Map of Flanders, 1573.
This map of Flanders is a reproduction of the original map of Flanders by Gerhard Mercator, one of the founders of modern cartography. It was later copied by his disciple, another famous Flemish cartographer by the name of Abraham Ortelius and was reprinted in several editions – this being one of them.
In the 16th century, Flanders covered the western part of what is today Belgian Flanders (the River Scheldt being the frontier on the East), the western part of what is today Belgian Wallonia, as well as small areas that are today the Netherlands (the southern part of the Zeeland province), and France (Lille region).
In the second half of the 16th century, the Low Countries were undergoing turbulent times. Protestantism was becoming increasingly popular in the region, which was frowned on by the Spanish Hapsburgs, who ruled the area at that time. In 1568, Seven Northern Provinces led by William Orange revolted against the Hapsburgs and the rebellion quickly spread throughout the region. The Low Countries were of strategic importance to the Spanish Crown – Antwerp, Bruges, and other coastal towns were crucial gateways for Spanish colonial goods to Europe. In 1581, the Seven Northern Provinces declared their independence, although the uprising in the Southern Provinces was repressed in 1585 when Antwerp fell after twelve months of siege.
Helena Soister’s book “Prophecies” is historical fiction set in 16th century Antwerp.