The name Brussel seems to have been derived from Broeksele, the village on the marsh or brook, and probably it was the most used point for crossing the Senne on the main Roman and Frank road between Tournai and Cologne. The Senne, a small tributary of the Scheldt, flows through the lower town, but since 1868 it has been covered in, and some of the finest boulevards in the lower town have been constructed over the course of the little river. The name Broeksele is mentioned by the chroniclers in the 8th century, and in the 10th the church of Ste Gudule is said to have been endowed by the emperor Otto I. In the next two centuries Brussels grew in size and importance, and its trade gilds were formed on lines similar to those of Ghent. In 1312 Duke John II. of Brabant granted the citizens their charter, distinguished from others as that of Cortenberg. In 1356 Duke Wenceslas confirmed this charter and also the Golden Bull of the emperor Charles IV. of 1349 by his famous "Joyous Entry" into Louvain, the capital of the duchy.
These three deeds or enactments constituted the early constitution of the South Netherlands, which, with one important modification in the time of Charles V., remained intact till the Brabant revolution in the reign of Joseph II. In 1357 Wenceslas ordered a new wall embracing a greater area than the earlier one to be constructed round Brussels, and this was practically intact until after the Belgian revolution in 1830-1831. It took twelve, or, according to others, twenty-two years to build. In 1383 the dukes of Brabant transferred their capital from Louvain to Brussels, although for some time they did not trust themselves out of the strong castle which they had erected at Vilvorde, half-way between the two turbulent cities. During this period the population of Brussels is supposed to have been 50,000, or one-fifth of that of Ghent. In 1420 the gilds of Brussels obtained a further charter recognizing their status as the Nine Nations, a division still existing. Having fixed their seat of government at Brussels the dukes of Brabant proceeded to build a castle and place of residence on the Caudenberg hill, which is practically the site of the Place Royale and the king's palace to-day. This ducal residence, enlarged and embellished by its subsequent occupants, became eventually the famous palace of the Netherlands which witnessed the abdication of Charles V. in 1555, and was destroyed by fire in 1731. In 1430 died Philip, last duke of Brabant as a separate ruler, and the duchy was merged in the possessions of the duke of Burgundy.
In the 17th century Brussels was described (Comte de Ségur, quoting the memoirs of M. de la Serre) as "one of the finest, largest and best-situated cities not only of Brabant but of the whole of Europe. The old quarters which preserve in our time an aspect so singularly picturesque with their sloping and tortuous streets, the fine hotels of darkened stone sculptured in the Spanish fashion, and the magnificence of the Place of the hôtel de ville were buried behind an enceinte of walls pierced by eight lofty gates flanked with one hundred and twenty-seven round towers at almost equal distance from each other like the balls of a crown. At a distance of less than a mile was the forest of Soignies with great numbers of stags, red and roe deer, that were hunted on horseback even under the ramparts of the town. On the promenade of the court there circulated in a long file ceaselessly during fashionable hours five or six hundred carriages, the servants in showy liveries. In the numerous churches the music was renowned, the archduke Leopold being passionately given to the art, maintaining at his own cost forty or fifty musicians, the best of Italy and Germany. Under the windows of the palace stretched the same park that we admire to-day, open all the year to privileged persons and twice a year to the public, a park filled with trees of rare essences and the most delicious flowers so artistically disposed, and so refreshing to the eyes, that M. de la Serre declared that if he had seen there an apple tree he would assuredly have taken it for an earthly Paradise."
(D. C. B.)