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Prince of Orange is a title of nobility, originally associated with the Principality of Orange, now in southern Francemarker.

It is carried by members of the House of Orange-Nassau, as heirs to the crown of the Netherlands, and is also seen carried by the pretenders by members of the House of Hohenzollern. It is currently carried by Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands (Orange-Nassau), Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia (Hohenzollern) and Guy, Marquis de Mailly-Neslé, Prince d'Orange.

The Principality of Orange

Four generations Princes of Orange - William I, Maurice and Frederick Henry, William II, William III (Willem van Honthorst, 1662)
The title originally referred to the sovereign Principality of Orange in the Rhone valley in southern Francemarker, which was a property of the house of Orange and from 1544 of the house of Orange-Nassau.

Because Orange was a fief in the Holy Roman Empire, in its Kingdom of Burgundy, the title contained feudal rights and that sovereignty which German principalities came to enjoy.

The last descendant of the original princes, René of Nassau, left the principality to his cousin William the Silent, who was not a descendant of the original Orange family but the legal heir of the principality of Orange.

In 1673, Louis XIV of France annexed all territory of the principality to the royal domain, as part of the war actions against the stadtholder William III of Orange — who later became King William III of Englandmarker and King William II of Scotlandmarker.

In 1673, Louis XIV bestowed the (now non-sovereign) principality on Louis of Mailly-Nesles, marquis of Nesles (1689-1764), a very remote descendant of the original princes of Orange . His descendant still claims the title today. In 1714, Louis XIV bestowed the usufruct of the principality on Prince Louis Armand of Bourbon-Conti. He died in 1727 and the principality was merged in the Crown in 1731.

Because William III died without legitimate children, the principality was regarded as having been inherited by his closest cognate relative on the basis of the testament of Frederic-Henry, Frederick I of Prussia , who ceded the principality — at least the lands, but not the formal title — to France in 1713. France supported his claim. In this way, the territory of the principality lost its feudal and secular privileges and became a part of France. The Treaty of Utrecht allowed the King of Prussia to erect part of the duchy of Gelderland (the cities of Geldern, Straelen and Wachtendonk with their bailiwicks, Krickenbeck (including Viersen), the land of Kessel, the lordships of Afferden, Arcen-Velden-Lomm, Walbeck-Twisteden, Raay and Klein-Kevelaer, Well, Bergen and Middelaar into a new Principality of Orange . The kings of Prussia and the German emperors styled themselves Princes of Orange till 1918.

An agnatic relative of William III, John William Friso of Nassau, who also by female line descended from William the Silent, was designated the heir to the princes of Orange in the Netherlandsmarker by the last will of William III. Several of his descendants became stadtholders. They claim the principality of Orange on the basis of agnatic inheritance , similar to that of William the Silent, inheriting from his cousin René, though not being descendants of the original princes of Orange, and also on basis of the testament of Philips William, Maurice and William III. France never allowed them to obtain anything of the principality itself, but they nevertheless assumed the title. From that derivation of the title comes the tradition of later stadtholders of the Netherlands, and the present-day royal family of the Netherlands, of also holding this title.

Thus, there are now two pretender claimants to this title:

Bearers of the title (with dates)

As sovereign prince of Orange

Until 1340, it was customary for all sons of the prince of Orange to inherit the title.Only the direct line of descent to Raimond V is shown here.

House of Baux

House of Baux-Orange

House of Châlon-Arlay (also House of Ivrea of Anscarid dynasty)

House of Nassau

  • René (1530-1544), nephew of Philibert

House of Orange-Nassau (first creation)

  • William I (1544-1584), cousin of René of Châlon, also Lord of Breda and Count of Dillenburg, stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland etc.
  • Philip William (1584-1618), son of William I from his 1st marriage, not a stadtholder
  • Maurice (1618-1625), son of William I from his 2nd marriage, stadtholder
  • Frederick Henry (1625-1647), son of William I from his 4th marriage, stadtholder
  • William II (1647-1650), stadtholder
  • William III (1650-1702), stadtholder, and from 1688 King of England and Scotland

As a personal title or as heir apparent

House of Orange-Nassau (second creation)

As personal title of nobility:
  • Johan Willem Friso (1702-1711), descendant in male line of William I's brother, and in female line also of William I himself, stadtholder of Friesland, and his descendants
  • William IV (1711-1751), stadtholder
  • William V (1751-1806), stadtholder

As royal title for the heir apparent:
  • William I (1806-1815), title dropped when invested as first King of the Netherlands in 1815
  • William II (1815-1840) title dropped on accession to the throne
  • William III (1840-1849) title dropped on accession to the throne
  • William (1849-1879), eldest son of William III from his 1st marriage
  • Alexander (1879-1884), third son of William III from his 1st marriage
  • William-Alexander (1980-present), heir apparent to the Dutch throne

House of Hohenzollern

House of Mailly

  • Louis de Mailly, appointed by the French king, and his descendants, currently Guy, Marquis de Mailly-Neslé, Prince d'Orange

House of Bourbon-Conti

The Princes of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau

Historical background

William the Silent (Willem I) was the first stadtholder of the Dutch Republic and the most significant representative of the House of Orange in the Netherlands. He was count of a small German county, part of the Duchy of Nassau and heir to some of his father's fiefs in Holland. William obtained more extensive lands in the Netherlands (the lordship of Breda and several other dependencies) as an inheritance from his cousin René, Prince of Orange, when William was only 11 years old. After William's assassination in 1584, the title passed to his son Philip William (who had been held hostage in Spain until 1596), and after his death in 1618, to his second son Maurice, and finally to his youngest son, Frederick Henry.

The title of Prince of Orange became synonymous with the stadtholder of the Netherlands.

William III (Willem III) was also King of England, Scotland and Ireland, and his legacy is commemorated annually by the Protestant Orange Order.

William and Mary had no legitimate children. After his death in 1702, the Dutch contender to his title was his heir in the Netherlands, John William Friso of Nassau-Diez, who assumed the title. William's testament designated Friso to inherit the title. The other contender was the King in Prussia, who based his claim to the title on the will of Frederick Henry, William III's grandfather. Eventually, a compromise was reached by which both families were entitled to bear the title of Prince of Orange. By then, it was no more than a title because the principality had been annexed by Louis XIV of France.

Friso's line held it as their principal title during the 1700s. The French army drove them away from the Netherlands in 1795, but on their return, the Prince of Orange became the first sovereign of the Netherlands in 1813.

After the establishment of the current Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, the title was partly reconstitutionalized in a bill and granted to the eldest son of King William I of the Netherlands, Prince William, who later became William II of the Netherlands. Since 1983, the heir to the Dutch throne, whether male or female , bears the title Prince or Princess of Orange. The first-born child of the heir to the Dutch throne bears the title Hereditary Prince of Orange . Currently, Princess Catharina-Amalia is the Hereditary Princess of Orange. She will be the Princess of Orange once her father, Prince Willem-Alexander, is inaugurated King of the Netherlands.

The Prince(ss) of Orange is styled His/Her Royal Highness the Prince(ss) of Orange (Dutch: Zijne/Hare Koninklijke Hoogheid de Prins(es) van Oranje).


  1. Website Dutch Royal House on Willem-Alexander


  • Herbert H. Rowen, The princes of Orange: the stadholders in the Dutch Republic. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • Reina van Ditzhuyzen, Het Huis van Oranje: prinsen, stadhouders, koningen en koninginnen. Haarlem : De Haan, [1979].

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