Het Wilhelmus

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Het Wilhelmus (About this sound pronunciation ) (English translation: The William) is the national anthem of the Netherlands and is the oldest national anthem in the world[1] though the words of the Japanese national anthem (not the music) date back to the ninth century.[2] Although it was not recognized as the official national anthem until 1932, it has always been popular with parts of the Dutch population and resurfaced on several occasions in the course of Dutch history before gaining its present status.

Like many anthems, Het Wilhelmus originated in the nation's struggle to achieve independence. It tells of Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), his life and why he is fighting against the King of Spain.[3] As a result, the anthem is written in a first person perspective, as if it were sung by William himself. William of Orange being the I-figure (Early Modern Dutch "ick") in the 1st stanza "Den Coninck van Hispaengien heb ick altijt gheeert" ("I have always honoured the King of Spain").

This refers to the initial loyalty of the leading figures of the Dutch Revolt, the Counts of De Montmorency ("Hoorne") and Lamoral ("Egmond") who both were executed, and the then surviving Prince of Orange (William), to the Spanish king Philip II and their claim that they merely objected against some hardships of the Spanish rule over The Netherlands. These objections were especially concerning the taxation, political oppression and the religious prosecutions.

The text and tune of the song are remarkably peaceful for a national anthem. The Wilhelmus derives its name from the first word of the song; the Geuzenliedboek's original introduction to the text speaks of "a new Christian song" ("een nieu Christelijck Liedt").


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