The Colony of Nova Belgica was a colony of the Kingdom of Burgundy, located in northeast Arcadia. The colony was founded in the sixteenth century, and was situated around the capital city of Sint Jan.
The colony was one of several colonies founded by Burgundy on the continent of Arcadia, the first being New Flanders (OTL Charleston), later known as Kappelsbuerg after 1561, and New Rome by the English, followed by Bilzen (OTL Boston) in 1532 (and later recolonized in 1550), and New Amsterdam (OTL New York) in 1537. In 1577, Burgundy suffered the loss of most of its Arcadian possessions, and found itself focusing its efforts on the northern part of the continent, leading to the flourishing of New Amsterdam, the founding of Nova Belgica in 1584, and the founding of nearby Avelskamp (OTL Newfoundland) around the same time.
In 1861, the colony of New Amsterdam, under Frederik Lucassen, began talks with the Kingdom of Burgundy to establish independence, leaving Nova Belgica as the sole direct colony of Burgundy in northern Arcadia. During the mid nineteenth century the colony nonetheless gained greater autonomy within the Kingdom, and experienced a large period of industrialization and growth.
Arcadia's Gilded Age
Beginning in roughly the 1860s, the "Gilded Age" was a period in Nova Beglican history, and of Arcadia as a whole, in which the continent saw rapid industrialization and growth. The term for this period comes from the 1872 novel, De Vergulde Leeftijd ("The Gilded Age") by Belgican-Dutch author Mark Thijm, which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding. In Nova Belgica the era overlapped with the Robertian Era, the reign of King Robert IV of Burgundy (1851 - 1870), and his successor, Mary I.
During this time there was rapid economic progress and growth in the nation of Nova Belgica, a large increase in immigration from Europe, largely as a consequence of recent upheaval in Europe and the larger wages in the colony for skilled laborers, and the beginning of industrialization. However, the Gilded Age also saw the rise of poverty and inequality, especially among the new wave of immigrants, and the beginning of large concentration of wealth becoming more visible within the nation.
Vinland and the Islands Incident
In 1868, an Englishman named Thomas Spence, influenced by the ideals of republicanism in France and Iberia, launched a rebellion to secure independence for the Scandinavian territory of Vinland, declaring the Republic of Vinland in the capital city. The Scandinavian government accepted assistance from the Kingdom of Burgundy, and due to its proximity to Vinland, Nova Belgica played a large role in quelling the rebellion. That same year an expeditionary force of 8,000, led by Jan de Brouckère, joined Burgundian forces in Vinland. Nova Belgican's detachment was tasked with securing the nearby islands of Prinz Rupert Island (Prince Edward Island) and Ny Gotland (Anticosti Island), which had previously been a part of the nation a few decades prior. Both islands had a low rebel presence, and were captured with little resistance later that year.
The government of Scandinavia made little effort to re-establish control of the territory or help quell the rebel themselves, and in 1871 both of the islands under Nova Belgican military occupation were assigned a provisional, Burgundian government to help facilitate defense and rebuilding efforts. Defenses would be constructed on the islands coordinated by the Burgundian government, and the Burgundian occupation soon outnumbered Vinland's own raised armed forces. Additionally the islands saw a high amount of Burgundian settlement, encouraged by the Nova Belgican government.In 1872 Frederick Stenweide was elected to the position of government, after in part campaigning on a platform of expansionism. The formal annexation of the occupied islands was a logical target for the nation, and in January 1873 an offer was made to re-purchase the islands from the Scandinavian government.
This would ultimately lead to a diplomatic crisis commonly nicknamed the "Islands Incident". The Scandinavian government refused to formally reply to the Nova Belgican government, and in February dispatched armed forces to Vinland. This was immediately interpreted as a possible act of aggression by the Nova Belgican government, while the Scandinavians officially sought to re-establish control over their territories, which had lapsed from their authority for the past five years. Fearing a possible war with Burgundy, Scandinavia continued to raise forces in Vinland, while not officially attacking the occupied islands, while Nova Belgica responded by raising reserves and dispatching a fleet under Admiral Karel Visser to patrol the coast of Vinland. Around the same time Scandinavia accused the Burgundians of infringing on their territorial integrity, and asked the international community to condemn Nova Belgica's actions, which only the government of Great Britain did. France, however, was attracted to Burgundy's side, and unofficially backed Nova Belgica.
With tensions growing in Europe concurrently due to East Germany's military buildup and plans to attack Burgundy proper, both sides of the crisis wished to quickly end the possible conflict. With the Scandinavians unwilling to cede the islands to Nova Belgica directly, France negotiated to have the islands ceded to them instead in exchange for concessions in South Africa, and in August 1873 the Treaty of Anticosti was signed. In late December the Treaty of Winsum was negotiated between France and Burgundy, which say France then cede the islands to Nova Belgica. Both governments saw the move as potentially instigating to Scandinavia, leading to a formal alliance between France and Burgundy. The French government, however, hoped the deal would bait Scandinavia into a conflict for violating their earlier treaty, as France also had ambitions of defeating Scandinavia in a subsequent war. As the Treaty of Winsum was being signed, 20,000 Nova Belgican soldiers joined the French garrison already existing on the island, so that in the event of a Scandinavian retaliation they would be striking both Burgundy and France, while in mainland Nova Belgica another 50,000 reserves were raised and stationed in the north of the nation. Tensions would remain high throughout 1874, with Burgundy and German officially going to war, and Scandinavia ordering the construction of several forts in Vinland, and 25,000 soldiers to be dispatched to the colony.
List of Governors
Nova Belgica has a long history as a world leader in the building and owning of wooden sailing ships, beginning in the early nineteenth century, hosting several major shipyards in Arcadia. As a colony of Burgundy this began to translate to Nova Belgica becoming an important producer in the Burgundian navy, with the shipyards of Sint Jan, Lelystad, Ameland, Borselen, and Rustwyk becoming shipyards for Burgundian ships beginning in the 1870s, as well as the sites of the first locally-produced and administered ships of the colony around the same time.
One of the oldest, continuous shipyards in Arcadia is the Lelystad Naval Shipyard, established in 1800. Located on a cluster of conjoined islands, the swift current of the nearby river prevents ice from blocking navigation to the Atlantic Ocean. Before the official opening of the shipyard the area had a long tradition of shipbuilding, with the SMS Patagonië being locally produced in the vicinity of the future shipyard in 1696, considered the first Burgundian warship built in the Arcadian colonies.
Notable ships built in the colony include the Grondwet, a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate originally launched in 1797 in Lelystad. As one of the first ships commissioned independently by the colonial government, the ship continues to operate to this day, seeing numerous upgrades over the course of its almost century-long military use. The SMS Grondwet notably played a large role in the Franco-Burgundian War (1836 - 1840). In 1837 the SMS Grondwet battled the French frigate Guerrière, and during the battle most of the French shots rebounded harmlessly off Grondwet's hull, leading to the ship gaining the nickname of "Old Ironsides".