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William II of the Netherlands

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King William II of the Netherlands (December 6, 1792 - March 14, 1849). King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg from October 7, 1840 until March 14, 1849.

Born in The Hague, the son of King William I of the Netherlands and Queen Wilhelmina, princess of Prussia, when he was three he and his family were driven into exile by the French revolutionaries, and so 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. He entered the British army, and in 1811, as aide-de-camp to the 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 escaped. He fought as commander of combined Dutch and Belgian forces at the Battle of Quatre Bras and the Battle of Waterloo, where he was wounded. He was considered a hero.

In 1816 William became briefly engaged with Charlotte of Wales, eldest daughter of George IV of the United Kingdom. The marriage was arranged by George but Charlotte didn't want to marry William so the engagement was broken. Later in that year he married Anna Pavlovna, sister to Czar Alexander I of Russia, who arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Russia and the Netherlands.

In 1817 his eldest son Willem Alexander was born (the future King William III) in Brussels, where he lived. Because he lived in Brussels he got affiliated with the Southern industrials.

He enjoyed considerable popularity in Belgium, 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. His father afterwards rejected the terms of accommodation that he had proposed. Relations with his father remained tense.

In April 1831 he was leader of the disastrous 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.

On October 7, 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.

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

Children

William II had four children:


Preceded by:
William I
King of the Netherlands Succeeded by:
William III
Grand Duke of Luxembourg
de:Wilhelm II. (Niederlande)

fr:Guillaume II des Pays-Bas nl:Willem II van Nederland

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