Sunday 1 September 2013

An Unsuccessful Reformer: William IV, Prince of Orange-Nassau

William IV, Prince of Orange-Nassau (Willem Karel Hendrik Friso, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 1st September 1711 – Huis ten Bosch, The Netherlands, 22nd October 1751)

Portrait of William IV, Prince of Orange-Nassau by Joseph Aved, 1751
William IV, Prince of Orange-Nassau by Joseph Aved, 1751

Another royal sort today, this time a gentleman of the Netherlands in the shape of William IV, Prince of Orange-Nassau.

Six weeks after the death of John William Friso, Prince of Orange, his wife, Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel, gave birth to a son, Willem Karel. Upon his birth the boy immediately assumed his late father's position as Stadtholder of Friesland. He was also Stadtholder of Groningen although Marie Louise would remain Regent until William turned 20 and at the age of 11 he was elected Stadtholder of Guelders. Under his mother's watchful eye he took the reins of leadership, proving a well-liked if somewhat indecisive ruler. 

Portrait of Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange by Bernard Accama, 1736
Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange by Bernard Accama, 1736

Highly-educated, witty and attractive, William enjoyed enormous popularity with his people and court alike. He was considered one of the most eligible young men on the European continent and, accordingly, was married to a highly eligible young lady in the form of Anne, Princess Royal. The eldest daughter of King George II and Caroline of Ansbach, Anne took an instant shine to William and the couple were wed on 25th March 1734 in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace. A honeymoon at Kew followed after which the newlyweds sailed for Holland. Their life together was not always settled and Anne struggled to adapt to her new surroundings but they eventually had five children, two of whom would survive into adulthood.

Portrait of William IV, Prince of Orange-Nassau

When French troops marched into Flanders in 1747 during the War of Austrian Succession, William was appointed General Stadtholder of the United Provinces, giving him control of the Netherlands. Initially hugely popular with the people due to his taxation reforms, his star faded somewhat when it became apparent that his skills as a leader were considerably less than had been hoped. Although he attempted to deal with corruption and abuse of office and patronage, upon his death many of the problems that had beset his territories remained, his somewhat uncertain efforts at reform mostly unsuccessful.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

I always find it so disappointing that history seems to show us that well intentioned individuals often seem to be the least fit for leadership. A fascinating tale!

Catherine Curzon said...

Yes, sometimes it does seem that way!

Anne Stott said...

The pub in Gravesend, the Prince of Orange, is named after him. It’s on the London-Dover road, so I presume he might have stopped there.