Places to visit

Flanders after Napoleon

...continued from the page on the Spanish Netherlands

1830 - modern borders established
Invasions by Germany

The story so far...
In the 18th century, former Spanish Netherlands had been divided between Holland and France, with the remainder ruled by Austria. Napoleon conquered the whole of the Low Countries, and briefly made them part of France. How would the victors of the Napoleonic Wars carve up the area? Back to top

Modern frontiers in Flanders
Dutch Republic
French Republic / Napoleon's Empire
 k.of Netherlands
 Spanish Empire
Austrian Netherlands









to 1713

1713 - 1793
1830 - today

DIAGRAM: Napoleon re-united France with Belgium and Holland

Modern Belgium and Luxembourg established as 'neutral' states
When the crowned heads of Europe defeated Napoleon, their instinct was to try and restore the old regimes. The 1815 peace settlement returned France to its 1790 borders, and restored the Bourbon monarchy. Initially a kingdom of the Netherlands united Belgium and Holland. The Catholic Belgians rebelled against rule by the Protestant Dutch, and in 1830 their independence was recognised. Many influential French-speaking Belgians wanted to join France. The French "citizen-king" Louis-Philippe ignored them for fear of giving the rest of Europe the impression that France again had Napoleonic ambitions.

The new kingdom of Belgium really started life as a collection of “left-over bits” - though it gradually acquired an identity. It was formally divided into separate language areas: for those Belgians who spoke French ("Walloons") and those who spoke Flemish. In 1867 the small Duchy of Luxembourg also became independent.
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Wallonia - French speaking

Flanders - Flemish speaking

Brussels-Capital - bilingual

France - blue/green area is where Flemish used to be the main everyday language

Map: Regional boundaries in Belgium - former language areas in France

Belgium and Luxembourg were recognised by their powerful neighbours as small neutral buffer states which would side with neither France nor Germany. They hoped to avoid further ravages of war.

German invasions
In the second half of the 19th century, the kingdom of Prussia succeeded in uniting the previously divided collection of small princedoms of Germany. German power then posed a new threat to France, especially to its fairly defenceless flat borderlands in Flanders.

Three times German troops invaded and occupied the region: in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. In the First and Second World Wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) German invaders also ignored Belgian neutrality.

Each time, Nord/ Pas-de-Calais suffered devastation.
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In 1914 German troops sweep across the flat fields of Flanders

A region at the heart of Europe
Today, the European Union and the Single Market have virtually closed the customs posts between France and Belgium.

Modern transport links
Lille has become the hub of a high speed train network bringing much of Europe much closer in travel time.

The golden triangle
Nord-PasdeCalais and Flemish-Belgium lie in the most prosperous part of the European economic community.

Customs posts on the frontiers have become museum pieces

Places to visit:
Customs Museum [Le Musée de la Douane] - Helstrud, nr. Maubeuge

Background information
First World war
Second World War

Medieval Flanders
Spanish Netherlands
Flemish Art

Food & drink

Flanders since Napoleon






A-Z © Copyright 1999-2000 Invicta Media Last updated 13th April 2000