1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/William II., Prince of Orange

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WILLIAM II. (1626-1650), prince of Orange, born at The Hague on the 27th of May 1626, was the son of Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, and his wife Amalia von Solms, and grandson of William the Silent. By the act of survivance passed in 1631 the offices and dignities held by Frederick Henry were made hereditary in his family. On the 12th of May 1641 William married, in the royal chapel at Whitehall, Mary, princess royal of England, eldest daughter of King Charles I. At the time of the wedding the bridegroom was not yet fifteen years old, the bride was five years younger. Wilham from his early youth accompanied his father in his campaigns, and already in 1643 highly distinguished himself in a brilliant cavalry fight at Burgerhout (September 5). On the death of Frederick Henry William succeeded him, not only in the family honours and possessions, but in accordance with the terms of the act of survivance in all his official posts, as stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Geldedand, Overyssel and. Groningen and captain-general and admiral-general of the Union. At the moment of his accession to power the negotiations for a separate treaty of peace with Spain were almost concluded, and peace was actually signed at Münster on the 30th of January 1648. By this treaty Spain recognized the independence of the United Netheriands and made large concessions to the Dutch. William, who had always been bitterly opposed to the policy of abandoning the French alliance in order to gain better terms from Spain, did his utmost to prevent the ratification, but matters were too. far advanced for his interposition to prevail in the face of the determination of the states of Holland to conclude a peace so advantageous to their trade interests. William, however, speedily opened secret negotiations with France in the hope of securing the armed assistance of that power for the carrying out of his ambitious projects of a war of aggrandisement against the Spanish Netherlands and of a restoration of his brother-in-law, Charles II., to the throne of England. The states of Holland, on the other hand, were determined to thwart any attempts for a renewal of war, and insisted, in defiance of the authority of the captain general supported by the states-general, in virtue of their claim to be a sovereign province, in disbanding a large part of the regiments in their pay. A prolonged controversy arose, which ended in the states-general in June 1650 commissioning the prince of Orange to visit the towns of Holland and secure a recognition of their authority. The mission was unsuccessful. Amsterdam refused any hearing, at all. William resolved therefore to use force and crush resistance. On the 30th of July six leading members of the states of Holland were seized and imprisoned in the castle of Loevestein. On the same day an attempt was made to occupy Amsterdam with troops. The citizens were, however, warned in time, and the gates closed. William's triumph was nevertheless complete. Cowed by the bold seizure of their leaders, the states of Holland submitted. The prince bad now obtained that position of supremacy in the republic at which he had been aiming, and could count on the support alike of the states-general and of the provincial states for his policy. He lost no time in entering into fresh negotiations with the French government, and a draft treaty was already early in October drawn up in Paris and the Count d'Estrades was commissioned to deliver it in person to the prince of Orange. It was, however, never to reach his hands. William had, on the 8th of October, after his victory was assured, gone to his hunting seat at Dieren. Here on the 27th he became ill and returned to The Hague. The complaint proved to be small-pox, and on the 6th of November he died. William was one of the ablest of a race rich in great men, and had he lived he would probably have left his mark upon history. A week after his death his widow gave birth to a son, who was one day to become William III., king of England.

(G. E.)