Austrian Netherlands Civil War (1477–1492)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Archduke Maximilian of Austria
vs. the Netherlands
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): The Netherlands
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Archduke Maximilian
wanted to secure control of the Netherlands, which he
had gained through his marriage to Anne of Burgundy.
OUTCOME: Maximilian secured control of the region.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Archduke Maximilian (1459–1519) of Austria assumed
dominion over the Netherlands by virtue of his marriage
to Mary of Burgundy (1457–82). The death of Mary in
1482 prompted Maximilian to declare himself regent over
the Netherlands for his young son Philip (1478–1506).
Parts of the Netherlands had chafed under Maximilian’s
heavy-handed rule for years, and when he continued to
assert control after the death of Mary, two cities, Ghent
and Bruges, rebelled. Rejecting Maximilian’s claim to the
regency, they took Philip prisoner. To make matters worse,
both Ghent and Bruges also endorsed the Treaty of Arras
(1482) between Austria and the Netherlands, which stipulated
an end to Maximilian’s rule over Burgundy.
Driven by more than sufficient cause for war, Maximilian
dispatched an army to Flanders to liberate his son.
The boy was recovered in 1485, and once this had been
accomplished Maximilian imposed an oppressive military
government on the Netherlands. He also intensified the
FRANCO-AUSTRIAN WAR of 1477–93, which was extremely
unpopular with the people of the Netherlands.
Heedless of the political climate he had created in the
Netherlands, Maximilian personally traveled to Bruges to
preside over the legislature in 1487. However, when citizens
learned that he was approaching the city with German
mercenary troops, they closed the city gates, attacked
Maximilian’s train, and made him a prisoner. The intervention
of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian’s father,
Frederick III (1415–93), secured his release in 1488, but
the archduke was forced to agree to the promulgation of a
new constitution limiting his authority.
Maximilian withdrew to Germany, only to return to
the Netherlands in 1490 intent on abrogating all constitutional
promises. The Low Countries were in general turmoil
during this period, and Maximilian was obliged to
crush rebellions in Ghent (1491) and throughout the
country the following year. In 1492 he laid Sluys under
siege, forcing the rebels to sue for peace. This at last
secured the region for himself and his son. Maximilian’s
prestige regained, he was elevated to Holy Roman
Emperor on the death of his father and ruled to his own
death in 1519.
Further reading: J. C. H. Blom and Emiel Lamberts,
eds., History of the Low Countries (New York: Berghahn