William V, Prince of Orange
Portrait by Henry Bone (1801)
|Stadtholder of the United Provinces|
|Reign||22 October 1751 – 23 February 1795|
|Prince of Orange|
|Reign||22 October 1751 – 9 April 1806|
8 March 1748|
9 April 1806 58) (aged|
|Spouse||Wilhelmina of Prussia|
Louise, Hereditary Princess of Brunswick|
William I of the Netherlands
Prince Frederick of Orange-Nassau
|Father||William IV, Prince of Orange|
|Mother||Anne of Great Britain and Ireland|
|Religion||Dutch Reformed Church|
William V, Prince of Orange (Willem Batavus; 8 March 1748 – 9 April 1806) was the last Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic. He went into exile to London in 1795. He was the reigning Prince of Nassau-Orange until his death in 1806. In that capacity he was succeeded by his son William.
William Batavus was born in The Hague on 8 March 1748, the only son of William IV, who had the year before been restored as stadtholder of the United Provinces. He was only three years old when his father died in 1751, and a long regency began. His regents were:
- Dowager Princess Anne, his mother, from 1751 to her death in 1759;
- Dowager Princess Marie Louise, his grandmother, from 1759 to her death in 1765;
- Duke Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg, from 1759 to 1766, and kept on as a privy counsellor, in accordance with the Acte van Consulentschap, until October 1784;
- Princess Carolina, his sister (who at the time was an adult aged 22, while he was still a minor at 17), from 1765 to William's majority in 1766.
William V assumed the position of stadtholder and Captain-General of the Dutch States Army on his majority in 1766. However, he allowed the Duke of Brunswick to retain a large influence on the government with the secret Acte van Consulentschap. On 4 October 1767 in Berlin, Prince William married Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, the daughter of Augustus William of Prussia, niece of Frederick the Great and a cousin of George III. (He himself was George III's first cousin).:55-58 He became an art collector and in 1774 his Galerij Prins Willem V was opened to the public.
The position of the Dutch during the American War of Independence was one of neutrality. William V, leading the pro-British faction within the government, blocked attempts by pro-American-independence, and later pro-French, elements to drag the government to war in support of the Franco-American alliance. However, things came to a head with the Dutch attempt to join the Russian-led League of Armed Neutrality, leading to the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War in 1780. In spite of the fact that Britain was engaged in fighting on several fronts, the war went badly for the poorly prepared Dutch, leading to the loss of St. Eustatius and Nagapattinam.:58-63 Scandals like the Brest Affair undermined belief in the Dutch navy. The stadtholderian regime and the Duke of Brunswick were suspected of treason in the matter of the loss of the Barrier fortresses.:56 The deterioration of the prestige of the regime made minds ripe for agitation for political reform, like the pamphlet Aan het Volk van Nederland, published in 1781 by Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol.:64-68
After the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), there was growing restlessness in the United Provinces with William's rule. A coalition of old Dutch States Party regenten and democrats, called Patriots, was challenging his authority more and more. In 1785 William left the Hague and removed his court to Het Loo Palace in Gelderland, a province remote from the political center.:104-105 In September 1786 he sent States-Army troops to Hattem and Elburg to overthrow the cities' Patriot vroedschap, despite the defense by Patriot Free Corps, organised by Herman Willem Daendels. This provoked the Patriot-dominated States of Holland to deprive him of his office of Captain-General of the States Army.:107-109 In June 1787 his energetic wife Wilhelmina tried to travel to the Hague to foment an Orangist rising in that city. Outside Schoonhoven, she was stopped by Free Corps, taken to a farm near Goejanverwellesluis and after a short detention made to return to Nijmegen.:127
To Wilhelmina and her brother, Frederick William II of Prussia, this was both an insult and an excuse to intervene militarily. Frederick launched the Prussian invasion of Holland in September 1787 to suppress the Patriots.:128-132 Many Patriots fled to the North of France, around Saint-Omer, in an area where Dutch was spoken. Until his overthrow they were supported by King Louis XVI of France.:132-135
Exile in Great Britain and Ireland
William V joined the First Coalition against Republican France in 1793 with the coming of the French Revolution. His troops fought bravely in the Flanders Campaign, but in 1794 the military situation deteriorated and the Dutch Republic was threatened by invading armies. The year 1795 was a disastrous one for the ancien régime of the Netherlands. Supported by the French Army, the revolutionaries returned from Paris to fight in the Netherlands, and in 1795 William V went into exile in England. A few days later the Batavian Revolution occurred, and the Dutch Republic was replaced with the Batavian Republic.:1121 :190–192
Directly after his arrival in England, the Prince wrote a number of letters (known as the Kew Letters) from his new residence in Kew to the governors of the Dutch colonies, instructing them to hand over their colonies to the British "for safe-keeping." Though only a number complied, this contributed to their confusion and demoralisation. Almost all Dutch colonies were in the course of time occupied by the British, who in the end returned most, but not all (South Africa and Ceylon), first at the Treaty of Amiens and later with the Convention of London 1814.:1127
In 1799 the Hereditary Prince took an active part in the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland, engineering the capture of a Batavian naval squadron in the Vlieter Incident. The surrender of the ships (that had been paid for by the Batavian Republic) was formally accepted in the name of William V as stadtholder, who was later allowed to "sell" them to the Royal Navy for an appreciable amount. But that was his only success, as the troops suffered from choleric diseases, and civilians at that time were unwilling to re-instate the old regime. The arrogance of the tone in his proclamation, demanding the restoration of the stadtholderate, may not have been helpful, according to Simon Schama.:393–394
After the Peace of Amiens in 1802, in which Great Britain recognised the Batavian Republic, an additional Franco-Prussian Convention of 23 May 1802 declared that the House of Orange would be ceded in perpetuity the domains of Dortmund, Weingarten, Fulda and Corvey in lieu of its Dutch estates and revenues (this became the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda). As far as Napoleon was concerned, this cession was conditional on the liquidation of the stadtholderate and other hereditary offices of the Prince. William V, however had no interest in towns, territories and abbeys confiscated from other rulers, but wanted what was his due: his arrears in salaries and other financial perquisites since 1795, or a lump sum of 4 million guilders. The foreign minister of the Batavian Republic, Maarten van der Goes, was willing to secretly try to persuade the Staatsbewind of the Batavian Republic to grant this additional indemnity, but Napoleon put a stop to it, when he got wind of the affair.:452–454
The last of the Dutch stadtholders, William V died in exile at his daughter's palace in Brunswick, now in Germany. His body was moved to the Dutch Royal Family crypt in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft on 29 April 1958.
William V and Wilhelmina of Prussia were parents to five children:
- An unnamed son (23–24 March 1769).
- Frederika Luise Wilhelmina (The Hague, 28 November 1770 – The Hague, 15 October 1819), married in The Hague on 14 October 1790 Karl, Hereditary Prince of Braunschweig (London, 8 February 1766 – Antoinettenruh, 20 September 1806), a son of Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, without issue.
- An unnamed son (born and deceased on 6 August 1771).
- William I, King of the Netherlands (25 August 1772 – 12 December 1843).
- Willem Georg Frederik, Prince of Orange-Nassau (The Hague, 15 February 1774 – Padua, 6 January 1799), unmarried and without legitimate issue.
During his life and afterwards William V was a controversial person, in himself, and because he was the unwilling center of a political firestorm that others had caused. Many historians and contemporaries have written short appreciations of him that were often acerbic. Phillip Charles, Count of Alvensleben, who was Prussian envoy to the Hague from 1787 (so not someone who must be suspected to be prejudiced against William) may be taken as an example. He wrote:
|“||His education has all been theory. Duke Louis of Brunswick kept him away from practical affairs and did all the work himself, while the stadtholder merely signed documents. Hence this habit, this compulsion, of talking about public affairs, and turning the functions of stadtholder into the holding of tedious audiences of five, six, seven hours in length, swamping practical problems in useless verbiage, though putting forward wide-ranging proposals, often marked by sound reasoning, sometimes even by genius. Finally, the cardinal defect of settling nothing, of bringing nothing to a point, of replying to nothing, of signing nothing, of concluding nothing; but always of being the stadtholder in theory and never in practice. When he sets to work he does not know how to distinguish the functions of the head of the chancery from those of a mere secretary. In place of taking decisions on a hundred cases, he wastes his time in copying out some memorandum which has been presented to him. Nothing will ever change him, his bent is fixed, and when the Patriots declared that he fulfilled his functions in a ghastly fashion they were quite right.||”|
His great-great-granddaughter Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was less kind. She simply called him a sufferd (dotard).
- Schama, Simon (1992). Patriots and Liberators. Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813. Vintage books.
- Israel, J.I. (1995). The Dutch Republic. Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806. Clarendon Press.
- James, W.M. (2002). The Naval History of Great Britain: During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Vol. 2 1797-1799. Stackpole books. pp. 309–310.
- Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 88.
- Cobban, A. (1954). Ambassadors and secret agents: the diplomacy of the first Earl of Malmesbury at the Hague. Jonathan Cape. p. 23.
- Meerkerk, E. van (2007). "De laatste stadhouder. Willem V (1748-1806) in: Historisch Nieuwsblad 10/2007". Historisch Nieuwsblad (in Dutch). Retrieved May 11, 2018.
- Earle, Anton et al. (2005), A preliminary basin profile of the Orange/Senqu River (pdf), African Centre for Water Research, retrieved 30 June 2007
Media related to William V, Prince of Orange at Wikimedia Commons
William V, Prince of Orange
Cadet branch of the House of NassauBorn: 8 March 1748 Died: April 9 1806
| Prince of Orange
William IV of Orange
| Prince of Orange-Nassau
William VI of Orange
| Baron of Breda
incorporated in Batavian Republic
| General Stadtholder of the United Provinces
followed by Batavian Republic