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674
[HISTORY
BELGIUM

of campaigns the forces of the enemy from overrunning the country. On the 30th of January 1648, Spain concluded a separate peace at Münster with the Dutch, by which Philip IV. Ruinous consequences of the closing of the Scheldt. finally renounced all his claims and rights over the United Provinces, and made many concessions to them. Among these was the closing of the Scheldt to all ships, a clause which was ruinous to the commerce of the Belgic provinces, by cutting them off from their only access to the ocean. Thus they remained for a long course of years without a sea-port, and in the many wars that broke out between Spain and France were constantly exposed, as an outlying Spanish dependency, to the first attack, and peace when it came was usually purchased at the cost of some part of Belgian territory. By the treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) Artois Successive cession of Belgian territory to France. (except St Omer and Aire) and a number of towns in Flanders, Hainaut, and Luxemburg were ceded to France. Subsequent French conquests, confirmed by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668), took away Lille, Douai, Charleroi, Oudenarde, Coutrai and Tournai. These were, indeed, partly restored to Belgium by the peace of Nijmwegen (1679); but on the other hand it lost Valenciennes, Nieuport, St Omer, Ypres and Charlemont, which were only in part recovered by the peace of Ryswick (1697).

The internal history of the Belgic provinces has little to record during this long period in which the ambition of Louis XIV. to possess himself of the Netherlands, in right of his wife the infanta Maria Theresa (see Spanish Succession), led to a series of invasions and desolating wars. The French king managed to incorporate a large slice of territory upon his northern frontier, but his main object was baffled by the steady resistance and able statesmanship of William III. of England and Holland. Meanwhile from 1692 onwards brighter prospects were opened out to the unfortunate Belgians by the nomination by the Spanish king of Maximilian Emanuel, elector of Bavaria, to be governor-general with well-nigh sovereign powers. The elector had himself a claim to the inheritance as the husband of an Austrian archduchess, whose mother, the infanta Margaret, was the younger sister of the French queen. Maximilian Emanuel was an able man, who did his utmost to improve the condition of the country. Efforts of the elector of Bavaria to promote trade. He attempted to promote trade and restore prosperity to the impoverished land by the introduction of new customs laws and other measures, and particularly by the construction of canals to counteract the damage done to Belgian commerce by the closing of the Scheldt. The position of the elector was greatly strengthened by the partition treaty of the 19th of August 1698. Under this instrument the signatory powers—England, France and Holland—agreed that on the demise of Charles II. the crown prince of Bavaria under his father’s guardianship should be sovereign of Spain, Belgium and Spanish America. Charles II. himself The Spanish succession. shortly afterwards by will appointed the Bavarian prince heir to all his dominions. The death of the infant heir a few months later (6th of February 1699) unfortunately destroyed any prospects of a peaceable settlement of the Spanish Succession. Charles II. was persuaded to name as his sole successor, Philip duke of Anjou, the second son of the dauphin, and on his death (on the 1st November 1700) Louis XIV. took immediate steps to support his grandson’s claims, in spite of his formal renunciation of such claims under The Grand Alliance. the treaty of the Pyrenees. England and Holland were determined to prevent, however, at all costs the acquisition of Belgium by a French prince, and a coalition, known as the Grand Alliance, was formed between these two powers and the empire to uphold the claims of the archduke Charles, second son of the emperor.

One of the first steps of Louis was to take possession of the Netherlands. The hereditary feud between the houses of Austria and Bavaria induced the elector to take the Marlborough’s successes. side of France, and he was nominated by Philip V. vicar-general of the Netherlands. The unhappy Belgic provinces were again doomed for a number of years to be the battle-ground of the contending forces, and it was on Belgic soil that Marlborough won the great victories of Ramillies (1706) and of Oudenarde (1708), by which he was enabled to drive the French armies out of the Netherlands and to carry the war into French territory. At the general peace concluded at Utrecht (11th of April 1713) the long connexion between Belgium Peace of Utrecht. The Austrian Netherlands. and Spain was severed, and this portion of the Burgundian inheritance of Charles V. placed under the sovereignty of the Habsburg claimant, who had, by the death of his brother, become the emperor Charles VI. The Belgic provinces now came for a full century to be known as the Austrian Netherlands. Yet such was the dread of France and the enfeebled state of the country that Holland retained the privilege, which had been conceded to her during the war, of garrisoning the principal fortresses or Barrier towns, on the French frontier, and her right to close the navigation on the Scheldt was again ratified by a European treaty. The beginnings of Austrian sovereignty were marked by many collisions between the representatives of the new rulers and the States General, and provincial “states.” Marquis de Prié in Belgium. Despite their troubled history and long subjection, the Belgic provinces still retained to an unusual degree their local liberties and privileges, and more especially the right of not being taxed, except by the express consent of the states. The marquis de Prié, who (as deputy for Prince Eugene) was the imperial governor from 1719 to 1726, encountered on the part of local authorities and town gilds vigorous resistance to his attempt to rule the Netherlands as an Austrian dependency, and he was driven to take strong Execution of Francis Anneesens. measures to assert his authority. He selected as his victim a powerful popular leader at Brussels, Francis Anneesens, syndic of the gild of St Nicholas, who was beheaded on the 19th of September 1719. His name is remembered in Belgian annals as a patriot martyr to the cause of liberty. The administration of de Prié was not, however, without its redeeming features. He endeavoured to create at Ostend a seaport, capable in some measure to take the place of Antwerp, and in 1722 a Chartered Company of Ostend Chartered Company of Ostend. was erected for the purpose of trading in the East and West Indies (see Ostend). The determined hostility of the Dutch rendered the promising scheme futile, and after a precarious struggle for existence, Charles VI., in order to gain the assent of the United Provinces and Great Britain to the Pragmatic Sanction (q.v.), suppressed the Company in 1731.

For sixteen years (1725-1741) the archduchess Mary Elizabeth, sister of the emperor, filled the post of governor-general. Her rule was marked by the restoration of the old form Archduchess Mary Elizabeth. of administration under the three councils, and was a period of general tranquillity. She died (1741) in the Netherlands, and the empress-queen, Maria Theresa, who had succeeded under the Pragmatic Sanction to the Burgundian domains of her father about a year before, appointed her brother-in-law, Charles of Lorraine, to be governor-general in her aunt’s place, and he retained that post, to the great advantage of Belgium, for nearly forty years. Charles of Lorraine. He was deservedly known as the “Good Governor.” The first years of his administration were stormy. During the Austrian War of Succession the country was conquered by the French, and for two years Marshal Saxe bore the title of governor-general, but it was restored to Austria by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). Belgium was undisturbed by the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), and during the long peace which followed enjoyed considerable prosperity. Charles of Lorraine thoroughly identified himself with the best interests of the country, and was the champion of its liberties, and though he had at times to make a stand against the imperialistic tendencies of the chancellor Kaunitz, he was able to rely on the steady support of the empress, who appreciated the wise and liberal policy of her brother-in-law. Although the Scheldt was still closed, Charles endeavoured by a large extension of the canal system to facilitate commercial intercourse, he encouraged agriculture, and was successful in restoring the prosperity of the country. He also did much for the advancement of learning, founding, among other institutions,