Not a few people in the world wonder whether the country bordering the
North Sea between Belgium —no other elementary name possible—
and Germany —no other elementary name possible— should be
called "Holland" or "the Netherlands" or whether, perhaps, both are correct.
It should be called neither: the one name is too small, the other too big,
not only in
This Language but also in
Deze Taal (Nederlands),
the language of the Netherlands.
In the course of history, the area in the Rhine river delta properly called
"Holland" developed into one of the most important provinces of the
Low Countries and was later administratively subdivided into North Holland
(with Amsterdam and Haarlem) and South Holland (with Rotterdam and The
Holland, North Holland and South Holland are no more than parts of the
territory we are talking about.
But Napoleon who made his brother the first king of what had until then
been the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, would, one may imagine,
not have relished the idea of any Netherlands, even without the
United, because the former Austrian Netherlands in the South were to
remain directly and firmly under French rule.
So the whole country in the North was given the innocuous name
Holland officially in those days, something that did not help to get
rid of the pars pro toto, or may even have lain at its root.
The region bordering the North Sea between France or the French-speaking
area (two things which are not the same) and Germany or the German-speaking
area (two things which were the same in this part of Europe until the end
of the First World War) has almost never been one country in modern
Just like almost anywhere in Africa and in the rest of Europe, also in this
region borders were but too often drawn on maps with little, if any, regard
for such a thing as the language generally spoken in a particular area,
especially when the language of the rich or powerful was not the language
of the poor or powerless.
After the defeat of Napoleon, the emperor's enemies thought it wise to have
one single (and hopefully strong) monarchy to the north of France rather
than a couple of weaker political entities, among which a republic that
might put the 'wrong' ideas in people's heads.
(Democracy was as Greek to the victors as it had been to Napoleon.)
Thus, in the wake of a great military triumph, the Netherlands did indeed
become one country, or part of one country, with a considerable number of
native French speakers of all social strata in the South.
Dutch (Nederlands) was the official language in the Northern
provinces, French in the Southern ones, even in Flanders, where the higher,
French-speaking classes opposed any linguistic reform.
That period of formal unity under the reign of a Dutch monarch was
short-lived: it did not last longer than a decade and a half.
The 'Brabantines' —all from Brabant, supposedly— started a
rebellion in Brussels, the 'Hollanders' —all from Holland,
supposedly— did not manage to crush it, and the Netherlands were
split up politically again into a Northern and a Southern part.
Not only the predominantly French-speaking provinces but the whole Southern
part of the United Kingdom (of the Netherlands, that is) became a new
country, the Kingdom of Belgium, with French as the sole official language
the first 68 years.
The rest of what had a little bit too expectantly been called "the United
Kingdom of the Netherlands" was not rebaptized something like "the Kingdom
of the Ten United Netherlands" by analogy with Republic of the Seven
(One of these ten provinces, Limburg, was, like Luxemburg, itself divided
Nay, it dropped the United and went on to style itself "(the Kingdom
of) the Netherlands", while it actually covered, and still covers (apart
from six Caribbean islands), no more than the Northern Netherlands.
To call the country to the north of (the Kingdom of) Belgium "(the
Kingdom of) the Netherlands" is therefore at this moment in history a
totum pro parte.