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Monarchy in Turmoil. Rulers, Courts and Politics in The Netherlands and Germany, circa 1780 – circa 1820

How did rulers in the Netherlands and in adjacent smaller German territories adapt their regimes to ongoing change in legitimacy and decision-making during the transition period 1780-1820?

Between circa 1780 and circa 1820, revolutions and wars transformed the political geography of Europe. By the end of this turbulent phase, a new power balance had taken shape. The majority of smaller players was now side-lined, whereas others achieved great power status. At the same time, notions of political power and the role of the monarch were upturned. Princes were forced to adapt their rule to these transitions; yet their efforts have never been studied in detail. Our project traces princely adaptations and innovations in the Low Countries and adjacent German territories, where a sequence of traditional, Napoleonic and restoration rulers faced particularly far-reaching changes in terms of territory, government, sovereignty and legitimacy.


Traditionally, the princely court had been the focal point of representation and government. Courts gradually lost this position in the nineteenth century, but it remains unclear to what extent this process occurred during the transition period. We examine this question in two domains: court styles and decision-making. Princes in these challenging times were forced to choose between different styles of court life, but needed to carefully consider the impact of their choices on elites and the population. In addition, they were keen to use the strengthened and rationalized state apparatus introduced by the revolution, although this forced them to reconsider their personal role and the role of their household in decision-making.

The research team comprises four senior researchers, one PhD candidate, and an advisory board. The main applicant, prof. Duindam, is a leading authority on the early modern court and an experienced comparative historian. The co-applicant, prof. Nijenhuis, adds expertise on representation and decision-making in early modern political regimes and has a specific knowledge of sources related to decision-making practice. The senior researcher, dr Gabriëls, who acts as postdoc, combines extensive research experience on the Dutch Stadtholderate in the late eighteenth century with detailed knowledge of Napoleonic France and its sister regimes. He will be able to effectively support the PhD candidate. The research team has invited leading specialists on monarchy and politics in the early modern age as well as in the nineteenth century to join the advisory board.

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