County of Holland

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
County of Holland
Graafschap Holland
State of the Holy Roman Empire (until 1581)
Part of the Dutch Republic (from 1581)
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
"Vigilate Deo confidentes" (Latin)
"Watch, trusting in God"
The County of Holland around 1350.
Capital The Hague
Languages Old Dutch
Old Frisian
Middle Dutch
Religion Catholic Church Protestantism
Government Feudal monarchy
 •  880–896 Gerolf (first)
 •  1555–1581 Phillip II (last)
 •  1433–1440 Hugo (first)
 •  1672–1702 William III (last)
Legislature States
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Established 11th century
 •  Act of Abjuration 26 July 1581
 •  Batavian Revolution 18 January 1795
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Lower Lorraine
Batavian Republic

The County of Holland was a State of the Holy Roman Empire and from 1482 up to 1581 part of the Habsburg Netherlands. From 1581 onward, Holland was the leading province of the Dutch Republic, of which it remained a part until the Batavian Revolution in 1795. The territory of the County of Holland corresponds roughly with the current provinces of North and South Holland in the Netherlands.


The oldest sources refer to the not clearly defined county as Frisia, west of the Vlie. Before 1101, sources talk about Frisian counts, but in this year Floris II, Count of Holland is mentioned as Florentius comes de Hollant (Floris, Count of Holland). Holland is probably Old Dutch for holt lant, literally "wood land," describing the district around Dordrecht, the nucleus of Holland.[1] The counts of Holland generally kept to this single title until 1291, when Floris V, Count of Holland decided to call himself Count of Holland and Zeeland, lord of Friesland. This title was also used after Holland was united with Hainault, Bavaria-Straubing, and the Duchy of Burgundy. The titles eventually lost their importance, and the last count, Philip II of Spain, only mentioned them halfway through his long list of titles.


Francia and Lotharingia

Around 800, under Charlemagne, the Frankish Empire covered a great deal of Europe. In much of this empire an important unit of regional administration, corresponding roughly to a shire or county in England, was the gau (Frankish), or pagus (Latin). A comes or Count ruled over one or more gaue. Because of the low trade, the negative trade balance with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim states, and the disappearance of currency, the economy was more or less reduced to bartering. The king's vassals could only be rewarded by giving them land (beneficium, from the tenth century on feodum) and usufruct. From this the system of Feudalism developed. The vassals, who were generally appointed by the king, strove for a system of inheritance. This become more and more the rule, and in 877 it was legalised in the Capitulary of Quierzy.

Rorik of Dorestad in a 1912 illustration.

Upon the death of a king, the Frankish kingdom was frequently divided among his heirs. This partible inheritance often caused internal struggle which made centralized government problematic. The Viking Raids further undermined centralized government. At the end of the reign of Emperor Louis the Pious, the royal power had weakened because of the flood of 838, but also because of infighting between the king's sons. After Louis died in 840, his son Emperor Lothair I, King of Middle Francia, rewarded the Danish brothers Rorik and Harald with Frisia — current day Friesland and Holland — in an attempt to resist the attacks of the Vikings.

Upon Lothair's death in 855, the northern part of Middle Francia was awarded to his second son Lothair II, and called Lotharingia after him. The Treaty of Ribemont in 880 added the Kingdom of Lotharingia — of which the Low Countries were part — to East Francia, which attempted to integrate it. However, there were no connections like there were between the four German Stem Duchies of east Francia: the Franconia, the Saxony, the Bavaria and the Swabia. Lotharingia took a separate position with a large amount of self-determination. This became clear when Louis the Child, the last Carolingian of East Francia, died in 911. While the Stem Duchies flocked to Duke Conrad I of Franconia, Lotharingia chose for the Carolingian Charles the Simple, king of West Francia.

In Frisia, the Counts still saw their power reduced by the Danes. They started cooperating, but in 885 the Danish rule came to an end with the murder of Rorik's successor Godfrid by Henry of Franconia. One of the people involved in the murder was Gerolf, comes Fresonum (count of Frisia). As a reward he was given lands in full ownership on August 4, 889, from the East Frankish king Arnulf of Carinthia. The lands in question included an area outside of Gerulf's county, in Teisterbant, including Tiel, Aalburg and Asch. It also involved an area inside the county. This last possession consisted of a forest and a field somewhere between the mouth of the Old Rhine and presumably Bennebroek, Suithardeshaga.

In 922, King Charles the Simple granted the church of Egmond and all its possessions to Count Dirk I of Holland, as thanks for his support against a rebellion of his West Frankish vassals. Egmond was located just north of the possessions Dirk had received from Gerulf, and was thus a good match. Shortly after this he founded Egmond Abbey, the oldest monastery in Holland. Upon the deposition of Charles the Simple in 923, King Henry the Fowler of East Francia allied with Count Gilbert of Hainaut, son of Duke Reginar of Lorraine and re-conquered Lotharingia lands. By 925 the Lotharingian nobles finally accepted his rule, whereafter Lotharingia with the Frisian lands were incorporated as a fifth German stem duchy. However, Henry's power was limited by his vassal Gilbert, the Duke of Lotharingia, whose power in turn was limited to his own counties.

Imperial State

The rising status of the House of Holland was shown when in 938 Count Dirk II, probably the grandson of Count Dirk I, married at the age of 8 with Hildegard of Flanders, daughter of Count Arnulf I of Flanders. The count of Holland was in this period more of a military commander who had to resist Viking raids, and subject to the authority of the Bishopric of Utrecht. In 985, King Otto III, at the request of his mother Theophanu, granted the ownership (proprium) of a number of lands to count Dirk II. These lands had already been given in loan (beneficium). This was the area between the rivers Loira or Lier and Hisla (a gau called Masaland), villa Sunnimeri, the area between the rivers Medemelaka and Chinnelosara gemerchi (Kinheim) and the gau Texla.

In 993, count Arnulf of Gent was killed in a battle near Winkel in an attempt to quell the rebellious Frisians. This is seen as the first sign of the libertas of the Frisians, but at that time the regions of West-Friesland and Kennemerland were still connected. Arnulf's son, count Dirk III of Holland was too young to rule, so his mother Lutgardis of Luxemburg acted as regent. In 1005 Dirk was old enough to rule in his own name, but he still made thankful use of the good connections that his mother had made. According to Thietmar of Merseburg a reconciliation with the Frisians was arranged with help from his uncle in-law, king Henry II, who travelled with an army from Utrecht to quell the Frisian revolt.

Dirk VI, Count of Holland, 1114–1157, and his mother Petronella visiting the work on the Egmond Abbey, Charles Rochussen, 1881.

As a result of a promise he had made during the Frisian rebellion, Dirk III went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When he returned, the northern side of his county had become unsafe, so he travelled south and started loaning lands around present day Vlaardingen in order to cultivate it. He also built a castle at Silva Meriwido, the future Vlaardingen. From this castle he forced merchants that travelled per ship from Tiel to England to pay toll. The Merchants complained at the Reichstag of Nijmegen in 1018, where it was decided to act against Dirk III. An army led by Godfrey II Duke of Lower Lorraine, consisting of a fleet with soldiers from the Bishopric of Utrecht, Cologne and the Prince-Bishopric of Liège was surprisingly defeated by Dirk III in the Battle of Vlaardingen.

So as not to weaken the protection the county of Holland offered against the Viking raids, king Henry II decided to let the matter rest, though he did strengthen the position of the Bishop of Utrecht, the nominal feudal lord of the counts of Holland. Nonetheless Dirk managed to expand his territory to the east at the cost of the Bishopric of Utrecht. After the death of Heny II in 1024, Dirk III supported the candidature of Conrad II in an attempt to reconcile with the imperial authorities, so as to keep the lands he had acquired, or expand them even further.

Emperor Conrad II died during a stay in Utrecht in 1039 during the rule of bishop Bernold, after which his organs were interred in the Cathedral of Utrecht. His son and successor, Henry III, granted numerous favors to the bishopric of Utrecht. In this way, the Oversticht was assigned to the bishopric in 1040. Though the count of Holland had been reconciled with the emperor, Henry III still decided to punish the count. In 1046 the emperor forced Dirk IV to relinquish the lands he had conquered. However, the emperor was not able to maintain himself in the area and was forced to retreat, after which Dirk IV started to raid and plunder the bishoprics of Utrecht and Liege. Moreover, Dirk signed treaties with Godfrey the Bearded, duke of Lower Lorraine, as well as the counts of Flanders and Hainaut. The Emperor responded with a second punitive expedition in which Vlaardingen and the castle at Rijnsburg were taken from Dirk IV. The castle was completely destroyed. However, the emperor suffered heavy losses during his retreat, upon which Dirk's allies openly revolted against the emperor. In 1049 Dirk IV was lured into a trap and killed by the bishops of Metz, Liege and Utrecht. Dirk died young, unmarried and childless. He was succeeded by his brother Floris I.

Floris I managed to expand his territory with a small area within the Rijnland Gau, an area called Holtland ("Woodland"), or Holland. It is most likely that this name soon became synonymous with Floris' whole territory. In 1061 a war broke out, in which it is not clear whether it was against Brabant, Utrecht or Liege. During this war Floris was ambushed and killed. His son Dirk V was still a minor, so his mother Gertrude of Saxony became regent. Gertrude remarried in 1063 with Robert I, who also acted as regent for Dirk V.

In 1064, Emperor Henry IV donated lands belonging to the county of Holland, 'west of the Vlie and around the banks of the Rhine' (the Gau of Westflinge), to William, Bishop of Utrecht, on whose support the Emperor could count. Dirk V was only allowed to keep the Gau of Masaland. Through battles in 1071 and 1072, William of Utrecht, with support from Duke Godfrey IV of Lower Lorraine, managed to gain actual control over the lands in questions. After both William and Godfrey died in 1076, Robert I and his stepson Dirk V besieged IJsselmonde and managed to capture the new bishop Conrad of Swabia, who was forced to return the lands to Dirk V's control. In 1083, the name "Holland" first appears in a deed. Holland's influence continued to grow over the next two centuries. The counts of Holland conquered most of Zeeland but it was not until 1289 that Count Floris V was able to subjugate the Frisians.

Burgundians and Habsburgs

File:1558 Hollandt v Deventer.jpg
A 1558 map of Holland.

The Hook and Cod Wars were a series of wars and battles in Holland between 1350 and 1490. Most of these wars were fought over the title of count, but some have argued that the underlying reason was because of the power struggle of the bourgeois in the cities against the ruling nobility. The Cod faction generally consisted of the more progressive cities of Holland. The Hook faction consisted for a large part of the conservative noblemen. Some of the main figures in this multi-generational conflict were William IV, Margaret, William V, William VI, Count of Holland and Hainaut, John and Philip the Good. Perhaps the most well known, however, is Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut. By the end of the Hook and Cod Wars, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, had taken control of Holland. Leading noblemen in Holland had invited the duke to conquer Holland, even though he had no historical claim to it. Some historians say that the ruling class in Holland wanted Holland to integrate with the Flemish economic system and adopt Flemish legal institutions.

Under the Burgundians, Holland's trade developed rapidly, especially in the areas of shipping and transport. The new rulers defended Dutch trading interests. The fleets of Holland defeated the fleets of the Hanseatic League several times. Amsterdam grew and in the 15th century became the primary trading port in Europe for grain from the Baltic region. Amsterdam distributed grain to the major cities of Belgium, Northern France and England. This trade was vital to the people of Holland, because Holland could no longer produce enough grain to feed itself. Land drainage had caused the peat of the former wetlands to reduce to a level that was too low for drainage to be maintained.

Charles (1500–58) became the owner in 1506, but in 1515 he left to become king of Spain and later became the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles turned over control to regents (his close relatives), and in practice rule was exercised by Spaniards he controlled. Holland retained its own governments and court, controlled by the local nobility, and its own traditions and rights ("liberties") dating back centuries. Likewise the numerous cities had their own legal rights and local governments, usually controlled by the merchants, On top of this, however, the Spanish had imposed an overall government, the Estates General of the Netherlands, with its own officials and courts.[14]

Revolt and the Dutch Republic

The Relief of Leiden by the Geuzen in 1574, by Otto van Veen.

During the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation rapidly gained ground in northern Europe, especially in its Lutheran and Calvinist forms.[15] Protestants in Holland, after initial repression, were tolerated by local authorities. By the 1560s, the Protestant community had become a significant influence in the county, although it clearly formed a minority then.[16] In a society dependent on trade, freedom and tolerance were considered essential. Nevertheless, the Catholic rulers Charles V and his successor Philip II felt it was their duty to defeat Protestantism, which was considered a heresy by the Catholic Church and a threat to the stability of the whole hierarchical political system.[17] The Catholic Spanish responded with harsh persecution and introduced the Spanish Inquisition. Calvinists rebelled. First there was the iconoclasm in 1566, which was the systematic destruction of statues of saints and other Catholic devotional depictions in churches. In 1566 William the Silent, a Calvinist, started the Eighty Years' War to liberate Holland and the other Netherlands from Catholic Spain. Blum says, "His patience, tolerance, determination, concern for his people, and belief in government by consent held the Dutch together and kept alive their spirit of revolt."[18] Holland, along with Zeeland, was conquered by Calvinists in 1572 and converted.[19][20]

Dam Square with the New Town Hall under Construction, by Johannes Lingelbach, 1656.

The States General of the Netherlands signed the Act of Abjuration, deposing Philip as Count of Holland and forming a confederation between the seven liberated provinces. From then on, the executive and legislative power would rest with the States of Holland, which were led by a political figure who held the office of Grand Pensionary. The county, now a sovereign state within this larger Dutch confederation, became the cultural, political and economic centre of the Dutch Republic, in the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, the wealthiest nation in the world. The largest cities in the republic were situated in the province of Holland, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, Alkmaar, Delft, Dordrecht, Haarlem, and the nation's capital, The Hague. From the great ports of Holland, Hollandic merchants sailed to and from destinations all over Europe, and merchants from all over Europe gathered to trade in the warehouses of Amsterdam and other trading cities of Holland. Many Europeans thought of the United Provinces first as "Holland" rather than as the "Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands". A strong impression of "Holland" was planted in the minds of other Europeans, which then was projected back onto the Republic as a whole. Within the provinces themselves, a gradual slow process of cultural expansion took place, leading to a "Hollandification" of the other provinces and a more uniform culture for the whole of the Republic. The dialect of urban Holland became the standard language.

Nominally, the County of Holland formally came to an end in 1795, when the Batavian Revolution ended the republic and reformed it as the Batavian Republic. The territory of the former county was divided between the departments of the Amstel, Delf, Texel, and Schelde en Maas. After 1813, Holland was restored as a province of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Holland was divided into the present provinces North Holland and South Holland in 1840.


The county covered an area roughly corresponding to the current Dutch provinces of North Holland and South Holland, as well as the northwestern part of the current province of North Brabant (roughly between the towns of Willemstad, Geertruidenberg and Werkendam), and the islands of Terschelling, Vlieland, Urk and Schokland, though it did not include the island of Goeree-Overflakkee.

In the early Middle Ages, large parts of the area covered by the present day Netherlands were covered by peat bogs. These bogs limited the size of arable land in the Netherlands, but also proved to be a good source of fuel. Around 950, small scale reclamation was started on the enormous bogs in Holland and Utrecht, probably set in motion by the minor nobility. In the 11th century the 'Great Reclamation' started, under the control of the counts of Holland and the bishops of Utrecht. Until the 13th century, large amounts of land was reclaimed between the IJ bay in the north, the dunes in the west, the Lek and Waal rivers in the south and the Old Rhine in the east.

Before the Great Reclamation, the borders between the county of Holland and the bishopric of Utrecht were unclear, and there existed a literal no-man's land. However, during the reclamation the counts of Holland managed to expand their influence at the cost of Utrecht.

See also


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Roman foederati
  3. The Chamavi merged into the confederation of the Franks; the Tubanti merged into the confederation of the Saxons.
  4. Part of East Francia after 939, divided in Upper Lorraine (as part of West Francia) and Lower Lorraine (as part of East Francia) in 959.
  5. Lower Lorraine—also referred to as Lothier—disintegrated into several smaller independent territories and only the title of a "Duke of Lothier" remained, held by Brabant.
  6. Lordship of Frisia and Lordship of Groningen (including the Ommelanden) after 1524 and 1536 respectively.
  7. Including County of Zeeland, that was ruled by neighboring County of Holland and County of Flanders (until 1432).
  8. Utrecht included Lordship of Overijssel (until 1528), County of Drenthe (until 1528) and County of Zutphen (until 1182).
  9. Duchy of Brabant included since 1288 also the Duchy of Limburg (now part of the Belgian Province of Liège) and the "Overmaas" lands Dalhem, Valkenburg and Herzogenrath (now part of the Dutch Province of Limburg).
  10. The county, later duchy, of Guelders consisted of four quarters, as they were separated by rivers: situated upstream Upper Quarter (the present day northern half of the Dutch province of Limburg), spatially separated from the three downstream Lower Quarters: County of Zutphen (after 1182), Veluwe Quarter and Nijmegen Quarter. The three lower quarters emerged from the historic gau Hamaland (named after the Chamavi tribe), and formed the present day province of Gelderland. Guelders did not include the Cleves enclave Huissen and the independent counties of Buren and Culemborg, that were much later seceded to the province of Gelderland.
  11. Including County of Artois (part of Flanders until 1237) and Tournaisis.
  12. Throughout the Middle Ages, the bishopric was further expanded with the Duchy of Bouillon in 1096 (ceded to France in 1678), the acquisition of the county of Loon in 1366 and the county of Horne in 1568. The Lordship of Mechelen was also part of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.
  13. The name Seventeen Provinces came in use after the Habsburg emperor Charles V had re-acquired the Duchy of Guelders, and an continuous territory arose.
  14. H.G. Koenigsberger, "The Beginnings of the States General of the Netherlands," Parliaments, Estates and Representation (1988) 8#2 pp 101-114.
  15. R. Po-chia Hsia, ed. A Companion to the Reformation World (2006) pp 118-34
  16. Jonathan I. Israel, The Dutch Republic Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477–1806 (1995) p. 104
  17. Hsia, ed. A Companion to the Reformation World (2006) pp 3-36
  18. Jerome Blum et al, The European World: A History (1970) pp 160-61
  19. Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 (1995) pp 361-95
  20. Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation (2005) pp 367-72


  • Block, Dick (1977–1983). Algemene Geschiedenis der Nederlanden. Haarlem: Fibula-Van Dishoeck. ISBN 90-228-3800-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lamberts, J.C.H. (2006). Geschiedenis van de Nederlanden. Baarn: HBuitgevers. ISBN 90-5574-474-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Graaf, A.C.F. (1970). Oorlog om Holland 1000-1375. Hilversum. ISBN 90-6550-807-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Koch, A.C.F. (1970). Oorkondenboek van Holland en Zeeland tot 1299, Deel I - einde 7e eeuw tot 1222. Den Haag: Nijhoff. ISBN 90-247-0403-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Beukers, T. de (2002). Geschiedenis van Holland tot 1572. Hilversum. ISBN 90-6550-682-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>