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The Union of Arras was signed in January 1579 for "the preservation of the Roman, Apostolic and Catholic religion" in The Netherlands. The states of Hainaut, Artois and Flanders instigated the Union and other states joined in the following years. The Northern Protestant states responded with the Union of Utrecht and the division of The Netherlands truly began.

Following the Pacification of Ghent relations had become extremely troubled between the Catholic nobles of the Southern provinces and the Protestant (mostly Calvinist) nobles of the Northern provinces. Calvinists had managed to take over towns in the Southern states and in places had even begun to persecute Catholics. This was unacceptable to the Walloon nobility. In addition Don John of Austria, Governor General, had begun to win back the initiative with a series of military victories culminating in the Battle of Gembloux on 1st Jan 1578. Don John's deputy, Duke of Parma, had led the Spanish forces and they had routed the Dutch army inflicting huge losses. The rebels were no longer on top and they weren't even respecting the Catholic faith - it was time to jump ship.

The Union pledged to uphold the Catholic faith but more importantly in May of that year the Union signed the Peace of Arras with Duke of Parma, now Governor General following the death of Don John from plague on 1st October 1578. The States pledged loyalty to Spain and Philip II in return for:

The agreement demonstrates the fundamentally different objectives of the Southern and Northern States in the revolt. The Southern states achieved their goals with this treaty but the Northern states were unwilling to give up Protestantism and so would not rest until they had achieved freedom of religion.

The Union of Arras was one of the three basic groups that emerged after 1579, the others being the Union of Utrecht in the North and the States General in the centre. The States General were unable to cope with the situation and basically became part of the Union of Arras although territories obviously changed hands during the ensuing battles.


My own notes made in class
"The Netherlands: Revolt and Independence, 1550-1650" - Martyn Rady, Arnold 1987
"Years of Renewal: European History 1470-1600" - Edited by John Lotherington, Hodder and Stoughton, 1991
"The Dutch Revolt, 1559-1648" - Peter Limm, Longman 1989
"Philip II" - Geoffrey Woodward, Longman 1993

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