Solmyr

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The NethAARlands - From Holland to Riches (screenshot heavy)

After several years I've decided to start a new AAR. I am starting as the County of Holland in 1399 and will be aiming to become the Netherlands. I will be aiming for a more-or-less historical/in-character playstyle, so no WC and no exploits. There are no lucky nations and discovery spread for both land and sea provinces is 100 years, otherwise all settings are normal. It took me a few restarts to work out the optimal strategy to ensure that Burgundy doesn't kick my ass in the first 5 years, but other than that there's no reloading.

I am playing with HTTT 4.1b and will be using any new patches that appear.
 
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Solmyr

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The Dutch Independence (1399-1400)

In 1399, the County of Holland has been ruled by the Counts of Hainaut for a hundred years. With Hainaut by far less important and poorer domain, many Dutch nobles and burghers have been thinking of reasserting Dutch independence once again. With the Duchy of Burgundy looming to the south, the Dutch knew that they must take control of their own destiny to resist their powerful neighbors.

Holland001.png


In 1399, Holland is a fairly centralized domain, with strong noble and burgher estates that hold many privileges. The peasants are also unusually free compared to other nations. The Dutch people favor innovation and free trade. The Dutch pikemen, serving as a quality defensive force, are renowned throughout Europe, but many people look to the sea as the source of their strength.

Holland002.png


The current ruler of Hainaut is Albert von Wittelsbach, a relative of the Bavarian ducal house. However, local elites manage the affairs in Holland with significant autonomy. Two of the most powerful are Gerbrand Elten Leur, a prominent captain from Amsterdam, who oversees Holland's military strategy, and Floris van Hessling, a nobleman acting as chancellor.

Holland003.png


In late 1399, the council of Dutch nobles and burghers met in Amsterdam, discussing the future of their nation. It was then that Gerbrand Elten Leur voiced what many already knew: the only way to achieve independence from Hainaut would be by decisive action. The first order of business would be to create a native Dutch army. Recruiting offices were soon opened in all the major cities of Holland and Zeeland, and new foot soldiers soon entered military service. Though some advocated establishment of a cavalry regiment as well, the Council decided that it was too expensive under present situation, as inflation was already rising due to the purchase of arms and supplies.

On 15th October, 1399, the Dutch Council sent an official note to Albert von Wittelsbach that Holland would no longer support Hainaut militarily. Two days later, on advice of Floris van Hessling, messengers were dispatched to the Burgundian court at Dijon, where the Duke received them favorably. The subsequent negotiations were conducted in the strictest secrecy, but upon the return of the envoys from Burgundy, the Dutch Council held another emergency session.

Holland004.png


The result was finally declared on 7th March, 1400, when it was proclaimed that the Council has elected Willem von Habsburg, a relative of the Duke of Austria, as the new Count of Holland. On the same day, the Dutch asserted their ancient claims over Hainaut, declaring war. It was then revealed that the Duke of Burgundy had agreed to support the Dutch claims on Hainaut and to grant their armies passage through his lands. Many wondered what the Duke demanded in return, but nobody knew for certain. Upon his arrival in Holland, Count Willem VI took charge of the new Dutch army and marches south to Hainaut.

Holland005.png


On 8th April, the Dutch army crushed the feeble forces of Albert von Wittelsbach and laid siege to Mons. With no allies other than the distant Savoy, Albert was unable to muster forces to repel the Dutch. Mons surrendered on 12th October, and the next day a treaty was signed by which Hainaut was recognized as lawful possession of the Count of Holland.

The Reign of Willem VI von Habsburg (1400-1405)

Though Willem VI was now Count of Holland, his legitimacy was still questioned in many European courts. His first order of business was to appoint Arnolf Kortrijk as the Grand Marshal, to boost his status. Additionally, many messengers were sent to the courts of major European houses, seeking advantageous marriages that would tie those houses to Holland.

Holland006.png


With the integration of Hainaut into Dutch possessions, Wallonians were extended the same rights as the Dutch, improving the internal harmony of the nation.

Holland007.png


On New Year's Day of 1401, Willem's wife gave birth to a son. As one, the court astrologers declared that the boy would one day rule a mighty kingdom and must be named appropriately so that God would grant him fortune. Swayed by these prophesies, Willem named his son Caesar, after the ancient Emperors.

Holland008.png


Encouraged by the fortuitous omens, Willem VI decided to expand his holdings once again. The Counts of Holland long viewed the wealthy city of Utrecht as their natural possession, though few others recognized their claim. But in 1403, an opportunity presented itself. Emperor Sigismund was engaged in a war with France, and Willem VI felt that the Emperor would be hard-pressed to intervene against him. On 15th July, 1403, a declaration of war was delivered to the Archbishop of Utrecht, and Dutch armies marched east. Willem's calculations proved right - the Emperor overlooked his opportunistic attack, and even Utrecht's own ally the Bishop of Münster decided not to interfere. Two weeks later, the forces of Utrecht were scattered and Willem laid siege to the city. On 3rd October, the city surrendered and was incorporated into the domains of Holland.

Holland009.png


Willem VI next turned his attention to improving his lands. A program of land reforms was initiated in Holland. To his surprise, in January 1405 envoys from the King of England arrived in Amsterdam, offering an alliance. Since Holland needed strong allies and international recognition, Willem accepted, and by the Treaty of Amsterdam, England and Holland bound their fates together.

Holland010.png


Unfortunately, Willem was not able to enjoy the fruits of his labor for long. Having contacted fever on the Utrecht campaign, he succumbed to it on 22nd April 1405, leaving his son Caesar under a regency of nobles and burghers.

The Regency of Caesar (1405-1416)

The Dutch Regency Council quickly set out to improve the nation's financial state, still weak from the army expansion and wars of Willem VI. Dutch burghers showed their acumen here, sailing to trading center both near and distant. Indeed, merchant adventures could be said to be a national occupation, as Dutch merchants traded everywhere from Novgorod to Venice.

Holland011.png


New trading pracices were adopted, and the revenue flowing into Holland was put to use for improving other aspects of the nation. However, focus was shifted from military aspects, which did not please some of the more warlike nobles. Nonetheless, the Council pushed through the idea of larger-scale recruiting for defensive purposes, even though it would result in overall lower-quality soldiers.

Holland012.png


Though army reorganization proved successful, too much emphasis was placed on theoretical strategy and not enough on practical training. Thus, many new Dutch recruits coming of age were barely trained and even tried to avoid any major efforts, preferring to stay home and make money.

Holland013.png


Amidst criticism from military leadership, the Council desperately sought something to pacify them. An opportunity presented itself when England, Holland's ally, began a series of wars to subjugate the Irish counties. Holland dutifully upheld its obligations by declaring war on the Irish. However, Dutch forces never participated in any campaigns, even though the Council imposed new war taxes under the pretense of financing them. This led to even further unrest among military officers, but Dutch burghers and merchants remained content to practice their trade, despite increased taxes.

Holland015.png


In late 1414, the Council finally made concessions to the army by instituting a new military policy, by which the old peasant recruits were replaced with professional men-at-arms. This seemed to mollify the officers for the time being.

Holland014.png


On January 1st, 1416, young Caesar von Habsburg came of age, to rule the budding Dutch nation. Would he be the mighty king as prophesized by the astrologers?

Holland016.png
 
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naggy

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Would he be the mighty king as prophesized by the astrologers?

Or...not. :)
 

badger_ken

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nicely done, subscribed - my only request is that a map would be nice....
 

AllmyJames

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Interesting idea. I'll be following. Great to see you got Waloon as a culture, and are expanding well. England should be a help against Burgundy.

Or...not. :)

:rofl:Indeed.
 

Marco Oliverio

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Very cool and exciting! I'm definitely following this one!
 

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They just don't make Caesars like they used to! :(
Anyway, good luck! :)
 

Solmyr

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The Reign of Caesar von Habsburg (1416-1441)

Caesar's reign started quietly as the Dutch domains were consolidated after Willem's recent campaigns. The Dutch merchants continued their trade all over Europe and to other known lands beyond. The first Dutch cloth shipments reached Alexandria in October 1417, and merchants brought back spices and other exotic Eastern goods.

Holland017.png


Holland023.png


Caesar continued his father's policies, seeking more men-at-arms at the cost of training. Unfortunately, this led to a shortage of good military leaders, but with the army of Holland being small, Caesar felt that he could lead it well enough himself. Nonetheless, some considered the lessening of troop quality to be a poor government policy. On the administrative front, Caesar added Anton Elst, a prominent natural scientist, to his advisory Council.

Holland018.png


Abroad, the Duchy of Burgundy continued its alarming expansion. In July 1422 it annexed Lorraine, strengthening its central areas. Urged by the French, the Pope finally pronounced anathema upon Duke Philippe de Bourgogne. However, it would not last long, as Philippe died in January 1424 and was succeeded by a Spanish relative, Louis-Joseph de Trastamara, who enjoyed the Pope's trust. The French were not content though, and in June French ambassadors arrived in Amsterdam, offering an alliance. Hoping to secure protection against Burgundy, Caesar agreed to the offer.

Holland020.png


French ambitions soon drew Holland into a war in the south, when France attempted to impose their claims on the lands of Foix. The Kingdom of Aragon came to the defense of their Occitan kin, and the two powers were soon embroiled in a war. Holland dutifully joined the war on the French side. Eager to test the mettle of his forces, Caesar sent his fleet south into the Mediterranean, off the coast of Valencia. Foix was soon conquered by the French and they advanced south into Aragonese lands. However, the Dutch fleet did not fare as well, as the Aragonese forced it to retreat. Battered, most of the Dutch ships were lost on the way back to Holland. However, the Aragonese were utterly defeated on land and forced to submit to harsh peace conditions.

Holland021.png


Holland022.png


While Dutch military successes were few, Dutch trade prospered as merchants now traded everywhere from Novgorod to Lisboa to Alexandria, bringing much wealth to Holland. With the money brought in by trade, Caesar began a program of rebuilding the Dutch fleet.

Meanwhile in the Empire, the princes voted upon the Reichsreform proposed by the Emperor. It was duly accepted at the Diet of Aix-en-Provence on January 13th, 1427.

Holland024.png


All was not well with Caesar's family matters, however. His brother and heir Lodewijk was long known for his frivolous and irresponsible lifestyle, leading many to question his worth. On one such escapade, Lodewijk caught a disease, from which he never recovered, dying in November 1428. Distraught, Caesar turned to the Lord for solace, founding a new church in Zeeland. Lodewijk was buried there and Caesar prayed for a son of his own.

Holland019.png


Holland025.png


In March 1430, old Floris van Hessling died, and Caesar appointed Karel Dordrecht, a prominent merchant, as Lord Treasurer and member of the Advisory Council.

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On July 20th, 1430, God answered Caesar's prayers and his English wife gave birth to a child. However, it was not a boy but a girl. She was named Jakoba and Caesar acknowledged that she shall be his heir.

Holland027.png


Despite the failures of his earlier war, Caesar continued expanding the recruitment pool of the Dutch army, which by this time was widely considered little more than undisciplined rabble. However, new cavalry forces were commissioned for the army, bringing the total Dutch forces to 3000 knights and 9000 men-at-arms.

Holland028.png


In February 1431, old military advisor Gerbrand Elten Leur died, and Caesar appointed Jacob Gulder, a prominent burgher politician, to the Advisory Council.

Holland029.png


Soon, Holland was again drawn into wars by its allies. In June 1431, England again invaded Ireland, attacking Munster; this gave Caesar the opportunity to pass the Naval Recruiting Act, to help with drafting ship crews.

Holland030.png


In August, France pressed its claims on Bourbonnais, declaring war, and Holland again joined. And in February 1433, the English entered into a conflict with Bretagne. Though these wars seriously undermined the internal stability of Holland, Caesar was eager to show that Dutch armies were not weak. Marching across Picardie and Normandy, his army besieged Nantes, the Breton capital, and soon took it. However, the English made peace with Bretagne soon after, and Caesar was forced to return home empty-handed.

Holland031.png


In September 1433, the French once again prevailed upon the Pope to excommunicate the Duke of Burgundy. Caesar thought long and hard about making a move at this time, confident that both the French and the English would aid him. However, in the end he decided against it, as his lands were wide open to any Burgundian offensive and his army was merely a drop in the ocean compared to the Burgundian hordes, even though Dutch arquebuses were of slightly better make. Instead, Caesar decided on a safer, if more questionable move.

In June 1436, Caesar presents his claims on the lands of Friesland. Though these claims were not recognized by others, the Holy Roman Emperor was embroiled in a war against Denmark and chose not to interfere. As expected, Holland was backed by the French and the English, and the latter sent an expeditionary force to aid Caesar in taking Friesland. In August, Dutch forces routed the small Friesian company and laid siege to Groningen, which was easily taken by assault on October 27th, after the arrival of a large English army. Left with no choice, the Friesian ruler, Caesar's own cousin Willem von Habsburg, was forced to renounce his domain to Caesar.

Holland032.png


However, this opportunistic landgrab was not entirely without consequence. Dutch merchants found that their business all over Europe became harder to conduct, as officials favored their competitors and offered little protection against thieves and bandits. In some places, Dutch traders were completely driven out.

Holland033.png


Other news from abroad claimed that Castilian explorers had found a new world beyond the western ocean, and Castilian armies were fighting strange people called the Maya. This was of little concern to Caesar for the time being, as politics closer to home occupied his mind. In 1438, the Burgundian excommunication was lifted by the Pope, with the Duke not worse for the wear. In the meantime, the French attempted to annex Avignon, embroiling themselves in another conflict with Aragon, which Holland also formally joined. Caesar had no time to consider any military campaigns, though. On March 22, 1441, he died, leaving the eleven-year-old Jakoba as his heir. Holland was quickly thrown into conflict as Gaspar Coevorden, an influential military captain who was long unhappy with Caesar's policies, claimed that the Habsburgs were mismanaging Holland. He raised a force of men in Hainaut and claimed the Dutch crown for himself, citing that a woman could not rule successfully.

Holland034.png


The Regency of Jakoba (1441-1445)

The Regency Council hastily appointed Willem van Hessling, son of Floris van Hessling, as general to lead the Dutch against the pretender. The Dutch army marched south, relieving the siege of Mons and defeating Gaspar Coevorden in July, thus securing Jakoba's rule.

Holland035.png


Fearing the rise of another pretender, the Regency Council instituted the Blasphemy Act in order to make rebellion against the ruler equal to rebellion against divine authority. Focus was also further shifted from land forces to naval ventures, leading to a shift of production from pikes and firearms to naval supplies. On October 14th, 1441, Emperor Leopold VIII Wilhelm held the Diet of Landsberg, pushing through the establishment of Reichsregiment, despite many voting against it, including Holland.

Holland036.png


In the meantime, the French once again utterly crushed Aragon, annexing Zaragoza and Valencia and leaving Aragon with little more than coastal enclaves in Iberia. The Regency Council turned its attention fully to internal affairs. New medical legislation was passed, formalizing medical associations and requiring doctors to provide credentials in order to practice their profession.

Holland037.png


As news came again of Castile finding and fighting more new peoples called the Zapotecs across the ocean, it was decided that with such powerful neighbors, Holland's future lies outside Europe. A call went out for brave explorers to enlist in the service of Holland and to seek new lands for the Dutch crown.

Holland038.png


On July 20th, 1445, Jakoba von Habsburg came of age, assuming full rule over Holland.

Holland039.png
 

JDMS

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Long live Jakoba, Queen of the (soon to be) Dutch Empire! :D
Great update :), though that was extremely early exploration by the Castillians. How did they do it so fast?
 

naggy

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Every Caesar I've picked has had 2 3's and a 5. Seems to be a trend.
 

Solmyr

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The Long and Prosperous Reign of Jakoba (1445-1497)

Upon her coronation, Jakoba von Habsburg began to reestablish Holland's position among the prominent nations of Europe and to restore its international reputation. Dutch nobles sought brides among the many European dynasties, and Dutch maidens were also married off to prominent European bachelors. Little by little Holland's recent wave of expansion was forgotten and its emissaries were once again accepted in polite company.

Unfortunately, in March 1446, Jakoba's strong supporter General Willem van Hessling died suddenly, leaving the armed forces without a commander. Jakoba did not immediately appoint a replacement, concentrating on more diplomatic matters. She was also occupied by her pregnancy by her consort, Wilhelm von Braunschweig; on September 24th, 1446, she gave birth to a boy who was named Floris.

Jakoba's economic and social policies proved successful as the Dutch people prospered under her rule, and Holland became the wealthiest European country despite its size, mostly due to its renewed trade connections. Jakoba decided to act upon the rumors of new lands across the sea and in early 1448, the carrack Graaf Floris V was made ready to sail. Its captain was the intrepid adventurer Raes Piet.

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The expedition sailed south along the coast of Africa, mapping out the coastlines. In May 1448, it reached a chain of isles called the Canarias, from where it continued further south. In April 1450, the ship reached what appeared to be the southern tip of the African continent, and Raes Piet was certain that the sea route to India lay beyond. But it was time to return back home for resupplying. In the meantime, Dutch settlers were dispatched to the Canarias, where a village was soon established. Back home, Jakoba began a program of building craft workshops to improve the domestic economy in addition to trade.

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Sadly, Floris died in 1448 before he reached the age of two, but Jakoba was soon expecting again. In June 1451 she gave birth to another baby boy, who was named Willem. To celebrate the birth of the new heir and general prosperity of Holland, Jakoba arranged festivities throughout the fall of that year. In the course of the celebrations, a siege engineer named Cornelius of Mons came to attention of the court. Recognizing his talent, Jakoba appointed him Castellan of Mons, charged with reinforcing the fortifications of Hainaut which was still vulnerable to Burgundian threat.

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The appointment came none too soon, as in June 1452 the Burgundians declared war on France. As a dutiful ally, Holland answered the call and the Dutch army moved south to besiege Breda, capital of the Burgundian vassal Brabant.

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Although England did give any aid to the French for obvious reasons, English subsidies flowed across the Channel to Holland. Breda was taken in December and the Dutch army moved to Flanders. Unfortunately, when the Dutch fleet tried to support the army from the sea, it was caugh and destroyed in early 1453 by a combined Scottish-Breton fleet three times its size. However, the Dutch army demonstrated its prowess by defeating another Burgundian vassal, Karl Ludwig von Wittelsbach of the Palatinate, whose army was destroyed in Artois. Afterwards the Dutch moved back north to lay siege to Antwerpen in April.

In May, France's situation got worse as Aragon declared war on it to recover its lost territories and the Portuguese joined in. Without a fleet, Jakoba knew that Holland could not face a possible Aragonese-Portuguese landfall, and wisely decided to stay neutral in this war. The French hastily signed a white peace treaty with Burgundy in June, leaving Holland with nothing to show for its efforts. Indeed, in the course of the war Dutch merchants were banned from Antwerpen, hurting Holland's trade somewhat, and the ban remained in effect after the peace treaty. Weary from the pressures of recent month, Jakoba suffered a bout of illness during the winter of 1453-1454, allowing her courtiers an opportunity to assert greater power.

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Jakoba recovered from her illness in spring, and in April 1454 France agreed to peace with Aragon after having crushed the Catalans utterly. The King of Aragon was left with little more than Barcelona and the Baleares. The French offered a renewal of alliance with Holland and Jakoba readily agreed, knowing that Burgundy was still dangerous to her country.

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Western Europe in May 1454

In summer 1454 the Dutch settlement on the Canarias finally grew into a full-fledged town. Unfortunately, no valuable resources were discovered on the isles, and the town's main export source was its fishing industry. Still, it offered a base from which exploration of new lands could be launched. Some clergy members also eyed the nearby Sultanate of Morocco as a possible avenue of expansion, hoping to convert the local Berbers to Christianity.

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Jakoba continued energetically her economic policies by building post offices all over Holland and starting a program of land enclosure to improve the use of available farmland. On March 14, 1458, the newly elected Emperor Karl I of Austria held the Diet of Polotsk, implementing a number of reforms in Imperial administration. The Emperor's choice of Polotsk, the most recent addition to the Empire and its easternmost city, seemed to many an indication of his intentions for eastern expansion. Indeed, with the Russian principalities utterly devastated by the infidels of Golden Horde, many called for a crusade against this most dangerous enemy of Christendom.

In September 1459, England began a war against Castile and Portugal, citing a trade dispute. Since Holland still had barely any fleet to speak of, Jakoba decided not to enter this war. Instead, in November she concluded an alliance with the Archbishop of Trier, who was also worried about Burgundian expansion. The English-Castilian war ended after two years with nothing achieved by better side, so Jakoba felt vindicated for her decision. In any event, English emissaries soon arrived in Amsterdam, offering to renew the alliance as they were unwilling to concede Holland's allegiances wholly to France.

In spring 1464 as the new trading season started, the Duke of Burgundy was mollified enough to allow Dutch merchants in Antwerpen again. This was soon taken advantage of, and Dutch traders were seen all across Europe. Using the increased trade income, Jakoba began to build a new Dutch fleet consisting of new light ship models known as barques, which were less expensive than carracks.

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In summer 1467, Raes Piet embarked on another expedition. This time he sailed to the uncharted waters southwest of Africa. By next January, he discovered what appeared to be a new landmass, which he called Brazil. Over the next several years he explored the coastline to the north and south, discovering various island chains in the sea to the northwest. His expedition in early 1472 uncovered what he thought was the southern tip of the continent, opening west into a vast ocean.

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On the economic front, in 1468 the National Bank of Holland was instituted by Jakoba, taking measures to combat rising inflation and to better finance the Dutch expeditions. In summer of that year, a new colony was founded in Rio de Oro, south of Morocco; however its initial growth proved difficult as the native Tuareg tribes were hostile to Dutch settlers.

European wars continued as in August 1466, Burgundy declared war on England over the ownership of Calais. Since Jakoba had little faith that the English could protect Holland by land, she opted to stay neutral in the war. Her neutrality remained in force when France declared war on England in April 1471. In July however, a new ally presented itself. The Duke of Bavaria, a powerful state in southern Germany and a rival of Austria, offered Holland an alliance. Although Jakoba was herself a Habsburg and her grandfather had deposed the Wittelsbachs ruling over Holland and Hainaut, she agreed to the alliance since Bavaria was poised to be of assistance against Burgundy. However, Bavaria was soon occupied in a war against Poland, whose King was excommunicated by the Pope.

Dutch economy continued to prosper as in September 1472 Jakoba issued an edict formalizing scales, weights and measures. In 1474 a new big ship model, the caravel, replaced the carracks, and Jakoba ordered the construction of several of these.

Religious tensions continued to grow in Europe as many opposed Papal authority. The Dutch domains were not spared, as in late 1473 the Waldensian heretics in Hainaut occupied Mons and drove out the Catholic clergy. Jakoba was unable to do anything as the Duke of Burgundy, still in a war with England, refused to grant access through his lands, and so Hainaut remained in Waldensian hands for a time.

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In June 1474 the Bavarian war against Poland ended in victory. When the Habsburg Emperor died only a few weeks later, the Electors were so impressed with Bavarian conduct that they elected Duke Maximilian Emanuel as the new Emperor. Thus armed with an Imperial alliance, Jakoba decided to try her luck. In September, the Imperial Archives produced documents showing Dutch claims to Brabant, then still a Burgundian vassal. The preparations took almost two years, but in July 1476, Jakoba delivered a war declaration to Burgundy, her objective being the conquest of Breda.

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The Emperor supported Holland and Bavarian forces moved into Burgundian-controlled Palatinate. The Dutch army under General Bartout Elten Leur swiftly took Breda in October and moved south to Flanders. In May 1477, French emissaries arrived in Amsterdam, offering an alliance to which Jakoba agreed, hoping for French assistance. However, the French King Philippe was still a minor and his Regency Council did not dare to declare war on Burgundy, leaving Jakoba disappointed. A further setback came in June, when the Emperor treacherously concluded peace with Burgundy, taking only Pfalz. Nonetheless, the Dutch army valiantly continued its campaign against Burgundy, taking Antwerpen in July and Brabant in August. However, in December Holland's luck had run out. A large Burgundian army led by Duke Louis-Joseph himself inflicted a crushing defeat on the Dutch near Liege. Fortunately, with Burgundy still deadlocked in a war against England, the Duke offered a white peace. Seeing no way to stand up to Burgundian might alone, Jakoba agreed to the treaty in June 1478, returning to pre-war status quo. It was fortunate, for in December the English suffered a final blow, ceding Calais to Burgundy and being forced to grant self-rule to Guyenne, Cornwall, and Wales.

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Holland withdrew licking her wounds, and for the next several years peace reigned as Jakoba, now in advanced years, spent her time rebuilding and strengthening the country's economy. The turning point came in late 1486. With the international recognition of united Dutch provinces now final, Jakoba proclaimed the formation of the nation of Netherlands, under whose aegis all Dutch and other Lowlands people could find home. The declaration itself was widely seen as a renewed challenge to Burgundy, which controlled both Flanders and most of Wallonia. However, the first campaign of the united Netherlands was to subjugate the only Dutch province not yet within its sphere: Gelre. With the Emperor tacitly acknowledging Dutch claims over the province, Gelre was quickly defeated and annexed in March 1488.

The annexation came none too soon. In April, the bold young King of France, Philippe VII, began a campaign to once and for all recover French lands from Burgundy, and Jakoba saw her chance. Shortly thereafter the Netherlands declared war on Burgundy and Dutch armies moved south, besieging the cities of Brabant and Flanders. Unfortunately, Breda was taken by the French before Dutch armies could arrive there, but otherwise the war quickly became an unprecedented success.

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As Burgundy had offended many of its neighbors, it began to be pressed from all sides. The Swiss invaded Franche-Comte, while Trier advanced into Lorraine, and the French took Burgundian Auvergne and Aquitaine. Even Papal forces landed in Picardie in a punitive expedition. Meanwhile, Dutch forces secured control over Brabant, Flanders, and most of Picardie and Wallonia. Utterly defeated, Burgundy had no choice but to accept Dutch demands, and by the Peace of Liege of July 13, 1490, Flanders and Brabant were incorporated into the Netherlands, with the exception of still French-occupied Breda. Luckily, the French soon left Breda after making their own peace with Burgundy. In what became known as the Great Dismantling of Burgundy, the Duchy was allowed to keep only the disjointed domains of Bourgogne, Picardie, and Guyenne.

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The Netherlands thus secured against immediate nearby threats, Jakoba continued to look after the economic prosperity of her much enlarged realm. In December 1491 she passed the Anti-Piracy Act designed to curb the growing piracy off the western coast of Africa. At the same time, a contingent of Dutch troops was shipped to the colony of Rio de Oro, where the hostile native tribes were soon massacred and the survivors sold into slavery. Another slave-trading colony, Arguin, was soon founded further south. It was discovered that Castile had founded colonies of its own in western Africa and was engaged in the conquest of the local Empire of Mali, thus blocking further Dutch expansion in the vicinity. Faced with potential future threat of Castilian colonial ambitions, Jakoba appointed the highly skilled military engineer Isaac Bentinck to her council, advising on improving of fort defenses. Isaac himself was the son of Cornelius of Mons and had inherited his father's great skill.

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Jakoba, now of advanced age, was subjected to further suffering when her son and heir Willem died at the age of 43 from pneumonia. The Dutch Habsburg dynasty seemed to have reached its end as Willem left only a daughter, whose son by a Dutch noble was now the heir to the Dutch domains. Grieving, Jakoba seemed to have acquired a taste for conflict and became highly religious. Her quick conquest and annexation of Breda in early 1496 was only a prelude to a far greater crusade against Morocco that began in the summer of 1496. The Dutch army marched north from Rio de Oro, defeating the Moroccans and besieging their cities. At the height of the war, on September 19, 1497, Jakoba passed away, leaving her infant great-grandson Lodewijk Knyphausen ruler of the Netherlands.

Only days after Jakoba's death, news came that a Breton monk had nailed some theses to a church door, beginning what was called the Protestant Reformation. Netherlands was not spared, as the new movement quickly gained followers in Limburg. Nonetheless, the crusade against Morocco was successful, and on March 7, 1498, the Sultan was forced to sign the Peace of Marrakech, ceding most of his lands to the Netherlands and submitting in vassalage. A day later in Amsterdam, the Regency Council passed the Dissolution Act, limiting the monarch's powers and establishing new rights of the Dutch subjects. The era of freedom and expansion had begun.

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Solmyr

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Situation in 1498

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The Netherlands is by far the most successful nation in the world despite its modest size. It has the highest income (most of it from trade), and its closest economic rival Castile is still clearly behind, while everyone else is not even in the same ballpark. Dutch tech levels are also the highest in the world.

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The Netherlands might get hit with religious conflict, especially if a significant number of provinces become Protestant or Reformed.

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In the world, things are interesting. France has conquered most of Aragon, meaning that Spain is unlikely to be formed, but Castile has started major colonial expansion anyway, while Portugal is more modest. France and Castile are likely to become the new major rivals of the Netherlands since Burgundy has been crushed and England has suffered a number of setbacks, even though it seems to be recovering. In Germany, Austria and Bavaria are competing for the Imperial crown but are unlikely to take note of the Dutch for now. In the east, Golden Horde has crushed the Russians utterly and is the local bad boy, though Muscovy is making a comeback. Polotsk is Catholic and a HRE member though, so Muscovy is unlikely to achieve much. Though you cannot see it on this map, Ottoman Empire has been repeatedly trashed and is currently mostly occupied by Trebizond, of all things. Central Greece is owned by Trebizond, western and southern Greece by Achaea, and Thrace is held by Venice. And Ming is pushing into Kazakhstan.
 

MoonshineMax

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Great AAR so far, in fact inspired me to try my hand at Holland, which ended disasterously in 1492 with a complete annihalation at the hands of a resurgent Austria.

However, I may try again, and you could see another Holland/Netherlands AAR around soon :)