William II of the Netherlands

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William II
King Willem II.jpg
William II, by Nicolaas Pieneman
Reign7 October 1840 – 17 March 1849
Inauguration 28 November 1840
Predecessor William I
Successor William III
Born(1792-12-06)6 December 1792
Noordeinde Palace, The Hague, Dutch Republic
Died17 March 1849(1849-03-17) (aged 56)
Tilburg, Netherlands
Spouse Anna Pavlovna of Russia
House Orange-Nassau
Father William I of the Netherlands
Mother Wilhelmine of Prussia
Religion Dutch Reformed Church

William II (Willem Frederik George Lodewijk, anglicized as William Frederick George Louis; 6 December 1792 – 17 March 1849) was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg.


William II was the son of William I and Wilhelmine of Prussia. When his father, who up to that time ruled as sovereign prince, proclaimed himself king in 1815, he became Prince of Orange as heir apparent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With the abdication of his father on 7 October 1840, William II became king. During his reign, the Netherlands became a parliamentary democracy with the new constitution of 1848.

William I of the Netherlands King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg 1815 - 1840

William I was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

Prince of Orange title originally from the Principality of Orange

Prince of Orange is a title originally associated with the sovereign Principality of Orange, in what is now southern France. Under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, Frederick William I of Prussia ceded the Principality of Orange to King Louis XIV of France. After William III of England died without children, a dispute arose between Johan Willem Friso and Frederick I of Prussia, which was settled in the Treaty of Partition (1732); consequently, Friso's son, William IV had to share use of the title "Prince of Orange" with Frederick William I of Prussia. The title is traditionally borne by the heir apparent of the Dutch monarch. The title descends via absolute primogeniture since 1983, meaning that its holder can be either Prince or Princess of Orange.

Kingdom of the Netherlands Kingdom in Europe and the Caribbean

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, commonly known as the Netherlands, is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with the large majority of its territory in Western Europe and with several small island territories in the Caribbean Sea, in the West Indies islands.

William II was married to Anna Pavlovna of Russia. They had four sons and one daughter. William II died on 17 March 1849 and was succeeded by his son William III.

Anna Pavlovna of Russia queen consort of the Netherlands

Anna Pavlovna of Russia was a queen consort of the Netherlands.

William III of the Netherlands King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg 1849 - 1890

William III was King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg from 1849 until his death in 1890. He was also the Duke of Limburg from 1849 until the abolition of the duchy in 1866.

Early life and education

Willem Frederik George Lodewijk was born on 6 December 1792 in The Hague. He was the eldest son of King William I of the Netherlands and Wilhelmine of Prussia. His maternal grandparents were King Frederick William II of Prussia and his second wife Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands.

Frederick William II of Prussia King of Prussia

Frederick William II was King of Prussia from 1786 until his death. He was in personal union the Prince-elector of Brandenburg and sovereign prince of the Canton of Neuchâtel. Pleasure-loving and indolent, he is seen as the antithesis to his predecessor, Frederick II. Under his reign, Prussia was weakened internally and externally, and he failed to deal adequately with the challenges to the existing order posed by the French Revolution. His religious policies were directed against the Enlightenment and aimed at restoring a traditional Protestantism. However, he was a patron of the arts and responsible for the construction of some notable buildings, among them the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

When William was two, he and his family fled to England after allied British-Hanoverian troops left the Republic and entering French troops defeated the army of the United Provinces, claiming liberation by joining the anti-Orangist Patriots. William spent his youth in Berlin at the Prussian court, where he followed a military education and served in the Prussian Army. After this, he studied civil law at Christ Church, University of Oxford. [1] [2] [3] William II had a string of relationships with both men and women which led him to be blackmailed. [4] [5] [6] [7] The homosexual relationships that William II had as crown prince and as king were reported by journalist Eillert Meeter  [ nl ] [8] . The king surrounded himself with male servants whom he could not dismiss because of his 'abominable motive' for hiring them in the first place. [9]


The Patriottentijd was a period of political instability in the Dutch Republic between approximately 1780 and 1787. It takes its name from the radical political faction known as the Patriotten who opposed the rule of the stadtholder, William V, Prince of Orange, and his supporters who were known as Orangists.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Military service

William II, by Nicaise de Keyser, 1846. Nicaise de Keyser06.jpg
William II, by Nicaise de Keyser, 1846.

He entered the British Army, and in 1811, as a 19 year old aide-de-camp in the headquarters of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was allowed to observe several of Wellington's campaigns of the Peninsular War. Though not yet 20, the young prince, according to the customs of the time, was made lieutenant colonel on 11 June 1811 [10] and Colonel on 21 October that year. [11] On 8 September 1812 he was made an aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent [12] and on 14 December 1813 promoted to major-general. [13] His courage and good nature made him very popular with the British, who nicknamed him "Slender Billy". He returned to the Netherlands in 1813 when his father became sovereign prince, and in May 1814 succeeded Sir Thomas Graham as the highest-ranking officer of the British forces stationed there. [14]

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

<i>Aide-de-camp</i> personal assistant or secretary to a person of high rank

An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant or secretary to a person of high rank, usually a senior military, police or government officer, or to a member of a royal family or a head of state.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington 18th and 19th-century British soldier and statesman

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain, serving twice as Prime Minister. His victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 puts him in the first rank of Britain's military heroes.

On 8 July 1814, he was promoted to lieutenant-general in the British Army, [15] and on 25 July to general. [16] As such, he was senior officer of the Allied army in the Low Countries when Napoleon I of France escaped from Elba in 1815. He relinquished command on the arrival of the Duke of Wellington, and, though this was his first real battle, fought with the title of "General" I Allied Corps at the Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815), where he was wounded. [17] He was 23. As a sign of gratitude for what the Dutch throne styled "his" victory at Waterloo, William was offered Soestdijk Palace by the Dutch people. [18] [19]

The British army lieutenant and military historian William Siborne blamed many casualties during the Waterloo Campaign on William's inexperience, incompetence, desperation to save face, and grossly-inflated opinion of his own military abilities. [20] In response, Siborne was accused by Lieutenant-General Willem Jan Knoop of many inaccuracies and contradictions. [21] An inspection of the archives of Siborne by General Francois de Bas in 1897 confirmed the selective use of sources and "numerous miscounts and untruths". [22] The defamation of the Prince of Orange and lack of recognition for his role during the Battle of Quatre Bras is attributed by some to efforts common to the 19th century to over-glorify and exaggerate Britain's military successes.


Portrait of William II and Anna Pavlovna (1816) by Jan Willem Pieneman Willem II anna paulowna.jpg
Portrait of William II and Anna Pavlovna (1816) by Jan Willem Pieneman

In 1814, William became briefly engaged with Princess Charlotte of Wales, only daughter of the Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom and his estranged wife Caroline of Brunswick. The engagement was arranged by the Prince Regent, but it was broken because Charlotte's mother was against the marriage and because Charlotte did not want to move to the Netherlands. On 21 February 1816 at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, William married Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, youngest sister to Czar Alexander I of Russia, who arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Imperial Russia and the Netherlands.

On 17 February 1817 in Brussels, his first son Willem Alexander was born, the future King William III. Already in 1819, he was blackmailed over what Minister of Justice Van Maanen termed in a letter his "shameful and unnatural lusts": presumably bisexuality. Also his signing the constitutional reform of 1848, enabling a parliamentary democracy, may have been partly influenced by blackmail. [23] He may also have had a relationship with a dandy by the name of Pereira. [24]

Belgian Revolution

The Prince of Orange pressed by the crowd during the 1830 Revolution The Prince of Orange pressed by the crowd.png
The Prince of Orange pressed by the crowd during the 1830 Revolution

William II enjoyed considerable popularity in what is now Belgium (then the Southern Netherlands), as well as in parts of the rest of the Netherlands for his affability and moderation, and in 1830, on the outbreak of the Belgian revolution, he did his utmost in Brussels as a peace broker, to bring about a settlement based on administrative autonomy for the southern provinces, under the House of Orange-Nassau. His father then rejected the terms of accommodation that the son had proposed without further consultation; afterwards, relations with his father were once again tense.

In April 1831, William II was sent by his father to be the military leader of the failed Ten Days' Campaign in order to recover what would become Belgium. They were driven back due to French intervention on the side of the rebels. European mediation established Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on the throne of a new monarchy. Peace was finally established in 1839 when Belgium was recognized by the Netherlands.


The inauguration of William II on 28 November 1840, by Nicolaas Pieneman De inhuldiging van koning Willem II in de Nieuwe Kerk te Amsterdam, 28 november 1840 Rijksmuseum SK-A-3852.jpeg
The inauguration of William II on 28 November 1840, by Nicolaas Pieneman

On 7 October 1840, on his father's abdication, he acceded to the throne as William II. Although he shared his father's conservative inclinations, he did not intervene in governmental affairs nearly as much as his father had. There was increased agitation for broad constitutional reform and a wider electoral franchise. Although William was certainly no democrat, he acted with sense and moderation.

The Revolutions of 1848 broke out all over Europe. In Paris the Bourbon-Orléans monarchy that had stolen "his" southern provinces fell. Warned that the revolution might spread to the Netherlands next, William decided to institute a more liberal regime, believing it was better to grant reforms instead of having them imposed on him on less favourable terms later. As he later put it, "I changed from conservative to liberal in one night". He chose a committee headed by the prominent liberal Johan Rudolf Thorbecke to create a new constitution.

The new document provided that the Eerste Kamer (Senate), previously appointed by the King, would be elected indirectly by the Provincial States. The Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives), previously elected by the Provincial States, would be elected directly via census suffrage in electoral districts, with the franchise limited to those who paid a certain amount in taxes. Ministers were now fully responsible to the Tweede Kamer. For all intents and purposes, the real power passed to the Tweede Kamer, and the king was now a servant of government rather than its master. That constitution of 1848, amended numerous times (most notably by the replacement of census suffrage by universal manhood suffrage and districts with nationwide party-list proportional representation, both in 1917) is still in effect today.

He swore in his first and only cabinet under the terms of the new constitution a few months before his sudden death in Tilburg, North Brabant (1849).

In fiction

He is a recurring character in the historical novels of Georgette Heyer, most notably in An Infamous Army.

William appears as a character in the historical fiction novel Sharpe's Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell, and its television adaptation, in which he is portrayed by Paul Bettany.

Titles, styles and honours

Monogram of William II Royal Monogram of William II of the Netherlands and Luxembourg.svg
Monogram of William II

Titles and styles



King William II and his family (1832) by Jan Baptist van der Hulst Jan Baptist van der Hulst - Koning Willem II en familie.jpg
King William II and his family (1832) by Jan Baptist van der Hulst

William II and queen Anna Pavlovna had five children:


See also

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  3. "Willem Frederik George Lodewijk (1792-1849)". www.scheveningen1813-2013.nl. Retrieved 2017-09-01.
  4. News, Gay. "Intense Male Friendships Made King Willem II Liable to Blackmail". www.gay-news.com. Retrieved 2017-09-01.
  5. Jeroen van, Zanten (2013). Koning Willem II : 1792-1849. dl. 2. Amsterdam: Boom. ISBN   9461051859. OCLC   864666575.
  6. "Willem II: intelligent, chantabel en in de knel". NRC (in Dutch). Retrieved 2017-09-01.
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  9. Meeter, E. (1857). Holland: its institutions, its press, kings and prisons. p. 320.
  10. "No. 16494". The London Gazette . 11 June 1811. p. 1068.
  11. "No. 16533". The London Gazette . 22 October 1811. p. 2033.
  12. "No. 16642". The London Gazette . 8 September 1812. p. 1812.
  13. "No. 16824". The London Gazette . 14 December 1813. p. 2528.
  14. Andrew Bamford (2014). "The British Army in the Low Countries, 1813-1814" (PDF). The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
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  19. "Geschiedenis van het Paleis Soestdijk". Paleis Soestdijk (in Dutch). Retrieved 16 June 2015.
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William II of the Netherlands
Born: 6 December 1792 Died: 17 March 1849
Regnal titles
Preceded by
William I
King of the Netherlands
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Duke of Limburg

Succeeded by
William III
Dutch royalty
Preceded by
William (I)
Prince of Orange
Succeeded by
William (III)