"The Netherlands" originally referred to an area that is now all three of what we call Benelux or The Low Countries.

The Netherlands were originally a bunch of contiguous little duchies, counties, and bishoprics cobbled together by the Duke of Burgundy through inheritance and conquest.

Now, the rise and fall of Burgundian hegemony is a story for a whole other node. For the purpose of this node, it is sufficient to say that the French King, ostensibly the Duke's liege1 lord, viewed the Duke's growing power as a threat, invaded his lands and killed the duke. The Duke's daughter, not to be outdone, promptly married Maximillian. the Hapsburg heir to Austria and the Holy Roman Emperor. Their son married Joanna, the only child of Ferdinand and Isabella. And *their* son was Charles V, who also gave Spain and the Netherlands, to his son Philip II (and Austria to brother Maximillian). After this point the Netherlands were known as "the Spanish Netherlands" for a time.

This, of course, was the time of the Protestant Reformation. The northern half of the Netherlands turned Protestant and rebelled, the southern half remained Catholic.

Philip's general, the Duke of Parma, was able to kick the rebels out of the country, but with the help of Elizabeth I of England, William of Orange was able to get a toehold back in his country, and recapture the whole Protestant half of The Netherlands back, forming the republican monarchy we know today as "The Netherlands".

What happened to the other (Catholic) half of the Spanish Netherlands, you ask? Well the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht ending the War of the Spanish Succession handed then back to Hapsburg Austria, as Spain had gone to a branch of the French House of Bourbon. So, for another 90 or so years they were "The Austrian Netherlands", until revolutionary France, under General Moreau, conquered them along with the Dutch Republic. This passed into the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte along with all the rest of the French conquests.

After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the Congress of Vienna set up a Kingdom of the United Netherlands with the Protestant Dutch in control. This didn't work out for very long, and in 1837 the southern half split off from the northern half. The Powers of Europe had to recognize the new country to keep themselves from going to war against each other again. Since, in Roman times, a Celtic tribe called the Belgae had lived there, it was decided to call the new country Belgium.
1 Pardon the pun, O ye Belgae.