The House of Orange

You see here the Dutch Royal Palace in the street called “het Noordeinde,” in the center of the city of The Hague (which was founded in the Middle Ages). This Palace was drawn by me in 1940, with my father as a policeman standing in front of it. The doors of the main entrance are of thick glass, the biggest part of the building is on the other side in the palace garden, with its own entrance. There is also the building of the Royal Files, and a connection with the Royal stables, where horses, cars and carriages are kept in good condition.

You see the statue of Prince William I of Orange, with whom the Royal family in The Netherlands began. You see the Prince on his horse, as he went with his armies in many battles to save The Netherlands out of the hands of the Roman Catholics from Spain (King Philips II, who wanted to destroy the Reformation) who killed thousands of people.

Nowadays this side of the palace is closed off by a high fence with gates made of wrought iron, guarded by the royal constabulary in colorful uniforms on special occasions of an official nature. The white plaster has been removed from the walls, so that the original bricks are visible again. The royal family does not live here, but in “Huts ten Bosch,” in another part of the city, next to a small wood.

Once a year, on the third Tuesday in September, the Queen opens both the Dutch Upper and Lower House with a speech from the throne in de Ridderzaal (the Knights Hall), the oldest building in The Hague. The speech sets out the policy the government intends to pur­sue during the coming year of session.

Along the route between the Palace “Noordeinde” and the Knights Hall about 60,000 people are waiting to see the Golden Coach, with (nowadays) Queen Beatrix, her husband Prince Claus, and her eldest son Prince William-Alexander who is the crown-prince and not yet married. The Coach was once given to the grandmother of queen Beatrix, the late queen Wilhelmina, and is made of Japanese teak gilded with gold leaf. It proceeds with eight horses in front, footmen next to them, followed by other members of the royal family in the glass carriage, regiments of the cavalry on horseback, the police force, the grenadiers and the yellow riders. All over the city flags with the national colors and orange streamers. Along the route and before the Houses of Parliament there are guards of honor and military bands. The royal procession departs at one o’clock. From that moment salutes ring out every minute to let the people know their Head of State is on her way to the General Assembly of the States General. Also the whole Diplomatic Corps is waiting there.

The history of the House of Orange begins with Prince William I, born at the German castle of Dillenburg, as Count of Nassau, but in 1544 he became also Prince of Orange (a small principality in France, inherited from his uncle Rene of Chalons).

He was educated as a nobleman at the court of sovereign guardien Margaretha van Parma in Brussels. He married in 1551 with the Dutch countess Anna van Bueren. In 1555 he became commander-in-chief of the army and member of the State Council of King Philips II; after his departure to Spain he became governor (“stadtholder”) over most of The Netherlands and Bourgondy. His wife died in 1558. He married in 1561 with Anna van Saksen. The Prince refused to send an army to France against the Huguenots, took up contact with the Protestants in Germany and France (Louis de Conde). He was a wealthy man and had much influence. At New Year’s Eve 1564 the Prince delivered a famous speech during a meeting of the State Council. He demanded more power for the Council, a calling together of all the members of the General Assembly of the States General and no more terrorizing of the Protestants by King Philips. On April 11, 1567 he went home, in Dillenburg. The king was furious and called him to appear for the Blood Tribunal. Prince William refused. He decided to liberate The Netherlands. In September 1568 he appeared with 14,000 soldiers near the city of Maastricht, but the following month an army of the Duke of Alva (on behalf of King Philips) defeated him. He went to the frontier with France, where he had to send his troops away because he could not afford them further. With his brothers Henry and Lewis and 1,200 horse-soldiers he went to the Huguenots of admiral de Coligny in Limoges. In October 1569 they were defeated and he had to flee back again to Dillenburg. He sold all the valuables he had. On July 7, 1572 he went with 24,000 soldiers to Bergen in the southern part of The Netherlands of those days, to help his brother Lewis who was surrounded by enemies. On July 23, he took the city of Roermond and several smaller cities, but the farmers of the area gave him no support and he had to send his army away (they were hired soldiers). He left for the Northern part of The Netherlands and arrived in Enkhuizen where he organized the big Resistance against the Roman-Catholic king in Spain.

Prince William stated that he had no soldiers but all his trust was in the Lord Almighty. He was only willing to negotiate with the enemy if the Reformed Faith was respected. The king of Spain refused to listen; he sent more armies against the Protestants in The Netherlands. However, the Prince got help of the “watergenzen’’ (freedom-fighters who brought a fleet of small ships together and founded “the marines”). They liberated the city of Middelburg (province of Zeeland) of the Spanish occupation forces, followed by several other towns and cities. In 1575 the Prince married with Charlotte de Bourbon. He went to meetings in all directions of the country, trying to reach a peace accord with freedom of religion. It was very difficult to get enough support, both from friends and enemies, because they had widely different interests and (not without reason) distrust. In July 1580 the king of Spain put Prince William under a ban and offered 25,000 golden “schilden” (one “schild” was seventy cents) to the person who murdered him. The first attack happened on March 18, 1582 by Jean Jaureguy, in Antwerp. The wound was serious and Charlotte spent many days and nights trying to stop the bleeding. The Prince recovered slowly and his wife died. The following year the Prince settled down in his simple palace “de Princenhof’ in Delft, and married with Louise de Colig, a widow, daughter of Admiral de Coligny who in Paris was murdered by the Roman Catholics in 1572. In 1584 Prince William was murdered by Balthasar Gerards. His last words were, “My God, have mercy with my soul and with this poor people.” He said it in French, which was the official language in those days. He was buried in the “Nienwe Kerk” in Delft, which was built in 1384 in late gothic style. In a big “royal cellar” almost all the members of the House of Orange are buried (together with the mortal remains of their spouses). This building has a length of 100 meters and is owned by the State Reformed Church, since 1572. The tower has a beautiful carillon, built in 1660 by Francois Hemony. The organ was installed by Batz in 1839 and has 3,000 pipes…

Prince Maurits followed in his father’s footsteps. He had however permanently a big army and a big fleet at his disposal He fought meter after meter against the Spaniards, but was also directly involved in defending the Reformed churches against the Remonstrants. He died on April 23, 1625.

His brother Frederik Hendrik continued the fighting and liberating, against armies who wanted to destroy the followers of the Reformed Faith, inside and outside The Netherlands. He made the palace at the Noordeinde in The Hague his residence and did his governmental business in the Ridderzaal. In 1625 he had married with Amalia van Solms. He became feared and admired by all the heads of states of Europe in his days. He died in 1647.

Prince William II succeeded his father. He married in 1641 with Maria Stuart, daughter of king Charles I of England. He died in The Hague 1650. A week later his son was born (William III). When William III was 27 years old he married with another Maria Stuart, who was a daughter of King James II of England. In 1672 he had become commander-in-chief of the army and the navy. He liberated England of the Roman Catholics. In 1689 he and his wife became King and Queen of England, but he remained Prince of The Netherlands at the same time.

“Stadtholder” King William III had no children. So, when he died on March 19, 1702 there came a period without Head of State in The Netherlands till 1747 when Prince William IV was asked (he was already since 1718 “Stadtholder” Prince of Orange-Nassau in the provinces Friesland and Groningen). He married in 1734 with Princess Anna, daughter of King George II of England. He became also commander-in-chief of the army and the navy. There were no wars in his days, but he had to solve many problems of administration in several parts of the country; that did not go very well, because he disliked straightforward or harsh measures. He was in poor health. However, he was widely respected by the people. He died October 22, 1751 in his palace in The Hague.

His son, who would be known as William V was born in 1748, so he was too young for the throne. His mother was regent (she reigned in his name) till she died in 1759. The job was continued by the Duke of Brunswijk-Wolfenbittel (as his guardian), till he married in 1767 with Wilhelmina van Pruisen (in Berlin). Like his father he was a kind man, but not a leader with sufficient authority. Also it was not clear to him that in the whole of Europe a revolution was brewing, led by French politicians who infiltrated The Netherlands, so that the movement of the “patriotten” came into being. An oligarchy of local governors, mayors and tax officials supported them secretly. When they moved in the direction of a coup d’etat, Princess Wilhelmina called her brother, King Frederik II of Prussia. He came with an army and restored order in The Netherlands. The traitors fled to France. On September 20, 1787 the Prince was fully in power again but as soon as the Prussians had departed, he got problems again December 31, 1791 he departed with family and friends to England. He would never see The Hague again. He died in Germany. In 1958 his body was finally brought to the Nienwe Kerk in Delft.

After the years of occupation by the French Army (Napoleon) the eldest son of William V came back to The Netherlands and became in 1815 the first King of this country. The ceremony took place in Brussels which belonged yet to The Netherlands (in 1839 Belgium came into existence). He was against the Synodal-Reformed people leaving the State Reformed Churches (1834). On October 7, 1840 he left the throne and went to Berlin, where he married with the Duchess d’Oultremont (sec­ond marriage).

His eldest son became in the same year King William II. He was known as a brilliant cavalry general (battles in Spanish Vitoria, and against Napoleon in Quatre-Bras and Waterloo), the right hand of the British general Wellington. The Government of The Netherlands gave him a palace in Soestdijk , but he went most of the time to Tilburg, in the southern part of the country. He married in 1816 with Anna Paulowna, sister of the Russian Czar Alexander I. He was not against the Syn. Reformed people. He accepted a new Constitution and left the governing to the Ministers of the Crown. He had three children. He died in a small palace in Tilburg in 1849. King William III was at first more autocratic than his father, but later he accommodated, though he disliked the liberals openly. He was confronted with the “Afscheiding” (officially recognizing the Syn. Reformed Church, after lots of conflicts, in 1870). He lived from 1817-1890, married in 1839 with Princess Sophia van Wurtemberg. He had three sons, namely William, Maurits and Alexander, but they all died before their father passed away. In 1879 he married for the second time. That was with Emma van Waldeck-Pyrmont. In 1880 Princess Wilhelmina was born.

Ten years later she became the Queen, but because she was yet too young, her mother acted in her name as the Regent, till September 5, 1898. Queen Wilhelmina married on February 7, 1901 with Duke Hendrik van Mecklenburg-Schwerin. They lived in the palace Noordeinde in The Hague, where on April 30, 1909 Prin­cess Juliana was born. My father got to know this small royal family very well.

On May 10, 1940, at three o’clock in the night, my father heard the sound, of many planes above him in the air. He stood in the garden of the royal palace, next to the back door, and suddenly he saw military searchlight. The anti-aircraft guns of the Dutch army fired their first shots, bombs fell at the military airfield of Ockenburg, sirens warned the population of the city of The Hague, a lieutenant opened the door of the concrete air-raid shelter. “This is war,” he said. Indeed, The Netherlands was attacked by the “Luftwaffe” (air force) of Nazi Germany. Pieces of shrapnel (of exploded grenades) came raining down from the air. The Queen came, soon followed by Princess Juliana, her husband Prince Bernhard, and their first children, Beatrix and Irene (she had married on January 7, 1937), who had arrived from palace Soestdijk to join the Queen. My father ushered them into shelter. The Queen took his arm and said “Come, you must not remain there outside. Any moment you can be hit”… The Dutch army was already mobilized and trained since September 1939, with defense lines and bunkers along the frontiers. I know the Queen was warned by King Leopold of Belgium, who had come in the possession of the attack plans of Hitler, and she had had discussions with the commander-in-chief and members of the government, but what can two small countries do in a half year against (as it was) a military super-power with planes, parachutists, tanks, flame throwers, heavy artillery, etc. The Queen had actively supported plans and proposals of the general staff, but they were not accepted by the government of the day…

On May 5, 1945 father stood again next to the palace, when he got the message that the Germans had surrendered. Five terrible years of terror and fear had passed. Queen Wilhelmina and the government came back, and Princess Juliana with her family, respectively from England and Canada. In 1948 Princess Juliana became the next Queen. She had four daughters. The eldest, Beatrix, is now the Queen; she has three sons. All of them members of the State Reformed Church. ❖