Friday, April 24, 2009

Monarchist Profile: William V of Orange

Willem V Batavus was the last Stadtholder of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands but though he was a republican by Dutch tradition he was a monarchist at heart. He inherited his father's position when he was only 3 in 1751 and had a succession of regents looking over him until he officially became Stadtholder in 1766. The following year he married a Prussian princess and thus became related by marriage to both Frederick the Great and King George III. When the American Revolution broke out the liberal republican faction in Holland favored the rebels but Willem V supported King George and the British and so worked to keep the republic neutral. However, starting in 1780 the Dutch were pulled more closely in. War broke out with Britain and in 1782 the United Provinces became one of the first countries to recognize the United States under French and American pressure.

Just as in France many Dutch liberals wanted to follow the example of the Americans and began calling themselves "Patriots" while making trouble for the House of Orange. They accused the Stadtholder of having aspirations to become king, which he did, and Dutch society divided into the liberal republican camp and the Orange monarchist camp. Unfortunately it was the republicans who seemed to have the upper hand in certain areas. Willem's wife, Princess Wilhelmina, was held captive for a short time by a group of these rebels while on her way to The Hague and thus earned the ire of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II; her brother. He sent Prussian troops in to drive the "Patriots" out who quickly fled to France and the protection of Louis XVI. Following the French revolution these rebels quickly returned with French republican troops to back them in 1795. They seized power, abolished the Dutch republic as it had been and Willem V was forced to flee to England. He led the Dutch government in exile in opposition to the pro-French regimes established in Holland. He later went to Germany where he died in 1806. In a way, he still had the last laugh though as after the Napoleonic Wars it was his son, Willem I, who became the first King of the Netherlands of the House of Orange.

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