The Peace of Münster was a treaty signed in Münster on May 15, 1648, between Spain and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, ending the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the rebels in the Republic recognizing the Republic as a sovereign state.
The Peace of Münster was part of the Peace of Westphalia, which also ended the Thirty Years’ War. It should not be confused with the Treaty of Münster of October 24, 1648, between the Holy Roman Empire and France, which, incidentally, overlapped considerably with the Treaty of Osnabrück between the Holy Roman Empire and Sweden. All are part of the Peace of Westphalia.
The treaty between Spain and the Netherlands was established on January 30, 1648. Peace was signed on 15 May and confirmed with an oath by Dutch and Spanish envoys, with great interest from the people in Münster.
The French intervention in the war against Spain had turned the tide definitively in the Republic’s favor. In the meantime, there was war in large parts of Europe: the Thirty Years’ War. Peace negotiations between the warring factions in this war began in 1641. It was agreed that negotiations would take place in Münster and Osnabrück. Although the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands did not participate in the Thirty Years’ War, it was decided to invite the Republic to the peace negotiations. The war against Spain had made the Republic too much of a party. An invitation was received via France.
Although enormous military successes were achieved around that time, there was an increasing mood of peace within the Republic. The protracted war cost a lot of money and human lives. Only the provinces of Zeeland and Utrecht and Leiden’s city remained in favor of continuing the fight until the end.
Any country did not recognize the Republic except its own sovereign provinces, which were not seen as an independent nation by any other nations. Despite this, the Republic succeeded in having its delegates pass the peace talks as ambassadors, who, therefore — the States-General insisted — had to be addressed as ‘ Excellency. ‘ In this way, it was achieved that the Republic participated in the negotiations as a fully-fledged state in a roundabout way; even Spain agreed.
In January 1646, eight representatives of the Republic arrived by carriage in Münster to negotiate. The State delegation consisted of the Gelderland nobleman Barthold van Gent, lord van Mynerswijck, who was chairman because of his origins, Adriaen Pauw and Johan van Mathenesse from Holland, the Overijsselaar Willem Ripperda from Hengelo, the Groninger Adriaen Client van Stedum, the Utrecht nobleman Godart van Reede van Nederhorst, Frans van Donia from Friesland and Johan de Knuyt from Zeeland. The discussions took place in the House of the Kramers Guild, now the Haus der Niederlande. The Spanish negotiators had been given extensive powers from King Philip IV, seeking peace for years. The Spanish delegation was headed by the top diplomat Gaspar de Bracamonte y Guzmán.
During the consultations, the Republic and Spain quickly agreed. Thes’ Truce text was taken as text the starting point, and Spain formally recognized the Republic as a sovereign state.
Therefore, this important concession from Spain was the first point; Spain ceased to see the Republic as rebellious Spanish subjects (which it had done for 100 years). Peace seemed at hand. France, with which the Republic had agreed to come to a joint treaty with Spain, threw a spanner in the works by constantly coming up with new demands.
The States then decided to make peace with Spain outside France. The peace text was established on January 30, 1648. This was sent to The Hague and Madrid for signatures. The peace was finally signed on 15 May and confirmed with an oath by Dutch and Spanish envoys, with great interest from the people.
In the Netherlands, the National Archives keep two copies of the Peace of Münster, a Spanish and a French version. Both versions are signed by King Philip IV and have his seal in solid gold. They can be seen in the archive’s exhibition space.