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William I of the Netherlands

King William I of the Netherlands was born in 1772 at the Oranjezaal The Hague, acceded in 1813 and died 1843 in Berlin,Germany. William I was also the grand duke of Luxemburg and count of Nassau.

His parents were the last stadtholder William V of Orange and his wife Wilhelmina, and until 1814 he was known as Prince William VI of Orange

In 1791, William VI married (Frederica Louisa) Wilhelmina, born in Potsdam. She was the daughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia. When Wilhelmina died in 1837 ,Wilhelm was remarried to Countess Henriette d'Oultremont de Wegimont (1841 in Berlin) and two years later he died there.

William was hereditary stadtholder (you can compare this with crown prince) when the Republic of the Seven United Provinces was invaded by the French Revolutionary armies. He fled with his father to England. Unlike his father William was a strong personality and he tried to regain the Republic.

In 1799 he landed in the current North Holland. After some battles he was forced to leave the country.

Napoleon gave him some small German principalities as indemnities for the lost territories. These principalities were confiscated when Napoleon invaded Germany (1806).

After Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig (October, 1813) French troops retreated to France. A provisional government was formed under the lead of some former Patriots. Strangely enough, they called William to the liberated country, in contrast to what had happened in 1785.

On November 30, 1813 William landed at Scheveningen beach, only a few metres from the place where he had left the country with his father eighteen years previously, and on December 6 the provisional government offered him the title of King.

William refused and declared that he only wanted the throne if he was sovereign prince (a title somewhere between King and stadtholder) and that the rights of the people were guaranteed by "a wise constitution". The constitution offered William extensive (almost absolute) powers. Ministers were only responsible to him and to nobody else. He was inaugurated as sovereign prince in the New Church in Amsterdam. In 1814 he gained sovereignty over the whole of the Low Countries.

On March 16, 1815 William proclaimed himself King of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands because he was threatened by Napoleon, who escaped.

His son (the future Willem II) fought as Dutch commander at the Battle of Waterloo.

After Napoleon had been sent into exile William adopted a new constitution which included much of the old constitution, such as extensive royal powerss.

Principal changes:

The States-General split in two chambers, an Eerste Kamer (First Chamber, Senate) appointed by the King and a Tweede Kamer (Second Chamber, House of Representatives) elected by the Provincial States, which were chosen by census suffrage. The 110 seats were divided equally (55:55) between the North and the South (Northern pop.: about 2 million, Southern pop.: about 3,5 million). The States-General's function was saying "YES" to the King's laws.jgai;uefgh

The constitution contained many present-day Dutch political institutions, however their function and way of election have changed greatly over the years.

The under-representation was one of the causes of the Belgian Revolution.

Understandably, the constitution was accepted in the North and rejected in the South. Especially in the South the turn-out was low and William abused this for a sort of "Dutch mathematics", he declared all men who didn't vote for "YES" voters. He planned a lavish inauguration for himself in Brussels, where he gave the people copper mints (his first nickname was "Copper King").

And his policies began. The spearhead of his policies was economic progress. As he founded many trade institutions his second nickname was King-Merchant.

Especially in the South, industry flourished. The Northern provinces were the centre of trade and altogether with the colonies the Kingdom became wealthy, however the money flowed into the hands of Dutch (and a few Belgian) directors.

William also ordered railway construction (Belgium still has the densest railway network in the world). The first train on the European continent travelled in 1825 between Brussels and Mechelen.

William also built personal wealth out of the country's industrial wealth.

Officially Church and State were separated but William himself was strongly Reformed so the State Religion also had to be the same. People in the South were Catholic! This was another time-bomb under the weak construction of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. He also had controversial language and school policies. Dutch had to be the official language in Flanders (Dutch-speaking) but it was unacceptable for French-speaking aristocrats and industrial workers. Schools were forced to teach the Reformed religion and Dutch. The purpose was to exterminate Catholicism and the French language.

In August, 1830 the opera "La Muette de Portici" about repression of Neapolitanss was staged in Brussels. This caused acute nationalism in Brussels.

One man was inflicting the other with nationalism and Hollandophobia.

It soon came to mass riots mainly aimed at the unpopular Minister of Justice who lived in Brussels. The minister was almost killed. William was angry and sent troops to repress the riots. But riots occurred in other Southern cities as well. The riots became popular rebellions and the new independent state of Belgium was proclaimed.

The next year (1831), William sent his sons to Belgium to repress this state. They failed and William never regained control over Belgium. He was stubborn and continued with the war. His economic successes were overshadowed by mismanagement caused by the war. In 1839 he had to end the war and the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was disbanded and renamed the "Kingdom of the Netherlands".

Constitutional changes were initiated in 1840 because the terms which had to do with the United Kingdom of the Netherlands had to be removed. These constitutional changes also included the introduction of judicial ministerial responsibility.

Although effecting the policies remained uncontrolled by parliament, the prerogative was controllable now. The very conservative William could nott live with the last change and together with the disappointment about Belgium and his intention to marry Henrietta d'Oulremont desires about abdication began to rise. He fulfilled his desires on October 7, 1840 when his eldest son acceded to the throne as Willem II. William died in Berlin after three years with Henrietta.