Originally the term Netherlands
referred to a much larger entity than the current Kingdom of the Netherlands
. Charles V
was the lord of seventeen provinces
roughly covering the current Netherlands
and a good part of the North of France
(Artois). Most of these were fiefs under the Holy Roman Empire
, of which Charles became Emperor himself. Two, Flanders and Artois, were French fiefs. The French king and the Holy Roman Emperor agreed to release all seventeen from the largely nominal and by then anachronistic ties to both realms. This was called the Pragmatic Sanction of 1548
. Seven northern provinces claimed their independence in 1581
as a republic called the United Provinces
Three others were divided between north and south (which later became Belgium
Of the remaining territories:
In addition, there were a number of fiefdoms in this region that were not part of the Netherlands, the largest one is Liege
. In the north, there were also a few smaller entities like the island of Ameland
, that would retain their own lords until the French revolution
In the days of Charles V, there is no doubt that the economic, political and cultural center was the south, although Holland was gradually gaining importance in the 15th and 16th centuries. In fact, the south was one of the leading economic regions of Europe at the time.
To distinguish between the older, larger Netherlands from the current country, Dutch speakers usually drop the plural for the latter. They speak of Nederland for the current country and de Nederlanden for the domains of Charles V. In other languages, this has not been adopted.
The fact that the same term Netherlands has such different historical meanings can sometimes lead to difficulties in expressing oneself correctly. For example, composers from the 16th century are often said to belong to the Nederlandse School. Although they themselves would not have objected to that term, today it may wrongly create the impression that they were from the north. In fact, they were almost exclusively from the south.