Catalogue description Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, Holland and Flanders

Search within or browse this series to find specific records of interest.

Date range

Details of SP 83
Reference: SP 83
Title: Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, Holland and Flanders

Correspondence and papers of the Secretary of State concerning the Revolt of the Netherlands against the rule of Spain.

The documents are mainly original in-letters and despatches (with some copies and extracts) to Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State, with others addressed to Queen Elizabeth I and Lord Burghley, Lord Treasurer. Most of the letters are from the English ambassadors, envoys and agents sent to William, Prince of Orange, and the States General, but a number are signed by the Prince of Orange and his ministers, representatives of the Dutch Republic in England, the States General, the States of Holland, Zeeland and Brabant, the Four Members of Flanders, the Duke of Anjou, and foreign nationals in the Low Countries.

The documents are mostly dated at various towns and cities in the Low Countries, but particularly at Brussels, Antwerp, Middelburg, Bruges and Delft. The despatches include those of Lord Cobham and Walsingham while the two were sent as special ambassadors to the States General in 1578.

Also in the series are many letters to William Davison (Resident Agent, August 1577 to May 1579, Special Ambassador, October 1584 to June 1585) from Walsingham, Thomas Wilson (Walsingham's fellow Secretary of State), and the Earl of Leicester. A number of instructions to the English representatives, signed by the Queen, memoranda and minutes by or for the Secretary of State on a range of subjects, and some memorials and newsletters (eg from Antwerp and Cologne) are also included.

Date: 1577-1584
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 23 volume(s)
Publication note:

Selected documents dated before August 1589 are described in the Calendar of State Papers Foreign Series of the Reign of Elizabeth I ed A J Butler S C Lomas and R B Wernham (London 1901-1950). Please speak to staff at the Map and Large Document Room enquiry desk for the precise location.

Administrative / biographical background:

Strong resistance to the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs began in 1568 following the stern measures introduced by the new Governor, the Duke of Alba, at the express command of the King. The rebellion was successful in the north, and in 1572 Prince William of Orange was proclaimed Stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland. The Spanish, under Alba and his successor, Don Luis de Requesens, were unable to re-establish control. In March 1576 de Requesens died and in November delegates from all the provinces signed the Pacification of Ghent.

However, reactionary elements, assisted by the new Governor, Don Juan of Austria (a half-brother of the Spanish king), upset the equilibrium. Don Juan died in 1578 and his replacement, the Duke of Parma, was able to restore the loyalty to the King of the southern provinces. However, the divisions (especially religious differences) within the Low Countries were irreconcilable, and in January 1579 Artois and Hainault together with the town of Douay formed the Union of Arras.

This southern union was based on the Pacification of Ghent, but the Catholic religion was officially retained, together with loyalty to the King and the privileges of the estates. In the same month an agreement was concluded at Utrecht that a 'closer union' should be formed within the larger union of the Low Countries, led by the States General sitting in Brussels.

Included in this union were the provinces and cities committed to carrying on the resistance to Spanish rule, with Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland (Guelders) and Zutphen (a part of Overijssel) as the first signatories. In 1580 the whole of Overijssel, most of Friesland and Groningen (all in the north) and the cities of Antwerp and Breda in Brabant, and Ghent, Bruges and Ypres in Flanders (all in the south) joined the union.

Designed to establish a league for the conduct of the war of independence and to strengthen the central government in Brussels, the Union of Utrecht became in fact the foundation of a separate state and a distinct nation in the northern Netherlands. The new state was called the United Provinces of the Netherlands, or more briefly, the Dutch Republic. Spain formally recognised Dutch independence in 1648 at the conclusion of the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648).

Have you found an error with this catalogue description?