21 The Peace of Nijmegen

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Regents and monarchs
In 1672 French troops occupied large parts of eastern Netherlands, including Nijmegen. They stayed in the city for two years, after which the war continued in other regions until 1676. The peace negotiations were held in Nijmegen which was chosen for its central location.

The Treaties of Peace of Nijmegen (1678-1679) ended the long lasting war between the Dutch Republic, France, Spain and their allies. Initially the Dutch Republic struggled in the war. This changed when the French King Louis XIV failed to breach the Dutch Water Line and Admiral Michiel de Ruyter beat the English, who were allied with the French. When the English king made peace with the Dutch Republic in 1674, Louis XIV realised his conquest had failed. Next the wrangling began about the location of the peace conference. Nijmegen was chosen as a compromise because Cologne was not safe enough and London, Breda and Kleve were all deemed unsuitable.

In mid-1676 the many representatives of the Emperor, Kings, Republicans, Princes and Potentates arrived. The people of Nijmegen were impressed when the Papal legate arrived with three carriages each pulled by six horses and a procession of lackeys. He was dressed in a purple robe with a diamond pectoral cross. The next highlight was the arrival of the French delegation. The ambassadors, wearing spectacular and expensive costumes, were also seated in beautiful carriages pulled by six horses and with another sixty heavily loaded wagons following them. Fifty more negotiators and their families arrived, moving into the best houses in the city. The Dutch ambassadors stayed in Doddendaal, the French in Burchtstraat, the Spaniards in Houtstraat, the English in Begijnenstraat and the Swedes in Lange Hezelstraat. During these months the city must have been a splendid sight as the houses the diplomats were staying in were decorated with royal coats of arms and sometimes also with the insignia of the ambassador.

Rules about titles and forms of address had to be established before negotiations could start. The rank of the diplomat concerned indicated how he would wish to negotiate with his adversaries. The discussions sometimes lasted well into the night. On 11 August 1678 a peace treaty was signed by the Dutch Republic and the French. Peace treaties between the other countries followed.

Many prints, paintings and coins have been made to honour the Treaty of Peace of Nijmegen, however hardly any refer to the city itself. At most the Trêveszaal (the council chamber) in the city hall can just be seen in a few paintings. The city’s coat of arms, or a silhouette of the city, were only visible on Dutch coins of the time.
The centre of Europe for a while
Henri Gascard, The Peace of Nijmegen, 1679 (MHV)

Source: Jac Geurts, in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)