William V, Prince of Orange

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William V
William V, Prince of Orange - Bone 1801.jpg
Portrait by Henry Bone (1801)
Prince of Orange
Period22 October 1751 – 9 April 1806
Predecessor William IV
Successor William VI
Prince of Orange-Nassau
Reign22 October 1751 – 9 April 1806
Predecessor William IV
Successor William VI
Stadtholder of the United Provinces
Reign22 October 1751 – 23 February 1795
Predecessor William IV
SuccessorStadtholdership abolished
Born(1748-03-08)8 March 1748
The Hague, Dutch Republic
Died9 April 1806(1806-04-09) (aged 58)
Brunswick, Brunswick-Lüneburg
Spouse Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia
Issue Louise, Hereditary Princess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
William I of the Netherlands
Prince Frederick
Full name
Willem Batavus
House Orange-Nassau
Father William IV, Prince of Orange
Mother Anne, Princess Royal
Religion Dutch Reformed Church

William V (Willem Batavus; 8 March 1748 – 9 April 1806) was a Prince of Orange and the last Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic. He went into exile to London in 1795. He was furthermore ruler of the Principality of Orange-Nassau until his death in 1806. In that capacity he was succeeded by his son William.

Prince of Orange Title originated 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. With the emergence of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the title is traditionally borne by the heir apparent of the Dutch monarch. Originally only worn by men, since 1983 the title descends via absolute primogeniture, which means that the holder can be either Prince or Princess of Orange.

Stadtholder title used in parts of Europe

In the Low Countries, stadtholder was an office of steward, designated a medieval official and then a national leader. The stadtholder was the replacement of the duke or earl of a province during the Burgundian and Habsburg period.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or simply United Provinces, and commonly referred to historiographically as the Dutch Republic, was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.


Early life

William Batavus was born in The Hague on 8 March 1748, the only son of William IV, who had the year before been restored as stadtholder of the United Provinces. He was only three years old when his father died in 1751, and a long regency began. His regents were:

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 and hosts the International Court of Justice, one of the most important courts in the world.

William IV, Prince of Orange Prince of Orange

William IV was Prince of Orange from birth and the first hereditary Stadtholder of all the United Provinces of the Netherlands from 1747 till his death in 1751. During his whole life he was furthermore ruler of the Principality of Orange-Nassau within the Holy Roman Empire.

Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange Princess Royal

Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange was the second child and eldest daughter of King George II of Great Britain and his consort Caroline of Ansbach. She was the spouse of William IV, Prince of Orange, the first hereditary stadtholder of all seven provinces of the Northern Netherlands. She was Regent of the Netherlands from 1751 until her death in 1759, exercising extensive powers on behalf of her son William V. She was known as an Anglophile, due to her English upbringing and family connections, but was unable to convince the Dutch Republic to enter the Seven Years' War on the side of the British. Princess Anne was the second daughter of a British sovereign to hold the title Princess Royal. In the Netherlands she was sometimes known as Anna van Hannover.

Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel Princess consort of Orange

Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel was a Dutch regent, Princess of Orange by marriage to John William Friso, Prince of Orange, and regent of the Netherlands during the minority of her son and her grandson. She was a daughter of Charles I, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, and Maria Amalia of Courland. She and her husband are the most recent common ancestors of all currently reigning monarchs in Europe.

Duke Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg German Duke, general, and advisor to the Stadhouder of the Netherlands

Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Bevern was a field-marshal in the armies of the Holy Roman Empire and the Dutch Republic, the elected Duke of Courland (1741). From 13 November 1750 to 1766 he was the Captain-General of the Netherlands, where he was known as the Duke of Brunswick or Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Another brother was Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick who led the Allied Anglo-German army during the Seven Years' War.

William was made the 568th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1752.

Knight An award of an honorary title for past or future service with its roots in chivalry in the Middle Ages

A knight is a man granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political or religious leader for service to the monarch or a Christian church, especially in a military capacity.

Order of the Garter Order of chivalry in England

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by King Edward III of England in 1348. It is the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system, outranked in precedence only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. The Order of the Garter is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.


William V assumed the position of stadtholder and Captain-General of the Dutch States Army on his majority in 1766. However, he allowed the Duke of Brunswick to retain a large influence on the government with the secret Acte van Consulentschap . On 4 October 1767 in Berlin, Prince William married Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, the daughter of Augustus William of Prussia, niece of Frederick the Great and a cousin of George III. (He himself was George III's first cousin). [1] :55-58 He became an art collector and in 1774 his Galerij Prins Willem V was opened to the public.

Dutch States Army

The Dutch States Army was the army of the Dutch Republic. It was usually called this, because it was formally the army of the States-General of the Netherlands, the sovereign power of that federal republic. This mercenary army was brought to such a size and state of readiness that it was able to hold its own against the armies of the major European powers of the extended 17th century, Habsburg Spain and the France of Louis XIV, despite the fact that these powers possessed far larger military resources than the Republic. It played a major role in the Eighty Years' War and in the wars of the Grand Alliance with France after 1672.

Acte van Consulentschap

The Acte van Consulentschap was a secret, private contract between stadtholder William V, Prince of Orange of the Dutch Republic and his mentor and former guardian Duke Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg, concluded on 3 May 1766, in which the latter was informally given continued powers of guardianship over the stadtholder in his private and public capacity. Not only gave this document the Duke a nefarious influence over affairs of state in the Republic, but when it became public in 1784 it caused such a scandal that the stadtholder's regime was almost fatally undermined in the political upheaval of the Patriottentijd.

Wilhelmina of Prussia, Princess of Orange Princess consort of Orange

Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia was the consort of William V of Orange and the de facto leader of the dynastic party and counter-revolution in the Netherlands. She was the daughter of Prince Augustus William of Prussia and Luise of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Wilhelmina was the longest-serving Princess consort of Orange.

Portrait by Johann Georg Ziesenis (c. 1768-1769) Johann Georg Ziesenis - Willem V prins van Oranje-Nassau - c 1770.jpg
Portrait by Johann Georg Ziesenis (c. 1768–1769)

The position of the Dutch during the American War of Independence was one of neutrality. William V, leading the pro-British faction within the government, blocked attempts by pro-American-independence, and later pro-French, elements to drag the government to war in support of the Franco-American alliance. However, things came to a head with the Dutch attempt to join the Russian-led League of Armed Neutrality, leading to the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War in 1780. In spite of the fact that Britain was engaged in fighting on several fronts, the war went badly for the poorly prepared Dutch, leading to the loss of St. Eustatius and Nagapattinam. [1] :58-63 Scandals like the Brest Affair undermined belief in the Dutch navy. The stadtholderian regime and the Duke of Brunswick were suspected of treason in the matter of the loss of the Barrier fortresses. [1] :56 The deterioration of the prestige of the regime made minds ripe for agitation for political reform, like the pamphlet Aan het Volk van Nederland, published in 1781 by Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol. [1] :64-68

First League of Armed Neutrality alliance of European naval powers between 1780 and 1783

The first League of Armed Neutrality was an alliance of European naval powers between 1780 and 1783 which was intended to protect neutral shipping against the Royal Navy's wartime policy of unlimited search of neutral shipping for French contraband. British naval commanders followed their instructions with care, ordered away boarding parties and made seizures with impunity. Four fifths of ships sailing, according to one estimate, made port in safety, but it was the loss of the other fifth that rankled. By September 1778, at least 59 ships were taken prize-8 Danish, 16 Swedish and 35 Dutch, not mentioning others from Prussia. Protests were enormous by every side involved.

Fourth Anglo-Dutch War conflict

The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War was a conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Dutch Republic. The war, contemporary with the War of American Independence, broke out over British and Dutch disagreements on the legality and conduct of Dutch trade with Britain's enemies in that war.

Nagapattinam Port and templeTown in Tamil Nadu, India

Nagapattinam is a town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the administrative headquarters of Nagapattinam District. The town came to prominence during the period of Medieval Cholas and served as their important port for commerce and east-bound naval expeditions. The Chudamani Vihara in Nagapattinam constructed by the Srivijayan king Sri Mara Vijayattungavarman of the Sailendra dynasty with the help of Rajaraja Chola I was an important Buddhist structure in those times. Nagapattinam was settled by the Portuguese and, later, the Dutch under whom it served as the capital of Dutch Coromandel from 1660 to 1781. In November 1781, the town was conquered by the British East India Company. It served as the capital of Tanjore district from 1799 to 1845 under Madras Presidency of the British. It continued to be a part of Thanjavur district in Independent India. In 1991, it was made the headquarters of the newly created Nagapattinam District. Nagapattinam is administered by a Selection-grade municipality covering an area of 17.92 km2 (6.92 sq mi) and had a population of 102,905 as of 2011.

After the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), there was growing restlessness in the United Provinces with William's rule. A coalition of old Dutch States Party regenten and democrats, called Patriots, was challenging his authority more and more. In 1785 William left the Hague and removed his court to Het Loo Palace in Gelderland, a province remote from the political center. [1] :104-105 In September 1786 he sent States-Army troops to Hattem and Elburg to overthrow the cities' Patriot vroedschap, despite the defense by Patriot Free Corps, organised by Herman Willem Daendels. This provoked the Patriot-dominated States of Holland to deprive him of his office of Captain-General of the States Army. [1] :107-109 In June 1787 his energetic wife Wilhelmina tried to travel to the Hague to foment an Orangist rising in that city. Outside Schoonhoven, she was stopped by Free Corps, taken to a farm near Goejanverwellesluis and after a short detention made to return to Nijmegen. [1] :127

To Wilhelmina and her brother, Frederick William II of Prussia, this was both an insult and an excuse to intervene militarily. Frederick launched the Prussian invasion of Holland in September 1787 to suppress the Patriots. [1] :128-132 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. [1] :132-135

Exile in Great Britain and Ireland

In The Orangerie (1796), James Gillray caricatured William's dalliances during his exile, depicting him as an indolent Cupid sleeping on bags of money, surrounded by pregnant amours Dutch-Cupid-Gillray.jpeg
In The Orangerie (1796), James Gillray caricatured William's dalliances during his exile, depicting him as an indolent Cupid sleeping on bags of money, surrounded by pregnant amours

William V joined the First Coalition against Republican France in 1793 with the coming of the French Revolution. His troops fought bravely in the Flanders Campaign, but in 1794 the military situation deteriorated and the Dutch Republic was threatened by invading armies. The year 1795 was a disastrous one for the ancien régime of the Netherlands. Supported by the French Army, the revolutionaries returned from Paris to fight in the Netherlands, and in 1795 William V went into exile in England. A few days later the Batavian Revolution occurred, and the Dutch Republic was replaced with the Batavian Republic. [2] :1121 [1] :190–192

Directly after his arrival in England, the Prince wrote a number of letters (known as the Kew Letters) from his new residence in Kew to the governors of the Dutch colonies, instructing them to hand over their colonies to the British "for safe-keeping." Though only a number complied, this contributed to their confusion and demoralisation. Almost all Dutch colonies were in the course of time occupied by the British, who in the end returned most, but not all (South Africa and Ceylon), first at the Treaty of Amiens and later with the Convention of London 1814. [2] :1127

In 1799 the Hereditary Prince took an active part in the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland, engineering the capture of a Batavian naval squadron in the Vlieter Incident. The surrender of the ships (that had been paid for by the Batavian Republic) was formally accepted in the name of William V as stadtholder, who was later allowed to "sell" them to the Royal Navy for an appreciable amount. [3] But that was his only success, as the troops suffered from choleric diseases, and civilians at that time were unwilling to re-instate the old regime. The arrogance of the tone in his proclamation, demanding the restoration of the stadtholderate, may not have been helpful, according to Simon Schama. [1] :393–394

After the Peace of Amiens in 1802, in which Great Britain recognised the Batavian Republic, an additional Franco-Prussian Convention of 23 May 1802 declared that the House of Orange would be ceded in perpetuity the domains of Dortmund, Weingarten, Fulda and Corvey in lieu of its Dutch estates and revenues (this became the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda). As far as Napoleon was concerned, this cession was conditional on the liquidation of the stadtholderate and other hereditary offices of the Prince. William V, however had no interest in towns, territories and abbeys confiscated from other rulers, but wanted what was his due: his arrears in salaries and other financial perquisites since 1795, or a lump sum of 4 million guilders. The foreign minister of the Batavian Republic, Maarten van der Goes, was willing to secretly try to persuade the Staatsbewind of the Batavian Republic to grant this additional indemnity, but Napoleon put a stop to it, when he got wind of the affair. [1] :452–454

The last of the Dutch stadtholders, William V died in exile at his daughter's palace in Brunswick, now in Germany. His body was moved to the Dutch Royal Family crypt in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft on 29 April 1958.

In 1813, his son, King William I returned to the Netherlands and became the first Dutch monarch from the House of Orange.


Willem V and Wilhelmina with their children Louise, William, and Frederick Willem v (2).jpg
Willem V and Wilhelmina with their children Louise, William, and Frederick

William V and Wilhelmina of Prussia were parents to five children:



During his life and afterwards William V was a controversial person, in himself, and because he was the unwilling center of a political firestorm that others had caused. Many historians and contemporaries have written short appreciations of him that were often acerbic. Phillip Charles, Count of Alvensleben, who was Prussian envoy to the Hague from 1787 (so not someone who must be suspected to be prejudiced against William) may be taken as an example. He wrote:

His great-great-granddaughter Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was less kind. She simply called him a sufferd (dotard). [6]


See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Schama, Simon (1992). Patriots and Liberators. Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813. Vintage books.
  2. 1 2 Israel, J.I. (1995). The Dutch Republic. Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806. Clarendon Press.
  3. James, W.M. (2002). The Naval History of Great Britain: During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Vol. 2 1797-1799. Stackpole books. pp. 309–310.
  4. Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 88.
  5. Cobban, A. (1954). Ambassadors and secret agents: the diplomacy of the first Earl of Malmesbury at the Hague . Jonathan Cape. p.  23.
  6. Meerkerk, E. van (2007). "De laatste stadhouder. Willem V (1748-1806) in: Historisch Nieuwsblad 10/2007". Historisch Nieuwsblad (in Dutch). Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  7. Earle, Anton et al. (2005), A preliminary basin profile of the Orange/Senqu River (pdf), African Centre for Water Research, retrieved 30 June 2007
William V, Prince of Orange
Cadet branch of the House of Nassau
Born: 8 March 1748 Died: April 9 1806
Dutch nobility
Preceded by
William IV
Prince of Orange
Succeeded by
William VI
Regnal titles
Preceded by
William IV of Orange
Prince of Orange-Nassau
Succeeded by
William VI of Orange
Baron of Breda
Lordship dissolved
incorporated in Batavian Republic
General Stadtholder of the United Provinces
Function abolished
followed by Batavian Republic