BRABANT, a duchy which existed from 1190 to 1430, when it was united with the duchy of Burgundy, the name being derived from Brabo, a semi-mythical Frankish chief.
The history of Brabant is connected with that of the duchy of Lower Lorraine (q.v.), which became in the course of the 11th century split up into a number of small feudal states. The counts of Hainaut, Namur, Luxemburg and Limburg asserted their independence, and the territory of Liége passed to the bishops of that city. The remnant of the duchy, united since 1100 with the margraviate of Antwerp, was conferred in 1106 by the emperor Henry V., with the title of duke of Lower Lorraine, upon Godfrey (Godefroid) I., “the Bearded,” count of Louvain and Brussels. His title was disputed by Count Henry of Limburg, and for three generations the representatives of the rival houses contested the possession of the ducal dignity in Lower Lorraine. The issue was decided in favour of the house of Louvain by Duke Godfrey III. in 1159. His son, Henry I., “the Warrior” (1183–1235), abandoned the title of duke of Lower Lorraine and assumed in 1190 that of duke of Brabant. His successors were Henry II., “the Magnanimous” (1235–1248), Henry III., “le Debonnair” (1248–1261), and John I., “the Victorious” (1261–1294). These were all able rulers. Their usual place of residence was Louvain. John I., in 1283 bought the duchy of Limburg from Adolf of Berg, and secured his acquisition by defeating and slaying his competitor, Henry of Luxemburg, at the battle of Woeringen (June 5, 1288). His own son, John II., “the Pacific” (1294–1312), bestowed liberties upon his subjects by the charter of Cortenberg. This charter laid the foundation of Brabantine freedom. By it the imposition of grants (beden) and taxes was strictly limited and regulated, and its execution was entrusted to a council appointed by the duke for life (four nobles, ten burghers) whose duty it was to consider all complaints and to see that the conditions laid down by the charter concerning the administration of justice and finance were not infringed. He was succeeded by his son, John III., “the Triumphant” (1312–1355), who succeeded in maintaining his position in spite of formidable risings in Louvain and Brussels, and a league formed against him by his princely neighbours, but he had a hard struggle to face, and many ups and downs of fortune. He it was to whom Brabant owed the great charter of its liberties, called La joyeuse entrée, because it was granted on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Johanna (Jeanne) with Wenzel (Wenceslaus) of Luxemburg, and was proclaimed on their state entry into Brussels (1356).
Henry, the only legitimate son of John III., having died in 1349, the ducal dignity passed to his daughter and heiress, the above-named Johanna (d. 1406). She had married in first wedlock William IV., count of Holland (d. 1345). Wenzel of Luxemburg, her second husband, assumed in right of his wife, and by the sanction of the charter La joyeuse entrée, the style of duke of Brabant. Johanna’s title was, however, disputed by Louis II., count of Flanders (d. 1384), who had married her sister Margaret. The question had been compromised by the cession to Margaret in 1347 of the margraviate of Antwerp by John III., but a war broke out in 1356 between Wenzel supported by the gilds, and Louis, who upheld the burgher-patrician party in the Brabant cities. The democratic leaders were Everhard Tserclaes at Brussels and Peter Coutercel at Louvain. In the course of a stormy reign Wenzel was taken prisoner in 1371 by the duke of Gelderland, and had to be ransomed by his subjects. After his death (1383) his widow continued to rule over the two duchies for eighteen years, but was obliged to rely on the support of the house of Burgundy in her contests with the turbulent city gilds and with her neighbours, the dukes of Jülich and Gelderland. In 1390 she revoked the deed which secured the succession to Brabant to the house of Luxemburg, and appointed her niece, Margaret of Flanders (d. 1405), daughter of Louis II. and Margaret of Brabant (see Flanders), and her husband, Philip the Bold of Burgundy, her heirs. Margaret of Flanders had married (1) Philip I. de Rouvre of Burgundy (d. 1361) and (2) Philip II., the Bold, (d. 1404), son of John II., king of France (see Burgundy). Of her three sons by her second marriage John succeeded to Burgundy, and Anthony to Brabant on the death of Johanna in 1406. Anthony was killed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and was succeeded by his eldest son by Jeanne of Luxemburg St Pol, John IV. (d. 1427). He is chiefly memorable for the excitement caused by his divorce from his wife Jacoba (q.v.), countess of Holland. John IV. left no issue, and the succession passed to his brother Philip I., who also died without issue in 1430.
On the extinction of the line of Anthony the duchy of Brabant became the inheritance of the elder branch of the house of Burgundy, in the person of Philip III., “the Good,” of Burgundy, II. of Brabant, son of John. His grand-daughter Mary (d. 1482), daughter and heiress of Charles I., “the Bold,” (d. 1477) married the archduke Maximilian of Austria (afterwards emperor) and so brought Brabant with the other Burgundian possessions to the house of Habsburg. The chief city of Brabant, Brussels, became under the Habsburg régime the residence of the court and the capital of the Netherlands. In the person of the emperor Charles V. the destinies of Brabant and the other Netherland states were linked with those of the Spanish monarchy. The attempt of Philip II. of Spain to impose despotic rule upon the Netherlands led to the outbreak of the Netherland revolt, 1568 (see Netherlands).
In the course of the eighty years’ war of independence the province of Brabant became separated into two portions. In the southern and larger part Spanish rule was maintained, and Brussels continued to be the seat of government. The northern (smaller) part was conquered by the Dutch under Maurice and Frederick Henry of Orange. The latter captured ’s Hertogenbosch (1629), Maastricht (1632) and Breda (1637). At the peace of Münster this portion, which now forms the Dutch province of North Brabant, was ceded by Philip IV. to the United Provinces and was known as Generality Land, and placed under the direct government of the states-general. The southern portion, now divided into the provinces of Antwerp and South Brabant, remained under the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs until the death of Charles II., the last of his race in 1700. After the War of the Spanish Succession the southern Netherlands passed by the treaty of Utrecht (1713) to the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs. During the whole period of Austrian rule the province of Brabant succeeded in maintaining, to a very large extent unimpaired, the immunities and privileges to which it was entitled under the provisions of its ancient charter of liberty, the Joyous Entry. An ill-judged attempt by the emperor Joseph II., in his zeal for reform, to infringe these inherited rights stirred up the people under the leadership of Henry van der Noot to armed resistance in the Brabançon revolt of 1789–1790.
Since the French conquest of 1794 the history of Brabant is merged in that of Belgium (q.v.). The revolt against Dutch rule in 1830 broke out at Brussels and was in its initial stages largely a Brabançon movement. The important part played by Brabant at this crisis of the history of the southern Netherlands was marked in 1831 by the adoption of the ancient Brabançon colours to form the national flag, and of the lion of Brabant as the armorial bearings of Belgium. The title of duke of Brabant has been revived as the style of the eldest son of the king of the Belgians. (G. E.)