Austrian Regime

Austrian Regime
   Brussels became the capital of the Austrian Netherlands following incorporation of the provinces of the former Spanish Netherlands into the Austrian Empire as stipulated by the Treaty of Rastatt (6 March 1714). The new governor, Prince Eugene of Savoy, was represented by his minister plenipotentiary Hercule Turinetti, the marquis de Prié. He drew the hostility of the nations, which had sought the new regime's cancellation of the "Additional Regulation" of 12 August 1700, a decree that rescinded some local powers. Deans of the guilds refused to swear the oath to the decree as demanded, and a revolt under Frans Anneessens ensued. Rioting broke out on 24 May 1718. Austrian troops garrisoned the city in November. Artillery pieces were trained on the Hôtel de Ville from the Parc de Bruxelles. The rebellion was quelled, Anneessens was executed, the oath swearing was secured (1719), and the subsidies demanded of the city were granted.
   Under rule from Vienna, governors-general, customarily members of the royal family, officially exercised sovereignty, but a minister plenipotentiary often held de facto power. Municipal autonomy was largely respected under governors appointed by Charles VI (ruled 1711-1740) and Empress Maria-Theresa (ruled 1740-1780). Cultural life flourished under the latter's minister plenipotentiary, Count Charles of Cobenzl. Under Governor-General Charles of Lorraine, a popular ruler, Brussels enjoyed a brilliant court life. Much urban development occurred under his sponsorship with neoclassical buildings and streets laid out in the royal district of the upper town. Austrian rule saw the opening of the Bibliothèque royale (1772), completion of the place Saint-Michel (1776), and construction of the Château royal de Laeken (1782-1784).
   The 18th century was largely a prosperous one for the local economy although the city remained encumbered with debt and urban poverty persisted. Efforts at cost cutting and reform were largely stifled by the opposition of entrenched interests. Trade and industry were subsidized by Vienna. The first glimmerings of protocapitalism emerged while the guilds continued their slow decline. The Compagnie d'Ostende was created in 1722 to engage in overseas trade. City authorities issued decrees to regulate provision of police, sanitation, education, and public assistance services.
   During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), Brussels capitulated to French armies under Maurice, comte de Saxe, on 25 February 1746. King Louis XV visited three times during his reign. The city returned to Austrian rule by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (18 October 1748).
   Reforms instituted by Joseph II in the 1780s threatened local privileges and engendered resistance that culminated in the Brabant Revolution in October 1789. Austrian military forces abandoned Brussels in December 1789 but returned one year later, having defeated revolutionary Belgians. Driven out by the French in November 1792, the Austrians returned on 25 March 1793 following victory at Neerwinden only to depart again after their defeat at Fleurus (26 June 1794). The French regime succeeded.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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