complex) structure:
The Netherlands Antilles were from December 15, 1954 until October 10, 2010 one country in the Kingdom of the united Netherlands, consisting of six islands in the Caribbean Sea belonging to two island groups (the Bovenwindse or greater – and the Benedenwindse – or Lesser) Antilles.
On October 10, 2010 the national Anthem of the Netherlands Antillians was (officially) played for the last time and also the first time when each of the islands saluted their own flag. (The flag of Curaçao, for example). Also in the Netherlands the Antillian flag was ceremonical lowered for the last time.
Three islands chose to become special municipalities as parts in the (European) Dutch state context. The other three chose the status of the countries within the Kingdom of the united Netherlands.
So there grew a rather complex situation in which the islands:
* Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius are “special municipalities”, part of the (European) Dutch kingdom. They thereby form a sort of “mini-provinces” with a “governmental representative” instead of a “commissioner of the king.”
* Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten and Nederland are “autonomous countries” within the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
St. Maarten is half “Dutch” and half “French”. (So there is still a French-Dutch border!).
Pain of history:
* The islands are the last overseas territories of the former Dutch empire. Once they formed (including Suriname) the Dutch West Indies (including slavery received from directors of the Zeelandian United West Indian Company. In 1985 Suriname left the Dutch state context).
* The 5½ Caribbean remained as the “Netherlands Antilles” in the Kingdom of the United Netherlands. The forming of one state, due to the very great differences in the cultures of these islands, turned out to be a failure.
The Kingdom of the United Netherlands is rather a complex state.
2. Het koninkrijk België (Dutch), Belgique (French), Belgien (German)
A partner of the Benelux Union (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) the forrunner of the EEC (European Economic Community) which in its turn became the EU (European Union).
The current 10 southern provinces (Belgium).
The Belgian national anthem is called the Brabançonne (Brabantia) and it has French, German and also Dutch texts.
“Belgium” (most of the southern provinces) is one country in Europe (EU). The capital is called Brussels (from Broeck = wetlands and sale = residence). It is the seat of the government of the federal state of Belgium, of the Dutch speaking provinces and of the bilingual (French and Dutch) state Brussels (but not of its suburbs, which are formally Dutch speaking and belong to Flanders). The European Union (EU) also has its offices in Brussels. The French-speaking Walloon provinces are ruled from Liège. Finally, the German-speaking cantons have their administrative center in Eupen. Since some laws and regulations may partly differ in the provinces, Belgium is not a unitary country. Administrative Belgium has four levels: federal state, (Dutch or Frence) provinces and (Dutch, Frence or German) municipals.
In Belgium Dutch is called Flamish and Frence is called Wallon).
* The Dutchspeaking part is called Flanders and it consists of the provinces:
West Flanders, East Flanders, Antwerp, Flemish Brabantia and Limburg.
The Anthem of the Flemish state is the “Flemish Lion“.
* The French state is called Wallonia and consists of the provinces:
Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, Namur, Liege and Luxembourg.
The national anthem of the Walloon state is the “Li Tchant des Walon“.
Furthermore, Belgium has also (administratively):
* A Dutch- and French-speaking Capital Region (which includes Brussels) surrounded by Dutch-speaking Flanders.
* The German-speaking cantons in French-speaking Wallonia (on the German border).
* The northern state of Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, includes not only the provinces of East and West Flanders.
* The southern state of Wallonia has not only French but also German-speaking parts. As a result, Belgium also has a cultural division into regions that do not fully coincide with the administrative division and Brussels is divided.
* Conclusion: Belgium is a very complex country. Threatens the federal directors / By further federalization a further alienation of the politicians (from each other), will make it increasingly difficult to form stable governments (without too many compromises).
Pain of history:
When the map of Netherland is compared to the map of Belgium, the historical pain is clearly visable on provincial levels. Not only the former county of Holland has been divided into Northern- and Southern-Holland (some parts went even to the neighboring provinces). In Gelderland the very old capital Gelre is today even in Germany. Former Flanders is divided into Zeelandic-Flanders (NL), Eastern-Flanders, Western-Flanders and French Flanders; similarly Brabantia is today divided into Northern-Brabant (NL), Antwerp, Flemish-Brabant, Walloon-Brabant and Brussels. Limburg is divided between the Netherlands, Belgium (and some parts are today German) while Luxembourg is partly an independent state, but also partly a Belgian province and has lost parts to Germany and to France. So the old united provinces, in northwestern Europe, are today divided into three countries (and parts outside thats countries). It took many painful separations to grow into the current three prosperous, and reasonably happy, nations.
The sorrow of Belgium:
That is the language barrier, the separation between the Dutch-speaking north and the French speaking south. Because many poor French-speaking Belgians from the south (Wallonia) move to the richer north. So this line has a tendency of being pushed to the north. As one of the results is Brussels almost completely Frenchified (in language it was a Dutch city 150 years ago). On the other hand, the city Maastricht was in the year 150 years ago, a in language completely Frenchified. It lies in the Netherlands a bit more to the south than Brussels. Today it is entirely Dutch in language. It is in this city that the Dutch/Flemish language and culture fight with (not against!) the French and the German language and culture! So the people in Limburg and Maastricht deserve much respect. They sing their Ode to Maastricht in five languages! So come with me, on a nice summer evening, to the old market squire of Maastricht.
To add a story about The Battle of Waterloo ?
3. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (French), Groussherzogtum (Lëtzebuergs) Großherzogtum (German) or Luxembourg (Dutch). It is part of the Benelux Union (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), a predecessor of the EEC (European Economic Community) which became the EU (European Union).
“Luxembourg” (the eastern half of a former southern province) now a country in Europe.
The capital is also called Luxembourg (= lietse (little) borough), once a small fortress.
Luxembourg borders to the west and north on Belgium, to the east on Germany and to the south on France. It is a mountainous country where three mountain ranges meet: the Ardennes, the Eifel and the Hunsrück. There are, like in the Netherlands before, two Anthems: Our Hémecht and the present anthem.
The country is divided into three provinces that are called districts: The Diekirch district in the north, Grevenmacher district in the east and the Luxembourg district in the south. The fourth quarter – the western district is today a Belgian province and is also called Luxembourg.
History of Luxembourg
The first inhabitants of the area today known as Luxembourg, were the Celts. Celtic settlements date from the 2nd century. They could not stay there long because between 58 and 51 BC the Roman general Julius Cæsar concurred the area. From that time on Luxembourg began to take its shape. The country started as a Roman fortress called Lucilinburhuc, which is Latin for small castle. That castle stood where today the capital Luxembourg of the country Luxembourg is. The Romans were after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century replaced by the Franks.
This region was christianized by Willibrord (the Bishop of the Frisians) in the 7th century. (He builded the Abbey in Echternach in 698 in which he was buried in 739). That way Luxembourg became a part of the Holy Roman (German) Empire.
The year 963 is important in the history of Luxembourg. On April 12 of that year Count Siegfried of the Ardennes obtained the Castle Lucilinburhuc (its older name was Celtic: Lucilnebburhuc and afterwards it was named Lützelburg) with the surrounding soil. This was the beginning of the county of Luxembourg, and what started as a castle, became over the years a strong establishment.
Several centuries later, by a decision of the German Emperor, that county became a duchy. During the late Middle Ages Luxembourg belonged to different states, such as the Burgundian confederation and the Netherlands. After it was cut off from the Nether-lands, by the departure of Belgium, in 1839, the Netherlands Luxembourg thanks to the efforts of the Government of governor Ernest Mansfeld was given more independence.
Yet it took some time before Luxembourg became really an independent state. After loosing parts to Belgium, France and Germany, Luxembourg got in 1867 a little bit of independence but the Dutch king remained the Grand Duke. Only when Queen Wilhelmina ascended to the throne in Netherlands, Luxembourg chose another member of the Nassau dynasty as head of state and became so an independent state. (Formally because the old Salic law forbade a woman as head of state).
A few milestones:
Until 1506 under Bourgondian rule. In 1659 big parts definitivef taken by France.
Until 1679 under Spainish rule. Until 1701 under Dutch rule.
Until 1714 under Spainish rule. Until 1794 under Austrian rule.
Until 1815 under Frence rule. In 1815 big parts definitive taken by Germany.
After 1815 under Dutch rule. In 1839 the western district taken by Belgium.
After 1890 independency under Nassau-Weilburg, the German branch Orange-Nassau.
The sorrow of Luxemburg is indicated by bold year numbers and writen in italics.
Agrarian Luxembourg was until the mid-19th century very poor. Thanks to the discovery of the Thomas-process it was possible to process the phosphorus-rich iron ore, which was found in Luxembourg, into steel. That way the iron industry made the economy flourish.
Until ca. 1850 a large part of the population emigrated to France and to the USA. Today Luxembourg is, thanks to banking secrecy, a very popular country for immigrants.
A large part of the population is now made up of foreigners.
Luxembourg is a small country located between two 19th century superpowers: France and Germany. It has had to endure a lot during both world wars. In World War I Luxembourg was neutral, but this neutrality was violated by Germany. The Germans wanted to get to France via Luxembourg. After the war, Luxembourg came through the pro-German attitude of grand Duchess Maria Adelheid in a state crises. One year after the war she was forced to resign. Her sister Charlotte came on the throne.
During World War II the fragile neutrality of Luxemburg was violated again and again, Germany was the culprit. The country was in 1942 even (formally) annexed by the Third Reich. It took the Americans two years before the Luxembourgers were liberated.
In the years after WWII the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg became member of several international cooperative ventures as the Benelux, the United Nations and NATO. In particular, the Benelux and the European Union stabilized the economy of the country and gave Luxembourg a chance to become a modern country.