In the Low Countries, stadtholder (Dutch: stadhouder [ˈstɑtˌɦʌudər] (listen)) was an office of steward, designated a medieval official and then a national leader. The stadtholder was the replacement of the duke or earl of a province during the Burgundian and Habsburg period (1384 - 1581/1795).
The title was used for the official tasked with maintaining peace and provincial order in the early Dutch Republic and, at times, became de facto head of state of the Dutch Republic during the 16th to 18th centuries, which was an effectively hereditary role. For the last half century of its existence, it became an officially hereditary role and thus a monarchy (though maintaining republican pretence) under Prince William IV. His son, Prince William V, was the last stadtholder of the republic, whose own son, King William I, became the first king of the Netherlands. The Dutch monarchy is only distantly related to the first stadtholder of the young Republic, William of Orange, the leader of the successful Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Empire, his line having died out with William III.
The title stadtholder is roughly comparable to England's historic title Lord Lieutenant.
Stadtholder means "steward". Its component parts literally translate as "place holder," or as a direct cognate, "stead holder" (in modern Dutch "stad" means "city", but the older meaning of "stad" - also "stede" - was "place", and it is a cognate of English "stead", as "in stead of"), it was a term for a "steward" or "lieutenant". Note, however, that is not the word for the military rank of lieutenant, which is luitenant in Dutch.
Stadtholders in the Middle Ages were appointed by feudal lords to represent them in their absence. If a lord had several dominions (or, being a vassal, fiefs), some of these could be ruled by a permanent stadtholder, to whom was delegated the full authority of the lord. A stadtholder was thus more powerful than a governor, who had only limited authority, but the stadtholder was not a vassal himself, having no title to the land. The local rulers of the independent provinces of the Low Countries (which included the present-day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) made extensive use of stadtholders, e.g. the Duke of Guelders appointed a stadtholder to represent him in Groningen.
In the 16th century, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, also King of Spain, who had inherited the Burgundian Netherlands, completed this process by becoming the sole feudal overlord: Lord of the Netherlands. Only the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and two smaller territories (the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy and the Duchy of Bouillon) remained outside his domains. Stadtholders continued to be appointed to represent Charles and King Philip II, his son and successor in Spain and the Low Countries (the electoral Imperial title would be held by heirs of Charles in the separate Austrian branch of Habsburgs). Due to the centralist and absolutist policies of Philip, the actual power of the stadtholders strongly diminished.
When, in 1581, during the Dutch Revolt, most of the Dutch provinces declared their independence with the Act of Abjuration, the representative function of the stadtholder became obsolete in the rebellious northern Netherlands – the feudal lord himself having been abolished – but the office nevertheless continued in these provinces who now united themselves into the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The United Provinces were struggling to adapt existing feudal concepts and institutions to the new situation and tended to be conservative in this matter, as they had after all rebelled against the king to defend their ancient rights. The stadtholder no longer represented the lord but became the highest executive official, appointed by the states of each province. Although each province could assign its own stadtholder, most stadtholders held appointments from several provinces at the same time. The highest executive power was normally exerted by the sovereign states of each province, but the stadtholder had some prerogatives, like appointing lower officials and sometimes having the ancient right to affirm the appointment (by co-option) of the members of regent councils or choose burgomasters from a shortlist of candidates. As these councils themselves appointed most members of the states, the stadtholder could very indirectly influence the general policy. In Zeeland the Princes of Orange, who after the Dutch Revolt most often held the office of stadtholder there, held the dignity of First Noble, and were as such a member of the states of that province, because they held the title of Marquis of Veere and Flushing as one of their patrimonial titles.
On the Republic's central 'confederal' level, the stadtholder of the provinces of Holland and Zealand was normally also appointed Captain-General of the confederate army and Admiral-General of the confederate fleet, though no stadtholder ever actually commanded a fleet in battle. In the army, he could appoint officers by himself; in the navy only affirm appointments of the five admiralty councils. Legal powers of the stadtholder were thus rather limited, and by law he was a mere official. His real powers, however, were sometimes greater, especially given the martial law atmosphere of the 'permanent' Eighty Years War. Maurice of Orange after 1618 ruled as a military dictator, and William II of Orange attempted the same.
The leader of the Dutch Revolt was William the Silent (William I of Orange); he had been appointed stadtholder in 1572 by the first province to rebel, Holland. His personal influence and reputation was subsequently associated with the office and transferred to members of his house. Maurice in 1618 and William III of Orange from 1672 replaced entire city councils with their partisans to increase their power: the so-called "Changings of the Legislative" (Wetsverzettingen). By intimidation, the stadtholders tried to extend their right of affirmation. In reaction, the regents in Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel, after the death of William II in 1650, appointed no stadtholder. They subsequently were forced to appoint one by the catastrophic events of 1672, the Dutch Year of Disaster (Rampjaar). After the death of William III in 1702 they again abstained from appointing one. These periods are known as the First Stadtholderless Period and the Second Stadtholderless Period.
After the French invasion of 1747, the regents were forced by a popular movement to accept William IV, Prince of Orange, stadtholder of Friesland and Groningen, as stadtholder in the other provinces. On 22 November 1747, the office of stadtholder was made hereditary (erfstadhouder). As William (for the first time in the history of the Republic) was stadtholder in all provinces, his function accordingly was restyled Stadhouder-Generaal.
After William IV's death in 1751, his infant son was duly appointed stadtholder under the regency of his mother. The misgovernment of this regency caused much resentment, which issued in 1780 in the Patriot movement. The Patriots first took over many city councils, then the States of the province of Holland, and ultimately raised civil militias to defend their position against Orangist partisans, bringing the country to the brink of civil war. Through Prussian military intervention in 1787, Prince William V of Orange was able to suppress this opposition, and many leaders of the Patriot movement went into exile in France. The stadtholderate was strengthened with the Act of Guarantee (1788).
The exiles returned with French armies in the winter of 1795 and overcame the frozen Dutch Water Line. William V of Orange-Nassau fled to England, and the office of stadtholder was abolished in 1795 when the French revolutionary forces installed the Batavian Republic. From 1572 in the Southern Netherlands the Habsburg lords continued to appoint provincial stadtholders for the region, until it was annexed by France in 1794. However, William I, the son of the last stadtholder William V, was crowned king after the French army retreated in 1815.
Adolf van Nieuwenaar, Count of Limburg and Moers (also: Adolf von Neuenahr) (c. 1545 – 18 October 1589) was a statesman and soldier, who was stadtholder of Overijssel, Guelders and Utrecht for the States-General of the Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War.Batavian Revolution
The Batavian Revolution (Dutch: De Bataafse Revolutie) was a time of political, social and cultural turmoil at the end of the 18th century that marked the end of the Dutch Republic and saw the proclamation of the Batavian Republic. The period of Dutch history that followed the revolution is referred to as the "Batavian-French era" (1795–1813) even though the time spanned was only 20 years, of which three were under French occupation.Floris van Egmont
Floris van Egmond (ca. 1470 – 25 October 1539) was count of Buren and Leerdam and Lord of IJsselstein and Sint Maartensdijk. He was stadtholder of Guelders (1507–1511) and Friesland (1515–1518)
Floris was the son of Frederik van Egmond and Aleida van Culemborg. His career started in the 1490s as a chamberlord in the royal household of Philip I of Castile. After Philip's death, Floris gained a seat in the Court Council of Margaret of Habsburg, at the time the governor of the Netherlands. In 1505 he was knighted in the Order of the Golden Fleece.
As a stadtholder of Guelders, he represented the Habsburg government in the parts of Guelders owned by Magaretha.
In 1515 he became stadtholder of Friesland, when it was sold by George, Duke of Saxony to Habsburg. George of Saxony had failed to subdue Friesland during the Guelders Wars, and Floris controlled only a few cities (Leeuwarden, Harlingen en Franeker).
Floris was also a commander in arms. In 1523, he was appointed commander of the Dutch troops for an invasion of France during the Italian War of 1521–1526. In 1536, Floris became Captain-General of the Army that was present in the northern parts of the Low Countries.
Floris van Egmond married Margaret of Glymes-Bergen, daughter of Cornelis of Glymes, on 12 October 1500. They had 2 children:
Maximiliaan van Egmond would also become stadtholder of Friesland. Maximiliaan's daughter Anna van Egmont the Younger married William of Orange in 1551.
Anna van Egmont the Elder married Joseph of Montmorency and John of Horn. She was the mother of Philip de Montmorency, Count of Horn and Floris of Montmorency.Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange
Frederick Henry, or Frederik Hendrik in Dutch (29 January 1584 – 14 March 1647), was the sovereign Prince of Orange and stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel from 1625 to 1647.
As the leading soldier in the Dutch wars against Spain, his main achievement was the successful Siege of 's-Hertogenbosch in 1629. It was the main Spanish base and a well-fortified city protected by an experienced Spanish garrison and by formidable water defenses. His strategy was the successful neutralization of the threat of inundation of the area around 's-Hertogenbosch and his capture of the Spanish storehouse at Wesel.Grand pensionary
The grand pensionary (Dutch: raad(s)pensionaris) was the most important Dutch official during the time of the United Provinces. In theory he was only a civil servant of the Estates of the dominant province among the Seven United Provinces: the county of Holland. In practice the grand pensionary of Holland was the political leader of the entire Dutch Republic when there was no stadtholder (in practice the Prince of Orange) at the centre of power.
The Dutch name raad(s)pensionaris literally translates as "councillor or advisor pensionary". Indeed, other provinces could also have a raadspensionaris, e.g. Zeeland, but only the one of Holland was considered by foreign powers to be of any importance, so they called him the grand pensionary.
The position of the grand pensionary was in many ways similar to what through later political and constitutional developments came to be a prime minister.House of Orange-Nassau
The House of Orange-Nassau (Dutch: Huis van Oranje-Nassau, pronounced [ˈɦœys fɑn oːˌrɑɲə ˈnɑsʌu]), a branch of the European House of Nassau, has played a central role in the politics and government of the Netherlands and Europe especially since William the Silent organized the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule, which after the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) led to an independent Dutch state.
Several members of the house served during this war and after as stadtholder ("governor"; Dutch: stadhouder) during the Dutch Republic. However, in 1815, after a long period as a republic, the Netherlands became a monarchy under the House of Orange-Nassau.
The dynasty was established as a result of the marriage of Henry III of Nassau-Breda from Germany and Claudia of Châlon-Orange from French Burgundy in 1515. Their son René inherited in 1530 the independent and sovereign Principality of Orange from his mother's brother, Philibert of Châlon. As the first Nassau to be the Prince of Orange, René could have used "Orange-Nassau" as his new family name. However, his uncle, in his will, had stipulated that René should continue the use of the name Châlon-Orange. History knows him therefore as René of Châlon. After the death of René in 1544, his cousin William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited all of his lands. This "William I of Orange", in English better known as William the Silent, became the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau.List of monarchs of the Netherlands
This is a list of monarchs of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koningen der Nederlanden). By practical extension, the list includes the stadtholders of the House of Orange Nassau since 1556. However, they were voted into office by and were civil servants and generals of the semi-independent provinces of the Dutch Republic and cannot be seen as monarchs. From William IV they were the direct male line ancestors of later monarchs when the monarchy was established in 1813 (first as a Sovereign Principality, but in 1815 as a Kingdom).List of stadtholders for the Low Countries provinces
This is a list of stadtholders for the Low Countries provinces.Maurice, Prince of Orange
Maurice of Orange (Dutch: Maurits van Oranje) (14 November 1567 – 23 April 1625) was stadtholder of all the provinces of the Dutch Republic except for Friesland from 1585 at earliest until his death in 1625. Before he became Prince of Orange upon the death of his eldest half-brother Philip William in 1618, he was known as Maurice of Nassau.
Maurice spent his youth in Dillenburg in Nassau, and studied in Heidelberg and Leiden. He succeeded his father William the Silent as stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland in 1585, and became stadtholder of Utrecht, Guelders and Overijssel in 1590, and of Groningen in 1620. As Captain-General and Admiral of the Union, Maurice organised the Dutch rebellion against Spain into a coherent, successful revolt and won fame as a military strategist. Under his leadership and in cooperation with the Land's Advocate of Holland Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the Dutch States Army achieved many victories and drove the Spaniards out of the north and east of the Republic. Maurice set out to revive and revise the classical doctrines of Vegetius and pioneered the new European forms of armament and drill. During the Twelve Years' Truce, a religious dispute broke out in the Republic, and a conflict erupted between Maurice and Van Oldenbarnevelt, which ended with the latter's decapitation. After the Truce, Maurice failed to achieve more military victories. He died without legitimate children in The Hague in 1625, and was succeeded by his younger half-brother Frederick Henry.Orangism (Dutch Republic)
In the history of the Dutch Republic, Orangism or prinsgezindheid ("pro-prince stance") was a political force opposing the Staatsgezinde (pro-Republic) party. Orangists supported the princes of Oranges as Stadtholders (a position held by members of the House of Orange) and military commanders of the Republic, as a check on the power of the regenten. The Orangist party drew its adherents largely from the common people, soldiers, the nobility and orthodox preachers, though its support fluctuated heavily over the course of the Republic's history.Patriottentijd
The Patriottentijd (Dutch; literally "Time of the Patriots") was a period of political instability in the Dutch Republic between approximately 1780 and 1787. It takes its name from the radical political faction known as the Patriotten (English Patriots) who opposed the rule of the stadtholder, William V, Prince of Orange, and his supporters who were known as Orangists.
In 1781 one of the leaders of the Patriots, Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol anonymously published a pamphlet, entitled Aan het Volk van Nederland ("To the People of the Netherlands"), in which he advocated the formation of civic militias on the Swiss and American model to help restore the republican constitution of the Republic. Such militias were subsequently organised in many localities and formed, together with Patriot political clubs, the core of the Patriot movement. From 1785 on, the Patriots managed to gain power in a number of Dutch cities, where they replaced the old system of co-option of regenten with a system of democratically elected representatives. This enabled them to replace the representatives of these cities in the States of several provinces, gaining Patriot majorities in the States of Holland, Groningen and Utrecht, and frequently also in the States General. This helped to emasculate the stadtholder's power as he was deprived of his command over a large part of the Dutch States Army. A low-key civil war ensued that resulted in a military stalemate, until in September–October 1787 the Patriots were defeated by a Prussian army and many were forced into exile.Siege of Schoonhoven (1575)
The Siege of Schoonhoven of 1575, also known as the Capture of Schoonhoven, was a Spanish victory that took place between 11 and 24 August 1575, at Schoonhoven, Spanish Netherlands (present-day South Holland, the Netherlands), during the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604). On June 28, 1575, the Spanish forces, between 8,000 and 10,000 soldiers, led by Gilles de Berlaymont, Lord of Hierges, and Stadtholder of Guelders, Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, captured Buren, and on August 7, Oudewater. The Spanish commander continued its successful progress and arrived at Schoonhoven on August 11. After 13 days of siege, and a courageous but futile resistance, the rebel forces led by De La Garde, composed by Dutch, English, Scottish, French and Walloon soldiers (about 800 men), surrendered to the more experienced Spanish troops, on August 24. The population of the town, that were unwilling to help the rebel forces, received Berlaymont with great joy.Two weeks later, the Spanish forces under Charles de Brimeu, Count of Megen, marched towards Woerden, and laid siege to the town on September 8.States of Friesland
The States of Friesland were the sovereign body that governed the province of Friesland under the Dutch Republic. They were formed in 1580 after the former Lordship of Frisia (a part of the Habsburg Netherlands) acceded to the Union of Utrecht and became one of the Seven United Netherlands. The Frisian stadtholder was their "First Servant" (mostly in military matters, as he had few other powers before 1748, when the Government Regulations for Friesland were promulgated by then-stadtholder William IV, Prince of Orange). The board of Gedeputeerde Staten (Delegated States) was the executive of the province when the States were not in session (which was most of the time). The States of Friesland were abolished after the Batavian Revolution of 1795, when the Batavian Republic was founded. They were resurrected in name (but not in substance) in the form of the Provincial States of Friesland under the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.William Frederick, Prince of Nassau-Dietz
William Frederick (Dutch: Willem Frederik; Arnhem 7 August 1613 – Leeuwarden 31 October 1664), Count (from 1654 Imperial Prince) of Nassau-Dietz, Stadtholder of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe.William II, Prince of Orange
William II (27 May 1626 – 6 November 1650) was sovereign Prince of Orange and stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands from 14 March 1647 until his death three years later. His only child, William III, reigned as King of England, Ireland, and Scotland.William III of England
William III (Dutch: Willem; 4 November 1650 – 8 March 1702), also widely known as William of Orange, was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic from 1672 and King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702. As King of Scotland, he is known as William II. He is sometimes informally known in Northern Ireland and Scotland as "King Billy".William inherited the principality of Orange from his father, William II, who died a week before William's birth. His mother, Mary, was the daughter of King Charles I of England. In 1677, William married his fifteen-year-old first cousin, Mary, the daughter of his maternal uncle James, Duke of York.
A Protestant, William participated in several wars against the powerful Catholic King of France, Louis XIV, in coalition with Protestant and Catholic powers in Europe. Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith. In 1685, William's Catholic uncle and father-in-law, James, became king of England, Scotland and Ireland. James's reign was unpopular with the Protestant majority in Britain. William, supported by a group of influential British political and religious leaders, invaded England in what became known as the Glorious Revolution. On 5 November 1688, he landed at the southern English port of Brixham. James was deposed and William and his wife became joint sovereigns in his place. William and Mary reigned together until Mary's death on 28 December 1694, after which William ruled as sole monarch.
William's reputation as a staunch Protestant enabled him to take power in Britain when many were fearful of a revival of Catholicism under James. William's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 is still commemorated by loyalists in Northern Ireland and Scotland. His reign in Britain marked the beginning of the transition from the personal rule of the Stuarts to the more Parliament-centred rule of the House of Hanover.William IV, Prince of Orange
William IV (Willem Karel Hendrik Friso; 1 September 1711 – 22 October 1751) was Prince of Orange-Nassau and the first hereditary stadtholder of all the United Provinces.William V, Prince of Orange
William V, Prince of Orange (Willem Batavus; 8 March 1748 – 9 April 1806) was the last Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic. He went into exile to London in 1795. He was the reigning Prince of Nassau-Orange until his death in 1806. In that capacity he was succeeded by his son William.