William I of Orange

   Stadtholder. Born in Nassau-Dillenburg in the German Empire, William inherited the principality of Orange, France. He was appointed stadtholder of the provincesHolland, Zeeland, and Utrechtin 1559. In 1567, William became the political and military leader of the Dutch Revolt against the centralizing and anti-Protestant policy of the Spanish king Philip II, his councilors, and the government in Brussels. His pol icy of confrontation was at first not successful. The king’s opponents were divided into fundamental Calvinists and other Protestant sects, on the one hand, and Roman Catholics, on the other, who were ad vocates of more autonomy but did not wish to divide the Catholic Church. The Revolt was in the beginning more conservative in its purpose, aiming at maintenance of local and regional privileges against the encroachment of the central government in Brussels. Be sides, military fortune was varied: Many of William’s brothers were killed, and the military genius of the Spanish governor, the Duke of Alba, nearly inflicted a decisive defeat on the insurgents. After the Union of Utrecht (1579), in 1580 the king declared William an out law. In 1581, the Northern provinces proclaimed themselves an inde pendent Republic. William “the Silent” was murdered at Delft by Balthasar Gerards (c. 1557–1584), a loyal follower of the king. Four years after William’s death, the Spanish Armada, a fleet sent to put down the Revolt definitively, ended in a disaster. After 1588, the consolidation of the Dutch Republic was intensified with great success. William became a kind of “founding father” and national hero. His nephew Willem Lodewijk of Nassau became stadtholder of the provinces of Friesland (see FRISA [FRIESLAND]; Frisian FRYSLAN), Groningen, and Drenthe (1584–1620). William’s son Maurice succeeded him as stadtholder in the other five provinces.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.

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