William V, Prince of Orange - Stadtholder

Stadtholder

William V assumed the position of stadtholder (chief executive) and Captain-General of the Dutch States Army in 1766. On 4 October 1767 in Berlin, Prince William married Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, the daughter of Augustus William of Prussia, niece of Frederick the Great and a cousin of George III.

The position of the Dutch during the American War of Independence was one of neutrality. William V, leading the pro-British faction within the government, blocked attempts by pro-independence, and later pro-French, elements to drag the government to war. However, things came to a head with the Dutch attempt to join the Russian-led League of Armed Neutrality, leading to the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War in 1780. In spite of the fact that Britain was in the midst of fighting several other countries, the ensuing war proved difficult for the Dutch to cope with and the Republic was eventually forced to cede some territory to the British. The United Provinces recognized the United States in February 1782, after much political debate and pressure from American and French diplomats. Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol and Court Lambertus van Beyma took the initiative.

After the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), the impoverished nation grew restless under William's rule. In the meantime, a band of young revolutionaries, called Patriots, was challenging his authority more and more. In 1785 William left the Hague and removed his court to Guelders, a province remote from the political centre. In September 1786 he had to send an army to stop Herman Willem Daendels, organizing an overthrow at the cities' vroedschap. In June 1787 his energetic wife Wilhelmina tried to travel to the Hague. Outside Schoonhoven, she was stopped by militia, taken to a farm near Goejanverwellesluis and within two days made to return to Nijmegen.

To Wilhelmina and her brother, Frederick William II of Prussia, this was an insult. Frederick sent in an army to attack the dissidents. Many patriots fled to the North of France, around Saint-Omer, in an area where Dutch was spoken. Until his overthrow they were supported by King Louis XVI of France.

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