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William II of the Netherlands

King William II of the Netherlands (December 6, 1792 - March 14, 1849).

Born in The Hague. Son of King William I of the Netherlands and Queen Wilhelmina, princess of Prussia.

William spent his youth in Berlin at the court of the Prussian King. There he followed a military education and he served in the Prussian army.

He returned to the Netherlands in 1813 when his father became sovereign prince. In 1815 William became crown prince and he took service in the army when Napoleon escaped. He fought as Dutch commander at the Battle of Waterloo. He was considered a hero.

In 1816 William engaged himself with Charlotte of Wales, eldest daughter of George IV of the United Kingdom. The marriage was arranged by George but Charlotte didn't want to marry William so the engagement was broken. Later in that year he married Anna Paulowna, sister to Czar Alexander I of Russia, who arranged the marriage to seal the good relations between Russia and the Netherlands.

In 1817 his eldest son Willem Alexander was born (the future King William III).

He lived a lawless and frivolous life in Brussels, where he lived. Because he lived in Brussels he got affiliated with the Southern industrials. When the Belgian Revolution broke out Belgian people offered him the throne of Belgium. Under pressure of his father he had to refuse.

The relations with his father were tense. His father was disappointed about his son because he was lawless; William found that his father was too restrictive.

In 1831 he was leader of the disastrous campaign in Belgium which was driven back to the North.

On October 7, 1840 he acceded the throne as William II. Like his father he was conservative and less likely to initiate changes. He intervened less in policies as his father did.

In 1848 revolutions broke out in Europe. The worst example was Paris where the Bourbon-Orléans monarchy had fallen. William became afraid for the same picture in Amsterdam. After a night he woke up and said: "I've become from conservative to liberal in one night". He gave orders for a new constitution which included that the Eerste Kamer (Senate) would be chosen indirectly by the Provincial States and that the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives) would be chosen directly. Electoral system changed into census suffrage in electoral districts (in 1917 census suffrage was replaced by common suffrage for all adults, and districts were replaced by party lists of different political parties), whereby royal power decreased sharply. The constitution is still in function today.

He swore in the first parliamentary cabinet a few months before his death in Tilburg, North Brabant (1849).

Preceded by:
William I
List of Kings and Queens of the Netherlands Succeeded by:
William III

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