The present and only native royal family of the Netherlands, the house of Orange-Nassau was established in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna as part of the rearrangement of Europe after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. They were given the modern-day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg to rule. Previous to the Napoleonic wars, the Netherlands had stadholders from the same family although the government was a republic. The first king of the constitutional monarchy the Netherlands, Willem I, was a descendant of William the Old and his son William of Orange, also called William the Silent, who from 1568 on had led the Dutch in their eighty-year struggle for independence from Spain. His family had a considerable influence on Dutch politics. They came from Dillenburg, Germany, home of the Nassau family. William's title 'Prince of Orange' was acquired through his possession of the county 'Orange', located south of Valence in France.
After the fall of Napoleon, the Netherlands became an independent kingdom. Successive Dutch kings and queens:
- William I 1815-1840 (Belgium seceded during his reign)
- William II 1840-1849
- William III 1849-1890
- Wilhelmina 1890-1948
- Juliana 1948-1980
- Beatrix 1980-
When Wilhelmina came to the throne in 1890 at age 10 (her mother, Queen Emma, second wife of the then deceased William III, acted as regent until Wilhelmina became 18) -- Luxembourg, also member of the German Bond, seceded almost immediately. One of the reasons was that at the time they were not willing to accept a queen. Instead a family member, Adolf, former Duke of Nassau, became the first Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
The 50(58)-year reign of Queen Wilhelmina was dominated by the two World Wars. She married a German prince, Hendrik von Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who unfortunately was not happy with his unrewarding role of husband-to-the-queen. Wilhelmina's strong personality and unrelenting passion to fulfill her inherited task overpowered many men in position of authority, including ministers, prime-ministers and her own husband. She is mostly remembered for her role during the Second World War. Initial disappointment of many Dutch people because of her quick withdrawal to London faded when she proved to be of great mental support to the people and the resistance in her occupied country. Hendrik and Wilhelmina had one daughter, Juliana, who came to the throne in 1948. They lived in The Hague and in Palace 't Loo (Paleis 't Loo) in Apeldoorn.
Juliana reigned from 1948 until 1980, and whereas Wilhelmina reigned like a general, Juliana expressed a more motherly character. One of her first official acts was to sign the treaty of independence of the Dutch colony Indonesia. She became involved in two major crises: the Greet Hofmans affair and the Lockheed scandal, both of which directly threatened the credibility of the throne. She married a German of noble descent, Prince Bernard von Lippe-Biesterfeld. Together they had four daughters, Beatrix, Irene, Margriet and Christina. After their return from Ottawa, Canada in 1945, they lived in the Soestdijk Palace (Paleis Soestdijk) in Soestdijk, about 20 km. north-east of Utrecht.
The Dutch royal family today is much larger than it has ever been. Queen Beatrix and her husband, Prince Claus, have three sons, Willem-Alexander, Johan Friso and Constantijn (married to princess Laurentien). Her sister Margriet and her spouse Prince Pieter van Vollenhoven have four sons: Maurits, Bernhard, Pieter-Christiaan and Floris. These seven princes as well as Margriet, are all (potentially) legal heirs to the throne, although the first right goes to the Crown Prince, and after him to his brothers. The two other sisters of Beatrix, Irene and Christina, have renounced their rights to the throne due to marriages which were not officially approved by the Dutch parliament. They both married Roman-Catholics and Irene herself converted to Roman-Catholicism, which at that time (the 1960s) was still politically problematic for an heir to the throne. Traditionally, Dutch monarchs have always been members of the Dutch Reformed church although this was never constitutionally required. This tradition is embedded in the history of the Netherlands. An additional complication which the government wanted to avoid, was that Irene's husband, Carlos de Bourbon Parma, (whom she later divorced) was a Spanish member of a noble family that claimed their alleged rights to the Spanish throne.
The crown prince is Willem-Alexander (born 1967), prince of Oranje-Nassau. He studied history at the University of Leiden and became actively involved in watermanagement. His fiancée is Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti, an economy major, whose father was a minister of agriculture in the dictatorial regime under general Vidéla in Argentina. Because of that, their relationship was accompanied by fierce public debate, and only officially sanctified after quiet diplomacy, resulting in Máxima's father agreeing not to be present on their wedding day (February 2, 2002). Former minister Max van der Stoel and prime-minister Wim Kok seem to have played a crucial role in this process.
Abdication of the throne has occurred several times. Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Juliana both abdicated in favor of their daughters and Willem I abdicated in favor of his son.
The role of the Dutch monarch according to the constitution. The relation between the monarch and the Dutch government.