Kings (19th century)
The Kingdom of the Netherlands came into being in the 19th century.
The Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of Holland
The future King Willem I (1772-1843) was the eldest son of
Prince Willem V. In 1802 he became the ruler of the German
principalities of Fulda and Corvey, which he had been given by
Napoleon Bonaparte as compensation for the loss of his Dutch
domains in 1795. He lost these new possessions in 1806, as
punishment for his support of Prussia in the war against
The French transformed the Dutch Republic into a modern unitary state, known as the Batavian Republic (1795-1806). Initial enthusiasm for the French vanished, however, when the Netherlands ceased to be an independent country.
In 1806, the Batavian Republic became the Kingdom of Holland, under King Louis Bonaparte, Emperor Napoleon's brother. His reign lasted until 1810, when the Netherlands was incorporated into the French Empire. Three years later, the French retreated, marking an end to the period of Napoleonic rule.
King Willem I (1772-1843)
When Napoleon fell, the Prince of Orange was in London. In November 1813, at the request of a number of leading Dutchmen, he returned home, to an enthusiastic popular welcome. He accepted the offer to become the country's sovereign prince, and later took the title of King Willem I.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands
In 1815 the Congress of Vienna merged the former Austrian
Netherlands with the former Dutch Republic to create the Kingdom of
the Netherlands, awarding Willem I the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as
compensation for the loss of his German possessions. The personal
union of the Dutch crown and the Grand Duchy lasted until the death
of Willem III in 1890. During the wars the Republic's overseas
territories were occupied by the British. With the exception of
Ceylon (the present-day Sri Lanka) and South Africa, they were
returned after 1813.
Willem I ruled the kingdom in the spirit of enlightened absolutism, though he was subject to constitutional safeguards.
The secession of Belgium
The unification of the northern and southern Netherlands (now Belgium) was not a success. In the summer of 1830 revolution broke out in Brussels. The northern Netherlands waged a 'Ten-Day Campaign', in which the future King Willem II (1792-1849) distinguished himself. Nevertheless, the revolution was successful, culminating in the formation of an independent Kingdom of Belgium. Willem I did not recognise the new kingdom until 1839. He abdicated a year later.
King Willem II (1792-1849)
Willem II acceded to the throne in 1840, following his father's
abdication. Willem II married Anna Paulowna (1795-1865), the
daughter of the Russian czar. Their marriage gave rise to close
relations with Russia.
In the revolutionary year of 1848, Willem gave in to the wishes of the liberal opposition movement and agreed to a constitution that drastically restricted royal power in favour of the representative assembly. The Netherlands' second king reigned until his death in 1849.
King Willem III (1817-1890)
His successor Willem III (1817-1890) resisted these attempts to
limit royal authority, but in vain. Willem's first wife, Sophie of
Württemberg (1818-1877), was his cousin. It was not a happy
marriage, as their characters were incompatible. Their three sons,
Willem (1840-1879), Maurits (1843-1850) and Alexander (1851-1884),
all died before their father.
In 1879 the King remarried, this time to Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont (1858-1934).The couple had one daughter, Princess Wilhelmina. Willem III died in 1890.