Duchy of Brabant was a State of the
Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire established
in 1183. It developed from the
Landgraviate of Brabant and formed the
heart of the historic Low Countries, part of the Burgundian
Netherlands from 1430 and of the
Habsburg Netherlands from 1482, until
it was partitioned after the Dutch revolt.
North Brabant (Staats-Brabant) was adjudicated to the
Generality Lands of the
Dutch Republic according to the 1648 Peace of
Westphalia, while the reduced duchy remained part of the Southern
Netherlands until it was conquered by French Revolutionary forces in
1794. Today all the duchy's former territories, apart from exclaves,
Belgium except for the Dutch province of North Brabant.
2 Brabant lion
3.1 Counts of Leuven
3.2 Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands
Eighty Years War
Eighty Years War and division of Brabant
4 Cities of Brabant
4.1 Quarter of Leuven
4.1.1 Walled cities
4.1.2 Unwalled cities
4.2 Quarter of Brussels
4.2.1 Walled cities
4.2.2 Unwalled cities
4.3 Quarter of Antwerp
4.3.1 Walled cities
4.3.2 Unwalled cities
4.4 Quarter of Bois-le-Duc
4.4.1 Walled cities
4.4.2 Unwalled cities
5 See also
Duchy of Brabant and
Prince-Bishopric of Liège
Prince-Bishopric of Liège in 1477.
Duchy of Brabant was historically divided into four parts, each
with its own capital. The four capitals were Leuven, Brussels, Antwerp
and 's-Hertogenbosch. Before
's-Hertogenbosch was founded,
the fourth capital.
Its territory consisted essentially of the three modern-day Belgian
provinces of Flemish Brabant,
Walloon Brabant and Antwerp, the
Brussels-Capital Region and most of the present-day Dutch province of
North Brabant. Its most important cities were Brussels, Antwerp,
Leuven, Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch, Lier and Mechelen.
Brabant Lion by Floris de Merode, Baron of Leefdael during the solemn
Funeral of Albert VII, Archduke of Austria
The modern flag of
Belgium takes its colors from Brabant's coat of
arms: a lion or (a golden lion) armed and langued gules (with red
claws and tongue) as a primary heraldic charge on a black field.
Probably first used by Count Lambert I of Louvain (ruled 1003-1015),
the lion is documented in a 1306 town's seal of Kerpen, together with
the red lion of Limburg. Up to the present, the Brabant lion features
as the primary charge on the coats of arms of both Flemish and Walloon
Brabant, and of the Dutch province of North Brabant.
History of the Low Countries
Gallia Belgica (55 BC – 5th c. AD)
Germania Inferior (83 – 5th c.)
Frankish Kingdom (481–843)—
Carolingian Empire (800–843)
Middle Francia (843–855)
Lotharingia (855– 959)
Lower Lorraine (959–)
Burgundian Netherlands (1384–1482)
Habsburg Netherlands (1482–1795)
Seventeen Provinces after 1543)
(Seven United Netherlands)
United States of Belgium
Batavian Republic (1795–1801)
Batavian Commonwealth (1801–1806)
Kingdom of Holland
Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810)
French First Republic
French First Republic (1795–1804)
First French Empire
First French Empire (1804–1815)
Princip. of the
United Kingdom of the
Kingdom of the
Gr D. L.
Gr D. of
The region's name is first recorded as the Carolingian shire pagus
Bracbatensis, located between the rivers
Scheldt and Dijle, from braec
"marshy" and bant "region". Upon the 843 Treaty of
Verdun it was part of
Lotharingia within short-lived Middle Francia,
and was ceded to
East Francia according to the 880 Treaty of Ribemont.
In earlier Roman times, the Nervii, a Belgic tribe, lived in the same
area. They were incorporated into the Roman province of Belgica, and
considered to have both Celtic and Germanic cultural links. At the end
of the Roman period the region was conquered by the Germanic Franks.
Counts of Leuven
In 959 the East Frankish king Otto I of Germany elevated Count Godfrey
of Jülich to the rank of duke of Lower Lorraine. In 962 the duchy
became an integral part of the Holy Roman Empire, where Godfrey's
successors of the ducal
Ardennes-Verdun dynasty also ruled over the
Gau of Brabant. Here, the counts of
Leuven rose to power, when about
1000 Count Lambert I the Bearded married Gerberga, the daughter of
Duke Charles of Lower Lorraine, and acquired the
County of Brussels.
About 1024 southernmost Brabant fell to Count Reginar V of Mons
(Bergen, later Hainaut), and Imperial lands up to the
Schelde river in
the west came under the rule of the French Counts Baldwin V of
Flanders by 1059. Upon the death of Count Palatine Herman II of
Lotharingia in 1085, Emperor Henry IV assigned his fief between the
Zenne rivers as the
Landgraviate of Brabant to Count Henry
Leuven and Brussels.
About one hundred years later, in 1183/1184, Emperor Frederick I
Barbarossa formally established the
Duchy of Brabant and created the
hereditary title of duke of Brabant in favour of Henry I of Brabant,
son of Count Godfrey III of Leuven. Although the original county was
still quite small - and limited to the territory between the Dender
Zenne rivers, situated to the west of
Brussels - from the 13th
century onwards its name came to apply to the entire territory under
control of the dukes.
In 1190, after the death of Godfrey III, Henry I also became Duke of
Lower Lotharingia. By that time the title had lost most of its
territorial authority. According to protocol, all his successors were
thereafter called Dukes of Brabant and Lower
Lotharingia (often called
Duke of Lothier).
Battle of Worringen
Battle of Worringen in 1288, the dukes of Brabant also
Duchy of Limburg and the lands of Overmaas (trans-Meuse).
In 1354 Duke John III of Brabant granted a Joyous Entry (charter of
liberty) to the citizens of Brabant.
Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands
In 1430 the Duchies of Lower Lotharingia, Brabant and Limburg were
Philip the Good
Philip the Good of Burgundy and became part of the
In 1477 the
Duchy of Brabant became part of the
House of Habsburg
House of Habsburg as
part of the dowry of Mary of Burgundy. At that time the
from Luttre, south of
Nivelles to 's Hertogenbosch, with
Leuven as the
capital city. The subsequent history of Brabant is part of the history
of the Habsburg Seventeen Provinces.
Duchy of Brabant in the 15th century
Eighty Years War
Eighty Years War and division of Brabant
Novissima et Accuratissima Brabantiae Ducatus Tabula (a very new and
most accurate map of the
Duchy of Brabant); by Hendrik Hondius, 1629
Eighty Years' War
Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) brought the northern parts
(essentially the present Dutch province of North Brabant) under
military control of the northern insurgents. After the Treaty of
Westphalia in 1648, the United Provinces' independence was confirmed
and northern Brabant was formally ceded to the United Provinces as
Staats-Brabant, a federally governed territory and part of the Dutch
The southern part remained in Spanish Habsburg hands as a part of the
Southern Netherlands. It was transferred to the Austrian branch of the
Habsburg monarchy in 1714. Brabant was included in the unrecognised
United States of Belgium, which existed from January to December 1790
during short-lived revolt against Emperor Joseph II, until imperial
troops regained the Austrian
Netherlands for Leopold II who had
succeeded his brother.
The area was overrun during the
French Revolution in 1794, and
formally annexed by France in 1795. The duchy of Brabant was dissolved
and the territory was reorganised in the départements of Deux-Nèthes
(present province of Antwerp) and Dyle (the later province of
After the defeat of Bonaparte in 1815, the United Kingdom of the
Netherlands was created at the Congress of Vienna. The three old
provinces were restored as North Brabant,
Antwerp and South Brabant.
The latter two became part of modern
Belgium when it was created in
1830, South Brabant becoming simply Brabant province.
Cities of Brabant
Brabant had fortified walled cities and unwalled cities. The unwalled
cities did not have the right to construct walls. Trade was allowed in
the walled areas and usually this right resulted in a larger
population and the development of major villages and later cities. The
unwalled cities had also the right to hold markets which they held on
large market squares. This distinguishes them from surrounding
villages who were not allowed to hold markets and did not possess
market squares. Being unwalled also meant that some of these places
suffered heavily in war and during the Dutch Revolt.
Quarter of Leuven
Leuven: the capital city of the original region from where Brabant
expanded. It has been a university town since 1425.
Tienen: east of Leuven. Historically, it was, along with Lier and
Diest, one of the bigger cities after the four regional city capitals.
Zoutleeuw: east of Tienen. It lies near the border of Brabant. In its
day, it was a wealthy merchant town. It was also the biggest garrison
site near the border with Liege. A swamp separates
Landen: south east of Zoutleeuw; a small garrison town. But many noted
people lived to the near south-west of it: Pepin of Landen, his wife,
Itta of Metz (or St. Ida), and their daughter, St. Gertrude of
Nivelles, as well as St. Bavo and St. Begga.
Hannut: south of Landen. like Landen, it was a small garrison town.
Aarschot: north east of Leuven. It was once the capital of the Duchy
of Aarschot. It is famous for its fine architecture in the "Demer"
gothic style, which uses a local type of red stone for its churches
and other important buildings.
Scherpenheuvel: east of Aarschot. It was, and is, the only baroque
town in the Netherlands. As such, it is still an important place of
Zichem: north of Scherpenheuvel. The city was destroyed during the
Dutch Revolt, which left it with a 'rural undeveloped character' ever
since. The church and the Maagdentoren (tower of the Virgin) in local
red stone are impressive buildings from Zichem's past.
Zichem was once
part of the Barony of Diest.
Diest: east of Scherpenheuvel. It was one of Brabant's biggest cities,
after the four capitals, and was an important brewery town. The city
still counts numerous monuments of its past as attractions today. Like
Breda it is a Nassau city.
Diest was also the capital of
the Barony of Diest, and its lands.
Halen: A small garrison city where the "Battle of the Iron Helmets"
took place during World War I: a victory for the Royal Belgian
Jodoigne: south of Tienen. The city and the surrounding area is known
for its white stone, which gives the whole countryside a picturesque
character. Many battles have taken place in this region, and other
parts of Walloon Brabant.
Gembloux: south west of Jodoigne. Is known for the fine buildings of
Dormaal: south of Zoutleeuw. Although it holds city rights it never
really developed into a city and could be considered a village.
Quarter of Brussels
Brussels: the capital city of this part of Brabant. Also former
capital of the Seventeen Provinces, and of the Southern part of the
Seventeen Provinces; today it is the capital of the Kingdom of
Belgium. Once known as the 'city of nobles' because of the presence of
the Royal Court.
Vilvoorde: north of Brussels. The first modern purpose-built prison of
Netherlands was opened here in 1779.
Nivelles: south of Brussels. Known for its beautiful church and as the
birthplace of Saint Gertrude of Nivelles; who played an important role
in the early history of
Brussels and the local region.
Braine-l'Alleud: south of Brussels. The famous Battle of Waterloo,
where the duke of Wellington of Great Britain defeated Emperor
Napoleon I of France, took place near this small city. The church
functioned as a hospital at the time for the many casualties of the
Genappe: east of Nivelles; a small city with a charming old town
centre developed around a market square.
La Hulpe: north east of Braine Alleud. Could be considered a village,
although it was allowed to hold markets and held justice in its own
small domain. It has become more well-known lately as the residence of
Overijse: south west of Brussels. Historically more important, as it
held its own trade market
Béguinage and cloth hall; but the city
never expanded beyond the large market square.
Tervuren: east of Brussels.
Tervuren was the country residence of the
Dukes of Brabant, and continued as such when the Habsbourgs took over.
Stately homes of the old noble families characterise Tervuren. Also,
the more recent Congo Museum is situated in the Park of Tervuren.
Duisburg: south east of Tervuren; was ruled by the Abbey of
Coudenberg. who never allowed it to develop into a city.
Merchtem: north west of Brussels. A rather small unwalled city, with
pretensions, but it was larger than the towns of
La Hulpe or Duisburg.
Asse: West of Brussels. Next to
Genappe and Braine Alleud, it was one
of the bigger unwalled cities of the
Brussels quarter. Today it has an
old hospital and market square.
Wavre: west of
Jodoigne and today the capital of Walloon Brabant
Quarter of Antwerp
Antwerp: the capital of this quarter. Also the episcopal see for this
part of Brabant, which included the Barony of
Breda and the
Margraviate of Bergen op Zoom.
Antwerp today is a city of business and
trade with many fine merchant palaces still standing in the old town.
Lier: south east of Antwerp. Known as the wedding site of the parents
of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, an event which led to many future
Herentals: east of Lier. A city located in a forested area.
Zandvliet: north of Antwerp. A garrison city built to defend the
Bergen op Zoom: north of Zandvliet. Old fortified port town.
Steenbergen: north of Bergen op Zoom; also an important port town.
Breda: north east of Antwerp. One of the Nassau trade cities,
fortified city and an important military center (even currently) .
Turnhout: de jure
Turnhout was a walled city, but de facto the city
stays unwalled. The largest of the unwalled cities of Brabant.
Geel: east of Herentals. Known for its early and present health care
Hoogstraten: north east of Antwerp. Capital of the
Duffel: south of Antwerp. More illustrious in the past than it is
today. An important barony of the later
Middle Ages which was largely
destroyed by wars. Its name has been remembered, and is now used as
the common military name for a small clothes carrying bag.
Walem: part of the Barony of Duffel; never became more than a village.
Arendonk: east of Turnhout. Famous for training falcons and eagles for
use in the Hunt.
Note: the city of
Mechelen formed an independent state along with the
Heist-op-den-Berg and Gestel. Willemstad,
Klundert were part of the
County of Holland.
Quarter of Bois-le-Duc
Bois-le-Duc ('s-Hertogenbosch): regional capital city and episcopal
see of this part of Brabant.
Heusden: north west of 's Hertogenbosch. It was said to be an
"untakeable city" (in the military sense), and it lies close to the
boundaries of the old Counties of Holland and Guelders.
Helmond: built as a military counterweight barrier to the counts of
Guelders. It has a massive water fortress of historical interest.
Ravenstein: east of 's Hertogenbosch. Founded by a vassal of the duke
of Brabant. Became part of the
Duchy of Cleves in 1397 and remained a
separate territory until 1795. A later duke of Clèves sent his
sister, Anne of Cleves, to England to become one of the two surviving
wives of King Henry VIII.
Meghem (now called Megen): north-west of Ravenstein. A small town,
originally independent as capital of the county with the same name
which later became semi-dependent of Brabant. Was granted city rights
Grave: south-east of Ravenstein: a smaller garrison town on the
north-east side of Brabant and capital of the 'Land van Cuijk'. Was
granted city rights in 1233. The lords of Grave aligned themselves
with the dukes of Guelders, rivals of the dukes of Brabant, from time
to time. Became an integral part of 'Staats-Brabant' in 1648.
Eindhoven: was granted city rights in 1232 shortly after starting out
as one of the very first 'planned' new cities in Europe. Its
magnificent walls were demolished in the Eighty Years War, and were
never to be rebuilt.
Dukes of Brabant family tree
War of Devolution
War of Devolution (1667–1668)
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
^ Salmon, Thomas (1745). Modern History Or the Present State of All
Nations, Volume 2. https://books.google.com/books?id=wLI-AAAAcAAJ.
^ "Alfabetisch overzicht van de stadsrechten in Nederland".
Stadsrechten.nl. Archived from the original on 2012-05-24. Retrieved
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