The Archdukes in Brussels
Pauline Croft on an art exhibition in Belgium on Albert and Isabella of Austria.
Opening in Brussels on September 17th, a major exhibition profiles the rule of the Archduke Albert of Austria and his wife the Infanta Isabella of Spain, daughter of Philip II. In 1598, before his death, the king ceded to the couple the ten provinces of the southern Habsburg Netherlands. In effect, Philip created a revived Burgundy which at least on paper was to be autonomous. This radical new strategy signalled Spain’s retreat from direct rule of the Low Countries, challenged since the 1560s by the revolt led initially by William of Orange, which successfully detached the seven northern provinces.
The Archdukes ruled jointly until Albert’s death in 1621, whereupon Isabella remained as governess-general until her own death in 1633. After forty years of war, they not only consolidated Habsburg authority in the south, but also gradually brought peace to the area and revived the ravaged economy.