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Nationality/school
North Netherlandish (school), German
Born
Dillenburg 1533-04-24
Deceased
Delft 1584-07-10
assassinated on July 10th
Family relationships
this field records any family relationship to one or more other artist(s).
Son of Wilhelm I von Nassau-Dillenburg (William the Rich, 1487-1559), Count of Nassau, and his 2nd wife Juliana van Stolberg (1506-1580). William the Rich already had a daughter from his first marriage, while Juliana had four childen from her first husband, together they would have 11 more children. Married 1) on 8 July 1551 Anna van Egmont, Countess of Buren with whom he had two daughters (both Maria) and a son Philips Willem, 2) on 24 August 1561 in Leipzig to Anna of Saxony, niece of Elector August of Albertine Saxony, together parents of Anna (married Willem Lodewijk van Nassau-Dillenburg) and Maurice. Anna was forced to admit to adultery with Jan Rubens, after which the marriage was annulled in 1575. As Anna was suicidal by now she was put under housearrest by her relatives in Saxony and died in seclusion on 18 December 1577, 3) in Brielle on 12 June 1575 to Charlotte de Bourbon, together parents of six daughters and 4) in Antwerp on 12 April 1583 to Louise de Coligny, together parents of Frederic Henry (the genealogy of prince William is very complex due to his countless brothers and sisters and their offspring, his own legitimate and extramarital children and the children of his partners from previous marriages, his grand-children etc.: therefore only the historically most important are named here).
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Biographical information
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  • Dillenburg 1533
    Oldest child from his father's 2nd marriage, baptized on 4 May 1533 according to the catholic faith to keep on the right side of emperor Charles V. In 1544 he inherited the principality of Orange from his cousin René of Chalon, Nassau-Breda, prince of Orange. On condition that his education was transferred to the court of Maria of Hungary in Brussels, the emperor agreed to accept this inheritance, with possessions in a.o. Dietz, Vianden, Charny, Penthièvre, Tonnerre, Warneton, Diest, Breda, Chatebelin, Nozeroy and Arlay.
  • Brussel 1545
    His education was immedeately scaled up to his exalted status of Imperial courtier. He also met all the right people, to begin with Charles V, Fernando duke of Alva and secretary of state Granvelle and his brother; in 1549 he met his peer, crown-prince Philip II (all William's most relentless enemies in fact). From the testimonies of contemporaries it is clear that he far surpassed the clumsy Spanish prince, who spoke only Spanish and, what was worse, that the emperor preferred him over his own son. When Charles V abdicated in 1555 and Philip II became king of Spain (1556) and Lord of The Netherlands, William was appointed Councillor of State, knight of the Golden Fleece and Captain-General of the Imperial army in The Netherlands
  • Frankfurt am Main 1558
    While at the Diet in Frankfurt, William received the news of the death of his wife and hurried home to Breda and then to Brussels
  • Brussel 1558
    In Brussels the news came, that the emperor Charles had died in Yuste (21 September 1558), followed a few weeks later by his sister Maria of Hungary and Philips II wife Mary I Tudor.
  • 1559
    During the negotiations between France and Spain (and the signing of the ensuing peace-treaty) in Cateau-Cambrésis he was, together with the Duke of Alva, Philip's main advisor and met all the great king and princes of Europe. As reward he was nominated Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht. In the late autumn of 1559 Philip left by way of Flushing for Spain, never to return North. William, the Duke of Alva and Count Egmont stayed on in France as hostages till the peace treaty was implemented. Here the French king informed them that France and Spain were going to introduce a very severe (Spanish) Inquisition to stamp out the Reformation in France and The Netherlands. William himself dated his opposition to Philip II back to this conversation.
  • Brussel 1559 - 1567
    In Brussels, Philip's (illegitimate) halfsister Margaret of Parma was governess now, with her main advisor Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle (since 1561 cardinal-archbishop of Mechelen). These two became the unquestioning executors of Philip's implacable policies, send to them by currier from Spain, the infamous so-called placards ( 'plakkaten') ordering increasingly severe and inhumane actions against the heretics and also imposing taxation through armed force. This force was going to be imposed by the Duke of Alva. William did not wait for the inevitable and evacuated himself and his family to Germany (April 1567, Dillenburg)
  • Dillenburg 1567
    From the relative safety of his home county, he witnessed the increasing repression of the Spanish authorities and witnessed the beginning of what become the 'Eighty Years War'. After long hesitation he decided to join the rebels in their fight
  • Groningen (prov.) 1568
    First invasion of The Netherlands in Groningen: battle by Heiligerlee, a small victory, where his brother Adolf died. The only substantial support did not come from the population or the German protestants, but from the sea-beggars (Watergeuzen), desperado's who had taken to the see, harassing the Spaniards with sea-raids. He therefore transferred som support to them.
  • Brielle 1572
    The first foothold on land was gained with the conquest of the little harbour-town of Brielle on 1 April 1572 in south Holland. The cause of the insurgents in The Netherlands received a heavy blow with the St. Bartholomew's Night massacre in Paris, just when the French Calvinists were planning some relief. In December 1572 Alva started his siege of Haarlem, which resulted in its surrender in July 1573. In the siege of Alkmaar Alva failed and the city was taken 'for the prince' in October 1573.
  • Delft 1573 - 1574
    The next city to withstand the Spaniards was Leiden, with the support of William from Delft, now mostly his place of residence in Holland. On 4 October 1574 it was relieved after a siege of a year. With these early successes he could organize some help from France, Germany and England.
  • Brielle 1575
    Marriage to Charlotte de Bourbon, who belonged to the French family de Bourbon-Vendôme (Charlotte had earlier on left the convent where she was a nun and left her Catholic family and became calvinist at the Electeral court in Heidelberg) on 12 June 1575.
  • Gent 1576
    The cause for the rebels was greatly helped by, when the unpaid Spanish army sacked the city of Antwerp (the so-called Spanish Fury) on 4 November 1576: catholics and protestants alike turned away from Spain, which gave William th change to consolidate the situation in the Pacification of Ghent (8 November) and unite all the sevnteen provinces of The Netherlands
  • Antwerpen (stad) 1577-09-18 - 1577
    Triumphant entry in Antwerp.
  • Brussel 1577-09-22 - 1579
    Triumphant entry in Brussels. lthough a Union under Orange seemed immenent, its was not going to be: in the Union of Arras/Atrecht the mostly French speaking catholic provinces of the Southern Netherlands and in the Union of Utrecht the mainly Dutch speaking Nothern provinces dominated by the protestants went their seperate ways. Orange's endeavours to broker a peace of religious tolerance failed, mainly through opposition of Flemish calvinists
  • Antwerpen (stad) 1580 - 1582
    In 1581 the Estates General issued the so-called 'Plakkaat van Verlatinghe', in which they officially rejected Philip II as Lord of The Netherlands and wanted to give the power to William. The reaction of Spain was outlawing him (as well as Elizabeth I). As a consequence several attempts were made on his life, the most severe being the attack on 18 March 1582 by Jean Jaurequi, which he barely survived. His wife Charlotte however died, mainly from exhaustion.
  • Delft 1583
    On 12 April 1583 he married Louise de Coligny, the daughter of Gaspard de Coligny, the murdered head of the French huguenots and widow of the also murdered Charles de Téligny.
  • Vlissingen 1583
    With Alexander Franese, duke of Parma, the Spaniards had again gained the lead in the Dutch revolt. William had to leave Antwerp, first to Flushing and then to Delft
  • Delft 1583-12 - 1584-07-10
    In Delft his last child, the fure prince Frederic Henry was born. There he was murdered by a Frenchman and Spanish secret agent called Balthasar Gerards, who had gained Orange's trust, on July 10th, 1584.
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Creation date: 2010-03-18; Last modified date: 2022-04-07

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