William V, Prince of Orange

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William V Batavus, Prince of Orange-Nassau was the last Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, and between 1795 and 1806 he led the Government of the Dutch Republic in Exile in London. He was succeeded by his son William I.


Earliest years

He was born in 1748, the only son of William IV, who had the year before been restored as stadtholder of the United Provinces. He was only 3 years old when his father died in 1751, and a long regency began. His regents were:

  • Anne, his mother, from 1751 to her death in 1759;
  • Marie Louise, his grandmother, from 1759 to her death in 1765;
  • Ludwig Ernst von Brunswick-Lüneburg-Bevern, from 1759 to 1766, and kept on as a privy counsellor until October 1784;
  • Carolina, his sister (who at the time was an adult aged 22, while he was still a minor at 17), from 1765 to William's majority in 1766.

William was made the 568th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1752.


William V assumed the position of stadtholder (chief executive) and Captain-General of the Dutch States Army in 1766. On 4 October 1767 in Berlin, Prince William married Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, the daughter of Augustus William of Prussia, niece of Frederick the Great and a cousin of George III.

The position of the Dutch during the American War of Independence was one of neutrality. William V, leading the pro-British faction within the government, blocked attempts by pro-independence, and later pro-French, elements to drag the government to war. However, things came to a head with the Dutch attempt to join the Russian-led League of Armed Neutrality, leading to the outbreak of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War in 1780. In spite of the fact that Britain was in the midst of fighting several other countries, the ensuing war proved difficult for the Dutch to cope with and the Republic was eventually forced to cede some territory to the British. The United Provinces recognized the United States in February 1782, after much political debate and pressure from American and French diplomats. Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol and Court Lambertus van Beyma took the initiative.

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