William II of Holland

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William II of Holland (February 1228 – 28 January 1256) was a Count of Holland and Zeeland (1235–1256). He was elected as German anti-king in 1247 and remained king until his death.

He was the son of Floris IV and Mathilde of Brabant. When his father was killed at a tournament at Corbie, William was only seven years old. His uncles William and Otto (bishop of Utrecht) were his guardians until 1239.

With the help of Henry II, Duke of Brabant and the archbishop of Cologne, he was elected in 1247 as king of Germany after Emperor Frederick II was excommunicated. After a siege of five months, he took Aachen in 1248 from Frederick's followers. Only then could he be crowned as king. He gained a certain amount of theoretical support from some of the German princes after his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Otto the Child, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, in 1252; but, although "William lacked neither courage nor chivalrous qualities (...) his power never extended beyond the Rhine country."[1]

In his home county, William fought with Flanders for control of Zeeland. He made himself (being king of Germany) count of Zeeland. In July 1253, he defeated the Flemish army at Westkapelle, and a year later a cease-fire followed. His anti-Flemish policy worsened his relationship with France.

From 1254, he fought a number of wars against the West Frisians. He build some strong castles in Heemskerk and Haarlem and created roads for the war against the Frisians.

Melis Stoke, a scribe employed by William's son Floris of Holland wrote the following about his death. In battle near Hoogwoud on 28 January 1256, William tried to traverse a frozen lake (by himself, because he was lost), but his horse fell through the ice. In this vulnerable position, William was killed by the Frisians, who secretly buried him under the floor of a house. His body was (forcefully) recovered 26 years later by his son Floris V, who was only 2 years old when he succeeded his father. William was then buried in Middelburg. Independent chronicles confirm his death at that time (by failing to jump over a muddy water way during a skirmish). Much of Stoke's writing may have been to justify his employer's deeds and his claim on current-day West Frisia, so that the details of the mishap and subsequent events could be largely legendary[2].

William gave city rights to Haarlem, Delft, 's-Gravenzande and Alkmaar. A castle he had built in 1248 was the beginning of the city of The Hague.


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