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William of Orange
Seen as founder and "Father of the Fatherland" in the Netherlands.
More information about William the SilentWilliam the Silent, Prince of Orange

William of Orange

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William of Orange was at this time, in 1559, 26 years old. He had begun, at the age of 15, to serve in court as the page of Charles V. He was so trusted by the emperor, who had a high opinion of the youth, that he was allowed to have part in all the secret affairs of state, Charles himself often taking hints and suggestions from the young man, besides giving him most important offices and sending him on diplomatic missions.

William was a student of men, though he knew books well, also. Very few people read his thoughts. He was never thrown off his guard, nor did he permit to leak out what he wished to keep to himself. Without flattering any one, he was polite to all. He made warm friends and kept them. Being a wealthy prince, he was very hospitable, and by being so he gained many helpers and won the good will of the people. Instead of being rosy and plump like Egmont, William was pale and thin, showing the student and the thinker. He had one of the best of mothers, Juliana of Stolberg, whose chief ambition was to have her sons brave, pure, devout, godly, and kind to their fellow men.

Juliana was noted for her simple and unaffected piety. She was one of the great women of the 16th century. She had many children and scores of grand-children. On his father's side, William was descended from the ancient and powerful family of Nassau, one of whom had been emperor. At this time, and indeed since his cousin Rene had died in 1544, William was prince of Orange in his own right. Besides these two eminent men, there was Christian, the niece of Charles V., whose daughter William of Orange expected to marry. But Philip, instead of choosing either of the three, Egmont, William, or Christian, summoned his half-sister Margaret, the duchess of Parma, from Italy, to be his regent in the Netherlands. He conducted her with great magnificence to Ghent, where the States-General was assembled.

In making his farewell speech, Philip disgusted and alarmed his hearers by urging that the heretics should be persecuted, saying also that the Spanish troops were to be kept in the country. When the Netherlander petitioned the king to take away the foreign soldiery and keep foreigners out of office, Philip was very angry, yet he pretended not to be displeased. Nevertheless, in his heart he boiled with wrath against Orange, Egmont, and Hoorn, whom he had appointed to command the troops. A few weeks later, in 1559, after having visited Rotterdam and The Hague, he was about to take ship at Flushing to go to Spain.

When William of Orange came to bid him goodby, Philip reproached him angrily for acting contrary to the royal wishes. When William humbly replied that it was the act of the states, Philip shook William's wrist violently and said, "Not the states, but you, you, you!" Nominally the new ruler was the strong and ambitious regent Margaret, an expert horse-woman and a hunter, tall, and with much black hair upon her lips and chin, which made her look like a man. The real ruler of the country, however, was Granvelle, the bishop of Arras, who had control of her conscience. He was a Jesuit, and a pupil of Loyola of Spain. For the government of the Netherlands there was, besides the regent Margaret, a privy council, a council of finance, and a council of state, and in each province, except Brabant, in which the governess herself lived, the king had a stadholder, or lieutenant.

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