William the Silent Biography

(Main Leader of the Dutch Revolt Against the Spanish Habsburgs that Set off the Eighty Years' War)

Birthday: April 24, 1533 (Taurus)

Born In: Dillenburg, Germany

William the Silent, who was also known as William of Orange, was a Dutch military leader and the hero of the Dutch Revolt. He was instrumental in leading the Lower Countries in the war against Spain, eventually triggering the Eighty Years’ War. He also led to the creation of the independent republic of the United Provinces. He was revered by the Protestants and was an important leader during the period when Margaret of Parma was the governor. He was against the Catholic ways of worship. He was a wealthy nobleman who went on to inherit a lot of wealth from different people over his life. Inside the Netherlands, he is popularly referred to as “Father of the Fatherland.” He was also the Prince of Orange and is considered to be founder of the House of the Orange-Nassau by some. Owing to his role in the revolt, he was named an outlaw by the Spanish king who declared a reward for anyone assassinating him. He escaped the clutches of the assassins multiple times but finally lost his life in 1584, when he was killed after dinner by Balthasar Gerard. He had been married four times and also an affair. He had numerous legitimate children and one illegitimate son.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: William the Taciturn

Died At Age: 51


Spouse/Ex-: Anna of Saxony, Anna van Egmont, Charlotte of Bourbon, Louise de Coligny

father: William I, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg

mother: Juliana of Stolberg

siblings: Adolf of Nassau, Anna of Nassau-Dillenburg, Catharine of Nassau-Dillenburg, Catherine of Hanau, Count of Hanau-Münzenberg, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, Countess of Wied, Elisabeth of Nassau-Dillenburg, Henry of Nassau-Dillenburg, John VI, Juliana of Nassau-Dillenburg, Louis of Nassau, Magdalena of Nassau-Dillenburg, Maria of Nassau, Philip III

children: Countess Anna of Nassau, Countess Catharina Belgica of Nassau, Countess Charlotte Brabantina of Nassau, Countess Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau, Countess Elisabeth of Nassau, Countess Emilia Antwerpiana of Nassau, Countess Emilia of Nassau, Countess Louise Juliana of Nassau, Countess Maria of Nassau, Frederick Henry, Justinus van Nassau, Maurice of Nassau, Philip William, Prince of Orange, Q17428891

Born Country: Germany

Revolutionaries Dutch Men

Died on: July 10, 1584

place of death: Delft, Netherlands

Cause of Death: Assassination

Founder/Co-Founder: Leiden University

More Facts

awards: Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece

  • 1

    What was William the Silent's role in the Dutch Revolt?

    William the Silent played a crucial role in leading the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule and championing the cause of Dutch independence.
  • 2

    How did William the Silent's assassination impact the Dutch Revolt?

    The assassination of William the Silent in 1584, was a significant blow to the Dutch Revolt, but his legacy inspired continued resistance against Spanish rule.

  • 3

    What were some of the key accomplishments of William the Silent?

    William the Silent is known for his efforts in uniting the Dutch provinces against Spanish rule, establishing the foundation for the Dutch Republic, and promoting religious tolerance.
  • 4

    How did William the Silent's leadership contribute to the Dutch Golden Age?

    William the Silent's leadership during the Dutch Revolt laid the groundwork for the Dutch Golden Age by fostering political stability, economic prosperity, and cultural flourishing.
  • 5

    What impact did William the Silent have on the development of modern Dutch identity?

    William the Silent is considered a national hero in the Netherlands for his role in the struggle for independence, and his legacy continues to shape Dutch national identity and pride.
Childhood & Early Life
William was born in Dillenburg Castle in the County of Nassau-Dillenburg on 24th April 1533. He was the eldest son of the Count of Nassau, William, and his second wife, Juliana of Stolberg-Wernigerode.
He had seven younger sisters, four younger brothers, and several step-siblings. He was raised as a devout Lutheran.
In 1544, when William was 11, his agnatic cousin, who was the Prince of Orange, died without an heir. In his will, he named William as the heir to all his estates and his titles with a condition that he should receive Catholic education.
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William was a ward of Emperor Charles V who was his regent owing to his young age. He also received education from the emperor’s sister, Mary. Soon, he became their favorite and was made the captain of the cavalry in 1551.
He received promotions in quick succession and soon became the commander of one of the emperor’s armies at the young age of 22.
In 1559, William was appointed as the governor of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht. This increased his political power greatly. Two years later, he was also made the governor of Franche-Comte.
Even though William was never against the Spanish king directly, he turned out to be one of the most important members of the opposition in the council of the state. He along with Philip De Montmorency and Lamoral, who were the counts of Hoorn and Egmont, sought more power and felt that the current government was influenced significantly by Spaniards.
William was one of the many who were summoned before the Council of Troubles which was established by the 3rd Duke of Alba in 1567 to judge those who were involved in the rebellion against Catholicism. He didn’t appear, and thus was declared an outlaw. He then went on to become the celebrated leader of the armed resistance.
In 1573, William went on to join the Calvinist Church and appointed Jean Taffin, who himself was a Calvinist theologian, as the court preacher. Along with Taffin, Pierre Loyseleur de Villiers also played an important role as an advisor to the prince.
In the year 1574, William and his army won many minor battles, including some naval encounters. The opposing Spanish side, which was led by Don Luis Zuniga y Requesens, also achieved a few successes. In fact, one of their victories on the Meuse embankment killed two of William’s brothers, Louis and Henry.
In 1580, Philip issued a ban of outlawry against William and promised a large reward to anyone successful in killing him. After a year, the Staten Generaal declared that Philip was no longer the ruler and this helped William and his followers to come back.
Family & Personal Life
William married Anna van Egmond en Buren on 6th July 1551. She was the daughter of Maximiliaan Van Egmond, an important Dutch nobleman. Since her father had died three years earlier, William became the Lord of Egmond and also the Count of Buren upon his marriage.
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His marriage turned out to be a happy one that produced three children, one of whom died in infancy. Their marriage ended in a tragedy when Anna died in 1558.
In 1561, he married Anna of Saxony and it was a popular belief that he married her mainly to gain influence in Saxony, Hesse, and Palatinate. They went on to have five children. This marriage was a troubled one. He started making plans to marry for the third time even before his second wife died.
In 1575, William married for the third time. His wife this time was a former nun called Charlotte de Bourbon-Montpensier, who was quite popular with the public. They went on to have six daughters, and their marriage was considered to be quite a happy one. Charlotte died of exhaustion after looking after William following a failed assassination attempt.
In 1583, he got married for the last time to Louise de Coligny, a French Huguenot and the daughter of Gaspard de Coligny. They had a son, Frederick Henry, who turned out to be the only legitimate son of William who would take forward the lineage.
William also had an illegitimate son, Justinus van Nassau, through his brief relationship with Eva Elincx, a commoner.
Death & Legacy
Balthasar Gerard, who was an ardent follower of Philip and a staunch Catholic, considered William to be a traitor. Gerard was tempted to assassinate William when he heard about the reward for killing him.
On 10 July 1584, he took an appointment to meet William and shot him dead. Gerard was then imprisoned and given a death sentence. He was eventually tortured to death.
William was buried in New Church in Delft. This was against the usual practice of burying all the Nassau members in Breda as Breda was still under royal control at the time of William’s death.
Facts About William the Silent
William the Silent was known for his love of exotic pets, including a pet monkey that he often carried around on his shoulder.
Despite his noble status, William was known for his casual demeanor and approachability, often mingling with commoners and engaging in everyday activities alongside them.
William had a strong interest in architecture and was involved in the design and construction of several important buildings in the Netherlands during his reign.
William was a skilled linguist and was fluent in several languages, including Dutch, French, German, and Spanish.
In addition to his role as a political leader, William was also a talented musician and composer, known for his proficiency on the lute and his compositions for the instrument.

See the events in life of William The Silent in Chronological Order

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