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The House of Nassau

Blason famille de Nassau
Coat of Arms of the Counts of Laurenburg and Nassau

Pat 3

Origin of the House of Orange-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 Orange-Nassau stems from the Ottonian-Dillenburg Line

The importance of the House of Nassau grew throughout the 15th and 16th century in the Lowlands. Hemry III of Nassau-Breda was appointed Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in the beginning of the 16th century. Henry was succeeded by his son, René of Châlon-Orange in 1538, who was, as his full name stated, Prince of Orange. When René died prematurely on the battlefield in 1544 his possessions passed to his cousin, William.

Although William I "the Rich" of Nassau-Dillenburg was the legal heir to the possessions of Rene of Chalon after his dead in 1544, Emperor Charles V interfered, eventually because William I "the Rich" was a Lutheran, and Rene's possessions went to his eldest son William, on condition that he would come to Brussels and be educated as a Roman Catholic at his court. Thus, William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited all of René’s titles and lands and became the founder of The House of Orange-Nassau in 1544 and known as William I of Orange, in English better known as William "the Silent".

From then on (1544) the family members, legally, used the title "Orange-Nassau." Even after 1702 when the Original Orange-Nassau line became extinct after the dead of William III and the Princedom Orange in France was annexed by King Louis XIV of France, the Nassau-Dietssz line used the title "Orange-Nassau", even as the descendents of King Fredrick I of Prussia still do until present day (see the story later).

After the post-Napoleonic reorganization of Europe, the descendents of the House of Nassau-Dietssz continued using the title "Orange-Nassau", now as "King of the Netherlands until 1890 when the House of Nassau-Dietssz became extinct with the dead of King William III.

After 1890 the Female line of the House of Nassau-Dietssz still use the title "Orange-Nassau" though they do not belong to the descendents of William I of Orange-Nassau, which became extinct in 1702.

The House of Orange-Nassau

Part 1


William I 1533-1584 "the Silent", Count of Nassau, Vianden and Dietz, Prince of Orange 1544-1584, Lord of Egmond and Count of Buren 1551-1584, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and Burgundy, VisCount of Antwerp, Baron of Breda 1559-1584, Stadholder of Brabant 1577, Stadtholder of Frisia 1580 

 willemIclclick the image to enlarge

William I, Prince of Orange, also widely known as William the Silent (Dutch: Willem de Zwijger), or simply William of Orange (Dutch: Willem van Oranje),was born on 24 April 1533 in the castle of Dillenburg in Nassau, present-day Germany.

He was the eldest son of William "the Rich", Count of Nassau and Juliana of Stolberg-Werningerode, and was raised a Lutheran. He had four younger brothers and seven younger sisters: John, Hermanna, Louis, Mary, Anna, Elisabeth, Katharine, Juliane, Magdalene, Adolf and Henry.

When his cousin, René of Châlon, Prince of Orange, died childless in 1544, the eleven-year-old William inherited all Châlon's property, including the title Prince of Orange, on the condition that he receive a Roman Catholic education. He became Prince of Orange in 1544 and is thereby the founder of the branch House of Orange-Nassau. Besides Châlon's properties, he also inherited vast estates in the Low Countries (present-day Netherlands and Belgium). Because of his young age, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V served as the regent of the principality until William was fit to rule. William was sent to Brussels to study under the supervision of Mary of Habsburg (Mary of Hungary), the sister of Charles V and governor of the Habsburg Netherlands (Seventeen Provinces). In Brussels, he was taught foreign languages and received military and diplomatic education and became a wealthy nobleman.

Short descriptor of his life

William originally served the Habsburgs as a member of the court of Margaret of Parma, governor of the Spanish Netherlands. Unhappy with the centralization of political power away from the local estates and the Spanish persecution of Dutch Protestants,

William I became the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish that set off the Eighty Years War and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1648.

William joined the Dutch uprising and turned against his former masters. The most influential and politically capable of the rebels, he led the Dutch to several successes in the fight against the Spanish. Declared an outlaw by the Spanish king in 1580, he was assassinated by Balthasar Gérard (also written as 'Gerardts') in Delft four years later.

William explained his conflict with king Philip II to the Council of State in the following way: "I can not approve that monarchs desire to rule over the conscience of their subjects and take away from them their freedom of belief and religion."

From politician to rebel

Anna von EgmondOn 6 July 1551, he married Anna van Egmond en Buren (1533-1558),the only child of Maximiliaan van Egmond and Françoise de Lannoy, the wealthy heir to the lands of her father, and William gained the titles Lord of Egmond and Count of Buren. They had three children. Later that same year, William was appointed captain in the cavalry. Favored by Charles V, he was rapidly promoted, and became commander of one of the Emperor's armies at age 22. He was made a member of the Raad van State, the highest political advisory council in the Netherlands in 1555; the same year, Charles abdicated in favour of his son, Philip II of Spain. It was on the shoulder of William that the gout-afflicted Emperor leaned during his abdication ceremony.

His wife Anna died on March 24, 1558. Later, William had a brief relationship with Eva Elincx, leading to the birth of their illegitimate son, Justinus van Nassau (1559-1631), William officially recognized him and took responsibility for his education, Justinus would become an admiral in his later years.

In 1559, King Philip II appointed William as the Stadtholder (governor) of the provinces Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and Burgundy, thereby greatly increasing his political power. Although he never directly opposed the Spanish king, William soon became one of the most prominent members of the opposition in the Raad van State, together with Philip de Montmorency (1524-1568), Count of Hoorn and Lamoral (1522-1569), Count of Egmont. They were mainly seeking more political power for the Dutch nobility, and complained that too many Spaniards were involved in governing the Netherlands.

William was also dissatisfied with the increasing persecution of Protestants in the Netherlands. Brought up as both a Lutheran and later a Catholic, William was very religious but still was a proponent of freedom of religion for all people. The inquisition policy in the Netherlands, carried out by Cardinal Granvelle, prime minister to the new governor Margaret of Parma (1522–1583) (natural half-sister to Philip II), increased opposition to the Spanish rule among the, then mostly Catholic, population of the Netherlands.

Annasaxony1544On 25 August 1561, William of Orange married for the second time. His new wife, Anna of Saxony (1544-1577), was described by contemporaries as "self-absorbed, weak, assertive, and cruel", and it is generally assumed that William married her to gain more influence in Saxony, Hesse and the Palatine. The couple had five children.

In early 1565, a large group of lesser noblemen, including William's younger brother Louis (1538-1674), formed the Confederacy of Noblemen. On 5 April, they offered a petition to Margaret of Austria, requesting an end to the persecution of Protestants.

From August to October 1566, a wave of iconoclasm (known as the Beeldenstorm) spread through the Low Countries. Calvinists, Anabaptists and Mennonites, angry with their being persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church and opposed to the Catholic images of saints (which in their eyes conflicted with the Second Commandment), destroyed statues in hundreds of churches and monasteries throughout the Lowlands.

Following the Beeldenstorm, unrest in the Netherlands grew, and Margaret agreed to grant the wishes of the Confederacy, provided the noblemen would help to restore order. She also allowed more important noblemen, including William of Orange, to assist the Confederacy. In late 1566, and early 1567, it became clear that she would not be allowed to fulfill her promises, and when several minor rebellions failed, many Calvinists (the major Protestant denomination) and Lutherans fled the Southern Lowlands.

Following the announcement that Philip II, unhappy with the situation in the Lowlands, would dispatch his loyal general Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba (1507-1582) (also known as "The Iron Duke") to restore order, William laid down his functions and retreated to his native Nassau in April 1567, because he had been (financially) involved with several of the rebellions.

After his arrival in August 1567, Alba established the Council of Troubles (known to the people as the Council of Blood) to judge those involved with the rebellion and the iconoclasm. William was one of the 10,000 to be summoned before the Council, but he failed to appear. He was subsequently declared an outlaw, and his properties were confiscated.

As one of the most prominent and popular politicians of the Lowlands, William of Orange emerged as the leader of an armed resistance. He financed the Watergeuzen, refugee Protestants who formed bands of corsairs and raided the coastal cities of the Lowlands (often killing Spanish and Dutch alike). He also raised an army, consisting mostly of German mercenaries to fight Alba on land.

William allied with the French Huguenots, following the end the second Religious War in France when they had troops to spare. Led by his brother Louis, the army invaded the northern Lowlands in 1568, however the plan failed almost from the start. The Huguenots were defeated by French Royal Troops before they could invade, and a small force under Jean de Villers was captured within two days. Villers gave all the plans to the campaign to the Spanish following this capture.


On 23 May, the army under the command of Louis of Nassau won the Battle of Heiligerlee in the northern province of Groningen against a Spanish army led by the Stadtholder of the northern provinces, Jean de Ligne (1525-1568), Duke of Aremberg. Aremberg was killed in the battle, as was William's brother Adolf of Nassau (1540-1568).

Alba Countered by killing a number of convicted noblemen (including the Counts of Egmont and Hoorn on 6 June), and then by leading an expedition to Groningen. There, he annihilated Louis’ forces on German territory in the Battle of Jemmingen on 21 July, although Louis managed to escape. These two battles are now considered to be the start of the Eighty Years' War.

William responded by leading a large army into Brabant, but Alba carefully avoided a decisive confrontation, expecting the army to fall apart quickly. As William advanced, riots broke out in his army, and with winter approaching and money running out, William decided to turn back. William made several more plans to invade in the next few years, but little came of it, lacking support and money. He remained popular with the public, partially through an extensive propaganda campaign through pamphlets.

One of his most important claims, with which he attempted to justify his actions, was that he was not fighting the rightful owner of the land, the Spanish king, but only the inadequate rule of the foreign governors in the Netherlands, and the presence of foreign soldiers.

On April 1, 1572 a band of Watergeuzen captured the city of Brielle, which had been left unattended by the Spanish garrison. Contrary to their normal "hit and run" tactics, they occupied the town and claimed it for the prince by raising the Prince of Orange's flag above the city. This event was followed by other cities in opening their gates for the Watergeuzen, and soon most cities in Holland and Zeeland were in the hands of the rebels, notable exceptions being Amsterdam and Middelburg.

First declaration of Independence of Dordrecht

Marnix van st  aldegondeIn July 1572 the first Free States Meeting under the chairmanship of Marnix of Sint Aldegonde was held in the former Augustine monastery of Dordrecht. It was attended by representatives of those cities which had supported William of Orange in the fight against Spain. This lead unintentionally to the founding of the Repulblic of the Seven United Provinces. The cities represented at that meeting were : the principal towns of Holland, 1.Dordrecht (the leader of the cities), 2.Haarlem, 3.Leiden, 4.Gouda, 5.Gorinchem, 6.Alkmaar, 7.Oudewater, 8.Hoorn, 9.Enkhuizen, 10.Edam, 11.Medemblik and 12.Monnikendam.

During the same council, the States of Holland declared themselves independent from Spain and William I "The Silent" of Orange was chosen as their leader and Paulus Buys (1531-1594) was appointed first Grand-Pensionary of Holland . The rebel cities then called a meeting of the Staten Generaal (which they were technically unqualified to do), and reinstated William as the Stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland.

Concurrently, rebel armies captured cities throughout the entire Country, from Deventer to Mons. William himself then advanced with his own army and marched into several cities in the south, including Roermond and Leuven. William had Counted on intervention from the French Protestants (Huguenots) as well, but this plan was thwarted after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre on 24 August 1572 in which between 5,000 and 30,000 Huguenots were slaughtered, which signalled the start of a wave of violence against the Huguenots.

After a successful Spanish attack on his army, William had to flee and he retreated to Enkhuizen, in Holland. The Spanish then organised Countermeasures, and sacked several rebel cities, sometimes massacring their inhabitants, such as in Mechelen or Zutphen. They had more trouble with the cities in Holland, where they took Haarlem after seven months and a loss of 8,000 soldiers, and they had to give up their siege of Alkmaar.

In 1574 William's armies won several minor battles, including several naval enCounters. William went over to the Calvinist Church taking part in the Holy Communion in the Dordrecht Minster on 21 March 1574.

The Spanish, lead by Don Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens since Philip replaced Alba in 1573, also had their successes. Their decisive victory in the Battle of Mookerheyde in the south east, on the Meuse embankment, on 14 April cost the lives of two of William's brothers, Louis (1538-April, 14 1574) of Nassau and Henry (1550-April, 14 1574) of Nassau. Requesens's armies also besieged the city of Leiden. They broke up their siege when nearby dykes were cut by the Dutch. William was very content with the victory, and established the University of Leiden, the first university in the Northern Provinces.

CharlottebourbonWilliam had his previous marriage legally disbanded in 1571, on claims that his wife Anna was insane. He then married for the third time on 24 April 1575 at Dordrecht with Charlotte de Bourbon-Monpensier (1546-1582), a former French nun who was converted to Calvinism in 1572, who was also popular with the Dutch public. After their marriage they stayed for a while in Dordrecht. Together, they had six daughters.

After failed peace negotiations in Breda later that year, the war lingered on. The situation improved for the rebels when Don Requesens died unexpectedly in March 1576, and a large group of Spanish soldiers, not having received their salary in months, mutinied in November of that year and unleashed the Spanish Fury on the city of Antwerp, a tremendous propaganda coup for the Dutch Revolt.

While the new governor, Don John of Austria, was under way, William of Orange managed to have most of the provinces and cities sign the Pacification of Ghent, in which they declared to fight for the expulsion of Spanish troops together. However, he failed to achieve unity in matters of religion. Catholic cities and provinces would not allow freedom for Calvinists, and vice versa.

When Don John signed the Perpetual Edict in February 1577, promising to comply with the conditions of the Pacification of Ghent, it seemed that the war had been decided in favour of the rebels. However, after Don John took the city of Namur in 1577, the uprising spread throughout the entire Netherlands. Don John attempted to negotiate peace, but the prince intentionally let the negotiations fail.

On 24 September 1577, he made his triumphal entry in the capital Brussels. At the same time, Calvinist rebels grew more radical, and attempted to forbid Catholicism in their areas of control. William was opposed to this both for personal and political reasons. He desired freedom of religion, and he also needed the support of the less radical Protestants and Catholics to reach his political goals.

On 6 January 1579, several southern provinces, unhappy with William's radical following, sealed the Treaty of Arras (Unie van Atrecht), in which they agreed to accept their governor, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma (who had succeeded Don John).

In opposition to the Union of Atrecht the northern provinces, later followed by most cities in Brabant and Flanders, then signed the Union of Utrecht on 23 January 1579, confirming their unity. William was initially opposed to the Union, as he still hoped to unite all provinces. Nevertheless, he formally gave his support on 3 May. The Union of Utrecht would later become a de facto constitution, and would remain the only formal connection between the Dutch provinces until 1795.

Declaration of independence

In spite of the renewed union, the Duke of Parma was successful in re-conquering most of the southern part of the Netherlands. Because he had agreed to remove the Spanish troops from the provinces under the Treaty of Arras (Atrecht), and because Philip II needed them elsewhere subsequently, the Duke of Parma was unable to advance any further until the end of 1581.

In the mean time, William and his supporters were looking for foreign support. The prince had already sought French assistance on several occasions, and this time he managed to gain the support of François, Duke of Anjou, brother of king Henry III of France. On September 29, 1580, the Staten Generaal (with the exception of Zeeland and Holland) signed the Treaty of Plessis-les-Tours with the Duke of Anjou. The Duke would gain the title "Protector of the Liberty of the Netherlands" and become the new sovereign. This, however, required that the Staten Generaal and William would let go of their formal support of the King of Spain, which they had maintained officially up to that moment.

On July 22, 1581, the Staten Generaal declared their decision to no longer recognize Philip II as their king, in the Act of Abjuration. This formal declaration of independence enabled the Duke of Anjou to come to the aid of the resisters. He did not arrive until February 10, 1582, when he was officially welcomed by William in Flushing.

On March 18, the Spaniard Juan de Jáuregui attempted to assassinate William in Antwerp. Although William suffered severe injuries, he survived thanks to the care of his wife Charlotte and his sister Mary. While William slowly recovered, the intensive care by Charlotte took its toll, and she died on May 5.

The Duke of Anjou was not very popular with the population, the provinces of Zeeland and Holland refused to recognize him as their sovereign, and William was widely criticized for what were called his "French politics". When the Anjou's French troops arrived in late 1582, William's plan seemed to pay off, as even the Duke of Parma feared that the Dutch would now gain the upper hand.

However, the Duke of Anjou himself was displeased with his limited power, and decided to take the city of Antwerp by force on January 18, 1583. The citizens, who were warned in time, defended their city in what is known as the "French Fury". Anjou's entire army was killed, and he received reprimands from both Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I of England (who he had courted). The position of Anjou after this attack became impossible to hold, and he eventually left the Country in June 1583. His leave also discredited William, who nevertheless maintained his support for Anjou. He stood virtually alone on this issue, and became politically isolated. Holland and Zeeland nevertheless maintained him as their Stadtholder , and attempted to declare him Count of Holland and Zeeland, thus making him the official sovereign.

LouisecolignyIn the middle of all this, William had married for the fourth and final time on April 12, 1583 to Louise de Coligny (1555-1620), a French Huguenot and daughter of Gaspard de Coligny. She would be the mother of Frederick Henry (1584–1647), William's fourth legitimate son.


The Catholic Frenchman Balthasar Gérard (born 1557) was a supporter of Philip II, and in his opinion, William of Orange had betrayed the Spanish king and the Catholic religion. After Philip II declared William an outlaw and promised a reward of 25,000 crowns for his assassination, which Gérard found out in 1581, he decided to travel to the Netherlands to kill William. He served in the army of the governor of Luxembourg, Peter Ernst I von Mansfeld-Vorderort for two years, hoping to get close to William when the armies met. This never happened, and Gérard left the army in 1584. He went to the Duke of Parma to present his plans, but the Duke was unimpressed. In May 1584, he presented himself to William as a French nobleman, and gave him the seal of the Count of Mansfelt. This seal would allow for forgeries of messages of Mansfelt. William sent Gérard back to France to pass the seal to his French allies.

MoordwillemzwijgerGérard returned in July, having bought pistols on his return voyage. On 10 July, he made an appointment with William of Orange in his home in Delft, nowadays known as the Prinsenhof. That day, William was having dinner with his guest Rombertus van Uylenburgh (about difficulties in the Frisian States). After William left the dining room and climbed down the stairs, Van Uylenburgh heard how Gérard shot William in the chest from close range.

According to official records, his last words are said to have been:

“ Mon Dieu, ayez pitié de mon âme; mon Dieu, ayez pitié de ce pauvre peuple." in English "My God, have pity on my soul; my God, have pity on this poor people."

Gérard fled to collect his reward but was caught before he could flee Delft, and imprisoned. He was tortured before his trial on 13 July, where he was sentenced to be brutally, even by the standards of that time, killed. The magistrates sentenced that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disemboweled alive, that his heart should be torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be cut off.

Traditionally, members of the Nassau family were buried in Breda, but as that city was in Spanish hands when William died, he was buried in the New Church in Delft. His grave monument was originally very sober, but it was replaced in 1623 by a new one, made by Hendrik de Keyser and his son Pietsser. Since then, most of the members of the House of Orange-Nassau, including all Dutch monarchs have been buried in the same church. His great-grandson William III, King of England and Scotland and Stadtholder in the Netherlands was buried in Westminster Abbey in London (see later).


As the chief financer and political and military leader of the early years of the Dutch revolt, William is considered a national hero in the Netherlands, even though he was born in Germany, and usually spoke French. Many of the Dutch national symbols can be traced back to William of Orange: The flag of the Netherlands (red, white and blue) is derived from the flag of the prince, which was orange, white and blue. The coat of arms of the Netherlands is based on that of William of Orange. Its motto Je maintiendrai (French), "I will maintain" (English), "Ik zal handhaven" (Dutch), was also used by William of Orange, who based it on the motto of his cousin René of Châlon, who used Je maintiendrai Châlon.

The national anthem of the Netherlands, Het Wilhelmus, was originally a propaganda song for William. It was probably written by Philips van Marnix, lord of Sint-Aldegonde (1538-1598), a supporter of William of Orange. The national colour of the Netherlands is orange, and it is used, among other things, in clothing of Dutch athletes.

After the Batavian Revolution, inspired by the French revolution, it had come to be called the "Princes' March" as it was banned during the rule of the Patriot party, which did not support the House of Orange-Nassau. However, at the foundation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1813, the Wilhelmus had fallen out of favour. Having become monarchs with a claim to represent the entire nation and stand above factions, the House of Orange decided to break with the song which served them as heads of a faction, and the Wilhelmus was hence replaced by Hendrik Tollens' song Wien Neêrlands bloed door d'aderen vloeit, which was the official Dutch anthem from 1815 till 1932.


Philip William, William's eldest son from his first marriage, to Anna of Egmond, succeeded him as Prince of Orange at the suggestion of Johan van Oldenbarneveldt. Phillip William died in Brussels on February 20, 1618 and was succeeded by his half-brother Maurice, the eldest son from William's second marriage, to Anna of Saxony, who became Prince of Orange. A strong military leader, he won several victories over the Spanish. Van Oldenbarneveldt managed to sign a very favorable twelve-year armistice in 1609, although Maurice was unhappy with this. Maurice was a heavy drinker and died on April 23, 1625 from liver disease. Maurice had several sons with Margaretha van Mechelen, but he never married her. So, Frederick Henry, Maurice's half-brother (and William's youngest son from his fourth marriage, to Louise de Coligny) inherited the title of Prince of Orange. Frederick Henry continued the battle against the Spanish. Frederick Henry died on March 14, 1647 and is buried with his father William "The Silent" in Nieuwe Kerk, Delft.

The Netherlands became formally independent after the Peace of Westphalia (Munster) in 1648. The son of Frederick Henry, William II of Orange succeeded his father as Stadtholder , as did his son, William III of Orange. The latter also became king of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689. Although he was married to Mary II (1662-1694), Queen of Scotland and England for 17 years, he died childless in 1702.


William of Orange was married four times :

First : on July, 6 1551 Anna of Egmond, (1534-1558)

  1. Maria of Nassau, 22 November 1553 - 23 July 1555, Died in infancy, buried in the Grote of Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk in Breda. William's second daughter Maria was named after her
  2. Philip William, Prince of Orange, 19 December 1554 - 20 February 1618, married Eleonora of Bourbon-Condé
  3. Maria of Nassau, 7 February 1556 - 10 October 1616, married 1595 Count Philip of Hohenlohe-Neuenstein (1550-1606)

Between his first and second marriage, William had an extramarital relation with one Eva Elincx. They had a son,

  1. Justinus of Nassau, 1559–1631, whom William acknowledged, become admiral in his later years

Second : on August, 25 1561, (annulled March, 22 1571)  Anna of Saxony (1544-1577)

  1. Anna of Nassau, 31 October 1562 - 23 November 1562, Died in infancy
  2. Anna of Nassau, 5 November 1563 - 13 June 1588 married 1587 her nephew Count William Louis of Nassau-Dillenburg (1560-1620), Stadtholder of Friesland, Groningen, and Drenthe
  3. Maurice August Phillip of Nassau, 18 December 1564 - 8 December 1566, Died in infancy
  4. Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, 14 November 1567 - 23 April 1625, never married
  5. Emilia of Nassau, 10 April 1569 - 16 March 1629, married 1597 Emanuel of Portugal (1568-1638), son of pretender to the Portuguese throne António, Prior of Crato

Third : on April, 24 1575 at Dordrecht, Charlotte of Bourbon-Montpensier (1546-1582)

  1. Louise Juliana of Nassau,  31 March 1576 - 15 March 1644, married 1593 Frederick IV of The Palts (1574-1610), Elector Palatine
  2. Elisabeth of Nassau, 26 April 1577 - 23 September 1642 married 1595 Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne (1555-1623), and had issue, including Frédéric Maurice, duc de Bouillon and Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne
  3. Catharina Belgica of Nassau , July 1578 - 12 April 1648, married 1596 Philip Louis II of Hanau-Münzenberg (1576-1612)
  4. Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau, 18 August  1579 - 16 April 1640, after her mother's death in 1582 her French grandfather, Louis III de Bourbon, Duke of Montpensier (1513-1582), asked Charlotte Flandrina to stay with him. She became a Roman Catholic Nun and entered a convent in 1593 and became abbess of St. Croix in 1605
  5. Charlotte Brabantina of Nassau, 17 September 1580 - August 1631, married 1598 Claude de La Trémoďlle (1566-1604), Duc de Thouars, and had issue, including Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby
  6. Emilia Antwerpiana of Nassau, 9 December 1581 - 28 September 1657, married 1616 Frederik Casimir of the Palts-Zweibrücken-Landsberg (1585-1645)

Fourth : on April, 12 1583 Louise de Coligny (1555-1620), widow of Charles de Téligny and daughter of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny.

  1. Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and Count of Nassau, 29 January 1584 - 14 March 1647, married Countess Amalia of Solms-Braunfels, father of William II and grandfather of William III

Philips William, 1554-1618, Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, Vianden and Buren 1584-1618, Baron of Breda and Steenbergen 1606-1618

Philip WillemPhilip William (Philip William, Filips Willem in Dutch) was born on 19 December 1554 in Buren, Guelders, Seventeen Provinces. He was the first son of William I "the Silent" and Anna van Egmont. He became Prince of Orange after hs fathers dead in 1584 and Knight of the Golden Fleece in 1599.

When his father William I ignored Alva's summons to return to Brussels in 1567, remaining in Nassau, Philip William, only a boy of 13, was left behind by his father, studying at the University at Leuven in Brabant, he was seized in February 1568, and taken to Spain as a hostage, but alsoy to be raised as a good Catholic and loyal subject. He would never see his father and mother again.

In Spain he was raised at the court of King Philip II and treated as a son, he continued his studies at the university of Alcalá de Henares. Though treated well, he was forced to remain in Spain until 1596.

During his exile in Spain his interests in the Dutch Republic were vigorously defended by his sister, Maria of Nassau, against his half-brother Maurice of Nassau who contested his brother's right to the Barony and city of Breda.

Finally, 12 years after his fathers dead, he received permission to return to the Southern-Lowlands to claim his titles and Heirship of his father William I, but Maurice, his younger half-brother, had proclaimed himself already "born Prince of Orange" and the States of Holland didn't trust the raised Roman Catholic Philips William, so he lost the "battle" of his Heirship in the Lowlands though in 1606 Philip William was recognized in the Republic as Lord of Breda and Steenbergen, and his right to appoint magistrates was acknowledged, provided he did so maintaining the "Union and the Republic's religion".

He duly made his ceremonial entry into his town of Breda in July 1610 and from then until his death, regularly appointed the magistrates in his lordship. Though he restored Catholic services in the castle of Breda, he did not try to challenge the ascendancy of the Protestant-Calvinist Reformed Church in the city. He had a difference with the States-General in 1613, when they annulled his appointment of a Catholic drost. He had to cooperate with the military governor in Breda, his illegitimate stepbrother Justinus van Nassau, staunchly loyal to the States-General.

In 1596 in Fontainebleau, Philip William married to Eleonora of Bourbon-Condé, daughter of Henry I, Prince de Condé and cousin of King Henry IV of France. Most of the time he resided at his Castle in Orange and lived there until his dead in 1618 after years of struggle with his younger half-brother, he died 20 February 1618 without any children.

As Lord of Diest and a pious Catholic at the time of his death, Philip William of Orange commanded that the parish church of Saint Sulpice in the same city, should celebrate a yearly Requiem Mass for his soul. Diest is also the site of his burial in the Catholic Roman Rite. Diest is known as the "Orange City", and Philip William as "the Catholic prince of Orange".

To the relief of his younger half-brother Maurice of Nassau he could at last inherit the title "Prince of Orange" for which he had waited so long.

Maurice (Maurits), 1567-1625, Stadtholdero of Hollland and Zeeland 1585-1625, Stadholder of Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel 1590-1625,  Prince of Orange and Baron of Breda 1618-1625, Stadtholder of Groningen 1620-1625

Maurits prins van OranjeMaurice of Nassau was born at the castle of Dillenburg on 14 November 1567, son of William I "the Silent", from his second marriage with Anna of Saxony. He was raised in Dillenburg by his uncle John VI "the Elder" of Nassau.

Together with his cousin William Louis he studied in Heidelberg and later in Leiden, they studied military history, strategy and tactics, mathematics and astronomy, in Leiden he met Simon Stevin (Flemish mathematician and engineer) who would have a great influence on the youngsters. The States of Holland and Zeeland paid for his studies, as their father had run into financial problems after spending his entire fortune in the early stages of the Dutch revolt. He was only 16 years old when his father was murdered in Delft in 1584.

His career was aided by the sponsorship of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the advocate of the States of Holland and the political leader of the province. As soon as he reached the age of 18, in 1585, Maurice was named stadholder (governor) of Holland and Zeeland at Oldenbarnevelt's initiative, as well as provincial captain and admiral general, in order to provide a Dutch political and military authority to set against the Earl of Leicester, who was coming to the United Provinces as governor general on behalf of Elizabeth I of England. Maurice was later elected stadholder of Utrecht and Overijssel (1590), Gelderland (1591), and Groningen and Drenthe (1620), following the death of his cousin William Louis..

Military career

After Leicester's recall in 1587, Maurice became in effect the commander in chief of the army of the United Provinces, although legally he was in command only in the provinces where he was stadholder and in the lands under the direct authority of the States General. Maurice undertook reorganization of the Dutch military forces on the basis of the principles and methods which he drew from study of the warfare and the military writings of the Romans of antiquity. He paid special attention to siegecraft, employing the great mathematician Simon Stevin as a military engineer and introducing the use of regular soldiers in trench digging and similar operations.

Maurice organized the rebellion against Spain into a coherent, successful revolt. He reorganized the army together with his cousin William Louis, Stadtholder of Frisia, and proved himself to be among the best strategists of his age, paying special attention to the siege theories of Simon Stevin, he took valuable key fortresses and towns, Breda in 1590, Steenwijk in 1592, and Geertruidenberg in 1593. These victories rounded out the borders to the Dutch Republic, solidifying the revolt and allowing a national state to develop behind secure borders.

Maurice became one of the foremost generalsof his time. Many of the great generalsof the succeeding generation, including his youngest half-brother Frederick Henry and many of the commanders of the later English Civil War (1641-1651) learned their tactics from him.

His success in creating the most modern army of his time was demonstrated in a series of victories beginning with the capture of Breda in 1590, followed the next year by the conquest of Zutphen and Deventer in Overijssel and Delfzijl in the north, the defense of Arnhem against Allessandro Farnese, and then the capture of Hulst in Zeeland and Nijmegen far to the east. The successful siege of Geertruidenberg in 1593 was the supreme achievement of his military science.

A period of reversals followed until 1597, when Maurice defeated the Spaniards at Turnhout and then captured a chain of towns in the eastern Netherlands which deprived the Spaniards of their last foothold north of the Rhine River: the Dutch proclaimed that he had completed fencing-in their "garden," and the United Provinces became in reality the independent republic they already claimed to be in law. Although Maurice was able to win a brilliant victory over the Spaniards at Nieuwpoort in 1600, the southern Netherlands remained under Spanish control, especially after Ambrogio de Spinola took over command of the Spanish armies in 1603.

His victories in the cavalry battles at Turnhout (1597) and at Nieuwpoort (1600) earned him military fame and acknowledgment throughout Europe. Despite these successes, the House of Orange did not attain great respect among European Royalty, as the Stadtholdership was not inheritable. The training of his army was especially important to early modern warfare.

Maurice and Van Oldenbarnevelt

Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, 1547–1619, Dutch statesman anf chief author of the truce of 1609. The truce virtually established the independence of the seven United Provinces.

Maurice started out as the protégé of Landsadvocaat (Land's Advocate) and Grand-Pensionary of Holland, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt who was like a father for Maurice. During the years to come gradually tensions rose between these two men.

The close political collaboration between Oldenbarnevelt and Maurice broke up, especially after peace negotiations began with the Spaniards in 1607 over the prince's objections. Maurice, himself indifferent to theological questions, aligned himself with the Contraremonstrants against Oldenbarnevelt, because, as strict Calvinists, they were adamant against peace with the papist foe. However, the Twelve Years Truce was concluded in 1609.

Against Maurice's advice, and despite his protests, Van Oldenbarnevelt decided to sign the Twelve Years' Truce with Spain, which lasted from 1609 til 1621. The required funds to maintain the army and navy, and the general course of the war were other topics of constant struggle. With the religious troubles between Gomarists (Calvinist) and Arminians (Remonstrants), the struggle between Van Oldenbarnevelt and Maurice reached a climax.

It was not until expiration of the truce began to approach that the question of its extension or renewal of the war brought Maurice and Oldenbarnevelt into mortal enmity. When the States of Holland, led by Oldenbarnevelt, began to raise its own troops in an effort to enforce its authority upon the Contraremonstrants, Maurice saw his own powers put in jeopardy, and he arranged the arrest and trial of Oldenbarnevelt and three collaborators, among them Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), a Dutch jurist, humanist, and poet, and the former's execution as a traitor in 1619. Meanwhile, in 1618, he had inherited the title of Prince of Orange when his elder brother, Philip William, who had remained a Catholic and loyal to Spain, died.

The Synod of Dordrecht in 1618-1619

When the struggle between Remonstrants and strict Calvinists broke out. Maurice took the part of the Calvinists and in 1618 compelled the summoning of the Synod of Dort, which suppressed the Remonstrants.

Later years

From 1618 till his death Maurice now enjoyed uncontested power over the Republic and behaved like a dictator and did not tolerate any contradictions in military and political affaires. Maurice also urged his brother Frederick Henry to marry in order to preserve the Orange dynasty.

The war was resumed in 1621, but Maurice was now a worn old man and unable to recapture his battlefield gifts, the Spanish, led by Ambrogio Spinola, had notable successes, including the Siege of Breda in 1625 (the Nassau's former family residence).

He was the victim of an unsuccessful assassination attempt in 1623 in which two sons of Oldenbarnevelt were implicated. The last years of his life he became a heavy drinker and rapidly grow old, probalby because he got remorse about his cruelty against the Dutch and the execution of Johan van Oldenbarneveldt who acted like a father to him.

With the siege of Breda still underway, Maurice died on 23 April 1625 of liver desease and was buried in the Nienwe Kerk of Delft beside his father William I "the Silent".

Justin of Nassau, his illigionate half-brither, surrendered Breda in June 1625 after a costly eleven-month siege. He had trained his younger brother, Frederick Henry, to be a military leader after his own best principles, and the United Provinces remained intact and free.

Maurice never married but was the father of illegitimate children by Margaretha van Mechelen and Barbara Cocx :

  1. Willem of Nassau 1601-1627, lord of the Lek
  2. Louis of Nassau 1602-1665, lord of den Lek and Beverweerd, married 1630 Isabella of Hornes (1664)
  3. Anna van de Kelder.

He was succeeded by his youngest half-brother Frederick Henry who became Prince of Orange after his elder brother died and he became 3rd Stadtholder of Holland and heir of the Orange family.

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