Under the Treaty of Rastatt (1714), following the War of the Spanish Succession, the surviving portions of the Spanish Netherlands was ceded to Austria.The Austrians were unconcerned with the upkeep of their province and the fortresses along the border (the Barrier Fortresses) were, by treaty, garrisoned with Dutch troops. The area had, in fact, been given to Austria largely at British and Dutch insistence, as these powers feared potential French domination of the region.Emperor Charles VI attempted to use the Austrian Netherlands to compete with British and Dutch traders in an enterprise known as the Ostend Company.Throughout the latter part of the eighteenth century, the principal foreign policy goal of the Habsburg rulers was to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria, which would round out Habsburg possessions in southern Germany. In the 1757 Treaty of Versailles, Austria agreed to the creation of an independent state in the Southern Netherlands ruled by Philip, Duke of Parma and garrisoned by French troops in exchange for French help in recovering Silesia. However the agreement was later revoked by the Third Treaty of Versailles and Austrian rule continued.In 1784 Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor did take up the long-standing grudge of Antwerp, whose once-flourishing trade was destroyed by the permanent closing of the Scheldt, and demanded that the Dutch Republic open the river to navigation. However, the Emperor's stance was far from militant, and he called off hostilities after the so-called Kettle War, known by that name because its only "casualty" was a kettle. Though Joseph did secure in the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1785 that the Southern Netherlands would be compensated by the Dutch Republic for the continued closing the Scheldt, this achievement failed to gain him much popularity.
Painting of a revolutionary soldier at the Battle of Turnhout in 1789.Main article: Brabant RevolutionIn the 1780s, the Austrian Netherlands reacted angrily at attempts made to implement liberal reforms in the territory by Emperor Joseph II. In 1789, a force of émigré patriots in the Dutch Republic crossed the border and defeated the Austrian army at the Battle of Turnhout and forced Austrian troops to withdraw from the territory, encouraged by a series of uprisings in towns across the country. The 11 individual minor states which made up the Austrian Netherlands (with the exception of the Duchy of Luxembourg which was still under occupation) proclaimed independence and created the United States of Belgium. In late 1790, Austrian forces (with the support of the Holy Roman Empire) repressed the rebellion (and another in nearby Liège) and regained control of the territory under Leopold II.
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