Marie-Thérèse et les Pays-Bas autrichiens :
la souveraineté à distance

Learning to know the Netherlands despite the distance

As a support to remote governing the Netherlands, a system of regular correspondence allowed the sovereign to make decisions on the main issues, while leaving the conduct of current affairs to the authorities established in Brussels. One must keep in mind that it took more than a week to connect Brussels to Vienna, via the post office or relying upon private messengers: fortunately, speed of processing the data made up for this inconvenience.

The sovereign ordered reports and memoirs on these territories, enabling to train her son Joseph, who was to succeed her. Among these documents, the memoirs of the Chief-President of the Privy Council, Count Patrice-François de Neny, appear as the first treaty to take stock of the history and institutions of the Netherlands. At the same time, a vast cartography effort across the Netherlands was carried out under the direction of General de Ferraris, offering posterity the first complete map of the Austrian Netherlands and the Principality of Liège. At the same time, customs officers established the first industrial statistics in the country. The various measures taken to understand the financial situation of the governed countries also helped to better control these territories and govern more efficiently and rationally.

The circulation of individuals within the various territories of the monarchy is another aspect of the dissemination of knowledge: servicemen, government members, the Governor General himself, but also individuals such as artists, often travelled from Brussels to Vienna, each bringing an additional piece of information on these remote territories. Maria Theresa was able to experience the Netherlands and its culture, at a distance. She also personally acknowledged the importance of this part of her empire, as evidenced by handwritten annotations on the reports she systematically and carefully read.

Learning to know the Netherlands despite the distance