William III of the Netherlands

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William III (Willem Alexander Paul Frederik Lodewijk, anglicised: William Alexander Paul Frederick Louis) (19 February 1817 – 23 November 1890) was from 1849 King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg until his death and the Duke of Limburg until the abolition of the Duchy in 1866.


Early life

William was born in Brussels as son of William II of the Netherlands and Queen Anna Paulowna, daughter of Tsar Paul I of all the Russias and Empress Maria Fyodorovna (Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg). In his early years, he served in the military.

He married his first cousin, Sophie, daughter of King William I of Württemberg and Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna of Russia, in Stuttgart on 18 June 1839. This marriage was unhappy and was characterized by struggles about their children. Sophie was a liberal intellectual, hating everything leaning toward dictatorship, such as the army. William was simpler, more conservative, and loved the military. He prohibited intellectual exercise at home, for which action Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who corresponded with Sophie, called him an uneducated farmer. (His extramarital enthusiasms, however, led the New York Times to call him "the greatest debauchee of the age".) Another cause of marital tension (and later political tension) was his capriciousness; he could rage against someone one day, and be extremely polite the next.

William loathed the 1848 constitutional changes initiated by his father (William II) and Johan Rudolf Thorbecke. William II and Sophie saw them as key to the monarchy's survival in changing times. William himself saw them as useless limitations of royal power, and wished to govern like his grandfather, William I.

He tried to relinquish his right to the throne to his younger brother Henry. His mother convinced him to cancel this action. One year later (1849) William became King upon the death of his father.

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