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Austrian Netherlands (1713-1786)

Oostenrijkse Nederlanden

Last modified: 2013-11-30 by ivan sache
Keywords: austrian netherlands | oostenrijkse nederlanden | cross: burgundy | eagle: double-headed (black) | oostendse compagnie | ostend |
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Austrian Netherlands

Flag of the Austrian Netherlands, 1781-1786 - Image by Mario Fabretto, 9 November 1999

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History of the Austrian Netherlands

Originally all "17" Dutch provinces (Burgundian kreits) revolted against the Spanish King Philip II, but in 1579 the southern provinces decided to stay loyal, and they remained Spanish. They became known as the Southern or Spanish Netherlands, while the Northern Netherlands formed the Republic of the United Netherlands.The southern provinces were "convinced" to stay loyal by the Spanish army, accordingly the entire intellectual elite from the Southern Netherlands moved to the Northern Netherlands.
In 1713, at the end of the Spanish Succession War, the Spanish Netherlands became the Austrian Netherlands (Oostenrijkse Nederlanden, Pays Bas autrichiens) and remained so until the conquest by France in 1795. The country was divided in two by a broad stripe consisting of Sticht Luik (Bishopric of Liège) and the abbey of Stavelot. Eight cities in the Austrian Netherlands were declared "barrier cities" with a Dutch garrison until 1781; there were eight redemptie-dorpen (redemption villages) northwest of Liège, which belonged to Staats-Brabant (the Dutch part of Brabant, now Noord-Brabant). The whole territory was littered with enclaves, uncertain boundaries, etc.
In 1814 the Southern and Northern Netherlands were reunited, together with the former Principality-Bishopric of Liège which had been neutral until then, to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, the differences turned out to be too big and the South revolted to form Belgium in 1830.

Mark Sensen, Filip Van Laenen & Jarig Bakker, 9 November 1999

Flag of the Austrian Netherlands, 1781-1786

The flag used as the civil ensign of the Austrian Netherlands from 24 September 1781 to 31 December 1786 is in proportion 2:3, horizontally divided red-white-yellow. Behind the Imperial Austrian eagle is the Cross of Burgundy. On the shield, the fields represent, from left to right, Austria, Lorraine and Burgundy.

Source: The Flag Bulletin [tfb] #32, 6/155 (1993)

Mario Fabretto & Mark Sensen, 9 November 1999

Oostendse Compagnie

[Unidentified ensign]

Flag of the Oostendse Compagnie - Image scanned by Hans Vermeersch, 3 August 2001

The Oostendse Compagnie was founded by Emperor Charles VI in the Southern Netherlands to promote ecomomic life; by Octroy of 19 December 1722, the Compagnie impériale et royale des Indes Orientales, établie dans les Pays-Bas autrichiens got the monopoly for 30 years of trade with East- and West-Indies and Africa. The company was allowed to make treaties with indigeneous peoples and to found colonies.
The ships sailed from Ostend (the only port in the Southern Netherlands after the closure of the river Scheldt) to China (Canton) and India (Gabelon and Banquibazar). The company grew rapidly and both England and the Northern Netherlands got upset. The United Provinces doubted the legitimacy of the Flemish colonial trade, based on Hugo de Groot's De iure belli ac pacis, while the Southern Netherlands based their policy on Hugo de Groot's Mare liberum. However Charles VI needed the approval of the Northern Netherlands and England (sic!) for the recognition of his daughter Maria-Theresia as his successor (Pragmatic Sanction), so he suspended the Compagnie on 31 May 1727 (Preliminaries of Paris) and revoked the Octroy on 16 March 1731 (Treaty of Vienna).

Source: Nijhoffs Geschiedenislexicon Nederland en België (1981)

Jarig Bakker, 3 August 2001

The source of the flag is to be traced to the East India fleet of the Austrian Netherlands, sailing from Ostend in West Flanders to Calcutta and Canton. The flag is supposed to have at least been used between 1723 and roughly 1740.
I checked a original document in the archives and indeed the flag is listed as shown above.

Hans Vermeersch, 3 August 2001