European Royalty: The Netherlands during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

Figure 1.--

The French Revolution marked the end of the Republic of the Seven Netherlands. The Netherlands was occupied by the French in 1795 and the French created a satellite-state called "The Batavian Republic". Napoleon in 1806 appointed his brother Louis (Lodewijk) as King of the Republic, which was renamed the Kingdom of Holland. His wife was a daughter of Emperess Joséphine. Neither Louis's rule or the marriage proved successful. One of their children was to rule France as Napoleon III. Napoleon tiring of the difficulties which his brother eventually decided to simplu was annex Holland totally to France.

The French Revolution (1789)

The rise of the bourgeoisie in France signaled the deathnell for Ancien Regime, the old aristocracy. Unlike Britain and the new United States, the economiclly important bourgeoisie was denied any political role and support of the increasingly frivolous aristocracy imposed a great economic cost on France. Not only was the bourgeoisie denied any real political role, but the lower classess lived in increasingly deprived conditions, a situation intensified by the bankruptsy of he royal government. The increasing oposition to France's virtually feudal government suddenly ignited during a 1789 riot that exploded into open revolt. The Revolution was oposed by the other counties of Europe--all monarchies. The disorders and violence in France were to engulf all Europe in war, first with the new French Republic and then with Napoleon's Empire. The resulting wars and campaigns were the most significant in Europe until World War I (1914-18). The French Revolution had profound political, social, and economic influences. The dress of aristicracy came into question. Powdered wigs disappeared very quickly. Knee breeches endured longer as they were also worn by the bourgeoisie. The working class had already begun wearing long trousers. It was boys from well to do families that first began wearing long pants as part of a dress costume--usually a skeleton suit. I'm not sure why boys were the first to adapt this style.

The First Coalition (1792-95)

French emigrees assisted by Austria and Prussia prepared to put down the Revolution and free the royal family. France declared war on Austria (April 20, 1792). The French Revolutionary armies were poorly organized as much of the officer corps had defected to the royalist side. The combined Austrian and Prussian forces commanded by Charles William Ferdinand, duke of Brunswick, marched on Paris. The duke issued a fateful manifesto threatening to raze Paris if the royal family be harmed. The manifesto angered the French and further weakened the king's position. The Government suspended the king (August 1792). Generals Dumouriez and Kellermann succeeded against all odds in defeating the alloed Austrian and Pruscian forces at Valmy (September 20). Dumouriez advanced north and seized the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium). The Convention made a fateful decession, it issued a decree offering to assistance all peoples wishing to recover their liberty (late 1792). They then executed King Louis XVI (January 1793). These actions and the the opening of the Scheldt estuary (contrary to the Peace of Westphalia) caused Britain, the Netherlands and Spain to join Austria and Prussia in the First Coalition. Sardinia had already declared war on France. France declared war on Britain and Holland (February 1, 1793) , and on Spain (March 7). The initial campaign did not go well for France. Dumouriez was defeated at Neerwinden (March 18) by the Austrians and defected. Other defeats followed. France feeling increasingly threatened created the Committee of Public Safety (April 6). The Committee began a a wide spread draft (levée) of able-bodied males between 18 and 25 (August). A massive army of 750,000 men was created. With the new army, the Allies were driven out of France by late 1793. New French commanders, Jourdan and Pichegru, took the offensive (1794). Jourdan defeated the Austrians at Fleurus (June 26, 1794) and moved along the Rhine as far as Mannheim. Pichegru attacked north and seized the Austrian Netherlands a second time. THis time he drove furthernoth into the Dutch rerritory.

Batavian Republic (1795-1806)

The wars associated with the French Revolution marked the end of the Republic of the Seven Netherlands. French Revolutionary armies in 1793 and 1794 smashed the Prussians and Austrians and other Allied armies driving them out of France and into southwestern Germany and northern Italy. Schimmelpenninck formed a Revolutionary Committee in Amsterdam (January 18, 1795). With the defeat of the large Austrian and Prussian armies, the Dutch did not resist the French army which soon arrived. Revolutionary Committees following the Amsterdam example were organized in other Dutch cities. The Estates and finally the Staten Generael which had joined the First Coalition turned revolutionary. The Revolutionary Committees formed the Batavian Republic. In many ways, the Batavian Republic was the fulfillment of a revolution began earlier, bur suppressed by the Prussian Army (1787). The Batavian and French republics signed the Treaty of Den Haag making peace and establishing a defensive alliance (May 16). While the Dutch were nominally independent, they were required to cede Dutch Flanders, Maastricht, and Venlo to the French Republic. The Batavian Republic persued a series of important reforms. The Dutch granted the provinces of Drente and Noord Brabant representation in parliament (1796). (One had too small a population to be granted representaion earlier. The other had a Catholic majority. ) were given seats in Parliament. The Dutch approve Constitutional changes which formally separated church and state. The Dutch also granted Jews equal rights as citizens (September 2, 1796). The Dutch fleets were destroyed by the British (1797). The political situation was unstable, similar to the situation in France. There were coup d'etats (January 22, 1798 and June 12, 1798). The French destabilized the political situation. The annexed territorty was unpopular. The French also insisted that the Republic acceed to French policies and demanded subsidies and military support including soldiers. Russia invaded (1799). The remaining Dutch fleet refused to fight the Russians. Dutch land forces did fisgt and both the Russians and British withdrew. French general Augereau engineered a third coup (1801). Napoleon wanted a more stable situation on the Netherlands amd insisted that Schimmelpenninck implement a more coherent administration led by a single person (1804). Schimmelpenninck became Raadspensionaris.

Kingdom of Holland (1806-10)

Napoleon decided to take control of Holland. He demanded Schimmelpenninck be dimissed (1806). He then insisted that his brother, Louis Napoleon, be invited to rule as king. The country was renamed the Kingdom of Holland. Louis traveled north and reached The Hague (June 23). Contrary to some expectations, he waswell received. Many Dutch thought that Napoleon might simply annex their country. Louis preceeded to implement some badly needed reforms. He introduced a single currency throughout the country. He compiled and implemented a penal code modelled basically on French law. He also adopted a range of progressive measures concerning health care and education. Considering the fact that he was French and had been imposed on the Dutch, he actually proved fairly popular. Louis' wife Hortense was a daughter of Emperess Joséphine. Neither Louis's rule or the marriage proved successful. One of their children was to rule France subsequently as Napoleon III. Napoleon wanted a compliant ruler in Holland. His brother proved less than satisfactory in his judgement. Napoleon introduced the Continetal System severing all trade with Britain (November 1806). This proved very unpopular and costly to the Dutch who were a trading people many found ways of evading controls. Louis annexed East Frisia (1807). Louis oversaw the founding of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Literature, and the Arts in Amsterdam and the Royal Library in the Haag (1808). Louis introduced a law code based on the French Naopleonic Code (1809). Louis gained considerable popularity by aiding the victims of floods (1808 and 1809). The British invaded Walcheren (Zeeland), but in part because of Louis' popularity achieved little success (August-December 1809). Even so, Napoleon was not happy with his brother's rule in Holland. He did not think that the Dutch resisted the British in Zeeland with much enthusiasm, but was incensed with wide spread evasion of the Continental System and trade with Britain. Napoleon insisted that his brother ceed the south of Waal and Merwede to France (March 1810). Louis was unable or incapable of standing up to his brother. Hde complied with his brother's demands but was unhappy. As a result he abdicated (July 1).

French Annexation (1810-13)

Napoleon tiring of the difficulties which his brother eventually decided to simply was annex Holland totally to France (1810). France, by the Decree of Rambouillet (July 8). Napoleon appointed Charles-Francois Lebrun as appointed governor general. Napoleon proclainmed Amsterdam the third capital of the French Empire. Sir Stamford Raffles leading a British expedition seized Java, the most important Dutch colony (1811).

Withdrawl of the French (1813)

Bapoleon's disatrous defeat in Russia (1812-13) changed the military situation throughout Europe. French troops withdrew from the Netherkands (November 1813) to meet the Allied forced preparing to invade Freance itself. The Dutch established a provisional government in Amsterdam (November 15).


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site royal pages:
[Return to the Main Dutch royalty page]
[Return to the Main royal pages]
[Austria] [Belgium] [Denmark] [France] [Germany]
[Italy] [Japan] [Jordon] [Luxenburg] [Monaco] [Norway] [Romania] [Russia] [Spain] [United Kingdom] [Yugoslavia]

Created: April 18, 2004
Last updated: April 18, 2004