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William II of the Netherlands

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William II of the Netherlands

William II
King William II by Jan Baptist van der Hulst.
King of the Netherlands;
Grand Duke of Luxembourg;
Duke of Limburg
Reign 7 October 1840 – 17 March 1849
Inauguration 28 November 1840
Predecessor William I
Successor William III
Spouse Anna Pavlovna of Russia
Issue William III of the Netherlands
Prince Alexander
Prince Henry
Prince Ernst Casimir
Sophie, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
House House of Orange-Nassau
Father William I of the Netherlands
Mother Wilhelmine of Prussia
Born (1792-12-06)6 December 1792
Noordeinde Palace, The Hague, Dutch Republic
Died 17 March 1849(1849-03-17) (aged 56)
Tilburg, Netherlands
Religion Dutch Reformed Church

William II (Willem Frederik George Lodewijk van Oranje-Nassau) (6 December 1792 – 17 March 1849) was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg from 7 October 1840 until his death in 1849.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Military service 2
  • Marriage 3
  • Belgian revolution activities 4
  • King of the Netherlands 5
  • Ancestry 6
  • Children 7
  • In fiction 8
  • Titles and styles 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Early life and education

Willem Frederik George Lodewijk was born on 6 December 1792 in The Hague. He was the eldest son of King William I of the Netherlands and Wilhelmine of Prussia. His maternal grandparents were King Frederick William II of Prussia and his second wife Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt.

When William was two, he and his family fled to England after allied British-Hanoverian troops left the Republic and entering French troops joined the anti-orangist Patriots. William spent his youth in Berlin at the Prussian court. There he followed a military education and served in the Prussian army. Afterwards, he studied at the University of Oxford.

William II had a string of relationships with both men and women. The homosexual relationships that William II had as crown prince and as king were reported by journalist Eillert Meeter (nl). The king surrounded himself with male servants whom he could not dismiss because of his 'abominable motive' for hiring them in the first place.[1]

Military service

William II, by Nicaise de Keyser

He entered the Prince Regent[4] and on 14 December 1813 promoted to Major-General.[5] His courage and good nature made him very popular with the British, who nicknamed him "Slender Billy." He returned to the Netherlands in 1813 when his father became sovereign prince.

In 1815, he took service in the Allied army when Napoleon I of France escaped from Elba. He fought as commander of I Allied Corps at the Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815), where he was wounded.[6]


In 1814, William became briefly engaged with Caroline of Brunswick. The engagement was arranged by the Prince Regent, but it was broken because Charlotte's mother was against the marriage and because Charlotte did not want to move to the Netherlands. On 21 February 1816 at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, William married Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, youngest sister to Czar Alexander I of Russia, who arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Imperial Russia and the Netherlands.

On 17 February 1817 in Brussels, his first son Willem Alexander was born, the future King William III. Because he lived in Brussels, he became affiliated with the Southern industrials.

In 1819, he was blackmailed over what Minister of Justice Van Maanen termed in a letter his "shameful and unnatural lusts": presumably bisexuality. He may also have had a relationship with a dandy by the name of Pereira.[7]

Belgian revolution activities

The Prince of Orange pressed by the crowd during the 1830 Revolution

William II enjoyed considerable popularity in what is now Belgium (then the Southern Netherlands), as well as in the Netherlands for his affability and moderation, and in 1830, on the outbreak of the Belgian revolution, he did his utmost in Brussels as a peace broker, to bring about a settlement based on administrative autonomy for the southern provinces, under the House of Orange-Nassau. His father then rejected the terms of accommodation that he had proposed; afterwards, relations with his father were tense.

In April 1831, William II was military leader of the Ten days campaign in Belgium which was driven back to the North by French intervention. European intervention established Leopold of Saxe-Gotha on the new throne of Belgium. Peace was finally established between Belgium and the Netherlands in 1839.

King of the Netherlands

The inauguration of William II on 28 November 1840 by Nicolaas Pieneman

On 7 October 1840, on his father's abdication, he acceded to the throne as William II. Although he shared his father's conservative inclinations, he did not intervene in governmental affairs nearly as much as his father had. There was increased agitation for broad constitutional reform and a wider electoral franchise. Although William was certainly no democrat, he acted with sense and moderation.

The Revolutions of 1848 broke out all over Europe. In Paris the Bourbon-Orléans monarchy fell. Fearful that the revolution would spread to Amsterdam next, William decided to institute a more liberal regime, believing it was better to grant reforms instead of having them imposed on him on less favourable terms later. As he later put it, "I changed from conservative to liberal in one night". He chose a committee headed by the prominent liberal Johan Rudolf Thorbecke to create a new constitution. The new document provided that the Eerste Kamer (Senate), previously appointed by the King would be elected indirectly by the Provincial States. The Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives) would be elected directly. The electoral system changed to census suffrage in electoral districts. Most notably, royal power decreased sharply. For all intents and purposes, the king was now a servant of the government rather than its master; the real power passed to the Tweede Kamer. That constitution, significantly amended (most notably with the replacement of census suffrage by universal manhood suffrage and districts with nationwide party-list proportional representation, both in 1917) is still in effect today.

He swore in the first parliamentary cabinet a few months before his sudden death in Tilburg, North Brabant (1849).

He was the 869th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain.



William II and queen Anna Pavlovna had five children:

In fiction

He is a recurring character in the historical novels of Georgette Heyer, most notably in An Infamous Army.

William appears as a character in the historical fiction novel Sharpe's Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell, and its television adaptation, in which he is portrayed by Paul Bettany.

Titles and styles

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16494. p. 1068. 11 June 1811.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16533. p. 2033. 22 October 1811.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16642. p. 1812. 8 September 1812.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 16824. p. 2528. 14 December 1813.
  6. ^ Hofschröer, Peter, 1815, The Waterloo Campaign, The German Victory p137, p200.
  7. ^ Hermans, Dorine and Hooghiemstra, Daniela: Voor de troon wordt men niet ongestrafd geboren, ooggetuigen van de koningen van Nederland 1830–1890, ISBN 978-90-351-3114-9, 2007.
  8. ^ "9 December 1813 Het verheugd Rotterdam ontvangt Koning Willem I". Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  9. ^ "De Grondwet van 1814". Retrieved 2014-05-14. 

External links

  • Official website of the Dutch monarchy
William II of the Netherlands
Born: 6 December 1792 Died: 17 March 1849
Regnal titles
Preceded by
William I
King of the Netherlands
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Duke of Limburg

Succeeded by
William III
Dutch royalty
Preceded by
William, Prince of Orange
later became King William I
Prince of Orange
Succeeded by
William, Prince of Orange
later became King William III
New title Heir to the Dutch throne
as heir apparent
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