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Title: Flemings  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hubert van Eyck, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Emanuel van Meteren, Louis de Blois, Antoinette Bourignon, Philip van Artevelde, Jan Mabuse, Frans Floris, Michiel Coxie, Philip Fruytiers
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


"Flemings" redirects here. For other uses, see Flemings (disambiguation).
Flemish people
James Ensor
Total population
7,300,000 (2011 estimate)
Regions with significant populations
 Belgium 6,450,765[1]
 United States 389,171[2]
 France 187, 750[3]
 Canada 12,430 - 168,910[4]
 South Africa 55,200[3]
 Australia 15,130[3]
 Brazil 6,000[3]
Related ethnic groups
Austrians, Danes, Dutch, English, Germans, French, Icelanders, Norwegians, Swedes, Walloons, other Germanic peoples

The Flemish (Dutch: “de Vlamingen”) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Belgium, who speak Dutch.[5] They are mostly found in the northern region of Flanders. They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons. The "Flemings", as they are also called, make up the majority of the Belgian population (about 60%). Historically, “the Flemings” also refers to the inhabitants of the ancient county of Flanders, including the French-speaking or Picard-speaking Flemings of the regions around Tournai (today in Wallonia), Lille and Douai (today in French Flanders), who were called “les Flamands wallons” (the Romance Flemings).[6]


The sense of 'Flemish' being a national identity increased significantly after the Belgian Revolution. Prior to this, the term 'Flemings' in the Dutch language was in first place used for the inhabitants of the former County of Flanders. Flemish however had been used since the 14th century to describe the language of both the peoples of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant.[7] Italians started in 15th century to describe both peoples as 'Fiamingi', the English and the French followed in the 16th. The sentiments of having somehow a common identity, despite belonging to different states (most notably the share of a common language, the deeply felt need to 'act as one' against any foreign state) existed already in the Middle Ages. An early example is the 'Flemish-Brabant Co-operation Treaty' (Vlaams-Brabants samenwerkingsverdrag) from 1339 imposed by the main cities of both states upon their rulers.[8] It must be noted that the modern Belgian province of Limburg was not part of this, and only came to be considered "Flemish" in the 19th century.

In 1830 the southern provinces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands seceded. The French-speaking administration and elites feared the loss of their privileged status in the newly formed United Kingdom. Under French rule (1794–1815) the exclusive use of French was harshly imposed in public life, resulting in a Frenchification of the elites and, to a lesser extent, some of the middle classes. The Dutch King allowed the use of both Dutch and French as administrative languages in the Flemish (Dutch speaking) provinces. He also enacted laws to (re)enable Dutch in schools.[9] Since these elites rejected even the idea of learning Dutch, they feared being replaced by bilingual people. The language policy was not the only cause of the secession. The Roman Catholic majority viewed the sovereign, the Protestant William I, with suspicion and were heavily stirred by the Roman Catholic Church which suspected William falsely of wanting to push for Protestantism. Lastly, the Liberals were dissatisfied with William for his rather autocratic behaviour. )

Following the revolt, the language reforms of 1823 were the first (4 June 1830) Dutch laws to be abolished and the subsequent years would see a number of laws restricting the use of Dutch and Dutch culture.[10] This cultural oppression by the Belgian government responded in the 1840s with the emergence of the Flemish movement, that was built on earlier anti-French Flemish feelings of injustice, as expressed in writings (for example by the late 18th-century writer, Jan Verlooy) which criticized the Southern Francophile elites. The efforts of this movement during the following 150 years, have to no small extent helped the formation of a Flemish nation, now consisting of the Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium with a shared number of social, political and linguistic aims.

Identity and culture

Within Belgium the Flemings form a clearly distinguishable group, set apart by their language and customs. [11] However, the popular perception of being a single polity varies greatly, depending on subject matter, locality and personal background. Generally, Flemings will seldom identify themselves as being Dutch and vice versa, especially on a national level.[12]

This is partly caused by the popular stereotypes in the Netherlands as well as Flanders which are mostly based on the 'cultural extremes' of both Northern and Southern culture.[13] But also in great part because of the history of emancipation of their culture in Belgium, which has left many Flemings with a high degree of national consciousness, which can be very marked among some Dutch-speaking Belgians.[14] Alongside this overarching political and social affiliation, there also exists a strong tendency towards regionalism, in which individuals greatly identify themselves culturally through their native province, city, region or dialect they speak.


Flemings speak Dutch (specifically its southern variant, which is sometimes colloquially called 'Flemish'). It is the majority language in Belgium, being spoken natively by three-fifths of the population. Its various dialects contain a number of lexical and a few grammatical features which distinguish them from the standard language.[15] As in the Netherlands, the pronunciation of Standard Dutch is affected by the native dialect of the speaker. All Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium are spoken in adjacent areas of the Netherlands as well. At the same time East Flemish forms a continuum with both Brabantic and West Flemish. Standard Dutch is primarily based on the Hollandic dialect (spoken in the Northern Netherlands) and to a lesser extent on Brabantian, which is the most dominant Dutch dialect of the Southern Netherlands and Flanders.


Approximately 75% of the Flemish people are by baptism assumed Roman Catholic, though a still diminishing minority of less than 8% attends Mass on a regular basis and nearly half of the inhabitants of Flanders are agnostic or atheist. A 2006 inquiry in Flanders, showed 55% chose to call themselves religious, 36% believe that God created the universe.[16]

National symbols

The official flag and coat of arms of the Flemish Community represents a black lion with red claws and tongue on a yellow field (or a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules).[17] A flag with a completely black lion had been in wide use before 1991 when the current version was officially adopted by the Flemish Community. That older flag was at times recognized by government sources (alongside the version with red claws and tongue).[18][19] Today, only the flag bearing a lion with red claws and tongue is recognized by Belgian law, while the flag with the all black lion is mostly used by Flemish separatist movements. The Flemish authorities also use two logos of a highly stylized black lion which show the claws and tongue in either red or black.[20] The first documented use[21] of the Flemish lion was on the seal of Philip d'Alsace, count of Flanders of 1162. As of that date the use of the Flemish coat of arms (or a lion rampant sable) remained in use throughout the reigns of the d'Alsace, Flanders (2nd) and Dampierre dynasties of counts. The motto "Vlaanderen de Leeuw" (Flanders the lion) was allegedly present on the arms of Pieter de Coninck at the Battle of the Golden Spurs on July 11, 1302.[22][23][24] After the acquisition of Flanders by the Burgundian dukes the lion was only used in escutcheons. It was only after the creation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands that the coat of arms (surmounted by a chief bearing the Royal Arms of the Netherlands) once again became the official symbol of the new province East Flanders.

See also

Belgium portal


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