Later today, around 12.30 PM Her Royal Highness Queen Beatrix will start her Speech from the Throne. But lets get back a bit in history…
Orange and Nassau
The links between the House of Nassau and the Netherlands date back to 1403, when Count Engelbrecht I of Nassau married Johanna van Polanen, the lady of Breda. As they acquired more and more land, the Breda branch of the family soon entered the ranks of the highest nobility. Over time they were entrusted with ever more important offices by the Dukes of Burgundy and then the members of the House of Habsburg, who ruled much of the Low Countries.
Count Hendrik III of Nassau [1483-1538], for example, held high civil and military offices and was involved in the education of the future Emperor Charles V. He married the Burgundian noblewoman Claudia de Chalon, and their son René inherited the sovereign principality of Orange from his uncle Philibert de Chalon. When René died childless in 1544, he left his estates to his German cousin William of Nassau (1533-1584), who, as Prince William I, founded the House of Orange-Nassau. William of Nassau was the oldest son of Count Willem of Nassau and Juliana van Stolberg. Emperor Charles V allowed William to accept the inheritance from his cousin on two conditions: first, that he complete his education at the imperial court in Brussels, and second, that he be raised a Catholic. William’s Lutheran parents agreed, and from that moment on, William was the Prince of Orange.
The Emperor took a liking to the young Prince, which helped William’s swift rise to high office. In 1559 the Emperor’s successor as sovereign lord of the Low Countries, his son King Philip II of Spain, appointed William stadholder [viceroy] of Holland, Zealand and Utrecht. After that the relationship between the two men deteriorated rapidly. William took issue with the King’s efforts to centralise government in Brussels, and objected to Philip’s persecution of the Protestants.
The stadholders of the 16th and 17th centuries were not sovereign rulers, though they did play an important role in the political life of the Dutch Republic. They were in the service of the States [assemblies] of the seven individual provinces, and given that their responsibilities were chiefly military in nature, they were also closely involved in shaping the Republic’s foreign policy. This gave them an almost sovereign position.
In his will William III left all his estates and titles to his kinsman, Johan Willem Friso [1687-1711], of the Frisian branch of the family. But the will was challenged by King Frederick William I of Prussia, Frederik Hendrik’s grandson. Agreement still had not been reached when Johan Willem Friso drowned in the Hollands Diep on his way to The Hague to negotiate a settlement.
His widow, Maria Louisa of Hesse-Kassel [1688-1765], succeeded in upholding the status of the House of Orange-Nassau. In 1732 she reached an agreement with the Prussians about the inheritance. This agreement laid the basis for the marriage in 1734 of her son, Prince William IV [1711-1751] and Princess Anna of Hanover [1709-1759], daughter of King George II of Great Britain.
The future King Willem I [1772-1843] was the eldest son of Prince Willem V. In 1802 he became the ruler of the German principalities of Fulda and Corvey, which he had been given by Napoleon Bonaparte as compensation for the loss of his Dutch domains in 1795. He lost these new possessions in 1806, as punishment for his support of Prussia in the war against Napoleon. The French transformed the Dutch Republic into a modern unitary state, known as the Batavian Republic [1795-1806]. Initial enthusiasm for the French vanished, however, when the Netherlands ceased to be an independent country. In 1806, the Batavian Republic became the Kingdom of Holland, under King Louis Bonaparte, Emperor Napoleon’s brother. His reign lasted until 1810, when the Netherlands was incorporated into the French Empire. Three years later, the French retreated, marking an end to the period of Napoleonic rule.
When Napoleon fell [Waterloo], the Prince of Orange was in London. In November 1813, at the request of a number of leading Dutchmen, he returned home, to an enthusiastic popular welcome. He accepted the offer to become the country’s sovereign prince, and later took the title of King Willem I.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands
In 1815 the Congress of Vienna merged the former Austrian Netherlands with the former Dutch Republic to create the Kingdom of the Netherlands, awarding Willem I the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as compensation for the loss of his German possessions. The personal union of the Dutch crown and the Grand Duchy lasted until the death of Willem III in 1890. During the wars the Republic’s overseas territories were occupied by the British. With the exception of Ceylon [the present-day Sri Lanka] and South Africa, they were returned after 1813. Willem I ruled the kingdom in the spirit of enlightened absolutism, though he was subject to constitutional safeguards.
The secession of Belgium
The unification of the northern and southern Netherlands [now Belgium] was not a success. In the summer of 1830 revolution broke out in Brussels. The northern Netherlands waged a ‘Ten-Day Campaign’, in which the future King Willem II [1792-1849] distinguished himself. Nevertheless, the revolution was successful, culminating in the formation of an independent Kingdom of Belgium. Willem I did not recognise the new kingdom until 1839. He abdicated a year later.
King Willem II [1792-1849]
Willem II acceded to the throne in 1840, following his father’s abdication. Willem II married Anna Paulowna [1795-1865], the daughter of the Russian czar. Their marriage gave rise to close relations with Russia. In the revolutionary year of 1848, Willem gave in to the wishes of the liberal opposition movement and agreed to a constitution that drastically restricted royal power in favour of the representative assembly. The Netherlands’ second king reigned until his death in 1849.
King Willem III [1817-1890]
His successor Willem III [1817-1890] resisted these attempts to limit royal authority, but in vain. Willem’s first wife, Sophie of Württemberg [1818-1877], was his cousin. It was not a happy marriage, as their characters were incompatible. Their three sons, Willem [1840-1879], Maurits [1843-1850] and Alexander [1851-1884], all died before their father. In 1879 the King remarried, this time to Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont [1858-1934].The couple had one daughter, Princess Wilhelmina. Willem III died in 1890.
Queens [20th and 21st centuries]
The 20th century became a century reigned by Queens.
Queen Wilhelmina [1880-1962]
When King William III died in 1890, his only daughter was too young to reign. Queen Emma acted as regent until her daughter Wilhelmina came of age in 1898. Queen Wilhelmina’s fifty-year reign spanned two World Wars and the decolonisation of Indonesia. From 1940 to 1945, the Dutch government worked in exile, in London. Her resolute stance during that time won her great respect, both in her homeland and abroad.
A daughter, Princess Juliana, was born in 1909 to Wilhelmina and her husband, Duke Hendrik of Mecklenburg. In 1948 Queen Wilhelmina abdicated, retiring to Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn. Following her abdication she was once again addressed as ‘princess’, in accordance with her wishes.
Queen Juliana [1909-2004]
Queen Juliana reigned from 1948 to 1980. Dutch society went through major changes during this period, including the post-war reconstruction, student riots in the 1960s and the oil crisis in the mid-1970s. Queen Juliana earned the love of her people through her concern for social issues and her informal manner. In 1937 she married Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterveld. The couple had four daughters: Beatrix [born 1938], Irene [born 1939], Margriet [born 1943, in Canadian exile] and Christina [born 1947]. Both before and after the war, the family lived at Soestdijk Palace. Princess Juliana passed away on March 20, 2004, and her husband Prince Bernhard died some months later, on December 1.
Queen Beatrix 
Princess Beatrix succeeded her mother in 1980, thereby becoming the fourth female head of state in succession. In 1966 she married the German diplomat Claus von Amsberg. Together they had three sons Willem-Alexander [born 1967], Friso [born 1968] and Constantijn [born 1969]. Prince Claus passed away on October 6, 2002. Since 1980 the Queen has resided at Huis ten Bosch Palace, while working, with the Royal Household, at Noordeinde Palace. The Queen is assisted in the performance of her royal duties by other members of the Royal House.
In the Netherlands, a distinction is made between the royal family and the Royal House. The royal family is the family of Orange-Nassau. Some members of the royal family also belong to the Royal House. Ministerial responsibility applies to members of the Royal House. These are also the people who will get a salary out of the state coffers, and they pay taxes too, the rest have to work in normal jobs for their income.