Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
In the 1480s Habsburg rule over the Low Countries was faced with its greatest crisis before the Dutch Revolt of the late sixteenth century. After the death of his wife Mary of Burgundy in 1482 Maximilian of Austria had assumed authority over the principalities that constituted the Low Countries as the guardian of Philip the Fair, their under-age son and sole heir to Mary's dominions. This claim did not go unchallenged. The county of Flanders, one of the richest and most populous principalities, was the first to take up arms against Maximilian. The first Flemish revolt of 1482–85 was suppressed but the heavy fiscal demands to fund the Habsburg war against France provoked a new uprising in the city of Ghent in November 1487. In January 1488 the unthinkable happened: the craft guilds of Bruges, the second largest city of Flanders, joined the Ghent revolt and Maximilian, who happened to reside in the city, was taken into custody. He was only released three months later, when he had given his formal promise to respect the political rights of his Flemish subjects. He soon reneged on this promise, however, and declared war on his Flemish subjects. In response, the Flemish towns organized an alternative government to autocratic Habsburg rule and allied themselves with the king of France, who provided military support against the Habsburg armies. The new revolt soon spilled over the borders of the county of Flanders.