Sunday, 8 December 2013
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. OutsideSchoonhoven, 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, aroundSaint-Omer, in an area where Dutch was spoken. Until his overthrow they were supported by King Louis XVI of France.
Flight to Britain and Exile
With the coming of the French Revolution William V joined the First Coalition against Republican France in 1793. His troops fought in the Flanders Campaign, but in 1794 the military situation deteriorated and the Dutch Republic was threatened by invading armies. The year 1795 was a disastrous one for the ancien régime of the Netherlands. Supported by the French Army, the revolutionaries returned from Paris to fight in the Netherlands, and in 1795 William V fled to the safety of England. A few days later the Batavian Revolution in Amsterdam occurred, and the Dutch Republic was replaced with the Batavian Republic.:1121 :190-192
Directly after his arrival in England the Prince wrote a number of letters (known as the Kew Letters) from his new residence in Kew to the governors of the Dutch colonies, instructing them to hand over their colonies to the British "for safe-keeping." Though only a few complied this contributed to their confusion and demoralisation. Almost all Dutch colonies were in the course of time conquered by the British, who returned some, but not all, first at the Treaty of Amiens and later with the Convention of London 1814.:1127
In 1799 the Hereditary Prince took an active part in the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland, engineering the capture of a Batavian naval squadron in the Vlieter Incident. The surrender of the ships (that had been paid for by the taxpayers of the Batavian Republic) was formally accepted in the name of William V as stadtholder, who was later allowed to "sell" them to the Royal Navy for an appreciable amount. But that was his only success as the troops and civilians of the Batavian Republic proved quite unwilling to welcome the old regime back. The arrogance of the tone in his proclamation, demanding the restoration of the stadtholderate, may not have been helpful, according to Simon Schama.:393-394
After the Peace of Amiens in 1802, in which Great Britain recognised the Batavian Republic, an additional Franco-Prussian Convention of 23 May 1802 declared that the House of Orange would be ceded in perpetuity the abbatial domains of Fulda and Corvey in lieu of its Dutch estates and revenues (this became the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda). As far as Napoleon was concerned this cession was conditional on the liquidation of the stadtholderate and other hereditary offices of the Prince. William V, however, wanted more: his arrears in salary and other financial perquisites since 1795, or a lumpsum of 4 million guilders. The foreign minister of the Batavian Republic Maarten van der Goes was willing to secretly try and persuade the Staatsbewind of the Batavian Republic to grant this additional indemnity, but Napoleon put a stop to it, when he got wind of the affair.:452-454
The last of the Dutch stadtholders, William V died in exile at Brunswick, now in Germany. His body was moved to the Dutch Royal Family crypt in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft on 29 April 1958.
In 1813, his son, King William I returned to the Netherlands and became the first Dutch monarch from the House of Orange.
In 1813, after the end of French rule, the son of Stadholder William V returned to the Netherlands to accept the crown. This was a clear break with tradition. Unlike his father, William I did not become Stadholder (governor) of all the provinces but rather king of a unified state in which he played the main political role.
In 1815, the so-called Austrian Low Countries (modern-day Belgium) were united with the territory of the former Republic to serve as a buffer against the defeated French. And so, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created. In European terms it was a medium-sized country controlling large colonial territories. The energetic William (whose nickname was “king-merchant”) tried to restore the previously thriving economy by stimulating its strengths in the three parts of the country (the north, south and the Indies). The south, where an Industrial Revolution had taken place early, had to concentrate on producing consumer goods. The traders in the north subsequently had to transport these goods across the world. And finally, the inhabitants of the colonies were to supply valuable tropical goods. The King had canals dug and roads laid between the north and south to make transport more easy. He himself acted as an investor. In 1824, William set up the Netherlands Trading Company for trade with the Dutch East Indies. The “cultivation system” or “culture system” was introduced in the East Indies, under which the indigenous population was obliged to work for the colonial authorities on the land for a period of each year. The products were sold by the Netherlands Trading Company.
Despite his economic endeavours, the King was not popular among the Belgians. Belgian liberals saw him as a ruler who desired absolute power and who was not prepared to tolerate any increased participation on the part of the educated elite. Belgian Catholics objected to the interference of the Protestant king in the training of novice priests. In 1830, the citizens of Brussels rebelled. They were inspired by the aria “Amour sacré de la patrie”that had been sung in their theatre. William I sent an army against them but to no avail. Belgium was granted independence. Nevertheless, William I kept the army called up for nine years – incurring extremely high costs – something that damaged his reputation in the Netherlands very badly. In 1839 he finally recognised Belgium’s independence. In the following year a disillusioned William I abdicated from the throne.