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Willem I (August 24, 1772 – December 12, 1843) was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlandsand Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

Willem-Frederik, Prince of Orange.

King Willem I’s parents were the last stadtholder Willem V, Prince of Orange of the Dutch Republic, and his wife Wilhelmina of Prussia (the fourth child of eight born to King Friedrich-Wilhelm II of Prussia and Queen Frederica Louisa (of Hesse-Darmstadt). Her upbringing was dominated by the strict regime of her great-uncle, Friedrich II the Great, but in general very little is known about her youth)

Willem I of the Netherlandsand Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

Until 1806, Willem was formally known as Willem VI, Prince of Orange-Nassau,and between 1806 and 1813 also as Willem-Frederik, Prince of Orange. In Berlin on October 1, 1791, Willem married his first cousin (Frederica Louisa) Wilhelmina of Prussia, born in Potsdam. And as mentioned was She the daughter of King Friedrich-Wilhelm II of Prussia. Wilhelmina died in 1837.

Constitutional changes were initiated in 1840 because the terms which involved the United Kingdom of the Netherlands had to be removed due to the loss of Belgium in 1830. These constitutional changes also included the introduction of judicial ministerial responsibility. Although the policies remained uncontrolled by parliament, the prerogative was controllable now. The very conservative Willem could not live with these constitutional changes.

Wilhelmina of Prussia, Queen Consort of the Netherlands

Around 1840, King Willem found himself in discord with much of the Dutch population, not only due to his resistance to the Constitutional changes, it was also due to his refusal to implement demanded reforms. This discord was enhanced when the king, head of the strictly Protestant and royal House of Orange-Nassau, announced his intention to marry the Catholic Countess Henriëtte d’Oultremont de Wégimont (February 28, 1792 – October 26 1864) who had been a lady-in-waiting to his first wife, the late Queen consort Wilhelmine (1774-1837).

The resistance was so great—Henriëtte, who was Catholic and a native of Belgium, which had seceded from the Netherlands—that Willem abdicated on October 7 1840 in favour of his son The Prince of Orange who took the throne as Willem II.

King Willem II of the Netherlands

After abdication, he styled himself King Willem-Frederik, Count of Nassau. He married Henriëtte on 17 February 17, 1841; he was 69 years old at the time, she was 47, and the couple would have no children. Since the marriage was morganatic she received the Dutch title, Countess of Nassau on February 7, 1841, by which she was known during the couple’s subsequent retirement in Berlin. King Willem-Frederik, Count of Nassau died in Berlin on December 12, 1843 aged 71.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Princess Juliana

Incidentally, the abdication of King Willem I did not start the tradition of abdication in the kingdom of the Netherlands. Willem I’s son Willem II died as King in 1849 as did his son and successor Willem III, who died as King in 1849. It was Wilhelmina, the daughter of Willem III, who started this tradition when she abdicated September 4, 1948. Her daughter, Juliana and granddaughter, Beatrix, both abdicated. The current King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, is under no obligation to abdicate in time for abdication is a tradition and not a law.