John William Friso, Prince of Orange

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John William Friso (4 August 1687 - 14 July 1711) (or Dutch: Johan Willem Friso van Oranje-Nassau) became the titular Prince of Orange in 1702. He was stadtholder of Friesland until his death by drowning in the Hollands Diep in 1711.



He was the son of Henry Casimir II, Prince of Nassau-Dietz, and Henriëtte Amalia van Anhalt-Dessau who were both first cousins with William III. As such, he was a member of the House of Nassau and through the testamentary dispositions of William III became the progenitor of the new line of the House of Orange-Nassau.


With the death of William III, Prince of Orange, the legitimate direct male line of William the Silent (the 2nd House of Orange) became extinct. John William Friso, the senior agnatic descendant of William the Silent's brother and a cognatic descendant of Frederick Henry, grandfather of William III, claimed the succession as stadtholder in all provinces held by William III. This was denied to him by the republican faction in the Netherlands.

The five provinces over which William III ruled — Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel — all suspended the office of Stadtholder after William III's death. The remaining two provinces — Friesland and Groningen — were never governed by William III, and continued to retain a separate Stadtholder, John William Friso. He established the third House of Orange, which went extinct in the male line in 1962. His son William IV, Prince of Orange, however, later became stadtholder of all seven provinces.

Because William III's heir general was King Frederick I of Prussia, the latter also claimed part of the inheritance (for example Lingen). Under William III's will, Friso stood to inherit the Principality of Orange. However, the Prussian King Frederick I also claimed the Principality of Orange in the Rhône Valley, which he later ceded to France.

Military career

On coming of age, John William Friso became a general of the Dutch troops during the War of Spanish Succession, under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, and turned out to be a competent officer. His prestige could have favoured his eventual election as a stadtholder in the five other provinces. However, in 1711, when traveling from the Belgian front to The Hague in connection with the law suit about the Principality of Orange, in his haste he insisted in crossing the Hollands Diep during a heavy storm. The ferry boat sank and John William Friso drowned. His son was born six weeks after his death.

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