's-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc in French; pop. 135,000) is the capital of the province of North Brabant. The city's name is a contraction of the Dutch "des Hertogen Bosch", meaning "the Duke's forest". It is colloquially known as Den Bosch (pronounced "Den Boss").
It owes its name to Henry I of Brabant (1165-1235), first the Duke of Brabant, who possessed a large estate in nearby Orthen, and founded the city of 's-Hertogenbosch in 1185.
Founded by charter in 1185, 's Hertogenbosch was intended to protect the interest of the Duke of Brabant against the Counties of Guelders and Holland. The city was therefore conceived as a fortress town from the very beginning. Destroyed in 1203, it was promptly rebuilt. The city walls were enlarged in 1475 to encompass a wider area. Artificial waterways were dug to serve as a city moat, through which the rivers Dommel and Aa were diverted.
The city grew to become the second largest in the present-day Netherlands (after Utrecht) at the begining of the 16th century. It is during this prosperous period that one of the city's most famous son was born: Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), also known as "El Bosco" in Spanish, who was one of the greatest Renaissance painter in Northern Europe.
's Hertogenbosch would become the seat of an independent bishopric in 1559. However, the ideas of the Reformation spread through the Low Countries, and brought war between the Habsburgian rulers and the increasingly Protestant population. Under the reign of King Philip II of Spain (ruled from 1556 to 1598) a revolt started in the Spanish Netherlands, which would lead to the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648).