William III. (Orange)

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William III. (around 1690), by Godfrey Kneller

William III. von Orange-Nassau (* 4th November July / 14th November  1650 greg. in The Hague ; † 8 March July / 19 March  1702 greg. in Kensington Palace in Kensington ) was governor of the from 1672 until his death Netherlands .

From 1689 he became in his own right and together with his wife Maria II and after her death alone also King of England , Scotland and Ireland in personal union . He was William III in England, but William II as King of Scotland. Wilhelm's special role in British history stems from the course of the “ Glorious Revolution ” in 1688/1689.

He saw his main task as the leader of the Protestant powers in Europe to contain the hegemonic claims of his great adversary, the French "Sun King" Louis XIV. , Which involved the Netherlands and England in decades of war.


Youth in the Netherlands

Wilhelm's parents Wilhelm II and Maria Henrietta Stuart , 1647 (from Honthorst )
Portrait of Wilhelm at the age of ten, probably by Jan Vermeer van Utrecht , in one by Jan Davidsz. de Heem designed cartridge

Wilhelm was the only child of Prince Wilhelm II of Orange and Maria Henrietta Stuart , eight days after the early death of his father. His maternal grandfather, King Charles I of England, had been executed by the English Parliament almost two years earlier. The High Council of Holland, Zeeland and West Friesland appointed Wilhelm his mother, his paternal grandmother Amalie zu Solms-Braunfels and his uncle Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg as common guardians .

The princely family Orange-Nassau was the most important and richest noble family in the Netherlands and traditionally provided the governors of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces . However, this electoral office was not hereditary and therefore Wilhelm did not follow his father through inheritance law, except in the small Principality of Orange in the south of France . Instead, rulers from the cities took power, including Cornelis de Graeff and Gillis Valckenier, as well as Johan de Witt . They kept an eye on his upbringing, even if he grew up at his mother's court in the Binnenhof in The Hague. However, public opinion in the Netherlands was not very sympathetic to Maria Henrietta Stuart, since during the Cromwell reign she was mainly concerned with the restoration of the House of Stuart in the British Isles and she accepted her brothers Karl and Jakob in the Hague as exiles, while many Calvinist and Republican-minded Dutch people sympathized with the Puritan rule in England. The widowed governor also always demanded to be treated like a queen; therefore, between 1654 and 1657, she spent most of the time outside of Holland.

Wilhelm, who was a sickly and somewhat overgrown only child, was first raised by Dutch, English, and Scottish governesses; he then enjoyed a strictly Calvinist upbringing, his teachers included Cornelis Trigland, a student of the theologian Gisbert Voetius , and Constantijn Huygens . According to Calvinist principles, he was taught that he was an instrument of divine providence .

The ten-year-old's mother died in 1660 while visiting London, where her brother Charles II had just come to the throne after the end of Cromwell's reign. Now his grandmother continued to look after him, as did Frederick Nassau de Zuylestein, an illegitimate half-brother of his father. He also visited the Brandenburg court in Berlin and Potsdam, where his aunt Luise Henriette von Oranien was married to the “Great Elector” Friedrich Wilhelm , his co-guardian. From 1659 he studied at the University of Leiden for seven years . He was accompanied there by his closest friend, Johann Wilhelm Bentinck , who was a year older and who had grown up with him at the court in The Hague. In 1666 the parliament declared him the "child of the state" and the regent Johan de Witt took over the education; he removed Frederick Nassau and his pro-English friends from around the prince.

In November 1670, however, Wilhelm received permission to visit his uncle Charles II in London, mainly to collect loans from the Republic. Karl saw his nephew as a Dutch patriot and a staunch Calvinist; therefore he hesitated to reveal to him the recently concluded, top secret Treaty of Dover , which intended to divide the Dutch Republic into zones of interest between England and France, the conversion of Charles II to Catholicism and the installation of Wilhelm as prince of a rump Dutch state. Wilhelm, in turn, experienced his uncle Karl and his brother Jakob , his future father-in-law, as mainly occupied with drinking, playing and their mistresses.

Governor of the Netherlands

William III. of Orange in 1677

In 1672 ( rampjaar ), after the overthrow of Johan de Witt (and his uncle, the Amsterdam regent Andries de Graeff ), Wilhelm III. elected governor, captain general and admiral of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces , formally only five of the seven provinces elected him. But that which had Orangemen after some back and forth through against the strict Republicans.

In the Dutch-French War (1672–1678 / 1679), Wilhelm resolutely and successfully fought off the troops of the French king Louis XIV and was able to maintain the country's independence. In the course of the war he won various victories, but suffered heavy defeats as with Cassel .

In 1677 he married his cousin, Princess Maria of England , the Protestant daughter of his uncle, the Duke of York and later King James II of England , and his first wife Anne Hyde . Since Anne's death in March 1671 and the death of her son Edgar three months later, the British public had been preparing for a future succession to the throne of Mary, as the marriage of Jacob's brother, King Charles II, had and had not been childless for many years it was to be expected that something would change. Mary's marriage to one of the leaders of European Protestantism was generally welcomed because her father had converted to Catholicism eight years earlier. With her father's accession to the throne in 1685, Maria officially became heir to the throne. In 1686 Wilhelm acquired Huis ten Bosch in The Hague from his father's sisters, which the couple now moved to as their main residence. From 1685 to 1692 they also had the Het Loo Palace built as a summer residence.

Religious disputes in England

Jakob , Duke of York, Wilhelm's father-in-law, from 1685 Jakob II.

Problems were looming in England: Wilhelm's uncle, King Charles II, had no legitimate children and Karl's younger brother Jakob, Duke of York and Wilhelm's father-in-law, had already converted to Catholicism in 1668/69 - shaped by his youth in French exile which Charles II had originally planned himself, but not implemented out of concern for public opinion. Jacob's conversion immediately triggered political resistance to his right to succeed his brother, which initially had no consequences because a further successor was to be expected by Jacob's daughters - above all Maria - who had been baptized anglican and were brought up in this way on Karl's orders were.

Despite all this, the king allowed his brother, who had become a widower in 1671 , to marry the Catholic Princess Maria Beatrice d'Este, Princess of Modena , in 1673 . As a result, many English mistrusted the new Duchess of York and viewed her as an agent of the Pope . Also in order to reassure the public, Jakob agreed in 1677 to the marriage of his older daughter Maria to his nephew Wilhelm of Orange. But when wild conspiracy theories continued to spread, Jakob initially left for Brussels. Parliament was about to pass the Exclusion Bill in 1679 to exclude Jacob from the line of succession, but Charles II dissolved parliament before a vote. In 1680 he sent his brother to Scotland as Lord High Commissioner . At that time, however, Charles II was sufficiently popular that he was able to allow his brother to return to England in 1682. In 1683 a Protestant conspiracy ( Rye House Plot ) with the aim of murdering the king and his brother failed .

Charles II died in 1685 without legitimate descendants and converted to Catholicism on his deathbed, as he had always intended. His brother followed him on the throne. However, he had to deal with the Monmouth Rebellion of Charles II's illegitimate son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth , who declared himself king on June 20, 1685. The rebellion ended with the defeat of the rebels at the Battle of Sedgemoor . George Jeffreys , who was called the "hanging judge", punished the rebels harshly on behalf of Jacob II. To protect himself from further rebellions, Jacob tried to build a large standing army and when he used Catholics to lead several regiments, he came into conflict with parliament. This he suspended in November 1685, it should never meet again during his reign.

Jacob II now pursued a policy of the greatest possible religious tolerance in favor of the Catholics, whereby he repeatedly disregarded valid laws. After Jacob's friend, the French King Louis XIV, issued the Edict of Fontainebleau in October 1685 and ordered the persecution of Protestants in France, many of whom fled to England, anti-Catholic public opinion in England rose to panic, especially when Ludwig stopped emigration two years later and ordered the forced conversion by means of dragons . When Queen Maria Beatrice gave birth to a son and heir, James Francis Edward , in June 1688 , who ousted his half-sister Maria of Orange to second place in the line of succession, a permanent Catholic dynasty suddenly appeared. Now the two actually warring parties in the English parliament moved closer together: the Tories had supported Jacob's succession to the throne, but only because of the foreseeable succession of his Protestant daughters. They were actually close to the Anglican Church and rejected any weakening of the existing state church system in favor of greater tolerance. The Whigs had always wanted to prevent Jacob's accession to the throne because of his religious affiliation and, despite or because of their connection to Protestant nonconformists, were unwilling to accept a policy of tolerance that would also benefit Catholics.

The king now dismissed Henry Compton , the anti-Catholic bishop of London , and other Anglicans from their political offices and filled the most important positions at the University of Oxford with Catholics. With the Declaration of Indulgence in 1687, he suspended laws that discriminated against or punished Catholics, but also religious deviants on the Protestant side.

Glorious Revolution

Statue of Wilhelm III. in the port of Brixham , where he landed on November 5, 1688 with his Dutch army in the course of the Glorious Revolution in England

In the “ Glorious Revolution ”, as early as June 1688, parts of parliament called Jacob's son-in-law Wilhelm for help and asked him to cross over to England with an army. Already in September it became clear that Wilhelm wanted to answer the call and planned an invasion. An important reason for Wilhelm himself was his opposition to Louis XIV and the goal of increasing his power base for the conflict with France. However, the States General only agreed to the British invasion when Wilhelm had received assurance from the Protestant German imperial estates that in his absence he would protect the Netherlands and the western part of the empire against France. King Jacob, in turn, declined the offer of help from Louis XIV, as he was rightly afraid that the English would resent a French intervention. He also mistakenly believed that his army was up to the confrontation. The concentration of French troops in southern Germany due to the War of the Palatinate Succession made it possible for Wilhelm to cross to England.

When the Prince of Orange docked in England on November 5, 1688, Jacob was abandoned by all of his Protestant officers. His younger daughter Anne also joined the invasion force. Before Wilhelm's military superiority, Jakob initially evaded exile in France, which in turn was viewed by parliament as an abdication. Because of his military success, William considered himself King of England, Scotland and Ireland. After he and his wife had approved the Bill of Rights on January 22, 1689, the two were recognized by Parliament on February 13 as the new equal rulers. On April 11, 1689, Maria II. And Wilhelm III. crowned together in a double coronation in Westminster Abbey , which is still unique in Europe . Nevertheless, Wilhelm insisted on being king in his own right and not just as the husband of Mary, and after Mary's death in 1694 he ruled alone, which was made possible by his admission that his sister-in-law Anne would become queen after him.

Kingship and Wars

Wilhelm and Maria are presented with the English crown in 1689.
Wilhelm's signature as king

The Parliament of Scotland, however, hesitated and initially entered into correspondence with both of them, but eventually accepted William as King. The Scottish highlanders, under the leadership of John Graham of Claverhouse , rebelled against this decision. This fell at the Battle of Killiecrankie . On the way back from the Battle of Dunkeld , in which the Jacobites were defeated by the Orange, there was looting, which is why the Glencoe massacre occurred in early 1692, which is interpreted as a feud between two warring highland clans; However, Wilhelm had signed orders that were misused for the massacre. He himself was found innocent by a commission of inquiry commissioned later and no one else was brought to justice.

In Catholic Ireland the uprisings took on a larger scale, the leader of the rebellion there was Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell . With a French fleet, James II himself landed in Ireland in March 1689, William III. landed there also in 1690 with a force of 35,000 men. In the Battle of the Boyne on July 12, William defeated his father-in-law and he fled back to France (the anniversary of the battle is celebrated in Protestant Northern Ireland to this day with parades and orange flags); by October 1691, English troops brought all of Ireland under control. In 1692 the French planned a landing in England themselves. However, they did not succeed in gaining naval supremacy in the English Channel. Thus the military attempts of Louis XIV to restore the Catholic Stuart rule failed. The Dutch and the English were now able to intervene on the continent with stronger forces.

Wilhelm now forged the so-called Great Alliance . The Spanish Netherlands became the main arena of the war. During the siege of Namur (1692) the two kings Wilhelm and Ludwig faced each other personally with their armies. The War of the Palatinate Succession raged back and forth on land and sea and even spread to the North American colonies with the King William's War . The war ended only in 1697 with the Peace of Rijswijk , in which France recognized Wilhelm's rule over the British Isles, but was able to secure some territorial gains.

Queen Maria died in 1694. After the Palace of Whitehall burned down in 1698 , King William III relocated. his official residence at St James's Palace , but preferred the out-of-town mansions of Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace as residences, which he had expanded and remodeled.

During the reign of Wilhelm, the English parliament succeeded in significantly expanding its rights - mostly against royal resistance. For example, the Bill of Rights was passed, parliamentary accountability of ministers was enforced and the Bank of England was founded.

William III.

In contrast to his wife and her sister Anne, Wilhelm was not particularly popular as a foreigner and Calvinist in England, which was due to the fact that he was his childhood friend and favorite, Johann Wilhelm Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland and later Arnold , who had brought with him from Holland van Keppel, 1st Earl of Albemarle , gave considerable influence as well as titles and estates. Both were considered bisexual and it was assumed that the king shared this tendency, which the Jacobites cannibalized for propaganda purposes.

In 1701, the War of the Spanish Succession began , involving England and the Netherlands, when French troops drove the garrisons of the northern Netherlands from border fortresses in the south of the Spanish Netherlands, which had been contractually guaranteed to the northern Netherlands. The war would drag on until 1714. But Wilhelm III. died on March 19, 1702 in Kensington Palace as a result of a riding accident. He was buried at the side of his wife in Westminster Abbey. Since the marriage had remained childless after three miscarriages, his sister-in-law, Maria's younger sister Anne , succeeded him on the English, Scottish and Irish thrones . For his Dutch, French and German possessions, Wilhelm appointed a distant relative, Johann Wilhelm Friso von Nassau-Diez , as a universal heir by will . However, an inheritance dispute arose over it, which was not settled until the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 , together with the War of the Spanish Succession.


The coat of arms that Wilhelm III. led as King of England and Scotland
  • November 4, 1650 to July 9, 1672: His Highness the Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau
  • July 9-16, 1672: His Highness the Prince of Orange, Governor of Holland
  • July 16, 1672 to April 26, 1674: His Highness the Prince of Orange, governor of Holland and Zeeland
  • April 26, 1674 to March 8, 1702: His Highness the Prince of Orange, governor of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelre and Overijssel
  • February 13, 1689 to March 8, 1702: His Majesty the King

From 1674 his titles were: “Willem III, by the grace of God Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg etc., governor of the county of Holland, the county of Zeeland, Utrecht etc., captain-general of the united Netherlands. Upon arriving in Britain in 1689, William and Mary used the titles King and Queen of England, King of Scotland, King of France and Ireland. Keeper of the Faith, etc. "


The city of Williamsburg and King William County in Virginia and the monarch butterfly are named after him.

There is a bust of him in the Walhalla near Regensburg, created by the sculptor Johann Nepomuk Haller .

Characterization of Wilhelm III. by Churchill

The Nobel Prize for Literature and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples :

“William of Orange was fatherless and childless. His life was devoid of love. His marriage was dictated by reason of state. A quarrelsome grandmother had raised him, and his youth was regulated by one Dutch education commission after another. His childhood was unhappy and his health was poor. He had tubercular lungs, was asthmatic and a little overgrown. But in this emaciated and frail shell burned a relentless fire, fanned by the storms of Europe and intensified by the relentless pressure of its environment. [...] Women meant little to him. For a long time he treated his loving faithful wife with indifference. [...] Of course, he professed the Calvinist faith, but seemed to have gained little spiritual consolation from this strict teaching. As a ruler and as a commander, he was devoid of all religious prejudices. "

- Winston Churchill : A History of the English-Speaking Peoples p. 17


See also


  • Stephen B. Baxter: William III and the Defense of European Liberty, 1650-1702. Harcourt Brace, New York 1966
  • John Childs : The British army of William III, 1689-1702 . Manchester University Press, Manchester 1987, ISBN 0-7190-1987-7 .
  • Winston S. Churchill: History. Volume 3: The Age of Revolutions. Scherz & Coverts Verlag, Stuttgart u. a. 1957.
  • Winston S. Churchill: Marlborough, his Life and Times. Volume 1. First Spere Books edition. Harrap & Co, 1922, 1967.
  • Tony Clayton: William III: Profiles in Power . Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0-582-40523-8
  • Werner Hahlweg : Investigations into the barrier policy of Wilhelm III. of Orange and the States General in the 17th and 18th centuries . In: Westphalian research . 14. 1961, pp. 43-80.
  • Eckhart Hellmuth: Wilhelm III. and Maria II. 1689-1702 and 1689-1694. In: Peter Wende (ed.): English kings and queens. From Heinrich VII. To Elisabeth II. Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-43391-X , pp. 157-175.
  • Josef Johannes SchmidWilhelm III. of Orange. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 13, Bautz, Herzberg 1998, ISBN 3-88309-072-7 , Sp. 1264-1268.
  • Wouter Troost: William III, The Stadholder-king: A Political Biography . Aldershot / Ashgate, 2004, ISBN 978-0-7546-5071-3
  • Wouter Troost: Sir William Temple, William III and the balance of power in europe . Republic of Letters Publ., Dordrecht 2011
  • William III, King of England . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 28 : Vetch - Zymotic Diseases . London 1911, p. 662 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).
  • The London Gazette , No. 3790, 5–9. March 1701, page 1 (English)

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm III. of England  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Christina Becela-Deller: Ruta graveolens L. A medicinal plant in terms of art and cultural history. (Mathematical and natural scientific dissertation Würzburg 1994) Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1998 (= Würzburg medical-historical research. Volume 65). ISBN 3-8260-1667-X , pp. 201–203 and 211.
  2. ^ Wouter Troost: William III, The Stadholder-king: A Political Biography . 2004, ISBN 978-0-7546-5071-3 , p. 49
  3. ^ Wouter Troost: William III, The Stadholder-king: A Political Biography . 2004, ISBN 978-0-7546-5071-3 , pp. 62-64
  4. ^ David Green: Queen Anne . London (1970). Collins, p. 90. Maureen Waller: Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England . London (2006), p. 312
  5. J. Black (Ed.): Culture and Society in Britain . Manchester (1997), p. 97.
  6. ^ Troost, 5
  7. ^ S. and J. Sprint: The life of William III. Late King of England, and Prince of Orange . Google eBook (scanned version), 1703, p. 28 (Retrieved September 1, 2011).
  8. ^ Troost, 77
  9. ^ The Guinness Book of Answers . Guinness Publishing, London 1991, p. 709
predecessor Office successor
Wilhelm II. Prince of Orange
Johann Wilhelm Friso
Wilhelm II. Count of Vianden
Lord of Breda
Johann Wilhelm Friso
Wilhelm II. Governor of the Netherlands
Wilhelm IV.
From 1747
Jacob II./VII./II. King of England
King of Scotland
King of Ireland