Map of the Netherlands showing the states that made up the area
As history is my hobby, and ignorance about the ‘lowlands by the sea’ is widespread, I will attempt to bring some light in your historical darkness.
The Netherlands is a term that dates back to the European middle ages, describing an area that includes parts of what is now northern France, parts of what is now north-western Germany and all of what is now the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, the Kingdom of the Belgians and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Around 1500 most of these Netherlands were part of the Habsburg Empire. This was also the period of the reformation, the reform movement of the Roman Catholic Church that ended up setting up its own churches and its own states.
The Netherlands in those days were made up of 17 small states and most of them had through conquest, inheritance and marriage politics come to be ruled by one man. During the religious war (80 years war) caused by the reformation 7 of these small states became the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.
The remaining area came to be ruled by the Austrian branch of the Habsburg family. In 1815 the countries that had defeated Napoleon wanted a strong buffer state north of France and created the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of what are now Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.
This kingdom of the Netherlands lasted only from 1815 to 1830 when a new Kingdom was created in the south, the Kingdom of the Belgians. The new King Leopold von Sachsen Coburg was a relative of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. The kings of the new smaller Kingdom of the Netherlands were until 1890 also the grand-dukes of Luxemburg.
The old 17 Netherlands are now three countries : 1) The Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, a very small independent country. 2) The Kingdom of the Belgians, divided in a French, a Dutch, a German-speaking region and the bilingual Brussel/Bruxelles area. 3) The Kingdom of the Netherlands, which people often wrongly refer to as Holland. Holland was the most important area of the Dutch republic and still is the most densely populated and economically most important part of the Netherlands, but Holland is not the name of the country.
The Dutch speaking region in Belgium is now officially called Flanders, which is equally incorrect, as Flanders is the west of Belgium, while the other Dutch speaking provinces of Antwerpen, ‘Flemish’ Brabant and (Belgian) Limburg all have a very interesting history, but not as a part of Flanders (Vlaanderen).
Finally, west of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg is the Belgian province of Luxemburg and east of the Belgian province of Limburg is the Dutch province of Limburg ! And to add to the confusion there are three provinces called Brabant : Brabant-Wallon and ‘Vlaams’ Brabant in Belgium, Noord Brabant in the Netherlands.
More schematic map showing in brown the states involved in the protestant rebellion
Flanders was in the forefront of the rebellion and the reformation, but ended up under Roman Catholic Habsburg rule
The red line shows the border Dutch and French speaker areas and in Luxemburg between French and German