William II of the Netherlands

William II
King William II by Jan Baptist van der Hulst.
King of the Netherlands
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Duke of Limburg
Reign 1840 - 1849
Predecessor William I
Successor William III
Spouse Anna Pavlovna of Russia
William III of the Netherlands
Prince Alexander
Prince Henry
Prince Ernst Casimir
Sophie, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
House House of Orange-Nassau
Father William I of the Netherlands
Mother Wilhelmine of Prussia
Born 6 December 1792(1792-12-06)
The Hague
Died 17 March 1849 (aged 56)

William II (Willem Frederik George Lodewijk van Oranje-Nassau) (6 December 1792 – 17 March 1849) was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg from 7 October 1840 until his death.

Early life and education

Willem Frederik George Lodewijk was born on 6 December 1792 in The Hague. He is the eldest son of King William I of the Netherlands and Wilhelmine of Prussia. His maternal grandparents were King Frederick William II of Prussia and his second wife Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt.

When William was three he and his family fled to England after allied British-Hanoverian mercenaries left the Republic and entering French troops joined the anti-orangist Patriots. William spent his youth in Berlin at the Prussian court. There he followed a military education and served in the Prussian army. Afterwards he studied at the University of Oxford.

Military service

William II
by Nicaise de Keyser

He entered the British Army, and in 1811, as aide-de-camp to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, took part in several campaigns of the Peninsular War. He returned to the Netherlands in 1813 when his father became sovereign prince.

In 1815, William became crown prince and he took service in the army when Napoleon I of France escaped from Elba. He fought as commander of 1st English Corps at the Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) and the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815), where he was wounded. He showed personal courage and energy, but frequently displayed atrocious military judgement, leading to many heavy casualties. The Duke of Wellington attributed this to his lack of command experience, however, rather than to him being a bad leader.


In 1814, William became briefly engaged with Princess Charlotte of Wales, only daughter of the Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom and his estranged wife Caroline of Brunswick. The engagement was arranged by the Prince Regent, but it was broken because Charlotte did not want to marry William. On 21 February 1816 at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, William married Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, youngest sister to Czar Alexander I of Russia, who arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Imperial Russia and the Netherlands.

On 17 February 1817 in Brussels, his first son Willem Alexander was born, the future King William III. Because he lived in Brussels, he became affiliated with the Southern industrials.

In 1819, he was blackmailed over what the then Minister of Justice Van Maanen termed in a letter as his "shameful and unnatural lusts": presumably bisexuality. He may also have had a relationship with a dandy by the name of Pereira.[1]

Belgian revolution activities

The Prince of Orange pressed by the crowd during the 1830 Revolution

William II enjoyed considerable popularity in what is now Belgium (then the Southern Netherlands), as well as in the Netherlands for his affability and moderation, and in 1830, on the outbreak of the Belgian revolution, he did his utmost in Brussels as a peace broker, to bring about a settlement based on administrative autonomy for the southern provinces, under the House of Orange-Nassau. His father then rejected the terms of accommodation that he had proposed; afterwards, relations with his father were tense.

In April 1831, William II was military leader of the ten day campaign in Belgium which was driven back to the North by French intervention. European intervention established Leopold of Saxe-Gotha on the new throne of Belgium. Peace was finally established between Belgium and the Netherlands in 1839.

King of the Netherlands

The inauguration of William II on 28 November 1840 by Nicolaas Pieneman

On 7 October 1840, on his father's abdication, he acceded the throne as William II. Like his father he was conservative and less likely to initiate changes. He intervened less in policies than his father did. There was increased agitation for broad constitutional reform and a wider electoral franchise. And though he was personally conservative and no democrat, he acted with sense and moderation.

The Revolutions of 1848 broke out all over Europe. In Paris the Bourbon-Orléans monarchy fell. William became afraid of revolution in Amsterdam. One morning he woke up and said: "I changed from conservative to liberal in one night". He gave orders to Johan Rudolf Thorbecke to create a new constitution which included that the Eerste Kamer (Senate) would be elected indirectly by the Provincial States and that the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives) would be elected directly. Electoral system changed into census suffrage in electoral districts (in 1917 census suffrage was replaced by common suffrage for all men, and districts were replaced by party lists of different political parties), whereby royal power decreased sharply. That constitution is still in effect today.

He swore in the first parliamentary cabinet a few months before his sudden death in Tilburg, North Brabant (1849).

He was the 869th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain.


16. John William Friso, Prince of Orange
8. William IV, Prince of Orange
17. Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel
4. William V, Prince of Orange
18. George II of Great Britain
9. Anne, Princess Royal
19. Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach
2. William I of the Netherlands
20. Frederick William I of Prussia
10. Prince Augustus William of Prussia
21. Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
5. Wilhelmina of Prussia
22. Ferdinand Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
11. Louise Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg
23. Antoinette Amalie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
1. William II of the Netherlands
24. Frederick William I of Prussia (= 20)
12. Prince Augustus William of Prussia (= 10)
25. Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (= 21)
6. Frederick William II of Prussia
26. Ferdinand Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (= 22)
13. Louise Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg (= 11)
27. Antoinette Amalie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (= 23)
3. Wilhelmine of Prussia
28. Louis VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt
14. Louis IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt
29. Charlotte Christine of Hanau-Lichtenberg
7. Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt
30. Christian III, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken
15. Caroline of Zweibrücken
31. Caroline of Nassau-Saarbrücken


William II and queen Anna Pavlovna had five children:

On Screen

William II (as the Prince of Orange) was portrayed on television by Paul Bettany in Sharpe's Waterloo. In the episode (itself adapted from a novel by Bernard Cornwell), William suffers his wound after being shot by the fictitious hero, Richard Sharpe (played by Sean Bean). Whilst under William's command Sharpe becomes enraged after the crown prince's incompetence costs the lives of many Allied soldiers, including two of Sharpe's closest friends. Taken under the cover of battle, Sharpe's actions are not noticed by anyone who cares for the intransigent William and thus go unpunished.

Titles and styles


  1. ^ Hermans, Dorine and Hooghiemstra, Daniela: Voor de troon wordt men niet ongestrafd geboren, ooggetuigen van de koningen van Nederland 1830-1890, ISBN 9789035131149, 2007.
William II of the Netherlands
Born: 6 December 1792 Died: 17 March 1849
Regnal titles
Preceded by
William I
King of the Netherlands
Succeeded by
William III
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Duke of Limburg
Dutch royalty
Preceded by
William, Prince of Orange
later became King William I
Prince of Orange
Succeeded by
William, Prince of Orange
later became King William III
New title Heir to the Dutch throne
as heir apparent

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