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1576, Spanish Netherlands.  Copper "Distress of Hainaut (County)" Medal / Jetton.

Condition: VF+ Mint Year: 1576 Reference: Dugniolle 2679. R! Denomination: Medal / Jetton - Distress of Hainaut Material: Copper Diameter: 28mm Weight: 4.54gm

Obverse: Fenced fountain with coat-of-arms of the County of Hainaut. Legend: SERVIENDO CONSVMOR ("I wear myself out for the fatherland [in the service of the fatherland].") 1576 Reverse: Standing togate female figure, holding cornucopia with left hand and receiving olive-branch (Peace) from divine hand which protrudes from clouds. Legend: DOMINE DA PACEM ("Give peace, Lord.")

The County of Hainaut (sometimes spelled Hainault, French: Comté de Hainaut, Dutch: Graafschap Henegouwen; German: Grafschaft Hennegau; Latin: comitatus hanoniensis), was a territorial lordship within the medieval Holy Roman Empire, straddling what is now the border of Belgium and France. Its most important towns included Mons (Dutch: Bergen), now in Belgium, and Valenciennes, now in France.

The core of the county was named after the river Haine, and it stretched southeast to include the Avesnois region, and southwest to the Selle (Scheldt tributary). In the Middle Ages it also gained control of part of the original pagus of Brabant to its north, and the pagus of Oosterbant to the east, but these were not part of pagus of Hainaut. In modern terms, Hainaut consisted of the central part of the Belgian province of Hainaut, and the eastern part of the French département of Nord (the arrondisements of Avesnes-sur-Helpe and Valenciennes).

Hainaut already appeared in 8th-century records as a Frankish gau or pagus (country), which included the Roman towns of Famars and Bavay. In the 9th century, if not earlier, it was also described as a county, implying that it had a single count. As with many counties of the region, there was apparently a 10th-century fragmentation of territories among different counts, which is difficult to reconstruct. A single county re-emerged in its more or less final form in 1071.

Hainaut has a history of being a frontier territory. It fell within different Frankish realms during the 9th and 10th centuries, being part of West Francia (the future France), East Francia (the future Germany), and the "middle kingdom" of Lotharingia, until 925 when, as part of Lotharingia, the region was definitively attached to the eastern Frankish realm that would become Kingdom of Germany. Hainaut and its neighbourhood remained an important frontier area, or "march", during the High Middle Ages. Though it was part of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled from what is now Germany, it was culturally and linguistically French, and part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Reims. Like its neighbours such as the counties of Brabant and Flanders, it was frequently entangled in the politics of France.

The Counts of Hainaut were often rulers of other counties, including the Flanders and Holland. Throughout its history, the county of Hainaut formed a personal union with other states. For example:   

  • Hainaut and Flanders: 1067–71 and again 1191–1246
  • Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland: 1299–1356
  • Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland under Bavaria-Straubing: 1356–1432

In 1432, Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland joined Flanders, Artois, Namur, Brabant, Limbourg, and later Luxembourg, under the House of Valois-Burgundy. This large new state was later inherited by the Hapsburg dynasty.

In 1659 and 1678 southern Hainaut was acquired by France. The northern part continued to be part of the Hapsburg Netherlands, and like much of that state it was absorbed into the First French Republic at the end of the ancien regime and later became part of Belgium in 1830.

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