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The Dutch Royal Family

Princess Beatrix (former Queen), King Willem Alexander, Queen Máxima and princesses Catharina-Amalia, Alexia en Ariane, De Eikenhorst april 2007 © RVD

Princess Beatrix, King Willem Alexander, Queen Máxima and princesses Catharina-Amalia, Alexia en Ariane, De Eikenhorst april 2007 © RVD

The Dutch Royal Family has a history as old as the Netherlands.  Although the Netherlands has been a democracy since 1815, the House of Orange-Nassau has roots that go back far deeper than that date.

The Forming of the House of Orange-Nassau

The name “Orange-Nassau” is actually a compilation of two family names.  They were joined together at the marriage of Henry III  and Claudia Chalon, members of the house of Orange and Nassau,  in 1515, some 300 years before the monarchy of the Netherlands was established.  The first king, William I, was from the house of Orange-Nassau.  The royal family today is simply called the House of Orange.

The History of the House of Orange

In the 13th century, William I, also known as “William the Silent”, was instrumental in leading the resistance against Spanish rule.  After gaining its independence, the Netherlands remained a republic, though the House of Orange maintained its influence throughout the following years.

Following the French Revolution, the Netherlands became a constitutional monarchy and has remained so to this day.

The Royal Family During WWII

The Dutch royal family was exiled during the Nazi occupation of WWII.  During this time the Netherlands was under the reign of Queen Wilhelmina.  Though exiled during the German occupation of the Netherland, the queen became a symbol of the resistance by broadcasting to the Dutch people via secret radio, called Radio Oranje.

It was largely due to her courageous actions that the royal family has enjoyed such favor in the Netherlands.  At the time of her exile, there was significant tension between the people and royal family.  The impact the Queen had in stirring national pride was evident by the story of a little fishing village that rose and sang a verse of the Dutch national anthem on her birthday, although the Germans forbade it.  They paid a fine of 60,000 guilders for their loyalty.

Controversy Surrounding the Royal Family

The royal family has not always avoided controversy.  In fact, in 1966, Queen Wilhelmina’s granddaughter, and future queen, stirred quite a controversy by deciding to marry Clause von Armsberg, who was a German diplomat.  Considering the feeling toward the Germans after the war, Beatrix’s decision to marry a man who had been a member of the Hitler Youth and a soldier in the Wehrmacht was certainly controversial.  Marry him she did, however, and he became Prince Clause when Beatrix succeeded her mother to the throne in 1980.

A Distinction in Terms It is important to note that there is a difference between the terms “Royal House” and “Royal Family.”  The royal family of is the House of Orange Nassau and is comprised of all those who are born or married into the family.  However, by law, the only members of the House of Orange that are allowed to carry the title of royalty are those who are monarch, spouses of monarchs, children in line to the throne and their spouses, and former monarch in the case of abdication.

One last interesting note is that the current King of the Netherlands, King Willem Alexander is actually 889th in line to the British throne.  Few families in existence today can claim to have had such a long and extensive impact on the area in which they live, as the Royal Dutch Family has had.