Netherlands History – From William III to Present Day

By | December 1, 2021

From William III to the Napoleonic period

During the First English War (1652-54), the defeats of O. Cromwell favored the Orange. The disastrous outcome of the war forced the States-General to vote the Act of execution, with which they undertook never to elect the Orange state-holder of their province. The Navigation Act (1651) only partially achieved the intent to damage the maritime trade of the United Provinces. The rivalry on the sea between the two powers resulted in the Second English War (1665-67), won by the United Provinces: the peace of Breda partially modified the Navigation Act. Much of the credit for all these successes went to Johan de Witt, a great pensioner from 1653, who elevated the United Provinces to great power. But Louis XIV was eager to extend his sovereignty: the war broke out in 1672: the United Provinces, facing the coalition of France, England, elector of Cologne and bishop of Münster, they found themselves in grave difficulty. William III was appointed captain general for a single campaign, later elected statolder; the country managed to overcome the serious crisis. Louis XIV and his allies were forced into a hasty retreat.

Louis XIV’s plan had failed, but the personal rivalry between the Sun King and William III was, from then on, a determining element of European politics. The policy of Louis XIV favored the designs of the statolder and of the great anti-French coalition of 1686 (League of Augusta) of which he was the inspiration. In 1689 William of Orange ascended the throne of England and from then on to his death (1702) the republic found itself involved in European conflicts, reducing itself to a position of political dependence on England. She participated in the war of the Spanish succession, at the end of which, with the treaty of the Barrier, she was granted the right to hold garrisons in different cities of the southern Netherlands, now subject to Austrian sovereignty, as a guarantee against new French invasions. For Netherlands history, please check

Ever since, upon the death of William III, the States of the Provinces decided not to appoint a new statolder anymore, the ruling oligarchy tried to isolate itself in a policy of neutrality in the fear that participation in the war could offer the Orangutan party the opportunity to return to power. This occurred in fact during the war of the Austrian succession, when the population rose up accusing the merchant oligarchy of having sacrificed the public interest to personal gain: William IV, statolder of Friesland, Drenthe and Gelderland, assumed the same position in all the other provinces (1747), transmissible by inheritance to his male and female offspring. During the Seven Years War, trade was severely restricted; in the country the request for reforms became more and more pressing, especially from the party of the so-called Patriots, who openly sided against the statolder who, having failed an attempt to seize power, took refuge in France, where they participated in the Revolution. At their request, revolutionary France in 1793 waged war on the United Provinces.

In 1795 the French army occupied the country: this led to the proclamation of the Batavian republic: the republic of the seven United Provinces had ceased to exist. With the new Constitution of 1798 the executive was entrusted to a directorate, then a large pension was at the head of the government until 1806, and finally a monarchy under Louis, brother of the emperor Napoleon. In 1810 the Netherlands were incorporated into the French Empire. The Russian campaign fueled the liberation movement and in 1813 a provisional government was formed, which had the son of the stadolder William V proclaimed sovereign prince with the name of William I and provided for the enactment of a new Constitution in 1814.

From the Congress of Vienna to 1945

The union of the Austrian Frs and the bishopric of Liège, together with the conferral of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on William I, led to the constitution of the kingdom of Frs, approved at the Congress of Vienna. But the contrast between the enlightened despotism of the sovereign and the liberalism of the former Austrian Frs, and between the Protestants of the North and the Catholics of the South, was too profound: in 1830 the Belgians openly rebelled and proclaimed separation from the Netherlands. In vain did William I oppose the split approved by the great European powers and only in 1839 did he renounce his rights; the following year he abdicated.

William II, after having largely restored the state finances, in 1848 granted a new Constitution which established the representative system. The long reign of William III (1849-90) was characterized by the progressive strengthening of the parliamentary system. In 1887 the first socialist deputy entered Parliament and the social question became increasingly important. The request for a democratization of the state system was raised from various quarters: in 1917 there was the introduction of universal male suffrage and the adoption of the proportional system for elections to Parliament.

During the First World War the country, while remaining strictly neutral, suffered greatly. The ruling coalition, made up of Catholic, anti-revolutionary (Calvinist) and Christian-historical elements, remained in power until 1925; from 1926 to 1939 the formation of a stable government proved impossible and the ministries that followed were all extra-parliamentary. When the Second World War broke out, the Netherlands remained neutral, but the German invasion of May 1940 marked the beginning of a very painful period. Foreign occupation ruined the country’s economy. Queen Wilhelmina and the government, having taken refuge in London, returned to their homeland in 1945.

Netherlands History - From William III to Present Day