Friesland frĭzhˈə [key], province , c.1,325 sq mi (3,430 sq km), N Netherlands. Leeuwarden is the capital. The province includes several of the West Frisian Islands along the North Sea coast and borders on the IJsselmeer in the southwest. A principal dairying and cattle-raising region, Friesland has fertile land near the coast and sandy heath and fenland in the interior. It is drained by numerous canals and small rivers and has many picturesque lakes. The Frisians, a Germanic people who lived in formerly isolated marshlands, were conquered by the Franks in the 8th cent. Their language, which differs considerably from Dutch, is still spoken by a sizable part of the population. In the early Middle Ages, Friesland extended from the Scheldt River in the south to the Weser in the east. Later it was partly conquered by the counts of Holland. When Holland passed (1433) to the house of Burgundy, the authority of the Burgundian dukes was not recognized by the independence-minded Frisians. In 1498, Emperor Maximilian I bestowed all Friesland on Duke Albert of Saxony. Albert was unable to establish his authority, and in 1515 his son, for a payment, restored Friesland to Maximilian. Maximilian's grandson, Emperor Charles V, reduced the province by force in 1523. Friesland joined (1579) in the Union of Utrecht against Spanish domination, but it continued to appoint its own stadtholders until 1748, when Prince William IV of Orange became the sole and hereditary stadtholder of all the United Provinces of the Netherlands. A nature preserve for seals has been established on the island of Terschelling.

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