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A map of the Imperial Circles as at the beginning of the 16th century. The Burgundian Circle is shown in green.

The Burgundian Circle (Dutch: Bourgondische Kring, French: Cercle de Bourgogne) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It was created in 1512.

In addition to the Franche Comté (Free County of Burgundy), the circle roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e. the areas currently known as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg and two northern districts of France (Artois, Nord).

The Seventeen Provinces were originally united as a personal union by the Dukes of Burgundy of the House of Valois. In 1477 they fell to the Austrian (temporarily Spanish) House of Habsburg.

The circle's territorial scope was reduced considerably in the 17th century with the secession of the Seven United Provinces in 1581 and the annexation of the Free County of Burgundy to France in 1678.

The occupation and subsequent annexation of German territory to the west of the Rhine by revolutionary France in the 1790s effectively brought an end to the circle's existence.



Map of the Low Countries (1556-1648)
Emperor Maximilian I and the coat of arms of the Burgundian provinces, wall fresco at the Vöcklabruck City Tower, 1502

The circle was made up of the following territories:


The Seventeen Provinces

  1. the Artois Arms.svg County of Artois, ceded by France in 1493, annexed by France in 1659.
  2. the Armes brabant escudo brabante.png Duchy of Brabant, including the Margraviate of Antwerp.
  3. the County of Drenthe, which seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.
  4. the Blason Nord-Pas-De-Calais.svg County of Flanders.
  5. the Small coat of arms of Friesland.png Lordship of West-Frisia, which seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.
  6. the Escudo de Groniga 1581.svg Lordship of Groningen (former Ommelanden), which, with the exception of the City of Groningen, seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579. The City of Groningen joined the United Provinces in 1594.
  7. the Armoiries Gueldre ancien.png Duchy of Guelders, which, with the exception of Upper Guelders, seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.
  8. the Blason fr Hainaut ancien.svg County of Hainaut.
  9. the Counts of Holland Arms.svg County of Holland, which seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.
  10. the Limburg New Arms.svg Duchy of Limburg, held by the Dukes of Brabant.
  11. the Armoiries Comtes de Luxembourg.svg Duchy of Luxembourg.
  12. the Escudo de Malinas 1581.svg Lordship of Mechelen, held by the Dukes of Brabant.
  13. the Namur Arms.svg County of Namur.
  14. the Lordship of Overijssel, which seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.
  15. the Coat of arms of Utrecht city.gif Prince-Bishopric, later Lordship of Utrecht, which seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.
  16. the Coatofarmszeeland.PNG County of Zeeland, held by the Counts of Holland; seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.
  17. the Escudo de Zutphen 1581.png County of Zutphen, held by the Dukes of Guelders; seceded to form part of the United Provinces from 1579.

The County of Burgundy

  1. the Blason comte fr Nevers.svg Free County of Burgundy
  2. the Blason ville fr Besançon (Doubs).svg Imperial City of Besançon

     both annexed by France according to the 1678 Treaty of Nijmegen.

The Prince-bishopric of Liège remained a part of the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle until its dissolution in 1795.


History of the Low Countries
Austrasia Frisian kingdom
Carolingian Empire
ca 800843
  Blason Nord-Pas-De-Calais.svg
Cty of Flanders
9th century – 1384
Lotharingia, then Lower Lorraine 855–954–977
Bishopric of Liège.png
of Liège

Coat of arms of Stavelot.png
Imperial Abbey of Stavelot- Malmedy
Gules a fess argent.svg
Duchy of Bouillon

10th century
– 1795
Other feudal states Luxembourg New Arms.svg
County of Luxembourg
10th–14th centuries
Blason fr Bourgogne.svg
Burgundian Netherlands
Duchy of Luxembourg

Flag - Low Countries - XVth Century.png
Habsburg Netherlands
(Seventeen Provinces, Burgundian Circle)

Spanish (Southern) Netherlands
Dutch Republic
Oostenrijkse Nederlanden Vlag.gif
Austrian Netherlands
Liège Revolution


Flag of the Brabantine Revolution.svg
United States
of Belgium

Flag of France.svg
French Republic
Batavian Republic
French Empire
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kingdom of Holland
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
since 1815
Flag of Belgium.svg
Kingdom of Belgium
since 1830
Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
since 1839

The Seventeen Provinces originated from the Burgundian Netherlands. The dukes of Burgundy systematically became the lord of different provinces. Mary I of Valois, duchess of Burgundy was the last of the House of Burgundy.

When she married Maximilian I of Habsburg, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the provinces were inherited by the House of Habsburg in 1482 . His grandson and successor Charles V of Habsburg, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and duke of Burgundy eventually united all seventeen provinces under his rule, the last one being the duchy of Guelders, in 1543.

Most of these provinces were fiefs under the Holy Roman Empire, of which Charles himself became Emperor. Two provinces, the county of Flanders and county of Artois, were originally French fiefs, but sovereignty was ceded to the Empire in the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529.

The Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 determined that the Provinces should remain united in the future and inherited by the same monarch. Therefore, Charles V introduced the title of Heer der Nederlanden (Lord of the Netherlands). Only he and his son ever used this title.

After Charles V's abdication in 1556, his realms became divided between his son, Philip II of Habsburg, king of Spain, and his brother, Ferdinand I. The Seventeen Provinces went to his son, the king of Spain.

Conflicts between Philip II and his Dutch subjects led to the Eighty Years' War, which started in 1568. The seven northern provinces gained their independence as a republic called the Seven United Provinces. They were:

  1. the Lordship of Groningen and of the Ommelanden
  2. the Lordship of Friesland
  3. the Lordship of Overijssel
  4. the duchy of Guelders (except its upper quarter) and the county of Zutphen
  5. the prince-bishopric, later lordship of Utrecht
  6. the county of Holland
  7. the county of Zeeland

The southern provinces, Flanders, Brabant, Namur, Hainaut, Luxembourg a.o., were restored to Spanish rule thanks to the military and political talent of the Duke of Parma, especially at the siege of Antwerp (1584-1585). Hence, these Provinces became known as the Spanish Netherlands or Southern Netherlands.

The northern Seven United Provinces kept parts of Limburg, Brabant and Flanders during and after the Eighty Years' War (see Generality Lands), which was ended with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

Artois, and parts of Flanders and Hainaut were ceded to France in the course of the 17th and 18th century.

See also

External links


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