The Rebellion

The root causes of the Belgian rebellion did not just lie in the political demands of the citizens whose prosperity grew by the day, and who supported the economic policies of William I. By contrast, the lower classes fared less well. Many workers were unemployed. The Belgian Revolution was therefore also a social rebellion which, when it was still difficult to curb, was channelled by the citizens to achieve their objectives.

In 1830, the harvest failed and provisioning became tight. When the revolution in Paris started in July 1830, the unrest spread to the lower classes in Belgium. After the performance of the opera, 'La Muette de Portici', on 25 August 1830, proletarian riots occurred in Brussels. The citizens of Brussels wanted to defend themselves against these riots, and established the citizens’ militia. On 1 September, the leaders of this militia asked William of Orange, son and successor to William I, who was camped in Vilvoorde, to mediate with his father on the administrative separation of the North and the South. William I felt he was being blackmailed and refused to give in.

The riots spread and volunteers came from all over Belgium to support the uprising. The citizens’ militia lost its control over events. For this reason, the Dutch army, led by William’s second son, Prince Frederik, occupied Brussels on the 23rd of September. This prompted a reconciliation of all differences and the volunteers collectively turned against the Dutch troops.  The leadership of the militia and a handful of revolutionaries formed a committee, which succeeded in coordinating the actions of the volunteers. During the night of 26 to 27 September of 1830, the Dutch army beat a retreat. The Provisional Committee transformed itself into a Provisional Government, which declared independence on 4 October 1830.