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The House of Orange-Nassau (in Dutch: Huis van Oranje-Nassau), a branch of the European House of Nassau, has played a central role in the political life of the Netherlandsmarker — and at times in Europe — since William I of Orange (also known as "William the Silent" and "Father of the Fatherland") organized the Dutch revolt against Spanishmarker rule, which after the Eighty Years' War led to an independent Dutch state.

Several members of the house served during this war and after as governor or stadtholder (Dutch stadhouder). However, in 1815, after a long period as a republic, the Netherlands became a monarchy under the House of Orange-Nassau.

The dynasty was established as a result of the marriage of Hendrik III of Nassau-Breda from Germanymarker and Claudia of Châlon-Orange from French Burgundy in 1515.Their son Rene inherited in 1530 the Principality of Orange from his mother's brother, Philibert of Châlon. As the first Nassau to be the Prince of Orange, Rene' could have used "Orange-Nassau" as his new family name. However, his uncle, in his will, had stipulated that Rene' should continue the use of the name Châlon-Orange. History knows him therefore as René of Châlon. After the death of René in 1544 his cousin William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited all his lands. This "William I of Orange" - in English better known as William the Silent - became the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau.

The House of Nassau



The first man to be called the count of Nassau was Henry I, who lived in the first half of the 13th century. The Nassau family married into the family of the neighboring Counts of Arnstein (now Kloster Arnstein). His sons Walram and Otto split the Nassau possessions. The descendants of Walram became known as the Walram Line, which became Dukes of Nassau, and in 1890, the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg. The descendants of Otto became known as the Otton Line, which inherited parts of the Nassau county, properties in Francemarker, and in the Netherlandsmarker.

The House of Orange-Nassau stem from the Otton Line. The second person was Engelbert I, who offered his services to the Duke of Burgundy, married a Dutch noblewoman and inherited lands in the Netherlands, with the barony of Bredamarker as the core of the Dutch possessions.

The importance of the Nassaus grew throughout the 15th and 16th century.Hendrik III of Nassau-Breda was appointed stadtholder of Hollandmarker and Zeelandmarker by Charles of Ghent in the beginning of the 16th century. Hendrik was succeeded by his son René of Châlon-Orange in 1538, who was, as his full name stated, the Prince of Orange. When René died prematurely on the battlefield in 1544 his possessions passed to his cousin, William I of Orange. From then on, the family members called themselves "Orange-Nassau."

See also Adolf of Germany

The Dutch rebellion

Although Charles V resisted the Protestant Reformation, he ruled the Dutch territories wisely with moderation and regard for local customs, and he did not persecute his Protestant subjects on a large scale. His son Philip II inherited his antipathy for the Protestants but not his moderation. Under the reign of Philip, a true persecution of Protestants was initiated and taxes were raised to an outrageous level. Discontent arose and William of Orange (with his vague Lutheran childhood) stood up for the Protestant (mainly Calvinist) inhabitants of the Netherlands. Things went badly after the Eighty Years' War started in 1568, but luck turned to his advantage when Protestant rebels attacking from the North Sea captured Briellemarker, a coastal town in present-day South Hollandmarker in 1572. Many cities in Holland began to support William. During the 1570s he had to defend his core territories in Holland several times, but in the 1580s the inland cities in Holland were secure. William of Orange was considered a threat to Spanish rule in the area and was assassinated in 1584 by a hired killer sent by Philip.

William was succeeded by his second son Maurits, a Protestant who proved an excellent military commander. His abilities as a commander and the lack of strong leadership in Spainmarker after the death of Philip II (1598) gave Maurits excellent opportunities to conquer large parts of the present-day Dutch territory.

Maurits was created stadtholder (military commander) of the Dutch Republic in 1585. In the early years of the 17th century there arose quarrels between stadtholder and oligarchist regents — a group of powerful merchants led by Johan van Oldebarnevelt — because Maurits wanted more powers in the Republic. Maurits won this power struggle by arranging the judicial murder of Oldebarnevelt.

Expansion of dynastic power

Maurits died unmarried in 1625 and left no legitimate children. He was succeeded by his half-brother Frederick Henry (Dutch: Frederik Hendrik), youngest son of William I. Maurits urged his successor on his deathbed to marry as soon as possible. A few weeks after Maurits's death, he married Amalia van Solms-Braunfels.Frederick Henry and Amalia were the parents of a son and several daughters. These daughters were married to important noble houses such as the house of Hohenzollern, but also to the Frisian Nassaus, who were stadtholders in Friesland. His only son, William, married Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange, the eldest daughter of Charles I of Scotland and England & Ireland. These dynastic moves were the work of Amalia.

Exile and resurgence

Frederick Henry died in 1647 and his son succeeded him. As the Treaty of Munster was about to be signed, thereby ending the Eighty Years War, William tried to extend his powers beyond the military to make his function valuable at peace, at the great distress of the regents. When Andries Bicker and Cornelis de Graeff, the great regents of the city of Amsterdammarker refused some mayors he appointed, he besieged Amsterdam. The siege provoked the wrath of the regents and, unfortunately, William died of smallpox on November 6, 1650, leaving only a posthumous son, William III & II (*November 14, 1650). Since there was no Prince of Orange upon the death of William II, the regents used this opportunity to leave the stadtholdership vacant. This inaugurated the era in Dutch history that is known as the First Stadtholderless Period. The newborn prince was relegated to a disgraceful life. A quarrel about the education of the young prince arose between his mother and his grandmother Amalia (who outlived her husband by 28 years). Amalia wanted an education which was pointed at the resurgence of the House of Orange to power, but Mary wanted a pure English education. The Estates of Holland, under Jan de Witt and Cornelis de Graeff, meddled in the education and made William a "child of state" to be educated by the state. The doctrine used in this education was keeping William from the throne. William became indeed very docile to the wishes of the regents and the Estates.

The Dutch Republic was attacked by France and England in 1672. The military function of stadtholder was no longer superfluous, and with the support of the Orangists, William was restored, and he became the stadtholder as "William III". William successfully repeled the invasion and seized royal power. He became more powerful than his predecessors from the Eighty Years War. In 1677, William married Mary Stuart, the daughter of the future king James II of England. In 1688, William embarked on a mission to depose his Catholic father-in-law from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. He and his wife were crowned the King and Queen of England on April 11, 1689. With the accession to the thrones of the three kingdoms, he became one of the most powerful sovereigns in Europe, and the only one to defeat Louis XIV of France. Many members of the House of Orange were devoted admirers of the King-Stadtholder afterwards. William III & II died childless after a riding accident on March 8, 1702, leaving the House of Orange extinct, and leaving Scotland, England and Ireland to Queen Anne.

The second stadtholderless era

The regents found that they had suffered under the powerful leadership of William III and declared the stadtholdership vacant for the second time. The main reason was a quarrel about the title Prince of Orange between John William Friso of the Frisian Nassaus and the King of Prussia. Both descended from Frederick Henry. The King of Prussia, Friedrich I was his grandson through his mother, Louise Henriette of Orange-Nassau. Frederick Henry in his will had appointed this line as successor in the case the House would die out. John William Friso was a great-grandson of Frederick Henry and was appointed heir in William III's will. The solution was that both claimants were allowed to bear the title. The problem of the lands solved itself as the principality of Orange, Francemarker was conquered by Louis XIV in 1713. John William Friso drowned in 1711 in the Hollands Diep near Moerdijkmarker, and he left his posthumously-born son William IV. William IV was proclaimed the stadtholder of Guelders, Overijssel, Drenthe, and Utrecht in 1722. When the French invaded Holland in 1747, William was restored as the stadtholder of the entire Dutch Republic, hereditary in both the male and the female lines.

The end of the republic

William IV died in 1751, leaving his three-year-old son, Willem V of Orange, as the stadtholder. Since Willem V was still a minor, the regents reigned for him. Unfortunately, the regents once again deliberately weakened the character of the future ruler, educating him to be indecisive. This flaw would pursue Willem V for his whole life.His marriage to Wilhelmina of Prussia relieved this defect to some degree. Willem's inability to reign properly was a small factor in the collapse of the Dutch Republic, with the larger problem being the corrupt regents. In 1787, Willem V survived a coup by the Patriots (democratic revolutionaries) after the Kingdom of Prussia intervened. When the French invaded Holland in 1795, Willem V was forced to flee, and he was never to return to Holland.

After 1795, the House of Orange-Nassau faced a difficult period, surviving in exile at other European courts, especially those of Prussia and of England. Willem V died in 1806.


The Monarchy (since 1815)

A new spirit: the United Kingdom of the Netherlands

Dutch rebels drove out the French in 1813. It was virtually taken for granted that any new government would have to be headed by William VI, prince of Orange (known in Dutch as Willem Frederik), son of William V. They also figured it would be better in the long term if they restored him themselves .

At the invitation of the provisional government, the prince returned to the Netherlands on November 30. This move was strongly supported by the United Kingdom, which sought ways to strengthen the Netherlands and deny future French aggressors easy access to the Low Countries' Channel ports. On December 6, William proclaimed his reign as hereditary sovereign prince (having previously declined the offer of kingship). In 1814 the former Austrian Netherlands (now Belgiummarker) was added to his realm. On March 15, 1815 with the support of the powers gathered at the Congress of Vienna, William proclaimed himself King William I of the Netherlands. He was also made grand duke of Luxembourgmarker. The two countries remained separate despite sharing a common monarch.

As king of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, William tried to establish one common culture. This provoked resistance in the southern parts of the country, which had been culturally separate from the north since 1581. He was considered an enlightened despot.

The Prince of Orange held rights to Nassau lands (Dillenburg, Dietz, Beilstein, Hadamar, Siegen) in central Germany. On the other hand the King of Prussia, Frederick William III--brother-in-law and first cousin of William I, had beginning from 1813 managed to establish his rule in Luxembourg, which he regarded as his inheritance from Anne, Duchess of Luxembourg who had died over three centuries earlier. At the Congress of Vienna, the two brothers-in-law agreed to a trade—Frederick William received William I's ancestral lands while William I received Luxembourg. Both got what was geographically nearer to their center of power.

In 1830 Belgium declared its independence and William fought a disastrous war until 1839 when he was forced to settle for peace. With his realm halved, he decided to abdicate in 1840. Royal power was curbed during the reign of his son William II in a constitution ordered by the King to prevent the Revolution of 1848 from spreading to his country.

William III and the threat of extinction

William II died in 1849. He was succeeded by his son, King William III, a rather conservative, even a reactionary man. William III was sharply opposed to the new 1848 constitution, and he continually tried to form his own royal governments. In 1868, he tried to sell Luxembourgmarker to Francemarker, which was the source of a quarrel between Prussia and Francemarker.

William III had a rather unhappy marriage with Sophie of Württemberg, and his heirs died young. This raised the possibility of the extinction of the House of Orange-Nassau. After the death of Queen Sophie in 1877, William remarried, to Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont in 1879. One year later, Queen Emma gave birth to their daughter and the royal heiress, Wilhelmina.

Since females were not allowed to hold power in Luxembourg, due to the "Salic law", Luxembourg passed to the House of Nassau-Weilburg, a collateral line to the House of Orange. The Dutch Royal Family faced the threat of a complete extinction until 1909, when Wilhemina gave birth to her daughter, Juliana. The Dutch royal house remained quite small until the latter 1930s and the early 1940s, during which Juliana gave birth to four children. Although the House of Orange died out in its male line with the death of Queen Wilhelmina, the name "Orange" continues to be used by the Dutch royalty.

A modern monarchy



Wilhelmina was queen of The Netherlandsmarker for 58 years, from 1890 to 1948. Because she was only 10 years old in 1890, her mother, Queen Emma, was the regent until Wilhelmina's 18th birthday in 1898. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, during her reign, and this country was not molested and invaded by Germanymarker, as neighboring Belgiummarker was.

Nevertheless, Queen Wilhelmina became a symbol of the Dutch resistance during World War II. The moral authority of the Monarchy was restored because of her rule. After fifty years on the throne as the Queen, Wilhelmina decided to abdicate in favour of her daughter, Juliana. Juliana had the reputation of making the monarchy less "aloof", and under her reign the Monarchy became known as the "cycling monarchy". Members of the royal family were often seen bicycling through the cities and the countryside under Juliana.

A royal marriage policy quarrel occurred starting in 1966, when the future Queen Beatrix decided to marry Claus von Amsberg, a German diplomat. The marriage of a member of the royal family to a German was quite controversial in The Netherlands, which had suffered under Nazi German occupation in 1940 - 45. This reluctance to accept a German consort probably was exacerbated by Herr Amsberg's former membership in the Hitler Youth under the Nazi regime in his native country, and also his following service in the German Wehrmacht.

Permission was needed from the civilian Government for Beatrix to marry anyone, but after some argument, it was granted. As the years went by, and Prince Claus was fully accepted by the Dutch people. In time, became one of the most popular members of the Dutch monarchy, and his death in 2002 was widely mourned.

On April 30, 1980, Queen Juliana abdicated in favor of her daughter, Beatrix. In the decade of the 2000s, the Dutch monarchy seems to be popular with a large part of the population. The first-born son of Beatrix and her husband, Prince Claus, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, was born on April 27, 1967 - the first male heir to the Dutch throne in almost 100 years. Willem-Alexander married Máxima Zorreguieta in 2002. They are already the parents of three daughters: Catharina-Amalia, Alexia, and Ariane. When Beatrix of the Netherlands passes away, or abdicates the throne, the Crown Prince will take the throne, most likely as King William IV.

After a long struggle with neurological illiness, Queen Juliana passed away on March 20, 2004, and her husband, Prince Bernhard, died on December 1 of that same year—a double blow to Queen Beatrix.

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