The Dutch Revolt

The 80 Years' War by Ryan Fennen

Summary of the Revolt:

[1568 - 1648] Following a combination of cultural conflicts, raising of taxes, and tyrannical overlords [not including the King’s own tyranny], the Dutch eventually rebelled and had initial success but were put down by King Philip for a period of time. Following numerous sieges, battles, treaties, and Spanish mutinies, the Netherlands eventually won its independence in what historians call the 80 Year’s War or the Dutch Revolt.

Important characters of the Revolt:

Cause of the Revolt:

[1555 - 1568] Before the rebellion was active, the people of the Netherlands were disgruntled with the actions of the Spanish monarch and appointed governors. In combination with war taxes, Spanish wars against Dutch trade partners, spread of Protestantism, and increased centralization, unrest was quickly rising in the 17 Dutch provinces. Power that was traditionally held by the Stadtholders and Nobility was being taken away, and instead replaced by the Council of State. Sometime into Philip II's rule, the first phase of the Dutch Revolt began.

Course of the Revolt:

[1568 - 1570] The rebels had initial success, but met crippling defeats in the first phase of the revolt. The rebellion simmered and lost significant support after Spanish intervention. Following tax reforms against the wishes of the Dutch, the undefended port of Brill was seized by the Sea Beggars: rebels that were expelled from an English port by Elizabeth I. This sparked new interests in the second phase of the rebellion, and William of Orange led the war against the Spanish [later his son, Maurice of Orange, as William met an untimely end].


The conflict between the Spanish and Dutch continued from 1571 to 1609, where the Twelve Years’ Truce was made. No permanent peace was established during this time, and hostilities sparked anew at the start of the Thirty Years’ War. Conflict raged in both the New World and Old, and many victories were had for both sides in both theaters. The deciding battle of the war was when the Spanish armada, carrying 20,000 troops, was defeated in the Battle of the Downs. Not only did this battle win the 80 Years’ War, but it put Spain down from its earlier naval superiority. The war was ended with the Treaty of Münster.

Outcome of the Revolt:

The war ended when the Treaty of Münster was had, and seven provinces seceded from the Spanish Empire: Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, Overijssel, Friesland, and Groningen.

Main significance of the Revolt:

With the Dutch Revolt’s success, Spain was no longer the world's leader in naval power. Defeat at the Battle of the Downs made sure of that, and the United Provinces was formed soon after with the Treaty of Münster. Its success also allowed for one of Europe’s first modern republics to be formed, which allowed for future support of other sovereign republics and eventual rebellions against the ‘Divine Right’ of kings.