European Royalty: The Dutch Monarchy

Figure 1.--.

Ancient History

Much of what is now the Netherlands was once a part of the Roman Empire--a norther frontier area. It was conqured by Ceasar and later Legions under Augustus (1st century BC). The northern border of the Roman Republic and later the Empire was Rhine River. North and east of it the German tribes were independant. After the year 400 AD, the Romans withdrew and the German and Celtic tribes settled down in these regions. After the collaps of the Roman Empire, the Franks seized what is now Belgium and the southern Netherlands. The North-Netherlands remained "Fries" until the defeat of the Fresian King Radbod (690 AD). The Franks The Ftamks gradually extended their control beyond the Rhine to the northern Netherlands (785). It was under the Frankish leader Pepin that the Franks and Fresians were Christianized. Pepin founded the famed Caroligian Dynasty. Charlemagne turned the Frnish state to the most important European state since the fall of Rome.

Middle Ages

During the middle-ages the Low Lands between modern France and Germany were governed by a group of autonomous duchies, Gelre, Brabant and counties, Holland, Zeeland and the diocese of Utrecht. Eventually these and other principalities. As a result of the Viking invasions the towns in these areas fortified themselves, having to rely on themselves for protection. Their location at the outlet of the Rhine and other rivers helped to make them important commercially. As a result, they managed to develop considerable autonomy from their nominal feudal lords. They became the territory of the Duke of Burgandy and then were inherited by the Hapsburgs. Under the Habsburg monarch, Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), these territories and the area that is now modern Belgium and Luxemburg were united to one territory under the name "Lage Landen", Nether Lands and they were added to the enormous Habsburg Empire. The Hapsburgs were uncomfortable with the relative autonomy of their new possessions and this was intensified when the Dutch converted to Protestantism.

Dutch Revolt (1568)

The Protestant northern provinces in 1568 revolted against the Charles V's son King Phillip II of Spain. The revolt was in reaction to the restrictions on religious freedom and the absolute rule of Phillip. He was piously Catholic and believed in royal absolutism. He was determined to eradicate Catholcism from his territories. The people of the Netherlands objected to these efforts. Philip was of course the same monarch that sent the Great Armada to seize England and restore the Catholic faith. The Dutch revolt was led by Prince William I of Orange, the founder of the modern Netherlnds. The Dutch rovinces formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579 to face Spain with a united front.

House of Orange: French Origins

The House of Orange, so associated with the Neterlands today, actually oriniginated in southern France and has nothing to do with the modern Dutch state. Orange was a principality in southern France near Marseilles. The earliest record I know of dates to 1163. After the death of the last count, Rene de Chalon (1544), Willem van Nassau obtained Orange. The French family of Chalon-Orange and the German family of Nassau were united by the marriage between Hendrik 3rd of Nassau-Breda and Claudia of Chalon-Orange and by heredity to the property of Willem van assau-Dillenburg, who since then called himself Willem van Oranje-Nassau. Louis XIV in 1672 seized Orange. It became undisputed French territory in 1713 as part of the Treat of Utrecht, the peace treaty ending the War of the Spanish Succession (2701-14). The title and royal arms of Orange were passed to the Dutch Royal House.

House of Orange: German Connections

Only the name Orange is of French origin, but the Dutch Royal Family is solid German, today more than ever. Many Dutchmen don't like to be reminded of that, but it is a fact. It started with the founder of the Dutch Republic, William of Nassau-Dillenburg (1533-84), who was born in Germany. That's why the first stanza of the national anthem starts with the words "Wilhelmus of Nassau, I am of German blood". Through the centuries the Dutch kings have been marrying Protestant German princesses. This was because many European royal families were Catholic. Germany with all its various states had a large number of Protestabt royal families. The English with the demise of the Stuarts turned to a German toyal family. And of course Queen Victoria found the love of her life in Germanu--Prince Albert. This is also was why the House of Orange had such extensive German connections. William III (1849-90) married Emma von Waldeck-Pyrmont. (He was in his 60s and she only 21!). They produced no sons, only a daughter, Queen Wilhelmina. The Dutch had to change the Constitution to allow for female secession. Otherwise the Dutch could have been absorbed into the German Empire. Wilhelmina married Heinrich von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. They also had no sons, just a girl, who became Queen Juliana. She married Bernhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld. They had 3 daughters. The oldest one is the present Queen Beatrix, who also married a German, Claus von Amsberg. Crownprince Willem-Alexander will be the first king after 3 generations of queens. Breaking with traditions he married an Argentinian commoner, Máxima Zorregueta, a Catholic to top it off !

The Dutch Republic/United Provinces (1581-1795)

The people of the northern counties, in the resulting comflict, increasingly came to see themselves as a separate people--the Dutch. The United Provinces finally declared indepndence in 1581, although it was not achieved until 1648. The center of the Revolt was Holland, the most important province. Political leadership of the Republic was contested by the important merchants of Amsterdam and the House of Orange. The Republic was known as the United Provinces and consisted of the seven northern Netherlands provinces.

Prince William I of Orange (1533-84)

Revolt flared again led by William the Silent of the House of Orange (1568). William and the House of Orange are commonly seen as Dutch. They did not, however, begin in the Netherlands. In fact both were German. William was born in Hesse. He received both Protestant and Catholic teachngs as a boy. And William was a faithful sevant of Emperor Charles V who rewarded him at a young age for his military service. Chrles in return appounted him stadtholder of the counties Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht. From this position he played a key role in the formation of the Dutch nation. It was the beginning of which the Dutch call the "tachtig jarige oorlog"--the War for Independence which lasted for 80 years. It was a dreadful, vicious war as religious wars often are. He was a deply religious, but not sectarin. And when Phulip II began to supress the Dutch, William came to their defenseand an imprtant part of the Dutch Revolt. The War for independence began with Prince William I of Orange's efforts to seize control of the Dutch provinces to protect them from King Philips plan to destoy Protestantism. He financed mercinary invasions (1568 and 1572). Both failed, supressed by the Duke of Alva. It was Geuzen raids, irregular Dutch land and sea forces, that sized control from the Spanish (1573). They completed the Reformation in Holland and Zeeland and firmly established Calvanist theology. The other provinces joined the revolt (1576) and a political union was forged.

Prince Frederick Henry of Orange (1584-1647)

Prince Frederick Henry of Orange was the son of Prince William I (Maurice) of Nassau/Orange Luise de Coligny (1546- ). Frederick Henry continued his father's srtruggle aganst the Spanish. After years of strugle, Spain finally recognized the independence of the Netherlands. Although this was largely achieved by Prince Frederivk Henry, but he died before the treaty was actually signed. At the peace-treaty of Müunster in 1648, the Republic of Seven United Netherlands, which had been proclaimed in 1588, were recognized as an independant state.

William II

Prince William II of Orange was stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. His father was Prince Frederick Henry of Orange. He married Princess Royal Mary Stuart of Orange in 1641. William destinguished himself as a young soldier. After the death of his father a peace treaty was finally reached with Spain recognizing Dutch independence. William was, however, opposed to the terms of the treaty and quarled with the influential merchants who controlled the Netherlands. He favored an alliance with France. William was succeeded by his son, the future William III of England, who was born after his death. The Dutch in the 16-17th century, despite the war with Spain, became higly prosperous. The 17th century is seen as the Golden Century. Along with economic success came a flowering of culture. The Dutch painters of the 17h century left an enduring cultural legacy. The tiny Dutch Republic emerged as a world power. It was the trading-network, which had been created by the The United Eastindian Company (VOC), that administered a trade empire among countries, situated along the Indian Ocean. The VOC, which had been established in 1602 to coordinate trade with Southeast-Asia, has been for long time the biggest trading company in the world. Next to it the the West Indian Company (WIC) was trading with Africa and America. The WIC controled New Amsterdam, nowadays New York, from 1625 until 1664 before being displaced by the British. The need to protect these interests have caused several wars with Great Britain. The Netherlands thus emerged as a key center of international finance. The relationship nwith the English is complicated. There were naval trading wars between th Dutch and English. Yet England did not want any Continental European power to dominate the Netherlands. Both Stadtholder William II and his son William III married English princesses.

William III

William like his wife Mary had Stuart blood. His father was William II de Nassau, Prince of Orange. His mother was English Princess Royal Mary Henrietta Stuart, a daughter of Charles I. William and Mary replaced James II in the Glorious Revolution. Their reign meant the end of royal prerogative and efforts to establish royal absolutism. William and Mary in 1689 were crown co-rulers of England dethroming Masry's father King James. William's primary accomplishment as Statholder and King was to twart efforts by France to dominate Europe. This ime it was France which threatened the Ductch. The English provided needed military asstance. William also profoundly impacted English government. After William and Mary it would be Parliament that would increasingly dominate English Government. Control of Parliament would be contested by the merchant-backed Whigs.

Demise of the Republic

The Dutch were on-again, off-again British allies. Spain/France were common enemnies which drew the two ciuntries together. But they also had competing colonial/commercial interests. Ultimately, the Dutch were just too small of a country to compete effectively with Britain which was also harnassing capitalism. The Dutch in the 17th century found it increasingly difficult to compete with the British and their growing naval power. They fought two naval wars with the British. The British seized some Dutch colonies, including New Ansterdam (New York). The Dutch did hang on to the East Indies (modern Indonesia) and a few Caribbean islands. The wars with France under Louis VIV proved very costly for such a small country. The Dutch Republic fell as a result of a domestic democratic revolution and invading armies of the revolutionary French Republic (1795).

The French Revolution and Napoleon

The French revolution marked the end of the Republic of the Seven Netherlands. The Netherlands was occupied by the French in 1795 and the French created a satellite-state called "The Batavian Republic". Napoleon in 1806 appointed his brother Louis (Lodewijk) as King of the Republic, which was renamed the Kingdom of Holland. His wife was a daughter of Emperess Joséphine. Neither Louis's rule or the marriage proved successful. One of their children was to rule France as Napoleon III. Napoleon tiring of the difficulties which his brother eventually decided to simplu was annex Holland totally to France.

Kingdom of the Netherlands

The Netherlands as a result of Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812 became independent of France in 1813. After the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire in 1813, the Netherlands reachiebed its independence. The power-vacuum caused a struggle between "Royalists" and "Republicans". The Royalists won and in 1814 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was declared. The territory of theKingdom included the present Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. In the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 the names "United Provinces of the Netherlands" and "United Netherlands" are used. In 1816 it joined with Belgium to be the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and then the Kingdom of the Netherlands after Belgium became independent.

Willem I ( -1839)

The first king of the new Kingdom of the Netherlands was Willem I, Prince of Oranje Nassau, son of the last stadtholder, Willem V. Besides, the King was also Grand Duke of Luxemburg, with which the Netherlands until 1890 had a personal union. The constitution of 1814 provided that the King was governing and the secretaries of State were responsible to the King. Wilhem was not popular in Belgium and an independence movment grew in strength. Wilhelm sent the Dutch Army to quel diorders which proved to just inspire more opposition. The southern Netherlands in 1830 seperated and established the modern Belgian Kingdom. Willem I in 1839 acquiesced in this seperation and in that same year he abdicated from the throne. He became Grand-Duke. With the seperation of Belgium the territory of the Netherlands assumed it's modern boundaries.

Willem II (1839-1849)

Orangist Willem I was succeeded by his son Willem II, King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg. Willem is surely one of the more important kings in Dutch historry because itvwas during his reign that the country became a parlimentary democracy. Willem Frederik George Lodewijk (William Frederick George Louis) was born in the Hague during the French Revolution which shattered monarchial Europe. He was son of Willem I and Wilhelmine of Prussia. The Revolution would determine much of his life. His family was forced to flee to Britauin after allied British-Hanoverian troops left the Republic. French Revolutionary troops defeated the small army of the United Provinces. They proiclaimed theNetherlands to be liberated and joined the anti-Orangist Patriots. Willem as his mother as Prussian, spent his youth in Berlin at the Prussian court. He pursued a military education like a Prussianm prince and served in the Prussian Army. He then studied civil law at Christ Church, University of Oxford. He served in the British Army under Wellington (1811) and prived popular. He was appointed aude-decamp to the Prince Regent. He was senior officer of the Allied army in the Low Countries when Napoleon I of France escaped from Elba (1815). He relinquished command on the arrival of the Duke of Wellington, but played an important role at Waterloo--his first real battle. His father had ruled as sovereign prince, and proclaimed himself king (1815). His son became Prince of Orange as heir apparent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. When his father abdicated, Willem II became king. He oversaw the transition to parliamentary democracy with the new constitution of 1848. The Netherlands like other European countries were affected by the demands for liberal reform which swept Europe in 1848. Historians suspect that blackmail was at least partially involved in the Willem's acquiesence as a result of his sexual proclivities, not the most glamerous priocess for the birh of democracy. With the overhaul of the constitution in 1848, the King from now on could do no wrong. From that moment on the secretaries of State were responsible to the elected representatives of the people. The new constitution shaped the basis of the present constitutional monarchy with a parlementary system. Willem was a sutor to Princess Princess Charlotte of Wales, heir to the British throne, but married Anna Pavlovna of Russia, the youngest sister to Tsar Alexander I of Russia. The Tsar arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Imperial Russia and the Netherlands. . They had four sons and one daughter. Willem died (1849) and was succeeded by his son Willem III.

Willem III (1849-1890)

Willem II was succeeded by his son Willem III in 1849. He married his cousin, Sophia of Württemberg (1818-1877), a daughter of Catharina Pawlowna of Russia. After her death he married Adelheid Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont (1858-1934) in 1879. Their age difference was more than 41 years. Willen III had a long four decade reign. He had four children and despite having three sons, it as his youngest child, a daughter who would succeed him. The chilren were:
Willem Nicolaas Alexander Frederik Karel Hendrik (1840-1879): Willem was recognized as the crown prince in 1849. He asked for permission to marry the Dutch countess Anna Mathilda "Mattie" van Limburg Stirum (1854-1932), but was not allowed to do so. After his death she married the Dutch baron William Charles Reginald van Tuyll van Serooskerken (1845-1903).
Willem Frederik Maurits Alexander Hendrik Karel (1843-1850). Willem's second child son died in chidhood.
Willem Alexander Karel Hendrik Frederik (1851-1884): Willem's third son was appointed Crown Prince on the death of his older brother in 1879, but died only a few years later.
Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Marie (1880-1962): With the death of her brothers, little Princess Wilhelmina, King Willem's young daughter, after a change in the constitution, eventually inherited the crown because there was no direct male heir.

Queen Wilhelmina (1890-1948)

The Netherlands like many European countries had monarchies which were passed only to male relatives. Both the constitution of the Netherlands and Luxembourg (which was a personal fieddom of the Dutch king) required the the head of state to be a man. The Dutch government was concerned that Kaiser Wilhelm I might claim the throne as Wilhelm III had no direct male heir. There were family ties which could have made this possible, meaning that the Netherlands could have been annexed by Germany. As a result, the Dutch government changed the constitution to allow a queen as head of state. Wilhelmina was the daughter of King Willem III and his young German second wife Emma of Waldeck Piermont. The little Dutch princess would end up defying two aggressive German leaders. By the time Wilhelmina was 4 years old, all of the king's male heirs had died and so it was that only she could succeed her father to the throne. She grew up at 'Het Loo' palace in the center of the Netherlands. King Willem III's wife, Emma, served as Regent until 1898 when Willem III's daughter Wilhelmina was crowned. Wilhelmina met the German prince Heinrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1876-1934) in 1900. They married in 1901. After 9 years of marriage and several miscarriages, Wilhelmina at last gave birth to her only heir, a daughter, Juliana in 1909. During World War I (1914-18) the Netherlands managed with great effort to preserve their neutrality. The Germans while attacking France through Belgium, did not attack the Dutch. The Queen agreed to grant sanctuary to Kaiser Wilhelm II after the War when he showed up at the Dutch border. While she kept her distance from Wilhelm, she refused demands from the Allies to extridite him. Perhaps out of loyalty to a fellow soverign, she did not want to see the former Kaiser put on trial. Despite its strict neutrality-policy, the NAZIs invaded the Netherlands (May 1940). The Dutch were surprised and quickly occupied. Queen Wilhelmina escaped to Great Britain from where she headed the Dutch Government in exile and encouraged the resistance-movements. During the brutal NAZI occupation, the Queen was a great inspiration to the Dutch people. She made inspirational radio broadcasts which the Dutch people listened to despite severe penalties imposed by the German occupaion forces. After the Allies drove out the Germans, Queen Wilhelmina and her children returned to a devestated country.

Figure 2.--I believe that this is a portrait of Princess Juliana's wedding in 1937. She married Berhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld. I am not sure who the children are. A HBC reader tells me that they are not Juliana's brothers and sisters. King William and Queen Emma only had Wilhelmina. Probably the children carried the train of the bride's wedding dress.

Queen Juliana (1948-80)

Crown Princess Juliana was born in 1909. The Princess escaped with her mother to Britain (May 1940). The Queen sent the Princess to Canada in case the Germans also invaded Britain and Juliana spent the war there. Queen Wilhelmina in 1948, after a reign of 50 years, abdicated the throne for her daughter Juliana. Princess Juliana in 1937 married Berhard von Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911- ). Queen Juliana and her husband had five children:
Beatrix (1938- ): As the eldest child of Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard, Beatrix succeeded her mother in 1980.
Irene (1939- ): Renounced her rights, married Carlos Hugo de Bourbon-Parma (1930- ) in 1964 and divorced 1981. Their children included: Carlos de Bourbon-Parma (1970-), Jaime de Bourbon-Parma (1972- ), Margarita de Bourbon-Parma (1972- ), and Carolina de Bourbon-Parma (1974- ).
Margriet (1943- ): Princess Margriet was born in Canada during World War II. She married Pieter van Vollenhoven (1939- ) in 1967. Their had four children. 1) Maurits (1968- ), married 1998 Marie-Helène; Angela (Marilène) van den Broek (1970- ), youngest daughter of the politician Hans van den Broek (1936- ) and Joséphine Adriana Antoinette van Schendel (1943- ). The marriage took place on May 29/30, 1998 in Apledoorn. 2) Berhard (1969- ), c3) Pieter-Christiaan (1972- ), and 4) Floris (1975- ).
Maria Christina ("Marijke" before 1964) (1947- ): renounced her rights, married 1975, divorced 1996, Jorge Guillermo (1946- ). Children: 1) Bernardo Guillermo (b1977), 2) Nicolás Guillermo (1979- ), and Juliana Guillermo (b1981).

Queen Beatrix (1980- )

Princess Beatrix was the elest child of Queen Juliana and Prince Berhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld. The Priness and her mother was evacuated to Canada after the NAZI invasion and occupation of the Netherlands (1940). The Princess attended nursery and began primary school in Canada. When the royal family returned to the Netherlands after liberation from the NAZIs, the Princess continued her primary education at The Workshop (De Werkplaats), Kees Boeke's progressive school in Bilthoven. Princess Beatrix entered the Incrementum, part of Baarnsch Lyceum (1950). She passed her school-leaving examinations in arts subjects and classics (1956). Queen Juliana in 1980 was succeeded by Beatrix, the present Dutch monarch. Beatrix, Wilhelmina, Armgard is the current Queen of the Netherlands. Beatrix was born in in 1938 with the title Princess of Oranje Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld. Beatrix went to college in Leiden, where she obtained the doctoral in laws. Since the age of 18 she sits on the "Raad van State", the State Council. Princess Beatrix mairred Prince Claus, Jonkheer von Amsberg (1926- ) in 1966. The mairrage was quite controversial at the time. He was a German diplomat and because of the NAZI occupation there was considerable anti-German feeling. They had three boys. Their children are:
Willem Alexander (1967- ): Wilhelm Alexander is the Crown Prince of The Netherlands--the Prince of Orange. Willem Alexander was named for the two sons of illem III who both died so young.
Johan Friso (1968- ): We have little information on Prince Johan Friso. We do know that he married Mabel Wisse Smit in Delft on April 24, 2004. I am not sure who the children in the wedding portrait were.
Constantijn (1969- ):

Prince Willem-Alexander

Queen Beatrix's successor will be her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, the first male heir to the Dutch throne in over 100 years. His birth was celebrated with a 101 gun salute fired at five locations in the Dutch kingdom. The boys were raised out of the public eye and rarely attended public events. Their parents sought to raise them as normally as possible. Wilhem Alexander as a young boy took a dim view of the press. He created considerable controsesy in 2001 with his choice of a bride, an Argentine who is the daughter of a cabinet minister is the Vidella Adninistration which conducted the brutal "Dirty War". The Prince developed the reputation as an intelectual light-weight, but in recent years has been improving his reputation. Prince Willem Alexander has stated that he will be called King Willem IV of Orange Nassau.

Dutch Royal Site

The Dutch Royal Family maintains an informative website. They stress the modern royals rather than the history of the House of Orange.


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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 10:02 PM 10/10/2007