Burgundian rule in the Low Countries began in 1369 with the marriage of Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy to Margaret of Flanders. The 1477 marriage of Mary of Burgundy to Maximilian of Habsburg, later Holy Roman Emperor, brought three centuries of Habsburg rule. Brugge (Bruges) was overtaken by Antwerp in the 1490s as the principal trading and financial centre of northwest Europe. Philip the Handsome married the Spanish heiress, Juana the Mad, in 1496. The imposition of a new ecclesiastical hierarchy unified opposition to Spanish rule. Philip II of Spain sent the duke of Alba to stamp out Protestantism. Although Alba managed to reassert Philip’s authority in the south, his armies were unable to regain the provinces north of the Rhine. However, a measure of unity was achieved at the Pacification of Ghent after the ‘Spanish Fury’ of 1576—Spanish troops massacred 7,000 in Antwerp. The Union of Arras (1579) accepted the sovereignty of the Spanish king, supported Catholicism and ended the revolt of the southern provinces. In reaction the northern provinces drew up the Union of Utrecht, thus creating the Dutch Republic.
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