Willem I, the Silent, Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, Stadholder of the Netherlands.
I must admit that one of my interests in royalty is an interest in titles from their history to their correct usage. Although there is some uniformity across the different monarchies, each country also has its unique history and rules/laws. Today I’ll be examining the history and usage of titles with the monarchy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Willem I, King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Limburg, Prince of Orange-Nassau.
The style of the Dutch sovereign has changed many times since the establishment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands due to formations and dissolutions of personal unions, as well as due to marriages of female sovereigns and cognatic successions.
Before I begin discussing the titles of the Dutch monarchy I’d like to give a brief history of their royal house, The House of Orange-Nassau.
The House of Orange-Nassau is a branch of the European House of Nassau, and it has played a central role in the politics and government of the Netherlands and Europe especially since William the Silent organized the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule, which after the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) led to an independent Dutch state.
Willem II, King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Limburg, Prince of Orange-Nassau.
The dynasty was established as a result of the marriage of Heinrich III of Nassau-Breda from the German Holy Roman Empire and Claudia of Châlon-Orange from French Burgundy in 1515. Their son René inherited in 1530 the independent and sovereign Principality of Orange from his mother’s brother, Philibert of Châlon. As the first Nassau to be the Prince of Orange, René could have used “Orange-Nassau” as his new family name. However, his uncle, in his will, had stipulated that René should continue the use of the name Châlon-Orange. History knows him therefore as René of Châlon. After the death of René in 1544, his cousin William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited all of his lands. This “William I of Orange”, in English better known as Willem I the Silent, became the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau.
Willem III, King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Limburg, Prince of Orange-Nassau.
In the Low Countries, stadtholder was an office of steward, designated a medieval official and then a national leader. The stadtholder was the replacement of the duke or earl of a province during the Burgundian and Habsburg period (1384 – 1581).
The title was used for the official tasked with maintaining peace and provincial order in the early Dutch Republic and, at times, became de facto Head of State of the Dutch Republic during the 16th to 18th centuries, which was an effectively hereditary role. For the last half century of its existence, it became an officially hereditary role and thus a monarchy (though not a monarchial title) under Prince Willem IV. His son, Prince Willem V, was the last stadtholder of the republic. The Dutch monarchy is only distantly related to the first stadtholder of the young Republic, Prince Willem I “The Silent” of Orange, the leader of the successful Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Empire, his line having died out with Willem III in 1702. (who was also King William III of England, Scotland and Ireland).
The title stadtholder is roughly comparable to England’s historic title Lord Lieutenant.
Kingdom of The Netherlands
Prince Willem-Frederick of Nassau-Orange, son of the last stadtholder of the Netherlands, Willem V, returned to the Netherlands in 1813 and proclaimed himself Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands. Two years later, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna added the southern Netherlands to the north to create a strong country on the northern border of France. Willem-Frederick raised this United Netherlands to the status of a kingdom and proclaimed himself as King Willem I on March 16, 1815. In addition, Willem became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg in exchange for his German possessions.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands as a state was not politically united with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, they were in a personal union together under Willem I. As a member of the House of Orange-Nassau Willem I who already inherited a vast number of titles and lands inherited from his ancestors. On April 19, 1839, the Duchy of Limburg joined the union. Willem I, Willem II and Willem III all ruled as kings, grand dukes and dukes.
In 1866, however, the Duchy of Limburg ceased to exist as a separate polity and instead became integrated into the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a province. Willem III kept the ducal title and passed it on to his successor, Wilhelmina, but she did not succeed him to the throne of Luxembourg, as the country’s succession laws provided for strict observance of Salic Law at the time. Thus, the reference to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg disappeared from the title of the Dutch monarch.
Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Duchess of Limburg, Duchess of Limburg, Princess of Orange-Nassau.
The male line of the House of Orange-Nassau ended with the death of Willem III on November 23, 1890. His only surviving child and successor, Wilhelmina, married Duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin on February 7, 1901 and, as customary, assumed the feminine form of her husband’s title. The title of Duchess of Mecklenburg was thus added to her full title. The government did not want the House of Orange-Nassau to become extinct on Wilhelmina’s death, and so in 1908 she issued a royal decree conferring the title of Prince or Princess of Orange-Nassau to her descendants. Her only child, Juliana, was therefore born not only Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin but also Princess of Orange-Nassau, like previous members of the royal family.
When Juliana married Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld in 1936, Wilhelmina decreed that her daughter and heir presumptive would assume the title of Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld, as customary, but that it would come after her birth title of Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. On September 4, 1948, Wilhelmina abdicated in favor of Juliana, which brought the title of Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld into the full style of the Dutch monarch. At the same time, the title of Duchess of Limburg was dropped, Wilhelmina being the last person to hold it.
Juliana, Queen of the Netherlands, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld
Like Wilhelmina, Juliana had no sons. She abdicated in favor of Beatrix, the eldest of her four daughters, on April 30, 1980. Beatrix is not a male-line descendant of Duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and thus was not a Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was the first Dutch monarch in 79 years not to bear the title. Through her father, she is a Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld.
On April 30, 2013, she abdicated in favour of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, who thus became the first male on the throne in 123 years. He is not a male-line descendant of Prince Bernhard and thus not a Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld. He bears the honorific Jonkheer van Amsberg as the son of Claus van Amsberg.
Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld
Willem-Alexander is the first Dutch king since Willem III, who died in 1890. Willem-Alexander had earlier indicated that when he became king, he would take the name Willem IV, but it was announced in January 2013 that his regnal name would be Willem-Alexander. Personally, I’m torn by this decision. One the one hand I like the use of Roman numerals to designate one monarch from those of the same name. However, I also love the usage double names which was prominent during the 18th and 19th centuries especially within the German monarchies.
However, I think it may cause some confusion in the future. What will another King Willem of the Netherlands call himself, assuming he just uses his first name only? Will he be Willem IV or possibly Willem V? I rather doubt he’d call himself Willem V but a Willem IV after a Willem-Alexander does seem odd.
Willem-Alexander, Kingdom of The Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg
“We, William III, by the Grace of God, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, etc., etc., etc.
“We, Beatrix, by the Grace of God, Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, etc., etc., etc.”
Shortened versions of the styles, used in preambles:
* 1815–1890: By the Grace of God, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, etc., etc., etc.
* 1890–2013: By the Grace of God, Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, etc., etc., etc.
* 2013–present: By the Grace of God, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, etc., etc., etc.
Titles that have appeared in shortened styles, preceded by “His Majesty” or “Her Majesty” and the monarch’s name:
* 1815–1890: King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, etc.
* 1890–1901: Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, etc.
* 1901–1948: Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Duchess of Mecklenburg, etc.
* 1948–1980: Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld, etc.
* 1980–2013: Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld, etc.
* 2013–present: King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, etc.