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Charles was a mere six years old when he inherited the Low Countries. His aunt, Margaret of Austria, was charged with governing the Netherlandish regions. She was a highly cultivated and politically aware individual, and maintained her court in Mechelen. Charles V was given majority in 1515 and took over from her. Though not for long. In 1517 Charles left for Spain to assume the crown and Margaret once again became regent of the Netherlands.
17TH OCTOBER 1998
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When Philip II, whose titles included the counties and dukedoms of the Low Countries, sent the Duke of Alva with an army to crack down on the mobs ransacking Catholic churches, William of Orange fled to Germany. The Council of Troubles which Alva set up to deal with the agitators, decided to pursue William of Orange too. He was prosecuted and all his property in the Netherlands and abroad was impounded. This was a hostile move against the prince in person. It gave the prince the excuse he needed to launch his insurrection against Alva. In Germany he looked around for support from Protestant rulers. He received only limited funding however, and found himself hiring German mercenaries at his own expense.
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Founded in 1602, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) flourished and survived for two centuries. The company, a combination of commercial organisations in various cities of Holland and Zeeland, traded both in Asia and between Asia and Europe. It was the first public company to issue negotiable shares and it developed into one of the biggest and most powerful trading and shipping concerns. The VOC ran its own shipyards, the largest being in Amsterdam. This spectacular trade with Asia made the Dutch Republic the world’s key commercial hub.
24TH MAY 2015
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The Dutch West Indies Company (West-Indische Compagnie or WIC) was founded in 1621. According to its charter, issued by the States General, the organisation was set up to trade with territories west of the Cape of Good Hope: along Africa’s west coast, North and South America. Yet the WIC was more concerned with plundering Spanish ships. The Dutch were especially tempted by the massive Spanish treasure fleet that carried its precious cargo each year from the New World to Europe. The first attempt in 1626 failed, but in the following year the Dutch succeeded.
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When war broke out, the Republic’s stadholder, William III, was also king of England. Naturally, the two countries would be expected to pursue a joint political and military policy. They concluded a Grand Alliance with the Habsburg empire, Prussia and various German principalities. Gradually, a military force was assembled and in 1702 the army was ready to fight its first battle. In that same year, William III suddenly died following a riding accident. He left no children. The States of Holland took the opportunity to leave the position of stadholder vacant, and it remained vacant for many years.
In the first year of the war the Grand Alliance won a significant victory. An Anglo-Dutch fleet cornered the Franco-Spanish fleet in the bay of Vigo and captured a huge amount of gold, silver and treasure.
22nd FEBRUARY 2020
Patriots vs Orangists
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In the night of 25 to 26 September 1781, an anonymous pamphlet was distributed around the country. It was addressed ‘To the People of the Netherlands’ and called on burghers to demand their rightful part in the government of town and country. Later, it emerged that it had been written by a nobleman in Overijssel, Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol.
The call signalled the start of a Patriot revolution against corruption, cronyism and other abuses. One of the leaders was Cornelis (Kees) de Gijselaar of Dordrecht and this gave rise to a pejorative for the Patriots – ‘kezen’ – while they in turn proudly wore badges showing a keeshond (barge dog). Opponents chided ‘In this century of mad dogs, it’s an honour to be crazy.’