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The House of Nassau

Coat of Arms of the Counts of Laurenburg and Nassau

Coat of Arms of the Counts of Nassau 13th century

For further reading : Lines colored in :

ORANGE = line from William I "the Silent" to William III, 1544 - 1702, straight Male succession.

YELLOW = line from Johan William Friso to King William III of the Netherlands, 1702 - 1890, straight Male succession.

PINK= line from Queen Wilhelmina to Queen Beatrix, 1890 - present, Female succession.

The House of Nassau-Dietz

Part 1

After the dead of John VI "the Elder" his possessions were divided between his five sons :

  1. Nassau-Dillenburg under William-Louis, extinct in 1620.
  2. Nassau-Siegen under John VII "the Middle", extinct in 1734.
  3. Nassau-Beilstein under George "the Old", after 1620 at Dillenburg, extinct in 1739.
  4. Nassau-Dietz under Ernst Casimir, after 1702 called Orange-Nassau, extinct in 1890.
  5. Nassau-Hadamar under John Louis, extinct in 1711.

After 1743 all possessions were reunited under the name Orange-Nassau, though the emperial administration use the name Nassau-Dillenburg in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss par.12, from 1803, to differentiate from the Walramian Nassau-Weiburg branch.

1. Nassau-Dillenburg 1606-1620

William Louis 1560-1620, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg 1606-1620, Stadtholder of Frisia 1584, Drenthe 1593 and Groningen 1594

William Louis, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg (Dutch: Willem Lodewijk; West Frisia: Willem Lodewyk) (March 13, 1560, Dillenurg, Hesse – July 13, 1620, Leeuwarden, Netherlands) was Cout of Nssau-Dillenburg from 1606-1620, and Stadtholder of Frieslad, Grningen, and Drenthe. He was the eldest son of Jhn VI, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg. William Louis served as a cavalry officer under William the Silent. Together with his cousin (and brother-in-law) Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, he helped plan the military strategy of The Netherlands against Spain from 1588-1609. On November 25, 1587, he married his cousin, Anna f Nassau, daughter of William the Silent and Anna of Saxony, and older sister of Maurice of Nassau. Anna died less than six months later on June 13, 1588, and William Louis never remarried. He was nicknamed "Us Heit" (West Frisian for "our father"). He died in Leeuwarden, the city which honored him with a stattue on the Gouvernment square. His body was laid to rest in the Jacobijnerkerk in Leeuwarden.

Counts of Nassau-Dillenburg 1606-1620
Name Rule time Remarks
William Louis "us heit" 1606-1620 Eldest son of John VI "the Elder"

2. Nassau-Siegen 1606-1734

The branch of Nassau-Siegen was a collateral line of the House of Nassau, and ruled in Siegen. The first Count of Nassau-Siegen was Count Henry ofNassau-Siegen (d. 1343), the elder son of Count Otto I of Nassau. His son Count Otto II of Nassau ruled also in Dillenburg.

In 1606 the House was separated from the House of Nassau-Dillenburg. After the main line of the House became extinct in 1734 with the dead of Frederick William, Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740) transferred the County to the House of Orange-Nassau.

Counts of Nassau-Siegen 1606-1734
Name Rule time Remarks
John I "the Middle" 1606-1611 John VII, son of John VI "the Elder"
George "the Old" 1611-1623 Son of John VII "the Elder", from 1620 also Count of Nassau-Dillenburg
John II 1623-1638 Son of John I
George Frederick 1638-1674 Son of John II
John Maurice 1674-1679 Prince, Son of John II, Governor of brazilian capitany of Pernambuco (1637-1644), founder of the Mauritshuis at The Haque
William Maurice 1679-1691 Son of George Frederick
John Francis Desideratus 1691-1699 Catholic branch
William Hyacinth 1699-1707 Catholic branch
Frederick William I Adolf 1707-1722 Protestant branch, son of William Maurice
Frederick William II 1722-1734 Protestant branch, son of William Maurice

3. Nassau-Beilstein 1620-1739

Counts of Nassau-Beilstein 1620-1739
Name Rule time Remarks
George "the Old" 1620-1623 son of John VI "the Elder", also Count of Nassau-Dilenburg (1611-1623)
Louis Henry 1623-1662 Prince from 1652
Henry 1662-1701  
William 1701-1724  
Christian 1724-1739  

The House of Nassau-Dietz 1702 - 1795 and 1815 - 1890

Ernst Casimir 1573-1632, Count of Nassau-Dietz 1606-1632, Stadtholder of Frisia, Groningen and Drenthe 1620-1632

Ernst Casimir van NassauErnst Casimir was born 22 December 1573. He was the eleventh child of John VI "the Elder", Count of Nassau-Dillenburg and Elisabeth of Leuchtenberg. After the death of his father in 1606, the County of Nassau was divided among his five living sons, Ernst Casimir followed him as Count of Nassau-Dietz.

Ernst Casimir was primarily known as an outstanding military leader during the Eighty Years War. He served under Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange in the siege of the cities of Steenwijk and Oldenzaal, and from 1625 under Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange during the Siege of Groenlo (1627) and the Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch. As Stadtholder of Groningen he founded the Nieuweschans fortress in 1628. Although he owned little in Friesland, he was popular there, and people granted his heir the right to rule after his death.

He was killed by a bullet at the Siege of Roermond while he was inspecting the trenches in June, 2 1632. His son, Hendry Casimir I succeeded him as Count of Nassau-Dietz and as Stadtholder of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe.

In 1607 Ernst Casimir married Sophia Hedwig of Brunswick-Lüneburg, daughter of Henry Julius, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. From this marriage nine children were born :

  1. stillborn daughter (1608)
  2. stillborn son (1609)
  3. unnamed son (1610)
  4. Henry Casimir I of Nassau-Dietz (1612-1640)
  5. Wiliam Frederick of Nassau-Detz (1613-1664), married 1652 Albertine-Agnes of Orange-Nassau
  6. Elisabeth (July 25, 1614 - 18 Sept, 1614)
  7. Johan Ernst (March 29, 1617 - May 1617)
  8. Maurice (February 21, 1619 - 18 Sept, 1628)
  9. Elisabeth Friso (25 Nov, 1620 - 20 September 1628)

Henry Casimir I of Nassau-Dietz (1612-1640), Count of Nassau-Dietz, Stadtholder of Frisia, Groningen and Drenthe 1632-1640

Hendrik Casimir I van NassauHenry Casimir I of Nassau-Dietz (Arnhem, 21 January 1612 – Hulst, 13 July 1640) was count of Nassau-Dietz and Stadtholder of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe.He was the eldest son of Ernst Casimir of Nassau-Dietz and Sophia Hedwig of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and like his father, died in battle. On July 12, 1640, he was wounded in Sint Jansteen at the battle of Hulst. He died the next day. Hendrik Casimir is buried in Leeuwarden, and was succeeded in his titles by William Frederick, Prince of Nassau-Dietz. His death at age 28 caused a series of memorials to his name and the battle in which he died.

The Rijksmuseum keeps a blood-stained shirt in the collection supposedly worn by him when he was wounded. Similarly, the bullet hole in his father's hat is also kept there for posterity.

William Frederick 1613-1664, Count of Nassau-Dietz, Stadtholder of Frisia 1640-1664, Groningen and Drenthe 1650-1664, Imperial Prince of Dietz from 1654

Willem Frederik van NassauWilliam Frederick was born August 7, 1613. He was the second son of Ernst Casimir of Nassau-Dietz andSophie Hedwig of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. He married Albertine Agnes of Orange-Nassau the fifth daughter of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange on May 2, 1652.

The fact that his wife was only the fifth daughter of Prince of Orange Frederick Henry, and that they were married after the death of her father in 1647, would later take on a special significance in the quarrel about the inheritance of the possessions of Orange-Nassau, after the death of William III of England in 1702 (see the story by John William Friso).

William Frederik had a complicated dynastic past, he was a descendant of John VI "the Elder", Count of Nassau-Dillenburg a younger brother of his wife's ancestor William I "the Silent" of Orange. When John VI died in 1606 his inheritance was divided among his five sons, one of which was the father of William Frederick, Ernst Casimir, who received the title of Count of Nassau-Dietz. This title was first inherited by William Frederick's elder brother Henry Casimir I of Nassau-Dietz (1612-1640), who followed his own elder brother William Louis, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg (1560-1620) as Stadtholder of Frisia, Groningen and Drenthe in 1620.

As a second son, William Frederick did not seem destined for the career he eventually would follow. He studied at Leiden University and the University of Groningen and subsequently took a commission in the army of the Dutch Republic, like his male ancestors and his brother. As such he was a junior partner of his future father in law and brother in law William II, Prince of Orange. However, his elder brother, Henry Casimir I, died in action near Hulst in 1640.

As Henry Casimir was unmarried, and did not have children, William Frederick inherited his titles. However, as the office of Stadtholder was not yet hereditary, he only managed to be appointed in Frisia. The Stadtholder ship in Groningen and Drenthe went to his uncle Frederick Henry of Orange-Nassau, not without a struggle with William Frederick.

After Frederick Henry's death in 1647 William II of Orange-Nassau succeeded his father also in these two provinces as Stadtholder . When William II suddenly died in 1650, just a week before his son William III of Orange-Nassau was born, William Frederick obtained the Stadtholder ship in the other two provinces also.

At that time he might have obtained the Stadtholder ship in the five other provinces (Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel) also. After all, the Stadtholder ate was an appointive office. The elder branch of the Nassau family might have "first claim" to the office, but as the "claimant" was a newborn babe, such a claim was not to be taken seriously. Yet, to avoid a quarrel with the members of that elder branch (William II's widow Albertine Agnes of Orange-Nassau and mother Amalia of Solms-Braunfels)

William Frederick did not press his personal claim, but offered to serve as lieutenant-Stadtholder in the five provinces until the infant William III would come of age. He might have been taken up on that offer, except for the events that preceded the death of William II.

William II had performed a military coup d'état against the States of Holland in the course of a quarrel about military policy. William Frederick had played a key role in that coup by leading the attempt to seize the city of Amsterdam by force in August, 1650 (see the whole story by the life story of William II). Because of his role in the coup William Frederick was politically unacceptable, not just as a stand-in for William III, but also on his own account.

After William's demise, in November of the same year, the Holland Regents seized their chance to revert to the status quo ante. They decided to leave the Stadtholder shp vacant in their province, followed by the four other provinces in which William had been Stadtholder , thus inaugurating the First Stadtholder less Period from 1650 to 1672.

The office of Stadtholder was a provincial office. On the federal level William II had fulfilled the office of Captain general of the Union, like his father and uncle before him. William Frederik again would normally have been in line for this office (after all, he was a Stadtholder in his own right), except for the same political awkwardness that blocked his appointment to Stadtholder in Holland.

Again he offered himself as lieutenant-captain-general (the function the English Duke of Marlborough would fulfill after 1702, see the story by the life story of John William Friso), but again the Regents decided to leave the function vacant. William Frederick did not even get the function of acting commander-in-chief (Field Marshal), which went to a Holland noble.

This was to be the story o Willem Frederik's life. He tried to act as the de facto head of the Orangist party, in opposition to the States Party faction of Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and his uncle Cornelis de Graeff, but was usually outwitted and checked by De Witt at every step.

The fact that the members of the senior branch of the family were suspicious of his ambitions made his position even more difficult, even after he married into that senior branch. Nevertheless, outside the Netherlands those ambitions met with more success. In 1654 his title of Count was "upgraded" to Imperial Prince (Reichsfuerst) by the Holy Roman Emperor. Within the Empire this provided him with more prestige, which however did not translate to more prestige in the Republic.

For a while, in the late 1650s, there seemed to be a chance of becoming Commander-in-chief, as part of a politican compromise, brought together by De Witt, but nothing came of it. Only during the invasion of Bernhard von Galen during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, which threatened his home provinces of Groningen and Friesland (Drenthe was overrun), was he entrusted with a command in the field.

He was successful in the re-conquest of a strategic fortress (the Deilerschans), but shortly afterward he died on October 31, 166 in an accident with a pistol that fired unexpectedly. Before his death he had persuaded the States of Friesland that his son Henry Casimir II (only 7 years old in 1664) should succeed him as Stadtholder . The States kept their word, accepting a "regency" of the young boy's mother. The Frisian Stadtholder ate was made hereditary in 1675. With his wife Albertine Agnes he had three children:

  1. Amalia of Nassau-Dietz, 1655-1695, married in 1690 to John William of Saxe-Eienach (1666-1729)
  2. Henry Casimir II, 1657-1696, Count of Nassau-Dietz, married to Henriëtte Amalia of Anhalt-Dessau
  3. Wilhelmina Sophia Hedwig (1664–1667)

Henry Casimir II 1657-1696, Prince of Nassau-Dietz and Stadtholder of Frisia and Groningen 1664-1696

Henry Casimir II was born 18 January 1657. He was the eldest son of William Frederick of Nassau-Dietz and Albertine Agnes of Orange-Nassau.

He was only 7 years old when he succeeded his father in 1664, under the guardianship of his mother Albertine Agnes of Orange-Nassau until his 18th birthday, as Stadtholder of Frisia and Groningen. In 1675 the State of Frisia voted to make the Stadtholder ship hereditary in the house of Nassau-Dietz. Henry Casimir II was therefore the first Frisian Stadtholder.

He married in 1683 to his cousin Henriëtte Amalia van Anhalt-Dessau (1666-1726), daughter of John George II, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau and Henriëtte Catharina of Orange-Nassau (1637-1708(, daughter of Frederick-Henry of Orange-Nassau (1584-1647) and the granddaughter of William I "the Silent" of Orange (1533-1584).

When Henry Casimir died on March, 25 1696, Henrietsste Amaila became regent for their son, John William Friso, who succeeded to his father's titles. Henry Casimir II and Henriëtte Amalia had nine children :

  1. William George Friso, 1685–1686
  2. John William Friso, 1687–1711
  3. Henriëtte Albertine, 1686–1754
  4. Maria Amalia, 1689–1771
  5. Sophia Hedwig, 1690–1734, married Duke Karl Leopold von Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1678–1747)
  6. Isabella Charlotte, 1692–1757, married Christian of Nassau-Beilstein (1688–1739) they had no children
  7. Johanna Agnes, 1693–1765
  8. Louise Leopoldina, 1695–1758
  9. Henriëtte Casimira, 1696–1738

John William Friso 1687-1711, Prince of Nassau-Dietz and Stadtholder of Frisia and Groningen 16961711, Titled "Prince of Orange-Nassau" 1702-1711

Johan Willem FrisoJohn William Friso was born on August, 4 1687.  He was the son of Prince Henry Casimir II of Nassau-Dietz and Henriëtte Amalia van Anhalt-Dessau. He became one of the compotators for the title "Prince of Orange" through the testamentary dispositions of William III and became the progenitor of the new line of the House of Orange-Nassau in 1702.

"Fight" for succession of the Orange-Nassau possessions

With the death of William III, Prince of Orange, in 1702 the legitimate direct male line of William the Silent (House of Orange) became extinct.

Competitors of William III's possessions

William III's grantfather, Frederick Henry, had made a provision in his will that if his male line would die out (which was the case with William III in 1702) the title of Prince of Orange would be inherited by the male issue of the line of his elder daughter Louise Henrietsste of Nassau (1627-1667).

This might even have been the case were it not that William III of Orange himself had willed the inheritance to a descendant of William Frederick.

The inheritance therefore came down to a clash of Wills, with he outcome that both claimants, Johan William Friso and King Frederick I of Prussia (son of Louise Henrietsste of Orange-Nassau), eventually took the title "Prince of Orange" in 1702 and divided the material inheritance.

1. Senior descendent in the Male line

John William Friso, the senior descendant in the male line from William the Silent's brother and a descendant in the female line from Frederick Henry, grandfather of Wiliam III. Under William III's will, Friso stood to inherit the Principality of Orange and claimed the title "Prince of Orange" and Stadtholder in all provinces held by William III. This was denied to him by the republican faction in the Netherlands. The five provinces over which William III ruled — Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overjssel — all suspended the office of Stadtholder after William III's death. The remaining two provinces — Friesland and Groningen — were never governed by William III, and continued to retain a separate Stadtholder , John William Friso. His son William IV, Prince of Orange, however, later became Stadtholder of all seven provinces after the second Stadtholder less period in the Republic in 1747.

2. Senior descendent in the Female line

King Frederick I of Prussia (1657-1713), son of  Louise Henrietsste of Orange-Nassau (1627-1667), eldest daughter of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange (1584-1647) and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels (1602-1675), William III's most senior heir in the female line also claimed part of the inheritance and the Princedom of Orange (France) and Lingen (Lower-Saxony) as well as the title "Prince of Orange".

After William III's dead the Princedom of Orange in France was annexed by King Louis XIV in 1702, a decade later the annexation was legalized by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

There is an old Dutch saying that states : "Als twee honden vechten om een been dan gaat de derde er mee heen" (When two dogs are fighting for a bone than the third will go with it)

The quarrel finally came to an end in 1713 after the dead of both competitors, Prince John William Friso of Nassau-Dietz died in 1711 and King Frederick I of Prussia died in 1713.

Failure as General of the Dutch troops

When grown to mans estate John William Friso became General of the Dutch troops and at first turned out to be a competent officer. His prestige could have favored his eventual election as a Stadtholder in the 5 other provinces (Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders and Drenthe), however John Willeia Friso, as general, took part in the War of Spanish Succession at the Battle of Malplaquet (Belgium) on September 11, 170, during this campaign a misunderstanding arose between him and the British commander, the Duke of Marlborough, and because of that many thousands of Dutch soldiers lot their lives in this bloody battle, nevertheless the battle was still decided in favor of the Allies.

This unnecessary loss of so many lives under the responsibility of a Stadtholder was a strong argument for the States of Holland and the other Provinces to suspend the office of Stadtholder .

In July 1711, when traveling from the Belgian front to The Hague in connection with the law suit about the Principality of Orange, in his haste he insisted in crossing the Hollands Diep, near Dordrecht, during a heavy thunder-storm on July ,14 the ferry boat sank and John William Friso and others drowned.

On April 26, 1709, he married Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel (1688-1765), daughter of Charles I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) and granddaughter of Jacob Kettler, Duke of Courland. They had two children :

  1. Anna Charlotte Amalia, 1710-1777, married in 1727 to Prince Friedrich of Baden-Durlach, 1703-1732)
  2. William IV Karel Hendrik Friso, 1711-1751, born six weeks after his fathers death, married in 1734 to Anne, Princess Royal of Great Britain (1709-1759)

John William Friso holds the position of being the most recent common ancestor to all currently reigning European royal families. He is regarded to have established the 2nd House of Orange, which continues today in person of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.


4. Nassau-Dietz

Name Rule time Remarks
Ernst Casimir 1606-1632  
Henry Casimir I 1632-1640  
William Frederick 1640-1664 Prince of Nassau-Dietz from 1654
Henry Casimir II 1664-1696 Prince of Nassau-Dietz
John William Friso 1696–1702 Prince of Nassau-Dietz (after 1702, Titled Prince of Orange)
To the house "titled" Orange-Nassau

5. Nassau-Hademar 1620-1711

Name Rule time Remarks
John Louis 1620-1653 Prince 1650
Maurice Henry 1653-1679  
Frans Alexander 1679-1711  

Second Stadtholderless period 1711-1747

The second period in the United Provinces without Stadtholder 1711-1747 because William IV was too young, he was born a few weeks after his father drowned near Dordrecht.

In this period the 7 United Provinces of Holland were expanded with 4 other provinces, Friesland (Frisia), Groningen, Brabant and Limburg. After this expansion Holland was called he Netherlands from 1747. The Stadtholderate of all provinces were abolished and replaced by the General Stadtholder of The Netherlands.

William IV, 1711-1751, Titled "Prince of Orange-Nassau", Baron of Breda, Stadtholder of Frsia 1711-1747 (under guardianship of his mother), Stadtholder of Guelders 1722-1747, Stadtholder of Groningen 1731-1747, General Stadtholder of the United Provinces (The Netherlands) 1747-1751

William IV (Willem Karel Hendrik Friso) was born on 1 September 1711 in Leeuwarden, son of Johan Willem Friso, head of the Frisian branch of the House of Nassau-Dietz, and of his wife Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel). He was born six weeks after the death of his father.

On 25 March 1734 he married at St. James' Palace Anne, Princess Royal (1709-1759), eldest daughter of King George II (1683-1760) of Great Britain and Queen Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737. In 1739 William inherited the estates formerly owned by the Nassau-Dillenburg branch of his family (extinct), and in 1743 he inherited those formerly owned by the Nassau-Siegen branch of his family (extinct).

In April 1747 the French army entered Flanders and in May occupid several towns in Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland. On Juli, 2 the battle of Lauffeld (part of the was of the Austrian succession) took place and the French took Maastricht. After negotiotions with the French peace was made in April 1748 by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and France withdrew from the Netherlands.

William met Ludwig Ernst von Brunswick-Lüneburg-Bevern (1718-1788), a field-marshal in the armies of the Holy Roman Empire, during the batlle of Laffeld in 1747, and 2 years later appointed him as field marshal in the Dutch army, which later led to his being one of the regents to William's son William V, from 1759-1766.

In effort to quell internal strife amongst the various factions, the States-General of the Netherlands appointed William IV to the hereditary position of Hereditary General Stadtholder of all seven of the United Provinces on 4 May 1747, within one year all other provinces followed and the Stadtholderate was abolished. William IV, after being appointed as General Stadtholder, moved from Leeuwarden to The Hague.  Although he had little experience in state affairs, William was at first popular with the people.

He stopped the practice of indirect taxation by which independent contractors managed to make large sums for themselves. Nevertheless, he was also a Director-General of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and his alliance with the business class deeped while the disparity between rich and poor grew.

William served as General Stadtholder of all the Netherlands until his death on 22 October 1751 at The Hague. William and Anne had five children:

  1. a stillborn daughter, born December 19, 1736
  2. a stillborn daughter, born December 22, 1739
  3. Carolina, February 28, 1743 - May 6, 1787, married Karl Christian of Nassau-Weilburg
  4. Anna, 15 November 1746 - 29 December 1746
  5. Wlliam V, 1748-1806

Willem V Batavus, 1748-1806, Titled "Prince of Orange-Nassau", Stadtholder of The Netherlands 1766-1795 (deposed)

William VWilliam V Batavus was born in 1748, only son of William IV and Anne. He was only 3 years old when his father died in 1751. His regents were, Anne, his mother, from 1751 to her death in 1759, Marie Louise, his grandmother from 1759 to her death in 1765 and Duke Ludwig Ernst von Brunswick-Lüneburg-Bevern, from 1759 to 1766, and kept on as a privy counselor until October 1784, Carolina, his sister (who at the time was an adult aged 22, while he was still a minor at 17), from 1765 to William's majority in 1766. William V assumed the position of Stadtholder (chief executive and military commander) in 1766.

On 4 October 1767 in Berlin, Prince William married Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, the daughter of the Duke of Brunswick, niece of King Frederick the Great of Prussia and a cousin of King George III of Great-Britain.

War of independence in America 1775-1783

The position of the Dutch during the American Revolution was one of neutrality though they unofficially sympathized with the wish of the Americas being independent from England, but William V, leading the pro-English faction within the government, blocked attempts by pro-revolutionary, and pro-French, elements to recognize the Americas as an independent state.

More importantly, Dutch merchants, especially from Amsterdam soon after the start of the American Revolution became involved in the supply of the Rebels with arms and munitions. This trade was mainly conducted via the entrepôt in the Caribbean colony of the Dutch West India Company (WIC), the island of St. Eustatius. There American colonial wares, like tobacco and indigo, were imported (in contravention of the British Navigation Acts) and re-exported to Europe. For their return cargo the Americans used arms, munitions, and naval stores brought on by Dutch and French merchants.

To add insult to injury, in 1776 the governor of St. Eustatius, Johannes de Graeff, was the first to salute the Flag of the United States, leading to growing British suspicions of the Dutch.

In 1778 the Dutch refused to be bullied into taking Britain's side in the war against France. The British invoked a number of old treaties (1678, 1689, 1716) to have the Republic support them militarily, but as in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) the Dutch government refused.

Things came to a head with the Dutch attempt to join the Russian League of Armed Neutrality (Empress Catherine II of Russia began the first League with her declaration of Russian armed neutrality on 11 March 1780, during the War of American Independence, she endorsed the right of neutral Countries to trade by sea with nationalsof belligerent Countries without hindrance, except in weapons and military supplies), in 1780 leading to the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784).

After the French and Spanish entry into the War of the American Revolution the Amsterdam merchants also became heavily involved in the trade in naval stores with France. The French needed those supplies for their naval construction, but were prevented from obtaining those themselves, due to the blockade of the Royal Navy (France being the weaker naval power in the conflict). The Dutch were privileged by a concession obtained after their victory in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667, because England tried to end the Dutch domination of world trade, the war ended in a Dutch victory), known as the principle of "free ship, free goods" which was enshrined in the Anglo-Dutch Commercial Treaty of 1668 (reconfirmed in the Treaty of Westminster of 1674).

Although the Dutch Republic did not enter into a formal alliance with the United States and their allies, U.S. ambassador (and future President) John Adams (1735-1826) managed to establish diplomatic relations with the Dutch Republic, making it the second European Country to diplomatically recognize the Continental Congress in April, 1782. In October, 1782, a treaty of amity and commerce was concluded as well.

The United Provinces recognized the United States in February 1782, after much political debate and pressure from American and French diplomats. Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol (1741-1784), (a member of the Patriots and inspired by the American Revolution, he wrote the noted pamphlet "To the People of the Netherlands" (in Dutch: "Aan het Volk van Nederland"), in which reclaimed a more liberal societssy and the end of the Stadtholder regime, which had been marked by corruption and nepotism. He was also an ardent supporter in the legal recognition of the recently created United States of America) and Court Lambertus van Beyma (1753-1820) took the initiative.

The Fourth Anglo-Dutch war 1780-1783

Initially the British considered the Dutch allies in their attempt to stamp out the rebellion in their American colonies. They attempted to "borrow" the mercenary Scotch Brigade of the Dutch States Army for use in the Americas. However, this was strongly opposed by the sympathizers of the American Revolution, led by baron Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol, who managed to convince the States-General to refuse the British request. When the Dutch refused to ally against the Americas, England declared war to the Netherlands.

The war proved a disaster for the Netherlands, particularly economically. It also proved to be confirmation of the weakening of Dutch power in the eighteenth century. After the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the impoverished nation grew restless under William's rule.

The Patriots

In the immediate aftermath of the war the bad result was blamed on the mismanagement (if not worse) by the Stadtholder by his opponents who coalesced into the Patriot party. These managed for a while to roll back a number of the reforms of the revolution of 1747, strongly diminishing his powers and was challenging his authority more and more.

The Patriots struggled for the removal of Stadtholder William V, Prince of Orange. Discontented with the hereditary system of allocating posts, the decline of Dutch East India Company Asian trade, unemployment in the textile industry, the course of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War and - last but not least - desiring more democracy, the middle and upper classes looked towards the United States and its Declaration of Independence and the Dutch Act of Abjuration (July 26, 1581, was the formal declaration of independence of the Dutch Low Countries from the Spanish king, Philip II) and began to reclaim their rights (first written down in the 1579 Union of Utrecht).

The lower classes largely remained supportive of the existing regime. They formed militia or paramilitary groups like the Exercitiegenootschappen (an armed private organization with a democratically chosen administration), who tried to persuade the prince and city governments to allow non-Calvinists into the vroedschap. The aristocrats were divided, into Orangists, republicans and democrats, and from summer 1785 more and more republicans backed the prince. The prince was unwilling to carry out reforms, yet unable to take necessary decisions.

From 1780 to 1787, Dordrecht was home to the Patriots faction which intended to remove the hereditary Stadtholder position held by the House of Orange-Nassau. The Netherlands was after all a republic. The first exercitiegenootschappen were set up in the beginning of 1783 in Deventer, Dordrecht and Utrecht. Soon after, more cities followed and in 1785 William V fled from the Hague and removed his court to Guelders, a province remote from the political centre.

In the city of Utrecht the Orangist members of the government were sent home by the local militia under Quint Ondaatje, a burgher from Colombo. In September 1786 William V had to send an army to stop Herman Willem Daendels (1762-1818) to get a seat in the local government, when state troops occupied the small city of Hattem.

In June 1787 his energetic wife Wilhelmina tried to travel to the Hague. Outside Schoonhoven, she was stopped by militia, taken to a farm near Goejanverwellesluis and within two days made to return to Nijmegen. To Wilhelmina and her brother, King Frederick William II of Prussia, this was an insult. Frederick, came to Holland to the aid of William V and on 18 September 1787, Dordrecht capitulated to Prussian troops. The Patriots were defeated and Willem V was restored in his position as Stadtholder.

Many patriots fled to the North of France, around Saint-Omer, in an area where Dutch was spoken. Until his overthrow they were supported by King Louis XVI of France. In the Dutch Republic five leaders were sentenced to death and, although none of these sentences were carried through, all five were forced to leave the Netherlands. In 1789, two radical leaders Francis Adrian Vanderkemp and Adam Gerard Mappa moved to the USA at the invitation of George Washington.

The year 1795 was a disastrous one for the ancient régime of the Netherlands. Supported by the French Army, the revolutionaries returned from Paris to fight in the Netherlands, and in 1795 William V fled to the safety of England. A few days later the Fall of Amsterdam occurred, and the Dutch Republic was abolished by the victorious French.  The Low Countries remained central to British strategic thinking, and they would send expeditionary forces to the Netherlands in 1793, 1799 and 1809.

William V, as the last Dutch Stadtholder, died in exile at Brunswick, now in Germany and was buried there. 150 years later his body was moved to the Dutch Royal Family crypt in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft on April 29, 1958. William V and Wilhelmina of Prussia had five children:

  1. Ununnamed son, 23 March - 24 March 1769
  2. Frederika Luise Wilhelmina, 28 November 1770 - 15 October 1819, married 14 October 1790 Karl, Hereditary Prince of Braunschweig (8 February 1766 - 20 September 1806), son of Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Bunswick-Luneburg and Princess Augusta of Great Britain
  3. Unnamed son, born 6 August 1771
  4. William VI (Willem Frederick), 25 August 1772 - December 12, 1843, as William I King of the Netherlands 1815-1840
  5. Willem Georg erik, 15 February 1774 - 6 January 1799

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