Brabant, duchy of

Brabant, duchy of, former duchy, divided between Belgium (Brabant and Antwerp provs.) and the Netherlands (North Brabant prov.). Louvain, Brussels, and Antwerp were its chief cities. The duchy of Brabant emerged (1190) from the duchy of Lower Lorraine. In 1430 it passed to Philip the Good of Burgundy, and in 1477 it was taken by the Hapsburgs. (For the history of Brabant from 1477 to 1794 see Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish.) Like the rest of the S Low Countries, Brabant owed its extraordinary prosperity during the Middle Ages to its wool and other textile industries and to the commercial enterprise of the inhabitants of its cities and towns. Antwerp, its greatest city, was for a time the financial capital of Europe. The dukes of Brabant, who relied on the towns to finance their wars and luxurious lifestyles, granted them virtual self-government and an ever-increasing share in the management of the duchy. In 1356 this trend culminated in a charter of liberties known as the Joyeuse Entrée, so called because each subsequent duke had to swear to it when entering Louvain after acceding. According to the charter, the dukes could not declare war, conclude alliances, or coin money without the consent of delegates of the clergy, nobility, and towns, who together formed an assembly later known as the Estates of Brabant. The charter was abolished (1789) by Emperor Joseph II. In 1830, S Brabant led a revolt against Dutch rule that resulted in Belgium independence. Since 1840 the eldest son of the king of the Belgians has held the title duke of Brabant.

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